Monday, January 31, 2011

This, Too, is History

    I spent a lot of the weekend monitoring the events in Egypt. The demonstrations show no sign of stopping. Some parts of Cairo are returning as best they can to everyday rounds of errands and work, but there's a million person demonstration planned for tomorrow, I believe.
    Who's writing this down? Who will tell the stories of the movements for freedom? Will this proud ancient country birth itself into a new democracy, or will there be a stillbirth of broken dreams? What was it like to be in Alexandria this weekend, or Suez?
    The first person accounts of change and growth are vastly more interesting than the dry analysis offered in academic circles, or forcing the memorization of facts and statistics without the context of personal experience. In high school, the teacher gave a boring account of life with ration cards according to his manual. My grandma told me about punting to make do with what she had in the fridge. Two very different versions of the same story.
   My questions for the protesters: what was the final event that propelled you to get out and participate? What expectations did you have for the outcome? How did you feel once on the street? How did you manage your fear, if any, when the fighter jets started circling? How is life different now?
   Most importantly, do you feel that the outcome was worth any sacrifice that you made?
    I hope so.      

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Tuesday Thoughts

    Tonight is the State of the Union address. My personal response: Benny Hill did a skit where there was silence for the first few seconds as the camera panned a kitchen. The bottom half of a body hanging from the ceiling, someone crouched by the oven with their head stuck inside, another with a bottle of poison still clutched in his hand. The announcer said, "That was the state of the nation address live from Parliament."
    I hope we don't come away that bleakly. I'll probably watch a movie and read the reviews tomorrow.
    I'm glad for Oprah and her sister. They found each other. But why was it on network world news yesterday? Let's see, yesterday we had the suicide bombing at the airport in Moscow; locally, Rahm Emanuel was removed from the Chicago mayoral election ballot because of voting and residency issues; we have the whack job suspect in the Tuscon shootings getting arraigned. Oh, that's right. My priorities are getting out of order. Forgive me.
     Glenn Beck's followers have started posting death threats against Frances Fox Pivins, a college professor who believes that no real economic change will happen until a grassroots movement to reclaim or create jobs begins. He's targeted her as a threat to the economy. Please.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Her Name is Christina

    What would happen if we began to use figures of speech that don't involve violence? I've been wondering about that the last few days. 
      A nine year old girl is being laid to rest as I write this. A nine year old girl named Christina who was bright and beautiful and curious about the workings of government, now that she was on student council.
     What would have happened if she'd been raised in a world where political opponents still referred to each other as "my learned colleague," disagreeing but not threatening with terms culled from the world of guns?
     This last Saturday, a family friend who wanted to support her desire for knowledge took her to a meet and greet with the local congress rep, Gabrielle Giffords (D-AZ).
     This last Saturday, a young man with a history of strange behavior made his way to the grocery store parking lot where Rep. Giffords mingled with her district's residents. For reasons clear only to his mind, he shot the congresswoman from Arizona at point blank range, and twenty others. Six, including Christina, died.
     As with any other event with a vague link to anything political, the debate on how to prevent a recurrence quickly dissolved into a pointing contest. The right is blaming the left; the left is blaming the right.
      Can we please return to the civilized middle before this happens again?

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

The Joan Crawford School of Parenting

   Dear God,
   Please make this woman stop. Please, before someone gets hurt. Thanks.
   Amy Chua is an Ivy League law professor and the author of the brand new parenting book, Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother. She discusses perceived differences in parenting styles between Chinese and Western mothers and why the former have high achieving offspring. Some of her points are valid, such as making school come first and foremost, and believing in a child's strengths.
     Some aren't.
     Ms. Chua doesn't see anything wrong with calling children names and berating them to bend them to the parents' will.  Or forcing them to practice an instrument for three hours a day, even on vacation, whether they want to learn an instrument or not. Or threatening to donate a beloved toy to the Salvation Army because one of her daughters struggled to learn a complicated composition, or refusing to let her go to the bathroom until she got it.
      It doesn't work.
      Now, granted that my background was a little different.  My parents both had serious struggles: Mom had an aneurysm the size of a golf ball at the base of her skull. It had started to impact her behavior and judgement. My dad was posthumously diagnosed with Asperger's Syndrome. He drank to control his symptoms.
      A call from my kindergarten teacher prompted IQ testing, which indicated that Both of them took it upon themselves to push me to live up to the expressed potential through threats. Until her death just after I finished fourth grade, Mom informed me that my math and spelling mistakes meant that I didn't love her and she was going to go stand on a street corner until she found someone who did. Dad held having the dog put to sleep or dumping me off on relatives or beatings over my head. Or called my grandmothers to inform in a very loud voice them everything that was wrong with me: that I was a fat, spacey, lazy, waste of intelligence.
      All that made me do was lie about my grades in high school to protect myself. The pathetic thing was that Dad never called the school or followed up with other parents about the paperless grade reporting system I invented. And put me a half-step from a full blown panic attack at all times.
      After, let's see, four years of counseling in in college, more work with a therapist and a lot of energy work, as well as a medical workup that diagnosed me with adrenal and thyroid problems, which can look a lot like ADD or ADHD, I finally realized that I wasn't such a waste of skin after all. Maybe I hadn't won a Nobel for something, but there were people and dogs out there who'd benefitted from my presence.
     The knowledge both of my issues and my parents' has made it easier to forgive--not excuse, but to let things go, knowing that they couldn't do any better.
     I hope Ms. Chua's daughters can reach the same place of peace someday.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Respite and Refuge in Vintage TV

    US Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-AZ) and nineteen other people were shot at a meet and greet near Tuscon yesterday. A nine year old girl and a federal judge perished. Why? A disgruntled, disturbed person for reasons not yet discerned took a gun and started shooting. Rep. Giffords is in critical condition, but is expected to live.
    My mother in law is back in the hospital with another infection. This time, it's in her kidneys.
    As you read in an earlier post, adopting Sparkle fell through. One correction: it's not the EPI as feared, but they still don't know what's going on.
    A case of the flu I've tried to fight off for the better part of the week made a surprise attack this morning and cut me off at the knees.
     There's some consolation, however. Antenna TV launched over New Year's weekend. It's a substation owned by the Tribune company. Movies, sitcoms I couldn't watch in my adolescence, all there. So I've been drowning my sorrows in my role model, "Maude," and lifting my spirits on the politically incorrect wings of "Benny Hill" and "The Three Stooges."
     It's delicious, sort of like triple chocolate cake for the soul. Only it doesn't settle on the hips and thighs.

Friday, January 7, 2011

At Least the Sun is Out

    The day began beneath a grey-capped sky. Slowly, the small rents in the clouds raveled into one another, and out came the sky.
      An odd white wisp occasionally floats past. Small patches of snow cling to the brown grass in the shady areas. One could almost be deluded into thinking that winter on the edge of the prairie isn't that bad.
     So far, we've been spared the near-zero temps and huge snowfalls (knock on coffee table). Those peter out by February. Maybe we dodged a bullet. Maybe not.
     Today, at least, the sun is out.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Random Thursday Thoughts

     I'm tired today.
     I think I'm going to take a few days off from reading the news. I can't take any more for right now. Moving into I Can Has Cheezburger? until Monday sounds like a good idea.
      There's just been too much drama the last few days. Dogs with illnesses, weirdness...feeling disappointed that it all didn't get swept away at midnight on Friday last. As if last year tosses its tentacles into 2011 in its death throes.
     I am going to eat some chocolate, take a nap, and think about what I can do differently.

Monday, January 3, 2011

Eating the Live Toad

    Once upon a longer time ago than I want to admit, one of the secretaries in an office where I had a work-study posting had a sign above her desk: EAT A LIVE TOAD FIRST THING IN THE MORNING AND NOTHING WORSE WILL HAPPEN TO YOU ALL DAY.
     Ok, so maybe the rest of the year will be smoother. The live toad du jour came in a call from Sparkle's foster mom on New Year's Eve. It wasn't a shelter borne bug.
       It's EPI, a condition where the pancreas can't make its own enzymes. No enzymes; no digestion. No digestion; no nutrients to absorb. Or why she ended up being so tiny.
       Treatable? Yes, but questions remain about how long.  Sparkle is at higher risk for intestinal issues and infections. She's had good days when her meals have stayed put, giving her the energy to keep her 50-pound brothers in their place. But she's had more days when she's been lethargic and had to have food or fluids given by syringe or subcutaneously only to go flying through her system.
      After long talks and not a few tears, we made the decision to call off the adoption. Sparkle will be well cared for (foster mom is in healthcare).
      Things do work out as they need to, though. Sparkle's in the best, most loving possible hands.
       I'm feeling a little cold coming on. Maybe I should go over and see if I can move in for a couple of days.