Friday, September 25, 2009

Raise Money For Breast Cancer Research

PartSelect is hosting a Paint Your Appliance Pink Sweeps to help raise awareness and $10,000 for Breast Cancer Research.

To participate, enter yourself to win a Pink Prize Package (including a Pink KitchenAid Stand Mixer; prize package valued at $369.97) by painting a pink ribbon on any major household appliance, photographing your artwork, and then emailing, blogging, or Tweeting your entry (using the #pinkappliance hashtag).

For each entry received, PartSelect will donate $25 to the Breast Cancer Research Foundation, up to a maximum of $10,000.

Entries are accepted until midnight on September 30, 2009.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009


I've been crying all day...

I just learned that in eight states and Washington, D.C., insurance companies are legally allowed to blame victims of domestic violence by denying them coverage -- claiming that it's a "pre-existing condition."

As a survivor of domestic violence, I find this appalling, unacceptable, immoral, and intolerable. Even if I had not lived it, did not still struggle with the impact and effects upon myself and my family, I'd still be horrified.

Why do we, as a country, go on talking about those "bad men" in other places who impose sexist rules and prohibit their women from the same rights afforded to men, but allow the victimization of American women & children with such foul practices disguised as legal business practices? Why do we condone and sanction victim blaming?

Insurance industry executives will be appearing before a House subcommittee hearing this Thursday to testify on insurance industry practices like this one -- will you join me in asking the subcommittee Chairman, Rep. Kucinich, to demand answers from them about this policy?

It's easy online -- just use this form. Or you can make phone calls to your representatives. Please be sure to address the issue of domestic violence coverage, that the institutionalized victim blaming is flat-out unacceptable.

I used the form and made phone calls.

But I'm still crying -- what country is this?!

Friday, September 11, 2009

Encourage Your Kids, Feed Other Kids

Log on to and make a promise to drop a note of encouragement into your child's lunch, and the folks at Lunchables will donate a meal to children and families in need through Feeding America, which serves an estimated nine million children each year.

Use the downloadable, free stationery to create fun and encouraging notes, and together we can help Lunchables reach their goal of turning 100,000 promises into up to 100,000 meals!

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Parenting the Nearly-Grown

This post is a guest post by journalist & author Masha Hamilton; as the parent of special needs children, I find myself facing these issues with what I feel is even more complexity & anxiety...

Parenting the Nearly-Grown

“Times are bad. Children no longer obey their parents, and everyone is writing a book.” Roman philosopher and orator Marcus Tullius Cicero, 106-43 B.C.

Not long after the second of my three children was born, I sat at the kitchen table late one evening talking to my dad about parental responsibility. It’s a big topic and we were covering lots of philosophical ground, but what I remember most is my pronouncement that my primary job could be boiled down quite simply and starkly: I had to keep safe these beings released into my charge. I needed to keep them alive.

These were the musings of a new parent, of course. The circumstances, too, should be considered; the first child had been born in Jerusalem during the intefadeh, and the second was born as I was reporting from Moscow during the collapse of Communism. In both situations, I repeatedly came face-to-face with life’s fragility.

But even in calmer times, even after the birth of my third child, I never lost the feeling that my main duty was to pass them on into adulthood as unscathed as possible, as healthy in every way as they could be.

It sounds pretty simple, on the face of it. We perform many jobs as parents: nurturers, playmates, cheerleaders, short-order cooks, nurses, disciplinarians, detectives, spiritual leaders. Keeping them safe should not be the hardest, not with the help of baby monitors, plastic devices to cover electrical outlets, pads for sharp corners, child-proof medicine bottles, the list goes on.

And in fact, we passed through well, with just the usual rounds of stitches, one violent dog attack, a rabies scare and a few months when my youngest fell so often and got so many bumps on his forehead that my husband and I joked someone was surely going to call child services on us.

Now, though, my youngest is 14, and as they’ve grown, I recognize my job has been transformed. It is to give them trust and space so they can develop confidence in their ability to make their own lives. And yet the two oldest, at ages 19 and 20, are in a period of time that seems almost like a parentheses in their lives. They are certainly not children, but nor are they quite adults. Meanwhile, I say and think all the usual things parents have been saying and thinking since—well, perhaps ever since Cicero, whose words I keep taped to my office wall: it’s rougher out there than it was in my time. More chaotic. More violent. More dangerous.

And everyone is writing a book.

It was, in fact, into my latest novel, 31 Hours, that I channeled my fears. Among other things, the novel offered a chance to explore what it means to be the parent of someone on the cusp of adulthood but not yet there. The mother in 31 Hours, Carol, is strong and independent, free of empty nest syndrome, but her maternal intuition is strong and she’s concerned about her 21-year-old son’s growing emotional distance, the way he seems tense and depressed. Her fears are amorphous and hard to convey; nevertheless, as she lies awake in the dark, she decides to trust the hunch that something is wrong, and to spend the next day trying to track her son Jonas down and “mother him until he shrugs her off.”

There are many themes in the novel, but one question it asks—one pertinent to all parents and one I’m still trying to answer for myself—is this: after years of being vigilant and protecting our kids, what should we do—and what are we allowed to do—to keep them safe once they are nearly, but not quite, grown?


Hamilton's book, 31 Hours, is available now -- I'll be reading & reviewing the book shortly, so I'm saving my comments for the review (so as not to talk the issue to death before I read the novel). You could win a copy if you submit a story about when your intuition has been right about your child.

Tuesday, September 08, 2009

'Round Here, We Call Days Like This "Saturday" (Part Two)

After an unusual start to my Saturday, we took the little van, Star, to the local Firestone shop to get a new tire, killing the waiting time at the public library across the street. Once Star was repaired, we headed out for some rattin' around: a few thrift stores and the used bookstore. Then we stopped to eat at Burger King.

We were sitting in a booth, eating, when a young woman yelled obnoxiously loud. Des recognized & identified the girl from her school as a special needs kid (as if the yell hadn't told us that already), but other than this brief alert to the girl's presence, we thought nothing more of it and continued our meal -- with Derek continuing his mocking the "Daring Girls BK toys" for being anything but daring.

Suddenly, there was a blur and then pressure on the right side of my face, quickly followed by more pressure down my right side -- the girl was pressing her face, nose smashed uncomfortably into my cheek, drooling, onto my face. Because she was sitting at the opposite side of the restaurant and a row behind me, I hadn't even seen her approach. Suddenly she was just there. Firmly there. In what can best be described as a very wet yet motionless dry-hump.

I'm a tolerant person -- even if I weren't parenting the kids that I am, I'm understanding and tolerant. So I remained still, aware that her caretaker was somewhere nearby, perhaps still ordering at the counter, and so I expected a rescue shortly.

But shortly is a long time when you're so uncomfortable.

Not just physically uncomfortable, but emotionally so.

I felt that special vulnerability that comes with another's vulnerability... Given our position, the full front of her body pressed against my seated right side, I quickly ascertained the few options I had... I didn't dare slide to my left for fear she'd lose her balance. Ditto turning my torso to use both arms. So I figured I'd only be able to use one arm or hand to touch her -- but I was afraid that even if touch wasn't something she might be startled by, the simple use of an arm to resist her crush would somehow disturb her or her balance. I also figured that the odds were pretty high that any attempt to touch her could result in, however mistakenly, a blind inappropriate touch.

Plus, these days, touching anyone makes you vulnerable to accusations & recriminations.

So I just sat there, waiting rescue of some sort -- be it the girl's own decision to stop or her caretaker's intervention.

Time seemed to stand still in that odd way time has, leaving you to just absorb all the details of the moment. Details that seem surreal in their crystal clear logic of the moment.

Her drool, unexpectedly cool, likely from her mouth-breathing and/or from pooling about the outside of her mouth, was now running down the side of my face.

I turned my face toward her, all gleaming eyes and mouth; she seemed happy.

I suppose I could have said something; but the girl wasn't talking either, so what could I say? Besides, these days, directing anyone can be described as "bossing" or "bullying," leaving you nearly as vulnerable to accusations & recriminations as touching. So I just sat there.

Aware of everything. Knowing that time had stretched -- but little of it had passed. I knew that too little time had elapsed even for my husband to do anything. I knew I just had to wait, no matter how uncomfortable & long it seemed in that moment.

In less than a minute the caretaker was there. I felt the girl leave me. Still speechless, I turned to look at her. The young twenty-something female caretaker had the girl by the arm. "I'm sorry. Remember, personal space," the caretaker said -- looking at me. I knew she was speaking that personal pace part to her charge, but addressing me in that apologetic I-hope-you-see-what's-going-on-here way. Of course I did. I've given those looks myself. As a parent, I've given those speeches & looks with far more hopeful prayer than that caretaker felt the need to express too. I smiled; I nodded. Then they were gone. Before I could even say anything.

All I could do was wipe the drool off my face and continue eating my meal as if nothing had happened. I wanted to go scrub my face; but I was afraid of how it might appear to that girl, and I didn't want to shame or embarrass her. So I unceremoniously used a paper napkin to wipe the side of my face and finished the meal with my family.

After we left the restaurant, I nervously laughed about it all. Not cruelly; just to shake off the discomfort.

And then our family had a little talk about what manners really are: they are norms and standards of behavior which are there to prevent people from being uncomfortable.

In this case, the girl, for whatever reason, had not learned them. Yet. She was still being taught about personal space.

But those things we teach the children about being polite, those things kids find silly or a pain or too formal or 'whatever,' are there to help us all feel comfortable.

Case closed, right?

But I still felt funny.

An odd mix of feeling both violated by and protective of that girl...

Even writing this post feels like dashing off to the bathroom to scrub my face clean.

But in the end, you have to do something to validate to yourself your own experience. You might begin with the giggles to wiggle the crazy-awkward feelings off; but at some point, you also want to acknowledge the deeper issues... The questions...

You don't want to blame or shame this girl who didn't know any better (or, if she did, who just couldn't control her impulses); you aren't looking for a pound of her flesh. But it isn't over. Not yet.

It could be your own personal neurosis, your decades of training in observation & problem solving atypical behaviors, but you do have to wonder, "Why me?" Why did this girl single you out? And what had she singled you out for? Was it a 'good' feeling that she impulsively followed? Or was she agitated, acting out of anger? Whatever she was feeling, why did she find you so important to share it with or direct it at? And did you respond appropriately -- or have you somehow made things worse?

You don't know the answers; you won't know them. You wouldn't dream of asking for such things & making others uncomfortable (including your spouse who was there). But you can't ignore it all in the name of politeness either.

As a writer, you write it.

Monday, September 07, 2009

'Round Here, We Call Days Like This "Saturday" (Part One)

Seven minutes after I wake up on Saturday, I go out on the front porch for a smoke (no lectures; that's another story/post/time/place); hubby and middle child join me (they would have to speak to their own reasons & neuroses).

Neighbor from across the streets exits the door of the cute little 1920's apartment building. He is wearing a too-bright, too-cheery yellow & orange Hawaiian shirt & khaki shorts. "He's blinding me with shirtness," I wince. Hubby begins to work the word "shirtness" into Dolby's Blinded Me With Science while the neighbor heads out of sight to the parking behind the apartment building.

Moments later, the neighbor cruises up the drive -- on foot. I know he's heading towards us. Before he's reached the street, I've already tossed out the anxiety-ridden possibility that he'd heard my comment about his shirt and was coming to confront me and got the psychic vibe that he's going to ask for a ride. Sure enough.

"Can I get a ride to 19th Avenue North?" he smiles, "I thought I drove my car home last night, but once I got to my empty parking spot, I remembered I was too drunk to drive..."

This would be too much even for those with an irony deficiency, let alone me. Unable to control myself, I start laughing -- which sets off hubby. "You have bad luck, dude," I chuckle, "Of all the houses on the street... We have two vans, but neither is running."

It's the truth. Days after repairing Ookla, he busts a hose & is non-movable until hubby finishes the repair, and Star has plunged a bolt (with washer, so that it sealed the hole long enough to get home) deep into one of her tires and we were minutes from taking in her in for a new tire. ...Then again, at our house, at any given time we have car problems.

But anyway, the neighbor is undaunted. I'm pretty sure he was still under the influence. And not just because of the too-bright-for-anytime-let-alone-with-a-hangover shirt.

Looking at his watch he says, "Yeah, I'm supposed to meet my friends at a restaurant at 11:40 and it's 12:23 now..."

I don't have the heart to tell him that even if we could give him a ride, we wouldn't be able to deliver him back in time to join his friends.

Instead I joke, "You're name must be Murphy, huh?"

"No, my name's Chris," he happily responds.

"Uh, I meant Murphy, as in Murphy's Law."

"Oh the irony of the universe!" he happily acknowledges. And then tacks on an awkward, "I love you guys!" before he leaves.

But this is my life and I've only been up, what, like 15 minutes now? So the awkward is only just beginning.