Monday, July 28, 2008

Here we go

Although my blog entries rarely focus on my religious beliefs and practice, I like to think that those beliefs and practice inform many of my entries, as they inform most of my life.

And yesterday, people like me, members of a smallish Unitarian Universalist church in Tennessee, people who value the children in their congregation, people who welcome people into their church family, regardless of sexual orientation or race or religious heritage, came under attack. If you click any of the links in my "Shared Items" sidebar, you'll get the story. You've probably already heard about it on television or any other news source.

I'm very, very angry, folks. Angrier than I remember being for a long, long time. The perpetrator of this violence - I'm having trouble calling him a man, or even a human - has hit an amazing low of cowardly, disgusting behavior. Sneaking a shotgun and an ass-ton of ammunition (in a guitar case) into a church, a peace-loving church, in which the children of the congregation were leading the service, then opening fire on the congregation, wounding many and killing, at this time, two folks who were more than qualified for AARP membership, is pretty much the apex of asshattery.

And this tree-hugging, gay-affirming, race-justice-seeking liberal woman is pissed.

I'm angry to learn that some of my brothers and sisters in faith are now afraid that they won't be safe at church.

I'm angry to think that my children may learn about this story and be afraid to go to church.

I'm angry. Just angry.

And maybe, just maybe, there's a part of my anger that was well-illustrated by one of my co-workers' comments today. "How often do liberal people go into fundamentalist churches and open fire?"

Um, none.

That's not how we roll.

My people were attacked yesterday, in a hateful, hate-filled, hate crime. My people were persecuted yesterday. My people were afraid and injured and murdered and brave. Two gentle, angry men wrestled the gun away from the murderer. One gentle, angry man gave his life to save other members of the church he served.

And gentle, angry people are lighting candles all over our nation for these people.

Please join us.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Boys will be boys?

Yesterday evening, I had dinner with my group of au pairs. We meet once a month - an opportunity for me to make sure they're all okay, and an opportunity for them to all be in the same place at the same time - and they usually go out afterward as a group.

These young women have a unique perspective about children, since they are full-time (for the most part) caregivers for children ranging in age from toddler to teenager. They entered the program with more childcare experience than many first-time parents have had. Individual au pairs have different motivations for joining the program (lack of jobs in their home country, a desire to improve their English, a desire to study in America, or, yes, the desire to marry an American), but they definitely all learn at least one thing while they're here: kids are a lot of work. Sort of like the show "The Baby Borrowers" but in a much more real-world setting.

When we get together, we talk about their lives - how they're getting along with host families, if they're experiencing homesickness, how school is going - but they often move the conversation to my life. Most of my au pairs have met my family at least once or twice (the kids have joined me for more than one monthly meeting), and they ask about the kids. I try to share one or two interesting stories and leave it at that.

Yesterday, my son became the topic of conversation quite unintentionally. We'd been talking about kids' movies, and one woman mentioned "Prince Caspian," which she'd loved (I did too). I told her about Alex's response to the movie, and the whole group was really intrigued.

See, Alex isn't one of those boys who loves violent movies and games. He's a gentle kid. His taste in video games is dominated by games that emphasize interpersonal relationships, especially the Sims games. He hasn't shown much interest in fighting games, and when he plays with friends, he's not the kid who instigates games based around violence.

And when we saw "Prince Caspian," he was weary of the battle scenes long before the movie was over. I remember sitting next to him and seeing him begin to squirm and look uncomfortable with what was going on onscreen.

Weeks later, just to drive the point home, all four of us saw the new American Girl movie about my daughter's favorite fictional character, Kit Kittredge. The movie was smart, interesting, and didn't include violence (although it definitely did include difficult subject matter, based as it was in the Great Depression). We knew Susie would love it, but we were pleased to hear Alex's review: "It was the best movie I've ever seen!"

He starts his week at summer camp today. It's his third year at this camp, and he thrives there, with the guitar and campfires and cooperative play. It's a gentle place, and it's good for his gentle spirit.

Since we've been in our house for three years now, I've started to get a little restless with some of the design choices we made. The children's bedrooms are the most recent focus of my dissatisfaction. We helped Susie's room grow up a little bit by swapping out her old, white furniture with the furniture we've been using in our bedroom (which was in my grandmother's bedroom since the middle of the last century). Making those changes for her, however, just pushed the point home that Alex's room was in need of even more drastic changes.

I consulted with him to see what he wanted for his room. When we originally moved into the house, he was really fascinated by maps, so we had chosen fabrics that emphasized geography.

This time, he wants a Hollywood theme. We have some decorations that we use for our annual Oscar party; those will work well in his room. And I have ideas for the window treatments that will emulate the curtains around a movie screen.

This weekend, Craig and I took a spin through a few different stores, looking for items that might work in Alex's room. A quick glance through the aisles of children's furnishings at Target showed us that the world of retail still thinks there are only a few things that boys need: sports, cowboys, and camoflauge. (And the "girl" side of the aisle was no better, with its emphasis on pink and flowers - none of which I eschew, but it seems awfully limiting.)

I had the same frustration when I was buying clothes for my children when they were little. Boys' clothes had the same motifs as the bedding: bugs and sports. Items for girls were decidedly pretty, with precious florals or ladybugs, and predominately pink. (And those were the ones without Disney or other characters.)

Raising a child who doesn't quite fit within the culturally-dictated norms is interesting. It takes creativity. And I wouldn't trade it for anything.

edited to add: I found the most fantastic curtains at IKEA a few weeks later...they're red velvet! I bought four panels, two of which I'll turn into valances, thus leaving two panels to curtain his windows, and the valances to bridge the wallspace between, thereby creating a "movie screen" between the two windows. He was THRILLED when he saw them. Now I just need to get to sewing and finding adequate curtain rods.

Sunday, July 06, 2008

The experiment will continue

But not this week.

We've begun our three-week stint of kid-free life. Since Craig is working (indefinitely) at the Corporation, neither of us has a need to drive to work. With two fewer mouths to feed, we have fewer grocery needs.

This week, however, I have a few meetings in the suburbs, both of which entail 40 or so miles of driving, round trip. While I'd like to say we're pledging to limit our driving to under 100 miles this week, I'm not sure we're going to make that commitment this week.

I've discovered, however, that when gas prices have reached the nearly-$4-per-gallon mark, that my mindset about driving changed. Keep in mind, this is coming from a person who lives two blocks from work and generally only drives a couple of times a week. So I'm already far less dependent on gasoline than many, many people. But still, something changed.

See, before, when gas was a mere $2.50, or even $3 per gallon, I still was more than willing to drive across town, then come back home, then go out again, possibly in the same direction of where I had been before. Lately, though, I've put more thought into our car use, trying to consolidate trips so that one trip led to four or five errands being run at the same time.

Even yesterday, on our way back to Memphis from Nashville (where we dropped off the kids with my parents), we stopped at the Costco that is just off the interstate. We needed dog food (well, I guess the dogs needed the dog food, more accurately), and we went ahead and bought some other groceries, hoping to save a trip later in the week. A few months ago, we would've gone ahead home, then headed out to Costco later in the day, or the next day.

So I guess the goal is to see if we can make our current tank of gas (about 3/4 full) last for three weeks. I suppose it doesn't really matter how much we drive in the first week versus the second or third week. We're just going to drive only when we need to drive, and we'll not drive when we don't need to.

Which is why I'm not riding my bicycle to the dentist on Tuesday, and I'm not feeling bad about it.

Thursday, July 03, 2008

The BlogHer Blues

As the sporadic nature of my posting might suggest, I've been mostly absent in the blogging community lately. Work's been busy, life's been busy, and it seems like I've lost my flair for snark. I don't remember the last time I participated in an open thread at MamaPopTalk, and I've been guilty of opening my feed reader, seeing a three-digit number in the unread posts, and marking all read.

I attended BlogHer last year, when it was held in Chicago, mainly because Chicago is an attainable trip for me. My brother and his wife live there, it's an easy train ride away, and it fit very nicely into my family's summer travel plans.

This year, however, it's in California. I can't drive to California, and I don't have the money to fly.

And now I see that a lot of the people I wanted to meet last year, but who didn't attend for varying reasons, are going to be there. And that ugly little paranoid voice inside my head tells me that they're coming this year because I'm not. (To which my mother would sensibly reply, "Um, sweetie, you're not that powerful." Which I'm not. But it does bum me out just a little that this year's conference looks to be better-attended than last year's. And that I'm going to miss it.


So I'm two for two in my NaBloPoMo efforts in food blogging. You can read my whiny rant about my daughter's public diss on my baking skills over here.

Tuesday, July 01, 2008


I'm still blogging, just changed venue for the month. Please to visit my other blog and see what I'm up to this month.