Why I’m Grateful for Wendy Davis and I #Standwithwendy

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Texas State Senator Wendy Davis

In case you’re not from Texas, you might not know that Wendy Davis is a state senator from Fort Worth who recently staged a filibuster in the Texas Capitol to block a bill from being passed. That bill would have essentially shut down almost all abortion clinics in Texas by burdening them with expensive requirements that virtually none of them could meet.

Davis, a former teenage single mother, went on to earn a law degree from Harvard. Her efforts, including standing for over 11 hours to tell women’s stories, are heroic to me, and not because I am pro-abortion. I am absolutely anti-abortion, just like I am anti-rape and anti-incest and anti-disease and anti-ignorance and anti-bullying.

In fact, I’m pretty sure that no one wants people to have abortions. I’m pretty sure that everyone would agree that avoiding unwanted pregnancies is the best possible course of action in human reproduction. 

However, in order to reduce the need for access to a safe, legal, affordable abortion, at least ten things would have to happen:

1. Rape would cease to exist.

2. Incest would cease to exist.

3. All girls and boys would be empowered by being thoroughly educated on all aspects of sexual reproduction, including birth control options as well as abstinence.

4. All girls and women would have access to affordable birth control through clinics such as Planned Parenthood.

5. Birth control would never fail.

6. People would cease to be human and therefore be immune from making life-altering mistakes.

7. All fetuses would develop normally with no gaping holes in their brains or fatal genetic malfunctions.

8. All men would take financial and emotional responsibility for a partner’s pregnancy.

9. No woman’s life would ever be put at risk by a developing fetus.

10. All pregnant women would have the same emotional and financial support as the top one percent.

If you’ve ever taken an anthropology class, you know that you can’t apply your own cultural beliefs when studying another culture. You have to understand things from their points of view based on their histories, environment, heritage and culture.

I think this issue is very much the same. It’s very easy to say that you are pro-life no matter what, but what if you or your daughter were violently raped and impregnated? I can’t imagine a just and moral world where a women who is the victim of such a crime would be forced to put her own health, job, family, emotional state and financial status at risk to carry a child she did not want or ask for and be forced to relive that crime with each pound she gains. Some women might be able to do that. Me? No way.

I’m not sure men are really able to understand the totality of what a sacrifice and potential danger it is to carry a baby to term. And I find it hard to accept that the many male Texas legislators feel like they should be able to make such personal decisions for women. Sure, it’s easy for these men to place a vote that limits a woman’s reproductive options because it DOESN’T AFFECT THEM! But guess what? That vote may affect their wives or their daughters or their nieces. And I believe that if they fully respected those women they loved, those legislators would understand that unfortunately, the world is not always perfect. Not everything is black and white. Terrible circumstances may arise that makes an abortion the best of a series of bad options available for a vulnerable woman. 

But her decision really shouldn’t be anyone else’s business.

If we really want to reduce abortions, then let’s educate our youth instead of withholding vital knowledge and relying on abstinence. Let’s make it easier to report rapes and get medical treatment by including rape kits in ALL hospitals, not just a few. Let’s realize that women are not all the same but that we are all able to make our own reproductive decisions without government interference. Let’s stop judging people about something that, unless we are in their position, we can’t fully understand.

Oh, and while we’re at it, let’s encourage people to sign up to be adoptive parents to the many, many children languishing in the state’s care. Now THAT would be pro-life.

 

 

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Boys, Bodily Functions and Smartphones

I am so glad that my we got my youngest son a smartphone so he could download helpful apps that improve his life and enhance his academic journey.

I’d love to tell you that he is using the iTunes U app to watch advanced level philosophy or math videos from Ivy League professors. I’d love to tell you that he is reading the free classic novels he can download or that he is using the Dictionary app to bolster his vocabulary. I’d love to tell  you that he is downloading magazines like Newsweek or Fast Company or The Atlantic on his Newsstand app and is perusing them whenever he has free time.

But I would be lying to you. Because that is not what my son does on his iPhone.

Instead, he documents his bodily functions.

I found this out the other day when we were in the car running errands. We pulled up to the grocery store and my son whipped out his phone and, after a few clicks, cheerily said, “Bomb’s away!” 

“What are you doing?” I asked.

“I’m using my new app,” he said. “It’s called Places I’ve Pooped. Whenever you poop somewhere new, you hit the Bomb’s Away button and it flags that place on a map. I’ve already pooped here.” 

“Are you kidding me?” 

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Places I’ve Pooped App

“No! Check out all the places I’ve pooped,” he said.

He showed me the screen. Little pushpins dotted the map. Sure enough, he’s pooped in A LOT of places. I suppose I should be grateful knowing that my son has a very healthy digestive system. 

“Isn’t it awesome?” he asked.

I tried to think about that. Is it awesome? If so, why? Perhaps it would be if there were any legitimate medical use for the app, maybe as motivation for sufferers of constipation?

Then I started thinking about broader issues of gender and bodily functions: What is it about boys (and men) and their bodily functions? Why do they think it’s cool to discuss and even broadcast them with anyone and everyone? And who in the world came up with an app called Places I’ve Pooped? 

Not surprisingly, the creator is a young male software developer in Seattle named Mike Judge. Here’s how he describes himself on Twitter (@MikeLovesRobots): Seattle-based software engineer and indie game developer, author of Piggyback Dungeon Ryder, BlockHeroes and the highly reviewed Places I’ve Pooped.

Wait, Places I’ve Pooped is highly reviewed?

I went to the app itself to see what customers see in it. Here’s how Mike markets it on the App Store: Places I’ve Pooped is a little gem that helps you track all the places you’ve pooped in the world. Expand your territory, mark everywhere you’ve visited – bombs away!

In the comment section of the App Store, one person complained that the share to Facebook button wasn’t working. Really? You want to share where you’ve pooped with your friends on Facebook?

Perhaps this revelation explains why I had a very hard time finding a Father’s Day card that didn’t refer to 1) Farting or 2) Burping or 3) Sitting on the toilet. Clearly, greeting card companies have done their research. 

I’m not sure I will ever understand guys and their fascination with discussing and documenting their pooping – or any other bodily functions.  

All I know is that I’m pretty certain there will never be an app called Places I’ve Gotten My Period.

P.S. In case you’re wondering if I am embarrassing my son by writing this post, fear not. He gives the post an enthusiastic thumbs up and will be happy to show you his ever-expanding map of places he’s pooped if you so desire. 

 

 

Spam Poetry

While scrolling through the comments on my blog this morning, I noticed that my folder of spam had 32 messages. I was about to hit “Empty Spam” when I decided to go through it and make sure all of it was really spam. Man, am I glad that I did! No, I didn’t find a legitimate comment, but what I did find made me laugh. Spam can be downright hilarious! Who comes up with this stuff?

I know, I know. Spam is bad. It causes financial headaches and takes up space and is otherwise a pain in the butt. However, I can do very little about the existence of spam other than to try to protect my own computer from its clutches. So if my spam can entertain me for a few minutes, I feel like I should allow myself to be entertained.IMG_1231

The world’s spammers must spend hours trying to learn English and defy spam filters with their ridiculous-sounding sentences. I imagine a scruffy teenager in remote Russia cranking out bizarre sentences on his computer and leaving them in the comment section of every blog he can find between snacks of meat pies and cheese blintzes that his mother fixes him and marathon sessions of Call of Duty. All I can say is, I feel sorry for you, spammers. You should really get a life and a real job. And make your own snacks. But in the meantime, I get a kick out of your poor English and grammatical errors.

Thank you WordPress for protecting my blog from these spammers but also compiling all of these messages in a nice, neat folder that I can delete with one click.

Sometimes poetry sounds like a bunch of gibberish to me, almost as if it was written by spammers. In honor of all the poetry I don’t understand, and the funny spam I receive, I decided to start the day with a few short Spam Poems incorporating funny lines from some of my best spam messages. Hope you enjoy reading them as much as I enjoyed writing them!

Perpendicular Parties

Our god is the beautiful and omnipotent golfer


and human beings are His appliances.

Many phenomena suggest

that humanity is under
 attack

and it has been

for sometime

From perpendicular parties.

The only manner of how to detect them

is through some sort or other of early
 detector’s test.

Then find great solutions,

on sale

off and on


the world-wide-web.

With widespread public acceptance.

Dying well, Problem-less and not Penniless, in a T-Shirt

When men and women depart the qualified earth*

They use t-shirts.

If you exercise in them,

be destined not to cause problems,

and still have everything you can.

Congratulations, you have
 decided.

A great sport!

*Income depends on the time the sufferer died. Never expect to earn a huge amount of dollars.

Potty
training

The operation starts with a good solid pattern.

And a raise in temperature.

A necessary part: the remote island – useful for the purpose of relaxation.

Remember, carrots can keep stools 
softer and larger.

The Best Coffee I Ever Had

I was four years old the first time I drank coffee and smoked a cigarette.

We were in a restaurant in Boston eating lunch, me, my mother and Marielle the sophisticated and beautiful French au pair who stayed with us for a year. I was sitting on my mother’s lap. Marielle sat across the table from us smoking. My mother and Marielle spoke exotic-sounding French while I tried to follow along. They taught me some new words  (s’il vous plait, merci, au revoir) while my mother let me drink spoonfuls of her milky, saccharin-sweetened coffee.

“How do you say coffee in French?” I asked.

“Pee pee de chat,” Marielle joked, pointing at the weak American coffee. Cat pee. I thought that was hilarious and referred to coffee as pee pee de chat for a long time after that.

Marielle showed me how she could make circles of smoke come out of her mouth. It was mesmerizing.

“Can I try?” I asked.

My mother’s eyes twinkled when she said, “You want to try? Ok. Go ahead.” She must have known what was coming.

I crawled into Marielle’s lap and she held the cigarette for me. I leaned forward and squeezed it between my pursed lips. Then, just like I’d seen her do, I sucked in, raising my eyebrows a tiny bit, showing off for the family at the next table.

Before I could blow out any smoke rings, though, I sputtered and coughed. My lungs felt like they were on fire. I thought I was going to die. We had to leave the restaurant. That was the last time I ever tried smoking.

The coffee, however, stuck with me. Over the years I’ve tasted some pretty good coffee. But there are those few, special cups of coffee that stand above the rest. And where good coffee exists, great memories do as well.

My Top Four Cups of Coffee 

Image via Toshihiro Oimatsu Flikr Creative Commons

Image via Toshihiro Oimatsu Flikr Creative Commons

4. Café mocha from Ocean Coffee Roasters in Providence, RI. On a cold night returning from the Sciences Library at Brown University after an evening of studying, a stop at Ocean was like a tiny bit of sunny paradise in the middle of a blizzard. It may have been the one thing that got me through Economics 101. Plus, I usually went with my boyfriend after we studied together. Our relationship grew over dozens and dozens of café mochas. All we had to do was say, “Ocean?” and we both knew that meant: do you want to go with me to get a cup of coffee? Now that we’re married we still share a love for good coffee and often reminisce about the great coffee at Ocean. Apparently, Ocean Coffee Roasters no longer has a shop on the Brown campus, but they’re still a fixture up in Rhode Island. If you’re ever up that way, don’t pass it up. It will be one of the best cups of coffee you will ever drink. Hands down.

3. The bowl of café au lait I had every morning while staying with a family for the summer in rural Levier, France when I was 16. My host mother would place a steaming bowl of milky coffee in front of me as well as a freshly baked baguette. I don’t think there is anything in this world better than a warm French baguette slathered with butter and dipped into a bowl of café au lait. Seriously. Of course it helps to be eating it in France. I’m not sure I could replicate the exact experience in Texas.

2. Madras coffee at Madras Pavillion, a vegetarian and kosher Indian restaurant in Richardson, TX. When I first moved to Dallas, I met my friend Priya at the local YMCA where both our kids were taking swim lessons. She talked about as fast as I did and we bonded immediately. You know when you meet someone and you just click right away? That was how it was for Priya and me. We learned that we had a lot in common, including a love of Indian food. It was Priya who found Madras Pavillion and over the years it has become a tradition for us to go there for the buffet lunch, stuff ourselves with curried vegetables, naan, many kinds of rice, spicy soups, lentil donuts and sweet rice pudding or mango ice cream, and then linger over a cup of creamy, aromatic Madras coffee while catching up on each other’s lives. Since we don’t get to see each other often anymore, the Madras Coffee tastes better every time we go there.

1. Café con leche at the Gran Hotel in San Jose, Costa Rica. It was the first trip we took after my mom died. Traveling was one of the things my parents enjoyed most and in the aftermath of her death, it was the only thing my dad could think to do: take my husband and me on a trip to a place they always wanted to go together. That first morning, we were excited about being in Costa Rica and the white-water rafting trip we were about to embark on, but we were also sad that my mom wasn’t there to enjoy it. Plus, there’s no other way to say this, it was awkward being with just my dad. But when the waiter at the hotel poured the strong coffee out of one pot and the steaming milk out of a different pot at the same time into my mug, the awkwardness drifted away along with the rising steam. The creamy colors quickly mingled. The trip was off to a delicious start.

What is the best cup of coffee you remember?

I Feel Bad About Being a Pessimist

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Half empty?

It’s not something I’m proud of, but I am one of those people who see the glass as half-empty. Always have been. Those of you who know me might be surprised by this because I try not to fly my pessimistic freak flag very high. But let me tell you, it takes a lot of restraint.

I try to rationalize that I’m not really a negative person, I just like to be prepared for the worst, in case it happens. Not that I’m necessarily expecting the worst to happen, I just want to be prepared if it does. At least this is what I tell myself. 

For example, when we moved to Fort Worth 15 years ago, our newly built house was fairly close to some high voltage power lines. I was concerned about health consequences but the builder’s sales person showed us many studies showing no correlation between living near high voltage power lines and illness. The house and neighborhood and schools were great so we moved there anyway. But I worried the whole time we lived there in a warped form of “preparation.” I figured that if the universe knew how concerned I was about the power lines, it would prevent anything from happening to my family.

But the universe didn’t seem to get the memo. Because I got cancer anyway. Of course, I blamed it on living near the power lines. But who knows if that’s what caused it? It could have been the small asbestos-tinged pieces of the Berlin Wall I had hammered away on a visit in 1990 and stashed in a closet in the new house. It could have been all those years living in New Jersey. It could have been related to the mononucleosis I had as a 16-year-old. It could have been just a random rebel cell that decided to go rogue and have a party in my lymph system.

It could have been anything.

Here’s what it took me 42 years to figure out: being “prepared” for the worst to happen means prematurely experiencing bad feelings associated with the worst happening – usually for no reason (my cancer episode notwithstanding). But even if something terrible does happen, worrying about it ahead of time doesn’t do any good. For two years I obsessed about getting sick, then I got sick. All the worrying didn’t help a bit. It just made those two years less pleasant than they should have been. And people who believe in the Law of Attraction might say that all my thinking about getting sick caused me to get sick. Maybe they’re right.

My husband’s grandfather, a small-town justice of the peace and rancher in West Texas used to say, “No use worrying about ghosts what ain’t.” He was the most happy, relaxed person I’ve ever met. When I get anxious about something I need to remember to channel his colorful phrase, preferably in a nice, slow, relaxing Texas twang.

Grandaddy Sam hanging out at his ranch

“No use worrying about ghosts what ain’t.” — Grandaddy Sam

Anyway, I’ve come to realize that pessimism is really just an insidious form of fear. And living with fear all the time is not a good way to live.

So I’m trying NOT to be such a pessimist. I’m trying to be cheery and upbeat and happy for the blessings in my life. I’m trying to assume that good things will happen in the world. I’m trying to be optimistic. Gratitude is one of the ways I’m trying to beat back my pessimistic side. And it’s beginning to work.

But let’s face it, terrible things surround us all. Like terrorism. Like the tornado in Oklahoma. Like missing children. Like getting cancer. Like poverty and despair and depression and disease. And the elephants being killed for their tusks. And the sharks being killed for their fins. And global warming and deforestation and AIDS and unemployment and corporate greed and the rising cost of healthcare and the rising cost of education and overpopulation and racial inequality.

Oh my god, I’m exhausted just thinking about all those things. There’s so little one person can do about everything bad in the world. It’s hard NOT to be a pessimist in the face of it all.

How do you optimists do it?

Wait. Deep breath. Focus. Back to positivity and gratitude in case the Law of Attraction actually works.

I am thankful for having the time to write this cathartic little blog post today.

My novel revisions are going well and will continue to do so now that I got rid of Shoulder Frank.

I envision a publishing contract one day popping up in my email.

No use worrying about ghosts what ain’t.

Take that, pessimism.

Sunday Morning Thunderstorms: A Love Story

Sunday morning. 6:30 a.m. One of my very favorite things in the world is happening right now.

A few minutes ago, as I lay in bed halfway between asleep and awake, groggily deciding whether I should get up, make a cup of coffee and read the New York Times, or just go back to sleep for a little while, a flash of light made my decision for me.

I waited, holding my breath, hoping it wasn’t some electronic device in our bedroom that had flashed. Then, a few seconds later: joy. Boom! Plink, plink, plink.

I leapt out of bed and slipped outside to sit on the back porch.

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Yucca flowers enjoying the moisture.

There are few things in this world I love more than being awakened by an early Sunday morning thunderstorm. I love almost everything about thunderstorms. The first, hesitant drops of rain plinking on our skylights. The whooshing water running out of the gutters. The overlapping, repeating circles erupting on the patio puddles and on the surface of the pool. The soft roars of thunder in the distance as the storm drifts away. The way the flowers become bright exclamation points in the soggy gray light. I love how nature becomes so geometric and creative and beautiful and active.

When I was little, we had a screened-in porch. During thunderstorms, we always gathered on the porch to watch the sky erupt. Mom made popcorn and lemonade. I sat on her lap. We counted between lightning and thunder. Often, we were quiet, listening to the peacefulness of the rain and the tumbling of the sky.

In Texas, we always need the rain. Anytime it rains, I’m grateful. But when that rain comes with a gentle thunderstorm, it’s a treat. Thank you for the rain and this morning’s show. And thank you for not bringing any tornadoes with it.

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Lucy does not share my love of thunderstorms. The morning bathroom run was soggy and quick. No time to bark.

A Parent’s Guide to Surviving Summer

Summer has arrived and for the first time in 16 years I am not terrified. Finally, my two offspring are lazy teenagers who sleep until noon. I am SO grateful.

Only parents of boys (and maybe some girls) with ADHD will relate to how scary THREE MONTHS of unstructured time is. My two sons nearly managed to kill themselves and destroy the house and its contents every summer. And to think I once wanted six kids.

I remember one summer when the staff at the local emergency room actually started greeting us by name. “Well, if it isn’t the Richie family again.”

At the end of every school year I always wanted to smack those parents who said they were looking forward to a relaxing summer. Some of the most offensive comments:

“We like to snuggle up and watch movies.”

“We just sleep late and take it easy.”

“We are just going to hang out at the pool all summer.”

These are phrases you will never hear from parents of boys with ADHD. There is no relaxing. There is no taking it easy. There is no hanging out. There is only planning, scheduling, supervising (or paying the consequences of not supervising carefully enough), getting creative, getting desperate, bribery, and, if lucky, sleep.

So this summer, while parents of calm, bookish, crafty kids are sipping iced tea by the pool and patting themselves on the back for having such self-directed, goal-oriented, well-behaved children, parents of kids with ADHD will be in the battle trenches, trying to keep their children alive, their houses standing and their sanity intact while repeating, “use your indoor voice” and “keep your hands to yourself” and “Why did you take [insert item] apart?” about a thousand times per day.

If you are one of those parents with young, hyperactive, loud children, I sympathize with your plight. Maybe I can help. Here are a few things I learned from my years in the trenches:

1) Camp is crucial. Sign up for as many as possible. Can’t afford camp? Sign up for every vacation Bible school you can find. It doesn’t matter if you’re not Christian. You can de-program them later if you have the energy. A free three hours of play, songs, crafts and socializing that you don’t have to provide is worth the Jesus-y songs they will have stuck in their heads. By all means, look into other religious institutions that offer free camps as well. If the Buddhists or Jews or Hindus offer free camps, don’t pass them up. If your child is asked not to return to camp because he keeps fleeing the classroom and bolting to the parking lot to “give you one last hug” after you have already driven away, then see the tips below.

2) If camp is not an option, schedule the shit out of each day à la Super Nanny. Make sure to leave a long time for the things that keep the kids in one place. For example:

  • Bath time: Give the kids food coloring, baking soda, bath crayons, bath paint, bath stickers and, if small enough, the family dog. Make use of every kitchen utensil, too. Especially the baster. It can add at least 10 minutes to bath time. Ditto the vacuum hose.
  • Rest time: Even if the kids don’t nap anymore, rest time is crucial for your sanity. Never, ever abandon rest time. Set a timer if necessary. Add a few minutes a day. Bribe if necessary.
  • Reading time: Minimal energy on your part. However, if your kids are like mine were and won’t sit still for reading, let them build Legos while they listen or tickle their back while you’re reading. Or, if none of that works, drive around for reading time and listen to a book on CD. A few of our favorite authors to listen to: Jack Gantos and Robert Munsch.

3) Encourage your kids to talk to strangers. For example, when son #2 was six, he asked if he could dress up in his suit and tie and give gum to people walking by our house. He stood in front of our house offering sticks of Extra to passing joggers for at least 45 minutes. He chatted up every passing jogger or walker whether they liked it or not. “Excuse me sir, you look like you could use a fresh stick of gum.” Quickly he realized that many people had dogs so he added dog bones to his inventory and extended each interaction by a few minutes. Our local exercisers thought he was adorable. He used up about half of his loquaciousness for the day. I finished a chapter or two. Win-win-win.

4) Go to garage sales. On Friday and/or Saturday mornings, give each kid a dollar and tell them they can buy anything they can afford at a garage sale. Then go to a few garage sales and watch your kids learn the fine art of negotiation. Son #1 came home with an old stereo system once. He spent about three hours in his room taking it apart. That $1 bought me three hours of peace. On the other hand, son #2 wanted to buy an old bullet at a yard sale. Temper tantrum avoidance technique: give a list of buying rules beforehand and always include No Live Ammunition.

5) Recruit as many teenage babysitters in your neighborhood as you can find, but make sure to give them very specific rules in writing. Add to the list as necessary. One time son #1 talked a 15-year-old babysitter into letting him on the roof. “My mom always makes me check our roof for hail damage,” he said. “She’ll be mad if I don’t.” Never in a million years did I ever think my list of rules would include No Checking for Hail Damage on the Roof.

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Son #1 with his potato cannon

6) Think twice before buying the book Backyard Ballistics because your budding engineer would like to build a potato cannon. Those potatoes fly HUNDREDS of feet.

7) Rely on TV for the most dangerous time of day: Dinner Preparation. One night, in the 20 minutes it took me to fix tacos, son #1 had fished an old toddler car seat out of the garage, drilled holes in the bottom, taken wheels off of a dolly, attached them to the car seat, tied a rope from the car seat to the back of his bike and convinced his younger brother to go for a ride. As I finished browning the meat, I looked out the window just in time to see son #2 strapped in the old car seat dragging behind that bike swinging from side to side in the middle of the street, grinning from ear to ear before biting it on a curb.

“Well, if it isn’t the Richie family again.”