Tuesday, February 24, 2009
Sometimes, however, I am perfectly happy to reflect on the things that make me perfectly happy. Today is one of those days. These are the things I am most grateful for in this weird world, and all but one of them are free.
1. A husband who tells me I'm beautiful every day--even on the days when the extent of my personal grooming is a shower, a T-shirt and a stolen pair of his workout pants (because mine are all dirty). Sunday he upped the ante even more by commenting during the Oscars: "I don't like Angelina Jolie. She's just gross." When I reminded him that most men would consider her sexist woman alive he added "I guess. If you like way too skinny, no boobs, but disturbingly large lips, and a bunch of nasty tattoos. Not my thing, yuck." Is he lying or delusional? Yeah, probably. Do I care? Not at all.
2. Friends who "get it." These are people who will raise an eyebrow and shoot you a knowing grin when someone else says to your face "We don't watch the Simpsons, it's trashy. Oh, did you see Grey's Anatomy last week? Awesome!" They are also the ones who offer to drive when you call and say you're running away to Mexico, but settle for a 15 minute phone conversation instead and assure you you're not crazy at the end. They read your blog and still know that you are nice, most of the time, but need a space to yell when you are feeling picked on.
3. Oxi-clean. I love this stuff. It gets out poop and any baby stain you can throw at it. I am currently soaking an entire load of darks that fell victim to a dryer cycle with a chapstick in my husband's pocket and praying it works its magic again on half my wardrobe. What Oxi-clean does for fabrics, Mr. Clean Magic Erasers do for any other surface, and I'm grateful for them too. They get marks (and even markers) off walls!
4. People who will take you to the airport. It takes a special relationship to ask someone to drive you to and from the airport, and I'm insanely grateful to have people in my life who will do it for us. Seriously, driving to the airport is a pain and a major commitment, and the carseat only makes it worse. Thank you so much!
5. A daughter who says "Numm!!!! Nummmmm!" to every single bite I give her, even if it's something inherently disgusting, like baby food green beans. Sometimes she oozes food from her mouth because she's smiling while she tries to eat. She teaches me to appreciate what we have and finds joy in things I've long taken for granted.
6. Along that vein, I'm thankful for a daughter who sees everyone as a new friend. The world is a friendly place to Sam, and while I am usually a shy person in public--terrified of weirdos and rapists--Sam's constant waving and smiling at strangers has forced me to be more friendly. I've discovered that the world is indeed a friendlier place when you are friendly--even strangers have a kind word if you smile at them. I've even caught myself doing it when she isn't with me, which doesn't get as warm a response, but still has helped me relearn what brutal years in high school had beaten out of me. The world is a nice place, and you can keep yourself safe and vigilant without being withdrawn and unsmiling. I may be the mom, but most of the time, Sam is the teacher.
6. People who are real live examples of what I'm trying to teach my kid. Not long ago, I walked up to a line in a store while holding Sam. I noticed a man in a wheelchair at the front of the line who was struggling to get his backpack back onto his chair while the other 3 or 4 people in line just stood there. I knew they were probably embarrassed and didn't know what to do to help, but I wasn't embarrassed (for once in my life). I threw Sam on one hip, walked over and asked if I could help him out. It took all of four seconds (okay, eight with Sam's insistent "help") to get his backpack on, and he was so grateful that he turned to his assistant dog and asked him to wave to Sam to say "thank you." The dog waved--Sam squealed and went ballistic with joy. She had a new best friend. We got so much more out of that gesture than we had put into it. Further, watching the sweet moment between a stranger, a baby, and a dog got everyone else in line to loosen and cheer up--the couple behind me kept her happy and engaged while I tried to do my transaction (much easier without her eating my wallet). I think that's the very definition of paying it forward. I want my kids to learn that it's always better in the end to be nice no matter what the response, but it is always wonderful when it does work out the way you hope right on the spot. I learned that helping others really does help you more.
So there you have it, proof that I'm not always grizzled and crotchety (as my father would call me). Turns out, I have a heart and soul after all. :) Don't worry, I've not gone totally soft, and will be back to my crusty self in no time at all, I might even watch the news tonight, and that always gets me fired up!
Monday, February 23, 2009
I'm sorry to have to be the one to tell you this, but you seem incapable of thinking in a logical fashion as a group, and therefore have no friends in your inner circle with the brainpower to break it to you. I hope you are all sitting down, because this may shock you and be undeniably hard to hear.
When you win an Oscar for a movie, it does not validate your political views. What it does validate is your ability to make a good movie in the eyes of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, and nothing more. This does not even validate that fact that your movie is empirically good. It is recognition from one very small group of people, who frankly, have been known to make some really odd mistakes anyway (did anyone else laugh to see the star of Snow Dogs, Cuba Gooding Jr. on the stage with the other icons of supporting actor Oscar fame--Hilarious. I would have thought the academy would try to bury that bad call, not dredge it back up). I congratulate you for your accomplishment, it means you made someone laugh, cry, or think. What it certainly does not mean, however, is that you made anyone agree with you or like your views. Do not use your acceptance speech as an opportunity to grandstand about your beliefs or belittle the very people paying $9.50 a seat to watch you perform in the movie--it makes you look like a jerk. In fact, great movies have been made about people who are entirely reprehensible, but to follow your line of thinking, these beliefs are now okay and validated. Did you hear that, Monster followers? Being a murdering prostitute just got a thumbs up from Hollywood--go to town (just make sure it's their town and not mine)!!! What would you think if Charlize Theron had gotten up and made a speech that the right to murder was being oppressed and someday our propensity to lock up these monsters will be the shame of our grandchildren? Million Dollar Baby did not make it ok to pull the plug on disabled people or condone the view that to live a life as a quadriplegic is a worthless life (in fact I was working with quadriplegics and paraplegics at the time it came out and all of them were disgusted and offended by the assumption they were better off dead). I am not saying in any way at all that the rights of murderers, the disabled, or gay people are in the same category, rather that you are saying it--if you embrace your own convoluted logic that winning awards for movies validates the subject matter. Be grateful that someone recognized your expertise in your area, and be thankful that you were given a great platform to showcase your views to the world through your film, but do not confuse one with the other. Just say thank you and then shut up.
We all know that your job is secretly not that hard, and if you do not use lavish ceremonies to honor yourselves at every turn, the world just might catch on to the fact that the emperor is indeed naked. We understand that you can't live without validation, but we are not interested in being told what to do by someone whose only claim to credibility comes from being placed in front of a microphone. Get your validation where it's due, and leave me and my views out of it, I'm bobbing along my own imperfect path with enough direction from people I value, your barking comments are just annoying white noise. It's self-importance like this that makes it so dang satisfying to see pictures of you picking your nose on TMZ. Have you ever thought that the paparazzi wouldn't have a market if you didn't make it so deliciously enjoyable to watch you get your comeuppance for your pomposity?
From a normal human being who just wants to watch good movies.
PS. If I ever take myself as seriously as Sean Penn, I give someone permission to slap me.
Thursday, February 19, 2009
At the end of the Scrooge's visit with the Ghost of Christmas Present, who is generally a jolly fellow, the scene takes place. Since I am unable to do the creepiness of it all justice, I will allow Mr. Dickens to state the way he intended from the original text:
From the foldings of its robe, it brought two children; wretched, abject, frightful, hideous, miserable. They knelt down at its feet, and clung upon the outside of its garment.
"Oh, Man, look here! Look, look, down here!" exclaimed the Ghost.
They were a boy and a girl. Yellow, meagre, ragged, scowling, wolfish; but prostrate, too, in their humility. Where graceful youth should have filled their features out, and touched them with its freshest tints, a stale and shrivelled hand, like that of age, had pinched, and twisted them, and pulled them into shreds. Where angels might have sat enthroned, devils lurked, and glared out menacing. No change, no degradation, no perversion of humanity, in any grade, through all the mysteries of wonderful creation, has monsters half so horrible and dread.
Scrooge started back, appalled. Having them shown to him in this way, he tried to say they were fine children, but the words choked themselves, rather than be parties to a lie of such enormous magnitude.
"Spirit, are they yours?" Scrooge could say no more.
"They are Man's," said the Spirit, looking down upon them. "And they cling to me, appealing from their fathers. This boy is Ignorance. This girl is Want. Beware them both, and all of their degree, but most of all beware this boy, for on his brow I see that written which is Doom, unless the writing be erased. Deny it!" cried the Spirit, stretching out its hand towards the city. "Slander those who tell it ye. Admit it for your factious purposes, and make it worse. And abide the end."
"Have they no refuge or resource?" cried Scrooge.
"Are there no prisons?" said the Spirit, turning on him for the last time with his own words. "Are there no workhouses?"Seriously, there is nothing scarier to me than emaciated children (except children with British accents, which frighten me beyond reason for no good reason), but the point Dickens was trying to make while admittedly going for the jugular is undeniable.
Man's children are Ignorance and Want, no matter the generation. However, with all due respect to the Great Mr. Dickens, I think that the form that Ignorance and Want took in Dickens's world is not the version our world needs to see. I have spent today coming up with a new look for Ignorance and Want--a scene to take this still valuable lesson into the new millennium if you will. I guess that makes me the Ignorance and Want stylista.
In Dickens's day, children were beaten, starved to death, and worked in factories. Ignorance referred to the lack of education they were able to receive, and therefore an inability to rise above their subservient lot in life. Want was truly a desperate need for the basic necessities of life--food, clothing, shelter, even a family to care for them. The people of the time looked the other way from the urchins in the street or employed them in deplorable conditions. Thank heaven we do not live that way anymore! Unfortunately, instead of stopping at a reasonable place, the pendulum has swung completely in the other direction, as pendulums tend to do.
Ignorance of 2009 is not an illiterate emaciated waif. Instead of "academic" ignorance, he possesses a complete ignorance of his own shortcomings and weaknesses. He is ignorant of the need for humility, kindness, or service. He is ignorant of his own ignorance, for he knows all. He has been told from birth that he is special--more special than anyone else, just by being himself. He is well dressed and awesome. He is perfect. He does not have any real friends, but only because, as his mother says, "the other kids are too jealous or stupid to recognize how special he is." His teachers can not teach him, because they are all morons. He is an American Idol contestant who sounds like a cat being beaten to death, but knows he is a good singer because the judges are "just *@! morons." He is the kid in second grade that failed math and nonchalantly declared "Hey, it's not what you know, it's who you know!" When attention is called to his overarching jerkiness, he is defended as having "a healthy confidence level." When he gets to High School, this kid will be driving the car while his mom walks to do her errands because his needs always come first. He will never fill it up with gas. He is oblivious to any human beings on this planet besides himself and those that meet his needs.
Want of 2009 is no slouch herself. She might be renamed "I Want" instead of just want. Truly the Veruca Salt of her generation, she the poster child for overindulged. A cell phone of her own at age 3, enough Powerwheels to host her own car show by age 4. The candy diet she started in toddlerhood may not have done her any favors, but it kept her from screaming, but she now fills her emotional emptiness with things instead of food, so it worked out. She will be able to get plastic surgery someday anyhow. She looks down on those with less, and calls out the "cheapies" while opening her pile of birthday gifts. She dresses like a prostitot in expensive clothes. When she is a teenager, she will still throw tantrums. Her list is endless and her anger merciless. If you do not give into what she wants, she will make you so very sorry. She is not the queen bee--she stole the queen bee's boyfriend, stung her with a vicious rumor and took her crown by force. No one will stop her because her parents are so desperate to recapture their own glory days and are dying to be considered cool. Want is not ignorant to her own shortcomings, but doesn't care because "it's better to be pretty and rich." Her car will someday cost more than my house, and she too, will never fill it with gas. She could be making your daughter's life miserable right this very minute.
So there you have it. If we allow Ignorance and Want to continue as the unheeded children of society the word "Doom" still very much applies, though their appearance has drastically changed. Plus, none of our cars will have gas. That's the lesson for today. It may not be as scary looking as starving children, but it still makes me shudder. And to Charles Dickens: I apologize for this. Truly I do. I love your work.
Wednesday, February 11, 2009
I wasn't mad at the mother initially, I was angry at the doctor. I've talked to several friends who have done IVF treatments (well before this happened) and all have said chose doctors who refused to implant a number of embryos that have even a slight chance of resulting in high multiple pregnancies to patients who would not be open to selective reduction. After speaking to them and doing my own research, I think it is flat out unethical, no matter the reproductive history, to create a situation that would make it even in the realm of possible to have this large a number of multiples. As much as I love Jon and Kate plus Eight (and I do), it is not right for a doctor to take 7 lives in his hands in this manner. It is unsafe for the babies as well as the mothers to carry so many babies. There is a good reason the fact that all eight of these babies even lived (even at an insanely small size) is medically notable. Do not misunderstand me on this point, I am thrilled that our medical advances have come so far to allow babies that would have received an instant death sentence a mere 20 years ago to live long healthy lives. I do not think however, that because these strides have been made, doctors should in anyway be attempting to push the envelope of the possible on purpose. We should be making strides to help situations we can not avoid, not creating dire situations ourselves and then congratulate ourselves on fixing them at the 11th hour.
All this was before the news started rolling in. The mother has 6 other children, all conceived with IVF. Now I'm wondering why in the world the doctor was implanting such a high level of embryos in a woman who had success so many times before. Three of her children have special needs. Great, add in a history of complications with these babies, but continue to stack the odds against her by making it likely that more babies with them, as well as less time to meet the needs of the ones she already has. All her kids are under the age of 7. Yeah, and make sure her body isn't recovering adequately from all these pregnancies before attempting another. I'm sure her depleted baby-growing nutrients had nothing to do with the younger children's disabilities, you're the doctor after all, not me. She's single. She is unemployed. She is totally broke. At this point, I just threw up my hands and thought what the heck is going on here!!!???
I was already mad, but after all this, I felt a little sick to my stomach on top of it. What is wrong with this woman? Does she even care one iota for the kids she already has, or is she just trying to set some sort of record for birthing? Is this some sort of weird variation of Munchhausen syndrome where she gets the attention she needs from her alarmingly disturbing situation by making it epically worse? So, because I wanted to give her a fair shake and see for myself what I thought, I watched her interview with Anne Curry last night. I watched it even though I hate Dateline.
I don't know why her PR rep thought this would help the situation, because frankly, after listening to her twisted logic and loose grasp on reality, I like Nadya Suleman even less. I didn't think that was possible, but I do. First was her stubborn statement on chosing to remain single and being dubbed irresponsible with "why can't a couple be called irresponsible?" I knew I would have issues with her then, and I think that was minute one of the interview. In response to Ms. Suleman, let me say this. Number one, if a couple decides to have 14 kids, with both of them unemployed, broke, living off their parents and student loans, etc, you'd better believe they'd be called irresponsible, assuming kids were listening and I therefore couldn't use the words I would prefer. Two, the reason a couple is more acceptable in this situation than one person is because it is generally assumed that one can provide money while the other provides the care. While I don't necessarily agree with Mrs. Clinton on the whole "it takes a village" thing, it certainly takes more than one person to provide for and raise 14 children. The interview was downhill from there at an Olympic gold medal pace. I was particularly upset when she said she was living off of student loans and it was okay to continue having copious numbers of kids because she knew when she was done with school and working "as a counselor" she would be able to provide for them. I'm so very sorry honey, but you are all over the news being touted as the poster child for crazy and delusional. I do not want to meet (in this life or the next for that matter), any person who would go to you for counseling and advice. The person who considers you a stablizing influence has issues no human being can fix. Not to mention the cost of daycare for 14 children will most likely outweigh the income of a counselor, even if you had a potential client base to begin with. Forethought obviously isn't her strong suit. I won't even touch the food stamps are not welfare argument.
However, even with all my rancor and rage in this situation, there is some rage people need to redirect in the face of fairness. Ironically enough, the first target of my rage is now who I'm defending, the doctor in all this.
Let's get one thing straight, angry people of America, the only thing the doctor should be held to account for is the number of embryos implanted in this woman. Period. To say he is irresponsible to perform IVF on a single, broke woman who already had 6 kids is flat-out wrong. There is no way on earth that a doctor should make the call of how many children a woman should have--the only call he makes is how many she can safely have at one time, if he is the one making the pregnancy happen in the first place. The pretense that some woman can have as many children as she wants naturally (by either accident or design with any number of men) is none of our business but a woman who needs help to concieve should have some sort of number cap put on by her doctor is insane. Neither situation is our business, as long as the children are taken care of. One could even argue that a woman who pays and struggles for her kids does want them more than a woman who gets pregnant multiple times on accident, and the woman with fertility issues will therefore be a better mother. There are several large families out there that reached that size completely unintended, and it doesn't make them better parents than those with a few children who can remember (or choose) to exercise caution.
The doctor also has no right to determine if she can afford these children. Frankly, if it were me, as a fertility doctor who charges upwards of $10,000 per cycle, I would assume my clients have at least sufficient funds for a baby--all the more for being able to pay it 7 times over. It would never even occur to me to ask "Is this money that would be better spent paying for the specialists your autistic son needs? Or maybe buying food for your other 6 children?" Financial situations change, as this economy has shown time and time again, so to put a doctor in charge of auditing his patients for their parenting readiness is a violation of patient rights that is inaccurate at best anyway. If anything, it shows me that maybe the government should audit before handing out welfare, just to make sure someone doesn't have say, $20 grand in a baby bank, before handing out food stamps. What's to stop just anyone from collecting food stamps because the money they do have they just do not want to use on food? That's the crime here, not that the doctor gave a patient the treatment she paid for.
Finally, we have to remember that the laws that protect patients' privacy are totally shafting the doctor on this one. Everyone keeps saying he made no comment, or rejected their request for an interview as if it's because he's hiding something, but what they are not saying is that he legally can not do otherwise. HIPAA laws protect patients in so many ways, even keeping the doctor from saying whether or not they are a patient, which means that this woman could be lying like a rug, but the doctor can not weigh in on his own defense without violating federal law. She could stand up on camera and say he implanted her with 12 embryos instead of giving her a routine pap smear, and he would not be able to say a word to the press. The governing body of his field is the only department who can and will find out the whole story, and in the meantime, this doctor is stuck--silent and dragged through the mud. Not a place I'd like to be, to be sure. The fact that this mother has already been caught in half-truths like crazy (no pun intended), and her own mother is alleging she lied about the doctor, I'm going to say there is way more to this story that we will never know, but it's likely the mother is throwing him under the bus in some way.
The doctor's only stewardship is the health of the mother and babies, and outside of that, keeping tabs on a woman he sees for an hour a visit is not in his job description. It was wrong to endanger the health of the babies and mother by implanting so many, but everything else being laid at his feet is just vindictiveness.
I understand the anger. As a society, what we are really mad about is the rock and hard place that this woman's selfish actions have wedged us between. Do we come together and give her what she needs to adequately care for her children, teaching her (and them) that you can do whatever you want and someone will bail you out of your own stupidity? Do we leave her to her own devices and let these children suffer the consequences of their mother's strange choices? That's why I'm really mad at least--I'm mad at the news for throwing this woman's problems in my lap, and making me have to decide what side of this complicated issue I am on. Yes, I personally am not going to be writing the Suleman family a check, but this still solidifies all the arguments I've been rolling around my head in the abstract. Recent politics have already put these issues at the forefront of our minds, but this is a hard core example of the conflict placed in front of my face that I can not ignore. When it comes down to brass tacks, when I have to look at a specific face affected by our decisions, rather than an amorphous ideology, where do I stand? Do I run in and save these children a life of poverty and pain and in the process save their mother from herself and teach people that no matter what you do to screw your own life up, someone else will make it okay? Am I okay with watching her fall hard, even though she's taking 14 innocent children down with her? Does it make me heartless that I don't want my family's meager resources going to bail her out of her own mess, because while I do pity these children, they in no way rank above my own in my heart and mind? Do I believe I have to pay to assist someone whose motivations and mindset I completely despise because of the indirect effect of her decisions?
I still don't know exactly where I stand on these issues, but I know I lean towards the heartless side, because I don't believe in protecting people from consequences they have rightly earned. For crying out loud, this situation has even forced me to assess my feelings about reproductive technology and medical ethics, which is enough to handle on its own.
I guess I'm mad because a line has been drawn in the sand for me, by someone who had no right to draw it, but now I can't pretend it hasn't made me think.
Even if I don't feel like it.
Friday, February 6, 2009
I don't know why this is the one thing that seems to be destined to cause confusion in our marriage, but the use of our dishwasher is just something that we can not get in sync, and when one person secretly decides to give up and accommodate the other, the other will simultaneously secretly decide to do the same to hilarious results. Even with our annoying quirks, we are completely in tandem.
Basically, there is an unwritten law in our house that Daniel will not attempt to put a dirty dish in the dishwasher unless one of the following situations arises, at which point he will inexplicably and randomly have a burning need to assist in kitchen clean up.
1) If the dishes are already clean, with the clean light on, he will miraculously lose the ability to see bright green lights and decide to squeeze several dishes of varying nastiness in with the clean ones, making it impossible to determine what is clean and what is dirty. End result has us running the entire load again, while we all drink out of oversize plastic novelty cups, since our glasses are in the mystery load. As an added bonus, the load usually doesn't get cleaned well, since it was already full before the added dishes got shoved in.
2) If I try to set the timer before bed so it runs while we are sleeping and electricity is cheaper, Daniel will (sometimes for no reason known to man or beast) open the dishwasher. Sometimes, he has a dish to put in, sometimes, it's because I told him not to open it and although he did not hear or become cognisant of the request, his subconscious is suddenly telling him that he simply HAS TO open the dishwasher. Even he does not know why. Without fail, he then forgets to hit the start button again, so I wake up planning to unload the washer during breakfast, and find all the dishes still gross, and now I have to run it during peak hours and with the TV blaring to cover the noise.
Like I said, it's a funny little dance we are always doing. It's not really a major thing, but I'm not sure what else to do about it. Normally, I would try to let it go, but the other day, I was having a particularly frustrating day, and decided to take action to ensure, once and for all, that my dishes would come out the other side 100% clean and at the expected time. In a world where I was losing control, I was going to take control over this. Just this once.
I set the 4 hour delay, and then proceeded to get a piece of notepaper. On this paper, in sharpie marker, I put a large frowny face and wrote "No Touchee!! Timer is ON." I then stuck this paper on the counter, wrapped over the edge and onto the washer so that in order to even open the dishwasher, Daniel would have to remove (and therefore read) the note. Yeah, I thought, this will work perfectly.
Two hours later, Daniel walked in from a long day at work. We all said Hi and gave hugs and kisses, and I told him it was a rough day. Sam was driving me crazy and I felt like she was getting into the same things 100s of times a day and all I did was run interference. Then Daniel, (as if drawn by magnetic forces) walked to the dishwasher. He picked up the note, looked at it, then set it aside and without a dish in his hand or in his proximity, opened the dishwasher and looked inside! Just looked!!! I thought my head was going to explode, but I tried to remain calm as I said "Uh, honey, what in the world are you doing? Did you see the note?"
Daniel looked up innocently and proceeded to say with a completely straight face, "Well, yeah, but I thought it was for Sam."
Was he kidding me?
I reminded him, charmingly and sweetly, you can be sure, that our 9-month-old daughter does not yet possess the ability to read (or open the dishwasher for that matter).
To this rather superflous and unnecessary reminder, he smiled and responded "I know that, but you said you had a really bad day, and I thought you might be losing it."
That's right folks, rather than think that a note on the dishwasher applied to him, my husband assumed I could get frustrated enough to lose the ability to realize that our baby can't read and had started to leave her letters regarding unacceptable behavior. Yeah, it didn't make sense to me either.
Even when I'm hanging by a thread, I've never once gotten that removed from reality.
This is when I realized without a shadow of a doubt that this dishwasher thing is much bigger than Daniel. It's bigger than me. It's bigger than both of us, and we can either embrace it and laugh when yet another load gets mixed up or left filthy, or drive ourselves to new heights of absurdity trying to "fix" it. Neither of us can help it, so instead of being a point of contention, the dishwasher has officially become the running family joke.
Besides, even if no one else reads this, I'm sure Sam will when she's surfing the web later.
What, your baby doesn't read, yet? Weird.