My Vet's Office

Vet

Please note: bull dog sitting on floor behind the desk, small beige cat next to laptop near the window, and cat with one eye sitting on the charts. These guys aren't even patients - they seem to live there. It may not be state-of-the-art, but I love my vet.


Missing You

Images-1I miss everyone I lost last year.

Yesterday, I was longing to tell my friend Missy about a dream I had. She'd have listened, snorted, and then come up with some completely irreverent interpretation that would make me laugh. There are so many things I need to tell her. 

I also really need to talk to my Dad. I have some questions about the Adirondacks that only he can answer. Mostly I want to look into his brown eyes, pat his leg and tell him how much I love him. 

Also,  I keep coming across pictures of my little brother and me. We are often touching - holding hands, or he is hanging off of my arm. With Bill, I want to warn him and protect him from the life he would lead. I want to go back in time, not just to before his death, but back to when we were 12 and 6 respectively, when he was a pale, tow-headed, chubby kid with no shadow of the terrible things to come and I was his alternately annoyed and affectionate big sister.


Dept. of Stupidity


ImagesI back up all the work from my MacBook Pro to an external hard drive. Like all things in my house, it stopped working - the backup that is.  Every day an ominous warning appears on my desk top. You haven't backed up your data in 63 days! 64 days! 65 days....

I called Apple Care for help.  The woman listened, asked me to again explain the problem, and then said she needed to reach out to a supervisor. About 10 minutes later she was back. 

This was her troubleshooting suggestion: wipe out the computer hard drive and try again.

"I'm sorry, can you repeat that?"

"Let's just start you with a clean hard drive."

"You want me to wipe out my computer's hard drive?

"Yes."

"Why would I want to do that? Years of work! I just told you, I can't back up anything."

"That's all we can suggest from here."

Maybe I'll try the Genius Bar next.

 

 


Quack Job

DuckMy new washing machine sounds like there is a duck dying in it. 

This has been the month of failing appliances. My oven gave up the ghost on broiling about two years ago, followed by the entire panel refusing to operate in any way that makes sense. At least until last week, I could still bake in it. My freezer's temperature has been wildly fluctuating, resulting in melted and refrozen ice cream, suspicious smelling chicken (thrown out now) and a near-constant puddle of water under the unit.

The old washer was banging so much that it jumped out of its laundry closet and onto the hallway floor during a rinsing cycle.

So first things first - I replaced the washer. The new one had nice capacity, basic features and the price was right. It didn't occur to me to consider the kind of noise it would make. Which turned out to be like a duck is fighting for his life in there. Images-1

Clearly I'm not the only one who feels this way, because GE has devoted a webpage to "Top Load Washer Normal Sounds" complete with sound clips. Scroll down to the agitation cycles, hit "play" and then and imagine that noise amplified so that you can easily hear it two rooms away. 

At least now I know that the sound of dying water fowl as I wash the clothes is perfectly normal. 

 

 


Supporting the Media

CNN baby haterI'm regretting my last post, though not to the point of deletion. 

Today I interviewed a CNN journalist for a magazine profile I'm writing. I asked her describe her day.

Her alarm went off at 3 am. She worked out for half an hour, dealt with some summer camp stuff for her kids, took a quick shower and was in the studio by 4:45 am. After a 5:15 am production meeting, she was in makeup at 6 am, then reviewing stories with producers until she went on air from 9 - 11 am as a substitute anchor. I'm writing this post after 5 pm, when she is again on air, filling in for another anchor. The time in between was just as action packed for her, checking and rechecking stories, reading feeds and updates, meeting again with producers and more. Images

So what's it like, I asked, being a journalist at a time when the media is portrayed as "the enemy of the people" and the President of the United States personally attacks your work? (If you can't make it out, the button on the baby pictured above left says, "CNN sucks.")


Rope tree journalistShe told me she was proud to be a journalist, and tries to do the job the way she says she's always done it - "focused on fact and getting it right." Media people are well trained to deal with other media people.

But it is clear to me that dealing with intense hostility, hateful internet trolls, and even threats to physical safety have all become part of the job description. 

Freedom of the press is a critical part of our democracy. So instead of whining about how difficult it is to consume the news these days, I'm changing my tune. Pay attention to the work that is being done. And thank a journalist for the important job they're doing. 


Citizenry versus Sanity

 

TV Trump

I'm still struggling with this issue: how can I be a good citizen and guard my mental health at the same time?

This week I was chatting with a friend about our current political situation, and she told me breezily that she doesn't waste any time thinking about it or exposing herself to the news. She'd rather take a walk in the woods, read a good book or play with her grandchildren. Brook

I get it, oh how I get it! And I've blogged on this before - cutting back on media exposure so I don't lose my mind.

BUT - what about Democracy? Remember that old slogan - "Democracy is Not A Spectator Sport"? What about our obligation to be informed citizens? Active citizens?

Anxiety Girl (moi) tends to think in Black and White, and I have to constantly remind her to to think in shades of grey. Some news and political activity, and lots of time outside as an antidote. (Like along this gorgeous Adirondack stream.)

Meanwhile, I am writing a magazine article for which I'm interviewing three well-known female broadcast journalists. (Well, one is actually a former journalist who has a "NDA" so I can't ask her about her settlement for $$$$ over sexual harassment.) I may have to break down and watch a little television news and see them in action,  so I don't sound like a complete idiot when I conduct the interviews.

 

 

 

 


I Already Bought One

Download-1Maybe this already exists but if not, someone needs to invent it: the "Already Purchased" click.

It happens to everyone who shops online. You're browsing for a pair of shoes, comparing prices and then you make your choice. In the days and weeks to come, every time you Google something, dozens of pairs of the very shoes you already purchased parade across the screen, following you from site to site. Images

For me this week it's the parade of washing machines. I bought one a few days ago - actually at my local appliance store which gave me the best deal. Nonetheless, options for top loaders, front loaders, commercial and apartment-size washers and continue to show up.  Download-1

I know, I know - it's an advertising algorithm, "cookies" and more. 
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Download-1But wouldn't it make more sense for everyone if you could click on something to say "I Already Bought One." The companies are wasting their advertising dollars and the consumers are getting annoyed.

On the other hand, it's creepy enough how much the Internet tracks everything about us. Maybe they don't need to know this too.

So, just a personal heads-up to Whirlpool, Sears, Maytag, Kitchen Aid, Best Buy, and the rest of you: I no longer need a new washer. I already bought one.

 

 

 

 


Forest Bathing

Alderbrook

I've been reading about "forest bathing" for awhile. The term refers to a Japanese practice of experiencing the forest through the senses. You're in the woods to to smell, listen, and breath, but not to hike, jog or otherwise exercise. 

Forest bathing is meant to be healing. In fact, a recent NYT article looked at the practice medically, measuring blood pressure, cortisol levels, mood, and more. The conclusion: not enough evidence-based science to prove the benefits.

Oh come on. Everyone knows that being in nature is both calming and rejuvenating. And it doesn't need to be the woods. Sitting by a lake, atop a mountain, in a meadow, watching waves roll in -all have the same effect. 

I love being outdoors. In fact,  I'm up in the Adirondack forest pictured above as I write this.   I don't need a blood pressure cuff to tell me how soothing it is.

Now "Forest Bathing" has become a "thing," with spas offering forest bathing for a fee. Seriously. Trained guides will take you through it. 

Here - this is free: go to a beautiful outdoor place. Sit down. Breath deeply. Breath slowly. Listen to the sounds. Take in the smells. Notice the changing light. Rinse and repeat, until you don't have to even think about these steps and do it naturally. 

 

 


Signs


ImagesDoes the Universe speak to us, or are we just always looking for meaning?

Yesterday: I heard from my dear friend Missy's daughter. Missy died earlier this year. Her daughter, "K" often visits the spot where the family scattered Missy's ashes - a specific point on the beach at Jacob Riis Park in Queens. At K's last visit, a pink heart balloon washed up from the shore, deflated and battered but at the exact spot. Also, someone had constructed a beach sculpture of rocks, shells and twigs in the same place. Missy was an artist, and K was speculating that she's changed her style. But she saw it as a message.

Then last night, when I turned off my bedside lamp, I spied a lone firefly outside my Fireflybedroom window. He danced and danced just outside the window for the longest time. Drowsy and happy, I felt my late Dad had come by for a visit - to let me know he was watching me and that he loved me. It was so beautiful - the yellow/greenish light against the dark sky.


Finally, this morning, my husband texted a short video of a brown rabbit hopping across the path. He and I are heading to Long Island this weekend. When we were dating - oh so long ago - he had a share in a summer Rabbithouse in Long Island. We used to go for walks at dusk and count the bunnies. I smiled when I thought of this. Then I looked up  from my laptop and there was a fat brown rabbit on my patio. We've lived in this house 30 years, and I've never seen a bunny here.

Signs, signs, signs. Except last night, when my husband stirred in his sleep, I jostled him to point out the firefly. "It's amazing!" I told him. "He just stays at the window." Mike gazed at the sight, and then said, "I think he may be stuck in the pull of the window fan." Sigh. We turned off the fan and the firefly remained. A sign! But then Mike pulled out the fan, and it turned out that the firefly was stuck behind it. Somehow, it had gotten in the house, and now he darted desperately around the bedroom, looking like an errant Tinkerbell. 

Last I saw the firefly, it had landed somewhere next to my nightstand. I worried it would die there, and I've already lost my Dad once. Well twice, if you count the dementia that proceeded his actual death. I'm dreading finding the firefly's dead shell this morning. If I do, I won't interpret it as a sign of anything. 

 

 

 

 


Family Book Group

Books-bookstore-book-reading-159711We're starting a family book group! 

My son proposed the idea on a group text. "Remember when we saw 'the Reading Family?'" he wrote.

Of course we did. We were on a trip back in the 1990s, and the Reading Family was staying at the same resort.  The mother, father, little boy and little girl each brought their own books to breakfast, lunch and dinner. They ate in silence, immersed in their reading. We thought it was so weird. They didn't talk to each other at all.  (Of course flash forward, replace the books with cel phones, and it couldn't be a more common sight.)

Anyway, my son continued, "Remember when we  mocked them mercilessly? Remember when, for the past 20 years, we all harbored a deep, secret affinity for their life choices?" 

Hah! It's true our family has a major nerdy streak.  And I'd like to take at least partial credit for the book love. When the children were growing up (they're now adults)  my favorite time of day was when we were cuddled up in bed and I read to them. First picture books, then kids books, then chapter books. Now when we're together we do look a bit like the Reading Family - parallel reading with paper books, Kindles, phones - though never at the table! And we do talk to each other. 

We still have a lot of details to work out - the book selection process, not to mention the actual meetings. My husband and I live in New York, our daughter in Seattle and our son in Washington, DC. Conference call? FaceTime? Can you even do a group FaceTime?

 

 

 

 


Times Marches On...

Old driver's liscenseToday I did something I've been avoiding for about a quarter of a century.  I updated the photo on my driver's license.

My old photo was taken when I was my daughter's age, about 33 years ago. Since then, I've renewed it by mail every eight years. New York State went along with this for decades.

Maybe I got tired of going through security at the airport, having them look at the photo, then peer up at my face, and then look back down at the photo. My reply to their raised eyebrows was always, "Well, I used to look like that."

In two years, we will all be required to have enhanced drivers licenses for ID to board domestic flights. And after all, how much longer could I have pushed this?

Still, I'll miss seeing that hopeful, smiling face in my wallet - a young mother and writer with so much time and possibility still ahead of her.

 


The Stink Mobile

Smelly carIf you just saw a woman driving down the highway with all her windows open and her hand covering her nose, that was me. There are no words to describe how disgusting my car smells.

It all began last month, when I found out that our town was launching a pilot composting program. I was thrilled - I felt guilty throwing compostable stuff in the trash and adding to the landfill. But I didn't feel confident starting a compost pile in my own yard - we have enough wildlife between the deer, coyotes, foxes and raccoons.

Now all I had to do was collect the food scraps in biodegradable bags and ever so often carry it all to the town recycling center. 

My husband is a sweet and thoughtful man. This morning he volunteered to get my car inspected and to take the collected (and now moldering) compost bags into town. 

He says he doesn't know what happened. The bag didn't break or anything, and what's more it was in the trunk. So why does MY ENTIRE CAR STINK?  Smelly car 2

Not fully aware of the problem, I drove it to the gym after he came back. Trust me, I needed a shower before I worked out. After a few minutes in that vehicle, I smelled like garbage. 

Right now the offending car is sitting in the driveway, windows and trunk open with the interior liberally dusted with baking soda. Any other ideas? 

 

 


College Reunions

ReunionSaturday night, I was rocking out on the dance floor to "Taking Care of Business" (Bachman Turner Overdrive circa 1973) with my college classmates. It was reunion weekend, and I've never missed one - except for my 5th, when I was on my honeymoon. As I threw my arms up in the air and gyrated on aging hips, I flashed back to earlier reunions.

How pathetic the old geezers seemed - those classes celebrating 35th, 40th, 50th - even 60th and 70th - reunions. They'd march with their classes, proudly waving class signs, sporting class buttons, dressed in college logo gear. The parties were the worse - watching the oldsters trying to relieve their college glory days - grey hair and sagging bodies out on the dance floor listening to the music of their day.

Now I'm one of them. I look at the young classes dragging their toddlers around, and a few reunions later, talking about college admissions and their kids' chances of attending their alma mater. At the 25th, most people (at least the ones that show up) are at the top of their game, peaking in their careers, kids mostly launched, still physically sound. 

At my reunion this weekend, we said a prayer (non-denominational of course) for the 24 members of our class who had died. Many were lost to the early days of AIDS, a disease that soon after we graduated  mysteriously began killing off young men for no apparent reason. Cancer, suicides, heart attacks - the ravages of age. I was chatting to a classmate who is a cardiologist now (wait - that guy? Who was such a wild man? He's a doctor?!) and he says that the percentage of deaths in our class is consistent with the actuarial tables. 

Sometimes, visiting campus for a reunion is like being smack in the middle of your own actuarial table - you see where you've been - those pregnant bellies, those sweet kids, those driving energetic professionals - and you see where you're going - the walkers, the canes and the wheel chairs.

So yup, even five years from now, I hope I'll be on the dance floor pumping my fist to "I Can't Get No Satisfaction!" I'll look like a fool. But I'll keep dancing.

 

 

 


Packing

PackingAnxiety Girl has a lot of trouble packing for a trip. As soon as the suitcase is on the bed and the drawers are opened, I go into a mental melt down. Going for 5 days? That means I need 15 pairs of underwear. I think. I will be hiking by day. Okay, simple enough - shorts, t-shirt, socks, hiking boots. But what if we go out to dinner? Do I need something nice? Will I have a place to rinse my socks? Will they  dry overnight? Can I wear my hiking shorts three times? What if I forget something crucial?

On top of that, I have a recurring anxiety dream about packing.  In it, I have one small blue plastic suitcase. Not only do I have to fit drawers and drawers of clothing into the suitcase, but also I keep discovering more and more things that need to be packed. An antique armoire! All my books! And look- there's another entire room I just discovered that also needs to fit in the suitcase, couches and curtains included.

I have discovered this is an inter-generational family anxiety dream - my Mom has it, and both my kids have it. 

Some interpretations suggest that packing dreams mean the dreamer wants to radically change things in their lives. Others suggest that the dreamer needs to deal with chaos in their lives.

 I just figure it means that I'm struggling to get my s__t together. Must get to it.

 

 

 


Did you know letters have genders?

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Sorry to beat on an old drum here but this stuff makes me crazy. I am going to visit my great nephews and niece, 61OEa+OZNAL._SY498_BO1 204 203 200_

and I wanted to bring them each a book. Went on Amazon and began with "Books for 1-3 year olds." And look what pops up. Gender specific alphabet books! Needless to say, I won't be purchasing either book. But I did peek inside. In the Girl's Alphabet, A is for Apple Pie. In the Boy's, A is for Airplane. Last time I checked, this is 2018.


Book Group - Hollywood's and Mine

I was excited when I read that the movie "Book Club" was coming out, especially when I found out it starred Candice Bergen, Diane Keaton, Mary Steenburgen and Jane Fonda. Oh boy! 

Full disclosure - I haven't seen the movie yet. But I did just watch this trailer. Oh. My. God. A bunch of 70-something women, not a wrinkle among them, giggling like school girls over dating, men and sex. The book they are reading? "50 Shades of Grey." 

The script writers have given them high-level jobs, plenty of money, and even a scornful reaction to the book selection, which apparently leads them all to explore their own sexual frustration. Over the decades they've moved from Erica Jong's "Fear of Flying" to "50 Shades," fueled by a lot of wine on the way.

Really? What a let-down. My book group has been together for almost 25 years now.  We've read dozens - no, hundreds  - of amazing books. Over the decades, we've shared more than literature, of course.

Our kids were in elementary school when we started. Now they are adults. We fretted over middle-school language placement, kids' drinking and drugging and dating in high school, college applications, kids looking for work, their first apartments, kids who are gay,  kids who are depressed, kids who got sick, kids who got married, grandchildren, etc. etc. We compare notes on aging parents, home health care aides, nursing homes and death. We lament our own lapsing memories - once we chose a book we'd already read.

Not to mention charting our own careers - triumphs and setbacks, layoffs and promotions. Five women in my book group (of 12) have had - and survived - breast cancer. 

And yes, we've discussed our own marriages, the joys and frustrations. Sex? Occasionally, but not in a giggling, school-girl kind of way. 

I'll probably see "Book Group" and I hope it's better than it looks. This afternoon I've got "RBG" on the docket, so to speak. Nothing silly about her.


Ghost Writing

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I'm reading "Sing Unburied Sing" by Jesmyn Ward and two of her main characters are ghosts. One appears regularly but remains silent, disapproval registering on his face. The other is less physically solid, but he speaks - in fact he narrates a few chapters.

In the last year, I've lost my beloved father, my little brother and one of my best friends. I have no visions, unless you count dreams. But it amazes me how often the three of them pop up in my writing now. They show up in pieces that seem utterly unrelated to any of them.

One writing prompt - kind of a complicated assignment involving old photograph negatives - brought up a scene of trying on maternity bathing suits while my friend Missy watched. She  laughed and laughed as I struggled to shove my ungainly body into the spandex. The dressing room was hot and crowded and I felt faint.

Missy gave me most of her maternity clothes. Today I'm having lunch with her daughter, who looks so much like her that I catch myself staring at the curve of her cheek.

When Dad and my brother Bill come in dreams, they are always healthy and well. And every time, while I'm dreaming, I think, "How did Dad get so much better? I can't believe how well he's doing." I'm confused and delighted with his come back.

 

 


Make. It. Stop. Make. It. Stop.

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All my life I've been a news junky. I was in the biz. I never watched much TV news, but I was a newspaper hound. I still subscribe to The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post, The Journal News (my local Gannett paper) and I get highlights from several other publications, including the London Times.

But at this point, those subscriptions are as wasted as a hastily purchased gym membership. It's not the fault of  journalists.  A great deal of quality work being done. It's the emotional damage from absorbing the content. News should come with a warning label: "Consuming this product may be harmful to your mental health."

This is no joke. Numerous studies have made the link between news consumption and anxiety and depression.

My news aggitation wasn't doing much for my marriage either. For the last year plus,  I thought I was scanning the headlines silently. But evidently, I was constantly spewing, "Oh my God!" and "UNBELIEVABLE" and "Just when I thought it couldn't get any worse..." in a loud voice until my husband asked me to kindly keep my commentary to myself.

My husband actually reduced his news diet before I did.  And yesterday, I had lunch with two of my best friends - super-smart, informed women - and they, too, also have cut way back on  reading/watching and listening to the news.

 I feel like a bad citizen - democracy runs on an informed citizenry. But right now,  I just can't....

 


Magical Thinking and Anxiety

 

 

Images
When I was a kid, I used to stand on the second floor landing and watch my  parents' car pull out of the driveway. I believed that the longer I kept their tail lights in sight, the greater their chance of returning home. My small face would be mushed against the window glass, angling for that last view.    

    I'd like to tell you I grew out of this, but just now I found myself at my dining room window, watching another set of tail lights snake down the driveway, down our small road, and out of sight. This time, my son and his wife were leaving. I wave frantically while keeping the car in sight, to improve their chances of arriving back at their apartment safely.

    When I thought about reviving this blog, I toyed with the idea of re-naming it "Anxiety Girl." Alas, someone beat me to it, and hers is linked to support groups, literature on anxiety, etc. But if I'm going to be real here, you need to know that I grapple with worry all the time. Like when the kids were little and their school bus pulled away, I would picture it in flames, their own tiny faces plastered against the bus windows, helpless to get out. (Too much information?)

I'm somewhat better now. Therapy helps. Now, when stuff like that happens, I realize what I'm doing, and say, "Wow, Kate. Great imagination! I just love how cinematic your images were and the colors were magnificent. Very creative. Now let's get back to real life, shall we?"

Anyway, I'm sure my son and his wife will be just fine. Besides, they know they need to text me when they are safely home.


Block by Block

IMG_7840
This 3 inch x 3 inch book contains 786 writing prompts. With a nod to Julie Powell, who plowed her way through Julia Child's "Joy of Cooking" (and walked off with a book contract and a movie deal),  I am thinking of working my way through "The Writer's Block" book, one prompt a day. But with no illusions of doing anything with it other than exercising my writing muscles.

I began on page one yesterday, with the prompt, "Describe Your First Brush With Danger." This led to a short piece on having scarlet fever as a baby. Of course this is a story I was told, not one I remember. The version I've heard is that no one noticed I was sick, until the pediatrician came by to attend to my older brother, who had a cold. The doctor brushed by me (I liked the double meaning of "brush" with danger and the doctor "brushing" by me) stopped, and say said, "This baby is hot. She has a fever."

Anyway, the story was always told as evidence of my sunny disposition - I was pretty ill, but too sweet-natured to bother anyone. (Those of you who know me now - please hold back your snorts.)

One more thing - though I am committed to this one-prompt-a-day exercise, I won't write about it here every day. I promise. And thank God, because I just turned the page, and the next prompt is the word "Diet." 

 


Ch ch ch ch Changes!

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It's been so long since I've posted on this blog, that I couldn't remember where it was hosted, let alone the password. Found it!

Next, I googled "Writers Block" to see if the name was taken as a website. (It is - owned by a company that produces wooden blocks that say...guess what? Yup. Writer's Block.) It's a cliche, I know, but Holy Cow, am I struggling. 

My last bunch of posts were all about promoting my book. It's been 5 years. Okay six. Since then, full disclosure, I have started and abandoned 3 book projects - a novel, a non-fiction book and a memoir. I'm wondering if public confession will help motivate me. Right now, it just feels shameful.

To any new readers, I am a writer. Really. I wrote for The New York Times for more than 20 years. I published a book with a division of Penguin. I had six days of fame, if you count fame as appearing on NPR's "All Things Considered" and "Fox & Friends" (God help me on that that last one.) 

And now...now my lovely daughter has told me to stop wallowing (my words) and get writing again (hers). I'm going to start every day with a writing prompt. And I am jump starting my blog again. And I am NOT naming it "Writer's Block." Encouragement and reality checks are welcome.

 


Psycho Mom Returns!

When I talked about "The Mama's Boy Myth" on NPR's "All Things Considered," they introduced the segment by playing a clip from "Psycho" - with Norman Bates saying, "Well, a boy's best friend is his mother." It was the ultimate illustration of the worst kind of Mama's Boy stereotype. 

UnknownWell, it's back.....I just found out there is a series coming out next month on A & E called "The Bates Motel." Here's the tagline: "Fans will have access to the dark, twisted backstory and learn first hand just how deeply intricate the relationship with his mother, Norma, truly is, and how she helped forge the most famous serial killer of them all." 

Hoo boy. Here we go again. Because we all know that behind every serial killer is an over-bearing mother.


And now a voice from the other side....

Images Today I want to give a shout-out to a father who took the New York Times to task for an article that included this throw-away line stereotyping dads as bumbling and incompetent: 

"Fathers misplace their children at the supermarket; mothers miraculously transform tofu to make it palatable to 3-year-olds."

Here's his response ( especially love the last dig): "This is an appalling statement, a profound insult to the many fathers who work tirelessly and competently to raise their children. Maybe next week's Times can offer a column examining how a sentence like that could make it through the editing process. Now if you'll excuse me, I have to go look for my kids on the Interstate embankment where I dun left 'em."

Bravo to Scott Tobias!


Sugar and Spice and Everything Nice....

Unknown-2The debate on boys' school performance is heating up again. Check out the opening of this letter to the New York Times, written by a retired male public school teacher: "Even in the late 1950s, educators sensed that girls had advantages over boys. They're verbal, orderly, quiet, submissive and cooperative. Boys? Polar opposites: outgoing, active, loud and unable to sit still."

Gender stereotype much? 


Red Lentil Soup with Lemon

Red lentil soup

Lentil soup can be boring, but not this recipe, which came from the NY Times. Not too time consuming and oh so tasty!

3 tablespoons olive oil, more for drizzling

1 large onion, chopped

2 garlic cloves, minced

1 tablespoon tomato paste

1 teaspoon ground cumin

1/4 teaspoon kosher salt, more to taste

1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper

Pinch of ground chili powder or cayenne, more to taste

1 quart chicken or vegetable broth

1 cup red lentils

1 large carrot, peeled and diced

Juice of 1/2 lemon, more to taste

3 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro.

 

1. In a large pot, heat 3 tablespoons oil over high heat until hot and shimmering. Add onion and garlic, and sauté until golden, about 4 minutes.

2. Stir in tomato paste, cumin, salt, black pepper and chili powder or cayenne, and sauté for 2 minutes longer.

3. Add broth, 2 cups water, lentils and carrot. Bring to a simmer, then partially cover pot and turn heat to medium-low. Simmer until lentils are soft, about 30 minutes. Taste and add salt if necessary.

4. Using an immersion or regular blender or a food processor, purée half the soup then add it back to pot. Soup should be somewhat chunky.

5. Reheat soup if necessary, then stir in lemon juice and cilantro. Serve soup drizzled with good olive oil and dusted lightly with chili powder if desired.

Yield: 4 servings.

 


Boys And Easy Bake Ovens

Images-1Just came across an AP story about a 13-year-old Rhode Island girl who wanted to buy her little brother the Easy Bake Oven he wanted for Christmas. But when she went to the store, she found the toy came only in "girly" pink and purple and just featured girls on the packaging. The sister, a resourceful girl, managed to collect more than 30,000 signatures on a petiton to Hasbro, asking them to market the oven to kids in general, not just girls. One of her supporters is celebrity chef Bobby Flay, who had an Easy Bake oven when he was a kid.

When I was writing The Mama's Boy Myth, I heard a very similar anecdote about a boy wanting an Easy Bake oven. In this case he didn't have a supportive sister, but an anxious father who worried about the future sexual orientation of a son who wanted to play with this toy.

Oh, for Heaven's Sake. We have got to stop with all this gendered packaging and handwringing about who plays with what.

This is just reminding me that at the Food Pantry where I volunteer, we distribute toys during the holiday season. We get the gifts through Toys for Tots, which is a great program, but they ask how many "boy" gifts and how many "girl" gifts we need. Time to update this too.


The End of Your Life Book Club

ImagesBeen reading this beautiful book which weaves together a son's love for his mother with their mutual devotion to literature. Came across this passage last night:

"There's also still a schoolyard stigma to being perceived as overly attached to your mother. I think it's far less pronounced today than it was when I was growing up, but it's still there. Most of the men I know freely admit to loving books about sons coming to terms with the lives and legacies of their fathers - books like Big Russ and Me by Tim Russert and The Duke of Deception by Geoffrey Wolff and The Great Santini by  Pat Conroy. But those same men are a little more embarrassed about loving books like The Color of Water by James McBride or The Tender Bar by J.R. Moehringer, maybe talking about the first in terms of what it says about race and the second for its depiction of the joys of bar life, when both books really, at their hearts are about the fierce bond between a mother and son."


Recognizing Today's Dads

ImagesInch by inch. Block by Block. Even Mattel gets that the times are changing and that girls can do things besides dress and undress their over-sexualized Barbie dolls. But what interested me the most about a NYT piece on "The Mega Bloks Barbie Build 'n Style line" a construction set - in pink of course - was that Mattel was marketing it to fathers. They recognize that fathers are not only doing a lot of the buying of kids' toys, but also the playing. One-fifth of fathers with preschool-age children and working wives say they are the primary caretaker in 2010, according to the latest census data. 

Of course Dads like to build things, because they were encouraged to build things when they grew up. And studies show that when kids play with blocks, puzzles and construction toys, it improves their spatial development. So score another one - not just for gender equity for girls (because there's still a long way to go- the kits build a pink mansion, a beauty shop and a fashion studio) but also for men. Nice to see them recognized not just as caretakers, but as parents who can bring a great deal to level the toddler playing field.