Tuesday, April 2, 2013

A New Home

I've moved to An American Housewife.

Part of the reason I moved concerned this blog's sluggish load time. I tweaked all sorts of settings but never did a broken link sweep. Since some posts still get consistent hits, I came back to address the load time but, oh my, the number of broken links; it would take me scores of hours better spent otherwise to fix all of those links. Besides, I started this blog in part as Just Do It writing practice for bigger projects. Now that I'm on the cusp of those bigger projects, I'm not sad to say goodbye to all this rough work. I'd take it all down, but that would create some broken links for others. Therefore, I've left the 150 or so posts that saw decent hits or still get hyperlinks. The rest I returned to my writer's palette of bits and fragments. For future use.

Friday, February 1, 2013

The Perfect Storm That Prompted the Potentially Frightful Fit of Pique and Inspired a New Blog

I didn't plan on going missing in action in January. Frankly, I didn't plan on just about anything that happened in January. Nothing dire happened, I just had a small mid-life crisis.

The month started out fine. We had a lovely Christmas and school holiday. Come January 6th, two days before school started, I had everyone organized for the new term. For writing I had new plans for this blog as well as an assortment of articles in various stages of readiness for PJLifestyle.

Then Tigger spiked a fever. The next day, Terremoto spiked a fever. Less than an hour into the first day of school, Calvin spiked a fever. The nurse called at 8:35. I had him home, in one of my special sick beds of brightly colored blankets in the den, by 9. So the first week back to school, I did the nursemaid thing.

Writing waited, as it should. But the gym also waited. Like most people, I had over indulged over Christmas and never made it to the gym. Two weeks of neglect is usually no problem, but by the time the kids were well, I was heading into week 4 without exercise.

The first glance at myself in the aerobics mirror was the first time I noticed the storm heading my way. I was...dissatisfied with my appearance. Then, in a leap of logic that only makes sense to mothers, I thought perhaps bangs would help. They were supposed to balance out my slightly fluffy face. Of course, I was way behind on all of my to dos and couldn't make it into my hairdresser for a color a few weeks previously—I'd had my mom teach 7 year old Cupcake how to color my grey, but back to that in a moment—so I cut them myself.

I think I have mentioned previously that prior to post pregnancy hair loss, I had straight hair. Now I have curly hair. Do you know what happens when you cut long curly hair? Yes, that is correct, the curls tighten making the hair much shorter than where your scissors snipped. Compounding my problem: the color.

Cupcake had done a fine job coloring my hair. I don't do highlights, I just cover grey, and for that the modern box stuff is much cheaper than a salon job and up to the task. It was my first time, however, and like wall paint color, the box color is deceptive. I had chosen a color perhaps 2 shades darker than I wanted. Complicating matters, since Cupcake was learning, she went slowly, so the color stayed on about 15 minutes longer than the recommended time for typical hair. In short, my hair is very, very dark. This only accentuated my now too short bangs. I look ridiculous.

So wanting to avoid public spaces as much as possible, I retreated to writing. I worked on various pieces and submitted two short ones. My editor published one, but kicked the other back to me recommending that I make it shorter or longer, i.e. it was too long for a short piece but not well developed enough for a full article. I could choose. This is perfectly reasonable and helpful editor advice, but I was annoyed at myself for not seeing it before I submitted it.

Faced with personal and semi-professional crises of confidence, I defaulted to my tendency under stress to fix things by using a "ready, fire!, aim" strategy. My husband has hand signals to go with the declaration, to make me laugh and diffuse my frenzy. Thankfully, that usually works but not this time. I penned a few rants about assorted topics, which I will not ever publish. I made 3 new blogs, all of which my husband declared dreadful marketing mistakes. It took only a little reflection to realize he was right. So before I did something drastic and stupid, I thought it best to step away from the computer for a spell. Actually, my husband took me to dinner and suggested that a cold turkey short break from blogging would help.

I was leaning in that direction already. The not-quite-right piece was about the depression of women my age, namely Elizabeth Wurtzel and Liz Jones.  I'm not in that kind of loneliness danger, but I have spent too much time hidden behind this computer. I just moved back stateside and left my early motherhood comrades at arms behind. I miss that my kitchen table was full of women and teacups most afternoons. I've not cultivated that well here.

Kathy Shaidle's article about geek culture didn't help, either. I take her point that we do not want to absorb morality from pop culture, but I disagree that we should avoid it. We must engage and shunning works of pop culture because they are inferior hampers our ability to influence culture by missing the occasional gem, depriving us of a common reference, and by assuming that we are better than all that. That said, to positively influence pop culture, to understand it, one needs a firm grounding in the classics. Between motherhood and writing, I have a stack of classic works that I still have not read. (Note well, if I had my before children life to do over again, I'd stuff almost every bit of that free time with classic reading.)

So I stepped back for a while. In not quite two weeks, I've gotten back to the gym. I've digested a few chapters of some of those books on my nightstand. I've gone out for a few girls nights. I've served a few cups of tea and a glass of wine to new friends at my kitchen table. I've also done a fair amount of gardening. Hacking and digging seems to help me think.

With a clearer head, I've set up a new WordPress blog, one which keeps An American Housewife persona that I have established. This will be my last post here at blogspot. I'm returning to the format I once used for my letters home from London. It will be slower, briefer (maybe), less busy. I hope it will be funnier.

Sometimes you just need a little bit of time.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Make Do and Mend: Irish Folk Furniture Wins at Sundance

While living in England, Brits’ effortless mastery of outdoor spaces fascinated me. After years of wandering through gardens and grounds and taking a few gardening courses, I found that part of their talent came from accepting what they had. Americans would more likely rip out all the old plants to make their preferred design work, which often resulted in depthless landscapes that only occasionally look good in a magazine layout. 
We do the same thing with houses and interiors. We build a new house and then distress certain elements to give it that Old World look. It never works. We can’t recreate age. We have to find and keep the beauty of old things we already have.
I received a delightful reminder of all of that from a friend who posted the Sundance Best Short Animation winner, Irish Folk Furniture:  

Thursday, January 17, 2013

What Barbie Can Tell Us About the Right to Keep and Bear Arms

Last week, when the kids stayed home sick from school, I got out some old DVD's to entertain them. One was Barbie and The Three Musketeers. For the uninitiated, Barbie has a series of girl power animation movies. Some are better than others, but they all have those 'girly things are good because girls do them'  and 'girls can take care of themselves' themes.

I covered "Don't mess with the dress!" a few years ago. My annoyance with fashion as girl power is why the DVD was in the back of the cabinet. But between Christmas break, the week of rain, and the flu that kept them home, I folded when they pulled out this movie. They like the sword fighting and this time that is what caught my attention.

In this version of the tale, Prince Louis's regent uncle conspires to kill him by making sure all the good guys are unarmed at the ball. Everyone turns their swords in at the entrance and picks up fake swords for a ceremonial sword dance. The bad guys smuggle their swords into the ball by disguising theirs as more of the decorative fake swords. When they make a play for Prince Louis, they expect no armed resistance. But Barbie (D'artgnan's daughter, in case you wondered) and her three friends, all aspiring Musketeers who were denied entrance because they were women, they engaged in a bit of passive resistance and smuggled in weapons. They disguised them as fashion accessories, scarves as whips, fans as shields. (No, I'm not making this up.) They thwart the evil plot and save Prince Louis.

But besides all of that, what caught my attention was that even in PC fairy tales for 4 year olds, the bad guys know the necessity of an unarmed venue. And when a power hungry tyrant makes a move, the good guys need more options than just begging for favor, or mercy.

So why hasn't Barbie faced a backlash for metaphorical support of the 2nd Amendment? Because the metaphor, guns to swords, allows the makers to hide the real world implications that we don't want to think about, like effective self defense with weapons. The Barbie shows are only supposed to make little girls dream of girl power and rescuing the guy. It's the attitude that matters, not actual results. (See also, Head Start, green "technologies," the welfare state, childhood obesity initiatives...)

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Children and In-App Purchases

First week with all the kids in school and I'm desperately trying to prioritize all the things that piled up over the last three weeks. New stuff keeps popping up, however. Annoying but typical how that happens. 

Anyway, as many of you know, Calvin, my 9 year old, came up with a blog idea over Christmas break. He's writing about how gadgets can take over a kid's life. I'm really pleased with our endeavor. Yasha and I let him do it mainly because his teacher wanted him to work on his writing structure. He tells stories well, but needs to work on exposition. A blog seemed a perfect fit, and it is working with he and I discussing distilling main topics and paragraph structure. Its an ongoing process, but he's engaged and eager, which is what I wanted. I had hoped that he would get an extra benefit, perspective, and that has come through in spades. Now that he thinks about when games take over your life, he self polices. It's all I can do not to dance a little jig when he turns down some computer fun for some outdoor fun. Better still, he's modeling for his sisters. They more willingly follow his lead than listen to me lecture them about video games melting their brains.

He writes in spurts, like his momma, and last night dictated three posts to me. The first we published was about in-app games purchases. It seems it is more than just an annoyance:

New research from premium rate regulator PhonepayPlus revealed huge bills could also be racked up either by ‘malware’ in fake applications or by people failing to keep track of what they’re spending in legitimate programmes.
Complaints rose by 300 per cent in the last year as consumers discovered large phone bills caused by both the malware and unexpectedly costly purchases, often from children.
In one case, a counterfeit Android game billed £15 to the user each time it was opened.
Two-thirds of 11- to 16-year-olds download their own apps, and PhonepayPlus warned that parents could see bills of "hundreds or even thousands of pounds" as a result of these in-app purchases.
PhoepayPlus said that “naivety” from young people was often to blame and that it was causing concern among parents. 
 The helpful link The Telegraph mentions at the end, phonebrain.org, either it doesn't work in the US or The Telegraph link crashed it. Anyone know a good phone safety primer for kids?

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Creative Storytelling, It's Nature and It's Future

A storytelling entry from The Transom late last year. I'm not a Hobbit fan myself, I prefer Lewis to Tolkien, but I acknowledge his influence and the storytelling points hold regardless of the story. I made similar points most recently about The Avengers
I enjoyed The Hobbit very much. Thinking afterward, I've been struck by how much of the Fantasy/Sci-Fi cultural renaissance of the past two decades is founded in those who read J.R.R. Tolkien in their youth and whose daydreams were inspired by his imagination. The difference between these imaginative stories that make a mark and those that fail to connect to a broader, non-Fantasy audience seem to me to be largely dependent on those stories which have a moral/amoral message as their aim (the stiflingly dull Philip Pullman comes to mind) and those which focus on just creating good stories, where the moral lessons follow naturally from them. Tolkien understood this even before he became as large a figure as he was later in life, writing in 1939: “We make in our measure because we are made: and not only made, but made in the image and likeness of a Maker.” This extends beyond the Fantasy/Sci-Fi realm, of course. Consider the aims of Preachy Hipster Jesus Dave Eggers in writing the Matt Damon anti-fracking film which is even getting panned by Mother Jones. http://vlt.tc/mum  The troubles they had made the story stumble from the beginning: the facts just wouldn’t cooperate with their anti-energy revolution aims. http://vlt.tc/hjw  Thus, Promised Land's big twist is laughable – essentially a bias that all evil people work for evil energy companies. http://vlt.tc/mun  It’s already become the worst kind of propaganda, which fails to even give support the biases of true believers. Yet what approach do modern conservatives generally use when telling stories – is it the creative storytelling approach, where political ideas are undercurrents, or is it the Eggers approach, where people talk and live in bumper sticker form? Consider: Tolkien was rather obviously a country mouse conservationist, in love with the trees and hills of his island and the halcyon life of the English countryside, and viewing it not just as favorable because of its nature, but as a bulwark of simple honor and duty that may represent a last hope against a postmodern mechanistic view of humanity itself. But he did not write his tale with this as his aim, but something which flows naturally from the stories he tells and the world he creates. (There are lessons in this for those on the right who seem to be aiming at “better propaganda” – instead, why not try telling the stories which are already there, which just aren’t being told by the fading storytellers of a media dominated by graying enterprises struggling to adapt to a new marketplace. People are not stupid, but stories are more memorable than numbers for a reason.)
He's right. Better propaganda is still propaganda. It only lasts as historical artifact, something that only was able to compel or persuade in its own time.

Related: these companion pieces from Dave Swindle and Andrew Klavan on the future of feature length movies discussing that some of the big action sequences that look great on the big screen become filler fluff on a TV, much less an iPad. It seems what—or one of the many things that—Hollywood has forgotten: movies are best suited to short stories. But Swindle and Klavan have gotten me thinking. Some stories do look better when larger than life. What if Hollywood revived the serial? For example, instead of turning each Harry Potter book into a single movie, turn each into a short series. 

I realize that the economics of movie making are set up for blockbusters and inexpensive little movies and TV is cheaper with less upside, but think about Game of Thrones. The series costs so much to make that the seasons contained about half the episodes of a typical series. What if some enterprising Hollywood exec had taken this established fan base of action novels and put the show on the big screen? Would we show up at the theater for 10 hour and a half episodes released at 6 week intervals? Could Hollywood create a bunch of mini-blockbusters for the price of expensive TV? Every time I go to at theater these days, the advertisements and numerous previews suggest an industry that is desperate to keep us coming back. Taking our beloved stories and turning them into badly edited drivel in order to fit the blockbuster profile wears thin. 

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Mumford and Sons and Christianity in Pop Culture

"The cool kids aren't happy." No. No, they are not. 

Although I suspect that the heavy Christian themes of Mumford and Sons is more 'brilliant use of broken vessels' than straight up Christian evangelizing, this article is right: 
Critics, more so than the bands they critique, lack originality. The herd mentality they lament in music they embrace in criticism. The Marcus Mumford meme demonstrates this. Few bands play like Mumford & Sons. Few critics say anything different about Mumford & Sons.
Sonically, the mere fact that Mumford & Sons features organic instrumentation sets them apart from other popular music. You hear drum machines, Auto-Tune, and synthesizers on the radio. But banjos, accordions, and the dobro?
Lyrically, Mumford, even if sparingly and obliquely, addresses matters of faith. Rihanna can sing that “Sticks and stones may break my bones/But chains and whips excite me” in “S&M.” Madonna can make a play on the club drug ecstasy in titling her latest album MDNA. Snoop Dog can rap about killing undercover cops. Just don’t dare talk about Our Father.
In a world without taboos the only taboo is God. A higher power reminds of limitations, authority, and that something greater than number one exists. The rock star imagines himself as a human deity, and his many worshippers treat him accordingly. God’s a real buzz kill in that anthropocentric universe.
The media's confusing condescension stood out for me: 
An NPR piece on the backlash against the band notes that the group’s singer was “raised in a devout Christian household” and that the “rise of the megachurch… has a lot to do with the newest wave of folk-rock taking hold.” The writer references a “rock ‘n’ roll code” that celebrates outsiders and subversives. Mr. Mumford, a Christian in the pop world of Lady Gaga, Ke$ha and Eminem, rebels against that code. This makes him a conformist. Do you follow? 
The rise of the megachurch? First, that's not such a big trend in the UK, where the band is from, than in the US so it has nothing to do with why they write the lyrics they do. Second, if the reviewer means to suggest that folk-rock comes and goes, that shows a pretty stunning lack of knowledge about the history of rock with it's origins in black gospel music. Christian allusion is ever present in rock, intentional or not. (Now that my kids are older and I do listen to the radio in the car, wow that list of mine is not exactly current.)

Saturday, January 5, 2013

Passive Resistance and The Right to Keep and Bear Arms

A post for a Tweet that I cannot answer in only 140 characters. 

Yesterday, I engaged in the following tweet conversation with SelfishMom. The link in her first tweet refers to a letter from a former Marine written to Sen. Feinstein (text at the end of this post) regarding her gun registration proposal. 

Yes, I am. And I have two main reasons why.

First, what Mr. Boston proposes is not the same thing as criminal breaking of the law. There is a fundamental difference between, for instance, a convicted criminal who steals a legally owned gun in order to commit an additional crime and a law abiding citizen who refuses to surrender his natural rights. To take another right listed in the Bill of Rights as analogy, if Congress passed a law outlawing political debate on blogs—or to keep the analogy tight, a law requiring blog registration of all non-professional journalist writers who mention politics with the probable intent of shutting down those blogs at a later date—would you comply?

What Mr. Butler is saying is not that he would break the law, but that he does not recognize Congress's power to pass a law that infringes on man's natural and inalienable rights. He will consider such a law invalid. "You ma'am have overstepped a line that is not your domain." Mr. Butler is engaging in passive resistance

If Congress ever managed to pass such a law, he would not be alone in his resistance. I suspect that we would see many appeals to the Preamble of the Declaration of Independence and a revival of the Gonzales Flag.

Second, my tweet was actually directed to the foolishness of disarming the law abiding citizen when the criminal certainly won't register much less eventually turn over his weapons. This appeal to rule followers would only achieve making us more vulnerable to criminals.

For both reasons but mostly the first, as a practical matter, any law Congress passes infringing on the right to keep and bear arms will not be effective. I'd be happy to explain how this might play out, to anyone who would like—and no, we will not likely need battles or revolution as was necessary in 1776 but would merely expose how dependent the federal government is on consent of the governed.

The letter from Cpl Joshua Boston from the link in SelfishMom's tweet:
Senator Dianne Feinstein,
I will not register my weapons should this bill be passed, as I do not believe it is the government's right to know what I own. Nor do I think it prudent to tell you what I own so that it may be taken from me by a group of people who enjoy armed protection yet decry me having the same a crime. You ma'am have overstepped a line that is not your domain. I am a Marine Corps Veteran of 8 years, and I will not have some woman who proclaims the evil of an inanimate object, yet carries one, tell me I may not have one.I am not your subject. I am the man who keeps you free. I am not your servant. I am the person whom you serve. I am not your peasant. I am the flesh and blood of America. I am the man who fought for my country. I am the man who learned. I am an American. You will not tell me that I must register my semi-automatic AR-15 because of the actions of some evil man.I will not be disarmed to suit the fear that has been established by the media and your misinformation campaign against the American public.We, the people, deserve better than you.Respectfully Submitted,
Joshua Boston Cpl, United States Marine Corps, 2004-2012

Thursday, January 3, 2013

The Twelfth Night, aka "Women's Little Christmas"

Everyone has heard the song The Twelve Days of Christmas. When I was I kid, I liked the song but didn't get it. Christmas was only two days, Eve and Day. Except in New Orleans, where people never miss an opportunity to have a party, Americans haven't observed traditional Advent or full Christmas in a long time.

Once I had kids and became more religiously observant (and Episcopalian) I wanted to get back some of these traditions, a desire only heightened by our years in London. (The English observe the traditional seasons less than in the past but still more than we do.) This year, I finally figured out some "new"ways to observe Advent and the full Christmas season. There were a few bumps, but I'm generally pleased with the result and I will post about it all soon.

But this is my second year to observe the Twelfth Night with a little tradition stolen from Ireland. Historically, Twelfth Night festivals were a bit like opposite days from when you were a kid with lots of mischief thrown in. (English traditions. American Traditions: The Holiday that time Forgot. And, of course, NOLA continuing traditions.) The Irish one started out as basically a women's tea party (the little cake and sandwich kind) with the men left behind to do the housework and childcare. In the modern era, it has turned into a women's day, or night, out to celebrate the end of the busy Christmas season. I liked that idea. I liked it a lot.

Last year, about a dozen of my girlfriends and I gathered at a local pub to toast the Magi and the end of Christmas. (The Twelfth Night is when the three wise men arrived to meet Jesus, and in many nativity displays, they don't make get placed until January 5.) We had a lovely time. So I've called a meet again this year. Interestingly, there has been some confusion about the date. I have been known to leave either the time or the address off of email invitations, but this time the confusion isn't my fault. Historically, whether the Twelfth Night falls on the 5th or 6th depends on many factors. From the NOLA link above:

Epiphany celebrations are also known as “Twelfth Night” celebrations because January 6th is the “Twelfth Day of Christmas.” There is some confusion over whether Christmas Day is the “first day of Christmas” or Boxing Day (December 26th) is the “first day.” Another variation in the celebrations is whether or not Twelfth Night happens on the night of January 5th or 6th. This confusion results from the date convention of Medieval Europe where a “day” begins on the night before.
As the sun sets on January 6th and the rest of the world formally gets back to normal life, New Orleanians merely shift the focus of our celebrating. The Christmas season is over, and the Carnival season begins.
I went for simple. Christmas Day is day 1 of Christmas and the Twelfth Night is the evening of the 12th day which is January 5th.

An Excellent Conversation with Alton Brown at Authors@Google

It is still Christmas around here. My kids don't go back to school until next Tuesday. I'm getting organized, just not as quickly as I'd like, which is pretty typical for this stage of motherhood. Anyway, the other day while setting up Calvin's iPod with links to Good Eats, I found this excellent interview with Alton Brown. It's a little over a year old but suffers no untimeliness. If you thought Alton was cool previously, you will really like him now. He discusses everything from publishing to diet soda to the importance of father and daughter time (in his case by using nitroglycerine to blow up food) to judicious use of social media.

My favorite part: the spontaneous suggestion to have Google create a professional, subscription based search engine. As someone who often needs to find some article from a specific-but-forgotten publication from 2 or more years ago, I would happily pay for a search engine that could filter out all of the most popular or most recent hits. The web needs a layman's Lexisnexis.

I vaguely recall that the Weekly Standard or maybe City Journal had an article a few years ago on how we really want more individual control on the internet. I'd search for it, but without the author, publication, or a specific and distinctive phrase, the chances of me finding the article I recall are next to nil. I need that special search engine. And while I'm wishing, and in case anyone from Google happens to see this post, I'd like to be able to limit searches to sites I have bookmarked—not the individual pages I've bookmarked, but the whole sites.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Newtown Essay: Light is brighter than dark.

From one of my old friends, reposted with permission from Facebook. Edited only for paragraph spacing. 

I find it odd that everyone is shocked by the murder of the innocent, wide-eyed and hopeful cherubs at Sandy Hook Elementary. It seems everyone is unable to believe that first grade giggles and joyful mischief were cut short by hatred, evil, anger and a rocket-fast pieces of steel. I find myself feeling somehow isolated in my grief, my grief and weeping that did not start Friday, the 14th of December in the year 2012. Rather, my first encounter with crushing sadness was as a small child. I saw a man grab a cat by the tail and throw it over the fence. My first memory of cruelty. My first memory of intense fear of a human action. 

Another time, I remember children screaming in the face of a child that was apparently not up to snuff. Not cool. Different. Abused by other children for her perceived shortcomings. She would rip out her hair in response. Later, gripped by pain as I saw grown-ups’ faces contorted in disgust as they stepped quickly over another human. A human identical to them through my child-like lens save for the dirty, torn clothes and upward palms asking for leftovers, for hope. I remember wanting to stay, to fill their hand but my weight was no match for the fast paced hand gripping mine. The chill of emptiness as I once saw a woman slap a gorgeous toddler across the face in the grocery store. The shock that not all mothers are mommies. A chill as I listened to a girl in middle school explain why Jews are “dirty.” It wasn’t her words I remember. It was her eyes and the crushing squint in the corner of each. A squint that meant more that all the hatred spewing from her mouth. Another lesson by a different dead spirit breathing icy breath into the word “bitch.” Again learning that words hurt and are often intended to destroy to devour and to make useless. 

I learned the face of hatred early in the small ways it makes its presence known here on our earth. I learned that fear can grip your soul and paralyze. I learned that evil is looking to be unleashed with every conceived thought, with every whispered word, with every kinetic motion. I learned that rage is ugly and scary. Like the wild animals instinctively know the early sounds of a storm foreshadow danger, so do the little ones in our midst recognize the repulsiveness of the face of hate and cruelty. The ugliness of darkness and lack of light. 

Like the moment of discovering a marital affair brings to awareness a broken marriage, so have the murders in Newtown invited those of you, lucky enough to have avoided awareness for so long, into the darkness and filth in which we reside. It’s a horrifying and vile place, is it not? This darkness, this vantage point. Like the sting of a slap is this unwelcome wake-up call. We need a rescue plan. We need a Savior. Something to which to cling like mad. Something to make this life bearable. If you are new to this reality, then welcome.

What happened at Sandy Hook Elementary is not novel, it is not unique. It’s only shockingly close to you and you can no longer ignore it. It is only that this particular evil act resulted in irreversible halting of lives. You can’t smooth it over. Can't pretend it didn’t happen. Evil often manifests in ways that are easier for us to ignore. Easier to rationalize. Superiority. Pride. Disdain. Name calling. Hate. Rage. Child abuse. Exploitation. Pornography. Prostitution. 4 year-olds watching bodies being blown up on Xbox. Children listening to parents scream obscenities to each other deep in the night. Facebook posts that might as well just say “fuck you.” 

But here is why we are going to persevere: To recognize light, you must know dark. To receive redemption, you must be broken first. To be rescued, you must first be in peril. We are there? Correct? 
Into this muck a Savior has come. He brings light and life. Love and hope. Joy that is unending and obtainable even in times of profound sadness and grief. He brings promises of renewal and unconditional grace. He brings the ability for each of us, for YOU, to welcome Him into your soul. To become His servant to spread peace, love, light, hope, faith, tenderness to your corner of this dark place. We have choices with every thought we embrace, with every sound we utter, with every gesture we allow. 

Let us fight back, push back this evil that has been rampant since the beginning. Light is brighter than dark. Love heals wounds. Joy washes away tears. Go wild with the loving spirit God has placed within you. Be brazen with gentleness. Allow kindness to hemorrhage over the surface of this broken place. Be certain of His unending love for you and be fearless in spreading His message. Go in peace. Go quickly. Our time here is brief. Our hearts have been broken like His, let us become more and more like Him every day.

Elizabeth H. Tichy, MD

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

How Bacon Rolls and Levi's GoForth

Back home. Had a lovely time. Saw friends. Got lots of writing done. Finally saw Breaking Dawn 2, which was horrible, but I'll cover that later. Today, I have two pre-movie adverts that caught my attention (London theaters run TV commercials or PSAs—very creepy PSA's—before the trailers). Kevin Bacon, center of the universe, second video below, gave me a laugh. The Levis' GoForth campaign, however, is just so young and modern it almost offends my aging soul. These kids have no jobs but somehow think that an attitude and a pair of jeans in an interview hold the key to success? Have we taught them no humility or common sense? None at all?

There are so many Kevin Bacon videos on YouTube, I had to add the British term "advert" to the search to pick this up.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Thursday, November 8, 2012

School Fundraisers: The Self Perpetuating Spiral

Now that the election is over, I can get back to motherhood and education topics. These ladies are singing my song: Why I Refuse to Do School Fundraisers. All of their points are good, I'd only add the spiraling trends point from my American motherhood reverse culture shock post last year: 

[H]ere is a major difference between American and British school fundraisers: we fund raise for the schools, not charities.  The idea that tuition is sufficient to pay for a school's needs is completely foreign to the American school system.  Private schools rely on fundraising, as do public schools.  A short version of the Texas tale, similar to tales across the country: state schools are funded by property taxes.  School districts with valuable property had more money than others.  The courts shut that “unfair” system down a while back leading to the "Robin Hood" regime whereby property taxes go into a pool and are divided equally throughout Texas.  Wealthier areas, therefore, supplement their school budgets with fundraising.   The charitable function performed by British school fundraising is served by a host of other organizations such as the Boy and Girl Scouts, National Charity League, the Junior League, and by our well attended churches.  I covered this a bit here, but for now, I digress. 
The upshot is that the elaborate school functions not only create more work for the actual parties, but also create more need for fundraising.  More and better fundraisers mean fancier functions and facilities.  The trends feed each other.   
Witness the school fairs. The Fall Festival I mentioned, it reminded me of the London nursery school field day merged with the Christmas Fair if it had a bubble machine, zip line, class pictures, and—I am not making this up—a DJ. I did a stint on the nursery PTA in London.  Planning for our much smaller Christmas Fair took some man hours.  I can only imagine how much work this Fall fest took.  In addition we have the typical holiday parties (though don’t call them Christmas parties in a public school). There are also teacher appreciation luncheons.  The moms bring food and cover the class so the teachers can have a morning off.  (For the British moms who have to keep reading that last because it can't possibly say that, I assure you, this happens.  I took brownies.)
More to come. I held my PJLifestyle Paglia review with it's education critique. Motherhood administration posts coming as well. Even I'm sick of politics.