Saturday, June 30, 2007

Friday, June 29, 2007

A Thought About Slippery Slopes

Over at Alternet, Deborah Kory has an article on the use of psychologists at Guantanamo, Abu Ghraib, and other prisons, in which she discusses the odd ideas that the APA has concerning these issues. How Psychologists Aid Torture She starts by telling us what the professional ethics are:
Psychologists strive to benefit those with whom they work and take care to do no harm. In their professional actions, psychologists seek to safeguard the welfare and rights of those with whom they interact professionally and other affected persons. -- Principle A, Ethical Principles of Psychologists and Code of Conduct, 2002
and then goes on to discuss some of the methods of disconnect employed by psychologists to protect their self-esteem from the knowledge of what they are doing -- and isn't it interesting that psychologists have the same defense mechanisms as the rest of us?
Many psychologists have their own mechanisms of denial and self-delusion about their role in society. "We're not political," they'll tell you, "We are just doing what we can in our way to make things better,
Most have no understanding of the collective impact of their profession and no sense that they have any obligation as psychologists to social responsibility. Wars, global poverty, ecological destruction? "That is not in our professional domain,"
The American Psychological Association . . . Some of its respected members have been actively aiding and abetting torture at illegal detention sites set up by the Bush administration, and the leadership of the APA has actively blocked attempts by its members to ban any and all engagement with interrogation proceedings at sites like Guantanamo, Abu Ghraib, Bagram, and the secret detention centers set up through the Administration's policy of "extraordinary rendition"
And this got me thinking about other areas where psychologists use their knowledge of people in ways that don't seem to bother them at all, but which I consider immoral. Like working for marketing firms developing strategies (such as the "nag factor") to pit children against their parents in the grocery store. Or using their best knowledge of child development to create the Telletubbies TV program -- a program targeted at toddlers, when the American Pediatric Association recommends that children under six not watch any television at all.

It seems to me that the minute a psychologist teamed up with a corporation to separate you from your money by separating you from your child, they had taken the first step along the path to Abu Ghraib. Had the goods they were hawking been good for the child, it would still have been an affront to decent behavior. When we look at the goods they help sell our children, the Bratz dolls, kiddie make-up, and alcopops, it looks to me like they have been waxing the slippery slope to this current abomination pretty heavily all along*. Should it surprise us that some psychologists are willing to help in the development of "interrogation" techniques when others have been willing to sell the innocence of children for all these years?

* Let's not even think about the supposedly anti-tobacco ads that actually encourage teens to smoke by reminding them that smoking is an adult activity.

Thursday, June 28, 2007

One Year

One year ago today, I published my first posts to this blog, Introducing Me, and How I Came to Blogging

When I did it I had no idea of where it would take me or what kind of a blog it would turn out to be. Actually, 507 posts later, I still don't know what kind of a blog it is. It turns out that I am not the only one who can't quite classify it, as the brilliant Jill at Brilliant at Breakfast stated while talking about how so many of the political bloggers are so young in her post, Digby Unleashed
As a middle-aged blogger, I often feel like the creepy old person playing in the kids' sandbox. Maya's Granny might disagree, but she occupies a niche all her own, . . .
How delightful. A niche all my own. You could hardly say anything that would please me more.

And yet, and yet . . . Where has this blob, as Olive Riley, the 108 year old Australian blogger of Life of Riley calls it, taken me? Originally Julie set everything up for me, even adding the pictures that I wanted (which explains why so many of my earlier posts were picture free). I learned how to do that stuff and stopped being dependent on Julie to do technical things for me or even to tell me how to do it. Since she has gone to a new system and I've gone to the New Blogger that she has no experience with, I am more on my own and more confident that I can figure it out. If I can't, I can look at other bloggers who do it and e-mail them for help. That works. And, it is important that I allow people to help me, a thing that I have trouble with.

Mostly I've done exactly what I was in the mood to share with the world that day. Sometimes it's memories, sometimes it's family stories that I was told, sometimes it's stuff about the Hooligan cats I live with, sometimes it poetry, sometimes it's stuff about Alaska, sometimes it's political opinion, sometimes it's ideas that I've been thinking or have been reminded of, sometimes it's stories I wrote for Maya a few years ago, and sometimes, particularly on weekends when I get lighter traffic than during the week (showing me that I am not the only person who reads blogs from my desk during the lunch hour), YouTube.

Between stories about my childhood and the In A Nutshell series, I have written enough about Daddy to bring me perspective on him, to shift him in my thoughts and speaking, from "my step-father" to "Daddy."

I've made a lot of bloggy friends, people all over the world who I read and who read me. I've been surprised to go to a blog for the first time and have Maya's Granny jump out at me from the blogroll.

I was found by a dear friend when his name was googled, having turned up in one of my posts. That has been a wonderful gift.

I've had the opportunity to write about anything I want to write about and a focus to get myself writing on a daily basis. I've learned some things about myself and about the world.

I had no idea it would be this much fun and excitement. I'm really glad that when Tabor read my comments on Robert Brady's blog Pureland Mountain and asked why I didn't have a blog, I decided to do it.

Where am I going in the future? Who knows? I don't.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Snow & Ice

Kenju commented on Up Silverbow Basin that she can't picture it covered in ice and snow. So, I thought I would show you how that looks.

This little pocket park is on the corner of 8th and Gold, which you will remember from the map. As I look out my window right now, I see these benches -- not, of course, covered in snow. I like to sit on them in the morning and wait for the Care-A-Van to pick me up. Helps me keep up my freckles.

As I walk uphill on Basin Road, these are the houses I see. The houses on the right, which is the side my apartment is on, have small strips of yard in front of them and steep hillside going up in back. Some of them do lovely flower gardens.

On the left, the houses are very close to the road, with no front yard, and behind them the hillside drops down to Gold Creek. Some of them have flower boxes in the summer.

Here is the spillway, from the Mount Juneau side, Lots of snow. Water still running on the spillway. The foot bridge is in the lower right. There is some degree of hoarfrost on the trees. Notice at the bottom corners of the picture that you can see a touch of pink.I don't think that can be Alpenglow -- that needs distance. But I notice that it is in a number of these photos.

This is a shot of the spillway from the middle of the foot bridge. This picture was obviously taken on a different day, as you can see from the quality of the light. Almost a blue tint here. (When I worked in community theater, we said that the lights were almost a character in the play. That's how the quality of light and the sky is in Alaska.) Also, I found this picture in a different album than the others, so I'm pretty sure I took it a different year.

Again, looking at the spillway from the foot bridge. When I first saw this picture I was amazed -- I had no idea I had actually shot it so well. It looks like a black and white with a little sepia. I had it enlarged and matted and it hangs on my office wall. It also hangs on a number of other walls, because a number of co-workers at three agencies now have loved it and I've given them copies for Christmas. Well, once it was a wedding present. When you are as amateur a photographer as I am, to have people ask for a copy of something you've taken just puffs you up with pride. Well, maybe not you, but it does me.

And here we have that path along Mount Juneau. This was taken about six steps beyond the footbridge.

I love this walk. I've lived in this neighborhood for 12 years now, and it never gets old. This is the first 10 minutes of an hour walk, and some day I will do some more pictures and take you further.

You can see it. But you aren't hearing the running of the creek and the birds and the wind. You aren't smelling the pine resin in the air. Sometimes I see marmots and porcupines and I hear other things in the brush.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Up Silverbow Basin

Click on photos to enlarge.

Kenju commented on It's a Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood that she hadn't pictured my neighborhood like that, so I thought I'd show you what it looks like when you walk in the other direction.

If you look at the right top corner of the map, you see a street that wanders off the grid and then meanders around the mountain, following the faint blue line of Gold Creek. What you are seeing is Basin Road climbing the hill and leaving town to go out Silverbow Basin. The final one block long intersecting street between Gold and Basin is 8th. I live at 8th and Basin. The first picture is located at the bend.

This is the last house on Basin Road, a leisurely three minute walk from my place. Wouldn't it be wonderful to be able to see a waterfall from your windows? It would make washing dishes an absolute delight.

And this is the bridge just around the curve from the last house. The upslope to the right is Mount Roberts, and across the creek, to the left, is Mount Juneau.

There is a foot bridge over Gold Creek, taking you from the Mount Roberts side, with the road, to the Mount Juneau side, with the path. This picture was taken from the foot bridge, facing west. If you follow the creek you will pass through town and out to the Gastineau Channel, which is part of the Pacific Ocean. And, currently, when you get down to the Channel, the salmon are walking on each others' backs they are so thick.

Facing east from the foot bridge, there is the spillway. Behind that are the Coast Mountains, and if you went that way for a very short while, you would be in British Columbia. Out of the country completely.

As you can tell from the foliage, these pictures were taken one fall. From the fullness of Gold Creek, this was probably 1999, when we got the tail end of Typhoon Leo. Lots and lots and lots of pelting rain. The airport was closed for about three days, and all of the creeks were full to overflowing.

Monday, June 25, 2007

In A Nutshell

So, here we are in our 201 part series answering questions from The Book of Myself, from a mother to her daughter. And today, we are down to

64. I hated this particular work assignment:
When I was self-employed, I got to do things I loved to do and do them pretty much the way I wanted to. But, I also had to sell my services. And I'm not good at that. When I was growing up, if I asked for something and was told no, that was it. Ask a second time, and I lost something I already had. I didn't do that very often, as you can well imagine. So, I don't do well at sales, because I get moderately sick to my stomach is I have to ask again. I couldn't sell Bedouins shares in an oasis.

There are a couple of things about this that puzzle me. One is that Forrest had the same situation I did, and he is one of the best salesmen you'll ever meet. He once sold an extremely expensive camera that had terrible balance to a customer who had commented on the John Wayne poster behind the counter by telling him that that it was a very good camera, which it was, but that "only a real man, a real John Wayne" could manage it.

And, I make my living selling ideas. I have had few jobs that didn't involve me helping people recognize ways that they were getting in their own way and helping them to develop the skills to overcome them. I've convinced people who thought that young children thought like adults that they not only don't, but can't. I've convinced people to totally change the way they talk to their children and what they expect of them and how they discipline them. I've talked parents into being less strict and more strict, into granting more freedom and cutting the chaos and getting some structure in there, for Pete's sake! I am very skilled at looking at what is happening now, comparing it to what is needed, and tailoring a plan to help this parent get from here to there with maximum success and minimum resistance.

When I was in college and working waiting tables, I always got good tips and part of it was for being good at selling. I remember the woman who really wanted a piece of cheesecake but thought that she shouldn't. When she asked me how many calories in it, I answered, "Oh, our cheesecake is calorie free. We only charge for the cheesecake; we add the calories free." And, she laughed and had a slice.

When I was a Junior Achievement adviser, I gave the kids sales skills lessons, and our group made record breaking sales. How to recognize which people were willing to be talked to, how to talk to them, how to find out what features they needed, how to answer objections, how to close the deal. I can teach it. I just can't do it.

Hell, when I was trying to sell my own services, there were times when I knew that the prospective client would be more trouble than the money was worth or was totally inappropriate for the services I was offering, and the more I tried to talk them out of it, the more they insisted on doing it. So, why can't I sell when I know it's selling? When I'm trying to make money? Where is the disconnect between what I do and what I can't seem to do?

Sunday, June 24, 2007

It's A Beautiful Day In The Neighborhood

I took a little walk, going downhill, and in the first two blocks this is a little of what I saw. Do click the pictures to enlarge and see details.

This is the edge of my yard, with sweet rocket growing out of the cracks of the retaining wall.

In the upper left hand corner are dandelion puff balls.

And here we are, two blocks down, and here the sweet rocket has taken over the entire hillside. There are also some buttercups and other flowers. The stairs that you see are the bottom third of a staircase going up to a house. One day a few years ago the driver stopped the Care-A-Van just in front of the stairs so we could watch a mother bear and three cubs climb them. We seldom see three cubs, and it was kind of a magic moment. There were several neighbors and some tourists standing watching, which was what alerted us to the fact that something worth seeing was there.

And here we have flowers someone actually planted. The red ones are arctic poppies, one of my favorites. They start out with little fuzzy green caps that split and let the color show through and end all flowsy and blown -- like a lady of the evening who has been practiciing her profession for too long.


Saturday, June 23, 2007


The other day I had lunch out and the bus boy kept smiling at me. Finally I remembered him -- I used to visit his family when I did parenting coaching. His son, Nathaniel, was just 15 months when I first met him. He was a tall, sturdy little guy with black hair to his shoulder blades and snapping brown eyes who chugged around the apartment in his diaper, exploring and laughing and helping any adult who would allow it. We made friends the first time I visited, and stayed friends from then on.

I was sent in to help families after the social worker had been there. Social workers in Juneau don't necessarily dress formally, but they do wear darker colors when they do investigations, with brief cases and hard shoes. When they leave, having examined every facet of a family's life and given a judgment to the parents that can be quite threatening, the parents are often frightened and traumatized. I was supposed to come in after this, develop trust with the family, and begin to move their behavior in a positive direction. So, I found that applying the principles of "Dress for Success" to my target audience, wearing coordinated denim pants suits and a Smokey Bear watch and carring a denim bag with a Tweetie Bird applique pocket and an umbrella with a duck head helped put people at their ease. And the kids loved it. Little ones would stand on my lap every week when I came and examine my watch and bag, talking to me about Smokey and Tweetie. That quieted their parents' fears even more.

So, I was used to Nathaniel clambering up the minute I sat down. For a couple of weeks he would say, "brella, brella" and I would answer, "Yes, Nathaniel, umbrella." One day, he climbed up, put his little arms around my neck, leaned forward so I could feel his soft baby breath on my cheek, and whispered, "umbrella, umbrella, umbrella."

And I knew, any man who wanted to win my heart was going to have to compete with a little Tlingit boy with laughing eyes and a soft voice.

Friday, June 22, 2007

Searching for a Black Cat in a Coalbin
At Midnight

When Merry and Pippin were about nine months old, I went to California for my annual November trip, leaving them in the care of Richard and Kathy, who were to drop in daily and feed and play with them.

I flew out on Sunday. On Wednesday Richard sat up in bed, realizing that he had forgotten I had already left and my babies hadn't been fed. The first thing the next morning he went up to the apartment. At first the fact that the kittens didn't come out to greet him didn't worry him, as they never had. But when he got upstairs and discovered that the door had blown open, he began to worry. He put out food, but he didn't dare close the door because how were they to get in to eat if he did? He and Kathy spent several days searching for them. Posting photos on power poles. Walking the block and calling. Searching the apartment. Calling the pound. Looking in the paper. Not sure if they should call me and ruin my vacation or not. After all, the previous November I had returned from my vacation to find my beloved Missy had died. How could they face me if they had lost my boys? But, they kept putting out food and water, and it kept disappearing. So, if Merry and Pippin weren't eating it, something was.

Every time they went to my place, they put out cat provisions and sat in the living room to see if the cats would come in to eat. Finally one day they heard little teeth eating kitty kibble. Quickly they sneaked up the stairs, and saw the cats run into the closet. Now they could close and lock the door. And when they looked in the closet it took forever to spot Pippin's green eyes beneath the legs of my navy pants. Merry was behind Pippin, and Pippin is coal black. As near as we can tell, since neither cat tried to get out again until this year, they had been hiding in the closet all along.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

What They Really Saw

Chapter 1: Richard
One day, a very long time ago, when Maya's Uncle Richard was a five year old boy called Richard, and her Mama was a three year old girl called Julie, and her Granny was a young woman called Mom, they all lived in Redwood City in a little house with a staircase from the front door to the living room. And one day Richard came into the kitchen where Mom was washing the lunch dishes and he said "Mom, there is a black widow on the stairs." And Mom (in the classic manner of Moms the world over) said, "That's nice dear. Now go play in the yard."

So, Richard went down the stairs and played in the yard, and in a little while Mom finished the dishes and took the garbage out. And when she walked down those stairs, what do you think she saw? That's right. A black widow. Right there on the stairs, where she had sent her only son to go out to the backyard. So, she got a broom and killed it.

Chapter 2: Elzie
Now, Maya may not know that her Mama Julie and her Uncle Richard have a cousin named Elzie, but they do. So, a few years before Richard saw the black widow, Elzie was living on a homestead in Alaska with his mother and father and two sisters and brother and aunt and uncle and five cousins. All the grown-ups were in town working, except Elzie's Auntie Lori and all of the children (all nine of them) were playing in the yard and Auntie Lori (who was Elzie's cousins' mom) was washing clothes when Elzie came in and said, "Auntie Lori, there is a bear in the yard."

And Auntie Lori (in the classic manner of moms the world over) said, "That's nice dear, go out and play in the yard." So he did. In a little while, Auntie Lori took the basket of clothes outside to hang on the clothes line, and what do you think she saw? That's right, a bear! Right out in the yard, where she had sent Elzie to play with the other children. So she got the 30-06 to shoot it, but the rifle wouldn't shoot. Then she became very clever and got a transistor radio, turned it on real loud, and chased the bear away with that.

And when her husband and her brother got home from work that night, they explained to Lori about the safety and taught her to shoot a riflt.

The Lessons
1. Mothers the world over need to start listening to what their children say.
2. Don't leave children in the woods with someone who doesn't know how to shoot bears.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

One Summer Day
In Roswell

Writing about chores got me thinking about Daddy and the change in my opinion of him that I talked about in Perspective , which somehow reminded me of this very, very, very short story.

I mentioned, in The Great El Paso Piss Off of 1955 that Daddy had a very sarcastic tongue and loved to catch me (and later, it turns out, Forrest) outdoors when he had an audience and berate me loudly. I suppose this was supposed to teach me something, but not what it did.

What I learned was that I could turn off my ears and my brain, wait for him to pause, and reply in a contrite voice, "Yes, Daddy," repeat as necessary, and eventually it would be over and I could get back to consciousness.

So, one summer day in Roswell, when I was 13, I was out in the front yard when all the men on the block got home from work and Daddy started in, about what I don't remember now and probably never really knew then, because I did my trick.

"Niener, niener, niener," Daddy said.
"Yes, Daddy," I answered in my best oh-so-sorry voice of contrition.
"Niener, niener, niener," Daddy said.
"Yes, Daddy," I answered in my best oh-so-sorry voice of contrition.
"Niener, niener, niener," Daddy said.
"Yes, Daddy," I answered in my best oh-so-sorry voice of contrition.

Lots of very loud laughter up and down the block.
I came to with a snap, looked at Daddy, who was working very hard not to laugh, and quickly reran the tape in my head.
"You think I'm stupid, don't you?"
"Yes, Daddy."

And I long ago lost track of the number of times he told that story and laughed and laughed.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007


As a parent, getting the chore thing right was vitally important to me. There was so much tension as I was growing up around chores, as mentioned in Melmac Dishes and In A Nutshell II and IV-a and Binocular Vision that I had no intention of reliving that from the other perspective. It had been bad enough that I had left home at 16 to live with my great-aunt and Forrest had left home at 17 and worked his way through his senior year of high school. So, when Richard was still crawling around the floor I started researching this subject. I majored in child development and later went on to get my masters in Montessori education, and I read everything I could get my hands on, observed parents and children I knew, and thought about it a lot. The result was a coherent theory that I then continued to test, refine, and build on.

Children are motivated by two positive needs. They need to be loved and appreciated for who they are, even when they are naughty. And they need to contribute to the family. Children who don’t contribute, who have no chores, who aren’t allowed to help, feel insecure. This lack can lead to bad behavior, as children try to get undeserved attention to compensate for their fear that they don’t actually deserve any.

There are a number of goals to having a child do chores. One is the need to contribute. Another is the need that parents have for help a family is a unit that relies on its members -- Julie and Richard knew that our family could not get along without their help. What they did was important to me.

Another goal is teaching children skills for when they are grown. Whereas I learned a limited number of "girl" chores, we started with a list of things that have to be done around the house, from making beds and putting clean clothes away to planning meals, shopping, cooking, and occasional maintenance items. Over the years both kids had the opportunity to learn and be responsible for each skill on the list. When I was growing up, once you got a chore it was yours until you left home. My kids moved on to more complex and interesting things.

Children try to help at a very young age. When Richard was about nine months old, Daddy asked him to bring his empty bottle to the kitchen, and Richard walked around three walls of the room, holding on, got the bottle, and walked it back the same path. He was so proud to be able to help. When Maya was 15 months, she regularly helped Julie unload the silverware from the dish washer. If we don’t let children help us at this age, we are setting our lives up to fight about chores in later years. If you think about it, there is almost always some part of the task your child can help you with. (I have a friend who let her border collie carry in the meat, and he never pierced the shrink wrap. If a dog can do it, so can a child.) And if you tell him he is too little or too young, you undercut his self-confidence.

Just because a little one helps, it doesn’t mean he is ready to have that task assigned. Until the child is about five, it should always be voluntary. You can certainly ask, but you mustn’t be disappointed if your child has something more important right now.

It is also important to recognize that little people can’t meet adult standards. Richard decided at three that he wanted to make his own bed. And he did it himself from then on. I would have insulted him no end had I stepped in and corrected it. Every week when I changed the sheets, we would do it together, which gave him ample instruction in how to do it. For a long time, he slept in a pretty messy little nest, but he was proud of it.

One thing I remember resenting about my chores when I was a kid (among a myriad of things I resented about them) was coming home from school and being expected to do chores while everyone else was enjoying themselves. I didn’t like being off on my own working. And I well remember visiting my Aunt Marvel in the summer and how she and her two daughters and I would clean the house together and absolutely love it. Seeing how fast we could get done to go out and play – all of us, Aunt Marvel included. Children enjoy helping their parents. And when my kids came along, that is what we did for a long time. Clean up common areas before we went to bed, dishes after eating, and the main chores on Saturday morning, followed by a family outing.

I would never pay a child to do their regular chores. No one pays me to cook dinner or clean the bathroom or change the cat box. And keeping their own bedroom clean is self care, like brushing their teeth and taking a bath. It doesn’t count as a contribution to the family. Chores benefit everyone.

Since I didn’t pay my kids to do their chores, I couldn’t’ take their allowance away if they didn’t. So, I had to fall back on logical consequences. When they didn’t put their clothes in the hamper, I didn’t wash them. When Richard didn’t put his dishes in the dishwasher, I put them in the refrigerator overnight* and fed him off them for breakfast.**

I always tried to let the kids have a say in which chores and/or when they did them***. The more input the child has, the more likely he is to go along with the program.

* He had to learn, but I didn’t want him to die of salmonella.

** One reason I have more Richard discipline stories is that Julie would watch and see what happened when he did something. If there was a negative consequence, she didn’t repeat it. This was true with natural consequences as well as logical ones. What good, she asked, is an older brother if you can’t learn from his pain1

*** That was, of course, ahead of time. Deciding when we were waiting for the chore to be done that tomorrow would be good enough was not an option.

Monday, June 18, 2007

Children and Money

I was visiting Disgusted Beyond Belief and encountered the excellent post Educating one's child on economics and it started me thinking about allowances.

When I grew up, money was a taboo subject. It was not talked of in any but the most general terms. In “genteel” families it was almost not discussed at all. You didn’t discuss how much you had, how much you earned, how much you needed, or how much something cost. I have no idea how any of us learned to deal with it. Indeed, as I remember it, my early excursions into money were not unlike my early excursions into that other taboo subject, sex. I didn’t know what the hell I was doing, and some of the results, although funny in retrospect, were horrid at the time. And, it’s not something that you can grow up without understanding; this is a culture that runs on money and if you can’t manage it you are in real trouble.

So, when I had kids, I did some research on the subject. I knew some general principles from being a Montessori teacher. I knew that to teach a skill you break it down into component parts and set up practice with each one. I also read Haim Ginott’s “Between Parent and Child” and agreed with his statements about money. In the first place, in a family everyone gets a share of the resources. There is a roof; we all stay dry. There is food; we all eat. There is love; we all are loved. There is respect; we all are respected. There is money; we all get some of that as well. Secondly, the purpose of an allowance is to develop proficiency with money. As adults, we will need to earn money and then manage it. As children, we need to learn these skills separately.

I began giving Richard and Julie an allowance when they were six. Since then I’ve been really impressed with the idea of giving an allowance as soon as your child, when offered her choice between a nickel and a dime, chooses the dime. Allowances grow with age. They start out small, to be used for fun, given weekly. Later, when the child can get through the week on the allowance given, she is ready to have money doled out further apart. The ideal of learning to budget month-to-month is high school level; and if your teen can’t do it at first, going back to weekly and then semi-weekly is a good idea.*

How much allowance to give depends on what you can afford, which does not mean that if you are extremely rich your child should get a huge allowance, but rather that you should not give more than you can comfortably manage. What do you expect the child to do with this money? If it is only for pleasure it will be less than if it is to include school lunches. What is customary in your child’s peer group? Make certain that there is understanding between you and your child about all of this.I don’t believe in advances; children shouldn’t learn to live on credit. They shouldn’t get extra “just this once” and they shouldn’t get their allowance taken away as a punishment for anything.** They can’t learn to manage it if they can’t predict when and how much they will get. It is certainly alright, if a child needs extra money, to allow the child to earn it. Richard and Julie sometimes earned extra by doing each other’s chores and being paid for it. Sometimes I would pay them to do something I normally did. They got odd jobs in the neighborhood, with their grandparents, at the local pizzeria and horse stable.

When Julie was 12 I was going crazy going from store to store with her to try on clothes. When I mentioned this to my secretary she told me about her daughter’s clothing allowance. Wonderful. I started giving my kids a clothing allowance. Julie learned the most important things. She learned not to save forever for one pair of fashionable jeans.; not to buy things that weren’t well made; to check and make sure they covered what they were supposed to cover; that if a blouse didn’t go with anything she owned she wasn’t going to wear it. She is, to this day, a wise shopper.

Richard bought a belt with his clothing allowance the first month, and after that he couldn’t figure out what clothes he needed. Finally he asked if he could spend his on books instead of clothes, and since that fits my values, I agreed.

At 16 their allowances ended. They knew when they began that would be the case. At 16 the law said they could work. Julie got a paying job at 14, just so to be ready. Richard learned to live on minimum money, and did Julie’s chores so she could work. Both were fine outcomes as far as I was concerned. Eventually he wanted computers and games and speakers and things that required a real job, and eventually he got one.

I would suggest, that since when kids get jobs their grades tend to drop, you consider that. If either of my two had been poor students, I would have continued allowances.

* Remember, it is important for a child to experience success in the acquisition of skills. In a Montessori classroom, all lessons that don’t end in success are ended by going back to a previous successful level. This is not to give a false sense of self-esteem, but to prevent reviewing the incorrect solution between lessons.

** I’ll talk about what to do about chores soon. For now, don’t pay them to do them and don’t not pay them if they don’t. If you are already paying them for chores, wait a couple of days for my chores post and if you agree with me, you can change what you are doing. Tell the child why and she will learn what people do when they learn new things.

Sunday, June 17, 2007

Eat Wild Alaska Salmon

It takes a real man

to fish the Alaskan waters

there is no price too high.

Saturday, June 16, 2007

Beauty Hints

When I was in my early 30s, I read a beauty hint that suggested soaking a cotton ball in your signature scent and wearing it between your breasts. Your body heat, so the theory went, would cause the scent to last all day. So, the next time I went to the store I bought some and tried it out.

About half an hour later, my breasts began to burn. I slipped into the bathroom, checked and discovered that the writer of that hint obviously didn't have cleavage. I had two painful, red circles, one on each breast, where the top layer of skin had burned away. Just removing the cotton ball did no good, because when skinned circle met skinned circle, it still burned like all get out.

So I spent the next week with band aids on my boobs. Anyone know what to do with 99 useless cotton balls?

(You didn't think I'd taken a picture of my poor, abused breasts, did you?)

Friday, June 15, 2007

First Day

On Wednesday, Julie posted about Maya's (long ago) first days at child care Seperation Anxiety. She was reminded of this because of reading Ms. Mama's post about her child's first days of child care, I'm Sorry.

Both of these children have had a hard time. Crying. Not wanting their parents to leave them. Despite the fact that their parents had visited day care with them ahead of time, the little ones have been heart broken when they were left.

It reminded me of when Richard had his first day of child care. He was about six months old when I went back to work. I had found this wonderful woman who lived in my neighborhood and cared for two older children and a 100 year-old blind woman and we had gone to her house and visited for a couple of hours on two or three occasions.

Come the first day, we get to Mrs. Johnson's house, she opens the door, Richard turns and reaches out his little arms to her, she takes him, he snuggles up to her and ignores the fact that I'm leaving. Well, I had wanted the visits to result in his not being unduly upset. But, he didn't have to be such a heartless little beast about it.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Binocular Vision

I mentioned that when Forrest was here on the 3rd, one of the things we talked about was family memories. I left home when Forrest was 11, so most of his teen years happened when I wasn't there. Most of them, we had never really discussed. And I'm so glad that we finally got around to it, because we made an amazing discovery, and one that might not have been possible much earlier. Like, before I began writing about Daddy on this blog and found some perspective on him.

I'm not exactly sure of what led into this, but somehow we got to talking about chores. And my discovery that not only was I not such an innocent victim of the chore wars in our house as I had thought I was, but also that I had figured out that Daddy's motivation for never being pleased with my efforts were to keep me from "getting in trouble." For those of you who have not followed this adventure in epiphany, a brief review. Daddy was an excellent father for little kids. When Mama first married him, when I was nine and Forrest four, he could hardly make a misstep. He allowed us lots of freedom to wander and learn and was good at showing us things and teaching us life lessons and listening to us and understanding both the way kids think and that kids are capable of more than many adults give them credit for. He held us responsible for our actions without being harsh; he was firm and fair. Well, except for our little contretemps over dust mopping my bedroom, which gave direction to future battles.

But, when a kid got to be a teen, all of Daddy's good sense seemed to disappear. Where I had been allowed to wander unsupervised for hours at the age of nine, at 12 he had to know where I was every minute. He clocked the length of time it took me to walk from the school bus stop to the house, and would call from the office at exactly that time on random days to make sure I had walked straight home. Where my punishment, when he punished instead of taught, when I was younger was to have my library card removed (punish the kid, not the crime, was his motto), after 13 it was to be grounded for a month. And I was always in trouble, and therefore always grounded, because of chores. He once grounded me because I hadn't emptied the waste basket in his bedroom -- which he had brought into the house and placed between the dresser and the wall the day before and therefor I didn't know was there! And he would set standards of excellence that he wouldn't tell me about and which I therefore couldn't meet.

Recently, I realized that the problem was that he was afraid I'd come home pregnant. He had no idea how to protect me when he wasn't with me, so his answer was to ground me. If I was grounded, I couldn't date or even go for a walk around the block. Can't get pregnant then.

Well, as I was telling these tales to Forrest and Carolyn, Forrest told me about a couple of his adventures. First, we have the lawn. Daddy told him that before he went out, he was to mow the lawn "once vertical, once horizontal. Then trim around the trees. Then sweep up all the grass. Then come and get me." When Forrest went to get Daddy, Daddy found one, count them 1, blade of grass that wasn't cut and Forrest had to do it all over again and was then grounded for a month.

Second we have the prom. Forrest took his future first wife, Chery, to the prom. Daddy lent him the car and told him, "Drive from here to her house and from her house to the school and back. Don't go anywhere else." Forrest, usually so compliant, after the prom drove exactly two blocks out of his way so they could park and cuddle, and then two blocks back to his appointed path. And when he got home, Daddy went out and checked the odometer. Asked Forrest what he had done, and Forrest, knowing that if he claimed that Chery had forgotten something and they'd had to double back, Daddy would call and confirm, confessed. Which led to Forrest being grounded and Daddy going over to Chery's parents the next day and telling them that if they (both sets of parents) weren't careful, they could end up grandparents before they wanted to be.

Oh. How interesting. Daddy found a solution, and continued to use it. Except that by the time Forrest went to the prom, I had already come home from Berkeley pregnant.

See what I mean when I say that Forrest is very confirming to me? Forrest not only remembers the things I remember, he has further examples. Things anyone else would think we are crazy to imagine, we mirror and totally understand.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Signposts to Sanity
This Scares Me

An occasional feature in which your ever lovin' granny points you at other people's really good stuff. Please note that the signpost chosen for today leads down a green and twisting trail, indicating a need to follow the twists and turns that the money takes.

Yesterday on Junkfood Science, Sandy Szwarc posted an article which frightens me. Doctors — forced into becoming lifestyle police. I am directly quoting her a great deal, because the way the pieces come together is important; since I don't quote her first mention of RWJF, I'll tell those of you who might not know that she is referring to the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, the "philanthropic" arm (worth $8.99 billion) of Johnson & Johnson, the health care products company. And while you read this, keep in mind that the current Surgeon General has targeted obesity as a major health problem and has been issuing press releases touting disproven numbers of premature deaths caused by obesity and ignoring the fact that fat people outlive thin ones.
If government agencies and the American Medical Association get their way, doctors and pediatricians will be compelled to police the behaviors of children and families to make sure they comply with the obesity initiatives of the world’s most influential interest groups
As predicted here, they first recommend the definitions be changed so that children are labeled as “obese” and “overweight” using BMI percentiles*, rather than the long-standing recognition that such classifications are inappropriate for growing children and teens
Every well-child visit is now to include a qualitative assessment of eating behaviors, which must include identifying how often the family eats meals away from home, consumption of sweetened beverages, portion sizes, how often and what children and teens eat for breakfast, how much fruit juice is drunk, how many fruits and vegetables and foods high in fat or calories are eaten, and the frequency and types of snacks.
Labwork for these heavier children, even those without risk factors, is to include lipid (“cholesterol”) profile, fasting glucose and a slew of other biomedical tests.**
All children and teens, of “normal” BMI ranges should be assured to be in compliance with the obesity prevention guidelines as it delineated.***

Additionally, all children and teens with BMIs above the 85th percentile must receive special intervention by a primary care provider or healthcare professional trained in weight management**** and behavioral counseling.
But children or teens with any risk factors and who are not successfully losing weight, or all children above the 99th percentile*****, are placed in the “Tertiary care protocol.”

Tertiary care protocol

· Referral to a weight management center to include a multi-disciplinary team to institute diet and exercise counseling, a very low calorie diet, medication and surgery.******
Not one single clinical practice recommendation is based on credible science on childhood obesity, has anything to do with healthy eating, or has any evidential support. In today’s “pay for performance” world, however, doctors who do not comply with clinical practice guidelines — based on their patients meeting requisite BMIs, behaviors and health risk factor numbers — will see their private and public insurance reimbursements cut.*******
The unmistakable aspect of everything RWJF funds, unbeknownst to the public, is that the feel-good reforms are never for programs that actually care for sick people or children, but are always designed to coerce and move towards legislation that governs lifestyle issues, behaviors and societal values; and that increase the power and influence of governmental agencies and managed care, while undermining the choices of individuals and the judgment of doctors, parents and others directly involved in patient care. And with each one, computerized data collection is fundamental.
It’s interesting that the war on obesity is often compared to that against smoking, because the two targets share surprising similarities, and not just because they’ve both become among the most socially condemned in our culture.
Meanwhile, how many consumers know that Johnson & Johnson is the largest manufacturer of pharmaceutical nicotine products (like Nicoderm, Nicoderm CQ, etc.) in the world, which alone are a $500 million annual business for the company? I didn't and was also surprised to see how squishy the evidence on second-hand smoking being used
Johnson & Johnson, Inc., with $53.324 billion in annual sales, is also an international giant in weight loss and healthy eating products, selling nutritional supplements (McNeil Nutritionals, LLC), artificial sweeteners (Splenda), diet pills, employer wellness programs (J&J Consumer Companies, Inc. Vida Nuestra), and bariatric surgical devices and lap bands (Ethicon Endo-Surgery, Inc.). And just this past week, the President and CEO of RWJF, Dr. Risa Lavizzo-Mourey, finally stepped down from the Board of Directors of Beckman Coulter, Inc., a company with $2.53 billion in annual sales of biomedical laboratory tests — a position she simultaneously held while at the helm of RWJF, ensuring preventive wellness guidelines calling for excessive screening tests.
* By these standards, if I'm understanding this correctly , when Maya was four she would have been identified as obese, since she was so tall that she was off the chart for her age group. She was slender and tall.

** Think of the additional time and expense of these evaluations and tests. If this is to occur at each well-child visit, how that adds up over the years. Fasting glucose tests, as those of us who have them can tell you, are blood tests, preceded by no food and minimal water for 12 hours. For young children who happen to be genetically larger? Be hungry, thirsty, and stuck with a needle? Whether your doctor thinks you need it or not? Let's see how fast we can make chubby children hate going to the doctor.

*** Children within the government's definition of normal are also to be subjected to evaluation of their eating and exercise habits? No children, no families, are to be spared the indoctrination that fat is evil? Aren't the five year olds who are dieting today bad enough? Shall we see if we can add more?

**** In other words, these kids, fat or just tall, will be placed on diets. When studies have shown that dieting before physical maturation not only leads to nutritional problems but also almost guarantees a lifetime of weight problems. When the Berkeley Nutritional Study "of women defined as clinically obese shows that nearly two-thirds of them went on their first diet before age 14 and, as adults, were more likely to be heavier than women who started dieting after age 14."

***** That's Maya, the four year-old who was so tall she was off the chart! To be placed in "tertiary care protocol"!

****** Medication. Perhaps another phen-fen that proves fatal? One that leads to "anal leakage"? Surgery. That's weight loss surgery (WLS), they are talking about here. On children. A surgery with a death on the table rate exceeded only by the quadruple bypass. With a death within 90 days of surgery rate of one in 50! A surgery that results in nutrient malabsorption -- on a developing child! That can result in brain damage! So, while we are looking at the prospect of WLS for children, let me tell you about my conversation with my brother about his bout with WLS. Now, Forrest was over 400 pounds and had a severely enlarged heart. His cardiologist told him it was WLS or he would be dead within six months. And, after the first surgery, he told me that he thought he had made the worst mistake of his life. At the time he told me this, he would have already been dead without it. Every bite he ate, he threw up. Since then he has had a second surgery which doubled the 20" of gut that he had still functioning to 40" (out of 28'), and he is doing much better. He still throws up often enough that his pre-WLS perfect teeth are rotting and he is losing them. Teeth that had never had a single cavity! He throws up if he gets post-nasal drip. He throws up if he eats one bite of bacon. The list of food that he has to avoid is incredibly long and, because he has only a one cup stomach capacity and food only has a two hour transit in his body, he has to pretty much avoid fruit, vegetables, and grains because they don't give him a high enough nutrient load for the bulk. He eats mostly meat. But not fatty meat! Not fats. He takes multiple calcium and vitamin tablets a day -- one of each every two hours. Also, since he has ADD, he must take a ritalin capsule every two hours. Any medication he needs, he has to take every two hours. What if something absorbs faster than that and he gets too much? And the cost of 12 pills instead of one! He does say that it's worth it to be alive, to see his grandchild, to live. But, he also says that if it had not been necessary to save his life, in no way would it have been worth it. Not to look better. Not to feel better -- because he doesn't. He just feels miserable in different ways.

******* In other words, doctors will be paid less if they don't follow these guidelines, no matter what their professional opinion of worth or harm they might do patients..

Sandy leads you to an excellent article on ED Bites, a weight site I was previously unaware of and have subsequently linked in my Size Acceptance blog roll.

Monday, June 11, 2007

Forrest & Changing Winds

For a long time a person couldn't talk to Forrest about politics because his views were so different from anyone else's in the family and, before his surgery, if he got excited his blood pressure went out of sight, sometimes enough turn his face red, and no one wanted him to fall over dead. Well, at least not enough of us at one time wanted that. It was really an unfair advantage, because we would start to talk and it would devolve into an argument, and then he would turn red. You don't have to agree with me about politics, or anything for that matter, but at least allow me to say what I want to say, to feel like you understand me. That wasn't happening. If he wasn't turning red, which shut us all up pretty fast, or walking out, which also shuts a person up, he was pulling the argument from intimidation, which he had learned by watching O'Reilly. Ah, I well remember the day I started to explain to him about PNAC, and said "The neo-cons" and he immediately started saying, very loudly, "Neo-cons! Now you're making words up! Neo-cons!" And, of course he was turning red as he carried on and Mama was motioning for me not to kill him outright just to prove we were right and he was wrong.

So this visit I asked him, with trepidation that we might still have that problem but also with great curiosity because of the things that have been hitting the news recently, how he felt about current events. And, for the first time in a long time, we were able to talk about politics. With the things that have happened in the last two years, Forrest has come much closer to my side. He is, after all, my baby brother and therefore he couldn't be too stupid! He is very capable of weighing evidence and coming to intelligent conclusions. One of the things I realized again when talking to him about these things is what a handicap it is to have a serious reading disability. Forrest is really at a disadvantage at being able to get the information that isn't readily out there. He never developed the habit of independent research because of his reading; he depends on TV news to tell him things. Sadly, the TV news he watches is Bill O'Reilly. So, he had no idea what the fuss was about the DOJ firings. He didn't understand why this was different than Clinton replacing all the DOJ appointees when he took office. But, when I explained, he was incensed, at someone other than me! Now he can see why people are upset. And, just perhaps, now he may think about watching someone in addition to O'Reilly.

It is a relief to know that he can change his mind about these things. And besides, it is much more fun to be able to talk about anything and politics has always been a big part of our family's discourse.

And, in the future, I suspect that we will be able to have the fun political discussions that we used to have before 9/11. The ones where we get excited but listen to each other and don't avoid the topic.

Sunday, June 10, 2007

Forrest Comes To Juneau

On June 3, Forrest and his wife, Carolyn, came to Juneau on the Holland America Amsterdam.

The last time they came was June of 2001, and we did the important tourist things at that time. Since they got in at 7:00 a.m., we had breakfast with the Saturday Morning Breakfast Club. We went to the Mendenhall Glacier, where Forrest looked down at the glacier, waterfall, and lake from the visitor's center and asked me, "Joy Honey, what are those birds?"
"Which birds?"
"The ones by the waterfall."
"Those are people."
"What? My Gawd, that waterfall is big! Oh! My, that means the glacier is huge!"

We also went to DIPAC and they went up the Mount Roberts tram while I was teaching my parenting class. And we sat on a bench downtown talking. There was a raven about three blocks away that was calling and Forrest was astonished that we could hear it so well -- large bird, large lungs, loud voice. He was also amazed to see the Raven Creates Man mural on City Hall -- he had watched Northern Exposure but assumed the Raven stories were made up in Hollywood. That they were actually based on Native Alaskan tradition was a surprise to him.

So, they had already seen the sights. This time we sat and talked. We sat at a table and talked while eating Alaska king crab legs. We sat in the library and talked, saying hi to Kathy while we were there. We sat on a park bench and talked. We sat in a coffee house and drank Pepsi and talked. I haven't had as much time just talking to Forrest in years. Usually there are other family members around or things we are trying to do, or both. But this time it was just the three of us, and we had a long time. Time enough to get past the talking over each other and hopping from one incomplete subject to another stage and into spending some time getting into each topic. Telling Carolyn family stories from both of our perspectives. Telling each other family stories that had only been known by one of us. Sharing concerns about Mama and bragging about our descendants -- Forrest is soon going to be a grandfather for the second time (the first time his DNA will pass on, as he says, but not the first time he will have a grandchild to dote on), and he loves kids. He is a good dad, he is a good grandfather.

We were able to talk to each other about our childhood -- Forrest is really the most confirming person for me, because no one else saw what we saw and many would consider us exagerating or nuts. But we know. We lived it. We watched each other live it. And, I will blog about some of what we discovered in that discussion soon. And I will blog about being able to talk to him about politics and about his weight loss surgery also. So, you can figure that in the near future you will be reading at least two more posts about my brother.

The IAVA Senate Troop Support Scale

The Iraq & Afghanistan Veterans of America (IAVA) has graded all 100 U. S. Senators according to how their votes on the 155 items concerning military and veterans' issues actually supported them. The resulting table can be found at Bob So check it out and see how your Senators did. Alaska's Ted Stevens and Lisa Murkowski rated a rousing D.

To quote Jill at Brilliant At Breakfast, quoting Bob Geiger,
IAVA analyzed 155 Senate votes that have taken place since September 11, 2001 and, to calculate their ratings, looked at "…each piece of legislation that affected troops, veterans or military families." IAVA then matched each Senator's votes with the organization's own view of what constitutes true support for active troops, Veterans and their families.

IAVA assigned an 'A' through 'F' grade using the scale at left showing the percentage of time each Senator has indeed supported troops and Veterans. As someone who has watched Senate Republicans vote time and time again against legislation that would benefit military families, the results did not shock me in the slightest.

No Senator in either party was given an A grade by IAVA. Thirteen Senators received a rating of A- and all of those were Democrats. A total of 23 Senators were given a B+ rating and 22 of those were Democrats as well. The other was Independent James Jeffords of Vermont, who caucuses with the Democrats.

Cutting to the chase -- and, perhaps more than anything I've seen in recent years, truly defining the difference between the two parties -- is that the worst grade received by a Senate Democrat was higher than the best grade granted a Republican. GOP-lite Ben Nelson (D-NE) received the lowest grade of any Democrat with a B- while Lincoln Chafee (R-RI), Olympia Snowe (R-ME) and Arlen Specter (R-PA) managed a C grade from IAVA.

And, when I averaged the scores of both the Democratic and Republican caucuses by assigning the numeric midpoint of the letter grade received by each Senator, which party truly supports the troops was made remarkably clear: The 44 Democrats and Jeffords had an average military-support grade of B+, while the 55 Republicans, who beat their chests with disgusting regularity about how strong they are on military issues, averaged a pathetic D.

Saturday, June 09, 2007

Tennessee Bird Walk

This is one of my favorite humorous songs. I love the idea of the birds walking southward in their dirty underwear.

Friday, June 08, 2007

In A Nutshell

It's been a while since I did one of these; time to get back to it

63-A. I remember this about my step-father's work and responsibilities: I have to say that this drawing is perfect for Daddy's work. He was a salesman, and he could, indeed, have sold ice boxes to Eskimos.

Daddy grew up the son of Irish and German immigrants in the days when "No Irish need apply." His father was usually very underemployed and it was a large family. Daddy sold newspapers on street corners in Oakland in 1908, when he was five. He was always small, spending some time as a young man as a jockey, and he often had to fight older and bigger boys for his corner. When he was in his 70s, he was threatened by a young man in a parking lot. The newspaper account kept saying things like "the 73 year-old Ward took a length of pipe from the back of his car and backed his 26 year old assailant into a corner." (The local paper always covered anything he did and said, because he had acquired a reputation as a colorful person when he was on the city council.) He may have been frightened, but he probably was frightened when he was five. Once you learn to fight for yourself, apparently you never forget.

While I knew him, he was a salesman. In the course of a few years we moved from Stockton to Puerto Rico to Denver to El Paso to Roswell. Where ever we went, Daddy flourished. When I was starting high school, he requested an assignment that would allow us to stay in one spot. So, he was given a territory in San Francisco, and we moved to San Mateo.

It was after we had moved to San Mateo that the company was sold and the new owners decided to winnow out the older workers. Daddy's territory got smaller and smaller, until he could call on all of his customers by noon on Monday. Since you can't call on people more than once a week, he spent a lot of time in movie theaters for a while. The thing that amazes me is that he didn't spend any time in bars, since surely what was happening to him was enough to drive many people to drink. He told me once, decades later, that the only dream he could remember had been when he was working in San Francisco -- he dreamed that a snowball was chasing him down a steep mountainside, getting bigger and bigger and closer and closer. He said it terrified him, even thinking about it then.

Daddy decided that he was not going to be able to wait this out until his approaching retirement, and quit to start his own business. Because all of his California contacts were in Stockton, he moved the family back there and opened his own printing business. And when his partner embezzled all the money when Daddy was almost 60, he closed that and started over. He was not only a good salesman, he was a sharp trader, which allowed him to feed his family through the worst of the embezzlement crisis. He started with a wheel barrow and traded up, one step at a time, keeping the family fed just on trades. Once he had tied up that situation and started the new business, without a partner this time, as soon as there was money he bought half a steer and filled the garage with canned goods. He wasn't ever allowing his family to come that close to hunger again.

Daddy worked until his late 70s, cutting down on hours but going in five days a week. He left my mother in a beautiful house and well provided for. He has been gone now for over 20 years, Mama is 84, and she need want for nothing.

Once, when he was about 76, a neighbor asked him how he had ended up with such a beautiful wife and he answered, "I'm a good provider." I think it is sad that he never realized that although his ability to support his family was impressive, it was by far not the best thing about him. I think it is sad that so many men don't realize that they are worth more to their families than just the paycheck.

Thursday, June 07, 2007


I have this terra cotta tile on my hearth and my kitchen counter. It is warm, serviceable, and attractive. When I first moved into this apartment, there were nine tiles in the hearth that were either broken or missing. What I wanted to do was to remove the broken tiles and then replace the missing ones with something like the tile on the right. It is a related palate, and the chambered nautilus motif would go well with other natural items that I've used to decorate my apartment, including a chambered nautilus shell that lives on a bookcase upstairs. The contrast between the basic plainness of the terra cotta and the more sophisticated design of the other tile pleased me. The contrast between the desert feel of one and the ocean feel of the other also charmed me. The fact that tiles were missing in a haphazard pattern seemed to me to be a lovely design element -- a contrasting tile placed at random, very organic. Very yang.

It also occurred to me to look for nine different tiles of similar color and theme, or even nine tiles in a variety of colors and patterns. But, forgetting that it is easier to get forgiveness than permission, I mentioned it to my landlord. Three days later I came home from work to find the missing tiles had been replaced by plain terra cotta, and two extra tiles had been left in case I needed them. Pity.

I really like the contrast between nature and art, between wild and designed, between pure and adorned. I like effects that are unexpected and unique.

I thought about all of this because I was looking through a catalog of yard ornaments and saw an item that I would love to have, and that would not ordinarily be thought to fit into my yard at all. This is my front yard. Totally wild. Not a single thing that has been planted or grown on purpose. There are wild flowers blooming most of the spring and summer, starting with dandelions and going on to sweet rocket and Queen Anne's lace. At the moment it's dandelions, buttercups, and the beginnings of sweet rocket.

And this is what I would love to find a place for. What do you suppose I would have to do to make this look like it belonged here? Perhaps if I could make the place look like a ruin that the woods were retaking. Take a chip or two out of the lawn ornament, hide part of it behind a large fern. Somehow get the water to flow in a randomized pattern? Whatever, I think it would be great fun. And, isn't it OK for fun and beauty to go together?

Click on pictures to enlarge.

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Conversation With Boys

The semester has wound down, and projects have been completed by the teens I work with. The final project was to take a few teens to fourth and fifth grade classrooms, do a review of why drinking is a bad idea for teens, and then have the students write letters to this year's crop of graduating seniors asking them to not drink at graduation parties. Last Friday two of the teens came in and we stuffed envelopes and mailed the letters. Since we needed some room to spread out and I got a pizza when we were finished, we set up in the staff lunch room.

It always amuses me, how teens act in situations like this. These two were boys and hard workers. But, two 14 year old boys working with one woman, don't talk much. I would try to start a conversation, they would give minimal answers, and silence would again reign. If this had been girls, you would have heard us out in the hall, but because it was boys, various co-workers kept coming in and being surprised that anyone was in there.

One of the questions I threw out was what they were going to do for the summer. One is going to Seattle to visit family. One is going to summer school. "Why?" asked his friend. "Got a bad grade in lit." "Bet you got an A in math!" "Yes," was the modest reply. At this point I decided to join in with "That's no surprise, you obviously understand math very well."

Of course, he wanted to know how I knew and I answered that I had seen him helping one of the girls in the group with her math a couple of times. "Yeah," he said, "she has a real problem understanding some of the concepts." "What impressed me," I answered, "was that it wasn't just that you understand the math, you also know how to explain it so she can understand it. That's a real skill."

His eyes lit up and he gave a wonderful smile and said, "I've got a skill!"

Later, I gave them their evaluations and the other boy read his, gave a shy smile, and told his friend, "She says I'm willing to work outside my comfort zone!"

It so easy to hold up a mirror that shows a child the best parts of themselves. I wonder why people don't do it more often.

Monday, June 04, 2007

My Roof, My Rules

One of the things I know about parenting is that how you word things makes a big difference in the results you get. To say, "No, I won't let you do that" implies that I might let you do it under different circumstances, and so can invite most children to argue that these, indeed, are different circumstances. To say "The rule is no movies on school nights" suggests that I can't and most children will not argue about exceptions. Particularly if you hold with "a rule for one is a rule for all" and follow-up on "the rule is if you want to talk to someone, go where they are instead of expecting them to come to you" by going to the child when you want him, or "the rule is no hitting" by not hitting them, kids are accepting of rules and life can be much smoother.

It was also a good way to explain why, in our house, if they wanted a snack they weren't to bother me about it but just go fix themselves something, for heaven's sake, but at their grandfather's house, they had to ask and wait for someone to get it for them. (Mama used to say that Daddy wouldn't let her go in the frig if he could avoid it.) In that case, I would remind them, "Grandpa's roof, Grandpa's rules." And when they, very raresly since it never got any other answer, would tell me that "Mary's mom lets her," my answer would be, "My roof. My rules." Now, that's perfectly clear. At least, I thought it was clear.

Until a 15 year-old Richard came home from a friend's house and announced, in a voice of startled discovery, "You make up the rules!" I admitted I did. That, indeed, that's what "My roof, my rules" meant. Well, he was outraged! Here he had been going to David's house for years and thinking that David's father broke the rules when he sat in his recliner and called David to come to him. Somehow, that day Richard had realized that the rules in David's house were different and David's father wasn't blithely breaking them for the hell of it. (He did still prefer it the way we did it.)

It was about at that time that he came home all indignant and announced, in that same voice of startled discovery, that cars would too start without seat belts fastened! He was taking driver's ed and that day had done his first practice driving. He had been in the back seat, getting ready to fasten his seat belt, and the student behind the wheel had turned the key and the car had started. How, I ask you, was I to know that when I told a four year old "I can't start the car until the seat belts are all buckled" he would think it meant the car wouldn't start that way? And that he would maintain that impression for over ten years?

Saturday, June 02, 2007

Cows With Guns

I have loved this song since I first heard it. I was driving to a client's house, and I pulled to the side of the road to hear the entire song. That day at noon I went into the local CD store and bought it.

Signposts to Sanity

An occasional feature where your lovin' Granny points you at somebody else's really good stuff*

You may have noticed that I've recently added a new blogroll on Size Acceptance. If size is an issue for you or for someone you care about, you might want to explore it. In the meantime, there is a terrific article over at fat fu, Taking Care of Our Healthcare
This is an article from January, but it’s well-worth reflecting on. Apparently fat women are more likely to be undertreated with chemotherapy for breast cancer. For reasons that aren’t totally clear, doctors are more likely to give fat women (and poor women as well) doses of chemotherapy below what the guidelines say they should.

I want to pause on one sentence in particular:

Obesity is controversial as a risk factor for breast cancer; studies haven’t shown that obesity causes breast cancer, but obese women are at increased risk of dying from the disease.

This raises the ominous (if unsurprising) possibility that whatever “excess risk” fat holds, may at least in part be due not to its effect on our bodies, but to its effect on our doctor’s brain.
* About half (49.5%) of doctors rated fat patients as “noncompliant” About a third rated us as “sloppy” and “lazy.” 44% rated us as “weak-willed.” And 44.5% thought that psychological problems were “very important” or “extremely important” causes of “obesity.”

Translation: Almost half of your doctors will think that your weight is an indicator of your character and mental health.
* 95% of doctors feel it is “necessary to educate obese patients on health risks” and only 48% thought that “most obese patients were well-aware of the health risks of obesity.”

Translation: given the opportunity, your doctor is virtually guaranteed to lecture you on how unhealthy your weight is, and there’s a strong chance he thinks you’ve never heard of this before.
The article lists a number of other statistics from a recent study of doctors' attitudes towards fat patients. It warrants reading.

There is a new fat friendly blogger, an 18 year old high school senior, XXLA. Those of you with young people in your families with weight concerns, send them to her blog. She is a most sensible young woman.

On Feed Me, there is an article on How cliches hurt us which looks at
What do the obesity epidemic, anorexia nation, and healthy eating all have in common?
Each time you say the words "the obesity epidemic," you're validating the notion that the nation is in the grip of a contagious pandemic of overweight.
I'll start: I think the idea of an obesity epidemic is a sadly unimaginative construct that has little or nothing to do with reality. It's a cover for institutionalized prejudice against overweight people, a trigger for eating disorders, and a big waste of our collective time and energy.

Your turn.
* Note that I've chosen a chunky little signpost this time, because these articles all have to do with size.