Stirring the pot, raising hell and rearing children in the Bay Area

Family, Friends, Rants and Raves

F-Off Cancer

Posted on Jan 24, 2011 in Friends |

F-Off Cancer

I always knew cancer as the big scary C-word. My dad’s best friend was a hard-living smoker, drinking wild cowboy type and died of lung cancer at 40-something. But moms with cancer? F-off. That’s not fair. Over the years, various cancer devils have sunken lives of friends and family, but none has broken me until this year.

My family and friends with cancer are ass-kickers. They are true take-no-prisoners type women. I don’t feel sorry for them. It seems irrational, incomprehensible that in my 30s (still for another few weeks), I can have friends who are in remission from very serious cancers, two that are still fighting like hell, one that moved onto his next life, one that is cured and several that are not. What the F? Stupid f-ing cancer.

Susan’s latest post about feeling lucky as she plows her way into the first days of a new, experimental treatment, was one of the most inspired I’ve ever read. I sent it to the women I know — not for sympathy for Susan, but in hopes that they too, surrounded by cancer as we all are, would see what living means.

If you want to know what true living is like, read WhyMommy’s written work or participate in her brainchild, working to give  Lymphedema Sleeves to cancer patients. You can leave a comment on several blogs where friends of Susan are donating $1 toward Cricket’s Answer, the organization working with Susan to provide needs to women with breast cancer.

Hey Susan, all the way from California: No Princess Fights Alone.

Read More

The Truant Mom

Posted on Jan 12, 2011 in Featured, School |

The Truant Mom

I remember rambling along in a long yellow bus filled with 60 second and third graders heading to the La Brea Tar Pits. Another month, another trip to see and touch the history, social science and life we’d been learning about in school. I saw tide pools, art exhibits at LACMA, Olvera Street and more. Learning used to include a vital tactile element. Today, my kids learn to test, not learn to learn. And certainly with the sad, sorry state of California schools, we are not teaching or learning for the benefit of building a whole child.

I refuse to allow my children’s education to be reduced to filling in bubble exams. Call me truant. I’m not going to stand for a lesser education for my kids because the California economy has held our schools hostage, reducing their  education to test taking frenzies.

So. I’m a truant mom, taking my kids’ education into my own hands and taking advantage monthly to support their public school education with what used to be best practices:  Shark “hunting” at the Monterey Bay Aquarium, Fleet Week tour of military ships in San Francisco, a hands-on experience of planets and space at the Academy of Sciences, building claymation videos at Zeum to demonstrate art and computer science, and, the Impressionists exhibit at the DeYoung museum yesterday.

I’m not a home schooling type. It’s not my thing; it’s not the kids’ thing. But yesterday… yesterday was magic. We named our day: GO-GONE (in nod to Gauguin). Here’s how we spent the day:

8 a.m. — Spell out Van Gogh, Cezanne, and Gauguin for kids and have them research the artists they will see today. We used Yahoo! Kids to do the research.

9 a.m. — Draw and paint. Kids used Impressionist book to gain inspiration on drawing. We made paper airplanes and banners using colors of the artists. We talked about cubism — how a cone can be a tree and a circle its fruit. We drew what we thought was cubist in style.

10 a.m. — Meeting! We ate French crepes at a patisserie nearby in honor of the Muse d’Orsay (where the Impressionist collection is on loan from), and discussed one thing about each artist we knew. We cut out pictures of our favorite things we wanted to see. Van Gogh was the most popular: Sunflowers, Starry Night, the Artist’s Room. The kids knew that Cezanne had two sisters: Maria and Rose (my aunt and mother’s names, respectively). These tiny tidbits of information excited them.

11 a.m. — We head to the bookstore to find kid-friendly books on impressionist artists. Two books of Van Gogh led the kids to be bounding around the store talking about the Sunflowers and can’t wait to get to see them later today.

2 p.m. — The De Young exhibit is packed. The kids get their own maps, their own audio tour head sets (Thing 1 called it the “Mini DJ”). They hit the exhibit with excitement. One piece by another Impressionist featured a straw hat. My kid told me, “This is by Van Gogh.” When I told him it wasn’t, he told me, “Then why is Van Gogh’s hat in the bottom right corner of the painting?” A man standing nearby tapped me on the shoulder, “You have got to be kidding!,” he told me. I beamed — beamed! — with pride.

4 p.m. — We write stories on our Un Dia del Museo — an essay in Spanish on our day at the museum. Words come flowing from the kids — writing pouring from their minds to the page.

My babies fell into bed last night, exhausted and filled-up with colors and images and textures drifting them to sleep quickly. I am reminded again that parenthood cannot afford to be a complacent role. I literally saw my children learning by observance, growing from experience and applying their in-school learnings to real world beauty. I’m a truant mom. And I’m okay with that.

Read More

Polar Opposites

Posted on Jan 12, 2011 in Featured, Politics and Rants |

Polar Opposites

I didn’t go to the rally to Restore Sanity, nor any Tea Party Express shindig. I don’t do politics outside my little world where I know I won’t get shot, yelled at or eyes rolled. I’m just not that much of a glutton for conflict.

I have more friends who are not Democrats than I do ones who are; and I like it that way. I have hard-core Republican friends (as in lawn signs and cocktail party fundraisers) for the likes of the most serious right-wing conservatives in our political circle today. I have several very close friends who are die-hard Libertarians. They are the gun-wielding, don’t tread on me type folks. I like my people. I like my world of scale and scope and perspective.

I like my world because we live in a mutually respectful environment of variety, opinion, banter and belief. I have a dear friend who met me on a street corner with a cup of coffee while I was holding a sign to protest Prop 8. He kept me company, chatted about our weekend with our respective twins and then left. He voted in favor of Prop 8. We had dinner the next weekend.

Another family — serious Palin fans — went to rally after rally in support of the first female vice-president. We had one thing in common: the advancement of women in politics. What we didn’t have in common was just whom should fill that tall order. When it didn’t pan out for them, I understood their disappointment. I was thrilled (dear goodness, don’t get me wrong), but respected their passion.

I have a Republican friend who voted for Obama in the past election (and contributed to his campaign). I watched him on election night as he cried in my livingroom watching history happen. Some things, I thought, are bigger than politics.

Polarizing politics are just that: polarizing. It takes a strong will, a stronger belief in the Good of people to really try our hand at civilized debate. Without polar opposites there is no middle ground — a sacred place where we can meet peacefully.

Take a clue, Washington. Most of us are out here living civilly, living together within the boundaries of passion, belief and over-riding respect.

Read More

House of Blues

Posted on Jan 10, 2011 in Featured, Rants |

House of Blues

I went on Twitter and DMed @la_gringa with capitalized swear words describing the latest in a fitful rage from our house upon us, it’s lowly unsuspecting dwellers.

This time, it’s the dishwasher that went from silent rinse cycle to Jabba-the-Hutt moans within minutes. And then it wouldn’t turn off. At all. I went to go outside to the power box, but I couldn’t. Why, you might ask? Because the side door is broken. Not the lock, the door. An expensive door, no less. An expensive door whose company (obviously for building shitty doors) went out of businesses. So now we need a new side door and a dishwasher/Jabba-the-Hutt killer.

Of course this is barely on the heels of the window this morning where my daughter exclaimed, “Oh look mommy, it rained in the kitchen.” Frigging million-year-old uninsulated windows just were no match for a winter’s night and a heating duct right next to it. No worries, the window (and most of them now in our home) are non-functional. The quaint 100-year-old house look isn’t so quaint when it all falls apart. Today I counted: only five of the 22 windows in our downstairs can actually open. The others are all broken, sealed shut or have busted pulleys (yes, that old). Oh, and the five that work? Four of them are poorly replaced windows with missing screens on most, the other one I jammed unlocked for safety.

I’d escape it all to my upstairs abode for a good marathon of Dog, the Bounty Hunter, but the TV there suddenly no longer has sound. I guess the LG is sick of the political rhetoric too and finally cut off the volume to save me from myself. Ah, maybe I’ll take a warm shower to relieve the stress of a falling apart house — oh wait, that won’t work, the (relatively new) grout is all dissolved away and new mold creeps in daily. I think I’ll pass on the cozy shower and go for a bath — nope. The drain stopper is broken and the towel rack fell down because the old lathen plaster can’t hold a screw. I’d use the downstairs shower, but it was constructed improperly and will flood the floor. I am convinced that a blind Bob-the-Builder and his estranged lover, Handy Manny built this house.

I feel like running away before I’m reminded that this house is more than most will ever have, with neighbors and friends surrounding me that I couldn’t dream of having. I hate my house until I remember that my children live one block from their grandparents and can walk to school. I loathe being here until I realize that if it weren’t for this home, we’d have never had all the fun that caused all this ruckus to start with.

Today though, I wish I had a little shack on the beach reading novels and watching the sunset while Mr. Roper fixed the leaky faucets.

Read More

Happy

Posted on Jan 10, 2011 in La Gringa |

Happy

Read More

Don’t Blame the Palin Right

Posted on Jan 8, 2011 in Featured, Rants |

Don’t Blame the Palin Right

It’s not political craziness that makes someone kill; it’s craziness that makes crazies kill.

I’ve been watching the unfolding of the shooting spree in Arizona targeting Gabby Giffords, for hours on-end. I’ve listened as one expert after the next releases statements about the “wakeup call for America,” to conduct politics without violence. I’ve watched politician after politician speaking on-air about how the media needs to stop positioning polarizing politics. I even watched the Tea Party Express defend themselves as victims before blame had ever been cast. All of what they are saying about the scary state of politics and unbecoming banter is true, but it’s not what caused 19 people to be shot today.

Mental illness is to blame today. Mental distress is to blame today;  not politics, not guns, not even Sarah Palin’s stupid chart.

If it was cancer, Jared Lee Loughner would have gotten help. If he had blindess he’d have been offered help. If it was fear, he would have been helped. Somehow, this schizophrenic 22-year-old unstable man in deep mental distress wasn’t given help. Blame the lack of psychiatric intervention. Blame his inability to seek mental help. Hell, blame his family. But don’t blame politics and media for this man’s clear mental illness.

Strange rants on YouTube, odd postings to MySpace and, according to classmates, frequent nonsensical outbursts somehow went under reported and written-off as creepy or weird. This man —  this assassin — murdered from  a place of mental illness, not a place on the Palin altar.

The first report I heard today was that a Palin right-winged freak killed a Democratic Congresswoman point-blank in the face. Gifford’s father, when asked if his daughter had any enemies said, “Yes, the whole Tea Party.” Well sure, but that’s politics. This crazed man did not act on behalf of the Tea Party; he acted on behalf of a part of his mind that is non-functional.

Mental illness goes often undetected, pushed off as depression or weirdness or a loner.

Mamas don’t let your babies grow up to be Mein Kampf freaks.

Read More