Monday, January 29, 2007

Women and wine...

According to The Today Show and NBC, women having ONE glass of wine with their girlfriends in front of their children makes them lushes AND bad mothers. Hmmmm.....What about dad's drinking beer with each other while watching a football game while their kids watch, too? Does that make them bad fathers? And, is it okay for mothers to have a glass of wine at a barbecue when men are around to patrol their consumption?

(For a frame of reference, view this clip: Then read: This is the woman they invited on the show to "interview." She gives her side of the story on her blog.)

Why am I writing about this when I, myself, am not a mother? Because this stuff affects future mothers as much as it does current. It makes future mothers question if motherhood is the right choice for them and not just because we may like to have a drink or two every now and then. By the major news media telling women that we need to be chaste, devoid of pleasure and devoted only to mommy-hood to be a good "woman" (which really means good mother, in their language), it makes women who are spunky, mouthy, feisty and fun loving feel that perhaps they are not cut-out for this role of mother. This NBC article suggests that women who enjoy their other roles in life--such as as wife, lover, friend and socialite which may involve a single, responsible drink--are somehow lesser mothers. I think that is downright scary.

In this country, we seem to enjoy turning healthy drinking or healthy sexuality into something bad. If mothers have a glass of wine or a beer in front of their children, they are showing their children that drinking an alcoholic beverage can be done in moderation with pleasure. I feel the same way about sexuality. We rate movies with passionate love scenes between two people who are "in-love" R and rate movies where people blow each other's heads off with little consequence PG-13. Nice example to set! Kids watch porn--that is just the reality of our times-- and by eliminating any visual examples of healthy sexuality while refusing to talk about healthy sexuality, our kids are left with one example, porn. If we keep telling ourselves that being honest with our kids about our smart drinking habits and healthy sex lives is a bad thing, then where do these kids turn to get their answers? Frankly, I find the answer to that question a lot scarier than having watched my mom have a beer while I played in the sandbox.

Friday, January 19, 2007

I only have a few moments before I catch my bus, train, bus and plane to Pittsburgh for Mike's memorial service. Today has been a flurry of activity, getting things in order before leaving town for the weekend. While I was in the shower after going to the gym, the fire alarm went off...luckily it was just a drill because I was covered in soap and shampoo and it's pretty chilly here. That certainly created a flurry!

Anyway, I think this should be a sad but lovely weekend celebrating the life of a friend. More upon my return.

Thursday, January 18, 2007

South 6 weeks, 2 days and counting

So in six weeks, two days and a few hours, I will be on a plane to South Africa with my lovely German boyfriend for three whole weeks. Once in Cape Town, we will have three days together before his family arrives--and by his family I mean, his mother, father, sister and brother-in-law. This three week jaunt to Africa will be our first meeting as they live in Deutschland and, well, I live stateside. They speak German, and I try and rarely succeed at speaking German.

Okay, so just to state the situation clearly: I am going on my first trip to Africa (one which I can't really afford)-- and my first vacation with my boyfriend--to meet his parents, who speak German, for the first time on a three week vacation. Don't get me wrong, if you heard a little fear or dread in that statement you are hearing correctly, but I am also really excited. Really, I just hasn't hit me yet. Finagling finances, re-learning German (yeah, re-learning--I used to be fluent, and of course, now that I date a German, I am not--go figure), meeting the parents, traveling for three weeks--it feels like a lot.

But then, then I look at the images of Cape Town and Kruger National Park. I look at the penguins, hippopotomi, rhinoceroses, elephants and gazelles and I feel so lucky to have this opportunity. Now is the time to turn off the uber-practical part of my brain and allow myself to daydream about what a great experience this will be, how his parents will love me, the penguins will want to have their photos taken and the beaches will be warm and sunny.

Oh, by the way, did you know that hippopotomi make their own sunscreen? It's true! They just excrete it through their skin and they are good to go. Now if only they could teach this redhead how to do that!

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Presidential Race....

Obama has thrown his hat in the ring, heating up the presidential race of 2008. Issues of race, experience, gender and Iraq are already flying through the media. While I am certainly excited to think about a White House without Bush, I find it really hard to think beyond the present. We have issues, big issues, right here, right now. Should we send more troops to Irag, cut funding to troops in Iraq, pull out of Iraq? How are we going to bring health care to the millions without? So many more questions crowd my brain, and each of them affects the present, the here and now, not able to wait for 2008. My bright thought this morning was to set an embargo on the Bush and Cheney family. Why cut funding to the troops, who are performing the duties they were ordered to do, when we could cut funding to the President and his cronies? I think we could save a lot of money if we, say, grounded Air Force One, brought in line cooks from McDonalds to replace the four-star chefs, made them pay out of pocket medical expenses and limited the families to clothing from JC Penneys instead of Armani. Perhaps then, these people would feel the stress and strain of the American public, inciting some urgency within. Perhaps then, the media would cover the issues instead of the intrigue.

Tuesday, January 16, 2007


Perhaps I have been hormonal, or maybe I am suffering from a tough case of ennui, but recently I have found myself progressively more abhorred by modern day decorum, or lack there of.

Since when did it become cool, or at least acceptable, to spit huge, phlegm filled lugies on sidewalk? People just sniff, hock and spit on the ground on which I am about to step. Quickly, I side step the oozing, white puddle and ask, "Really?"

I get on the train, settle in with my book and sigh, ready to start another day. After the first stop, a nicely dressed man sits diagonally across from me and opens his bag. Does he pull out a book, the newspaper, some headphones? No, he pulls out his floss, unravels a nice long string and goes at it. Slide, slide, pick. Slide, slide, pick--sending tiny bits of foodstuffs, plaque and whatever else settles between his teeth onto the seat in front of him, beside him and who knows where. I gave him the benefit of the doubt, thinking that day was an exception. I was wrong. The following day, he did the same thing. Really? Really....

Monday, January 15, 2007

Book Reviews

After some encouragement from my few readers, I have decided to add a movie and book review component to my blog. Admittedly, I don't see a ton of current flicks, but I do tend to stumble across some wonderful classics that everyone should see. Reading, however, is something I do with great frequency and passion. I should have started this much sooner because I have read some AMAZING stuff in the past eight months or so. For now, I will just write up a little list with brief commentaries for the must reads--too many to catch up on....

The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck: If you have not read this, or read this when you were a disgruntled adolescent then it is time to read it (again). Sparce, beautiful, and human.

Brave New World by Aldus Huxley: Scary how relevant this book is! It is a gripping read.

The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas: Dumas really likes to verbiage, but if you are patient, an epic, vivid unfolds.

Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen: Fun and witty.

Everything is Illuminated and Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close by Jonathan Safran Foer: Both books have a similar style and cause sudden eruptions of laughter. Everything is the cause of my laughing in public blog--really funny and surprisingly touching. Extremely is more intense but still filled with humor.

All the Pretty Horses by Cormac McCarthy: Wow, beautiful, sigh. McCarthy knows how to bring the reader with him to the setting of the action without being overly descriptive. Somehow, some way, I smelled the smells of the characters, saw the sites, felt the dust without ever feeling overwhelmed by verbiage. Gorgeous writer, and one I hope to read a great deal more.

Zorro: A Novel by Isabel Allende: As always, Allende sweeps the reader into the life of a passionate, energetic character as a friend, a confidante. When you turn last page, it feels just like hanging up the phone after catching up with an old friend, smiling.

The Secret Life of Oscar Wilde by Neal McKenna: An interesting journalistic review of Wilde's love life. The book is an arduous read, but certainly provides some insights into the obsessions, sexuality and demise of Oscar Wilde.

The Tale of Despereaux by Kate DiCamillo: The author of Because of Winn Dixie does it again with Despereaux. A lovely children's story about a determined mouse, an envious rat, an aspiring princess and an actual princess, DiCamillo invites the reader in and holds your hand through the ride.
Yesterday, I learned that my friend, Mike, the star of the last post, had died. After two months of fighting, Mike's body realized this was a battle it could not win and joined his already departed spirit. When I heard yesterday, I felt numb and somewhat relieved. Today, I read the memoriam written by his father and did what any philsophical, distressed Western woman would do--cried, ate and cleaned.

As I read Dr. Franz's eulogy, I was overwhelmed with empathy for Mike's parents, brother and fiancee. At that moment, my heart ached for those Mike left behind and for all the things Mike would never do. Dr. Franz chose a lovely Neruda poem to close his eulogy which brought me both comfort and anguish. I could not believe that such a mighty presence had been extinguished, even though I have had two months to prepare. At the same time, I felt comfort in knowing that Mike lived everyday with passion and gusto--he missed little.

Quietly I sat, trying to absorb the enormity of losing Mike and I felt compelled to buy myself something sinful and delicious. Appalled that such a thought would enter my mind while mourning for Mike and his family, I had no choice but to walk to my favorite bakery. Somehow, in my grief, I had determined that I deserved to bend the rules a little and spend money on myself. I comtemplated getting a hot chocolate and large chocolate chip cookie but that felt too extravagent for this somber occasion. Instead, I decided on a small latte and a cherry almond muffin--a choice of only moderate sinfulness. In those moments, my latte and cherry almond muffin soothed my soul, or at least my aching tummy, tasting more wonderful with each bite. But, before I could finish my snacks, I was struck with another compulsion--the need to clean.

Leaving the last quarter of my delicious muffin behind, I began to clean with gusto, with abandon even. I live with four medical students and, in general, we keep our large, old apartment pretty clean. Never have I felt frightened to use the toilet, shower or kitchen counter, but, we are not so good at keeping the dust bunnies at bay. All of my energy went into vaccuuming and mopping the floors. This was not just the cursory vaccuum and mop, where I go around the furnture. Oh no, this involved moving couches, tables, chairs, desks and more. This involved looking under and behind things. Seeing all that dirt both disgusted and thrilled me. This was being totally fascinated and horrified by the sheer disgustingness that accrues while we go about our daily lives. We, who pride ourselves on our cleanliness, who look down on those who don't shower every day or so, or who wear the same clothes a couple days in a row, let dust clumps the size of small rodents build up behind our couches and under our cubbards. We are thrillingly disgusting! All I could do was marvel, and put a little more oomph behind the mop.

Two hours, millions of dust bunnies and an aching back later, I finish my cleaning frenzy. The house smells clean, like Murphy's Oil, and the floors shine. My job is done, but the grieving is only just beginning. Now it is about breathing in, breathing out, putting one foot in front of the other and living in this moment.