Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Get Tough or Get Out

…was just doing some late night house work and listening to my talk radio, as per usual.
A caller on the Mark Levin show had a great idea. With respect to Iraq:

The next helicopter of ours that goes down, one hydro-electric plant goes bye-bye, compliments of their U.S. friends

The next orchestrated, insurgent backed bombing of US troops in Iraq results in one desalination plant being blown to smithereens.

...and so on.

I cannot help but wonder if the effort we’re making to rebuild the country is in some way aiding the very people who are trying to kill us.

I’m almost at the point of saying let’s just let ‘em fight it out themselves and get out. I know many of the conservatives go apoplectic when you say that but staying there, without having the ability to truly defeat the enemy, seems hopeless. Never in our history has our military’s hands been so tied. I just don’t think Americans have the wherewithal to stomach the necessary and unpleasant tactics that we need in order to win this thing. Aggressive interrogation, often producing useful and needed information, is automatically construed as torture. The Patriot Act is constantly under fire. Covert , required intelligence gathering is exposed and scrutinized, resulting in countless constitutional challenges. If we had simply let the military do it’s job, I think we would have seen much more progress.

Between the insurgents and the anti-war effort within our own country, our troops have formidable enemies, both foreign and domestic.

That’s this mom’s take.

Monday, February 26, 2007

Birthday Party Neurosis

My son Ethan will be 5 in March. I'll admit it. I've been thinking for the last several weeks about what we are going to do this year. Last year was Pump it Up. All in, costs reached $400-500. I'm pretty sure that didn't include Ethan's gifts. I don't feel too much guilt about over doing-it for Ethan's third birthday--I just had McKenna and I was pretty wiped out from all night feedings. We ended up having a family gathering at Aunt Joan's house. Even then, though, we took Ethan and his cousin to Rainforest Cafe. His second birthday was a home party with mostly family but I went all out with treat bags, a gourmet cake, alcohol for the adults, and games for everyone, and who knows what else. His first birthday party was a big deal--at least 40 people. Tons of money spent on food, alcohol for the adults, decorations, etc. The food was catered. With the exception of his third birthday, I've always done what my friend Trish labeled as "the wiz-bang invitation". McKenna's birthdays have been at theme restaurants and both times we have spent no less than $500 in food tabs alone.

I'm rethinking all of this. The kids don't need it--I'm not even sure they want it. It's a mommy thing or, to be more specific, it's a Leigh thing. We all play our childhood tapes in our head. Mine are on overdrive , I suspect. We didn't have birthday parties growing up. There may have been a store bought cake and some wrapped presents. I recall that Grandma did her best to put a little neighborhood friends party together. Bless her heart, I remember being embarrassed because we ate cake and ice cream off of old timey glass plates. I wanted Barbie paper plates and cool party games. That wasn't Janie's way. But she tried.

I will never forget turning ten. We had recently moved to our house. Out of the duplex and into a real bona fide slum of a home. It was beyond dilapidated. Looking back, there wasn't an extra cent to be had. It took everything they had, and then some, to get that meager slice of the dream. My celebration that year consisted of one wrapped gift, given to me at 9pm at night. A butterfly top from Mervyn's. How do you like it? Great. Nightie night. No party, no commemorations. Honestly, no effort. Some birthdays were actually worse than this, a few were better. Thanks to my grandparents and my Aunt, I had birthdays that made me feel special and loved. But none were wiz bang.

I'm not talking about spending a ton of money--although I have done that. I just want my kids to know that the day that they entered the world MEANS THE WORLD to Mommy and Daddy. I want both of my kids to look back and say, "Wow, Mom and Dad gave it their all".

So, I'm going to try to find some other ways to build great memories for my children. I still love kids parties and I will probably always will. I'm just going to chill...a bit.

Sunday, February 25, 2007

Pro-Life Means All Life

It never ceases to amaze me the number of people who claim to be pro-life and yet are in favor of the death penalty. Such a position seems patently inconsistent to me. I'm even more dismayed at the number of Catholics who don't realize the inconsistency or disregard it entirely. I think as Cardinal George has said many, many times, we really have to change people’s hearts.

Pope John Paul II forcefully stated that a consistent ethic of life must oppose a “culture of death.” This culture is one in which . . . the powerful predominate, setting aside and even eliminating the powerless . . . unborn children, helpless victims of abortion; the elderly and incurably ill, subjected at times to euthanasia; and the many other people relegated to the margins of society by consumer-ism and materialism. Nor can I fail to mention the unnecessary recourse to the death penalty. . . . This model of society bears the stamp of the culture of death, and is therefore in opposition to the gospel message. (Ecclesia in Amer-ica, #63, Apostolic Exhortation of Pope John Paul II, January 1999).

On the day of Timothy McVeigh’s execution, Bishop Joseph A. Fiorenza, President of the United States Catholic Conference, issued the following statement:

In an age where respect for life is threatened in so many ways, we believe it is important to emphasize that human life is a gift from God, and no one or any government should presume to kill God’s gift. Rather all of us have the responsibility to protect human life from conception to natural death. . . . We offer our deepest sympathy and prayers for all those touched by this horrible crime, especially those who lost family members and friends. . . . We pledge our best efforts to reverse this culture of violence and replace it with a profound respect for the inherent value God confers on every human life.

Sometimes, this is a very difficult concept to internalize. So many crimes are unthinkable, unspeakable. Yet, when I'm feeling especially angry or perhaps even vengeful about some act that some apparent MONSTER has perpetrated, I try to to think back to when that child of God was first born. How perfect and sweet and full of potential. Then somehow in the course of life, something or a series of things goes seriously, seriously wrong. Fate, genetics, poor choices, poor parenting, neglect, abuse, all come into play. These factors don't excuse behavior but they often explain it. When you stare in to the face of Richard Ramirez (Night Stalker), think of him as a sweet, innocent baby who, like my own children, smelled of baby lotion and had had a gummy smile, and who had nothing but trust that someone would protect him from the evil of the world. I'm not blaming the parents, per se. Rather, my point is that we were all beautiful, perfect little bundles and the Devil works really hard to undo all of the love and beauty in the world. Unfortunately, with some individuals, he succeeds. But God tells us that His creations are always worthy of forgiveness.

Our culture often views forgiveness as something that one deserves or is somehow earned. Rather, we are all REQUIRED to forgive, even when it's hard, even when it seems impossible. EVEN WHEN THERE IS NO REPENTANCE. Forgiveness does not mean FORGET. It does not mean OVERLOOK. It simply means that no matter what any of us have done, there is always a chance for renewal though our Father's love. Certainly, there are individuals who are so dangerous that they cannot be trusted to live among us ever again. Understood. I get that. Killing these people, however, cannot be the answer. I, for one, want this evil to end.

Saturday, February 24, 2007

Our Ethiopian "Daughter"

Her name is Derebe Bekele and she occupies my heart and mind. She Ethan's age (almost to the day) and we're her sponsor parents. Yes, parents. She speaks of us as such. Jim and I have made a commitment to provide financial, emotional, practical, and spiritual guidance for her, at least until adulthood. We do so through a group called Compassion International. The organization is unlike many of the other sponsor programs you might be familiar with in that the money that we provide goes DIRECTLY to the child and the family--with very little subtraction for overhead. The total cost per year will be something in the way of $1000. This includes a monthly amount devoted solely for her schooling. It also includes gifts for Christmas, birthdays and other occasions. The family also receives a contribution, to help with home improvements and to provide useful animals such as a chickens and goats. All of this may seem like very little to us. But it can mean a world of difference for Derebe and can literally change the trajectory of her life.

We are also asked to pray for her on a regular basis and she does the same for us. We encourage her to have a continuing devotion to our Lord and to trust that he has a plan for her as he does with each and every one of us. We consider this prayer support to be as important, if not more important, than any financial or practical assistance we can provide. This is Compassion's stance:

Poverty sends a defeating, painful message into the heart of a child--a message that says, "I don't matter". Introducing children to their loving heavenly Father is the most powerful way of reversing that message.

I have been asked why we have not chosen a Catholic organization (Compassion is non-denominational, evangelical). There are a few answers to that question. First, I am very impressed with Compassion's ability to get the money straight to the source. Second, their processes to maintain communication between sponsor/child are very state-of-the art and sound. As a former business manager, I'm always attracted to groups who utilize best practices. Third, perhaps most importantly, Jim and/or I will have a chance to travel to Ethiopia to actually visit her and speak to her (through translators--she speaks Oromigna). This is very much encouraged.

This is such a worthy use of your money and your time. Please consider a sponsorship in Ethiopia or many other places around the world where children are in poverty. I would be thrilled to guide you through the process.

Please pray for Derebe and her family.

"...and whoever welcomes a little child like this in my name welcomes me". --Matthew 18:5

Friday, February 23, 2007


OK...the minute I post anything about a cat I am guaranteed to receive all kinds of grief. Don't worry non-countries. No clip art of Care Bears and hearts or calico wallpaper to be found here. I just want to show you our new cat Jazzy from L.A. His breed is exotic short hair, which means he is a Persian with short hair. He sired for a breeder for three years. He did his job well but she decided to retire him. His grandfather was in the movie Cats and Dogs. Now he lives with us and we love him. He's kind of a Toonces but we'll manage. (If you didn't watch this bit on SNL you will have no idea what I am talking about). He can be demure and sweet. And then he turns into the cat from Shrek II (Antonio Banderas). He's ready to shred you!

Note the non-existent profile. Love that!

Heartbreak By Spanking

My heart broke in two today. McKenna was giving me a REALLY hard time measuring her foot so that I could order shoes for her. Kicking, screaming, the whole deal. I gave her a quick swat on the bottom and you can't believe the reaction I got. The biggest tears in the world. So sad...not whiny. She couldn't believe her mommy would do that. I am so torn. I just feel awful. I want her to trust me to know that I would never really HURT her and now I wonder if I have broken that trust. On the other had, it certainly got her attention and we managed to get her feet measured.

Oh, but that look of horror on hew sweet little chunky face!

I wish that I could be one of those moms who had the confidence to not feel guilt and angst over a benign but nevertheless ATTENTION-GETTING bottom swat. But I do feel guilty.

Some days, this mommy thing is just so hard. If you're not a mom, you just can't understand. I thought I understood all of this before I had children. I didn't.

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Our Houses Are Musty?

Having spent a significant amount of time in and around the African-American community, let me say that this suburban, mostly white woman learned a lot. Many of my experiences were tremendously positive. I learned about life through another set of lens. I witnessed and understood compassion, and dignity, and celebration, and pride, and distinction. Language, inflection, expression, cadence...they all assumed new meaning. How small and ironically sheltered my world had been. How narrow.

But I didn't escape heartache. Or exclusion. Or stereotypes. On both sides, mind you. I was amazed at the ease with which many African American friends or acquaintances would insult whites or issue stereotypical edicts like they were undisputed truths. Thought I would share some that come to mind.

White people's houses are musty

White people smell like a wet dog

White women who date black men are uneducated, passive, submissive, and emotional

White women who date black men are fat

Black people do not sexually abuse their children (I swear...someone said this to me)

White mothers are overly indulgent with their children

White children are disrespectful of their parents

White people will always pay

White people get away with murder

White women are sexually passive (they just "lay there")

White women are "freaky"--they will "do more"

White people can't dance

White people love to swim

White people are uptight

White people are nice

White people either live in mansions or trailers the stereotypes that whites (people I actually know) have of black people:

They don't know how to manage money

They never tip

They buy expensive cars and and flashy clothes but live in dumps or subsidized housing

They will put 20" rims on a Toyota Corolla

Black women wear designer purses but can't pay the rent

Black women put on "airs" and are often overly formal

Black women don't like white women

All black people are really good dancers

Blacks are aggressive, discourteous drivers

Black men are dangerous

Most people in jail are black

All black people like rap

My personal Chicago favorite: If blacks move into your neighborhood, trouble and demise will surely follow


As with all stereotypes, they exist for a reason. There is an element of truth in many of them. Many are totally outrageous and bogus. While I think challenging stereotypes is always important, I applaud people like Chris Rock who aren't afraid to recognize politically incorrect truths. His bit about going to jail is hysterical: Here's a novel strategy for not being pulled over and being harassed by the police--FOLLOW THE LAW. Of course, he takes much heat for this. I read on a blog that some folks think Chris Rock doesn't like black people. BS. He just tells it like it is. Of course, there is the Black People Love Us website . A parody of how patronizing and desperately stupid white people can be in order to fit in and be "more black".

Anyway, there is my thought on race relations for the day. Ciao.

Culture of Death?

I heard an alarming statistic the other day. It is estimated that nearly 85% of positive prenatal screenings for Down's Syndrome(and other genetic disorders) result in abortions. This is so very scary and disheartening. When did we decide that we can pick and choose life this way? And more importantly, why do we want to?

I can only imagine how hard it is to raise a child who has numerous challenges and disabilities. Yet, when you talk to the majority of parents with special needs kids, they consider their children a blessing. At times, they may need the Lord's assistance to endure their gift, no doubt. But a blessing nonetheless.

And where does it end? Should you abort a child that is missing a limb? How about the "wrong" sex? Unsuitable hair color? Nose too big, eyes too small. How about the "wrong" sexual orientation? Let's make 'em in a petri dish and if too many "take" we'll eliminate them through 'selective reduction" (This euphemism for abortion is rich indeed).That "clump of cells" that some slate for elimination is a living, breathing human, with a soon-to-be family and all the rest.

Of course there is always the "quality of life" argument. The problem is, who gets to set that standard? The folks on the wrong side of this issue thought it was better to let Terri Schiavo STARVE TO DEATH then to allow her to live life in a vegetative state. Her parents had no problem caring for her and believed that she showed signs of lucidity. Maybe this was just delusion on the part of two, loving parents. Who knows? Then again, if there was zero awareness and the parents were willing to assume all care, what was the harm in letting her live? Apparently, her quality of life didn't meet the proper standards with those entrusted to her care. A travesty beyond words is the only post script I can muster.

Just in case there are any questions folks, let me make it clear. If I'm in a vegetative state and I am NOT on extraordinary life support (ventilator), could you spare me the favor of FEEDING ME? Nothing fancy, just the basics so that I don't die a slow, painful death. A death actively hastened by willful dehydration and starvation? Excuse the presumption as I now offer my "thanks a heap" in advance.

I'm with George W. on this one. When in question, I'll err on the side of life. Period.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Motherhood is a Lifetime Deal

No matter how old your children are, they will always be your babies.

Oracle is worried that her mother-in-law's mother (think about that one for a moment) could die before mother-in-law turns 65--in three years. Displaying a level of "proactivity" that I can only admire from afar, Oracle asked her 85ish year old grandma-in-law to write the tribute now--just in case she meets our Lord before the birthday tribute book is complete (We can't have a thing like death mess up the book for heaven's sake). So, grandma wrote a sweet little poem that made me kind of sad and happy...

Lynda Jean
(written by Grandma R*** P***** in February 2007)
She would have been more welcomed
If she’d wait a year or two
But she was in a hurry
To wait would never do!
So---out she came
An explosion birth!
She was alright, thank God
Things could have been much worse.
A little over seven pounds
A mop of dark brown hair.
Big eyes so round and blue,
So beautiful and fair.
She soon took us right over.
Couldn’t wait to be the boss.
But she was cute and happy
And she was seldom cross.
She slept well when at home
And she did really fine.
But there was hell to pay
If we were not home on time.
When Earlene and Lee were up too long
They’d catch up by sleeping in.
But if Her Majesty was over tired,
She turned and tossed as in a gym.
She walked so very early.
She talked before her brother.
She helped to toilet train LeGrande,
Which really helped her mother.
Her quick and aggressive nature
So different from brother and sister
Took Mom a little while
To adjust to this new fixture.
At mischief she excelled!
Flushed away her panties if soiled.
She was too quick for me
And she was somewhat spoiled.
Eat time—liver is good for you.
Stay at the table until plate is clean
She tucked the liver UNDER the plate
Only Lynda would do such a thing!
She sucked her thumb
And twisted out her hair
Until there was a time
One side side of her head was most bare.
School for her was easy.
She seemed to learn so fast.
She loved school and teachers.
I hoped that it would last.
And last it did!
More schooling she craved.
So leaving her home
Off to college she braved.
Was college the best thing
That she ever did?
Well---along came Allen
And seven of the greatest kids!
Can’t you wait, Lynda?
A month or maybe two?
‘Cause Lee is getting married
But Lynda answered “No!”
She was away so long at school
I wanted time at home.
But she forged ahead and married
Where will she call her home?
First apartment close to family
Then off to Roy they flew.
As soon as we were used to Roy,
California came into view.
Now she’s having babies
Lynda! What’s the hurry?
Children are a lot of work
But she doesn’t seem to worry.
She welcomes Cindy, Richard and Ben,
Later still along comes Matt.
I can’t believe there’s seven.
I pray she can keep on track.
She cooks, she cans,
She takes time to clean.
She answers Church callings
And sews a fine seam.
Does she give learning up?
No! Beauty school calls.
She family all line up
With hair cuts for all!
Her children now are grown
She’s proud of every one
They make her feel so proud
To see what they’ve become.
The best is left for now.
Grandchildren by the number.
And does this make her happy?
You needn’t ever wonder.
As a mother I’m so happy
Because as you can see.
She’s made her life a good one
She’s what I’d hoped she’d be.
Her life is LOVE.
Loves her husband.
Loves her God.
Loves her family.
Loves her siblings.
Loves her Church.
Loves her mother.
Loves, loves, loves.
Loves her grandchildren.
And we all love her!
Love Mom.

I can only hope that maybe, just maybe, I'll have it this together at 85+. Wow.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Oh Ralph...Not you???

What could he be thinking?!

Oh...the foibles of my all-time favorite actor. I've got to get off my celebrity commentary kick but I couldn't let this one go. He joined the mile high club with a flight attendant, en route to India. Please. You're the actor of a lifetime Ralph but c'mon! I'm always interested in what drives this kind of behavior with celebrities. Is it boredom? Entitlement? Delusion? Who knows. He'll always be "The English Patient" to me but his sexual desperation is very unattractive indeed. Physically perfect but over-the-top narcissistic. Oh well. Another bubble is burst. Hopefully, Sting and Ed Harris don't have any deviant behavior to reveal.

Monday, February 19, 2007

Police on Tour!

30 year anniversary of "Roxanne". Ouch. Love, love, love my Police. So many memories tied up with those lovely, lovely boys. First heard of them in eighth grade--from my English pen pal. That was in 1979--they really hadn't done much in the U.S. yet.

Just a castaway An island lost at sea Another lonely day With no one here but me More loneliness Than any man could bear Rescue me before I fall into despair Ill send an sos to the world Ill send an sos to the world I hope that someone gets my Message in a bottle

Then high school, then college. Thinking of the dorms, freshmen year Berkeley. Co-ed showers. A certain Colombian boyfriend. All wrong for me, so of course, at 18, he had to be the one. Isn't it funny how you can hear a song that you haven't heard for like a zillion years and brings you RIGHT back to that time? I messed up friendships, school work, myself, and God knows what else for that silly, ridiculous, beautiful (and I mean beautiful) young man.

Ive called you so many times today And I guess its all true what your girlfriends say That you dont ever want to see me again And your brothers gonna kill me and he's six feet ten.

It was all along time ago but this song makes it seem like yesterday. No matter. I wish you well beautiful Columbian boy. Oh yeah--I guess you're a man now. Well...maybe.

Please come to Chicago Sting, Andy, and Stuart!

Country vs. Non-Country

Yes, I'm a little bit country. But not as country as a chicken coop.

And no, not in the way Marie Osmond meant it. Turns out, an ex-boyfriend (who is now a world class photographer) told me I was "country". I believe his words were, "Ooooo, you so country". In his world, this is no complement. It's not the worst label but it really is meant to put you in your place. At the time, I remember trying to hide the offense I had taken, trying to be the cool, detached ex-girlfriend who has it all together. But I was churning. How dare Mr. Flower tell me this? I'm a college graduate. I worked and excelled in a Fortune 500 company! I have been a leader. I've seen the world! I've made a tidy sum.

Nice try, Leigh. Who are you trying to convince anyway?

Generally, in the black community, if you're called "country" it means that you don't dress in the latest, high-end fashion or that you aren't "hip" in one or a myriad of ways. It means you're not sophisticated, not elegant. In my 20's, I cared about all of this stuff. Oh, how I longed to have the casual elegance of Audrey Hepburn or the soft spoken eloquence of a
Christiane Amanpour. I wanted to be glib, and witty, and ironic. I wanted that detached sophistication reserved for the non-country.

Guess what? I really don't have any of those things. I often don't have a quick retort. I trip over my words. I've been known to wear clothes from Gap, Old Navy, and yes...brace yourself non-country people...Target. No, I don't do Wal-Mart. But Wal-Mart is a complete topic in and of itself. But what's great about all of this is that I don't care about that teetering veneer anymore. Yes, I like nice things, I have a very nice home, we drive very nice cars,blah, blah, blah. But to live like Carrie Bradshaw from Sex and the City?. Here is my perception of her character:

Do I look coordinated but not matchy, matchy? Is my clothing a statement? Do I command subtle, yet noticeable attention with my individual flair? Do I look like I tried too hard even though I did try too hard? Does one item on my person look like (gasp), I bought it from a department store instead of a boutique? Do I look like someone you would admire? Aspire to? Do I dazzle you?

One thing about being do find yourself getting over all of this nonsense. You are who you are and if you're not, you probably never will be.

To all of you non-country people...I guess I never made the clique. I never really fit in with Mr. Flower's world. Tragically hip, elusive. Thanks but no thanks.

Poor Anna Nicole

I admit it...I watched Anna Nicole's reality show a few years ago. Even then, I had a soft spot for her. I don't know why. She was such a train wreck and so caught up in herself and her men and her latest form of substance abuse. Yet underneath the garish make-up and the excess weight, there was an extraordinarily beautiful woman. Yes she was confused and often blithering but she was a force all her own. And oh so PWT. No matter what she ever did or hoped to do, that girl would never shake her trailer trash image. I was always secretly hoping that she would just win the lawsuit for all of the ol' guy's money. Something tells me he wanted her to have it. Payment for services rendered.

I can't imagine what she went through--losing her son just days after she gave birth to her daughter.

So, she's gone now. I hope all the folks who gave her such a hard time can just find it in them to lay off. She did the best with what she had. Rest in peace, Anna.

Saturday, February 17, 2007

I'm Wiped Out!

Love that toothless smile Gracie!
Grace, Caitlin, and McKenna (and Gus, of course)
Caitlin and McKenna - Goin' for the gusto on those cookies!
Ethan,Grace,McKenna,Paulie,and Caitlin - Simon Says

Not a lot to say...Very tired after the whirl wind of a family visit. My house is beyond a bomb. Just wanted to post a few new pics of my two humans. It's really just kinda crazy...I just love these two little shrimps. McKenna is talking more every day and Ethan is becoming such a big boy. Cousin Grace is having a sleepover with Ethan and he is in HEAVEN. He gets to keep Gus the Guinea Pig (from his school) until next Wednesday. Bonus.

McKenna is still convinced that Gus' name is "Teamwork" from the Wonder Pets. Speaking of that, I cannot get that theme song out of my head:

Wonder Pets, Wonder Pets
we're on our way
to help a baby animal
and save the day
we're not too big
and we're not too tough
but when we work together
we've got the right stuff!
Go Wonder Pets, yeah!

You would think that after a year of almost no blogging that I would have something more prophetic or deep or inspirational to type. Sorry--not tonight.