Friday, August 31, 2007


Jim and I were in Las Vegas. This was long before the kids were in the picture. Just escaping from work and enjoying some time with Jim's family. I found out from Paul Eckroth that Princess Diana had been seriously injured in a car accident. By the time we got back to the hotel, the TV anchorman said that she had died.

Died? I was stunned. Tears rolled down my cheeks. I no longer cared about the trip or Las Vegas. I just wanted to sit in front of the TV and hear that the whole thing was a mistake and that she had been revived. Admittedly, I was somewhat surprised and even a little embarrassed that I was this devastated over a public figure, a celebrity. Someone whom I clearly never hoped to meet or know. And yet, in this age of multi-media, countless tell-alls, and hyper publicity, I grew up with her.

When I was fifteen, I stayed up all night with my mother and watched her marry the Prince. It's just one of those memories that will stay with me always. Everything about the wedding was magical. The dress, the pageantry, and all the rest of it. Of course none of us had any idea that the marriage itself was miserable for both of them, almost from the very start. No. At fifteen, I, like the rest of the world, caught the Diana bug. I was strangely proud of the fact that we shared the same birthday. On the day she married the Prince of Wales, in front of literally the world, she was a mere five years older than I. Astounding really.

Diana was beautiful in that full featured, English kind of way. She was everything I thought a woman should be. Tasteful, elegant, stylish, modest, self-effacing, vulnerable, and kind. Who couldn't smile when she flubbed up her own husband's name during the ceremony? In those days, no one could fault her. Her innocent missteps just added to the charm.

Over the years, we found out more than we wanted to know about Diana's faults and weaknesses. There has been so much written about her that it's really hard to know what is true and what isn't. But one thing seems very clear from her own words and actions. She married someone who did not love her, she was lonely in a way that is almost impossible for any of us to understand, and that she tried to cope in ways that I don't admire but I with which I sympathize. And she was a great mother. She loved her children. My goodness did that show. We saw her joyously bear hugging the boys after a lengthy separation. Laughing hysterically with them while getting soaked on a theme park water ride. Imploring the press to give her and the boys a break so that they could ski in peace and enjoy a family holiday. As a mother, I understand wanting the best for your kids and just doing everything you can for them--in good times and in bad.

It's been ten years since she died and she still fascinates me. I'm particular about what I read where she's concerned. I like my untainted Diana memories thank-you-very-much. If I hear a criticism, I just turn a deaf ear. And just when I thought I knew every arcane piece of of Diana trivia known to man, I heard a new one just the other day. Her favorite movie was The English Patient.

Could her legacy be any more secure?

Due in part to her inspiration, a fifteen year old girl, awkward and insecure, began to realize that beauty includes all kinds of internal and external qualities. And while at 41, the confidence meter isn't always as high as it should be, I think back to "shy Di" who blossomed into a maverick, an icon beloved not only for her beauty but also for her kind, generous spirit. And that gentle, loving nature inspires me still.

God bless and keep her this day and always.

Sunday, August 26, 2007

August Wrath

I told you so. The month of August in the Chicago area is just the worst. And this one is wrapping up to be no exception. After three and a half days with no power, we've finally got the AC cranked and the lights are on. Never mind that our neighborhood looks like a war zone. Forget that the mosquitoes are fat and happy. No one is injured, no one's home is irreparably damaged. We're safe.

On Thursday at about 3 in the afternoon, Ethan and I were playing a Webkinz game on the computer. McKenna was napping in her room upstairs. Jim was in New York working. He wasn't expected back until Friday night. It was a typical summer day--muggy, slightly overcast, about 90 degrees. The usual. So, I was amazed when we looked out the patio french doors and saw a scene straight from The Wizard of Oz. The sky was black and trees were literally sideways. It looked like a monsoon descended upon us in the span of one minute. The wind was howling as loud as I have ever heard it. I firmly told Ethan to back away from the windows.

Thankfully, Ethan had the presence of mind to say that we better go get McKenna. (What a little trooper.) We ran up the stairs, plucked her out of bed and ran back down the stairs to the basement. The three of us snuggled up on the couch and listened as the house shook, trees crashed, and thunder boomed. McKenna just kept her face buried in my chest. Ethan was being super brave. He didn't cry but his eyes were as big as saucers. We talked about SpongeBob and Patrick and how they would handle the situation.

As soon as it came it was gone. A tendril of light emerged in the window well. Time to go upstairs and see what was what. Truly, I thought it was just a freak thunder storm. Pretty typical stuff in these parts for this time of year. But when we stepped out of the mud room door into the side yard, all three of just said, "Whoa".

Trees and power lines were down everywhere. A huge chunk of an Oak tree outside McKenna's room broke off and missed her sleeping area by about three feet. Fire and police sirens sounded everywhere. Neighbors came out of their houses and we all just sort of stared at the mess and then at each other. What happened?

Catherine and her father Bob and brother (Eric) drove up and asked if they could park one of their cars in our driveway since theirs was completely buried under debris. Bob told us that he had been outside when "the thing" hit. A wall of water just came barreling down the street. He said he had never seen anything like it and that it has the scariest thing her had ever seen in his life. I'm told that we may have gotten as much as eight inches of rain from this storm alone. WILD!

Many of our neighbors' basements flooded. Cars stalled in three feet of water just down the street. One of our neighbors lost a trampoline.
It ended up in another yard two houses down.
We got off relatively scott free. Amen.

OK enough details. Some say it was a microburst. Others said it was a class one tornado. I called it a gustnado even though I'm told that it doesn't meet the technical specs for that particular act-of-God (I just like the word gustnado.) Who knows what it was? Scary, loud, menacing, and sudden. There you have it.

I'm officially done with August even though there are a few days left in this wretched month. Fall never looked so good.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Sexualization of Our Children

Have you been shopping for your little girl lately?

It is scary. Even for toddlers, much of the clothing is tight, short, glittery and cropped. Suggestive graphics are everywhere. I'm appalled that any mom would knowingly let her child wear anything with the word "juicy" on it. Apparently, there must be quite a few moms who do because the manufacturer seems to be thriving. And how about the rest of it? Make-up, nail polish, heeled sandals, temporary tattoos, "ghetto gold" jewelry. It goes on and on. Think back for a moment to little Jon Benet Ramsey. Even her father admitted that her mother liked to dress the little girl up like a "little woman".

Laura Ingraham calls it the pornification of our culture. Did we all fall asleep over the last thirty years and allow the fringe to become mainstream? Porn stars and porn peddlers, once relegated to the shadows, are now full blown celebrities. Hugh Hefner has a popular reality series. Cosmopolitan magazine was once considered racy. Now, it has a spin-off entitled "Cosmo Girl" with piece (no pun intended) titles such as "How to Get That Guy" and "Are You Sexy Enough?". It never ends.

The hardcore left, the if-it-feels-good-do-it- generation, the so-called women's movement--they have all had a hand in this porn culture. Somewhere along the line women were told that true liberation is synonymous with unfettered, sexual freedom. As such, have sex whenever, however, and as much as you like. Just protect yourself against pregnancy and STDs. Otherwise, darling, the world is your sexual oyster. Have at it. At least that's what Helen Gurley Brown would have you believe.

Do boundaries even exist any more? Unmarried, sexual encounters are now casually referred to as "hook-ups". We've been told since the Clinton era that oral sex isn't really sex. And yet we wring our hands with angst when we hear of thirteen year old girls performing "non-sex sex acts" on boys in bathrooms. As a culture we seem shocked and dumbfounded by the fix that we're in with our over-sexed children. And yet when you really think about it, how we landed here should not be such a mystery.

The last scene in Little Miss Sunshine really hits home. Shy, 8-year old Olive sexes up her pageant routine to the point of absurdity. We're initially offended by her awkward gyrations to Rick James' "Super Freak"...until one realizes, of course, that the outlandish immorality of it all really is the point. And from Grandpa's point-of-view, if you're gonna go out there and do it, then do it! Why hide behind the sham of pageant charm and talent? Go out there and sell yourself like the rest of kiddie meat on display. But at least be honest about what you're doing. It's an uncomfortable thing to watch. But I got the point.

In the public schools, students and teachers are forbidden to talk about God. Yet, when I see what some children (and I mean young children) wear to school each day, I'm aghast. We send our girls to learn, to build their minds, to teach them that they are worthy and deserving of an education. Meanwhile, that message is seriously eroded by the provocative and demeaning way our girls are allowed to present themselves. Even at Mass, pre-adolescent girls teeter on high heels while exposing every available piece of skin that they can possibly get away with. Shame on MTV, shame on Paris Hilton, and shame on any and all of us who allow our kids to have access to any of this stuff. In the end, first and foremost, we parents own it. Period.

And it's not easy. Trying to shield Ethan from the lure of Zach and Cody is a daily challenge. I would have never allowed him to watch that show but it started last year when he was in the hospital. There was a limited TV repertoire and the kid was going bonkers. So, I caved and gave him the OK to watch The Suite Life of Zach and Cody. It was on the Disney Chanel. How bad could it be? The fact is that it's tame compared to a lot of other stuff on cable and network TV. But it is still not appropriate. The amount of thinly veiled sexual references is really rather surprising. And these boys just are not the role models Ethan should be aspiring to. Remember, this programming is on the Disney Channel.

Some might tell me that I need to relax. Maybe I do need a few deep breathing exercises now and again but that doesn't mean I'm off base on this one. The problem is so many of us have lost perspective on what is truly profane. I was beyond shocked a few years ago while watching the sitcom Scrubs. After a vigorous sexual encounter, one of the female doctors dramatically and breathlessly declared that she needed a vagina transplant. This was on prime-time, network TV! Last time I checked, that was dialog for a rated-R movie. Shrek 2, ostensibly for kids, made reference to Pinnochio in a thong. Walt Disney is rolling in his grave.

Suffice it to say, we parents are challenged. We simply cannot defer to the culture's definition of what is acceptable, what is decent. More importantly, if we want our daughters to grow up with true self esteem and with clear regard for their gifts as people, not as objects, then we have to say enough is enough. Sure, I want my daughter to enjoy her femininity. But that can be done in so many graceful, elegant ways that have nothing to do with vulgar clothing or actions. In the meantime, my little girl will dress like a little girl. I think that's a good place to start.

Friday, August 17, 2007

Ethan Loves to Sing

...the only problem is...I'm the only one who knows it. When he thinks he is not being watched, he just loves to belt 'em out. I can't tell you if he's in tune or not. All I know is that it's the cutest thing ever. I've heard a lot of Harry Belafonte's "Day-O" over the last couple of weeks. He's even got McKenna doing that one.

Today I heard him singing a refrain I couldn't quite name although I recognized the melody. And then I realized he was singing a few lines from the Plain White Ts' Hey There Delilah. What a beautiful, lovely song. So refreshing and so unlike all of the misogynistic hate mongering out there. The guy who wrote this song clearly likes women. I mean really appreciates them. So, it warmed my heart to hear Ethan's cute, little-boy rendition of this endearing song.

"Hey There Delilah"

Hey there Delilah
What's it like in New York City?
I'm a thousand miles away
But girl tonight you look so pretty
Yes you do
Times Square can't shine as bright as you
I swear it's true

Hey there Delilah
Don't you worry about the distance
I'm right there if you get lonely
Give this song another listen
Close your eyes
Listen to my voice it's my disguise
I'm by your side

Oh it's what you do to me
Oh it's what you do to me
Oh it's what you do to me
Oh it's what you do to me
What you do to me

Hey there Delilah
I know times are getting hard
But just believe me girl
Someday I'll pay the bills with this guitar
We'll have it good
We'll have the life we knew we would
My word is good

Hey there Delilah
I've got so much left to say
If every simple song I wrote to you
Would take your breath away
I'd write it all
Even more in love with me you'd fall
We'd have it all

Oh it's what you do to me
Oh it's what you do to me
Oh it's what you do to me
Oh it's what you do to me

A thousand miles seems pretty far
But they've got planes and trains and cars
I'd walk to you if I had no other way
Our friends would all make fun of us
and we'll just laugh along because we know
That none of them have felt this way
Delilah I can promise you
That by the time we get through
The world will never ever be the same
And you're to blame

Hey there Delilah
You be good and don't you miss me
Two more years and you'll be done with school
And I'll be making history like I do
You'll know it's all because of you
We can do whatever we want to
Hey there Delilah here's to you
This ones for you

Oh it's what you do to me
Oh it's what you do to me
Oh it's what you do to me
Oh it's what you do to me
What you do to me.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Also a Land of Beauty, Honor, and Pride

Ethiopia often conjures images of poverty, hunger, and desperation in the extreme. Such conditions surely exist. But I am learning that it is also an intensely beautiful country, rich in history, culture, and pride. When I visit Derebe, I want to go with an open mind and have some basic knowledge of not only the country's struggles but also of it's achievements. I pray for humility and the ability to appreciate a way of life that will certainly be nothing like my own. I also pray that I can provide comfort and support while avoiding condescension or presumption.

The River Nile

Nekemte, Ethiopia - Derebe's Home


Their God, Our God

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Cassandra Floyd...Post Script

In a previous entry, I wrote of my lingering sadness about the murder of a high school and college classmate, Cassandra Floyd, M.D. As mentioned, we were not close but our social circles crossed paths numerous times. Let's just say when we saw each other we were friendly. Still, I always envied Cassandra's confidence and her laid back approach to success. She just did it. No freak outs, no drama.

It's ironic the way we conjure up images and fantasies about people we admire. The reality is that she had her share of struggles and turmoil just like everyone else. It's safe to say that at the end of her life, Cassandra had more than her fair share of heartache. How she coped with that and still managed to care for a daughter and treat patients is mind boggling.

Her death is a tragedy that still deeply touches people. Recently, this article was posted in a Kaiser Permanente press release:

Kaiser Permanente Santa Clara
Memorial Rose Garden Ceremony and Reception
Tuesday, May 8 2007 at 6 pm

The Cassandra Floyd, MD Memorial Rose Garden has been successfully transplanted from the KP Kiely campus (which is scheduled to close soon) to its permanent home at the new Homestead campus in Santa Clara. The garden was replanted at what will be the main entrance to the new hospital. The roses for the garden, called "Mother's Rose ", were picked by Maureen Leach, a now-retired nurse manager of KP Santa Clara's Obstetrics and Gynecology Department. Maureen was instrumental in the developing the health care response for KP members at KP Santa Clara who experience domestic violence.

The rose garden honors the life of Dr. Floyd, who was a graduate of the KP Santa Clara residency program. Dr. Floyd was the killed by her former husband in 2001. Her family continues to raise awareness about domestic violence in hope that others will seek help before it is too late.

The Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology and the Floyd family will hold a rededication ceremony and reception on Tues May 8 at 6 PM - just in time for the first bloom. On exhibit will be the silentWitness display, a large multi-panel display of stories of courage, hope and survival of KP employees and clinicians who dealt with domestic violence. The display is dedicated to Dr. Floyd and two other KP employees who were killed by their intimate partners.

A fitting tribute indeed.

Saturday, August 11, 2007

Ethiopia...I'm Going....

Just got my confirmation from Compassion that I am traveling to Ethiopia next March for twelve days. I'll get to meet and spend time with Derebe! She lives in the hillside community of Nekemte, about 150 miles West of Addis Ababa.

I'm excited and a little scared. I have been all over the U.S. and to many countries around the world (mostly Europe) but this will be my first trip to Africa. The only part of the trip that makes me truly nervous is making a connecting flight in Darfur, Sudan. One of the most volatile, desperate places in the world. But I'm assured that we will be completely safe. So I'll just tuck that worry away for now. Jim is very supportive and wants me to make this journey. He knows it's important to me and he knows that I would never go if I thought for a moment I was putting myself in harm's way. My children need me too much for that!

I'll be praying that I am worthy of this opportunity.

Blessings truly abound.

Beauty Disaster

Whatever you not ever, EVER use Olay Definity eye gel pods. I'm not a big grocery-store-beauty-product woman. I'm a little snobby in that regard. The only "low-end" item I use is Nivea. And that's because Nivea works and it's fragrance reminds me of Katy and dear Jutta. Other than that it's high-end cleaning and moisturizing products. My skin is just soooo sensitive and the cheap stuff usually gives me a reaction. In this regard, you definitely get what you pay for.

I digress. The morning after I applied this stuff on my immediate eye area--I woke up with my eyes so swollen I could barely see out of them. My eyes were red and dripping with ooze. This was certainly not the look I was going for. I wore sun glasses the whole day yesterday.

My Aunt said her dermatologist neighbor recommended Vitamin C serum--which you can buy at Whole Foods. I'll give that a try. After the puffiness goes down, it's back to good stuff.

41 is just a swell age. Taken directly from Fried Green Tomatoes: Too young to be old and too old to be young.

Thursday, August 09, 2007

Kid Conversation

Mommy: Ethan, the cleaning lady is coming tomorrow and this room is a bomb. Please pick the stuff off of the floor so that she can get in here and clean.

Ethan: (whine) WHY DO I HAVE TO? I DON'T WANT TO!!!!! I'LL DO IT LATER!!!

Mommy: Ethan James, it won't kill you to pick up this stuff so that this room can be properly cleaned. Picking up all these toys is the least you could do.

Ethan: (A few moments pass) Actually Mom, just leaving everything on the floor and letting the cleaning lady pick it all up would be the least I could do.


Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Oracle Speaks: Presidential Elections

Hillary and a moderate Democrat. Not Obama. She doesn't want anyone to steal her thunder and Obama won't bring her anything in the general election. The liberal Democrats will be pissed but will vote for her anyway because they have no where else to go. There won't be a Nader to jump ship to, I don't think. Plus, they think she will win so they want to back a winner.

Rudy and Romney. Rudy will win the primaries because Republicans will get over his personal life and left-leaning domestic ideas because they want someone who will beat Hillary and they will rightly conclude that only he can do it. Rudy will pick someone to shore up his conservative voters and Romney will do this. Fred Thompson is a possibility also, but I put him behind Romney because Mitt has boo-koo money in the kitty. Mitt will take the job because it will be a stepping stone to a potentially successful White House run in 8 years.

In the general election, Rudy will win. If California switches their electoral vote process (now winner takes all, proposed is winner gets a bonus 2 and the rest are divided based on the popular vote in the state), Rudy will win handily. In the end, security will be the issue.

That is my prediction. Let's see if I crash and burn. Ha ha.

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Weather Blues

Here I go again. I love living in the Midwest but I have a major beef with the weather. Californians are horrified at some of the low temps we see during the winter. But that's not what I'm ranting about at the moment. I'm no fan of 15 below--that's for sure. Still, I'll take it over a sweaty Chicago August anytime. Everyone and everything are literally doused in humidity. When we run the AC in the house, the windows drip with condensation. And of course there are the bugs. I'm stealing Woody Allen's line here: The bugs are as big as Buicks. The other day I watched in horror as a flying insect the size of a hummingbird landed on McKenna's back. Thankfully she didn't notice.

Every year, Oracle hears my broken-record spiel about this hot, wretched month. For some reason, as soon as the month is over, I put it out of my head completely, perhaps as a way to avoid my version of weather related PTSD. The following year, along comes August and I'm taken by surprise that it managed to rear it's ugly mug once again. Call it my coping mechanism. Go figure.

Frizzy hair, red face, sweaty skin, heat related break-outs. A vision to behold.

The light at the end of the tunnel is Fall, glorious and colorful in all it's grandeur. For folks who don't live in climates where there are true seasons, it's hard to fully appreciate a Midwestern Autumn. Maybe if August were not so miserable, I would not be enamored with the Fall. Who knows? But I'm looking forward to cooling down and jumping in the leaves with my shrimpers. And tucking crazy August away in the cob webbed recesses yet again.

Saturday, August 04, 2007

Hairspray - Loved It!

Ethan has been asking about this movie for the past month or so. We all went today and it was sooo good. Jim is not a big fan of musicals and even he loved it. The kids were singing and bouncing along with the WONDERFUL soundtrack. John Travolta is amazing and every bit the Edna Turnblad that Divine was in the John Waters' original. In fact, I actually like the new Hairspray better . The Ricki Lake version was good mind you. But it was campy and had an underground, tongue-in-cheek vibe. And I found it just a little bit dark for some reason. The new Hairspray is a stage production made for the screen. I had that same wanna-get-up-and-dance-feeling like I had with Mama Mia. It's positive, it's fun. And that's just fine by me.

There were a couple of mild, suggestive gestures that the kids could have done without but oh well. And a wee bit of crude humor but nothing too over-the-top. The PG rating was fitting. Still, the tone of the film is so optimistic and upbeat that the few, fleeting detractors I mentioned are well worth enduring. I can't forget to mention that the new Tracy Turnblad, Nikki Blonsky--she's perfect for the role. Great voice, great dancer. I'm glad they took a chance on an unknown instead of picking a skinny starlet and trying to doctor her up with extra weight. Tracy had to be the real deal and is she ever.

We all left the theater with smiles and the kids were dancing their way back to the car. We bought the soundtrack on itunes as soon as we got home!

I totally recommend. Four stars from this Wheaton mommy.

Friday, August 03, 2007

Webkinz Intervention??

Ok, I'll admit it. I'm a closet Webkinz junkee. Turns out that lots of other moms are too. How sad is that? Ethan always has tons on Kidzcash because I make it for him the night before. Cash Cow 2 is my game.

Ethan has Jumpy and Spottie. McKenna has Cutie and Hoppy. And yes--Mommy has Mommykinz--the Pink Poodle. I have to watch out for the kidkinz, even in Webkinz world.

I have seriously gone off the deep edge. I often debate Ethan on Star Wars "issues".

The crazy, goofy life of a SAHM. :-)

Thursday, August 02, 2007

Diplomacy For Dummies

Kickin' it with Hugo Chavez?

I'm not a huge fan of Perez Hilton. I find his humor offensive and and mean spirited. But I'll freely admit I'm with him on this one.

At best, Sean Penn is brain dead. At worst, he's a traitor. I can't decide which. Maybe he is both.

If he's such a proponent of redistributing wealth, why doesn't he just redistribute all of his money? I would like to see just how far he could propel his career in Venezuela? He would last about a week and a half and then he would be asking for his people to get him outta there.

This is the worst and most disheartening use of fame that I have seen in a long time. Not as blatant as Jane Fonda's Viet Kong hi-jinx--but equally ill advised.