Sunday, December 20, 2009

Christmas Letter Atrocities and Crimes Against Grammar


Oh joy! 'Tis the season for the Christmas letter...

People love to revile the annual Christmas letter, but let's face it, people secretly love it, because they are nosy. I think Facebook and Twitter exist for much the same reason; you may grouse about knowing the small insignificant details and thoughts of an other's daily life, but you log on nonetheless, if only to roll your eyes as you read through the live feed.

We don't get as many as we used to in the era of social media madness, but I look forward to them and find them entertaining, EXCEPT when egregious grammatical and linguistic atrocities are committed. I know I am pickier than most. I write and edit for a living and I usually am careful not to cast stones. You know, that whole "people who live in glass houses" deal. But, sometimes something is so outrageous I can't help but fume, out loud.

Here are a few guidelines if you don't want similarly afflicted grammarians to run around their living rooms arghhing and screaming. Or, maybe you DO want that to happen, and for those people I say...that is SO not cool!!

1. Pretend you understand the concept of a paragraph, or really even BASIC punctuation. One long block of run-on sentences that are done in the stream of consciousness mode just make you look like a rambling silly person. ( I want to use the word "idiot," but we don't use those mean words in our house, and mama is trying to walk the walk)

2. CAPITALIZATION IS FOR prudent EMPHASIS, not for the entire letter. Same applies to bold face.

3. Save the truncations, abbreviations, and texting language for your Twitter posts. If you can't be bothered to spell it out in a letter, honestly, don't send it.

4. Um, basic formatting would be nice.

5. Make sense. That would also be appreciated.

6. If your age does not end in "teen," don't try to use slang. It's just pathetic.

7. I've just about given up on this one in general, but misuse of "their," "there," "they're," etc., is just like fingernails on a chalkboard.

8. If it's not too much trouble: s-p-e-l-l c-h-e-c-k.

I'm not even going to touch content, as that really is subjective, and for me is what makes them so entertaining. So bring on your crazy, inane, boasting Christmas letters, but just exhibit a modicum of care for what goes out there into the world to represent you and your family.

Unless, you want me to consider you an idiot, um I mean silly, silly individual. If so, I'm OK with that. Done.

Merry Christmas!

P.S. Feel free to add your own Christmas letter atrocities in the comments

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Before and After

Becoming a mother makes you keenly aware of the moments before and after. The moments they are born, the moments they smile, and we hope never to experience the moments that they are gone from us. But, they can be gone in a blink...

Yesterday brought the heartbreaking news of a mother plunged into every mother's worst nightmare, when her youngest child was taken in a tragic accident. In one horrific moment her life was forever changed.

I don't think I felt true vulnerability and fear until I had a child. This part of parenthood is the proverbial blessing and curse; my fierce love for my children has heightened my appreciation for the little things in life, but it has also heightened my apprehension of how quickly and alarmingly easily they can be taken from me.

Welcoming our second child has meant handling the challenge of logistically managing an infant and an inquisitive creature of pure impulse who is our two year old. For me, it was the single most terrifying aspect of becoming a mother again. I've handled it by confronting it head on and figuring it out one anxiety ridden moment at a time. I had to make an uneasy peace with not being able to control all situations all the time by digging deep for a fundamental faith that my children are first God's children, and they are merely given into my flawed care for a time.

I look into their little perfectly beautiful faces, and pray, ALOT. I pray that they will be protected, and that I will be divinely guided in their care and keeping so that they are able to do what they have been placed here to do. But it doesn't prevent my heart from stopping regularly, such as it did when my husband relayed how my son had very nearly stepped into traffic on a solo outing with my him yesterday morning. Nor does it ease the sickening feeling in the pit of my stomach, such as that I felt (and feel) when I heard of the tragedy of another mother and family the very same day.

Because, it could have been me. How very different that moment for my family could have been.

In the craziness of my daily life, I try to take time each day to appreciate this, and to not live in fear, but in gratitude that I have them another moment. And my heart bleeds for the mothers who do not.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Emerging from the Maternity Cocoon


Greetings from mommy-land! Over the past several months I took time out to welcome a new son into our family, and now that he has just passed through the "fourth trimester," I am starting to emerge from the maternity cocoon. Now I'm starting to feel like I have a bit of a handle on our day to day lives, and recently that certain writing "itch" has been returning. So I'm back, although I doubt that I will be as prolific as before due to the challenges of managing my expanded family, as well as new focus on activities for my nearly-preschool first son, but I don't think that's a bad thing. The second child has brought a certain sharpened focus to my day to day life, and I think that my writing will also benefit.





So, what seems relevant to me these days? Well, I have to say, I'm hopelessly adrift when it comes to the health care debate, which alarms me I can tell you. I'm also really disconnected from the debate because of the political brouhaha that makes the warring proposals harder to keep track of than the current count of Tiger's mistresses! I don't think I'm alone, and I think that it is pretty troublesome because the implications for generations to come are pretty significant, so it feels plain wrong to be out of the loop, but who can blame the American public for just glazing over..."Anyone, Anyone? Bueller, Bueller?"

Additionally, I followed very closely the coverage of the H1N1 (swine) flu, and the vaccine. Kind of happy NOT to have written during the height of the furor, because I think my head would have exploded in frustration. Ultimately, I came away from that whole situation understanding on a deeper level just how much one misses if one simply watches the evening news, and losing some respect for the state of "mainstream" journalists in the process. That's a story for another time.

Value and values have also been dominant on my current curiosity radar. As a newly expanded family, surviving during these tough times, I've been really following some great sources for being thrifty and creative, so as I come across interesting things, I'll also include those in the mix.

Now that my nursling allows me use of more than just one hand to type, I hope to post more often and keep up the quest to stay abreast of the currents that we moms swim in.

Stay tuned...more to come!


Saturday, July 25, 2009

What's Goin On?

Life has been busy and full! I only have a few weeks left before I meet the newest member of our growing family. Excited doesn't really cover it. Additionally I am mindful to spend some time with my first born and husband, appreciating this time with them before our family takes the next step. The changes (and sometimes challenges) of my now over 2 year old are amazing, and I feel so blessed to witness them first hand on a daily basis. It is especially poignant for me as I watch the news headlines and the extraordinary stress families are experiencing. It makes me even more grateful for my strong family, friends, and community support, and ultimately for me as a person of Faith, to God.

On Twitter I have been following and linking to several news stories including the continuing struggles of women in Afghanistan to retain some of the fragile freedoms that they have regained in the face of a retrenching in interpreted Islamic dogma, as well as the inspiring role that women are playing in the riveting events in Iran. Also, I have been closely following the H1N1 epidemic reporting, and I have to say that this is one to definitely tune into and not blindly follow the nightly news sound bites. While it is true this virus is nothing to underestimate, the scale and scope of the proposed reaction by authorities is something that gives me tremendous pause. Whether it be rushing a vaccine that will not be fully tested and vetted, to compulsory measures that may be employed to ensure vaccination compliance, there is a personal liberty storm brewing that will test the underpinnings of democratic ideals. I do not think that I am overstating this in the least, and that is very worrying. And if you happened to catch the BBC miniseries Torchwood this past week, what made it a little to scary for me was the echoes of plausible truth that the writers wrote into this "science-fiction fantasy" that touched a little to close to home in view of developing events.

As with many of the difficult issues that I read about daily, I do not suggest that one become paralyzed with fear, nor dismissive with denial...just as always, be informed, make your own assessments, and exercise your personal rights actively and robustly.

Back to doing just that for my family! 

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

A Painful Reality for Everyone, Not Just Jon and Kate: Relevant Marriage and Parenting


It's been awhile, I know, but for those of you that follow me on Twitter, you know I've been as compulsive and prolific as usual in passing on the news I find relevant, but just not so moved to expand upon the news...that is, until now.

I'm a very casual watcher, but last night, like nearly an astonishing 9.3 million others, I tuned in to watch the season premiere of Jon & Kate Plus Eight. I'm aware of the drama and scandals surrounding this reality show couple, but not a real fan of prurient unsubstantiated speculation and conjecture (aka, gossip), so it wasn't something I planned to watch last night. But, there I was flipping channels and I landed smack dab in the middle of their marital debacle unfurling for all to see. And it was painfully real.

Now, this post could be about the perils of exposing yourself on "reality" television, losing your bearings between a public and personal life (all valid and important), but what struck me about the painful spectacle of the premiere episode is, well, the reality of something that happens to so many couples once they have children, reality show or not. Certainly the public scrutiny and pressures of the producers complicates it, but what I saw was a cautionary tale for all that transition into parenthood. 

There is a difference between devotion to your kids, and losing yourself in them. Becoming a parent is not the pinnacle of your identity, and hyper-focusing on them, whether there is one or twenty of them, at the expense of your relationships, and your own needs and passions is a recipe for heartbreak. As Kate in sad defeat revealed that she and her husband had become different people, and expressed dismay as to how it happened and what to do about it, it was clear to me that Jon & Kate were no longer in addition to their eight, they had been swallowed by the phenomenon that is their Eight. 

It happened gradually, before our eyes. Their lives became a endless cycle of kid needs and itineraries mined for their growing audience, and the only thing that became interesting about them was their identity as the parents to these eight pretty adorable little kids. We laughed and felt a little smug as Kate (increasingly demonized for things most of us have done at one time or another) nit-picked and mothered Jon in those couch scenes. Red Flag! When you start treating your partner (whether they deserve it or not) like one of the brood, you are heading down a perilous path. As women, it's pretty easy to fall into the martyr, "I have to think for and do everything for everyone," role. If you were a fly on my wall this weekend, you would have seen similar behavior in fact. 

Jon is certainly not blameless. As he bitterly decried that their lives had become a "business," and one in which he is left at home while Kate writes books and travels to promote their show and her books, and he had been forced to quit his job, I heard the protestations of many a stay at home parent (usually moms) "I have given up my life for you, and no one appreciates me" martyr. It's hard for many to navigate the change in identity that goes along with leaving a career, and focusing on raising one's kids. Even more so to flex to the aspirations and continued success of a working spouse. I know this from first hand experience. Yup, that one also most recently reared its ugly head in my house about two weeks ago. Ultimately, Jon feels he didn't have a choice. He has lost who he is on the altar of TLC.

But they do have choices as do all people who become parents. The wisdom that the greatest gift you can give your kids is a happy relationship with your mate holds true. I would also add to that, continuing to evolve and challenge yourself to live your gifts is also a benefit to your kids as well. Parenting is hard work and consuming. You must have that portion of your life that is reserved to tend to your needs, passions, and your relationships to sustain you in the especially intense early years. This is how your kids learn what living looks like, and are free to be who they are meant to be.

In Jon and Kate's case the reality show intensifies this, as they seem to have stopped allowing people to follow their lives as they live them, to focusing on living those parts of their lives that make them interesting to the audience. The outside looked fine for a long while, but inside the termites were weakening their infrastructure. As they sat far apart in the closing scenes of the show and gave dueling proclamations that all that they do is for their kids, it was painfully real that these two people have lost their connection, and until they realize that the vows they made to each other now need to become a central focus, their family is sadly in true peril. That is a reality check for all couples and parents to take away from this couple on the brink.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Where Oh Where Has Relevant Mom Been?

Greetings! So sorry to leave you in the void this last month, and what a month! 

Where have I been? Well, once I recovered finally from my first ever sinus infection, which I sincerely hope never to repeat again, I've been processing some changes lately. Pregnancy I am happy to report is going fine, and we expect another little boy in our household later this summer, but it's taken some adjustments to acknowledge my changing circumstances, forcing some valuable reassessment. My son has also virtually exploded in his development, making him a much more complex and entertaining critter, and I'm adjusting to his increased need for "input." Additionally, the death of a friend in my circle who took her own life really took some time to process through, also forcing some personal reevaluation. 

All of this has been positive for me, but what does it mean for you?

While I haven't been posting here last month, I have been continually monitoring the news as usual, but have been spending a lot of time posting this info on Twitter. The short burst nature of the format has been well suited to sharing the information I come across daily. What this means is that my intentions are shifting for Relevant Mom. I will continue to share news and links I come across, but I will focus here more on delving into particular issues and commentary, hopefully inspiring your commentary as well. I have appreciated the people that have taken the time to give feedback, and hope to expand this with great content inspired by all of the great thinking moms who are kind enough to visit and contribute. You can still get all the great tips and links by following me on Twitter (@RelevantMom), and I have included a feed on the sidebar to give you a quick update of what I have posted recently.

Looking forward to getting the conversation back into gear!


Thursday, February 26, 2009

It's Raining, It's Pouring!: Confronting Issues of Personal Relevance


If there is anything in parenting that I am being forced to repeatedly learn it is to be flexible, and just take it one day at a time. This applies to life as well. Over the last two weeks I have tended to a house of sick people, and caught the dratted virus myself, which is oh so fun when one is pregnant as well. Additionally late last week brought news of a fellow mom of two young children in my circle of friends who passed away, and whose funeral I hope to drag my stuffy headed self to this afternoon, when my ultra supportive husband makes it home from work early to allow me to do so without my son in tow. Wrestling with a toddler and the enormity of a death that should not have happened at the same time are just more than I can handle at the moment. To sum it up, the news of the world has just not taken as much precedence in my head as the local news of my life presently, hence the stoppage.

But I am reading, and thinking and here are some things that are knocking around in my head, please feel free to add your own in the comments:
  • Excitable and irresponsible reporting. Somewhere along the way journalism has turned a decidedly bright shade of yellow (look it up in your history books, ok Google it, if you don't get this reference, because frankly you need to understand this!), and those we trust to report and investigate the news are instead consumed with capturing our eyeballs with stomach churning intent. I've been reading the news about the banking industry, and frankly, "ya'll need to calm down." A significant degree of this "crisis" is the psychological grip of fear that politicians and "journalists" are stoking to get their piece of the news cycle. When I feel more centered this is a post I have GOT to write, if only to preserve my OWN sanity.
  • The death of local news. When an institution such as the San Francisco Chronicle (ironically tied to that whole yellow journalism thing in our history) is threatening to close its doors, holey tamales people! Talk about "too big to fail," the death of local reporting is a BIG deal.
  • Getting by day to day. I've been amassing resource links for alot of "news you can use."
  • Octuplet mom (I refuse to use the nicknames on principle). Talk about self exploitation, this is all a huge train wreck of emotional instability and cultural prejudicial backlash.
  • Accountability and Accessibility. It's important to put the "P" in participative democracy, but there is alot of "O" in overwhelmed and "B" in busy, so I've been tracking articles and tools that help you Participate, while Overwhelmed and Busy.
  • Much more!
What's rattling around your brains these days?

Photo Credit wandelgraaf

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Managing Expectations: Relevant Personal Update

You may have noticed a slow down lately. The great news is that I am expecting my second child later this year, the bad news is that I'm coping with the attendant fatigue (not made easier by my active 23 month old!). Don't worry, I'm still monitoring the news, but being a little easier on my body, balancing the increased needs of my "must have input" toddler, and the paid freelance work I also do. Therefore, my goal is to post two to three times per week. Roughly on Monday, Wednesday, Friday.

By the way, please feel free to leave a comment about what news topics you enjoy seeing more about on the blog, which helps me focus my efforts a bit and use my time more effectively, while serving the interests of my readers better. Please do let me know. I value feedback and enjoy seeing your comments.

Also you should know that I also am on Twitter (http://twitter.com/RelevantMom) and I usually will post links and comment on news stories as I discover them in my daily review of the headlines, all in 140 characters or less! Please follow me and feel free to pop in with a conversation or comments there as well. If you don't Twitter, don't be intimidated, it's EASY, and I think I'll write a post about it soon now that I have the hang of things myself.

Be well, and as always, thanks for reading!!

Monday, February 16, 2009

Eight More Updates About The Suleman Octuplets: Relevant Controversy

Alright, the drama and follies of the octuplet mom and family is hard to look away from, and I to have been tracking the coverage for those who want to keep up to speed with the developments. Honestly I try to throw out the ridiculously salacious, and try to stick as often as I can to substantive updates, and believe me the coverage is sometimes really hard to tell! Here we go, and coincidentally there are eight updates:
  • Universally the same question seems the loudest, "how on earth would this doctor implant that many embryos?" This article sheds some good light on the fertility system and the motivations on both the physician and patient sides of the equation.
  • The only people who truly know what it is like to go through such an experience are the parents of other multiples, and they offer their perspectives on just what it takes to handle it and thrive.
  • An actress on the red carpet I think made a good observation about just why the response seems to have such a nasty edge to it, saying that in a time of economic turmoil, and especially in CA, where an economic crisis within a crisis is snowballing, people are especially irked and enraged to find out that the taxpayers have, and will likely continue to pay for this
  • A website has been set up to accept donations to the family, correction WAS as it seems to not be accessible at this point. May be it was the graphics reminiscent of your junior high notebook scribbles and art, but clearly it didn't achieve it's objective.
  • Perhaps it isn't available anymore because the PR firm that was handling her and put up the website, abruptly dropped her because of the intensely negative backlash they recieved. Another PR firm was said to have taken her on, one which has represented another set of multiples, but word is that they are refuting that report as well.
  • The negative press is said to have sent the family into hiding, although they are surfacing to shop and go to church recently.
  • While her mother was paid around $40,000 to do an interview with Radar Online according to the mother's publicist (yes they have their own publicists), her father is trying to defend her on Radar Online, especially in light of a reported action being requested by a CA psychiatrist which would result in the octuplets possibly being taken from Suleman and adopted, preferably directly from the hospital. And speaking of paying for interviews, this article has some interesting information about how media organizations pay without having to say they pay.
  • An important element in the discussion that needs to be highlighted is that wanting to have, and having a large family are not in and of themselves indicators of some sort of psychosis or selfishness. A commentary recently captured the essence that it takes much more than just liking children to successfully parent, and that there are wonderful parents and families that have large families for all the right reasons.
We'll see what else develops in the weeks to come and I will post updates.


Tracking The Stimulus Package: Relevant Economy

The legislative wrangling has produced a stimulus package unprecedented in its size and scope. What is exactly in it? Don't have time to wade through over 1,000 pages (and who does, yikes)? Check out these helpful and pretty quick links to resources that will break it down:

Pro-Publica is a non-partial journalist watch dog resource and they have put together two handy charts:
And the administration has set up a web resource that it claims will detail how the stimulus package is being administered in an effort to satisfy their transparency pledge. 

Friday, February 13, 2009

Love and Marriage Makes the World Go Round: Relevant Relationships


In honor of Valentine's Day, welcome to the couples edition of Relevant Mom!

Marriage had been on my mind alot lately. Probably because it is a central topic of conversation in my circle of friends, in my place of worship, and as opportunity would have it, in the news as well. How does a couple sustain a relationship over the long term, and why is it important? My pastor recently pointed out that in biblical terms, marriage is the fundamental building block of civilizations (no pressure there), and that when it erodes it has a cumulative domino effect through all aspects of civilization as well (really, no pressure). 

Marriage and children add a whole new level of complexity, but at its core is still the marriage that is the central structure and template. In order to sustain over the long term (with implications for societies as well) the contention is that it must remain central, even above the children that are born from the union. And certainly before the personal ambitions and aspirations of the individual parties.

Ah, so now we get down to it. This is most definitely easier said than done. Add to that the natural differences in the wants and needs of the two partners, and let's just say it is an act of will to keep this fundamental covenant. But when this central understanding of the place of marriage in the scheme of things is kept vital, all the relationships, familial and civic that radiate out from it, are reaffirmed and strengthened.

So when you grumble perhaps this Valentine's Day over the commercialization and schmaltziness, recognize that at its core you are supporting the relationships that literally make the world go round.

Marriage and relationship stories of interest:
Happy Valentines Day!

This beautiful photo is by nicoatridge

Monday, February 9, 2009

Volcanoes May be Hot, But They Have a Chilling Effect: Relevant Environment and Science


A few quick interesting environment and science tidbits:
Photo Credit dotnethed

A Delay, Sort-Of: Relevant CPSIA Regulation Update

An update about the Consumer Product Safety Commission's new regulations regarding children's products. The regulation implementation received a slight delay, existing products must adhere to lead guidelines, but the Commission is taking a year to review the proposed testing and certification requirements to consider and address how best to address the challenges to small and artisinal producers. While this ruling has brought some sighs of relief, it's not quite that simple. Producers are still liable at this moment for any products that are found to not meet the standards, they are just not requiring the proof yet. The regulations have got everyone scrambling, even the local libraries and the nation's children's book publishers. Many businesses are trying to understand how to operate in this shifting environment.

So the conclusion is the ruling is mixed, and hopefully there will be some substantive thought and action put into setting a protocol that achieves the good intentions, but allows for responsible entrepreneurship in the marketplace and resolves this limbo situation. 

An interesting related story I've had for awhile seems cogent here. Meet the geeks who set the nations safety standards.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Throwing Eight Babies Out with the Backlash: Relevant Controversy


Here comes the moralizing mob. Sure, there are some pretty fishy elements to the whole octuplet plus six drama currently dominating the media. I to am outraged that SOMEONE (parents, friends, doctors) didn't intervene at some point in the whole thing (and I mean back when she was intentionally adding to her family steadily, despite being a single divorced mom with reduced circumstances). Where was the whole indignant community, the family then? Actually strike that, where was the community, indignant or otherwise, period who could see a woman who so desperately wanted to construct a family, that she did so despite some cold hard facts. She's hardly the first to try it, but she definitely got more than she bargained for to be sure.

As usual, the mob is a little late, and now they want a head on the proverbial stake. Baby product companies won't touch her, as she is fast becoming a media leper. There are actual mentions of possible boycotts of companies that do. Are you kidding me? It doesn't matter how it happened at this point, except as a cautionary and instructive tale which will motivate some reform and accountability in the fertility system

What matters now are those CHILDREN. They didn't ask for this, and people on their high horse who want them to suffer for the actions of their mother are just dead wrong. I don't like it either, but she didn't get into this all by herself, and the mob needs to own up to the fact that like it or not, those children are our responsibility as well now. Justice has its place, and needs to come to bear to avoid future issues, but a bigger dose of grace and mercy are in order here I think to little ones who are powerless in this world.

Photo Credit MashGet

****UPDATE: Now Ms. Suleman is giving her side of the story, and the questions keep rolling in. There is definitely a familial element that is troubling and sad actually. Her mother granted an interview to Radar Online, and her comments about her daughter were not particularly supportive. This situation makes me profoundly concerned for the children caught up in it.


Principles Meet Un-Principled Realities: Relevant Accountability

The pundits are going crazy commenting on the rampant "tax and ethics issues," that are plaguing several high level nominees in the Obama administration. I just say it proves what an albatross the tax system has become around the necks of the American public...all the way up. Who hasn't  tried to find ways to reduce your tax burden, or looked cross eyed at the tax code as you try to figure out if you qualify for whichever deduction? Of course there are the stunning incidents of hypocrisy (Daschle anyone? Not a personal favorite political figure, so I think it's good we lose him before we get to much further). When entitlement and one's own clout go to your head, high ideals can become expendable, or you simply start to justify and qualify.

This is the tricky proposition of high ideals and politics. There is just virtually nobody that is pristine and clean. Playing at that level has inevitably involved compromises, and everyone has something lurking in their closets. The task therefore is to find those that hold the core principles, and whose record has shown that they more or less walk the walk, and if they do stray or make an unwise compromises, they are willing to say so and make it right. So far, I think this has been the operating philosophy of Obama's team.

I hope the American people don't expect perfection (it doesn't exist in any human being currently walking the planet). I think it is right that we expect accountability for one's choices, and that we have good investigations (by authorities and the press) to keep our leaders' feet to the flame.

Much has been written about how the press has fawned over Obama, and frankly I don't think that's entirely off base. But then, our notion of what constitutes journalism is shifting as well. Punditry and reporting is a far different proposition, and we have an abundance of punditry, and a decreasing amount of reporting these days. People inevitably start to forget the difference.

If you are interested in keeping track of Obama's aspirations and his execution of those ideals, check out the continuously updating report from PolitiFact.com they dubbed the "Obamameter."

Monday, February 2, 2009

The United Stress of America: Relevant Families

News of the parenting variety:

Friday, January 30, 2009

Fiscal Feminist Freak-Out: Relevant Finances


I recently opened my 401 K statement, and I knew it would be bad, but my stomach nearly fell through my feet. What ensued was a full-tilt "what the heck have I gotten myself into" feminist freak-out. Financial fireworks aside, those women who have "off-ramped" will completely understand what I'm describing without going to much further. I know about financial cycles (I was raised by a very pragmatic financial analyst, MBA mother), and although this is as bad as I've seen personally in my adult life, I factor my age and other sensible data and tell myself to chill out. 

But this still doesn't quite cut it, because it doesn't address the fundamental feeling of vulnerability that women of my generation feel when we let go of our former careers, decide to take time for our families, and perhaps launch ourselves into new and unfamiliar and non-traditional professional territory. My generation was raised with cautions about not having their own little piece of the pie by a generation of older women who were finding upon death, divorce, and /or financial ruin that if all your finances were derived from, and/or were in your husband's name, you were effectively screwed. And I use that word intentionally I might add.

So when my husband walked through the door that particular evening, he was assailed with my angst and worry that no doubt soon he would toss me over and where would I be without one half of my former retirement nest egg? He is familiar with my periodic dramatic histrionics, and he tried to calm me, to reassure me, but the feelings of insecurity lingered. He assured me that we lived in the best state (CA) for me to effectively get half anyway, and a host of other serious, but tinged with humor tactics (he's learned that these work best).

When good sense, and let's face it a huge helping of faith, come to bear, I remember that life, and financial markets, for the most part are a serious of cycles, with occasional disasters thrown in to force retooling and growth. And, largely these disasters inevitably occur when we stray from what is right, placing our blind faith in false idols. I am inspired by the many many women I have encountered in the social media world that showcase the force of femininity--resilience and creativity. They find ways to make it work, they start their own businesses, they care for their families, they find time to fulfill their passions (and maybe not the ones they started out with either), and they even occasionally find time to fix their hair and face properly. 

I couldn't imagine the life I'm living three years ago, so I have learned that I just need to roll with it, adjust, and relish the creativity that comes out of previously barren and scarred ground.


Need some more input and reassurance? Have a look at these articles recently:
  • I should say for the record that I do not like the 401 K system one little bit, and never had. It is definitely flawed. But I do agree with the advice, given certain factors, that it is best not to panic, and typically the markets will recover before the jobs reappear, so hold on campers.
  • The thing that really gets my hackles up is the 529 plans though. This is a travesty for a generation of young people. But many are questioning our higher education's relevancy in the current global environment as I recently wrote about here. Who knows, education may also be in for some fundamental institutional shifts as well.
  • I find it slightly ironic that the reality of how women who are employed have to make it work in a pretty untenable situation normally (part-time, off schedules, etc.) actually turns out to be a factor that gives them a bit more job stability in this environment.
  • As a direct dependent of the banking industry, I watch the news of what is and will happen to our banks with more than a little interest. It can, I'm sure you know, make you go buggy at times. In trying to understand nationalization, I found this article helpful.
  • If you are a woman who wants or needs to on ramp, check out this article about how to address your time out of the game.
And here are two tools to definitely bookmark to help you balance your personal balance sheets:
Photo Credit jwowens 

Obama Signs Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act into Law: Relevant Gender Equality

Yesterday, President Barack Obama signed his first bill into law, and it was an important one in the struggle for women's equality. The Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act addresses a vexom loophole that only allowed 180 days from the time of a pay set for a woman to bring legal action if they discovered that they were being paid unequally for the same work. Lilly Ledbetter will never see the over $200,000 she was underpaid by her employer for the same work performed by men over her nineteen years with her company, and that wasn't the point. She wanted to make sure that future generations of women could achieve equal pay for equal work, and this is an important step in that direction. Thank you Lilly Ledbetter!




Thursday, January 29, 2009

Peanut Butter Recall Further Update

The peanut recall is growing by the day. Investigations are being launched to assess if the manufacturer knew that there was contamination in their facility. 
Here is a handy resource I grabbed from a favorite blog, ParentHacks, which is a FDA web tool to search peanut products to keep on top of the recalls.

American Dream Reassessed: Relevant Education News


The American Dream seems to be undergoing some revisions. Own your own home? Maybe not. Send your kids to college. Not necessary? There have been some interesting headlines around the education world lately:
  • When the economy tanks, many head back to or choose to stay in school for more training and higher degrees in an effort to positions themselves for a better position as things improve. But,  more stories are emerging lately, with prominent figures  such as Suze Orman, that suggest perhaps a college education is not all it's cracked up to be anymore. From the cost benefit perspective, the Delta Project has tracked a trend of reduced value and devoted resources to students, even as tuition has risen. The Christian Science Monitor offers a pretty balanced look at the issue, suggesting that perhaps the model no longer applies to today's climate, and greater attention to vocational training may be in order.
  • And talk about a model that may not fit any longer, colleges aren't happy with the College Board for instituting a new policy for the SAT called Score Choice. Currently each time you take the SAT, each score is sent to the college one is applying to. Score Choice would allow students to send only their best overall score. The College Board sees it as an anxiety lowering move, while critics think it just promotes more test taking (read revenue) and another handicap for students that lack the resources to keep taking the test and getting coaching to improve performance.
  • If education indeed does lead to better mobility and equalization, the open source curriculum movement feels that education needs to be more available and free to all, globally. The "University of the People," spearheaded by an Israeli educational entrepreneur is attempting to do just that.
"The idea is to take social networking and apply it to academia," said Shai Reshef, an entrepreneur and founder of several previous Internet-based educational businesses. "The open source courseware is there, from universities that have put their courses online, available to the public, free. We know that online peer-to-peer teaching works. Putting it all together, we can make a free university for students all over the world, anyone who speaks English and has an Internet connection.
  • California has a lot going for it, but we're about to go off a financial cliff. We've been told that tax refunds are on hold indefinitely (with no interest, although if WE are late we have to pay up), and my friends and neighbors are going to school district meetings to learn just why they have to pony up more money for their "free public education" (we are expected to stock our kids' classroom supplies, pay for "elective" classes such as music, and we even teach P.E. ourselves! Oh and yes, we need to add more property taxes to make up for the budget shortfalls). Is it really all that surprising that homeschooling is on the rise?
  • I think most can agree that our funding plans for education need alot of work. For those that want to circumvent the bureaucracies  and target their money for education, DonorsChoose.org allows teachers to state their needs, and donors can choose whom they fund. 
It will be interesting to see what reforms the Obama administration will make, and I'll keep my radar up for any good stuff on this front.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Politics, Pain and Pregnancy: Relevant Fetal Factions

Some reproductive and infant headlines you may have missed in all the recent excitement:
Stay tuned for education headlines soon.

Monday, January 26, 2009

We've Only Just Begun: Relevant Post Inauguration

All that inaugural excitement wore me out, but I'm back with more dispatches from our new administration:

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Live Blogging The Inauguration of Barack H. Obama: Relevant History


Good Inaugural Morning, folks! It's just past 6 am west coast time and the house is quiet for now, and I'm watching the news coverage from Washington. It is already packed! I'll be posting throughout the morning, as this historic event unfolds. 

  • Bouncing between MSNBC and FNC, tantamount to left and right. Predictably, MSNBC is practically giddy, and FNC is inserting Reagan quotes and wisdom. But hey, FNC just put up David Axelrod, chief strategist for the Obama campaign, so there's a little "fair and balanced."
  • Ok that's interesting, both stations are running the exact same camera shots, right down to split screen. 
  • Wow, legendary journalist team Woodward and Bernstein reunited on MSNBC!
  • When I turned in this morning, and woke up I said a prayer that all will go smoothly today. Many people are understandably concerned about the safety of this gathering and of this president.
  • The Obamas emerge from church. For the fashiony people, she is wearing all American designers. And that's probably as hip as I'll get today :-)
  • Check out this great demographic data breakdown of our country. Thanks to my Twitter friend TwinToddlersDad for this link. You should follow him if you Twitter.
  • That's nice, the Bushes say no handshakes...give us a hug!
  • Jill Biden, bless her heart (as my southern grandmother would say), kinda stepped in it on Oprah, revealing that Biden was offered the choice of V.P. or Secretary of State. Sends the spokespeople scrambling. What does this mean for Hillary? I say not much. She was already out of the number 2 slot, and I think Obama was in the midst of negotiations with his top pick, Biden. So it is what it is, and no slight to Hillary should be blown out of proportion.
  • The Obamas are looking for a church to attend. That will be a hard, but important decision for them. Here's a little about what he said recently about his faith:
"Now, I didn't grow up in a particularly religious household. But my experience in Chicago showed me how faith and values could be an anchor in my life," he said. "And in time, I came to see my faith as being both a personal commitment to Christ and a commitment to my community -- that while I could sit in church and pray all I want, I wouldn't be fulfilling God's will unless I went out and did the Lord's work."
  • Terrific story about the wonderful conversations that issues of country can inspire in communities and families. Politics need not be divisive and vitriol, but opportunities for families to grow and help one another flesh out what really matters. This is the ideal function of family, grounding and a safe place to learn the deep lessons of life and faith.
  • Details of Michelle Obama's emerging agenda. She's got a powerful team of her own behind her. Interesting look at this soon to be First Lady and the tone she may set for the country and for women.
  • One of things that swayed me to Obama-yes I was an undecided for awhile-was the class he exuded in handling the grittiness of politics, and his treatment of John McCain, recently reaching out and quietly including him, as well a publicly acknowledging him just underscores that. Sure, it's savvy and pragmatic, but how many politicians have turned away from such acts despite this, just to satisfy their own egos and need for "payback?" ALOT.
  • Here is the official schedule of the event.
  • Time for my little man to join the party. He's up and wanting to get involved. I may slow down, but stay tuned.
  • The excitement of the crowd is palpable, even on tv, can't imagine what it is like in person.
  • I like what Rachel Maddow said : "This is a democratic event, with a small d"
  • The moving vans are busy at the White House switching everything over.
  • It's super cold there, but I think all the people crushed onto the mall are probably keeping each other warm. Amazing.
  • Wow, Cheney in a wheel chair. That is a metaphor if ever I saw one.
  • It's got to be hard for President Bush to walk out there, and it's virtually as silent as a crowd can be.
  • I didn't hear them...cranky toddler who wants undivided attention...but Twitter reports some booing. That's bad form people! Follow the example of you soon to be new President!
  • Wow, look at that crowd go wild!
  • Here we go....
  • I wish there could be a continuous succession of garbage trucks today to keep little man happy during the festivities!
  • Rick Warren is taking the podium...pause for prayer.
  • Heartfelt, but not so eloquent.
  • Here comes Aretha! That's some hat.
  • Biden is sworn in...Cheney can go flyfishing.
  • Wow the dream team of classical music coming up next.
  • Doves released, beautiful...let's hope it is significant. This President can not avoid being a war President.
  • Baby boy is trying his best to bring anything he can stand on to try and get to the other side of the gate where mama is (right next to it).
  • The oath of office with the historic Lincoln bible. 
  • He's officially our President! People in the crowd are beside themselves.


Speech: Part One


Speech: Part Two


Word impressions from the speech: humble, grateful, mindful, gathering clouds and rising storms, WE the people, faithful, true, not well understood, greed and irresponsibility, collective failure to make hard choices, indicators of crisis, sapping of confidence, nagging fear, challenges we face are real, they WILL be met, chosen hope over fear, worn out dogmas, strangled our politics, words of scripture, time has come to set aside childish things, precious gift, ALL are equal, ALL are free, greatness is never a gift, it must be earned, risk-takers, doers, men and women obscure in their labor, FOR US, fought and died, struggled and sacrificed and worked until their hands were raw, capacity remains undiminished, we must pick ourselves up and dust ourselves off and begin the work of remaking America, everywhere we look there is work to be done, all this we CAN do, all this we WILL do, imagination is drawn to common purpose, retirement that is dignified, held to account, restore a vital trust between a people and their government, without a watchful eye, spin out of control, extend opportunity to every willing heart, surest route to our common good, reject as false the difference between our safety and our ideals, friend,  we are ready to lead once more,  sturdy alliances, enduring convictions, power grows through prudent use, force of our example, humility and restraint, we will not apologize for our way of life, you can not outlast us, and we will defeat you,patchwork heritage is our strength not a weakness, we can not help but believe that old lines of hatred will fade, mutual interest and mutual respect, people will judge you on what you can build, not what you can destroy, we will extend a hand if you are willing to unclench your fist, the world has changed and we must change with it, embody the spirit of service, it is precisely this spirit that must inhabit us all, a parent's willingness to nurture a child, return to these truths, a new era of responsibility, price and promise of citizenship, who we are and far we have traveled, brave once more the icy currents, nor did we falter, God bless the United States of America.
  • Amen.
  • Poetry takes the stage. "All about us is noise" "We encounter each other in words." "...the figuring it out at kitchen tables." "Love with no need to preempt grievance" (That get a smile from Michelle Obama)
  • Benediction. This man voice of gravity, more traditional words than Warren. "White will embrace what is right"...alright, not necessary. Only note of come-uppance. Review the speech of MLK, there were many white faces in that crowd, as there are today. Only note of divisiveness in my book. Otherwise pretty flawless.
  • The White House website is updated. Goals for their communications--looks good!
  • Bushes on their way out of town...must be bittersweet.
  • People...the singing of "hey, hey goodbye" is classless. Did you not listen to the speech? Ok I understand the venting, but still!
  • By the way, let me say how much I love Legos today...essential toddler taming tool!
  • Great article about a better way to evaluate Presidents : Presidential rankings should be based on different standards: "Did the president uphold the Constitution, and have an agenda that contributed to peace, prosperity, and liberty, and was he reasonably adept at getting that agenda implemented?"
  • Can't listen to MSNBC anymore, lets see what's up at FNC. PBS is coming up soon for some peace and quiet.
  • Change.gov has now shut down, and everything moves to the WhiteHouse.gov. The tech team is on top of it!
  • Toddler sons patience is now at an end, so it on to my part in the future, "willingness to nurture a child."
Final thoughts later once everything has sunk in. For now, happy that all has gone safely (thus far), and it's time to get to work.

Thanks for reading!

UPDATE:
  • Want to see some photos of the inauguration? Visit the Huffington Post's photostream on Flickr.
  • Well that didn't take long. Al Jazeera published an article by Glen Ford, executive editor of the Black Agenda Report, who says in essence "Obama is no MLK." 
  • Check out some great links to what international papers are saying from a great contributor, Stella, on OpenSalon.

Early Analysis:
  • A professional connection overseas commented that he was a little disappointed in Obama's speech, and expected more. This solid analysis of the speech addressed this issue and others, written by one who has studied the seminal Kennedy inaugural address closely.
  • If you took the visual inaugural quiz I posted yesterday, here is Obama's speech visually presented word cloud style.
  • A view of how they celebrated the inaugural around the world.
  • More speech criticism...a little tougher.
  • Looking at the first technology moves of the administration on the White House website.
  • Wondering about that Lincoln bible that hasn't been used since 1865? Here's some more about it.
  • Wondering what Bush was up to before the inaugural? A reporter managed to be the only one who got in to a farewell BBQ
  • And, it was profoundly sad for me to hear them serenade the lift off of the Bushes with the "hey, hey, goodbye." I'm not pleased, I'm happy to see the change, but there is a level of class fundamentally missing in that. Despite a bruising assault, Bush as shown some class in his exit, and that is worth noting. You may disagree, and that's o.k., but I think it goes to the heart of qualities that we need as a nation to be able to engage the world community, which is full of people we revile by the way, but which nevertheless people calling for the change that Obama represented felt strongly we still needed to engage diplomatically. Model it at home people, to get it right abroad. Absorb the words of the poem, "Love with no reason to preempt grievance."
I didn't really intend for that to be the last word of the post, but there it is. My hope is that the momentous movement that propelled this extraordinary person to this most exalted and difficult of positions, will listen to his words today that we must each take responsibility, and avoid the hypocrisy of expecting things from others when we do not hold ourselves to the same standards. 

It won't be easy. But together, yes, we can.

Once again, thanks for reading!

And on second thought, I'd rather this be the final thing I leave you with:


What a day.


Photo Credit Dave Test

Monday, January 19, 2009

Gather Round Kids, We're About to Get Ourselves a New President: Relevant Inauguration


Welcome to your Inauguration run-up edition. The day is upon us when we witness one of the most inspiring things about the United States of America- a peaceful transition of power and a willingness to acknowledge our past and work for a better future. No matter where you stand on the political spectrum, agree upon the remarkable and yes, exceptional, nature of this evolving experiment. Get ready, get set and let's get the party started:

The inauguration festivities have been criticized for being un-friendly to kids and families due to the restrictions:

"Officials are banning all strollers and backpacks and make a point of saying on their Web site that "there are no childcare facilities provided to attendees." If that hint isn't enough, they suggest that "extra consideration" be taken by those planning to bring children, noting that "a vast majority of attendees will be in standing room sections and should be prepared to be on their feet for several hours."

They also helpfully point out that the swearing-in ceremony is an outdoor event "that is typically cold -- normally 37 F at noon -- and occasionally wet."

In other words: Leave the kiddies at home."


Well, this edition is decidedly kid focused. As parents I think it just adds to the excitement of times like this when we can share them with our kids, even if they just end up falling asleep on our shoulders like the adorable little girl who snoozed directly behind the Obamas despite the history happening around her at the concert on Sunday. Somehow they will soak it in, even if they just understand the undercurrent of emotion that runs through their parents and seeps into their little bodies.

  • As I write this I am listening to the Disney Kids Inauguration concert. If you missed it, here it is again. We definitely are a country of free choice, because frankly I don't get the Miley thing, but the kids certainly love her. But, I'll refrain from speaking too much, I had pictures of Wham! when I was their age.  So bring on the Jonas Bros.
  • Here's a quick primer about sharing the inauguration of Obama with your kids and the themes that run through his journey to this moment.
  • A great feature on the Scholastic site is "If I Were President." The interactive feature allows the kids to make decisions, and at the end a newspaper article is generated to summarize their actions.
  • A remarkable move by the Obama transition team was to provide a portal for the nation to participate in the dialogue of what needs fixing and how to do it. Not to be left out, PBS Kids has a portal for kids to do something very similar, contributing ideas and voting on those of others.
  • A really interesting way to follow the inauguration through the eyes of young people is the SHS Inauguration Project where student journalists will stream back their reports of the inauguration.
  • Also Nickelodean will interrupt their regular programming to bring news and perspectives from kids. In addition there are some other ideas for making the inauguration come alive for the kids here
  • If you don't know about Ron Clark, he is a remarkable educator who wrote the book The Essential 55. He has built a school in Atlanta, and his students got quite a surprise when they performed their rap "Dear Obama."




  • Another way to follow and participate in the activities is to visit www.linklive.org
Here are some relevant and interesting tidbits for the adults as well:
  • Take this Inaugural Quiz. I warn you it's hard, but interesting and different. It doesn't take long. I only got two out of ten, correctly identifying Clinton and Lincoln.
  • While we are at it, here is also a President's Day Quiz as well.
  • Much has been made of the parallels between Lincoln and Obama, and Obama clearly looks back to this particular president for guidance and inspiration. Noted Scholar, Henry Louis Gates, Jr., however offers a view on the these two presidents that questions just how closely they align. An interesting read.
  • I always feel for Colin Powell, a really inspiring man, who kind of just seemed to take a wrong turn, and the public has been very unforgiving. He wrote a moving editorial that I think is worthy of attention on this occasion.
  • Wonder about where the oath of office comes from? Check out this NPR background.
  • Fan of Billy Joel's "We Didn't Start The Fire?" Here is a political columnists attempt at a revision.
  • I love the creative energy that arises from times such as these. Here is an interesting poem by the Wales' National Poet Gillian Clark.
  • Speaking of literary inspiration, Barack Obama is said to be a man of the books. Sidenote: this article was written by Michiko Kakutani, the notoriously tough and difficult to please NY Times book critic, which just goes to show you that book geeks swoon for a man who really reads.
  • And finally, I don't really do the celebrity thing, but this birds eye view of the Sunday kickoff "We Are One" concert illustrates that celebrities are in the words of US magazine, "Just Like Us," except for the fact that, um, they are ON stage in front of the thousands, make a bucket of money, etc. But it is still kind of interesting to watch John Legend's behind the scenes footage.
Happy Inauguration. I shall be watching, and attempting to Live Blog if my toddler will allow it.



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