Archive for February, 2006

Writer’s Almanac

For years I have listened to Writer’s Almanac on NPR. Today, as I dropped my son off at school, I remembered a particularly striking poem that was featured on one of their segments. It appeared in my life right around the same time certain people in our lives (mostly our well intentioned family who have always had stability and a standard structure to their livlihood) were nothing short of terrified about how we were surviving. Both my husband and I are artists and we really traipsed through the “starving artist” bit for about a year — truthfully, we are just pulling out of it. When I heard this poem, though, I wanted all the world to be hearing it with me.

Poem: “You Go to School to Learn” by Thomas Lux from New & Selected Poems © Houghton Mifflin.

You Go to School to Learn

You go to school to learn to
read and add, to someday
make some money. It—money—makes
sense: you need
a better tractor, an addition
to the gameroom, you prefer
to buy your beancurd by the barrel.
There’s no other way to get the goods
you need. Besides, it keeps people busy
working—for it.
It’s sensible and, therefore, you go
to school to learn (and the teacher,
having learned, gets paid to teach you) how
to get it. Fine. But:
you’re taught away from poetry
or, say, dancing (That’s nice, dear,
but there’s no dough in it). No poem
ever bought a hamburger, or not too many. It’s true,
and so, every morning—it’s still dark!—
you see them, the children, like angels
being marched off to execution,
or banks. Their bodies luminous
in headlights. Going to school.

Posted in Daily Living | 1 Comment »

Family Ties

I think I have finally gotten over worrying about becoming my mother. It took me almost three decades, but I am (almost) there. I have spent a lot of time wondering where this common disquiet amongst women comes from. I think I have become more interested now because I have daughter.  I would be horrified if she ever felt like being able to relate to me, or making some similar decisions in her life, was the end of her world. I got a little insight this weekend — my Aunt Rose and Uncle Bob came to visit.

Aunt Rose has three sons, no daughters. I am about the closest thing she has ever had to a daughter — she and I are pretty tight. We talked a lot about my mom and my relationship with her. We spent many (many…) hours talking about family history, the good and the bad, and really got to the bones of what our family is about. I talked to her about how I and just about every girl I know has an innate fear of becoming like their mother — of repeating histories and making the same mistakes as the women in their family. I brought this up to her because it seems this emotion isn’t shared with women of her generation — at least it isn’t with her and my mom. They seem to work their hardest to be exactly like their mother, even though they know that she wasn’t happy for a lot of her life. As she talked about her mother, I realized it was pretty complicated — you have to know the long a drawn out history of my family, which I won’t delve into, to really understand. But the bigger picture is this: for them, they are, in some strange way, trying to make their mother’s life work out long after her death, hence the urge to recreate her emotional choices. It almost seemed a duty — which made me wonder why I don’t feel that same duty to my mother. This led to another conversation with a girlfriend of mine — we both have wonderfully, crazy, brilliant mothers whom we love more than life itself, we just don’t want to ever be identical to.

We talked about the inevitableness of some of it and how we have already made decisions that set us apart and have taken us on a different journey. What we realized was that we simply wanted to have the ability to define ourselves without any preemption. We didn’t want to be sized up based on what the women in our clan before us had done or not done. As younger women we had yearned for a clean slate. Thankfully, none of us are born with one. The older we get the more we realize that if we are anything close to the greatness that we have in mind for ourselves, it will be because of all the history and layers of the women in our family - not in spite of.

Posted in Parenting, Relationships, Adolescence, Daily Living | 1 Comment »

Urinals and Mustached Mona Lisas

National Gallery of Art in Washington D.C. is holding an exhibition devoted to some of the most famous works out of the Dada period. It is refreshing for me, someone who has taught art history/studio art off and on over the last three years, to see Dadaism getting a contemporary nod as one of the more interesting movements in the 20th Century. Flying in the face of what was “acceptable” and considered “important art” — artists like Duchamp, Arp, Richter were part of a time unlike any other. I’ll save the lecturing for my classes and let you peruse the sights yourself — it’s fascinating and wonderfully clever stuff.

Posted in Lifestyles, Arts and Crafts, Mental Environment | No Comments »

Broken Teeth and Bullies

My Son
My son after his broken tooth
was pulled - his face still
scratched up a bit

My son goes to school with a boy, we’ll call him “bob”, who has quite a proclivity toward violent and obnoxious behavior. Bob seems to enjoy smashing people’s (usually my son’s) fingers under his feet and pushing them off high heights just to watch them scream and fall. Bob has been the cause of my son breaking a tooth and scraping up his sweet little face (see picture) and the near insanity of a friend of mine who lives two doors down from Bob. You see, Bob and his parents like to just show up at said friend’s house — no phone call, no warning. They just knock on the door and expect a warm welcome. I think my friend has finally made it clear that it is an impolite thing to do but, also and more importantly, that she really doesn’t like her son to hang out with Bob. It’s a kindergarten drama that I am not thrilled to be a part of.

Thus begins the very long voyage into hating, I did say hating, my son’s friends. I do my part to keep them separated but there is always after school playground time — all the kids stay after and play, even Bob. Most of his friends are golden and wonderful, but for some reason he can’t stay away from Bob. “But baby” I plead, “don’t you find it rotten that you always get hurt when you play with Bob?” Apparently not. He just seems to write it off as part of the deal - part of being privileged enough to hang out with this kid. My friend and I have discussed what the attraction is all about — because despite the constant thrashing of his mates — there is some strange allure about this boy to every kid in the class. He is rather smart and very confident, perhaps that is it. Not sure. Whatever the case may be, I have simply taken to just letting bygones be bygones and working out whatever problems might occur after school and dealing with it as it comes. When Bob’s parents don’t intervene, I am happy to step up and deal with taking my son out of the situation. I have talked to my son about making good choices regarding what good friends are and what friends aren’t supposed to be. He knows that I don’t care for Bob’s behavior and that I would rather see him play with other children — I have said so in front of Bob’s parents, in fact. Dealing with a bully is a tricky situation. My friend (the one who has been driven to near madness living next door to these people) had a very clever thing to say about it when I told her that I was ready to go to any means to keep them apart: “If you force them away from the each other then the allure will only be greater — you have to empower them to make the right decision for themselves”. My son is a smart kid. I feel pretty good about watching and stepping up when, and if, I have to and letting him ultimately work this out in his own way. Sort of. Ok, I can learn to be ok about letting him work it out.. eventually.

Posted in Parenting, Behavior Issues | No Comments »

Raising a Sharp Toothed Carnivore

When my son turned three and after a year of studying anything dinosaur related, he very exuberantly said to me that since he did indeed have sharp teeth that he wasn’t meant to be a vegetarian. The conversation actually went something like this:

Joseph: “Mommy, see my two sharp pointy teeth?”

Me: “Yes, honey, I do”

Joseph: “We can tell carnivore dinosaurs apart from vegetarian ones because they have sharp teeth, right?”

Me: “Yup”

Joseph: “Well, see, if you don’t let me eat meat I will go extinct”

I have been a vegetarian for fourteen years. At first it was adamantly for ethical reasons, now it is a combination of health and the former. I always had this daydream that I would have a lovely vegetarian kitchen with a husband and children who loved my cooking and felt like they were better off for it. Not so. Joseph comes up with repeated scientific facts as to why it is not only lame, but utterly detrimental to his existence for him to not have a slab of meat on a daily basis. My husband — well, he is polite and tolerant and respects my choice in our home. Occasionally, though, he and Joseph will go for a “walk” and come home looking as if they have just been to their first nudie show together, smelling of cheeseburgers. It should be said, at this point, that I have always (when out of the house) let him decide whether or not he wants meat for a meal. I stand my ground when it comes to fast food (thanks to my mom he has developed a penchant for McDonald’s — it is something he knows, by now, that I will not partake in). However, when we go out to the occasional restaurant, despite my alluring descriptions of the mac n’ cheese and steamed broccoli, he always winds up with the grilled chicken or hot dog.

My thwarted attempts aside, I wanted to mention some positive resources for vegetarian mothers. There are some really important books you should read if you are a vegetarian with kids (whether or not they subscribe to your eating philosophy). Vegetarian Baby by Sharon Yntema was my food bible with both of my children. And Super Baby Foods by Ruth Yaron is another with very pro-vegetarian tips and cooking methods. It is important to educate yourself about how to keep a nutritional balance in their diet, vegetarian or not, just as you would for yourself. For me, it was also important to realize that I can live by example but I cannot impose my ideals too too much or else it will be all for naught. Despite his resistance, I feel confidant that one day, even if he isn’t a pacifist animal loving vegetarian like me, that he will at least have the reverence and respect for those that are.

Posted in Nutrition, Parent Education, Healthy Living | 1 Comment »

It’s Valentine’s Day. Ho Hum.

While we were getting ready for bed last night my husband, with foamy toothbrush in mouth, says to me “So, do you wanna just go in on a Valentine’s Day presents for each other — you know, just get one thing for both of us?”. I stopped, face full of creamy white face cleaner and hair pushed back in a headband circa 1982, and stared at him with a look that I’m quite sure said “Only if you want to die by the hand’s of a woman wearing a headband circa 1982″. I got angry and didn’t say anything. I slumped off to bed and made a big deal about it.

I never get mad about these things, I don’t know why I did last night. I guess I just wanted to wake up to a surprise of chocolates and roses for once — all the hackneyed things that intelligent women never admit to really wanting because it makes them seem ridiculous and trite. I wanted to be spoiled for once.

I got over it (a little) and we kissed and said goodnight. When I woke up this morning, my usual cup of coffee was waiting for me on the nightstand and my husband was in his regular post in the kitchen packing our son’s lunch for school. I pulled myself out of bed, went and got the baby and sat in the kitchen, drinking my coffee and watching my husband.

This was my Valentine’s Day present.  His wonderful presence and his constant daily reminders of how much he loves me, us — the perfectly made cup of coffee, with just the right amount of cream put in as only he knows how; the dishes that always get washed without even the slightest involvement from me; the beautiful way he cares for our children, drawing them pictures for their lunchboxes so that they, in the midst of the crowded, loud cafeteria, don’t feel like we aren’t together (at least a little) at a meal time..

As cheesy as it sounds, I realized this morning that every day is a pretty rare gift. I’m a lucky girl, no matter how you look at it. Valentine’s Day does get a bit Ho Hum when you get married, but for all the right reasons I think.

Posted in Relationships, Marriage | 1 Comment »

Search and Win with MSN Search

I’m not the greatest fan of Microsoft. In fact, I switched to Apple several years ago. However, I can’t deny the fact that MSN Search sends the most traffic to than any other search engine. For that reason, and because MSN Search is actually a pretty good search engine, I’m spreading the word about their Search & Win campaign.

To play, MSN suggests that you search using potential winning keywords. They give Xbox 360 as an example, but after I did a search on it, I didn’t get any results. So I imagine that potential keywords could be just about anything.

Anyway, give it try. Maybe you’ll win something, and maybe you’ll enjoy using their search engine. It may be a refreshing change from Google or Yahoo!.

Posted in Technology | No Comments »

All Night, She was a Young American

I went out a week or so ago to see a friend of mine play at a local venue — he was opening up for a very tightly polished band that will undoubtedly be successful in some aspect of music in the future. It was the first time I had ever seen my friend Travis play, he was fronting his band The Invisible Kids. Travis and I have a lot in common music and personal philosophy wise. It is one of those rare relationships you make in your adult life, besides your husband/wife and children, that mean something. I want people around me that have passion and work ethic associated with their art and Travis is one of those kids. I think I’ll know him for a long time to come — or at least I hope I do.

What hit me that Saturday night, besides the blistering cold rain that wouldn’t stop, was that there is something really beautiful about young Americans. Perhaps I’ve jumped ahead of myself. Let me first explain my lack of vision first. I was raised in Europe, and as such, have had a very Eurocentric point of view about a great many things in my life. I moved back to the states when I was 13-years-old — this was, apparently, just the right age to feel as if everything I was leaving was idyllic and that everything I was going toward was a cultural wasteland. I have to admit, I still feel some of that is true. We are a young nation with a very shallow history — not shallow as in meaningless, shallow as in not well developed yet. Our traditions are slight and our sense of community is weak. These are things that you can deny but, in reality and compared to countries with thousands of years of history, are true. I’m getting away from my point though. My point is this: I saw, for perhaps the first time, a beautiful and amazing sense of innocence and naivety that night that was altogether shocking and breathtakingly beautiful. It happened when the band took a break and Travis brought up a friend of his to play a couple of duets. This said friend was German — his name was Gandalf. Gandalf had all the appropriate clothing and plumage for the part. Don’t get me wrong, he was a super talented boy who could write a brilliant song. I will, though, interject here that if I learned anything about stereotypical German behaviors living in Germany all those years, it’s that Germans like for things to be exactly as they “should” be. Hence, Gandalf was wearing his snakeskin cowboy boots and just the right amount of “metro-wear” to make him look edgy and not too country. Again I feel as if I need to interject my own point in saying that this has nothing to do with wardrobe — it has to do with passion and spontaneity and that innocence that I realized is very attribute to our culture. I will end the description of Gandalf by saying plainly that while I found him immensely talented, there was something too calculated about him that I couldn’t relate to. Everything was as it should be. There was no room for lovely, spontaneous interjections or sweat or, what did Bob Ross call ‘em, “happy accidents” — things that I have come to love as very typically American qualities.

As those two boys, Travis and Gandalf, stood inches apart from one another singing the same song the imagery was so defiantly contradictory. Travis — full of so much love and passion for what he was doing that he could barely contain it within himself — became this metaphor for what I had been missing in my own culture for so long. In my lack ability to see only the decrepit sides of our country I was missing this — but how could I miss this when I felt it so strongly within myself? This fervor and idealism that I thought made me separate from my American heritage was really, in fact, because of it. Watching Travis on stage, with his very proud mother somewhere in this dark, dank bar watching her son as proudly as if he were a surgeon or a lawyer, was essentially watching a “becoming” that I think define our nation and set us apart from those other wizened older ones. Travis was the jazz age, the postmodern movement, the punks of the 70’s all standing before me in raw and unpenetratable energy — watching that sense of wonder embodied in someone I know and realizing that it is only in America that you can find that kind of dire, passionate, beautiful innocent and wonderful glory made me feel redefined and, finally, happy to be a young American.

Posted in Lifestyles, Arts and Crafts | No Comments »

Lisa Donovan Joins the Blogging Team

Lisa welcomes Lisa Donovan to the Blog team.

Lisa Donovan is a twenty-eight-year-old writer and artist living in Nashville, TN with her husband John (a sculptor), their two kids Joseph (6-years-old) and Maggie (17-months-old) and Sunni, their very old and crotchety cat.

Lisa has a background in studio art and art history focusing mainly in photography, painting and theory of contemporary and modern art. She has taught both studio and art history courses for high school and college level institutions. She is currently writing full-time and is the art feature editor for Verbicide magazine and an art writer for the Nashville Scene.

She’ll be posting blog entries every weekday, and will also be contributing new articles to the main site every week. Lisa is excited about providing a mom’s perspective to the blog, and looks forward to interacting with other parents and individuals via the blog comments.

Posted in Writing | 1 Comment »

How iTunes and the iPod with Video Convinced Me To Get Cable and TiVo

Although many of my friends and colleagues consider me to be an über geek — I like to have the latest gadgets and software — I’ve never really had cable or TiVo. Instead, I was content with whatever was on networks, or not watching any television at all. But that all changed when iTunes Music Store (iTMS) started selling television shows and introduced the iPod with video support.

iTMS made it possible for me to pay and download many of the shows I could never watch. The two main reasons I couldn’t watch them were children and low-budget cable. First, we don’t watch television when our two-year-old daughter is around. Second, we only have a super-basic-mega-limited cable package, which means we only get local networks, home shopping channels, and Univision. So thanks to iTMS, I’m now able to download shows like Battlestar Galactica, Lost, and ESPN X-Games highlights, and then play them on my TV using my iPod and an A/V cable.

This has been great, but not perfect. There are several downsides to videos purchased from iTMS, which include:

I was able to get by fine with the DRM and poor video quality, but the cost of the episodes and limited content made me start to look elsewhere. I now had a taste for recorded on-demand entertainment, but was wanting more. Combined with a cost that quickly adds up, and the fact that the content was so limited, standard cable and TiVo were starting to look more and more affordable and robust in their offerings.

Tired of missing out on shows like The Daily Show with Jon Stewart and 24, I decided to take the plunge and get standard cable and TiVo. Now I can record as much as I want effortlessly, and I don’t have to worry about paying for each and every show I’m interested in watching. I just pay my monthly cable and TiVo fee, and I’m done.

So, for me, iTMS and the iPod ended up turning me on to entertainment that I can watch on my own time, while also weaning me off of their own services. Through their deficits, I stumbled upon a solution that had been there all along. Fortunately, I can still use my iPod for playing music, and taking picture albums and home videos with me wherever I go.

Posted in Lifestyles, Computers and Technology, TV and Pop Culture | No Comments »

<< Previous             More Entries >>