I have no words… so I write

There is no time for despair, no place for self-pity, no need for silence, no room for fear. We speak, we write, we do language. That is how civilizations heal. — Toni Morrison

This quote by Toni Morrison, one of my favorite, popped up in my Instagram timeline this morning. When I read it, tears already at the surface, once again overflowed. The only thing I know to do when my emotions are too big is to write.

For most of my young adult life, I’ll admit I was unaware and uninterested in what was happening in the rest of the world. Or even in other states. In other communities.

Then I had a baby.

Wednesday, March 19, 2003

We are at war. My daughter has been born into a time of war.

It scares me that my little girl will grow up in a world of conflict, a time of terror. It makes me panic, not for me, but for my daughter. My little innocent daughter, sleeping in her crib, and the world is on the brink of who knows what. My stomach turns at the thought of it.

In Baghdad dogs are barking, startled by the bombing. How real that makes it! Here my dog lies, ears perked up at the sound of his fellow creatures on the other side of the world. Dogs and people will be killed.

Please God make this stop, for the sake of all the parents who love their children.

A war anywhere on this planet suddenly felt too close to home. How could I ever possibly protect this tiny, vulnerable being?

But to imagine that war was outside the door every single day? I can’t. I cannot imagine having to live knowing I couldn’t protect my children, knowing everyday could be my child’s—or my—last.

Last night I stood at the kitchen table, tears streaming down my face, telling that now-seventeen-year-old “baby” about the journal entry I wrote when she was one month and one day old. When I wrote it I never could have imagined how that “time of war” she was born into would evolve.

Iraq war. Afghan war. Terrorist attacks, domestic and non. School shootings. Church shootings. Nightclub shootings. An accused rapist elected to the Supreme Court, another to the Presidency, a would-be-king who is emboldening neo-nazis and white supremacists, and glorifies violence. An increase in hate crimes against Muslims, Hispanics, Blacks, Asians, Jews. Children locked in cages. Women’s bodies policed and voices silenced still. A recession. A world-wide pandemic.

And now, cities on fire and peaceful protesters tear-gassed, shot at with rubber bullets, beaten in the streets as they call out the latest murder, maybe the most blatant yet, of an unarmed black man — George Floyd — by a police officer. And in the midst of it a president who calls for their violent dispersal so he might walk to a nearby church for a campaign photo op (holding the Bible upside down, btw).

To say I am horrified doesn’t even begin to express what I am feeling. Anger, helplessness, fear, guilt, sadness, disbelief, rage, devastation… there aren’t words big or complex enough to contain this storm cloud roiling in my chest.

I am writer. For me, this loss of words reflects a loss of hope.

What can I do on a cool, bright spring day in Vermont, where such violence is rarely, if ever, seen? Where, today, there are no fires, or gunshots, or righteously angry people calling out for their rights and freedoms and lives. Where, although threatened as everyone else by a virus that knows no boundaries of space or person, my children are relatively safe. Where, due to the color of their skin, discrimination is not something I need to worry about each time they leave the house.
What can I do? I’ve donated to an organization who knows what to do. But what else?

My words seem pointless, even self-serving, in the huge scheme of things. What do they matter? I truly don’t know. My personal reaction to what’s going on will make no difference at all.

But silence seems a worse choice.

So I speak. To show my support, to send a message into the ether that in my heart I am with everyone who is fighting for their right to be seen, to be heard. For their children not to be killed.

And although I don’t quite understand how my disjointed thoughts and inadequate words help in this moment, I choose to believe Toni Morrison, choose not to be silent, choose to believe that to “do language” is how civilizations heal.

I can’t heal this world for my daughter who was born two years after 9/11 and a month before the longest running war in U.S. history began. I can’t heal this world for those marching in the cities. For those communities who are scared, scarred—grieving for every one of their own who has been harassed, threatened, beaten, killed.

As I cried last night I told my daughter I was sorry there is so much hatred, so much fear, and so much pain. Sorry that the world of war and corruption, of racism, sexism, jingoism, toxic capitalism, and every other kind of ism she was born into is the only one she’s known.

Yes, I was crying for her, but she—thank God—is safe. So I was crying too for every person in our country who isn’t. Every peaceful protester, every reporter, medic, store owner, and bystander. I was also crying for every person who lives with the threat of danger every day of their lives.

And most of all I was crying for every mother, father, sister, brother, friend grieving their loved ones lost to violence, lack of health care, incarceration. And now the pandemic too, shining a glaring light on the disparities between the haves and have nots, those who are served by society and those who serve—and run its registers, and collect its garbage, and clean its hospitals.

And I was crying for this country. This broken country.

My heart is broken too. It has broken so many times over the last twenty years. I have shed many, many tears. But I have never cried so hard as I did on December 14, 2012, November 4, 2016, and now June 1, 2020. These days will live with me.

Where the cracks are, so the story goes, is where the light gets in. When something breaks, we humans look for the meaning, we hang onto the hope that disintegration leads to renewal, to change, to transformation.


Nothing changed after Sandy Hook.

Everything changed after the inauguration, but not for the good.

Will anything change after this?

Can we look for the proverbial phoenix to rise from these ashes? I can’t say I feel very positive right now. There are military vehicles driving into D.C. as I write. But could this be the new 1960s? Are we on the edge of positive change? I hesitate to hope. But that and prayers are the only things I have.

Meanwhile, all I can offer are words of love and support and gratitude to those fighting for change. And a message from my younger self:

Please God make this stop, for the sake of all the parents who love their children.

Authentic Voice Project: B is for Belief

The Authentic Voice Project: Week 2


I was near tears already. Angry-sad tears at the current state of affairs in our country and world. So it wasn’t with the most gracious heart that I took in the message on the frame around the license plate of the SUV parked in front me:

“If you are living as if there is no God, you better hope you’re right!”

To this I thought:

If you claim there is God but are living with a Belief that dictates that Roe vs. Wade should be reversed or claims all Muslims are evil, LGBT rights should be denied, or that Black Lives don’t matter, you better hope you’re WRONG. Continue reading

Gaslighting, not just for women anymore

lamplight-6That’s not what you saw! That’s not what you heard! That is not what I said!

Sound familiar, America?

Yes, we residents of the United States are being subjected to what is known in the psychological world as gaslighting.

Gaslighting is a form of manipulation through persistent denial, misdirection, contradiction, and lying in an attempt to destabilize and delegitimize a target. Its intent is to sow seeds of doubt in the targets, hoping to make them question their own memory, perception, and sanity. Instances may range from the denial by an abuser that previous abusive incidents ever occurred up to the staging of bizarre events by the abuser with the intention of disorienting the victim. (Wikipedia)

You don’t mean that!

That’s not what happened! You’re delusional.

You’re over-reacting (Why so angry? Raging woman! Shrill. Screaming. Over-emotional, hysterical…)

I’m going to go out on a not-so-long limb to say that every woman has heard statements similar to these to some degree or other. It is the dismissal and undermining of our own experiences, emotions, and intuition. Quoting Carolyn Heilbrun in Writing a Woman’s Life, I wrote in my graduate thesis:

Women haven’t traditionally been allowed anger, ambition, or authority and that they are denounced for shrillness or inappropriateness, which denies them power and their place in “whatever discourse is essential to action.”

Even our education, our learned and personal knowledge, can be explained away by what has been come to be known as “mansplaining.”

Mansplaining describes the phenomenon of someone (usually a man, but not always) behaving as though he has superior knowledge to someone else (often a woman) who actually knows more about the topic in question than he does.  (flavorwire.com)

In a Psychology Today article, we read:

Gaslighting can take many forms but it is a twisting of reality that turns a person into a true victim. It’s about second guessing yourself or getting so far from reality that you don’t guess it at all, you just accept someone else’s interpretation of reality.  […]

Gaslighting causes you to think that up is down and down is up. Gaslighting is sowing very real seeds of doubt in your ability to believe in you and what you are experiencing. Gaslighting takes away your ability to think rationally and critically in almost every situation.

Congratulations! We are all now experiencing what women have dealt with for far too long. Sad!

He-who-shall-not-be-named is attempting to gaslight us all. While he constantly changes his mind, his opinions, his version of events, he expects his Followers (and the rest of us) to go along with it. Urging us to deny facts and even our own eyes and ears, he wants us to blindly accept his Truth of the Moment.

He believes his authority, his rules of how the world work, which can change from minute to minute, are to be followed with no questions asked. Unfortunately, many are happily trotting along, wagging their tails as their “master” tells them what to do.

And to continue that analogy, it is well known that loyal dogs will continue to love a master even when beaten, even waiting to be hit, thinking it is love.

It is a form of abuse!

Again from Psychology Today:

Gaslighting is now recognized as psychological abuse whereby a perpetrator manipulates a victim into doubting his or her own sanity or reality.

It is an experience that happens to many who are involved with very dysfunctional or personality disordered people. The perpetrators are most likely sociopaths or narcissists.

Our President-Elect is attempting to manipulate — to abuse — an entire population.

We are being asked to not know what we know!

(And I am also very aware that the dismissal of his sexual assaults is all part and parcel of this manipulative, disrespectful, contemptuous, self-serving behavior.)

Those of us who choose to believe our eyes and ears are gob-smacked, often lacking words to explain the upside-down, bizarro world we have entered wherein we are being asked to dismiss what is clearly before us.

In my graduate thesis, I wrote on this very topic — the dismissal of our experiences — that of women and men — to be replaced by the “rules” of so-called Authorities. Patriarchal systems, including organized religion,

… can be merely a system of rules: a code to live and believe by handed down by an external “authority” who answers all questions for its followers… even taught [brain-washed? Think Fox News, etc.] to believe that they need to be told all the answers.

He-who-shall-not-be-named believes he can Speak and It Shall Be So. Like those who rely on a,

religious text(s) of choice, it sets in place a hierarchy, a pyramid of those who have an “exclusive line to the Word… [and] an exclusive right to interpret that Word…” (quoting Eisler).


It’s not going to work! While we listen to the Words — the lies — spewing from his mouth, we are also watching the videos, listening to the audio files, reading the tweets, reports, emails, news reports.

We’re not buying it! We are smarter than that. We don’t need an outside Authority to tell us what we know. We don’t put any faith in His Words. We don’t need to believe in fantasies just because he is our new leader.

Unfortunately, like the generations of women who have been denied anger or the acceptance of their own experiences and emotions, we are being told we are “whiners,” “cry babies,” “snowflakes” for our out-cry. In response to the election of a new leader whose vitriol incites violence against “The Other,” whose sexism undermines half the population, whose cronyism could dismantle the structures which are helping to ensure the rights and well-being of many, whose thin-skin and narcissism could lead us into war, our outrage is mocked and demeaned.

But we will continue to stand in our truth, the truth we see and hear and know.

An entire country cannot be gaslighted. We know the flickering gaslights are just caused by an ill man looking for something he will never find in his golden “attic.”




This is not a political post, it is a processing of grief

This morning I woke to find that the nightmare developing when I finally went to bed at 1AM, the one where the map turned increasingly red, was real. I immediately broke down sobbing. I haven’t really stopped since. My children have never seen me like this; it scared them. I tried to gain control of the whirling weather-map of emotions surging through me, but they were too much.

So, I will try, now that I can see through my waterlogged eyeballs again, to break down these various emotions:

  • Sadness

For my country, for those who had so much hope that “Love Always Wins,” and for those who believed we were finally going to see a woman in the White House. That people have experienced rifts in their friend and family circles during this election.

  • Shock

That which I, and so many millions in this country and around the world, couldn’t even conceive happening, did.

  • Despair and Disillusionment

That half – half! – the population of this country voted for a man who has been shown over and over again to be a crappy — and dangerous — human being. That many of these voters (other than the ones who supposedly voted for him because they felt they had no other choice) don’t believe in love or compassion, don’t believe in equity, don’t believe in diversity, and instead believe, as a bumper stick I saw the other day declared, that what makes America great is God, Guns, and Guts. People who favor above all their whiteness, their sexually-aggressive maleness, and their so-called Christianity; those who prefer a leader who parrots their worst fears back to them and, like some orange fairy godmother, tells them their greatest dreams will come true.

“The charismatic or hypnotic leader who successfully rallies his followers… exhorting Americans to go out and battle the ‘heathen and immoral humanists, feminists, and communists [or socialists or liberals or Muslims]’ — whom they blame for all our world’s ills.”**

It is in despair (and utter bafflement) that I witnessed a man stand in front of the world spewing hatred, fear, and lies, and have his repulsive, illegal behavior excused away or completely ignored by even the smartest of his supporters. I despair that people I know, who I know are fundamentally good and not stupid, can vote for a person who could well take our country to war while denying people healthcare and equal rights — human rights.

  • Fear 

That violence will rise. That hate crimes will increase. That white supremacy will surge. That our Middle-Eastern and Hispanic friends and neighbors will be targeted, including the Syrian refugees who are arriving in my town soon. That families will be separated through deportation. That our gay friends, friends of color, our liberal friends will take verbal or even physical abuse.

“Elites of fascist and communist totalitarian state hierarchies … impose [their word/law/ideology] by force or the threat of force… Obedience and conformity are the supreme virtues. And in both, violence is not only permitted but ordered if it is in service of the officially approved ideology.”**

Fear that our children will see a rise in bullying and name-calling. That our sons will grow up continuing to believe females are inferior and objects for their enjoyment. That sexual assaults will continue to be dismissed as female over-reaction to a male’s right.

That the advances we’ve made in women’s rights, gay rights, civil rights, healthcare, etc. will be over-turned. That we will be looking at a country (once again) governed by archaic patriarchal/religious laws. (Sound familiar, Sharia-law fearers??)

“The first policy priority in a male-dominated system has to be the preservation of male dominance. Hence, policies that would weaken male dominance — and most policies that offer any hope for the human future will [i.e. reproductive freedom and equality for women] — cannot be implemented.”**

Fear that this presidency will lead us to war. World and/or civil. That the gun culture will make our country a tinderbox.

That the “hoax” of climate change will endanger our planet to the point of extinction.

  • Anger and Frustration

At all the above. (Plus some at the DNC, the non-voters, the 3rd party voters, the uninformed voters, and those who wanted the country to go to shit to prove some point. And a lot at the electoral college which have gave us a president the majority did NOT vote for.)

  • Love

In times of group grief, love surges. I am so in love right now with the people of my “tribe” who are reaching out over social media to give virtual hugs and inspiration, who are meditating for personal and communal peace, who are taking this as an opportunity to speak out from a place of compassion. A friend on Facebook, after I had posted of my despair, wrote, simply, “I love you.” In those three words I felt the circle of connection tighten, my heart lurch. I began crying all over again but this time it wasn’t out of desperation, it was because of love.

  • Hope

I believe what has happened today is the death rattle of a mindset/heartset which is will no longer be tolerated. The fear-focused individual has a heart in which love cannot flourish. For a long time the worst of these fearful ones have been hidden away. But Trump has drawn them out and legitimatized their fears and hate. They are out in the open now.

While we have been living for a few decades in a world of advancing rights for minorities and human-beings in general, what the majority of us have been able to deny or file away as the point of view of a few disturbed, angry individuals, is staring us in the face. And we are not going to ignore it.

Women have bravely risen up to tell their sexual assault stories — by the millions. People are demanding their human right to healthcare and freedom to make their own choices regarding their body. Women are determined in their right to career options and advancement, and equal pay. The working class are asking to have a living wage and students to be able to be educated without drowning in debt. Activists are working on the behalf of the incarcerated. Bernie will continue to lead us in a fight for social reform and environmental restoration. I could go on and on.

The point is, inequities created in our society by old, tired patriarchal, religious, aggressive-capitalist ideals are no longer tolerated by the majority. As a friend, who just stopped by to give me a much-needed hug, put it, the boil has festered into a pustule. It will burst — and that’s when the healing begins.

Our world is changing. Indeed, writes Riane Eisler in Chalice and the Blade, during a historical period of greater gender equality, when “women obtain relatively more freedom and greater access to education… one of the most telltale signs that the pendulum is about to swing back is the revival of misogynist dogmas.”

Apparently it took a major, uncomfortable kick (and it might be a longer lasting and more painful kick than we would like under the inflammatory rhetoric of our new president) to jump start actions that will get that pendulum swinging the other way. But swinging it always is.

According to Eisler, Cultural Transformational Theory shows that, “following a period of chaos and almost total cultural disruption,” when there are unstable states, “a shift from one system to another can occur.”

“What may lay ahead is the final bloodbath of this dying system’s violent efforts to maintain its hold. But the death throes of androcracy [form of government in which the government rulers are male] could be the birth pangs of glylany [partnership society based on gender equality] and the opening of a door into a new future.”

And in that frightening yet hopeful assertion by Eisler, I will hold my hope — a tenuous silver lining — that today wasn’t the end of the world, but the beginning of a new one.


*This isn’t intended as a political post. However, I will say this:

I love Bernie. I supported Bernie. I trust Bernie. Reluctant as I was to have to support someone else, I trusted he knew what he was doing despite any corruption which may have/probably forced him out of the race. And to see a woman as candidate, was, despite my love for Bernie and his message of change, inspiring and exciting.

I was elated that my children would see a woman break the last glass ceiling. And that woman would, I absolutely believe, have continued facilitating positive change for the equal and human rights of women, LGBTQs, people of color, immigrants, children, the sick, the poverty-stricken, the working-class, etc. etc. No, she isn’t Bernie but she is a mother, and an educated and experienced one at that… and, above all, NOT Trump.

I don’t intend this to start a political dialogue. I am too raw to engage right now. But, all other discussions are welcome!

**From Riane Eisler, Chalice and the Blade, which read today like all-too real-right-now prophecies.


Why did the rabbit cross the road?

This is a post written a long time ago. OK, only seven years, but it feels like a lifetime ago that my kids were watching these types of cartoons. My now-almost-3rd grader was just a baby!

I’m re-posting because I’m reminding myself that before I wrote for a living I used to write for fun – and could be funny too. This is the second of a bunch of posts I plan to reincarnate over the next few weeks.  

[Originally posted 8/28/08] 

Why did the rabbit cross the road?

Because he’s afraid of a squirrel.


Yeah, I don’t get it either.

Can someone please tell me why a rabbit, one that wears clothes, goes to school, and watches TV would be afraid of the squirrels in the back yard, and furthermore, why aren’t these squirrels also wearing clothes and conversing at the library about their homework with their fellow rodents? What kind of hierarchy is this where not all rodents are created equal?

I’m talking about the PBS show ‘Arthur’. In this cartoon world it appears some animals have evolved beyond others, even those who in the real world, are of a similar species. But what’s even more confusing is the episode where Arthur the aardvark – yes, an aardvark – who wants a pet takes a dog-walking job to prove he’s up to the responsibility of dog-ownership. Now consider that one of Arthur’s gang is also a dog. If you use this reasoning, in Arthur’s world, a human might be seen walking another human on a leash and scooping up its poop in a plastic bag.

I read a book to my daughter the other night where a pig, a sheep, and a cow, all wrapped up in their best winter coats, enjoyed a sled ride driven by… a horse! A human harnessed to the sled might be more logical, but a horse? What audacity! The horse is one of the noblest creatures in this creation and some author has deemed it appropriate to demote him as a servant to a pig.

Now, I could draw a political comparison between these disparities in the cartoon-animal world with that of the poor vs. rich or developed vs. third world. But I won’t. I’ll just continue to be amused and bemused by the rat, rabbit, monkey, aardvark, and cat living and learning in harmony while their squirrel and bird cousins peer wistfully in their windows, cartoon tears in their little cartoon eyes, wondering when it will be their turn.

Not in Kansas… er, Vermont, Anymore

Ironically, I write so much these days that I don’t have time to write. What I mean is, as a freelancer my work hours are taken up with writing for someone else, for money (which is fantastic–a dream come true!). Writing blog posts for fun have had to take a back-burner. But a few years ago I was writing for fun A LOT.

And apparently I was kind of funny too. I’ve been looking through some of my old posts and was pleasantly surprised to find (some of) them quite amusing. I’m just oh, so serious these days. So, it’s time to resurrect some of these old posts. I hope you get a giggle like I did.

(originally posted 11/16/08) I just have to say I’m not a huge fan of New Jersey. I’m sure it is a lovely state — in spots; it must be called the Garden State for a reason — but from where I’m sitting, it ain’t so grand.

The wind is howling around and right through my 8th floor hotel windows and the gray clouds are making the already gray panorama, well, grayer. All I see from this vantage point is asphalt and concrete; roads, parking lots, and boxes of concrete, with only panels of black windows to break up the concreteness. Cars and trains crawl through this tangled mass of blah and I have to wonder, why would anyone choose to live here?

Last night, after my husband’s 11 hour day in a conference and my day of writing (and re-writing and re-re-writing), we took our courage by the hand and ventured out. We knew there was a mall nearby, and after a couple days of over-priced and over-cooked hotel food our budget badly needed a food court. The map indicated we needed to turn left, right, then go straight and the mall would be right there.


Turns out you can’t turn left in New Jersey, only right. We could see the mall just over there, but could we get to it? Heaven forbid! That big olNeiman and Marcus sign was shining bright – a beacon, a north star – but we two kings were lost in the desert. Round and round we go, no left turn, no left turn, NO LEFT FREAKIN‘ TURN. Eventually, (we ain’t too smart at this point, hunger had taken over our senses) we figured out that we had to turn right to go left. Well, duh! And, of course we’re cruising along in the left lane (as any intelligent being who wanted to turn left would be) and the Saturday night traffic, which is heavier than the worst Vermont rush hour, is preventing any intention of moving over in time to exit to the right.

By this point we are so far away from the mall, we give up and turn wherever we could and hope any dining establishment would be appear. As luck would have it, we had discovered another mall, a Macy’s and Nordstrom mall. But I am so frustrated and hungry by the time we get out of the car (an hour after left the hotel) that the normal little thrill I get from walking into a busy mall is replaced by fear and “I don’t think we’re in Kansas anymore”-ness. I didn’t think I had become such a small town girl but the ugg-wearing, designer bag toting masses, the pre-Thanksgiving Santa, the knock-you-on-your-ass per-fumes, and the racket of the food court – oh, the noise! – was too much. I, me, who can’t pass up a clearance rack to save my life, was inhaling my philly cheese steak and racing for the nearest exit, my very un-designer bag flying behind.

Later as B and I were safely back in our dull hotel room, crying with laughter over an HBO comedian, I thanked my lucky stars that tomorrow we go home. Home, where you give directions according to the nearest barn, where you can turn left wherever you like, and the only concrete is the path leading to your own front door.


Copyright © 2011 Darren Hester

It would be a stretch to say that all Christmas music is beautiful. Every year when turkey-leftover soup is still very much on the menu and I find myself in a store singing along with some ear-gnawing song, I cringe with self-derision. But the Christmas carols, the ones I have heard and sung since birth, they are beautiful, if only for their warm familiarity.

Growing up in England where Christian music was sung in school and the Christmas concert was often sung in church, these carols are in my blood. When I was twelve I was the soloist for “Once in Royal David’s City” in my town’s big Anglican church. I can’t hear that carol today without feeling a rush of emotion. I love to sing these songs, but unless I attend church I don’t have the opportunity to have my heart soar. In fact, I’m going to go out on a limb and say that, in general, some of the most powerful choral music ever written is religious.

But music is my “religion.” Singing powerful choruses in a large group – which I have been fortunate enough to do with various choirs – or being in the audience wrapped in a blanket of sound is when I leave my monkey-mind and become closer to whatever that higher-ness is. It bothers me that, other than Broadway,  there are few other places than church where I can experience this (and Broadway ain’t exactly free or as convenient as the church on the corner). To feel the magic of music I must visit a place  that for me represents centuries of domination to listen to words that do not speak to me as a woman. (I write this with hesitation because the church with whose choir I do sing with occasionally – to get my fix-  is an extremely open and welcoming place where I have never been told I was damned for having the audacity to be be born so very imperfectly human.)

Frankly, it frustrates me that God holds a monopoly over “my” music. But I will continue to sing in Handel’s Messiah at Christmas and listen to Lessons and Carols from King’s College on NPR each year because at the end of the day beautiful music is beautiful music. The voices and the strings swelling, grabbing my heart, the timpani beating in my stomach, and the majestic horns making me feel things very little else has the capability to do. And until Winter Solstice songs are as familiar to us as “Oh, Little Town of Bethlehem” I will just have to sing with those choirs of angels.

Prompt: When I _____ I feel closest to God(dess), Spirit, the Universe, etc.

Fry-daddies and other down-right scary things

This post is off topic but a necessary rant for me (thanks for listening).

I’m not one to promote TV shows or popular culture issues or to insert highly Google-able words just to get readership. If I was in this for high stats I would change my focus – “journaling” isn’t exactly a hot SEO. But I have to do this.

I stayed awake long pass my bedtime of 10PM last night watching the first episode of Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution (ABC site). I didn’t intend to be sucked in to another reality saga, but pizza for breakfast and a fry-daddy in the family kitchen had me hooked. Morbidly fascinated, to be precise. By the end of the show I was feeling thoroughly disgusted and afraid for this country’s future. I was also feeling smugly self-righteous.

One “lunch lady” was heard to say that the children would obviously choose pizza over Jamie’s roasted chicken (which looked delicious, by the way). Wouldn’t you? I mean, if you had never been given a real piece of chicken, all gloopy and yummy with sauce with a side of green, green broccoli would you really choose that over the greasy, carbalicious, instant high, eat-with-your-fingers pizza?

If parents decide that their children “won’t eat this” or “wouldn’t like that,” well, they won’t will they? My babies were given broccoli, spinach, peas, kale, etc. as soon as they could digest solid food. I liquidized it and added it to oatmeal or rice cereal. When they were older it was scrambled egg and a veggie. They would even eat cold tofu as a snack, and my son has been known to choose grapes over a cupcake at school. My oldest had hardly tasted sugar until her first birthday cake. She didn’t like it much… oh, how I wish it had remained that way! But what hope did I have when, upon joining at Mommy and Me group when she was just 18-months old, every birthday, holiday (seven in all), and oh, why not? Monday too, became a candy-cookie-chip fest. Start ’em young!

My children are not picky eaters. We don’t allow them to say they don’t like something until they have at least tried it. And yes, like most children they love pasta and breads, but they will also eat the “little trees” (broccoli) and “leaves” (spinach, raw with dressing). Don’t get me wrong, my daughter would devour all the cookies on the plate if left to her own devices and she would probably choose a hot dog over chicken if given the choice. But if only chicken was on the menu she would happily eat it.

The stomachs and double-chins bulging out of the TV last night made me slap my own forehead in exasperation. The shopping list for one (very rotund) family included nothing but processed food: corn dogs, hot dogs, donuts, and a freezer FULL of mini pizzas for “snacks.” OH MY GOOD GROSS! “Don’t you get it?!” I screamed at the TV. And then there were the food administrators who counted French fries as a vegetable and saw nothing wrong with the list of chemicals and additives on the box of pre-cooked mashed “potato pearls.” No wonder chubby, unhealthy children are growing into fat, dying adults.

Breakfast pizza, chicken nuggets, bright pink milk, canned fruit, pizza counting as the required two grains…

And this was all in compliance with the USDA standards!

Even in the tiny school in England I attended as a child had a fully-operational kitchen where all the food was cooked from scratch. We had “meat, potato and two veg” and then a pudding (dessert), usually smothered in custard, sometimes even chocolate custard (yum!), but in general it was a balanced meal made from fresh ingredients. In France, the children are taught from babyhood how to enjoy good food and how to sit politely and eat it intentionally (as opposed to throwing it down your throat while racing around the living room). In a back issue of Mothering magazine I recently read an article (which doesn’t appear to be available online) about how Japanese children are served not only a balanced meal but a eco-friendly and artfully-served one, a far cry from the American brown and ziploc bagged, throw-away processed meat lunches most American moms chuck together each morning. The amount of waste highlighted on Food Revolution was a crime. Recyclable bottle after recyclable bottle was dumped along with untouched salad and apples.

I should clarify here that this show highlighted one school in one city in one state. That city happened to be categorized as the most unhealthy one in the country – so we are talking extremes here. I happen to live in one of healthiest states in the country (according to various statistical studies, including this one from Forbes) but I still see chubby children sitting in carts of crap at the check-out line and high fructose corn syrup flowing freely from the cans of fruit served in daycare.

How could any loving mother watch as her children swell, get sick, and get picked on, and still feed them that junk? How can a school to whom we parents have entrusted our children’s care feed them such slop? I understand that we all have the option to send a packed lunch, but that is besides the point. School is about education – how to read, how to write, how to share, how our bodies work – shouldn’t that education include how to eat well? Obviously parents have to be the primary purveyors of this information but – let’s not kid ourselves here – some parents leave the full task of education and socialization, and more times than we like to admit, their sustenance, up to the schools.

Where is the responsibility? To our children? To the environment? To our economy? To our healthcare system?

As Whitney once told us, the children are the future. But what does that future look like  if all the sugar/fat/salt junkies are pulling up to McDonald’s drive-thru window for another quick hit whenever their energy and motivation seeps out their oily pores? It’s not the children’s fault. It isn’t entirely the parent’s fault. We are now looking at a generational, societal problem which is result of so, so many interconnected factors. It will truly take a revolution. And, despite it’s sappy, rating-grabbing reality TV venue, I support Jamie’s fight against the obese, profit-hungry monster that is the American food industry.


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Driving ourselves to debt (pt 2)

Hello, my name is Joanna, and I am a Shopper.

OK, I admit, I’m a shoe whore. I also like to be surrounded by pretty things. I love matching dishes and coordinating bedrooms. I prefer to have the perfect weight jacket for the temperature and the most appropriate mode of transportation for my baby (i.e. sling, backpack, jogger stroller, wagon, etc.). Yes, I am part of the problem. I love to shop. I have a credit card balance. (BUT I also buy many things second-hand and I rarely pay full price for anything. I’m just relieved I’m not so materialistic that I just have to have that designer bag or the latest iPhone (I don’t even really know what one of those is.) )

Almost a month ago I began a rant. Now I will finish it.

On my walk to work I pass houses of every economic description. Most are well-kept and beautiful, some are shabby, and some are, well, let’s put it this way, you couldn’t get me to cross their threshold even if the dog chained in the backyard was about to sample my derriere for dinner.

Lawns littered with old swing sets, pools, and discarded toys where no child could safely play. Mud-splattered, plastic Santas smiling pathetically at the cracked Easter bunnies and smashed pumpkins. Old cars, vans, and trucks, tires melting into the mud; no more use than outdoor closets. Through open front doors I see hallways where “stuff” is piled so high and deep a person would have to turn sideways to inch past it. Now, granted, this is (I hope to goodness) the exception, not the norm. (Pack-ratting (is that a word?) is one thing, hording another, but plain ol’ lazy is quite another.)

The difference between this house and, say, mine? My crap’s hidden.

In closets, sheds, attics… the reality is Americans shop and shop and shop. Whether we pitch it all with equal enthusiasm, yard sale it, or stuff it in our multiple storage units (or cars), it is a national pastime. Our credit card debt, our lack of savings, and Suze Ormon on Orpah every week are all testimony to our addiction.

Why do we need so much stuff? A TV in every bedroom? Read a book. A sweatshirt from every tourist trap along the eastern coast? Highlight a map. Four inflatable, light up, jingling Christmas monstrosities that leave your electricity bill and taste in question? Put some (little) lights on a tree.

Unfortunately, Americans will continue to shop and horde until they are completely shopped out and poor. Maybe then life will become more simple.

It’s like, gag me

It’s the smell of skunk spray immediately after ejection – sickly sweet.

What is that word?

Smarmy. “Revealing or marked by a smug, ingratiating, or false earnestness….”

Yay, that’s it.

The videos at the Democratic and Republican National Conventions are just plain smarmy. Obama’s was OK, but Clinton’s? Lord. I didn’t see Palin’s, but McCain’s was out of control. That irritating movie-announcer-guy narrator. I can’t take it seriously. And the background music! Bleck.

It’s all so… so… American. A pep rally. A tribe of too-earnest cheerleaders yanking on your heart strings. An after-school special (remember those?) – all cheery, cheesy, sappy, and oh-soserious. Just like that skunk spray; so sweet it’s nauseating.

I don’t know why they bother me so much. The word that springs to mind is propaganda: “Ideas, facts, or allegations spread deliberately to further one’s cause.” Put some patriotic music behind some touching pictures, tell the story as if it’s a 1940’s news film and it all becomes more important, more emotional, more convincing.

Call me a cynic, but I’m sorry, it doesn’t work for me. Bring on the hype and I run the other way.

Just the facts, ma’am, just the facts…