I follow politics pretty closely, but I don’t talk about it a lot. It’s like the religion thing: I’m not going to change your mind unless it’s open to change. And that’s okay. The same could be said for me: I believe in health care [insurance] reform, and you’re not going to change my mind. I think it’s better for the country in the long run.

Former centerfold model and Massachusetts State Senator Scott Brown was elected to the Senate yesterday. I didn’t follow the race in MA very closely, but the fact that this Republican pretty boy got elected to the seat formerly occupied by Ted Kennedy makes me want to barf. I listened to snippets of his victory speech, and I thought, “Lie. Lie. Big lie.”

Oh, and that high-pitched squealing sound you hear? That’s Kennedy spinning in his grave.

The ironies abound.

I have a big problem with misinformation. (I do a lot of my research at two sites, PolitiFact and Slate. They offer views from both sides, although in general, in its reporting Slate has more of a liberal bias.) I know that all politicians lie, but it seems to me some lie more than others. And misinformation would be one thing if people would just do their homework and call “their” politicians out on the lies. I would be okay with that.

But the biggest problem I’m having is the fact that so many people are against something that’s good for other people. People who are lucky enough to get their health care through their employers (like me); people who qualify for Medicare — government health care, hello!; people who are rich. It’s like, by supporting the Republican agenda on health care reform, they are saying ‘screw you’. If it’s more nuanced than that, I apologize, but I’m not hearing it.

The person I get in these arguments most often is my FIL. Let me make clear: I love my FIL. But he thinks health care reform is going to add lots of money to the deficit. (The amount added to the deficit under the Democrats health care bill: $0. Is the bill — in any version — expensive? You bet. But it doesn’t add to the deficit. As a matter of fact, it will reduce the deficit by $132 billion according to the non-partisan CBO.) He thinks that Medicare is going to be gutted. And it seems that while it’s all fine and good for his entire household to be getting government-based health care, it’s not a good idea for others to have access to good, affordable health care. Don’t even mention the public option; he’ll hear Communist Russia. Seriously.

What about me and DR (which is what they call Dan)? I want to ask him. What happens if I get laid off or lose my job because of my absenteeism? Where do we turn for health care? Thank goodness for the CHIP program; even so my kids would be on a six-month waiting list. But soaring medical costs are the number one reason behind a majority of personal bankruptcies.

I’m steaming over any list of “injustices” today, so I don’t know what to tell you. I can’t even listen to the news about Scott Brown without seeing red, because health care reform has hit its biggest obstacle yet. And I know I don’t write much about politics (and for good reason if this rambling, unfocused post is any indication) but I had to get this off my chest.

For some good news, here’s an update from the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette about the McMutries and the orphans that had been in their care in Haiti. Although there is still so much to be done.

Troublesome Tuesday

Being a mom is tough. I know, the cliche is: “Toughest job you’ll ever love.” And that’s true. Being a mom plumbs depths of love and patience that I did not even suspect I had.

Being a work-outside-the-home mom has its own special stressors. For me, it feels like trying to do too much with too little, every day, all day. (With the exception of that love thing I mentioned earlier. Patience, oh, yeah; that comes in short order on some days — or at least moments of some days — the worst of them.)

Being a work-outside-the-home mom with sick kids is its own pit of despair and stress.

And I’m in that pit today.

What Do You Want to Be When You Grow Up?

ChickLitLisa sent me a few questions, one of which I will answer today:

“If you could choose your children’s careers, what would they be?”

I wouldn’t really want to choose my children’s careers, of course. I’m too fascinated in seeing them develop and learn and choose their own courses. I will be more encouraging in some endeavors than in others (say, debate over cheerleading for instance). (And only because I know a lot more about the former than the latter.) But in the end, they will decide.

That said, Flora has recently declared that she is going to be a “skin doctor”, like her uncle Dr. Bro (who’s a dermatologist, just to be clear). Flora had a real crisis recently because, and I quote, “I don’t know what I’m going to be when I grow up.” She was quite worried about this. I pointed out she had a lot of time to make that decision; nonetheless, we talked about possibilities. Pilot, scientist, writer, doctor, ballerina, even.

She mulled things over and decided doctor. I can easily see Flora being a doctor. She is intense, smart, and interested in learning. If I had to base their careers on how they are now, yes, Dr. Flora is in the works.

Kate, on the other hand, will be a drummer. (A very smart drummer.) That is basing her career on her personality now. And not a jazz drummer; not a blues drummer; not even an R&B drummer. The girl will be a rock’n’roll (if not punk rock) drummer: loud and in-your-face.

As Flora has decided she is going to be a skin doctor, though, Kate has decided she’s going to be a police officer. I’m not sure where she got this idea, and I confess to not being terribly fond of it. (Her father is dead set against it.) It’s such a dangerous profession. And we worry about our kids enough, don’t we?

Still, that being said, if Kate picks the police academy over college, so be it. I’ll just have to pray even harder to keep her safe.

And, yeah, I would choose for her to be a drummer instead.

Learning to Read

When I was a child, my parents read to us every night. I distinctly remember Richard Scarry books — anyone else remember those? — and putting my fingers on things, looking at the black marks beside them (refrigerator, stove, strawberries). Learning to recognize them.

We also watched Sesame Street and The Electric Company.

And, in the days before pre-k, or nursery school, or even daycare, that’s how I learned to read.

By the time I was 5, I was reading on my own, in my head at least. I don’t know how one “learns” to read, per se; I’ve heard tell of “contextual” learning, and of course, phonetics.

I can tell you, for much of my early childhood, I thought when you were very tired, you were fa-ta-goo’ed; and for the longest time “sat-is-fi-ca-tion” meant to be content. (As to the first, I read a lot — and I mean a lot — of Nancy Drew; that red-headed girl detective was always fatigued at one or more points in her adventures.)

And now, I read to my children every day. Whenever they want me to read them a book, I indulge them. I don’t adopt silly voices or act out the stories; that would make me feel too self-conscious. But I read with a lot of inflection and emotion (sometimes Kate asks me to tone it down; “Don’t say it like dat,” she pleads). I always read them a book before bedtime.

For months now, both my girls have taken books to bed with them. Kate will page through hers and narrate the action, usually starting, “Once upon a time…” I have come upstairs after putting them in bed to find Flora intently paging through whatever book she has with her. (Kate is usually passed out by the time I come back upstairs to check on them. That girl likes her sleep.)

For Christmas, we got Flora the LeapFrog Tag reading system.

She loves that thing. (And thanks to everyone who told me about the storage case. We’d have lost the ‘pen’ by now without it.) She recently took it to preschool for show-and-tell as her favorite Christmas gift.

Last night, Flora declared, “I can read Olivia. Look I’ll show you.” (Olivia is one of her Tag books.)

And she got it out and read it to me.

This is the first book that Flora has “read” to me (and Kate). She is very proud of herself (I’m a little proud, too). I know she is doing what Dan referred to as “sight reading”; there were words in the book that she forgot, and other times she asked me to help her. I’d like to start teaching her to sound out the words and letters. I’m treading a little lightly here because Flora becomes frustrated so very easily. And I don’t want her to become frustrated with reading — it’s so very magical.

I’m obviously taking a very low-key approach. I want reading to be a wonder, not a chore. I’m not the type of mom to crack out the flash cards (not that there’s anything wrong with that). Have you ever taught a child to read? What’s the best way to get Flora “really” reading, rather than “sight” reading?

I’m not really concerned about her ‘mispronouncing’ words at this point. I did that for years (reading aloud in class was always pretty interesting; thank goodness for very nice grade school teachers; I’ll never forget the first time I learned “satisfaction” only had four syllables), and I love to read. I want to instill in Kate and Flora the same love that I have for it.

I’m pretty sure we’re on our way there. But if there’s a nudge I can provide, I sure would like to know what it is. And if not, well, we’ll just keep on doing what we’re doing.


Updates: Through the efforts of many, many people, the women in charge of the BRESMA orphanage are getting aid, but there is plenty more you can do. Updates can always be found at Jane Pitt’s Twitter feed (she took her blog down for now; too much coming in, methinks). CNN did a story about the situation; as did local papers (Post-Gazette; Trib-Review). Thank you for all your support. I hope you keep these women and the children in your prayers.

Oh, and I gave $50 to the Red Cross this morning. THANK YOU!

Delurking Day: Help Haiti

I am completely unabashedly (if that’s a word) stealing this idea from fellow Burgh Mom Blogger Jayesel. (Thanks, Jayesel.)

I’ve been struggling with what to do for the people in Haiti. And this is a great idea.

It is National Delurking Day. That means if you come to this blog and read a bit (Dad, I’m looking at you), it’s time to come out and say Hi. For every comment I get today, I will donate $1 to the Red Cross for Haiti relief efforts. (It maxes out at $5 for each commenter. I’m looking at you, Brandon.) Even if you usually leave a comment, please participate today so I can send more money. (I will donate a minimum of $25 if no one plays along.)

Don’t know what to say? Tell me your favorite book or movie. Or just say Hi. It’s not a lot to do for a buck!

For more about helping out — in a very local way (local being Pittsburgh), see what Ginny is doing at That’s Church. Let’s see what we can do to get these children home.

Update: If you know anyone who can help, send them to That’s Church. I wish I could do more than pray.

What I Am: Reading, Watching This Week

Under the Dome, Stephen King

My husband knows me very well. I hadn’t even mentioned this book, and he bought it for me for Christmas. I just started it (and it’s massive) last week. I’m probably about a quarter of the way through, and wishing I had more time to read!

So far: King starts things off with (literally) a bang. Within the first three pages, he kills two people (and a woodchuck), and over the next 10 to 20 pages, slaughters a bunch more. Spectacularly. Come to think of it, all of the people biting it so far in the book aren’t going out with whimpers: car accidents, plane crashes, murder, a ricocheted bullet — you get the idea.

It’s, uh, pretty violent.

I want to read it all of the time, which is impossible what with the job and the kids and so on. The massive question in the middle of it all: what is causing the Dome?

I do have one complaint: King clearly sets us up with protagonists and antagonists. The good guys, the bad guys (and girls in both cases). It seems to me, unlike in the King classic The Stand (my all-time favorite King novel), the nuance is gone. Jim Rennie is a corrupt politician, and cold-hearted to boot. There is nothing to like about him. So you don’t like him. Dale Barbara is probably more complicated a character (short-order cook, drifter, Iraq War veteran), but he is clearly a Good Guy. The bad guys (and girls) are caricatures, in other words (thugs, dummies, corrupt politicians, a crazy preacher, etc.), and the good guys (and girls) are more fully realized.

If you’re a King reader, think back to The Stand. Think about Larry Underwood: musician, ladies’ man, quite a self-centered prick when we meet him (and through a pretty good part of the book). How about Flagg’s right-hand man in Vegas — his name is escaping me? Not exactly the most sympathetic of characters, and he does side with the ultimate of King’s bad guys, The Walkin’ Dude, but you end up having sympathy for him anyway. (Or I did at least.)

Now, as I’ve said, I’m only a quarter of the way through. My desire to see Jim Rennie or his son Junior get comeuppance may be mitigated by the end (or even the middle) of the book. King can do that to you.

Lost, Season 5 on DVD

Are you excited, boys and girls? The last season of Lost is on the horizon, and I better get cracking on the DVDs I gave to myself (and Dan) for Christmas. So far, I’m only two episodes in (I think Dan is at least six in).

How do I forget what an awesome show this is? All I can say is: Watching Juliet gives me chills. Ben Linus is the baddest bad guy on TV ever. I’m over Kate. Sun is insane! And I’m usually not hot for Sawyer, but it was fun to watch him walk around without his shirt off.

I have to get caught up, and quick.

Memory Lane: Dee’s Cafe

Since we’re talking about Dee’s Cafe (and we were, weren’t we?), one of the questions/ideas posed to me via email from Kim Z was: memories of Dee’s.

If you don’t know Dee’s, you have never been a hipster living on the South Side (or close by). Dee’s was the place where the goth, pierced, band boys, the tattooed, hair-dyed, theater divas, the underground denizens and alternative news journalists of Pittsburgh gathered. And played pool.

Or so I recall it.

Although most of the blog-o-sphere knows me as a perfectly respectable married-mother-of-two type of girl, I had my wild years. (Dad, you may want to stop reading here.)

I first walked into Dee’s as an under-age undergraduate of Duquesne University. “Back in the day”, the South Side was not nearly as frequented as it is now, and carding was nearly unheard of at Dee’s Cafe. (This would change right around the time I turned 21, conveniently enough.)

I ordered a Greyhound.

Yeah, I was wild and crazy all right.

Once I got the hang of actually going to a bar, I drank Rolling Rock pony bottles (raise your hand if you remember those) and shots of tequila. I hooked up in the back booth. More than once, and with more than one boy (although not in the same night). I learned how to play darts — and wasn’t too shabby either.

My first last call was in Dee’s Cafe.

I remember sitting in the back booth when Dee’s got raided one night. I was there with my roommate Joe (and about 50 other people I knew); I did not have my ID on me. The cop who interrogated my booth was kind enough to let Joe go to our apartment, get my ID, and bring it back.

I lived three blocks away from Dee’s, and had a boyfriend who lived two blocks away from Dee’s. At one point, I lived across the street (House of Babes, baby — a whole ‘nother chapter). We were there a lot. Judy, Bill, and Nikki knew us by name and cigarette brand.

I remember Red Masquer banquets, an after-wedding-reception reception, birthdays, and New Year’s Eves. I remember the night my then-boyfriend almost got into a fight with some stranger who was messing with our pool game. I remember some things I would rather forget, although not very many.

When we were dating, Dan and I used to go to Dee’s when we needed to talk things over. It was safe and familiar to us, some place we knew we could go and not be bothered. Most of the time, though, we just went to hang out. At a certain point we didn’t need to talk things over quite as much.

Based on my experience Saturday night (Sunday morning?) it is still the place for hard-drinking, hard smoking, punk rock kiddos. Jen and I scoped out the back booth, and regaled the young couple sitting there with our stories. He had a full-beard and pompadour, a full sleeve of tattooes, and was about 6’2″; she was a pretty blonde with two facial piercings and glasses. I think we amused them. Bill came over, and Jen and I showed him pictures of our children. I was told that I shouldn’t smoke by a 21-year-old whippersnapper — also with a sleeve of tattooes — with the fabulous name Herb (pronounced with the ‘H’; this point was made repeatedly). (And, yes, I know, I shouldn’t smoke. In Dee’s, your own cigarette is redundant.)

And it’s still the bar I think of when I hear this song:

Got any memories of Dee’s Cafe? Or your own Dee’s Cafe in another town? Tell me stories in the comments!