Saturday, September 20, 2008

The Beguiling World of Blogs

For a medium that I didn't know existed a year ago, the blog seems to be occupying a lot of my attention lately. Not my own, as you'll notice from the weeks between my posts.

Everyone these days seems to have something to say in a blog. If I read all the ones I'm asked to, I'd never get anything done. Many of my colleagues in Boulder Media Women regularly post very interesting insights and information on blogs but I'm a bit afraid. How much more can my brain hold? How will dinner get made?

But I really should not expect anyone to read my blog if I don't read theirs, right? So I occasionally dip my toe into the blogosphere to see what others have to say. The latest was by no means a colleague, though, and I'd be floored if she ever read my blog, but I admire this writer and I was curious about the topic, so Anne Lamott's latest post on drrew me in. And my worst fears were realized.

First of all, I could very easily spend 18 hours a day reading the musings of such talented and insightful women. My kids would go hungry (once the Tostitos ran out) and the laundry would pile to the ceiling (in the unlikely event they remembered to change clothes).

Secondly, I want to write like this woman, so I really should read everything she writes.

The third, and most profound, finding was that the blogosphere has truly made some strange bedfellows. At some place on most web pages are ads that attempt to tie in with the topic of the page. At the bottom of Anne Lamott's post on the Republican vice-presidential candidate were links to electric candles, a psychotherpist in Fort Collins and a system "guaranteed to improve my income."

As Dr. Phil likes to say, "What were they thinking?!"

Now, to some extent, I can control what appears on my page with the tags I give my post, so in addition to the real topic of this post, I'm going to do a test and see what shows up if I put something totally outrageous. So make sure you look at the bottom of the page for the Google ads. This should be fun!

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

A Matter of Convention

The only game in town last week was the amassing of Democrats in Denver, so missing the opportunity to comment on it was just, well, unfathomable.

Unfortunately, I must plead exhaustion. The effort of getting two kids ready for school, arrangements made for after-school pickup and dog-sitting is usually enough to occupy my day but add in getting to the bus and the Pepsi Center by 10 am to ensure entrance, then working at a fairly regular pace for 8 hours before heading home to get everyone ready for the next day.

Nonetheless, I did it, not wanting to miss the chance to be a part of this history-making event. I just didn't get around to writing about it for a while.

My DNC experience began a few weeks ago when I was notified that my skills would be of use in the public affairs division (and here I thought politicos tried to keep their affairs private). The next email informed me that I was to be part of the Talking Points crew, so I conjured visions of grandeur as one of the people to decide what conventioneers would be talking about.

That little bubble burst on Saturday, the pre-convention volunteer orientation day. The reality was that I would be stuffing envelopes with DNC-provided "talking points" and likely delivering same to delegates. Oh well, at least I'd get to be a part of the action. And we were promised that entry to the highly coveted Obama acceptance speech would be allowed for any who desired it.

Even the promise of such a coup (shared by 75,000 of our closest friends) began to lose its sparkle Sunday afternoon when the reality of the whole DNC situation came crashing down amid protesters, long and unshaded lines of people and many, many riot-gear-clad police. In short, lots of people wanted to get in to the Pepsi Center and the security detail wanted to be veeerrryyy careful about who those people were and what they brought in with them.

Amid this chaos, though, occurred a truly remarkable event. As I stood with a colleague in the noonday sun awaiting our chance to pass through the magical portal to political paradise, I noticed a man wearing a shirt proclaiming his press affiliation, Cox Newspapers. We weren't doing a lot else, so I asked him which of the Cox Newspapers he worked for. He replied Dayton and asked if I, too, worked for Cox. I noted that I once had, many moons ago. At that point, he extended his hand and introduced himself as Jeff Bruce, once my boss in Austin, Texas. For the rest of the day, my brain trilled out the Disney song, "It's a Small World."

Close encounters of personally and world famous people were sparse after that in part because I moved to another assignment, vaguely known as Press Distribution. It entailed transcribing the many, many speeches of the convention from the Teleprompter (i.e. type large enough to be read across the room) to single-page reproductions of what the speakers planned to say. Verbatim. Even if it wasn't all that accurate. Or grammatical. I had to restrain the editor in me from making Al Gore just a little more comprehensible.

But I was able to see some bits and pieces of the convention, much of it on the monitor in our work area. And The Big Speech, of course. As promised, we were awarded entrance to the Invesco event, complete with our own American flags and Change placards to wave at appropriate moments. Even the trudge through some very questionable parts of Denver was worth the effort. There were, after all, more than enough police -- we would be safe.

In fact, that would be my only complaint: There were too many uniformed personnel making a little bit too much of a show of force. It was quite surreal to walk across Speer Blvd. in the middle of the morning rush hour without even glancing at the traffic light because the intersection was barricaded. Being "wanded" while walking over Cherry Creek seemed extreme, and the corps of officers marching down 16th Street one afternoon looked a little too much like my idea of Germany's SS. In all, though, it seemed to me that Denver did an admirable job.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

My Special Power

For many years, I have had the sense of being a bit different, maybe even special.
Not just the uncanny ability to find the one misspelled word in any printed piece, but something more. A trip to the local gargantuan-goods store helped me put my finger on it. Yes, the simple purchase of a garden hose helped me to see what it is that sets me apart.
Actually, I began to get suspicious earlier in the year with the purchase of yet another outdoor utensil, a power snow shovel. That was in March, reportedly Colorado's snowiest month, yet subsequent to the purchase of the shovel (at a bargain 75 percent off), it did not snow enough to even merit opening the box.
Similarly, the purchase of the garden hose to perk up my withering landscaping resulted in the first measurable rain in our neighborhood in at least a month.
Conversely, all I have to do is carry an umbrella to ensure no one in my party will get wet. Leave it at home and it will pour buckets.
It's truly a special power. Now, all I have to do is figure out how to harness this for the greater good. I am hesitant, for example, to work in the campaign of my preferred candidates for fear it will jinx them.
I'm thinking perhaps I'll start with my kids. If I do not even buy broccoli, will they suddenly decide they must have it? Or maybe it won't work in the reverse. I have to do something that turns out to be wasteful or useless. Well, that describes most of what I do with my kids, in their view at least.
Maybe I could join the armed forces just so the war will end? Unfortunately, I don't think there's much call for out-of-shape, middle-aged women in today's Army.
For now, I'll stick to ferreting out misplaced apostrophes and improper uses of "which". Heaven knows, everyone finds that pretty useless.

Friday, April 18, 2008

Five-O Without Hawaii

For starters, only those in my age group will understand the title of this blog. Back in the old days, BC being before cable, one of the many police/private investigator TV shows featured the Aloha State and the underside of paradise.

My title, however, refers to the impending arrival of a particular birthday. I have mixed feelings about it but the primary one is disbelief.

Where did the time go? For example, standing on the school playground with the other first-grade parents, I felt totally out of touch with the mom who was expecting a new baby.

As I celebrated the 12th birthday of one son and arranged the party for the other, I knew it was not envy for this woman's situation. More like bemusement.

How did I get here? It seems like just yesterday I was a blushing bride embarking on a great career in journalism. The blush is now a hot flash and the journalism career is this blog.

But there have been three kids, several "permanent" residences and numerous journalistically related jobs in that time, so I suppose it is not so amazing that I have gotten to this point.

What I have noticed (aside from the creaky knees and silver streaks amid the brunette) is some definite old-lady behaviors. Having dinner at 4:30 no longer seems like such a bad idea. Instead of marveling at the sporty convertible whizzing past my morning amble with the dog, I find myself wanting to yell "slow down."

And, of course, I am far from alone in this dilemma. Hordes of baby boomers relate the same disbelief. Thus, the hot phrase is that 50 is the new 30.

Of course, we used to say never trust anyone over 30. So I am not to be trusted either. To be honest, the way my memory is these days, I'm not sure I trust myself.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Picking Up the Slack

An ABC News article posted on Yahoo!'s home page caught my eye a week or so ago. The first blurb suggested something like: "Men find doing housework pays off in bedroom."

Believe it or not, I was too busy at the time to follow that teaser, and when I looked for it later the tagline had changed to: "Study: Men doing more housework." Hmm, what was up here? Had the guys learned of the connection between sex and chores and made news?

No, it was one and the same study, cited by the Council on Contemporary Families. I guess someone complained that the study gave no details on the frequency of marital relations, so the teaser line on Yahoo! changed midday.

Even without the titillating details, it is an interesting piece of research. It claims that men have doubled the amount of time they spent on household tasks in the past 50 years. Now anyone beyond first grade knows that zero doubled is still zero, but that's not what this study indicated.

Nooo, it states that since the 1960s men have increased participation in household tasks to 30 percent! Consequently, women reported spending a whopping two hours less on housework than they used to. My goodness, aren't the guys turning into such big helpers.

The area that has shown the greatest change is child care, where men claim to have tripled their participation in their children's lives. Women, incidentally, also have doubled the amount of time they spend involved in child care, indicating an overall change in how involved parents are in their children's lives today. I guess we've figured out that kids don't raise themselves after all.

Again, this is interesting stuff but there are some major gaps. My brief stint in graduate school gave me just enough information on scholarly research to figure out that this was not original research, but a literature review. Thus, there were no details of exactly how the researchers, a fellow from California and two from Israel, came to the conclusion that men are now doing more of what most women would call their fair share of the household chores.

How did the researchers determine this great trend? Was it self-reported data? I figure that it was probably a telephone survey or something asking "how much time do you spend on housework?" That would explain the big change: Men lie, oh excuse me, I meant exaggerate; women don't remember.

Think about it: If someone called and asked how much time you spent on housework, would you remember each packet of minutes involved in those mundane tasks of everyday life? For the person who really does the work, it would be utterly depressing to think that you'd spent probably the equivalent of a whole day each week on laundry, cooking, shopping, taking care of kids, etc. But today's sensitive male would likely boast that he'd done hours and hours of housework. Even if it was just folding socks while watching golf.

As for the prurient aspect, the article did report that when men do more of the housework, women's perceptions of fairness and marital satisfaction rise and the couple experiences less marital conflict. There's a no-brainer for you.

I'd like to continue with this fascinating discussion, but my husband just finished the dishes.....

Thursday, February 7, 2008

Let's hope

Hope. It is such a difficult thing.

I've never thought of myself as Pollyanna, but I do prefer to hope for the best rather than expect the worst.

Tuesday's caucus offered me justification for such an attitude. Thousands of people turned out in support of not just the candidate I support, but the process of democracy. It was exhilarating!

Of course, I have to be prepared to be bitten in the butt, as has happened in so many other elections. Four years ago, by the time the process came to Colorado, the choice had been made and it wasn't mine. But I believed in the system so I stood in the November cold and made sure people had the chance to cast a vote for the lesser of two evils.

Lo and behold, the candidate was leading by the time I left the gathering of other voting-rights activists. The joy was short-lived, though. By the time I got home, the fix was in -- vote tampering or last-minute rush of Bush supporters we'll never know. Took a few days to be able to sit comfortably with that disappointment.

So this time I was not going to get involved. As much as I relish the idea of a First Gentleman (presumably the equivalent of First Lady) and a woman leading the country, I could not throw much support behind the politics-as-usual approach.

And then who should burst onto the scene, laying waste to my diffidence? A politician addressing my very issues with a message of hope. People may disagree about policies and opinions and whatever but almost everyone agrees Barack Obama is one smart fellow.

That, if nothing else, gives me hope. And the fact that no matter what, in less than 350 days, the person running the country will not be named George.

Monday, January 28, 2008


In my previous entry, I alluded to some thoughts for a blog entry on change. It was sidetracked/derailed by the demands of motherhood but has continued to burble about in my brain.

As I look out onto the mountains, I see that change is a-coming, weather-wise. The two days of spring-like temps are going to yield to what looks like a snowstorm arriving a little sooner than expected. Evening flurries was the forecast upon which I encouraged my son to bike to school this morning. Oops!

On a grander scale, though, the election year brings on change as a major theme. Everyone I know (in this protected Boulder bubble) is more than ready for a presidential change, and many of us are cautiously hopeful at the fresh face of the Democratic candidates. A woman and a person of mixed race --wow, now that's change. I don't think even MLK could have thought we'd come this far this fast. (Not that the work of social justice and civil rights is complete by any means.)

It is of course too early to tell what might happen in the presidential arena, but at least it is good to see diversity in the candidates. Given the past two performances, there is no guarantee of anything in our electoral system.

From the macro to the micro, I am often in awe of how change manifests itself within our own individual lives. Having our now-adult daughter home for the holidays started me thinking in this direction. To watch a person grow up is an incomparable joy (tinged with some sorrow at times), and our daughter is certainly breaking out of her cocoon into a quite amazing butterfly. For example, I mentioned summer vacation plans and she quickly snipped, "I am going to have to work this summer." Spring break at home was dismissed right off. What was I thinking?

But the most personally relevant change is the one I remember hearing my mother and her peers talk about oh-so-many years ago. "Oh, she's going through the CHANGE," they would whisper. It all sounded so mysterious and scary. Will she grow horns? Turn green and wrinkly? What is this change that seems to happen to women of a certain age?

As I near that age, I approach it with very mixed feelings. Of course, there is the uncertainty of how my body will react to the hormonal swings. Whether I will be a candidate for the various hormone replacement therapies is yet to be discussed. It is all so confusing--one study says they may prevent one cancer but another suggests they may promote a different one. What to do? Whom to trust? Reminds me a bit of the hoo-haw over birth control pills when I first considered taking them.

So, maybe it is important to remember that the more things change the more they stay the same. Change is the only constant. All those other trite-isms .

And like the snowstorm that seemed to be looming when I started this missive, if you just wait a few minutes, it will change. The sun is out once again, and the future looks oh so promising.

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

The Sound of Silence

Ah, the quiet.

The noise one child can make is quite astounding. Especially when combined with a sibling.

One, you see, cannot bicker without the other.

At least not yet. It's only been an hour since my youngest son went to his best friend's house for a playdate.

This is my re-entry into normal life, which officially begins tomorrow when school starts again. It has been 16 days (18 hours and 15 minutes, but who's counting) since the start of winter break -- and forced family togetherness.

Don't get me wrong--it has been a wonderful holiday. We've had some nice times. Decorating the Christmas tree with longtime friends from Texas, reveling the the snow with my Texan brother and his family , the New Year's Day gathering with a few friends with matching siblings for ours. All in all, a great way to celebrate.

It is just the almost constant bickering of my boys where I lose patience. "Well, he started it" echoes in my brain endlessly. I hear my mother in my response: "I don;t care who started it; I'm going to end it." I do, however, stop short of knocking their heads together as she did.

Nonetheless, it has been impossible to maintain any sane strain of thought during this time. Taking the ornaments from the tree on the day after Barack Obama's awesome win in Iowa, I mentally composed an entry for this blog on the important role of change in society. Out with the old, in with the new, I wrote in my head.

But before I could get pen to paper (or more accurately, fingers to keyboard), I had to don my referee stripes and mediate yet another tragic consequence of brotherhood. After raising these two, I think I could go into foreign service negotiating peace agreements.

No one said parenting would be easy, but then no one ever mentioned it would be quite this challenging either.

Anyone up for year-round schooling?