Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Compromise Is Not A Dirty Word

If you've ever been to a county or state political party convention you know how mind-numbing it can be. Grassroots politics often encompasses the most polarizing beliefs and draws the most rabid idealogues. Without realizing it, I witnessed the early percolations of the Tea Party at the Nevada Republican Party Convention more than a decade ago. The whole affair was run by the far right wing of the party, people who were disgusted with moderate and middle of the road Republicans -- it may have been the first time I heard the term RINO (Republican in Name Only). There was no lack of disdain for the moderate tendencies of the state's Republican governor and legislators.

Upon leaving the convention that day, I ran into that moderate Republican governor and one of the more moderate Republican members of the State Legislature. When I asked them if they were heading to the convention they both practically choked at the suggestion and chuckled that they had zero intention of joining the fracas. They may be Republicans but both made clear to me that they had little in common with the folks gathered at the convention. And clearly they would not be joining "the radicals", as they called them. That governor and that State Legislator wouldn't even get invited to the convention today -- the governor was branded a RINO for pushing through a tax increase to preserve education and social service funding, and the State Legislator was easily defeated by a future Tea Party leader in Nevada. Ten years ago the tea partiers were considered the extremists of the party -- the purists who had to be pacified but who did not rule the Republican Party. Today, the moderates are being excommunicated. We saw it in Nevada last week when a moderate who dared cross party lines in a close race has been dethroned from a leadership role he's held in the state senate caucus for more than 25 years. He went against his party for the good of the state and was quickly punished for it.

I'm not a Republican but what I see happening in the party is worrisome. Litmus tests that used to be limited to signature issues like abortion and gun rights have now spread to immigration and education policy. Any Republican who dares not subscribe to a strict tax cut philosophy, support of public school vouchers, opposition to any type of gay marriage equality or support of any plan to deport brown skinned people who aren't carrying their papers can easily find themselves marginalized. Strict ideology used to be reserved for campaigning. Compromise became the rule once the governing began. Not anymore. And it explains why governing is both so ineffective and so difficult. It's not about compromising two viewpoints into one solid policy to benefit everyone. It's about imposing your will on the opposition. And if that's not possible, obstruction at all costs.

Democrats have long struggled to balance the liberal and moderate factions of the party but I don't ever recall one faction taking hold to this extreme and to the exclusion of all others. Ten years ago I told that moderate governor and legislator that they should be more involved in their party if they wanted reasoned and moderate ideology to prevail. Now I wonder if that's even possible.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

I've Already Divorced My House -- But I'm Still Here

So we are moving. It wasn't really something we were looking to do but in this crazy real estate market we got lucky and found an amazing deal, in an amazing neighborhood, with amazing potential. It will most certainly be a labor of love for us in the coming years as we update it and make it our own. I dread packing but I cannot wait to move in. And every day we have to wait for the painting, carpeting and other such tasks to be done is beginning to see like an eternity. Am I that anxious? Not really. I'm just over our current house. Staying here is kind of like having to see that boy you dumped every day in math class. It's awkward and you wish you could look away but there's nowhere else to look when he sits right in front of you. That's kind of how I feel about our house. I love it and we've spent the past six years making it our own. We've done a lot of work -- new backyard, new flooring and carpet, some paint, and a whole lot of time. Every tree or plant in this yard was selected and planted by us.

But now that we've signed on officially with the new house it's getting hard to look at this one. Knowing the renters who live here will never admire it or love it the way I do makes me sad. And a bit guilty. A lot of memories live in these walls -- bringing home our puppy, bringing home our child, holidays with family and lots of good times with friends. I feel sad leaving this house and its memories behind. And I'm sad to know our daughter will never remember her first home -- our first home. This was the place that taught us a bit about how to navigate marriage. How to negotiate both our time and our money into improvements that made us both happy. Like the afternoon we used the scrap deck wood to build our BBQ table. That was a great afternoon. But the table is too big and heavy to move with us. And it wouldn't really fit with the new house and yard. So it stays. When I walk out back I will no longer glance at the table and smile at the memory of that day we built it together.

But that's why I'm anxious to move. I can't wait to get that rush of unpacking my dishes into new cupboards. And deciding where precisely that spare chair should go. And making the new wish list of additions and improvements to this new house. And I can't wait to start tucking new memories into those walls. Who knows what we will build there and what memories are just waiting for our family to breathe them to life.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Love Mad Men -- But The Smoking is Torture

One of my first uses of Netflix has been to get caught up on Mad Men. We recently started watching it on AMC and I can tell I'm missing a lot of the backstory because I haven't been watching from the beginning. I love the show -- the smart writing, the retro fashion, the backstabbing, infidelity and innuendo. The cocktails. I almost always have one while I watch. Honestly what's there not to love. But the one part that I find absolute torture is the smoking. Every time someone lights up -- particularly Betty for some strange reason -- I get that twinge. The one all former smokers get when out of the blue they get the urge for a cigarette. It's a powerful physical reaction and it always takes me by surprise. I quit smoking for good months ago and frankly, don't even miss it. I've even gotten over the hump of wanting one when I have a cocktail. The only trigger I still seem to have is Mad Men. Now, I haven't broken down and I don't intend to. And I don't intend to give up my Mad Men habit. I'm only finishing season one and still have a ways to go...so many layers of Dick Whitman to unravel and understand. So I guess I'll be doing it with a cocktail in hand. But no cigarette.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

30-Day Veggie Challenge

Having a small child and a picky husband in my house means I often resort to salad to getting something green on the dinner plate. But when it's drowned in ranch -- even if it's homemade and not the kind with a long list of ingredients I can't even pronounce let alone spell -- I just don't feel like it's the healthiest way to get my family to eat vegetables. So, I was super excited to hear about a blogger and fellow TwitterMoms member who is hosting the 30-Day Veggie Challenge on her blog, www.dinnertogether.blogspot.com.

Every day there will be a new vegetable recipe featured on the Dinner Together blog. Not all of the them are super healthy -- I saw a brussel sprouts and bacon concoction -- but I'm hoping to find some treasures to add to my repetoire. So, in that spirit, I share one of our favorite family veggie recipes, Roasted Vegetable Pasta Primavera.

4 cups your favorite vegetables -- I typically use carrots, broccoli, zucchini, asparagus, cauliflower or whatever I can find in the fridge
1 diced onion
3 cloves minced garlic
3 tablespoons olive oil
2 teaspoons dried thyme or basil
salt and pepper to taste
1 package whole wheat or spinach pasta -- farfalle or rotini are our faves

Cut all the vegetables into similar and bite-sized pieces and put in a bowl. Add the onions and garlic and toss with the olive oil, herbs, salt and pepper until all the vegetables are coated and seasoned. Spread the veggies on a baking sheet and bake in a 375 degree over for 20-30 minutes or until tender.

Meanwhile bring a huge pot of water to a boil, add salt and boil the pasta until al dente. Drain reserving at least 1 cup of the pasta water.

Place pasta in a bowl and dump roasted vegetables on top. Toss the vegetables and the pasta, adding the pasta water as needed to keep it all moist. Top with fresh grated parmesan. This makes a big batch so unless your family loves leftovers, cut the recipe in half.

Variations: top with grilled chicken, sauteed shrimp or even sliced steak for a delicious and easy meal.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Voting...And Moving On

Early voting just started here in Nevada and my phone will soon be ringing every day with some well-meaning volunteer asking me if I plan to vote (yes), will I be early voting (no), and do I plan to support such-and-such candidate (depends on who it is). As much as I live and breathe politics the two weeks of early voting every two years are those I dread the most. I get weary of the daily calls but refuse to early vote. I'm a purist when it comes to voting and believe Election Day is sacred -- call it my day of worship at the altar of democracy. That's probably a bit blasphemous but democracy, voting and the democratic process of government is what guides me in many ways. I live my life in consideration not just of what's good for me and my family but for my neighbors, my community, my state and my country. I believe that doing so makes my life and the lives of those around me better, stronger, more free and more fair. Despite our ethnic, religious, racial, social or economic differences, our votes all count the same. I think that's awesome.

And voting is our ultimate act of commitment to our community. It clearly demonstrates our participation in our democracy and our belief in our freedom. We are free to run for office, campaign for a person or issue, debate with our neighbors and vote. And then we do the most important and amazing thing -- WE MOVE ON. Whether or not our candidate or issue prevails, we accept the vote. And maybe try again next election cycle. It is an amazing part of living in this democracy. And I never fail to marvel at it.

Here in Nevada there is a lot at stake this election. We're electing a new governor and deciding the fate of the Majority Leader of the US Senate. That's right -- the leader of the Senate is from a state with exactly five members in Congress. And he might not win reelection. If he does -- and I sincerely hope he will -- it will be by a very slim margin. But that's the beauty of American democracy. The fate of one of the most powerful politicians in the country rests in the hands of a few undecided Nevada voters. I'm looking forward to voting...and moving on.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Feeling Like a Domestic Goddess

So now that the weather has begun to turn, I find myself migrating toward the kitchen when I'm a bit bored and looking for something to do. Or when I'm avoiding something I'm supposed to be doing. The good news is that rather than grazing I'm cooking, baking, drying and even canning. In just the past week I've made strawberry jam and pear butter, tried out several new recipes with my awesome dutch oven, and dried the parsley, oregano and thyme from the garden. When did I become possessed by Martha?

I like to consider myself a modern woman who has made her own way. I work and at one time was climbing the ladder, I bought a house by myself before I bought one with my husband, I used to change the oil in my car before I could pay someone to do it for me, I would eat out or go to movies alone if I couldn't find a suitable companion. I most certainly consider myself a feminist -- a strong independent woman who makes her own decisions. You get the idea.

And if you had asked me 10 years ago if my time in the kitchen would rival my time at the computer I would have laughed in your face -- LOUDLY! But these days I'm finding amazing pleasure in the kitchen (and in this case I'm not talking about a quickie on the counter). Making my family and friends a delicious meal from scratch has become as much of a rush as getting my byline on page one. Taking something from my garden and transforming into a jar in my pantry is exhilarating -- I am beyond pleased to know that the dried parsley I'll be using in my winter stews was grown, dried and stored by moi! Or that the next PB&J will include my handiwork and not that of Smuckers.

Experimenting and playing in the kitchen has always been a hobby but these days it's more like an obsession. And it leaves me wondering. Have I become simple or have I just learned that simple can be satisfying too?

Monday, October 4, 2010

Three Year Old...Friend or Enemy?

That's the title of the book I'm reading and as I'm quickly learning it's a good summation of life in our house these days. It's almost as if on cue, our daughter began acting like a three-year-old about a month before her birthday. It's what I imagine living with a schizophrenic would be like. Day-to-day I'm never quite sure which personality I'm going to get -- heck, it's more like minute-to-minute. I'm just relieved to learn that this erratic behavior is to be expected. I was beginning to think I had lost the upper hand in our parent-child relationship. So happy to know I'm at least hanging on.

If you've never lived with a three-year-old let me try and explain what it's like. Imagine you have a dog. And this dog has always been a pretty obedient little creature. Sure he whined and cried when you first brought him home or when you made him sleep in his own bed instead of yours, but for the most part, this cute little puppy was a pleasure. Always happy to see you, willing to eat whatever you put in its dish, easy to take along for a car ride, and fairly quick though not always capable of responding to your commands. Now imagine that dog has suddenly gotten moody...and opinionated. Sometimes happy to see you, sometimes poised to bite you for no reason; refusing to eat anything even if it's a favorite; completely unwilling to obey even the simplest commands; obsessed with making even the smallest task a battle of wills. That's sort of what it's like, except that your dog also is always whining, trying to boss you around, and incessantly reminding you that he can "do it myself." I am grateful everyday for preschool and grandparents who live close by.

But like any smart psychotic, three-year-olds also know how to give you the good stuff...the stuff that keeps you locked under their magical spell and stuck in the insanity. Not 10 minutes after refusing to get in the car, she will grab your hand without any prompting in the parking lot at the store and smile the sweetest smile. Or after standing defiantly in her room and telling you she isn't getting dressed, I'll return a few minutes later to find her toys put away, her bed made and her sitting on the floor "reading" a book. Or she'll make some clever remark like, "Mommy, you're not old...Granny is old." Or she'll just spontaneously grab my face, put us nose-to-nose and say, "Mommy, I love you the best and you're my favorite in the whole wide world." Talk about making 14 hours of labor without drugs worthwhile. Oh yeah.

So some moments my three-year-old is my friend and others maybe not my enemy but definitely something like a hostile witness. But she is always the second greatest love of my life and that will ensure both of us survive to celebrate her fourth birthday.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Bailout for Homeowners -- Is It Working Where You Live?

Living in one of the states hardest hit by the recession, I've seen first hand how many people are facing the ugly reality of losing their homes. It's awful to see friends lose their homes because of a job loss or cutbacks at work. Still, I have to wonder if all of these mediation and bailout programs are working. Nevada has received nearly $200 million from the feds for various programs but from what I can tell it hasn't made much difference. The dead lawns persist and many homeowners are still underwater in their mortgages. Our house is worth at least $50,000 less than we paid for it six years ago and we bought at the beginning of the boom not at the peak. I would love to walk away from it but that's not just the right thing to do. So we continue to make the payments and hope that one day the value returns. Our house has essentially become a forced retirement savings account since we probably won't be able to sell it until we're 60.

I was in favor of the bailout for the banks as I thought that letting them fail would have devastating consequences for all of us. And I'm for bailing out homeowners to keep them from losing their homes. However, I am not for bailing out those who gambled on the market as investors or who kept using their home equity as a credit card. If you gamble, sometimes you lose. And then you pay. Anyone who's ever been to a casino or the track knows what I mean.

The sad reality is that whether or not these bailout programs are working there is little choice but to keep going. Just like the banks, the alternative is too frightening. What we're doing may not be working but don't you think that failing to do anything would be even worse?

Sunday, September 26, 2010

I Approve This Message...

Election Day is 37 days away and honestly, it can't come soon enough. I'm not anxious because I want to know whether Harry Reid will still be Majority Leader of the Senate or who will be the next governor of California or if Lisa Murkowski can win as a write-in candidate. I care about those races but that's not my motivation. Nope, my desire is purely selfish. I'm counting down to Election Day so that I can get my TV back. I am sick of campaign ads. When my 3yo is telling me she loves Harry Reid because he approved this message or is reciting Sharron Angle's position on Social Security, I know the flood has turned into a tidal wave. I swear, she doesn't get to watch that much TV!

As a former campaign staffer and sometime campaign consultant, I cannot tune out the ads. It's like a car wreck -- I have to watch. But I am tired of all the noise and frankly, all the distortions. No one is immune and the flurry of accusations is flying so quickly that it's impossible for the ad watch folks to keep up. You really have to pay close attention to the legitimate political coverage to be able to decipher fact from fiction. And while you would be hard pressed to find a voter who says they listen to attack ads, there's no denying they work. And that disconnect has always puzzled me. Everyone says they want to know what candidates are about and vote on issues but campaigns are won based on name recognition and driving your opponent's negative perception numbers up.

Between the two-year slugfest that was the 2008 presidential campaign and the 2010 campaigns that started in 2009, it feels like we now live in a never ending election cycle. And it's exhausting listening to this much negativity. I'm ready for it to end, if only for a few weeks until we start chattering about 2012. Still I can't help but wonder what it would take to change the dialogue. If we don't like listening to attacks, then why are they so effective?

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

LiLo Needs To Learn The Hard Way

Watching my 3-year-old totter on the edge of the deck in our backyard I had given up. My repeated attempts to warn her that walking on the edge would inevitably result in a fall had fallen on deaf ears. Some lessons she will just have to learn the hard way without me there to buffer the blows.

Lindsay Lohan is a lot like my daughter in that apparently she is going to have to learn the hard way that her hard partying ways are trouble. The actress reportedly has failed two mandatory drug tests and according to this story www.latimes.com is due back in court this week. Lohan's planned return to the big screen could be in jeopardy if the judge won't let her travel. Under the terms of her sentence she could end up back in jail. I say it's time to throw the book at her. Maybe a real stint in jail is what it's going to take for her to get it. She may be special but when it comes to the law, she's run out of chances for special treatment. It worked for Robert Downey Jr. And maybe it's what it will take for Lohan to finally sober up. Addiction is a disease but if the sick don't stick with treatment they must suffer the consequences. Remember all this started with a 2007 incident of driving under the influence -- it's time the law protect the rest of us from her careless behavior.

LiLo says she's ready to face the consequences -- more jail or more rehab? What do you think?

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Trying To Keep Up!

So when I started this blog I thought I'd just write some interesting stuff, post it, and that would be that. What a naive new blogger I was. There is so much to learn! I'm finding blogging to be a whole new world and a whole new community of friends and connections. I've met other like-minded ladies via TwitterMoms, found a bunch of bloggy friends via blog hops, and discovered a whole new community via Networked Blogs. I'm Twittering, FB'ing and hopping like I never thought possible. And I'm pretty sure I'm making some mistakes along the way. So followers, friends, connections and raters, please bear with this newbie as I try to figure it all out. I will do my best to follow back, retweet and hop as instructed - but if I get it wrong, please let me know and I'll do my best to make it right. And please, any wisdom or advice from my sage blogging friends is so much appreciated!

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Would You Ever Try To Ban A Book?

In 2010, it's hard to believe that anything is off limits. When porn is readily accessible to anyone with a cable or Internet hookup, I was rather surprised to learn that people are still trying to ban books from libraries. That seems so last century. But between 2001 and 2009, there were more than 4,000 challenges to books in the US and more than 450 just in 2009. Not a staggering number but more than I would have expected. Most challenges were due to sexually explicit material and offensive language though being anti-family or advocating the wrong religious viewpoint are other often cited problems. Check out all the statistics and the list of frequently targeted books at the American Library Association's website at www.ala.org

But what I found most interesting is that most of the challenges were brought forward by parents trying to remove books from school libraries. As the parent of a small child, I'm sympathetic. I wish I could protect my daughter from everything I see and hear that I think is inappropriate for her or simply offensive. But it's just not possible and frankly, it won't serve her well in the future. How else is she going to define her own boundaries of taste and acceptability if she isn't occasionally exposed to something that goes beyond those boundaries? How is she going to understand how lucky she is to live in a free society if she can't read about the concept of "Big Brother" in 1984? How will she know how much our world has (or hasn't) changed its attitudes about race if she can't read To Kill a Mockingbird? How can I teach her tolerance and acceptance if she is only exposed to that which is familiar? Classics are often defined by the simple fact that they challenge us to confront that which makes us uncomfortable.

Is it difficult? Absolutely. I dread the days I know are coming when I have to explain things like prejudice and bigotry. I've already had to begin what will certainly be an ongoing conversation about her body and sexuality, and it totally makes me uncomfortable but I do it anyway. Hiding her from these difficult realities would be shirking my duties as her parent and taking the easy way out of the tough job of being a mom. There are certainly questions of what is age appropriate but that's up to me to define as the parent of my child and I wouldn't dream of forcing another to follow my standard.

There is a lot in this world that my daughter will encounter that I would prefer to shield her from. But I think it's wiser to arm her with the critical thinking skills and the moral code to evaluate what she confronts rather than teach her to hide from it. It's the price we pay to live in a free society and I'm absolutely willing to pay it. What about you?

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Bristol and Levi -- Will Their 15 Minutes Ever End?

Fear not! This is not a political rant about Sarah Palin. I have many opinions on the lipsticked bulldog from Alaska but I'll save those for another day. No, today I want to take aim at her coattails so skillfully ridden by daughter Bristol and her on-again, off-again boyfriend Levi.

Sarah's eldest daughter had my sympathy when her pregnancy became the fodder for 24 hour news coverage. How awkward to not only have your whole school but the entire country watching and judging you. I too winced when David Letterman went for laughs at her expense. It seemed both unfair and inappropriate. And I agreed when Sarah demanded her daughter's privacy be respected. But then Bristol went on Oprah and apparently got a taste for the spotlight. Next she was doing abstinence ads. Then she was on GMA talking about how hard it was to be a single mom. Then she was announcing her reunion with Levi via a tabloid mag. Then she was wishing her mom would come to the wedding. Then she was announcing her breakup with Levi via a tabloid mag. Now she's going to be on DWTS. Apparently being a teen mom and daughter of a former politician now qualifies as "stardom".

Levi Johnston is the modern day Kato Kaelin. Famous by association is enough to help him turn his 15 minutes into 15 months and counting. When his relationship with Bristol didn't work out the first time, he quickly learned how to make a living bashing her parents. He became a fixture on Access Hollywood and The Insider hawking whatever tidbit of gossip about the Palin's that would get him air time. When that didn't get attention, he got naked for Playgirl and hit the red carpet with Kathy Griffin. Then he got back with Bristol only to get dumped again when she found out he might have gotten another girl pregnant. His latest stunt -- a reality show based on him running for mayor of Wasilla, a job Sarah Palin once held. This guy will do anything to avoid getting a real job and apparently there are plenty of TV producers and publicists willing to help him out.

I wish the tabloids and reality TV show producers would go on a Bristol and Levi fast but it seems unlikely as they are obviously good for business. Not even Sarah can unring the bell. It makes me long for the tabloid couple of yore, Britney Spears and Kevin Federline. At least her pre-Federline successes made the headlines before her demise captivated us. All we've ever watched of Bristol and Levi is their demise. When you start off at the bottom there's really no comeback to root for.

Friday, September 3, 2010

Blog Hops and Such

So I'm discovering there is so much to learn about blogging -- and here I was such a simpleton to think that I just post my ramblings online and by magic I'd have a bazillion followers. Ha! So I'm trying to figure out this blog hopping thing. From what I can tell, it's like an online party where a bunch of blogs are in one place and you can shop for the ones you like. Shopping...now that's something I understand! So I'm giving it a shot today with "Follow My Blog Friday" -- see the widget on the right? I've found a bunch of blogs to follow and am hoping to get some followers too. Crossing my fingers...

I really wish there was "Blogging for Dummies" somewhere as I could really use it. Who knows, maybe there is and I just haven't found it yet.

I'm taking advice if anyone is handing it out!

Happy Friday!

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

A New Chapter Begins...

It's been almost three years since I added the title of Mommy to my resume. And though I knew it would change my life I could never have anticipated the wondrous, chaotic, emotional, challenging, exhausting and beautiful journey it has been. My angel has gone from helpless infant to chubby baby to troublesome toddler to inquisitive preschooler. Yep, I said it -- preschooler. She takes that big step next week when she starts preschool. Let's not get it twisted, she's only going to be in school three-and-a-half hours a day two days a week. Not quite like we're sending her off to boarding school or anything, but still a big deal. It's not like this will be her first social experience. We've done baby boot camp, music class, playgroup and such. But it's always been her and I -- together. A package deal. Now she's stepping out on her own and I couldn't be more thrilled. Or more nervous. Or more emotional. I know she is ready and I know it will be wonderful for her (and for me!) to venture out on her own even if it is only for a few hours a week. It's the beginning of her finding her path and learning how to navigate it without me buffering her every move.

The good news is it's only preschool! We still have so many other firsts ahead of us. First sleepover. First best friend -- first fight with best friend. First win -- first loss. First heartbreak. And firsts I can't begin to imagine or anticipate. But I look forward to them. The good and the bad, the easy and the hard, the joy and the pain. The story of her life is just beginning. And I can't wait to see what the next chapter holds -- for both of us. So far, it's been a fantastic read.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

!0 Tips for A Winning Shower

Who among us hasn't planned at least one baby shower? And who didn't secretly dread the task? Exactly! Forget the old school days of a bunch of ladies sitting around comparing birthing stories -- here are some ideas to update the baby shower and make sure it's a good time!

1. Couples Showers Rock -- Mom may be carrying the baby but Dad's life is about to change too. Consider having a shower for couples instead of just something for the new Mommy.

2. Think of it as a party not a shower. Shower has so many associations, not all of them good -- too much crepe paper and lame party games come to mind. Think of it as a party and I bet you quickly ramp up the fun quotient!

3. Which leads me to party games -- if you're gonna have 'em make sure they are fun! Have a onesie decorating contest -- arm your guests with some fabric paints and let 'em go crazy. This will be fun for guests and give the new parents some cute outfits for baby. My daughter is almost 3 and I still have every onesie decorated for her by our guests.

4. Ask the honored guests what kind of party they want! I bet most new parents have some ideas about what kind of party they'd like to have to celebrate the addition to their family but many party hosts don't ask. Easiest way to get their suggestions without overwhelming them with details is to ask for their help in picking the invites -- this will tell you a lot about what kind of theme they want and what makes them tick partywise. My favorite for party invites is Tiny Prints, www.tinyprints.com .Get their input -- after all, it is their party!

5. Recruit helpers. Party planning is always easier when you can divide and conquer. Ask a few people to help with the party and it's sure to save everyone's sanity and budget.

6. Serve yummy food! Face it, one of the things everyone remembers about a party is what they ate. Pick a few of the honored guests favorites and build a menu around those.

7. If it's a second baby or the parents already have much of what they need, consider an "alternative" theme. Pampering parties are popular treating Mommy-To-Be to a mani/pedi or a massage. Or maybe host a party after the baby is born, so everyone can welcome the new arrival.

8. Don't have it at the new parents house. What sounds convenient at first since the pregnant lady doesn't have to go anywhere is really not a good idea. Unless you plan to hire someone to clean her house for her before AND after the party!

9. Make a yummy punch and have both alcoholic and non-alcoholic versions. Just cause Mommy can't have a cocktail doesn't mean the rest of us need be teetotalers. Just make sure to have something as yummy for the non-drinkers, such as regular and virgin margaritas!

10. Give good party favors! Does anyone really want a plastic baby bottle filled with candy? Probably not and you can do better than that! At our couples shower, we sent guests home with a dry cocktail mix printed for the big day -- they could mix it into a yummy lemonade or a super yummy vodka lemonade at home. At a friends pampering party, we went everyone home with a small spa bag of nail files, lip gloss and nail polish.

I wrote this blog post while participating in the TwitterMoms and Tiny Prints blogging program, making me eligible to get a Tiny Prints gift code worth $50, plus 25 FREE Tiny Prints greeting cards—a total gift value of $149.75! For more information on how you can participate click here www.tinyprints.com

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Unplugging -- Is It Worth a Little Inconvenience to Save Money and the Environment?

So these days I'm into saving money and saving the environment and anything I can do to save both at the same time makes me giddy. Honestly -- who isn't looking to save a few bucks these days? And it has never been more in vogue to do something for the environment. Even if you haven't been laid off or seen your pay cut, we're all thinking more about how to cut back and live a bit more frugally these days. And I'm all about that. Without a "real job" or a "real paycheck" I feel like my contribution to the household is to save us money. I'm all about getting a good deal these days. And my favorite way to save money -- unplug stuff.

A quick inventory of my house shows that on average, I have more than 30 items plugged in at any given moment. TVs, DVRs, DVD players, tuners, IPods, phones, computers, toasters, microwaves, washer, dryer, two refrigerators, alarm clocks, paper shredders, coffee maker -- the list goes on and on. Does all this stuff need to be plugged in all of the time -- 24 hours a day?

I decided to conduct an experiment to see how much energy I could conserve (and in turn cut from the power bill) by unplugging "non-essential" items when they weren't in use. Anything with a clock was quickly left alone -- coffee maker, microwave, clocks. Seriously -- who wants to reset clocks every day? But everything else was fair game. We went one month with everything as is. The next month I began unplugging small items like the toaster and other countertop appliances like the panini maker and can opener in the kitchen, the beard trimmer in the bathroom, and the paper shredder in the office. We began unplugging the laptops overnight and the clothes washer on non-laundry days, which turns out to be six out of seven days. I left the dryer alone because getting to the plug was such a hassle.

The difference was incredible. Almost $75 in one month! And we weren't even good about doing it every day! Even my skeptical husband became a convert and quit complaining about having to plug the toaster in to make Saturday morning toast! This last month we started unplugging the big downstairs TV overnight and the upstairs TV during the day. I can't wait to see what that does to the power bill!

So here's something to ponder? Is it worth a little inconvenience to save money and conserve energy? What would you be willing to unplug to do your part for the environment? Can't wait to hear your thoughts on this one!

Thursday, August 19, 2010

The Playa Calls But Will I Go?

So in my universe, this time of year is all about one thing -- Burning Man! In case you've never heard of it, www.burningman.com Burning Man is an annual gathering of 40,000+ in the playa northeast of Reno. People gather for a celebration of art, community, friendship and free expression that culminates in the burning of the giant man. That doesn't really describe it but it's the best I can do -- as the website rightly points out trying to describe Burning Man to someone who has never been is like trying to explain a particular color to someone who is blind. But I digress.

Everyone around me -- both in person and on Facebook -- is obsessed with their Burning Man preparations. If you've ever been, you know why. Costumes, water, trailers, lighted objects, trading objects, hula hoops dominate the conversation. Everyone is in a scramble to finalize their preparations and begin their burn. It all officially commences on August 30 and ends on Labor Day.

And I'm still unsure if I'm going. How can this be? Well, a few weeks ago I decided not to go. My 3yo daughter still hasn't recovered from my two nights away in July for a girls weekend in Vegas. She continues to panic whenever I'm out of sight and last week, she actually had a mini meltdown when it occurred to her I wouldn't stick around for her weekly playdate with Granny. This is such out of the norm behavior for my little one who usually greets my departure with a casual "See ya later Mom", that I decided it might be best to forego my usual 5 days at Burning Man this year so as not to throw her into complete insecure hysteria. It's especially worrisome to me because two days after I would return from the playa, she will start her first day of preschool. She's never been to daycare or school or any kind so this is a big deal. Oh, and the first day of school is also her third birthday. Talk about a big day...probably the biggest of her short life.

But now I'm having second thoughts. The playa is calling me -- loudly. I long to don my wings, hoop skirt and fringed shoes and get lost in the beats, climb Thunderdome, jump fire, and ride my bike across the bumpy playa. I want my burn. I'm sad to miss it and I want to go. But I just don't feel right leaving her this year. Last year it wasn't very hard because frankly, she had so little concept of time it didn't quite register with her that I was gone for that long. This year is totally different. She gets it. Since I returned from my girls weekend she has talked nonstop about how sorry she was to "lose" me at the airport and any departure, even for just an hour, is met with tears and clinginess. I can't imagine her reaction if I left for a few days and then shortly after my return tried to leave her at school. That meltdown would be epic.

So despite my longing, I think I will let my motherhood calling drown out the call of the playa. I've considered a quick run for an overnight visit to the playa, but I think no burn would be better than trying to squeeze one into a night. The days of her needing me like this are finite. There will be other times for my burn...at least I hope so.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

When You See Someone in Need, Do You Help or Keep Going?

So I am totally hooked on Jon Quinones show "What Would You Do?" on ABC. The different scenarios they present are fascinating as are the varied responses of the unknowing participants. I'm constantly amazed at how often the first people to get involved in righting a perceived wrong are women. It's like being a woman gives us an invisible cloak that we think protects us from those who might do us harm. It's awesome! And watching this show has changed how I look at things around me and in my own community.

Last week, I was at a local park with my exercise class and while we were running up a hill during sprints, we saw a young boy (maybe 8 years old) alone and sitting on the curb with his head buried in his lap. We all ran our lap and every one of us noticed him but initially no one did anything. I started to follow suit but suddenly something in me snapped and I thought, "What if this little boy is lost or needs help? And what if my daughter were one day in the same spot? Wouldn't I want someone another mom to see if she could help?" The other moms were kind of shocked when I walked over to the boy and asked where his family was and if he needed help. One hung near me, covering my back I think. Turns out the boy's family was fishing at the river just a bit away and for some reason he got mad and wandered off. I followed him back to his family who looked both relieved to see him and a bit frustrated and embarassed that he'd wandered off.

This park isn't in the best part of town, in fact, there are quite a few homeless people there and just days before a report of a sexual assault. Maybe that had something to do with our hesitancy to get involved but when I thought about it later, did that really matter? No. That boy needed a bit of help and I'm so glad I provided it. It was a good lesson to me that we can't be afraid to get involved. We are a community and that means looking out for each other. I know that the next time I see someone in need, I'm going to stop and help. Would you?

Five Lessons Every Kid Should Learn

1. Success requires being both lucky and smart. You can work hard to be smart and working hard typically leads to luck.

2. It truly is better to give than to receive. One of the best gifts in life is the good feeling that comes from helping someone else.

3. Do the right thing even when no one is watching.

4. Mean it when you say you're sorry. Hollow words are meaningless.

5. Don't be afraid to do what you think is right even when it's not popular. Better to be a person of conviction than someone who goes along to get along.

Maybe not your typical top five lessons to teach your kids but if my daughter can learn these lessons, I think she'll be well served and I'll be very proud.

I wrote this blog post while participating in the TwitterMoms and Nanny McPhee Returns blogging program, making me eligible to get a $50 gift card. For more information on how you can participate, click here www.nannymcphee.twittermoms.com

Monday, August 16, 2010

Popcorn Is Good For You -- Who Knew!

So I started following a new blog today by this great lady named Leslie, and can you believe it?!? Her latest post is all about popcorn. Coincidence? I think not...more like it was meant to be.

Seriously, she had some great info about popcorn and how it's good for you. Couldn't resist sharing since in my pre-married days, popcorn and a glass of wine would frequently qualify as my dinner.

*Popcorn contains thiamine (B1), riboflavin (B2), niacin, iron, phosphorus and calcium.
*In each 100 grams of popcorn there is 2.7 milligrams of iron -- more than eggs, roast beef, peanuts, milk and just shy of the 3 milligrams in spinach.
*Popcorn is also a source of protein.
*Popcorn is a whole grain!

So as long as you make it the old fashioned way (on the stove, not in the micro) and don't drown it in butter and salt, feel free to indulge!

Check out Leslie's full post on popcorn at this link www.blankiekeeper.blogspot.com

Bed Bugs Got You Scratching?

ABC News is giving me the itches. They've run a story over the past few days about the resurgence of bed bugs. While I thought the creepy little bugs were extinct, apparently they are causing problems all over the country. More than 90 percent of pest control companies say they have had calls to eradicate bed bugs. An entrepreneurial New Yorker has an entire business built around his dog's ability to sniff the nasty critters out and point to where exterminators need to do their work. Even shopping is no longer a bed bug-free activity as the little buggers have been spotted in several high profile stores including the Victoria Secret store in NYC. I shudder to think of how they discovered that -- did some poor unsuspecting customer alert them after getting bit in an unmentionable area? How awful! Bergdorf Goodman hasn't had any bed bugs but as a precaution has added regular bed bug searches to their ongoing pest control efforts. Living here in the arid high desert of Nevada, I doubt bed bugs will be much of a problem here but who knows if anywhere is safe. Check out this link www.abcnews.com to learn how to spot the buggers and keep yourself from becoming their next snack.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Kenny kicked off Top Chef? How real is reality TV...

I've been a fan of Top Chef from the beginning and am not naive enough to think that there isn't some calculation going on at judge's table. Of course, they want to keep the contestants who provide spice to the show. How else would you explain Steven the Sommelier surviving so long? How many of us tuned in each week just to see what annoying thing he would do? Remember Tiffany, the uber-obnoxious Vegas chef? Yes, she was one damn good chef but there's no doubt she hung around because she made for good TV. Reality TV wouldn't be worth watching without dramatic players. But last night Top Chef may well have jumped the proverbial shark from reality competition show to manipulated-Real World-style-staged TV. How else to explain the elimination of Kenny? Fine that the judges didn't want to eliminate Alex from the winning team. even though he probably should've been booted when he stole the pea puree. But keeping Amanda over Kenny? Especially when every judge said Amanda's steak dish was terrible. Kenny's dishes may not have fared well either, but over the course of the competition he has definitely demonstrated more skills in the kitchen. Amanda spent much of the beginning of the competition in the bottom and only made it this far by luck not skill. I think they got rid of Kenny because he was boring. Other than criticizing Angelo, he doesn't bring much drama and that made him expendable. I'm not writing the show off yet but if the pea-puree stealer Alex or the novice Amanda isn't voted off soon, I may just pack my knives and go.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Resign Rangel, Even If You Didn't Break the Law

I've read a lot of stories about the ethics investigation of New York Congressional Rep. Charlie Rangel and I'm no more clear than I was when the investigation began two years ago of whether or not he broke the law or violated congressional ethics. And at this point I don't even care. Still, he should resign. Like it or not, fair or not, politics is as much about perception as it is about truth. The perception of wrongdoing is just as damaging as actually doing something wrong. And people are fed up with those with in power -- whether it's politicians, Wall Street executives or celebrities -- living by a different standard of right and wrong. We saw it in the smug satisfaction so many of us got in watching Lindsay Lohan march off to jail even if she only served 14 days of a 90-day sentence. We tuned in for the perp walks of Bernie Madoff and Jeff Skilling when courts finally found them guilty of ripping off so many people. There is nothing that fills Americans with more righteous indignation than watching wrongdoers escape justice. We have a profound sense of right and wrong as a culture and we expect everyone to be treated the same, no matter their station in life. It's a concept enshrined in our founding documents. And right now, Rangel is the epitome of everything we think is wrong with politics and Washington. When we hear that the Ethics Committee came forward with 13 charges of wrongdoing against Rangel, including not declaring income and not paying taxes, it offends our fundamental sense of fairness. And when he takes a defiant stance essentially daring his colleagues to punish him, that really ticks us off. Would we dare to publicly break the law and defy the IRS? Hardly. Most of us spend a lot of energy making sure we're in compliance so we don't face an audit. We ask ourselves, what makes this guy so special that the rules don't apply? Oh, he's a politician and just another example of how those who govern our country are so far removed from those of us who live in it. If he was truly a public servant who valued the country's interests, Rangel would resign. And in doing so, restore a little bit of our faith in our government and its leaders.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

No Dear, You Can't Have It All

A new study by the University of Chicago as reported by the NY Times
confirms what most mothers know -- having kids hurts your career. You'll make less money and see fewer opportunities for advancement than men or women without kids. I knew this before I had a baby. I saw it all around me in the newsroom. Women at the highest levels of management in the newspaper business either didn't have kids or didn't stay home with them for more than the first 6 weeks. This factor weighed heavily in my decision to wait to have a child until my mid-30s. I figured I could wrap up my first career, take some time off to be at home with my little one, and then pursue a new career, most likely having to start at the bottom again. Ideal? No, but it is what it is and fortunately, I had the benefit of a successful spouse who could make the money I wasn't going to make. But so many women don't have that support or don't want to derail their careers. Why can't they have it all the way our mothers said we could? I've long called this the lie of feminism. As the first generation raised by mothers who broke the barriers, we were told we could have it all -- career, husband, kids. And I'm sure there are those who have done it -- yay for them! But a whole bunch of us have had to make choices and live with the consequences whether it be foregoing motherhood or settling for less in our careers. I don't have any qualms with my choice. I love being home with my daughter and am confident that my next career path will be a good one to bring me both personal and professional satisfaction. But I do wonder if it will ever change. Will companies and coworkers ever not take issue with a mother who takes a pass on working late nights or weekends? Will technology ever really bridge the gap? Consider that we are more connected than ever and instead of reducing the time spent at work technology has really just made work a round-the-clock-do-business-from-anywhere activity. Everyone knows you can get that email on your phone so you'd better respond even if it is late at night. Feminism has reached its goal of equal opportunity as long as women are willing to approach work the same way as men. But the idea that as women we can have it all is a complete crock of you-know-what. We give a lot of lip service to the notion that being a parent is an important job and yet as a culture we do very little to back that up. Having children comes with a price and women pay more than men.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Breast or Bottle...for the baby doll

So this is weird and may well end up being one of those things my daughter will want to kill me for one day but it's too interesting a topic to ignore. I breast fed my daughter as did most of the Mom friends I've made since having a baby. Now that my baby is quickly approaching 3, many of our Mom Group friends are having baby number two. And all of them are breastfeeding the new babies. My daughter is obsessed with these babies -- maybe she has the weird sixth sense that she's not getting a sibling -- and doesn't miss a beat when we spend time with the new babies and their mommies. So I guess it shouldn't be any surprise that after a recent playgroup when my daughter was playing with her dolls, I found her with a doll's face smashed into her flat little chest. She repeats much of what the mommies say including "My baby hungry, after I feed her you can hold her." Exactly what she hears at playgroup when she asks to hold one of the babies. She even plastered her Buzz Lightyear to her chest for a recent feeding. I haven't responded to this latest development except to say that it's best not to feed babies in the store but wait until we get home as the last thing I want to do is defend this behavior to some offended stranger. I'm just not sure how to feel about it. Should I be proud that she is so observant that she mimics the good mothering she sees all around her? Or should I be trying to steer her toward playing with her fake bottles for feedings instead? I'm leaning toward the former and not the latter but I'd be lying if I said the whole thing didn't make me uncomfortable. It's one thing to have the breast vs. bottle debate about real babies but baby dolls...now that's one I didn't expect.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Shirley Sherrod Another Victim of a Toxic Media Environment

The flap over Shirley Sherrod's supposed racist remarks and the Ag Department's hasty response in firing her is a classic example of a growing problem in this modern media age. Now that anyone with an Internet hookup can claim the mantle of journalist, those who live and die by the media cycle too often jump the gun to try and have the "correct" response to some perceived crisis. An edited clip posted by a hack pseudo journalist led to a tizzy in the Ag Department that cost Sherrod her job. Why? Because no one wanted it to blow up into a media frenzy and paint the Obama Administration as racist against whites. Did anyone at the Ag Department bother to check the story and look at the video? No. Did anyone bother to check the validity of the video? No. Did anyone in the media do their due diligence before reporting the story? No. Did anyone do their job? No, with the exception of Mrs. Sherrod. She did her job for the family she references in her remarks and worked to get them the help they needed. She did her job as a political appointee and resigned when she was asked. And she did her job as a member of our society, sharing her story of personal growth so that others might learn from it.

A potential media crisis had to be averted and before anybody bothered to do their job and get the real story, they threw Mrs. Sherrod under the bus. And now everyone is backtracking, except the hack who started the flap. He stands by his deeds, telling NBC News that he defends his actions because the responses Mrs. Sherrod's remarks drew from her audience demonstrated the racism that exists within the NAACP. Apparently now we can all be held responsible not only for what we say but how others respond to it.

The real problem here isn't racism -- that's a topic for another day -- but a media environment that is focused more on being first than on being right. There was a time that this story would have never gotten legs because reporters would have dug beyond the veneer to get to the truth. And the truth is that Mrs. Sherrod's remarks were a statement on how to overcome prejudice and not a statement of prejudice. If anybody in the media had bothered to do the research they would have found the entire tape and seen Andrew Brietbart's edited video post for what it was -- a blatant attempt to manipulate the national debate on racism and prejudice.

Apologies that these aren't direct links but that exceeds my current technological skill. If you cut and paste in your browser you should be able to find the videos on You Tube.

This is the clip that got Sherrod fired.

This is the clip of Sherrod's full remarks.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Teen Moms -- How do we change the trend?

One of my guilty TV pleasures is the MTV show "Teen Mom". For those who don't know this show is the follow up to the MTV show "16 and Pregnant" and chronicles the lives of four teenage moms in raising their babies, dealing with their baby daddies, finishing school, relating to their families and the myriad challenges any parent faces -- only theirs are amplified by the fact they are so young. I'm not sure exactly why I'm so into this show as it is a sad commentary on how flip some young people are about the biggest job they will ever do -- raise a child. Some of these girls are trying hard to be great moms and others are still caught up in boys and parties to the detriment of their children. But what I find most disturbing is the statistic I heard cited in the "After the Show Finale Special" -- 1 in 10 children born in the U.S. is born to a teen mother. Yes, you read that right 1 in 10! This is 2010 and birth control is readily available and affordable -- did you all catch the recent news story about an elementary school making condoms available at the nurses office? -- so I'm totally confused as to why these girls are getting pregnant. And why both the girls and the boys sometimes take the responsibility of parenthood so lightly. Some of them come from dysfunctional homes and but others don't. I am amazed by the one couple on the show who chose adoption for their baby and how brave they are in giving such an amazing gift to a couple who wanted a baby so badly. But more than anything I wonder what we can do as a society to change the trend of so many teenagers having babies. There are no easy answers but as long as the conversation is dominated by our religious and political ideology solutions are going to be hard to find.

Friday, July 16, 2010

make new friends, but keep the old...

One is silver and the other gold. I remember this song from Girl Scouts and it seems appropriate today as I'm thinking a lot about friends and what they mean. With 40 running up on me faster than I would like, I've noticed how much harder it gets to make friends as we get older. Not acquaintances but true friends...the kind that you can invite over for dinner without cleaning your house first. Not sure why it gets tougher -- maybe we're just not as open to new people or maybe we're too busy with work and family to really invest in cultivating new friendships. But in thinking aobut the next few weeks and all that I have planned, I've noticed that the friends I'm spending a lot of time with this summer are those I've had for years, even decades. We may drift apart for a time, but we always seem to find our way back to each other. There's something about our history that binds us together. We may not have as much in common anymore but these are the women who know the real me and not just the representative I present to the world. They've seen me at my best and at my worst and when I'm in crisis, these are the women I turn to for understanding and support. When I got married, I picked three women to stand beside me and I remember thinking then that these were the ones I would know forever. When I'm 80, these are the ones who will be tearing it up with me at the bingo parlor. And I was right...we've since moved in different directions and I don't see any of them as much as I would like but I can still pick up the phone and there's never an uncomfortable silence. We still have plenty to talk about and plenty to share. And I'm grateful for them every day.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Twilight -- Team Edward!

So it took me awhile to catch the fever but I am officially a Twilight nut. I read all of the books in about a week and even went to see the latest movie on opening weekend. But what I find fascinating about this whole phenomenon is not that women and girls are nutso for this story -- face it ladies, most of us are a bunch of romantic saps at heart -- but how the whole Team Edward and Team Jacob things really falls along generational lines. I have yet to meet an adult Twilight fan who isn't on Team Edward, just as I have yet to encounter a teen who doesn't drool at the mention of Jacob's name. I think the divide says a lot about how women view love at different stages in life. As adults, we are drawn to the purity of Edward's love for Bella and the idea that he loves her so much that he would do anything to protect her and keep her safe even if that means leaving her or stepping back so she can explore her feelings for Jacob. While I admire Jacob's abs -- seriously, they are impressive! -- I am totally turned off by his demands and attempts at controlling Bella. He's a bully, a manipulator and childish in his relationship with Bella. And teenage girls find all of it extremely appealing. For all of the danger surrounding Edward, he never tries to manipulate Bella and her feelings. In fact, he spends a great deal of time and effort to give her the space and freedom to make her own choice. That's what real men do. And apparently it takes women growing past the age of 20 to understand the difference.

Promises, Promises

So all the best intentions...yadda,yadda,yadda

It's been more than year since I posted anything here and I'm now resolving to get it together and really make a go of this blogging thing. My poor friends and family have got to be getting tired of my rantings and it seems only fair to them to share the love, so to speak.

So, once again I am committing to posting on a more regular basis. There is so much happening it seems silly to be limited to the 140 characters of my Twitter account or the limited space on my FB page.

So to you dear reader I promise to do better and make checking out my blog worth your time.

And this time I mean it.