Archive for March, 2008

Thanks, Blogher!

March 31, 2008

images3.jpeg I neglected to get back to Blogher to see if a post I made a few weeks ago got any traffic, and I was pleased to find quite a dialog underway. Thanks to all the midlife bloggers who responded. There is indeed a healthy community (or at least a healthy start at a community) of women of a certain age who want to share ideas and experiences. We have a lot to talk about!

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No place like home — NOT!

March 24, 2008

Homeschoolers in California will be unhappy: According an editorial in the Wall Street Journal, a “California court ruled this month that parents cannot ‘home school’ their children without government certification. No teaching credential, no teaching.” The only cheers you are hearing are from the teachers’ union.

For some parents, the motive for home schooling is religious; others want to protect their kids from gangs and drugs. But the most-cited reason is to ensure a good education. Home-schooled students are routinely high performers on standardized academic tests, beating their public school peers on average by as much as 30 percentile points, regardless of subject. They perform well on tests like the SAT — and colleges actively recruit them both for their high scores and the diversity they bring to campus.

Really? I wish my experiences with homeschoolers were more hopeful. My first brush with homeschooling came with one of my mother’s next-door neighbors. This woman gave new meaning to the term “laid back” — if there is a notch above totally comatose, that would describe her. She was very devout, in her own careless way, and claimed to be keeping her children home to school them, but neither Mother or I ever saw any evidence of it. Sure, her children — not having been exposed to the rough-and-tumble of school life — were incredibly gentle, but they were dumber than bunnies, and just wandered the streets day and night. They completely baffled my own school-age kids.

And a friend has a daughter who recently became engaged to a home-schooled young man, who is very bright but possesses some serious, well, gaps. For their honeymoon, he told her, he wanted to visit the capitals of Europe for a couple of weeks and stay in some nice resorts. “How much do think that will cost?” she asked him. “Oh, maybe, $200?” he replied. Huh? I suppose he’ll figure out the realities soon enough, but I suspect that’s not his only blind spot.

Three cheers for those out there who are homeschooling their children and who are doing a good job. After all, as the WSJ noted, “That so many families turn to home schooling is a market solution to a market failure — namely the dismal performance of the local education monopoly.” But I worry that, for every home-schooled kid who earns a college scholarship, there are several seriously emotionally and socially crippled kids out there whose parents thought they knew best, but didn’t.

Rethinking thin: I Can Make You Thin vs. The Biggest Loser

March 24, 2008

images2.jpeg Okay, I’m a sucker for any new angle on the diet-fitness-body image conundrum, particularly after spending a glorious few days helping my daughter-in-law-to-be try on wedding dresses. She looked utterly radiant, fabulous. (I looked like a middle-aged schlump, which I am, but I am not about to rain on her parade…) So anyway, I was open to any good news on the self-improvement front.

My last serious foray into the diet world was three weeks last January on the South Beach Diet, which, after all the trouble I went to measuring and cooking and subscribing to the Website, resulted in a net loss of two pounds. Two. Pounds. And, true to form, I gained back those two pounds and about ten more, along with another generous helping of guilt and disappointment. I truly believe that I have literally dieted myself into my current predicament. I stood on that scale and promised myself I would never go through this again.

One year later: TLC has been spot advertising its I Can Make You Thin series with British self-help guru Paul McKenna, who is refreshingly unremarkable-looking. Since the price of admission was only an hour of my time, time-shifted at that (I love TIVO technology), I bit. And frankly, it  surprised me. Read the rest of this entry »

Latino poet Jack Agüeros has Alzheimer’s

March 20, 2008

images1.jpegLord,
reserve a place for me in heaven on a cloud
with Indians, Blacks, Jews, Irish, Italians,
Portuguese, and lots of Asians and Arabs, and Hispanics.

Lord,
I don’t mind if they play
their music too loudly,
or if they leave their windows open –
I like the smell of ethnic foods.
But Lord,
if heaven isn’t integrated,
and if any Angels are racists,
I swear I’m going to be a no-show
because, Lord,
I have already seen hell.

and this:

Lord,
on 8th Street
between 6th Avenue and Broadway
there are enough shoe stores
with enough shoes
to make me wonder
why there are shoeless people
on the earth.

Lord,
You have to fire the Angel
in charge of distribution.

– “Psalm for Open Clouds and Windows” and “Psalm For Distribution” from Jack Agüeros, “Lord, Is This a Psalm?” (Via.)

Holy Heidi!

March 18, 2008

images-2.jpeg Okay, true confessions: I am a Project Runway addict. A true guilty pleasure. I’ve even got The Spouse watching it. But I am a real latecomer to the phenomenon (typical for me) and I’ve missed a lot of the drama of the previous seasons. So I was delighted when, wandering idly through the Comcast channels on Saturday afternoon, I came across Project Jay, an offshoot documentary chronicling the life of the first-season winner, the outrageous Jay McCarroll, as he attempts to find his way from the depths of rural Pennsylvania to the streets of New York’s Fashion District. (“Look! There he is at Mood Fabrics!”)

In the middle of a desperate search for living and working space, Jay is informed by his agent that, since Project Runway has been nominated for an Emmy, the host, ubermodel Heidi Klum, wants him to design her dress for the evening — which will take place right after she gives birth. McCarroll, who specializes in hip hoodies and cargo pants, gamely accepts the challenge, works up a fetching number based on a phone call with her, and flies to LA — only to be met with total disaster. Read the rest of this entry »

A new republic!

March 14, 2008

images-1.jpeg Prepping (read that “desperately googling”) for materials for my discussion of Sense and Sensibility for my Jane Austen Book Club tomorrow, I came upon a most delightful find: The Republic of Pemberley, advertised as “your haven in a world programmed to misunderstand obsession with things Austen.”

We, all of us, remember only too well the great relief we felt upon discovering this haven for Jane Austen Addicts. If your eyes did not widen, if you did not gasp in recognition, if you did not experience a frisson of excitement when you discovered a whole campful of soldiers — er — a whole websiteful of fellow Jane Austen Fanatics, then this place may not be for you. We are The Truly Obsessed here and have been known to talk for weeks about Jane Austen’s spelling quirks and Mr. Darcy’s coat (“No, no — the green one.”)

Among its treasures are “Bits of Ivory “— Jane Austen sequels by Pemberleans — and an advice column called “Lady Catherine & Co.” (Horrors!)

Given all the gar-BAGE on the Web, what a delight to find such a refined little corner.

Mommyblogging — 20 years later

March 13, 2008

A new study indicates women who are conflicted about their parents may be conflicted about their own parenting:

The study suggested that women who felt their childhood relationships with their parents were characterized by “rejection and unresolved conflicts” were likely to view children as more demanding compared to women with happier childhoods. Women with childhood conflict also may become stricter parents. Women who clashed with their parents were also more likely to indicate they would set a lot of boundaries for their children than other women in the study.

I was conflicted by my parents, particularly my mother, but I wasn’t conflicted by my sons. I found the whole motherhood responsibility rather daunting, and I was determined that my sons would not grown up always questioning themselves. I cultivated experiences for them where they could succeed, and heaped on praise on the many occasions when it was due. And, to contradict the study, I think I became a mother who wasn’t particularly strict or caught up in boundaries, and who, as a result, didn’t find her children particularly difficult.

My son’s fiance can’t believe he was never grounded. Well, he never needed to be. And they were both incredibly easy to discipline: All I had to do with the oldest was just hint that I might separate him from his friends, and he would immediately turn into a tower of Jello, and the younger one was so sensitive that just looking at him cross-eyed would make him burst into tears. Shameful.

I think the key has something to do with self-awareness. I knew precisely what kind of parent I DIDN’T want to be, and that made a lot of decisions and reactions automatic: Praise. Don’t hover. Say yes to shorts in mid-winter or blonde hairtips or last-minute sleepovers so you can say no later to something more substantial. Keep lots of Otterpops in the freezer in the garage, and don’t get mad when they disappear. Say “I’m sorry” when necessary, and mean it. Praise some more. Don’t make a big deal about minor screw-ups. Be low-key around their friends. Listen.

As they say, it isn’t brain surgery — It’s a lot more important than that.

maudnewton.com: RIP?

March 8, 2008

One of my favorite blogs has been hacked, perhaps fatally. It is a well-designed and well-maintained site, and represents hundreds of posts and eight years of work by one of the liveliest literary voices on the Web. I’m devastated on her behalf. Why would she be targeted? Is there any way for those who’ve created substantial content in a blog or a site to back-up their material? What could she and her Web host have done differently?

Counter culture

March 7, 2008

images-31.jpeg Spotted today on the back of a tee-shirt while in line at the local fresh-Mex cafe: “What if God Couldn’t Find a Rib? Timp View High Men’s Week 2008.” After all the whining I’ve heard from men about various women’s weeks, finally some dude did something about it. The backlash is growing! And look what it’s doing to the lexicon!

Where are all the middle-aged women bloggers?

March 4, 2008

images.jpeg Okay, I realize, at this stage of my blogging life, I’m largely talking to myself, but I’ve been doing this fairly regularly for more than two months now, and I still can’t decide what I want this blog to be. I write like I’m going to be graded. I’ve been wandering around the Internet, going from blog to blog, finding blogs I sort of like and linking to blogs those bloggers like, but I can’t seem to hear the voice I want to hear. I should note that I’ve pretty much restricted my search to blogs by women, which in many — but certainly not all — cases kind of limits the conversation to the traditional women’s topics: love, relationships, parenting, fashion, body image, equality, etc.

I’ll admit it. I envy the mommybloggers. Twenty years ago — barely married, relocated and jobless, holed up in a Victorian three-flat in Chicago with two very small boys and no one to talk to — I would have found those sites a lifeline, a very Godsend. But, despite the obvious fact that theirs are among the most powerful and prolific voices on the Web, the Mommys don’t speak to or for me. I have different issues now, and I’d like to talk about them and hear others talk as well.

I enjoy the literary blogs, particularly Maud Newton, with her combination of literary insights, family history and life in the Big City. I learned of her and several other great literary/arts blogs from another favorite, critic Terry Teachout. And who couldn’t love Bossy? (Good luck on your trip, girl!) But there are some pretty dark voices out there, and while I don’t mind a well-written rant, I tend to stay away from the really angry bloggers.

It’s not like I’m a neophyte. I may not choose to have a Facebook or a MySpace site, but back in the day I would almost daily log onto alt.fashion (“What are YOU wearing today?”) and alt.depression (with its multiple threads) to check in and join in the conversation. Does anyone else remember this? Am I such a dinosaur? It was just the ’90s! I know you’re out there!

If you are a woman of a certain age (doesn’t that sound better than middle-aged?) and know of blogs that talk comprehensively about this wonderful, frustrating stage of life, please let me know. I even have a name for it: More than Menopause: Welcome to Midlife.

We need to talk.