A few years ago I was with my kids at a community event. A spring carnival or something with rides, ice cream, and a booth with people asking folks if they would sign up to have their cheeks swabbed for the Gift of Life's bone marrow registry. We got our ice cream, and I somehow started talking to a person whose life had been completely transformed by a bone marrow transplant. And another who was alive as a result of a transplant. Usually I wouldn't pay much attention to this type of event with little kids pulling at me to go this way, go that way, but maybe it was the marketing tactic, the hot sun beating down or me or the fact that I was suddenly hit with the idea that I could actually contribute something substantive in my lifetime that made me swab my cheeks with the q-tippy looking sticks and donate the $60 processing fee it would take to actually maybe help someone some day. I went home and honestly hadn't given it another thought until a couple of weeks ago.
In my more existential moments, I sometimes think to myself that we go to work, we try to be good people, we bring up our kids, but what do we really leave behind when we're gone? Some really awesome memories for those we love, maybe a great recipe for chocolate bread pudding, maybe even a legacy of some kind. But we don't leave much of a mark outside of our own families, sad but true.
Recently a 4 year old girl in my community and hometown of Montreal was diagnosed with a scary sounding cancer that essentially means her bone marrow is failing and if she doesn't get a transplant VERY soon, it will progress into an even worse disease that may have no cure. Not good. It got me thinking again about contributing to life in a meaningful way and I reached out to a family member of Jayden (the little girl) to see how I could help from afar.
After all, isn't something happening to our children the worst possible nightmare?
Turns out bone marrow is bone marrow no matter which city, state or country it comes from as long as it matches that of the recipient. So within the last few days, I've joined forces with some other ladies who also want to help find Jayden a match as well as the Gift of Life contact here in Boston, and we're planning, planning, planning.
I will continue to post info about drives being held in Montreal, Boston, NY and other places as they are scheduled. In the meantime, if you're between the ages on 18-60, GET TESTED! And if you can't for whatever reason, consider donating to the cause - it takes $60 to process the test kits and there's just not enough funds available. I can't think of any more rewarding life experience than helping to save a life.
Follow FightForJayden on Twitter and Facebook for details on drives and how you can help. It doesn't matter where you are, please spread the word, copy my post and re-blog, whatever it takes - numbers are paramount and you just never know, you might help save a life.
I've lost a bunch of Facebook friends over the last month. It started when I noticed that people were dropping off like flies, deactivating their accounts and choosing to live Facebook free lives. At first I was like, what is going on here! And then I realized, I can't say I blame them.
I'm beginning to wonder if Facebook is bad for our health.
I log on far too often and check out statuses. More often than not I'm like, "why the eff would she/he post that?" or "who the hell cares that your dinner caused you heartburn?" or whatever, or "why does the world need to know that you are desperately in love with your husband/boyfriend?" (who you probably hate enough to have to overcompensate by posting such things.) These aren't thoughts we would necessarily share during a "real life" conversation with random acquaintances, so why do we do it on Facebook?
Why have the minutiae of our lives become fodder for our own personal bullhorns?
Lately, some of the stuff I've seen has been really crazy. Updates lambasting other friends, a play by play on the imminent death of an acquaintance's family member, news on new couples - all in a status update. And I haven't even witnessed all of this myself. I got a call from a friend the other day - actually several this week alone - saying , "have you seen so and so's status update?" And I thought - OMG, it's update insanity.
Appropriate? Who am I to say. All I know is I feel like these are things I don't want/need to know. Not as often as I do. They constitute the overshare in my book and they're not things I need to know about anyone other than close friends, who are confiding in me. The intimate details of your life make me somewhat uncomfortable.
But - it's my problem, not yours.
That's not to say that I don't enjoy seeing pics of your kids, yourself, your family, your trips. I do. I love the funny stuff, the jokes, anything that makes me LOL. I like the links to articles containing interesting stuff. I do enjoy keeping up with my friends - to a certain degree - via social media. But if you're breaking up with your husband and you want me to know? Gimme a call. (I've seriously been able to deduce divorce news from statuses.)
This week I started my disentanglement by "unfriending" people who have no place in my life. I mean like, at all. Not as a former schoolmate, not even a colleague (although most of the former ones went too). People who floated into my life for a hot minute and are now gone. Gone as well from my contacts.
Phase two of operation un-Facebook consisted of deleting the app from my iPhone. The point is to spend less time perusing status updates and more time focusing on whatever I'm doing. It's also a way to decrease my engagement with the otherwise addictive activity. Which, I've noticed, seems to be a trend among people I know IRL who have had actual addiction problems. Those people tend to turn into shadowy figures (what a profile pic looks like after deactivating) like clockwork. To me, this speaks volumes.
The goal is to spend more time in the real world. Focusing on my real life. With people who don't live in my computer. Because the results, I'm thinking, can only prove positive. And I can use as much positivity as I can get.
And yes, I'll be sharing this post on Facebook. The irony.
I love the show Girls. I told you about it in June and I still love it. I think it's awesomely funny, raw, and entertaining. The fact that it's written, directed, and produced by a 26-year-old girl woman who also stars in it is just the icing on the cake. I am so intrigued by Lena Dunham, in fact, that I used vacation time to attend a screening of her movie, Tiny Furniture, along with a Q&A with her and her mom, the artist Laurie Simmons, last week at the MFA in Boston. While I wasn't as taken with her movie as I am with her show, it was fun to be part of the intimate gathering.
Since Girls has become more popular in its second season, it's also become the center of an evergrowing maelstrom of emotion. Check out the entertainment blogs, even just the regular blogs, on a Monday after pretty much any episode and you're going to read comments written by folks who hate Hannah Horvath/Lena Dunham so intensely that they spew venom at her every chance they get. They even use her real name and her character's name interchangeably making the reader wonder if the commenter is so caught up in the root of their feeling that they are confused by the fact that this character, is just that - a fictitious character.
It's sad, really.
This past Sunday was a particularly "inflammatory" episode in which Hannah - not to be confused with her more polished, shabby-chic real-life alter ego, Lena - has a whirlwind affair (and by affair I mean tons of hot sex) with an older, hotter man. How she meets him is irrelevant but she goes on an instinct, makes the first move (confident women of the world, unite!) and proceeds to spend much time in her splendid, naked, glory with this buff, angular, rich guy, having hours of what is probably unpolished, dirty, sexy, sex.
Hannah Horvath is no Claudia Schiffer, she would probably be the first to admit it. Which is why I feel empowered as part of the non-Claudia Schiffer-women's club when a woman, deemed by society as less than perfect, gets naked (aka vulnerable) on TV. She even (GASP!) seems comfortable in her own skin! With a rich, hot guy no less! Isn't he grossed out by her imperfect abs? Her out of place brown hair? Her thighs that touch?
And all I could think was that I wish I had a quarter of Hannah's self-confidence when I was in my 20s. I wish it hadn't taken the better part of thirty-something years to focus more on being in the moment and less on how I look in the moment. I wish I'd learned far earlier on that if two people are naked together and one is worrying about flabby thighs or wavy arms, they're probably ALONE in their thoughts cuz the other person is probably thinking - laid! I'm getting laid! Especially true if you a heterosexual woman.
The haters hated. Slate writer David Haglund said, "I like when writers and directors push us to empathize with characters who are not likable—but then you have to make those characters interesting. This episode somehow put a hard-to-like character in a hard-to-believe situation which also, frankly, was pretty dull."
Haglund is certainly entitled his opinion - if he finds Hannah hard to like, that's his prerogative. One that I can't contest since I'm not experiencing the show in the shoes of a 40-something year old man. However...
Hannah is nothing if not interesting. She'll pretty much do anything for a story (a writer!) including take a cocaine-fueled journey through clubland with her gay ex-boyfriend, and is as adventurous as any character. But the real question I have for Haglund is, why is this situation so hard to believe? Is it because Hannah is an average looking woman who makes a move on a 40-something year old rich, hot man? Or because this average woman had the confidence to go get 'em?
Is David Haglund secretly an average woman who has been rejected by hot, older men therefore lending credit to his words? Or is he a hot, older guy who rejects all average women (I think not. Just sayin'.) Hey David, men, even the good looking ones, dig confidence. It's a thing. Really.
I''ve seen Twitter steams and Facebook pages that call Hannah out as a vapid narcissist (along with anyone who enjoys the show. Hold on while I grab my tissues - not), a loser, gross, wrong, and just about every other negative adjective stirred up by our wonderful society crawling with perfect creatures.
Before watching the episode, which did, I admit, involve lots of jiggly boobie shots and a not-flat stomach, I saw Facebook status updates saying, "don't eat while watching Girls," and "Girls made me hurl" (who's vapid now!). And when I got around to watching the episode on Tuesday (it's been a busy week and my DVR betrayed me), I called back to my memory where I had seen these updates and low and behold my mind did go there. I thought, man, I sure as hell wouldn't want to see you naked.
Or maybe I was just offended that even the very ordinary people that I associate myself with are part of this elitist group that would never want to look at anyone imperfect - or real - on TV. And it made me sad. And it made me defensive. Because in spite of my brilliant writing (hehe), I am part of the 99% of us that are imperfect. In many, many ways.
So maybe this is why I love Hannah Horvath (Lena Dunham seemed cool, too, though I don't know her as well so hard for me to judge). Hannah is the every women (in their 20s). She's not gorgeously stunning or impossibly perfect. She's just who she is and to me, real beats perfect ANY day.
I'm either really hungry lately or just really into creating food because I can't stop thinking about what I'm going to make next. Maybe it's both but either way, in my next life I think I'd like to be a chef. Seriously. So yesterday, in honor of the Superbowl Sunday, I made lasagna cupcakes and a bunch of other stuff, but I need to share this recipe because it was SO good.
First, brown the ground turkey, and season it with chili pepper and garlic powder (or whatever you have). Remove and set aside. Spray cupcake tins with cooking spray and line with wonton wrapper. Sprinkle with grated parm, drop a small amount of ricotta (I use part-skim), and cover it with a layer of tomato sauce and add grated moz. If you have simple kids (like I do!), cover with another wonton wrapper and add another layer, ending with grated moz. Otherwise, add cooked ground turkey over the ricotta and add a touch of pesto before the tomato sauce. Repeat.
I put them in the oven on 350 for about 15 minutes (keep on eye on them), and they looked like this:
It was fantastic. They looked intricate and pretty but so simple to make. Great the next day too. Enjoy!
So after many, many months of (over) using my credit card to buy stuff for my new house, I had accumulated zillions of "points" that could be used toward zillions of items, gift cards, and pretty much anything under the sun. Usually, I put my points toward gas cards, the occasional Bloomies gift card (hey, a girl's got needs!) and cash cards, but recently I got myself a slow-cooker. And while I've not yet become BF's with it, I am definitely trying.
So far it's been all shredded bbq quicken all the time (add chicken breasts to pot, cover in whatever bbq sauce you have and cook away) but this weekend I got a bit more adventurous and made up a recipe for lemony chicken.
Here's what I used:
While I didn't do much measuring, I started out by tossing the chicken with a bit of evoo and putting some of the lemon dill rub on it. I put it under the broiler for a while so we wouldn't be eating albino chicken (gross). After the broiler, I layered the bottom of the crock pot with very, super thinly sliced onions, covered that with thinly sliced lemons, and added the chicken.
I set all that aside and made a sauce of about 1/4cup of evoo, the Good Seasons, the juice from half a lemon, and about half a cup of chicken broth. I poured that over the chicken, added a few more lemon slices and set it for four hours to cook. I added some whole organic carrots for the last hour to serve next to the chicken on the plate.
It was awesome. I mean, I could have made this in the oven (see recipe below for a variation on this), but the chicken would not have come out so tender. It almost fell off the bone. And there was almost no heavy lifting at all.
Obviously I forgot to take an after picture but the pre-cooking pic is pretty indicative of what it looked like.
Too bad I can't share the smell that permeated my house - that was half of the experience.
I rarely talk politics in this space. While my few forays into highly electric conversation have attracted a record number of readers (most who were sooo not in favor of my self-proclaimed hilarious rant about Sarah Palin), I typically reserve TDG for rants about other stuff that I feel more comfortable going on about. And while it's pretty atypical for me to go public about a topic like, say, gun control, just a couple of days after the massacre of little, tiny children in Newtown, Ct., I can't help myself.
I'm a Canadian living in the US. And while I embrace most aspects of life in this country, the super lax gun regulations that is representative of life in most American states is not something I've ever been comfortable with. And while I've heard all the propaganda about a person's "right" to bear firearms, there's no part of that that I understand. (A right to shoot and kill? A right to take someone else's life at our discretion?) Because then there are mentally unstable people owning guns who use them for exactly what they're intended for - to efficiently and effectively shoot to kill.
And then there are two angry teenagers in Littleton, Colorado who go to school decked out in one 9-mm semi-automatic, one double-barrel shotgun, a rifle and a 12-gauge pump shotgun, and release 188 rounds of ammo - at their peers and teachers - killing 15 people and injuring another 27.
And then there is a deeply disturbed 23 year old student at Virginia Tech who easily acquires two semi-automatic weapons, goes to campus, and proceeds to shoot and kill 32 people, wounding 17 others.
And then there's a mentally unstable 24 year old male in Aurora, Colorado who goes to a movie theatre and opens fire on unsuspecting movie-goers, killing 12 and wounding 58. This killer had in his posession four weapons including two pistols, a rifle and a shotgun.
Two common themes here - mental illness and guns. One is an unfortunate medical disorder (treatable in some instances if treatment is sought), and guns (mostly controllable with proper regulations, evidenced by laws in other countries).
Over the last 48+ hours since the horrific tragedy in Newtown, I've read dozens of debates on every social site out there, about the pros and cons of gun control, the need for free assistance for mental health patients, whether or not gun laws need to be stricter, who's to blame, and of course, anguish over the loss of such innocent and pure life.
All I know is this - I was walking in a busy mall with my two kids today and suddenly I was overcome with anxiety about our safety. Totally irrational, totally a first for me, but totally a physical and emotional reaction to the pictures of those little faces, brutally shot and killed for no reason, just two days ago.
And I can't help but think that if that 20 year old shooter hadn't had access to guns, it's more than likely that those children and teachers would still be alive. And twenty six families wouldn't be shattered. And fifty two or so parents lives wouldn't be over as they ring in the New Year by burying their children.
You know, I'm seeing things like "let's talk about mental illness" and "it's so easy to talk about gun control" but if that were even remotely true, we'd be talking about gun control! Mental illness is not going anywhere. In fact, I'd venture to say that while increasingly treatable, with all of today's pressures, it's likely on the rise. But something that can in fact be controlled and is not left to Mother Nature - guns and who is permitted to possess them. So, I'd actually like to talk about gun control.
The fact is this: In many U.S. states, weapons of many kinds are readily available for legal purchase with just a driver’s licence as ID. It takes longer to be approved to buy a house than a gun. In Canada where the system is far from perfect, it takes up to 60 days to obtain a firearm, after registering, taking a course and going through background checks.
If I hear "guns don't kill people, people kill people" one more time I'm going to gauge my eyes out. Last time I checked, school shootings were called shootings and not school stranglings or school bow and arrow'ings.
Guns do kill people. In fact, that is exactly what they are designed to do. Not a fucking thing else.
It's time. It's happening far too often. I want to feel safe sending my children to school. I want to feel calm walking around a public place. I don't give a shit if you want the "right" to protect yourself because while you're protecting yourself, innocent children and adults are dying. And no one has the right to put our lives in danger.
All of you gun-toting Americans - I wonder how you'd feel if it were your child in that casket. Because all it takes is one evil or unstable person to access their "right" and boom - you're dead.
But before I cooked, I moved. During Hurricane Sandy. With two kids. And lots of stuff.
But that's ancient history and now I have an awesome new kitchen with granite and killer counter space and a brand-new Bosch oven (you may or may not recall that my previous oven was in its ninth life), and lots of cooking prowess and even the desire - but not much time. So a dear friend of mine thought to send me a house-warming gift - a fab new book from Williams-Sonoma that has quick healthy meals.
So I made one and it looked like this:
No, I swear. It did.
I know it's almost Thanksgiving and most of you are all turkey and mashed potatoes, but if you get the urge to unclog those arteries and eat something healthy, here it is:
Preheat oven to 375, spray baking dish with olive oil spray.Place chicken in dish, arrange tomatoes around it, Drizzle chicken & toms with olive oil and balsamic, sprinkle with s&p.
Add lemon slices to chicken, two slices on each, and add sage (no stems). Finish with another drizzle of EVOO and bake for about 30mins.
A few weeks ago I posted about an incident that happened to my daughter, in her first grade classroom. After a good talking to, the girls involved forgot all about her, and according to Alex, they moved on to their next victims - each other! Yep - the "mean girls" are now targeting each other.
Long live teenagers grade-school kids.
Last week in Vancouver, a 15-year-old girl committed suicide by hanging after suffering at the hands of online and schoolyard bullies. Amanda Todd made the mistake of engaging in high-stakes web-chatting and gave in to peer pressure (she showed her boobs online - classic unformed prefrontal cortex mistake), watched as the pic overtook her friends, her school, her town, herSELF - until all that was left was a shell of an otherwise adorable teenager who was, in fact, bullied TO DEATH.
Yesterday I was perusing Facebook when I came across a "friend"'s status update which read - "When did anti-bullying become the new Darfur?"
This person has no children. Maybe if he had a child, he would understand how deeply we feel for our childrens' well-being and even without kids, any person with heart gets the concept of what it might feel like to be a target. We discuss health and fitness TO DEATH, but kids becoming the center of what can become a life or death situiation (on the extreme side), or just being apprehensive about going to school or whatever, should be backburnered?
Comments ensued. Some, like mine, were of the "because it's happening everywhere and it's a huge issue in schools. Kids today are not like they were when we were kids." Others were "How is bullying any different now than when we were kids?"
Uhhh, have you heard about this new trend called computers? Smartphones? Social media? Webcams?
For the most part I just accept ignorance in a very Forrest Gump'ish kind of way - people are like a box of chocolates you never know what yer gonna get but then I think SERIOUSLY? Not when ignorance in adults is what precipitates ignorance in children and truth be told, we all know education is a huge piece of getting a handle on, well almost any issue.
So here it is - according to this website, when it comes to verbal bullying, school bullying is most prevalent with 77 percent of all students being bullied verbally in some way or another including mental bullying or even verbal abuse. These types of bullying can also include spreading rumors, yelling obscenities or other derogatory terms based on an individual's race, gender, sexual orientation, religion, etc. Out of the 77 percent of those bullied, 14 percent have a severe or bad reaction to the abuse, according to recent school bullying statistics. These numbers make up the students that experience poor self-esteem, depression, anxiety about going to school and even suicidal thoughts (bullycide) as a result of being bullied by their peers.
Imagine when this shit goes viral and a kid has peers posting on Facebook, Twitter, whatever-else-you-can-post-on, talking trash and just completely destroying a kid? Imagine if it were you? Imagine if it were your kid?
One of the comments on the facebook status included, "bullying is very bad, no question, but I think it's important at home and at school to raise kids to have thicker skin. It's a tough world."
Truth. But that's like saying if you wear a bullet-proof vest every day, you won't suffer from a gun-shot wound. We can arm our kids all we want, but abuse - in any form - is gonna hurt and for kids and teenagers, for whom perception is everything, it's going to hurt A LOT.
So what can we do? We can do as the poster says and toughen up our kids. But not all kids are built to be tough. We can tell them what I told my kid when the mean girls targeted her for a hot minute - those girls are mad at themselves, not at you. Worst thing you can do is walk away because then the mean, angry people lose their audience. But once we reach the "bullying" level, it's a whole different ballgame. Social media, webcams in bedrooms and our "always-on" society has opened us up and made our children more vulnerable than ever.
Check out the video below for ideas on what to teach our kids, because it truly says it better than I ever could:
And I don't mean the movie.
Every night, I walk through the door at around 6:15 and my little girls run to greet me. Before I have my shoes off, they're often telling me tales from the day; what got painted, who was absent from school, and can we have a playdate with so-and-so on Wednesday?
Last night, my first grader's story was a little different.
"Ava and Alicia were mean to me at lunch. They told me my sandwich smells," she said.
"Well, what were they eating for lunch?," I asked before I could process what she was actually telling me.
"Turkey sandwiches." Hmm... Exactly what Alex had taken that day as well.
Then, it hit me. My gentle, sweet, (typically) good natured 6-year-old was having her first encounter with "mean girls" except these little girls don't know who they're dealing with. And I don't mean Alex.
This being a first for me as a mother, I wasn't sure exactly how to deal with it. I told my delicious girl that if someone is not nice to her, that she should get up and tell them bah-bye. Move to another seat. Talk to someone else. Take away the mean girls' power.
Fine, I might've muttered under my breath that they're messing with the wrong kid cuz I'll kick their asses Mommy-style because this morning, upon opening her eyes and listening to me tell her how I emailed her teacher about the incident, my little girl asked if I was going to come to school and kick asses.
At drop-off this morning, she pointed out one of the little terrorists to me. The girl, weighing in at no more than 50 pounds complete with unbrushed hair and no parent with her at drop-off, was seated next to us as we waited for the first grade door to open signaling the beginning of the day.
I couldn't help it.
"Are you Ava?" I asked the child. I wished her mom or dad had been there. I was frothing at the mouth to tattle on her.
"Yup," she said.
"I'm Alex's mom," I told her, very succinctly, making very direct eye-contact. What I wanted to say next was "and I've got my eye on you, ya little shit." But I held back. And after an intense stare-down (which I easily won and yes I know she's 6), the mini mean girl knew I meant business.
I kissed Alex goodbye and felt confident that I'd armed her with the (appropriate) tools to defend herself should the mean girls start with her. That didn't stop me from checking my watch at noon and worrying about how lunch was going.
At precisely 2:25, I checked in. Lunch was fine, she said. She had no problems and had fun with a friend. I breathed a sigh of relief. I'd been thinking about my little girl all day.
Bullying abounds but you never think it'll be your kid. While this was (hopefully) an isolated incident, it really got me thinking - how much control do parents have when their kids suffer at the hand of another kid? The teacher said she'd talk to the kids involved - which did not happen today. I have parents phone numbers, do I call them if it happens again? What's the protocol for this?
I'm not the kind of person who backs down. If you know me then you know that I don't take much shit and I'm not afraid to stand my ground. While I hope my children grow up with a little less steel than I, I have every intention of teaching them to stand-up for themselves and not let anyone push them around, ever.
How would you handle a situation like this?