Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Happy Birthday Buddy!!!

For weeks now, my kids have been re-enacting a SNL skit that lil Phillip watched with Emma Stone where she slips on grape jelly and breaks her arm. Then leg. Then another arm. And leg. Slapstick stuff- they love it. It was pretty harmless, so I let him carry on. He then showed it to the girls and they have been wandering around singing- now sign my cast, sign my cast, sign my cast. We decided to remake the video for Phil's birthday. It's entirely trainwreckish- but was an outstanding team building experience. Happy Birthday to my best friend and my baby daddy. We love you very much- now sign my card, now sign my card, sign my card.

Click to play this Smilebox collage
Create your own collage - Powered by Smilebox
Digital collage personalized with Smilebox

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

My Favorite Turkeys

Click to play this Smilebox collage
Create your own collage - Powered by Smilebox
This picture collage customized with Smilebox

Mutants flying the friendly skies

I guess I am really glad(sarcastic tone) that flying has become so expensive that it really isn't an option to take my family of 6 anywhere. I won't complain too much since I live in a vacation destination, but it does totally suck being away from family and friends. Now not only is it cost prohibitive, but health prohibitive as well. Yeah I'm talking about those new airport scanners that are all the rage.  I honestly don't care that some TSA agent is sitting in a secluded room viewing images of my naked body. I've had 4 kids, my body is a warzone. But big picture- I question the safety- so I started doing research. It's what I do.

I found that the amount of radiation you are exposed to is minimal. It does not penetrate the skin, it merely penetrates the clothing so it can generate a picture. SO what about the skin?  Sure sunscreen protects against UVA/UVB- but I'm pretty sure it doesn't cover this backscatter technology xray radiation.  Is the amount of exposure minimal? yep, I'll give you that.  Is it safe? You are not going to hear reputable people say that. Pay attention. Who so far is declining scans? Cancer patients, pregnant women, and pilots. I heard a story of a bladder cancer survivor who lives with a urostomy bag, had the bag spilled all down the front of him during his "aggressive pat down" . He had to sit on his flight soaked with urine. A breast cancer survivor was agressively searched and had to remove her prosthesis for inspection. I guess technically if she still had breasts, they would have been aggressively squeezed- so should she feel lucky she can at least take hers out?  After spending years of my life with cancer survivors and remembering many who didn't- the quest for normal after treatment or death is a long bumpy road- I would like to thank the Government for adding one more roadblock to our already diminished quality of life. But we are not the majority and these methods are in place to protect the majority.  That doesn't mean it's safe.

In article after article I read, in the USA Today, reuters, cnet, webmd- all say the risk is low to the general population. Not safe, low risk. It is mentioned that as in medical scans- if the benefit outweighs the risk, it is acceptable. Not safe, acceptable. They repeatedly emphasize the radiation exposure is the equivalent to that of 2-3 minutes of flying.  Great so now we are compounding risks. I see why pilots would refuse- they get enough radiation exposure in the flying contraption on a day to day basis- to add to it would be off putting. It is not reccommended for pregnant women. Really? Why so? If it truly doesn't penetrate the skin- the baby should not be at additional risk, right? What the experts will tell you is that studies have not been done on the long term effects and although the risk is acceptable to the general population- it would be cruel to subject the unborn population to it. Hmm. What about children?  Just because they are on the outside- doesn't really make them any more equipped to deal with it, does it? But it's either that or an aggressive pat down and we spend a lot of time teaching them good touch-bad touch. DO we now have to say only doctors and TSA agents can touch you there? Are we going to see a rash of pedophiles dressing up as TSA agents and hanging out at playgrounds, probably not- but maybe we'll see an influx of applications to the TSA. Definitely the moral fiber we want guarding the friendly skies.

The last disconcerting thing I found was the repeated mention that those with genetic mutations that predispose them to cancer should be aware of the additional risks. I have Li Fraumeni Syndrome. It is a genetic mutation that not only predisposes me to cancer, but to many cancers in my lifetime and by lifetime I mean a lifespan that is 10-30 years shorter than the average lifespan. I am one of the "lucky" ones- I have not had cancer yet. Most in my peer group in this syndrome have had at least 1 type of cancer. We have all watched relatives die from it. So what's a little skin cancer when you are looking at terminal brain tumors, and adrenalectomies and colostomies and mastectomies,right? It's one more thing to worry about.  I know mutants who refuse to have dental xrays to limit the exposure to radiation. Radiation therapy in these families is a last resort, because it has been shown that additional tumors pop up in radiation fields. Good times. So what's a mutant to do?

I encourage people to do their research and be aware that you are not being told the whole story. The contract for scanners was in and it went to the lowest bidder, not the one who makes the "safer"- millimeter technology scanner. There are many veils of false security- these scanners are one of them. A friend posted an article on Israeli airport security. Their first line of defense? Eye Contact. You can tell a lot about a person with how they react to eye contact. You'll find TSA shouts over your head- they will actively look away if you try to make eye contact. I'm sure they get their fair share of rudeness as well.  SO what's the solution?  How do we make flying a reasonable safe mode of transportation again?

I have a solution. Combine Healthcare and TSA. Standardized healthcare does away with many of the dignities TSA is starting to. You can be categorized by health status which determines your screening regime. Just think about how many germs you are exposed to in an ER or a plane. The same right? You can get the Xrays you need and be on your way to a different destination all at the same time. Throw the people who can treat those conditions into the mix. I mean international travellers do pose a problem- but we treat most of them on our dime anyway when medical attention is needed, I say just add a surcharge for those tickets. It's the fiscally responsible thing to do. Ok I am being sarcastic, but when you start posing medical risks for transportation, the appropriate specialists should be involved. 

Yes, flying is choice. It is also a business.  Although federally regulated, business is business and rarely is anything but the customers pocketbook considered. Be your own advocate, especially when caught between an ionizing rock and a hard pat down.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Thanksgiving Lost

When I was a child we spent a whole month working up to Thanksgiving. We got to dress up as Pilgrims and Indians and always had a feast in class. As soon as the Halloween ghosts and ghouls were put away- the festive leaves and turkeys and cornocopias came out. By the time my own children were in preschool, we were not allowed to call them Indians, they were Native Americans.  That never sat well with me, because not only were me and my children native to the Americas, all of their grandparents and great grandparents were as well. In  United Nations conference, the majority of representatives agreed that American Indian was a better descriptor as by definition all those born in the Americas are considered native americans and that lead to confusion. Since people from India are also referred to as Indians, that confusion also needed to be irradicated. After all- what kind of society are we if we cannot lump groups of people together and give them a name? Then in a stroke of genius- we commemorate a group of people's(whose name we continue to change) in an aptly named holiday- Thanksgiving.

Thanksgiving has been celebrated as early as the 1560's, not 1621 in Plymouth as generally thought. A Thanksgiving feast would be held to celebrate a bountiful harvest and to give thanks to God. Many codes in early communities recognized the day as a holiday and then in 1941, President Roosevelt gave it official holiday status. In the efforts to keep church and state separate, the ties to God were not emphasized and the date was set for economic reasons not social welfare, although many would argue the two are intertwined. Thanksgiving and Christmas were traditionally the 2 holidays that almost no one worked. The season was respected and employees were as well. Despite everything being closed on Thanksgiving- Christmas decorations magically appeared on Black Friday. I have noticed a trend over the past few years- Christmas creeps in earlier and earlier. It is happening everywhere. At first I thought it was here on the island, an economic necessity to put out Christmas decorations due to lack of storage space. That is not the case.  Last year as the Halloween decorations came out, so did the Christmas lights. This year- there was wall of lights and other items that came out in July with the school supplies. You still see Halloween decorations, but you are hard pressed to find fall decorations. Thanksgiving has been pushed out for it's lack of commercial value. If people aren't told to buy items to help celebrate a Holiday- does the holiday no longer exist?

Apparently things are creeping this way as Walmart and Sears have announced that they will be open for Thanksgiving. Economic hardships are cited for the change in policy. I wonder if in the economic conscious decision making process, the stores are giving employees the option to work?  Are they appealing to those most financially strained, "gifting" them the opportunity to make extra funds on a holiday? I am no business major and I don't claim to know the inner workings of the system, but common sense tells me the costs of operating on a holiday might surpass the revenue- especially in light of the wonderful internet shopping opportunities. But what are the bigger costs to us as a society? When we deem shopping paramount importance to that of family and a sense of gratitude, no one wins.  There have been many a Thanksgiving item forgotten in my past. There have been mad dashes to gas stations or any open mart. Those are what great stories are made of. Or the ingenuity and creativity of using blue or green twine as available- sometimes yielding interesting colored gravy.  Scrounging around to replace something burnt or just making do. Magazines dedicate entire issues to Thanksgiving disasters- you will not find one story on the Thanksgiving that was saved by running to walmart at the last second.

I never partake in Black Friday. I don't like shopping under the best conditions, no matter how good the deal. I've learned my time is more important.  Yet for many it is a tradition, a tradition that along with Thanksgiving will die. Traditionally we decorate our tree the day after Thanksgiving. It gives me the excuse not to face the throngs of bargain hunters. Because although I love seeing the joy on my children's faces at Christmas- I mourn the loss of the true spirit of giving in the commercial marketplace. The spirit that is being zapped away with the loss of fall, the loss of harvest, the loss of Thankfullness. I have actually read articles entitled "Tired of Thanksgiving dinner?" that offer alternatives to the traditional fare. I shake my head- tired of Thanksgiving? If you are tired of Thanksgiving, perhaps you should apply at Walmart or Sears- I hear they have some holiday jobs available. To me Thanksgiving is tradition and you don't mess with tradition. Sometimes you move tradition a day or 2 because your husband is guarding the borders so you can rest securely. You don't skip it for a good sale. 

So Walmart will be open. Many other places as well. I will not go. I will honor centuries of tradition. Even though I did not personally harvest the bounty that will set on my table, I will be thankful for those who did. I will be Thankful that with God's good graces, I will have my best friend and all of my children at one table for one meal. I will be Thankful that another year has passed and those who have passed with it. I will be Thankful for the gifts I have and not Thanksgiving Lost.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Oprah's Male Child Abuse Show

Today I got a message from my aunt(actually my husband's aunt) imploring me to make time in my busy schedule to check out Oprah. I haven't made time in my crazy life for Oprah in over 11 years. I don't know why today was different. Although I have periodically taken time to peruse her magazine or email her great topics for shows, only once did I hear back. Over 5 years ago, I wrote in to suggest a show focusing on male child abuse victims. And as I went online to look for today's episode that my aunt wanted me to watch(something about the Jackson kids- which I never did see-because) I got sidetracked by multiple videos by male sexual abuse victims debunking the popular theories on sexual abuse. And for once, I think she nailed it. No goodie bag on earth could take away the monsters these men have carried with them and dealt with their entire lives. The best A-ha moment in the world is for people to wake up and realize there is a huge problem. The best way to raise awareness is to reach deep down in those places we don't like to talk about and wrench out what is really going on.

My view is this. When we get rid of acceptability of any kind of abuse regardless of gender, we are taking great strides in making the world a better place. Abuse happens. It is covered up, lied about, and festers as an ugly secret people spend their lives running away from. When victims become suspects and it becomes cheaper to walk away than stand up and fight- we have lost all credibilty in this "system" of justice we propose to have. Abuse knows no age, sex, or race. It is NEVER acceptable for an adult to have relations of any sort of sexual nature with a child under ANY circumstances. EVER. The consentual sex laws may vary from state to state and that is merely words written on paper. When we as a society allow predators, convicted offenders to mingle amongst playgrounds claiming THEIR right to privacy trumps the hope of a poor child victim's RIGHT to an unabused childhood- we are wrong. It should not be tolerated under the name of state, religion, or temporary insanity. Temporary insanity is what a parent experiences the second they find out something like this has happened to their child. The good parents regain consciousness and help their children go on with life in this new found jaded reality of pain, the bad parents enable the cycle and covet the secrecy of lies.

1/4 women will be abused. No one knows the numbers for men, because many won't ever tell. All I know is it's too high. Hug your children. Let them know their body is their own and that you are their greatest ally. Then show them you are. Accidents happen- Abuse is never an accident and it will happen again- unless we each make it a point to not tolerate those who abuse. Stepping off my soap box now.


Thursday, November 4, 2010

Flying the Friendly Skies

After 36 fun filled hours of conference, cancer and cousins, I exit Ami’s monstrosity of a truck and prepare for another long day of airline craziness. The whirlwind of the trip surrounds me and yet somehow- none of it has been anywhere near as exhausting day to day care and feeding of my four monstrosities. I slept less than I require, well that’s not exactly true, but consecutive hours of sleep were fairly fleeting. When you get to see family once every few years or so, it seems kind of trivial to waste away your time sleeping when there is so much catching up to do. I am sad that my time with my cousins was so short, yet relieved to visit and exit before the familial intricacies that color our relationships have an opportunity to damper the experience. As I am pondering the fun times recently shared, I am rudely pushed out of this way by a woman and her monstrosity of a bag. I let it go. And before I can even get my balance back, 3 other ladies wheel their bags up behind her. I notice all of the bags are wrapped identically with brightly colored ribbons, identifying them as a group.

Now mind you, I was in line, at the check in counter of the airline. As I rounded the curve of the the people herder ropes, the said offender so rudely acted upon my person in an unfriendly and inconsiderate manner. She starts calling to the rest of the group, in a language I cannot identify. I know she is telling them to get with her group of rude interrupter pusherers. I say No. No is universal as was my tone. She looks at me and I shake my head and say NO again. “If you are calling the whole group over- let me in front of you” I say as I move to the side to go around them. She says something to the 3 who are now moving to block my way. There are at least 10 people with matching brightly colored ribbons behind me, trying to push around me. I scan the faces around me, feeling certain I would spot Ashton Kutcher and willing to laugh off my turn being punked. There is a man pushing at my right and I say “NO!” rather loudly and rudely. A security guard rushes over. He unfastens the guard rope and ushers me through, replacing it after me. “Please proceed to any of the empty kiosks”. As I look for the empty kiosks- I realize that there is a line of 5 people in front of the crazy ribbon pusherers all waiting patiently for the next kiosk while there are dozens of them open. The security guard is yelling at that group to step forward to any open kiosk they are all available for self check in. I then hear him berating the group leader. I feel slightly vindicated and hope they are not on the flight going to Hawaii and that somehow I would be shadowed by these horrendous pusherers for the next week.

I also have come to realize that despite climbing airline ticket prices, e-v-e-r-y-t-h-i-n-g is becoming more automated- and by automated- I mean self service. There are airline employees barking orders at every step for those of us who do not travel frequently enough to know the routine of every airport in the DC area. And this is the second one I’ve been to in the past 48 hours, and the 5th airport- so I’m feeling fairly current on my airline travel refresher course. The conference folks were nice enough to arrange my travel and I generally assumed I would be flying out of the same airport I arrived at. And you know what they say about Assumptions. Unfortunately the DC area has 3 airports and when someone else is arranging- you get what you get. Mostly I am glad to have noticed the change in departure airport prior to arriving at the wrong airport.

I successfully completed the grueling self check in procedure which is easy except for the excessive need to decline umpteen upgrades- which is to say additional costs. I look up and 3 employees are just staring at me behind the counter. I hoist my bag onto the scale as the boarding passes for my journey slip out of the kiosk printer. I place my ID on the counter and as I gather the boarding passes, the employee picks up my id and hands it to me while snidely pointing out that it is a self service counter. I take my ID and stand there patiently as he grabs the bag tag. “Mallory” He calls out. I hand him my ID and boarding pass and just wait. “Take the bag over there.” You just have a merry happy sunshiney day too there mr happy pants. People are mean here. Well people are mean everywhere, but especially here. And by here, I mean airports, malls, public places, everywhere. I think the only place that people generally are not mean are Disney World and hence it garners the label- happiest place on earth. I venture towards security smiling at every face I meet, telling each TSA worker along the way how dearly I hope they have a wonderful day. I get a lot of weird looks. How is it everyone expects rudeness and pushererness- yet if you say simple nice ities you are looked at as a loony toon.

I know that the security check points are an exercise in rudeness tolerance. On both sides. Travelers are generally grumpy at the “reasonable” indignities in the name of security while security employees are barraged with the emotional projection by those who indignantly tolerate the measures enacted through a higher power in the name of safety. And people are mean. I follow the directions being barked on both sides. Shoes removed, sweaters and jackets removed, put items in bins- make sure all liquids in their appropriate Ziploc containers are in a bin and all laptops must be in their own bin. I don’t put my shoes in the bin. When I went through security in Honolulu, I was barked at for putting my shoes in the bin. “This is NOT your airport security” I was told. I was taken aback. Oh, then where do I go for MY airport security, because I kinda need to make my flight. “ Would you put your shoes on your baby?” Um no. except maybe Bella, because if my shoes were ON her, then she might not be licking them and THAT’s a win-win situation. But then again I wouldn’t put my baby in a bin to go through an xray machine conveyor belt at an airport either. I’m not really sure where this is going. The woman in front of me turns back to look at me and just shrugs while the tirade continues. We do it such and such way here- we have respect for the aina and your health and people don’t need their lovely bags and jackets dirtied by the nasty shoes that I was trying to put in the bin. OK Mr. I clearly am power tripping in an ignorant fashion with people who fortunately are only held hostage by your stupidity for however long it takes to scan the bags. You are talking to the woman who is abandoning 24 hour disinfecting ops for a flying sardine can of recycled air and considers it a “vacation”.

First of all- shoes are not the cleanest of clothing items. I wouldn’t go around licking them. I know those who do but they have the maturity and intellect of a 4 year old. We are both adults. Secondly, you are implying these bins, that are stacked on the floor, the same floor that soils the shoes that sooo offend you. And the bottoms of these bins that alternate turns on the floor and sandwiched between other bins are then filled with personal items and sent through the xray machine. When they are not there, they are on a conveyor belt, which is where he would like for us to put our offensive footwear. So visualize a smear of red paint on the bottom of your shoes. The red paint goes to conveyor. Conveyor belt goes around and waits for next bin, bin gets put on conveyor, red paint gets on bin, bin goes through, bin takes red paint and deposits it on the inside of the next bin it gets stacked on in the pile. Cycle complete mister Einstein. You really aren’t doing anyone any favors. Thirdly- do you ever watch people and their bags? As they wait in line- where are the bags? On this dirty ground that is so offensively soiling our shoes. You are seriously implying that there is some sort of sanitary state of airport security bins that visit with thousands of humans and their respective questionable hygiene states from all over the world on a daily basis. Outstanding logic. But I digress.

I clear security and my phone starts ringing. It is my lovely husband who I have seen place his shoes on the bin in the Honolulu airport, but that is not the point. I want to say hi to him before I jump on a plane and I know that it is a matter of OCD importance that he talk to me before I get on said flight. Every time he has a big flight, and if I think about it- just about any time he flies- he calls or sends me a text that usually says no more than love you! It’s always nice to hear, or read so I appreciate it and I also appreciate that before he slips the surly bonds of gravity- I am on his mind. I don’t get to fly as often as he does, so I wasn’t really aware until this trip,that the superstition applies to me flying as well. I was relieved to think back to my many connections to get to DC that at each stop I sent a quick text. I don’t mess with people’s superstitions- it’s not good luck. Hi buddy, I love you. I just went through security and they were surprisingly gentle. He is laughing at me and I regale him with the tale of the rude pusherers and the kiosk incident and he laughs. I am chatting away as people walk by and they all look at me. I look around- I’m not in a restricted area, there is no one around- I guess I’m the only one to look at. I smile. People look away, few smile back. Well excuuuuse me- you were looking at me. I rub my nose to make sure there is nothing on it and make sure my clothing and zippers are all in order. I just keep smiling. Do people not talk on the phone here- I’m not being loud . I realize there is no time to chat on and on and I haven’t even gotten to the story about the guy with his hands in his pants on the metro. Yeah that’s a good one, but I tell him I love him and venture on my way. People are still looking at me and I am developing a complex. It occurs to me how different people are. I mean theoretically- it is an airport and people are from everywhere. But if you walk around the airport at Honolulu- many people will not look at you. In many cultures, eye contact is offensive, confrontational, disrespectful. Yet pushing a person out of the way is perfectly acceptable. Go figure.