Saturday, March 31, 2007

Swallowing the Red Pill, Part 2

The drama of my last post represented how it has felt to realize what dangers still lurk in the vaccines and flu shot that I have had injected into my baby daughter, regardless of what my "top-level New York doctors" have told me. Isabel is fine, and has a statistically decent chance of remaining that way--but considering that I feed her 100% organic, and I am still not giving her wheat or egg whites or honey or, god forbid, peanut butter (it will be YEARS), it's pretty hard for me to swallow that I have allowed thimerosal (which is mercury, a potently harmful neurotoxin) to be injected directly into her blood stream several different times.

For those of you who are neither fans of The Matrix nor married to TT (whose high testosterone levels mask an inner geek whose favorite movies all come in trilogies), choosing the red pill sends Keanu Reeves into the crazy, dark underworld that is actually "reality"--whereas choosing the blue pill would have left him in the daily world as we perceive it, ignorant and blissful. Morpheus (his mentor) presents him with the choice this way: "After this, there is no turning back. You take the blue pill - the story ends, you wake up in your bed and believe whatever you want to believe. You take the red pill - you stay in Wonderland and I show you how deep the rabbit-hole goes....Remember... all I'm offering is the truth. Nothing more."

Once you swallow the red pill, you can't go back. I was very comfortable trusting my extremely well-qualified doctors. I respect how important vaccines are to public health. I understand that the reason people don't perceive measles, mumps, etc. to be a threat is directly because of these vaccines, and our continued safety from these dangerous diseases depends on them. What I find very difficult to swallow, though, is the fact that poisonous thimerosal is still being used as a preservative for some of these vaccines and the flu shot (except in CA and IA, where it has been banned--legislation is still pending on this in several other states including NY), along with the fact that children are "encouraged" (read: practically forced) to receive these vaccines so early in their infancy, bundled together in such potent combinations, and regardless of whether or not they are immune compromised with a cold or stomach bug at the time of the vaccination.

And let me tell you, dear reader, it is not the doctors, or the scientists, or the media who is responsible for these transgressions: it is the industry that holds so many of them in its pockets. The pharmaceutical industry.

Please know that although I am now beginning to read, research, and educate myself the best I can, I am NOT qualified to educate anyone else on this topic. What I am struggling with is the heart-breaking end of a relationship: my life-long trust and faith in the medical establishment. I still think New York City has many of the best doctors and hospitals in the world, and I still believe that these doctors are brilliant, valiant, and doing the best they can...but I no longer believe that they are always right, or that they always know more than I do.

I have read this

and this

and this.

I've seen this

and this.

No one can deny the growing epidemic of autism, ADHD, OCD, allergies, and asthma in today's children. I am no conspiracy theorist, but I have swallowed the red pill and I cannot go back. Neither can Isabel, but I vow to protect her with all that I have--which is more of my heart and brain than I have used up until very recently-- and to forgive myself for the mistakes that I have made so far.

Thursday, March 29, 2007

Swallowing the Red Pill, Part 1

I think I was a decently healthy pregnant person. I wouldn't call myself vigilant by any stretch: I ate a lot of cupcakes, and after the first trimester I drank a small cup of caffeinated coffee most days and had the occasional sips and eventually glass of wine. I still colored my hair, although I did switch to vegetable dyes. (I started going gray in college, so the choice was basically between hair dye or large doses of antidepressants to cope with my frizzy, 90% gray image in the mirror, so I chose to continue coloring my hair.) But I stayed away from soft cheeses, deli meats, tuna fish, swordfish, sushi (my favorite food), Advil, Pepto Bismal, Aspartame, even peanut butter because of some random, questionable news item I read.

I took my prenatal vitamins, I ate my extra vegetables, and when Belly was born I spent her first days sitting next to her little isolette in the critical care nursery. As her glucose levels struggled to normalize, I tried desperately to breastfeed her around all the tubes hanging from her tiny body and despite pressure from the hospital staff to feed her more and more formula to get those sugar levels in line. But in four and half days she was all better, we figured out our breastfeeding, and we were ready to go.

We gathered together her soft cotton clothes prewashed in Dreft, prepared her super-safe top-of-the-line car seat, had her injected with one of the most dangerous and potent known neurotoxins in existence, and home we went.

To be continued.

Sunday, March 25, 2007

Health Food

Nourishing: my two new favorite health food obsessions.
1. Quinoa: Pronounced Keen-wa, this a delicious grain-like thing (I know very little about food and less about cooking, fyi) that is full of nutrients and protein, can be used in place of rice anywhere you might put rice, and doesn't even count as a carb. I learned about it from my far healthier, Berkeley-living, vegetable-growing, organic-food-eating, marathon-running sister who is still completely edgy and cool, but can teach me about healthy stuff when necessary. It is terrific on salads and actually turns them into a meal, to which even my Jets-loving, meat-eating, non-health-food-trusting TT can attest. (He asked me to point out here that he does run regularly, so as not to be misrepresented as a football-watching coach potato.)
2. Kombucha tea: this is a bizarre tea grown from a floating living organism-thing that looks like a huge mushroom and has lots of super-healthy enzymes and probiotic powers. All I know is, drink one and it feels like sonic caffeine on a perfect time-release program with no crash--it lasts literally all day. The gingerberry one even tastes kind of good. Like all good things except sugar, I don't think you're supposed to indulge in this when you're pregnant.

Neutral: tofu.
Yes, tofu is very good for you and as I am now forced to eat it regularly because Isabel eats it all the time but never gets through half the package in the 5 allotted days and otherwise it would go to waste, I have discovered that it can be okay...meaning, it tastes like soy sauce if you saute it in soy sauce, and etc. But I'm sorry, I just can't give this gummy little substance more than a neutral. Maybe it's just me and my horrible cooking.

Depleting (for me, anyway): egg whites.
I know these are supposed to be healthy and I used to like them. However, now that Isabel eats egg yolks 4-5 times a week (I go with what works and pray she doesn't get bored), what am I supposed to do? I eat the hard-boiled whites 4-5 times a week, standing in the kitchen and making silly faces at her as I shove them in my mouth and call it lunch. Just thinking about them right now as I type makes me want to hurl, but fast forward to lunch time and guess what I'll be doing. So while others are free to enjoy their egg-white omelettes and feel healthy and virtuous, on my list they've been denigrated to depleting.

fantastic music

Yesterday we went to a concert and had a total blast. The artist is an old friend from college, and I have been a fan of his music since sophomore year (that's 1989 if you must know). We danced our asses off, rocked the mosh pit, sang every word, and whooped at the top of our lungs after every song.

Now, don't think that my husband* and I have changed our early bird ways: this concert was at two in the afternoon and the mosh pit was 4 feet high, max. And it was AWESOME. Justin Roberts, after years of making amazing music for grown-ups on his own and with the acclaimed indie group Pimentos for Gus (which included one of my best friends in the world Tracy Spuehler--more about her in a different post), began his illustrious children's music career when he was teaching at a Montessori school in Minneapolis (to make money to support his music career). For fun, he began writing some of his own songs for the kids and casually recorded several of them as a Christmas present for friends. Let's just say, they were amazing and it caught on.

Many awards, country-wide tours, one great Today Show appearance and several TV videos later, he has 5 children albums and is a huge success. Here is how terrific these albums are: I have been listening to them for YEARS. My child (who already loves the music) is not quite ONE. This is no Wiggles--it's smart and incredibly fun music that parents love as much as the kids. Great Big Sun, Yellow Bus, and Meltdown are my favorites.

*Henceforth, I will refer to my husband the way I first plugged him into my cell phone when we started dating: as TT. This stands for Testosterone Tommy and was inspired by actual events which, trust me, is a very good thing. That is, if memory serves...we do have a new toddler in the house after all.

Friday, March 23, 2007

Drunken Sailor

What I've been doing the past week:

Hanging out with these two goofballs... of whom is now officially walking at 11 months, i.e. lurching about wildly like a drunken sailor, ready to tumble at any moment and hit her head on the nearest table leg, toy, kitchen appliance, cat, you name it. (The other one has been officially walking for quite some time now, although I've seen him stumble like a drunken sailor once or twice as well.) It's heaven in some ways--she got her first real pair of shoes yesterday and she's so adorable in them it's almost blinding, like staring at the sun--but MAN it's busy. If she's awake, that's it, she takes 110% percent of my focus at every moment she isn't strapped into something.

Do people really have more than one of these things at a time??

Monday, March 19, 2007


Sherrybaby is a powerful, raw, and wrenching film that I believe does an excellent job revealing what childhood sexual abuse can do to a person, and one of the painful paths on which many victims of this abuse can find themselves. For me, the two father/daughter scenes explain the rest of the movie. And Maggie Gyllenhaal's performance is incredible.

Please stay tuned for more about Vision Casting, LLC and the Blackbird Feather Fund, two bright, beaming lamp-posts for women on this dark and lonely road.

Saturday, March 17, 2007

"You better knock, knock, knock on wood."

Many people in my life know that I have a bit of a 'thing' for knocking on wood. Not a casual 'tap on the table' kind of thing. Not a relaxed 'I'll just knock on my head as a joke' kind of thing. More of an 'I'll leave the person I'm walking with even if they are someone I don't know well and am (or was) trying to impress, cross a busy city street against traffic, step directly through the dog poop infested pachysandra circle and knock on an ailing New York City tree' kind of thing.

So, I'm working on it. I'm a bit superstitious about other things too--I don't walk under ladders, I'm no fool, although I make an exception for fire-escape ladders because they're everywhere and I'd have to leave town--but mostly it's all in the same neighborhood: I don't want to jinx things, I don't want to tempt fate.

Although I haven't actually seen "The Secret" yet (I will ASAP), I have been spending a lot of time lately talking about it and thinking about it, and I have come to believe that there is tremendous power in directly asking the universe for what you want, in positive energy, in faith. After years of working on self-help books, you'd think I'd know this, and I did know it enough to talk about it before--but not enough to feel it. Otherwise, why would I be so afraid to say anything positive without canceling it out with a knock?

I have discovered that all of my superstitious leanings exist to counteract any positive thinking I might do. "I haven't had the flu in three years...knock on wood." "My computer has never crashed...knock on wood." "Isabel is very healthy, thanks...KNOCK ON WOOD." And as silly as it all sounds, this way of thinking is a poison that spreads everywhere. One example: I keep a notebook of Isabel's eating and sleeping schedule each day, and usually once she's down for the night, I'll write in tomorrow's date...but I always pause, wondering, is this a good idea? To just assume that she will be alive tomorrow? And that feeling is not good.

So I am going to stop the madness. I am going to realize that people aren't sitting in their houses, car keys in hand, just waiting for me to exclaim that there's surprisingly little traffic on the road so they can scramble into their cars and hightail it to where I'm driving. It's not the case.

If your thoughts play a large part in determining your destiny, which I believe, then I am going to shake off my fear of positive thoughts. I will think them and I will embrace them. I think--no, I know--it will go well.

Thursday, March 15, 2007

The Twelve Year Honeymoon is Over

Ode to Kitty

He used to be the king,
So it really is a shame.
Now he doesn't rule a thing
And we know just who's to blame.

She's up early in the morning
And sometimes late into the night.
She squawks without a warning.
It simply isn't right.

Life used to be relaxing,
But now his days are long and tough.
Her attention can be taxing
As she tends to play quite rough.

She loves to tug his ears
And smack him on the face.
She plays on his darkest fears
And there is no hiding place.

When he's stretched out in recline
She spreads her arms out wide,
Careens like Frankenstein,
And body-slams his side.

He lurks behind the door
But it is to no avail.
She hurries back for more
And trods upon his tail.

Each night when she finally goes
He accuses and complains.
But despite it all,
I hope he knows
We love him just the same.

Well, maybe not quite as much as we used to.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Striving for Imperfection

A few weeks ago I wrote my first blog post, making the switch from long-time editor to first-time writer. I was chomping at the bit to do it, but still it wasn't easy--I had to constantly fight the editorial impulses that are my second nature at this point, little dams that kept coming down and down, over and over, in their attempts to staunch and correct the words that were trying to pour out of me.

Because I was attending Jennifer Lauck's writing workshop when I began this blog, I had the wonderful opportunity to read my first post and receive her feedback (and the group's), revealing for me quite clearly the yawning chasm of difference between an editor (me) and a writing teacher (her). That night, I revised my piece considerably, and now I am actually happy with it. It fits now, it's just what I wanted to write, and it feels good. EXCEPT: I can't post it. I'm not allowed. I must let that first draft--cluttered with all of those clunky sentences I've cut or changed, missing all of the details and additions that really brought the piece home--sit there like a big pile of dirty dishes, a river of spilled milk, a boil on the face of my shiny new blog.

Because that is part of my work now: to unleash the picky editor in me, to unlock the doors of my own creativity that have been closed for years in service to the creativity of others. I love editorial work and will continue to do it, but I will no longer be defined by it. And I am profoundly lucky to have supporters who are helping to shepherd me through this transition, and who are not afraid to give me the kind of tough lessons I have dished out myself from time to time. Blogs are not meant to be perfect. You cannot post your revision--just move ahead with the next post and don't look back.

Now, one might accuse me of cheating by even writing this post, but hey, I'm not supposed to be perfect, and I didn't mention a single specific change in my revised how the beginning is totally different and much better now. And so far I am still posting with open at all times in the next window, but it's only been two weeks. Give me time and I'll keep working on letting go.

Plus, Carrie Link is linking to my blog today, and I certainly couldn't have my most recent entry be a haiku, could I? Yikes, that would never do!

Monday, March 12, 2007

Haiku for Belly in her stroller

Busy little crunch
Of Cheerios in your mouth.
For me, pure sweetness.

Sunday, March 11, 2007

Simple Pleasures

Isabel and I spent the weekend in one of my very favorite places--the company of women. And on Saturday, dear friends of my dear friend gathered for brunch to celebrate friendship and her nuptials, coming this summer. Her 12-year old son has some change to swallow, but he is happy for her. It's been a long road for this amazing woman.

One of her friends--the beautiful artist friend I have met several times throughout the years--was buzzing with excitement over a gorgeous ring she had been obsessing about and finally bought at an estate auction house the night before. A large rectangular aquamarine sat confidently in a boxy, stacked gold setting that looked perfect with her long fingers. One look at that arresting, watery stone, that lovely muted gold, and you knew there was a rich history there. Although she got a great deal on it, it was not an easy purchase for an artist to make. But there was no buyer's remorse here: her smile sparkled brighter than the ring. She explained it this way:

Several months ago, she was browsing around an herbal wellness store with a friend who is a homeopathic doctor. She was casually sampling various scents when she came upon one that made her giggle and smile automatically. She smelled it again, and then went to put it back down with the others. Her friend immediately stopped her, asking why she would put back something that made her react that way? How could you ignore a reaction like that? So she realized something: the scent of grapefruit made her giggle. And since then, she has made an effort to buy grapefruits and the occasional grapefruit shampoo, or cream, or whatever to make her smile.

This artist makes jewelry and spends a great deal of time with beads. Recently, she realized that aquamarine did the same thing to her as grapefruit: it made her giggle. She thought many stones were beautiful, but for whatever reason the attraction was stronger with aquamarine--it worked with her chemisty, it made her happy.

So when she saw this ring, she fell in love. She figured out the money. She visited the ring, and counted the days until the auction. She wore an aquamarine bracelet to attract the ring to her, to make her hand seem a welcoming home. The old couple standing near her heard the story, and routed for her all the way. And as nervous as she was, she made herself keep bidding and made it happen.

What she didn't say, but I knew, was this: she learned about this auction house because of a heartbreaking family tragedy, and most of the time she spent there was very painful. The day I saw her, yesterday, was the one-year anniversary of this family tragedy--a very painful day. But we didn't talk about that at this bridesmaids brunch. Her finger sparkled with a blue-green light, a talisman that was not about materialism, but survival. Not about jewelry, but about finding strength in beauty and joy in something simple and precious.

I can't stop thinking about this ring and what it represents. How easy it seems but how hard it can be to find and hold our simple pleasures, to gather them around ourselves so they are there when we need them. Today, I was singing and dancing with Isabel to Lyle Lovett's album 'I Love Everybody.' I adore this album. I know every word, every note, every nuance of every chorus. I saw him in concert when he toured for this album, many years ago. And I asked myself: why is this the only Lyle Lovett album I own? How can I have ignored how happy it makes me? So I am going to buy more. And I am going to listen.

Thursday, March 8, 2007

Eyes Wide Shut

I usually try to take the very best care of my daughter I can. Usually, but not always. Those moments when I bump up against my own limitations as a parent are certainly not my proudest, but so far they are not consuming me with guilt either. I don't want to passively accept my limitations--I always want to work to grow past them--but I do strive to accept myself in all of my flawed humanity, and I know that my parenting will be as flawed as the rest of me is.

Today I might continue with my work just a few minutes past when I should, as she sits waiting for me, awake in her crib. Just one more email honey, I'll be right there. Or I will reach for a baby food jar because I was too busy watching Grey's Anatomy last night to make her something better. I know this is pretty innocuous, but give me will segue directly into parking her in front of the TV for hours on end as she noshes on fast food. Add a few more years to that and I'll really be ready to screw her up.

But I do try. I am decently careful and picky about what I feed her, what I read to her, what she plays with. I educate myself on what to expect, what to encourage, how to entertain and educate at the same time. But I bumped up against a thick brick wall of my own limitations today.

I am a big fan of Michelle O'Neil's blog and think she is an incredible parent. I've been reading her concerns about the dangers of vaccinations, following her links to more information, reading about it and discussing it like the concerned parent I fancy myself to be. My daughter has been getting her vaccines regularly, and has most of the big ones coming up in the next 6 months.

So I went to her check-up today armed with questions: How much mercury is in these vaccines? Why must they be given all at once like this--can't we space them out? How necessary is it, really, to pump my baby full of so much poison? My doctor, an intelligent and kind young women, respectfully addressed each question: only one infant shot has any mercury at all, and it's almost none; spacing them out just gives the baby more pain and more frequent side effects; most people feel it is a good idea to protect people from these life-threatening diseases.

And instead of challenging her, asking for more details, more specifics, following up in ANY way, I smiled and breathed a big sigh of relief. Phew! Okay, great, thanks for indulging me, see you in a month, have those needles ready! Pushing the stroller home, I realized: I did not ask those questions to get more information or even to protect my daughter. I only asked them so I could feel better. I wanted her to say just enough for me to feel okay about them, to not have to worry about things I don't understand, and I was very happy that that is exactly what she did.

So, limitless love, but limited parenting. Even as I write this, I still feel relieved, I still plan on proceeding with the vaccines just as they tell me too. All I can say is that I will remember this moment the next time I feel judgmental about someone else's parenting decisions.

Tuesday, March 6, 2007

The Tortoise and the Hare

A long time ago but not so far away, a writer was living with one of her best friends. This woman (the writer) had always wanted to be a writer, from the time she was a little girl pouring her heart out in her diary, and she was talented and worked hard (I have read much her writing). Her friend (the roommate) was more all over the place--smart, beautiful, and clearly talented, although it was totally unclear in what. She tended to be too distracted by the details of life and her own mental struggles to do much about it. Also (and this will become important soon), the roommate was pretty set for money, for whatever reasons. The writer, as is often the case with writers, was not.

So they lived together happily, the writer toiling away at her craft (writing, revising, reading, teaching, checking in with her agent who was submitting her writing, getting rejected, writing more, revising again, struggling to come up with her half of the rent, etc.) and the roommate flitting around, cooking, dating, and wishing she had such passion and purpose. One day, inspired in part by her deep admiration for the writer, the roommate thought why don't I take a crack at writing too. So she sat down and spilled out a memoir about her particular mental struggles and how they caused her to lead her life. It was quick writing, quick reading, quite funny, and oddly touching.

The writer was excited for the roommate, knowing how she was always searching for something meaningful to do. She read the material, gave her advice and encouragement, and helped hook her up with an agent. Then, before you could utter the words "six figures"...can you guess where this is going?

The roommate got a huge book deal. It was very exciting, super quick, and for a lot of money. Now, the writer had never wanted anything but good things for the roommate, but this was a bit hard to swallow. Where was her book deal? She was the one for whom it was a life-long dream. Where was her money? She was the one who needed it, who had worked so damn hard for it. Every morning when she woke up and every night when she went to bed, there was the roommate, a sudden walking personification of everything she wanted and could not seem to get. She was consumed with envy.

For someone as kind as the writer is, a person who had taken refuge in the Buddha, this felt particularly wrong, so she went to her Rinpoche for help and he said this: every time you feel envious of the roommate, make her a salad. Do something kind, and caring, and good for her health, no matter how you feel. So that is what the writer did.

Newspapers and magazines announced the exciting book deal, and the collander in the sink filled up with greens. Wow, the publishers are throwing a big book party, something they almost never do anymore. Chop, chop, chop on the broccoli and peppers. It's been optioned for a movie! Throw in some dried cranberries, maybe hearts of palm? The Today Show appearance went great, only Oprah is left! Time to head to Chinatown for the really exotic vegetables--the grocery store is no longer cutting it.

As you can imagine, it was not an easy time for the writer. The thing is, it wasn't all that easy a time for the roommate either, no matter how it looked. She still had these same mental struggles, book deal or no, and with all of the publicity and excitement, she spun a bit out of control, began dating the wrong guy, and got involved in some things that were really not good for her, and that were very difficult to kick once you started. As the writer watched from the next room, wishing desperately that she could help but growing more and more powerless to do so, she learned something. It might take years, maybe forever, to get that book deal, but she had her writing, her passion and purpose, right now, every day. No one could take it away from her, and it was the most valuable thing in the world.

Fast forward to today: the writer is no longer in touch with the roommate, but she very much hopes she's doing well. The writer is finally supporting herself by writing books. It doesn't look quite the way she thought it would--she's left New York, and they aren't always the books she thought she'd write--but she is grateful and happy and talented and works hard, as she always has.

Blessing on all of your writing. It is the most important part.

Sunday, March 4, 2007

Her Public

I'm pretty sure my 11 month old daughter loves me. I know I am greeted three times a day, every day, with the kind of reaction Ed McMahon might receive if he arrived at one's door arm-in-arm with Santa Claus. And she seems to be pretty happy to spend a lot of time together--at least I think I'd be able to tell if it was all just a scam, just a heartless ruse to get more bananas out of me, whatever it took.

Until we leave the apartment, that is. Once we hit the streets, all bets are off. You can basically consider me the horse she rode in on, the waiting limo, the vehicle necessary only to connect her with her adoring public.

Walks in the stroller are fine, but dull. Swinging at the park can be fun enough, but frustrating: people tend to pay attention to their own kids there. Give my daughter the subway or the bus any day: a large car packed with bored people, trapped with nothing better to do than to watch her. The wide smiles, the head tilts (all the way to the left, scrunched-up half-smile, then all the way to the right--all while keeping eye contact), the wave/salute, and, when necessary, the uproarious, squalking peacock laugh that gets even grumpy traders, commuting home after losing 10 million dollars, to crack a grin...the girl has an arsenal that would put Shirley Temple to shame, and she can't even walk or talk.

Tonight we had dinner at our favorite Mexican restaurant. It was pretty empty when we arrived, as we tend to beat the early bird crowd by about 15 minutes. At first she was able to make due: there were hostesses playing peekaboo and busboys with big smiles. But it wasn't enough. She began to obsess about getting the attention of the one busy table behind her--it was quite irritating for her, actually, the way someone at her own table kept trying to feed her things when obviously she needed to keep her body turned 180 degrees in the highchair in order to face them.

Luckily, things soon picked up. As more people began entering the restaurant, she welcomed them each with a hearty salute. Some smiled back, some laughed, most didn't actually notice, but she didn't care--she was in her element. Then Ricky Martin's voice came out of the speakers, singing La Vida Loca, and this party girl's cup runneth over. She swayed side to side in her high chair, laughing and kicking...and she even had to give mom and dad some props, as they were the only ones in the restaurant who seemed to know the same seated dance.

Putting on her coat and leaving was a buzz kill, but she was tired--holding court like that takes a lot of energy. And I don't mind being the background, the scenery, the blue screen to her adventures. I know who she comes home with every night.

Thursday, March 1, 2007


It was cold as I pushed the stroller around today, but Isabel wouldn't let me cover her hands because they were far too busy gripping her toys. As has happened before, I found myself unable to put my own gloves on, knowing her hands were exposed to the chill. Not as any kind of sacrifice, but just because I felt my hands should know what her hands were feeling.

After a few blocks, we stepped into a sunny patch and she had to squint her eyes against the glare--again, I didn't pull my sunglasses out of the diaper bag, knowing her eyes weren't protected.

Soon after, it occurred to me: Isabel doesn't really eat sugar yet. Bananas and pears are about as sweet as it gets for her currently.

Oh well, sucks for her. Yum!