Monday, May 29, 2006

Some news for Memorial Day

Good morning, it's Memorial Day, Monday, May 29, 2006. Here are a collection of news stories put together by The Third Estate Sunday Review's Dona, Jess, Ty, Ava and Jim; Rebecca of Sex and Politics and Screeds and Attitude; Betty of Thomas Friedman Is a Great Man; C.I. of The Common Ills and The Third Estate Sunday Review; Kat of Kat's Korner (of The Common Ills); Cedric of Cedric's Big Mix; Mike of Mikey Likes It!; Elaine of Like Maria Said Paz; Wally of The Daily Jot, Trina of Trina's Kitchen and Dallas.

Starting with the Iraq snapshot.

In Baghdad Sunday, Sheik Osama al-Jadaan and at least one of his bodyguards is dead as a result of an ambush. al-Jadaan had been seen by some as an ally with the US administration. al-Jadaan and the bodyguard were among the at least nine Iraqis who were killed on Sunday, roadside bombs continued to be a party of Iraqi daily life and another daily feature continued as at least ten more corpses were found in Baghdad. There have been sixty American military deaths for the month of May bringing the fatality count to 2464 since the illegal invasion in March of 2003. In addition to American military helicopter pilots are missing, the AFP reports, after the helicopter crashed on Saturday. In Baquba, a new feature to the occupation emerged as three severed heads were flung out of a moving vehicle. Near Baquba, Monday has already seen eleven die from a bombing, Reuters reports. This as the United States Pentagon believes their investigation into the apparent slaughter of civilians in Haditha is winding down -- the estimated 24 civilians died in November. United States House Representative John Mutha maintains that what happened in November is as important as apparent attempts to cover up the events and to stall an investigation into them. United States Senator John Warner has stated that the Senate Arms Committee, which he chairs, will hold a full investigation into "what happened . . . when it happened . . . what was the immediate reaction of the senior officers."

Meanwhile Nouri al-Maliki, Iraqi prime minister, has failed to meet another one of his predicitions. He set a date for himself to establish his cabinet and he didn't meet it. He just managed to meet the constitutional deadline (May 22) for the cabinet but did so only by leaving posts vacant. Last week, he announced that he would be fill the vacant posts this weekend. Unless Iraq's having a three day weekend, he's again failed another of his own predicitions -- there remains no heads for the interior, defense and homeland security ministries.

This as Andy McSmith reports (Independent of London) that British troops in Iraq are now being attacked attacked sixty times a month since the start of the year, an increase of 26% since last year. This as the BBC reports that at least 1,000 British troops have deserted since the start of the illegal war.

In Indonesia, an earthquake on Saturday has now claimed the lives of at least 5115. Heavy rains are preventing some attempts at rescue. This as the Phillipines have been hit with an earthquake that measured 5.3 on the Richter scale -- no injuries or deaths are reported. The Indonesian earthquake was measured 6.2 on the Richter scale and the United Nations Disaster Assessment and Coordination (UNDAC) immediately went on alert with news of the quake. Aid agencies, including the Indonesian Red Cross, began providing assistance on Saturday including foods; however, as noted earlier, heavy rains are preventing some attempts at rescue and relief. IPS reports that this is Indonesia's worst disaster since the tsunami in December 2004 and that doctors and medical supplies are in short supply. "The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies is launching an emergency appeal for 12 million Swiss francs ($9.79 million USD/ €7.68 million) to support the Indonesian Red Cross (PMI) in providing assistance to the survivors of the earthquake." As noted on KPFA's Evening News Sunday, people are sleeping in the streets as they await emergency assistance and the United States government has pledged 2.5 million dollars while the Euopean Union has pledged 3.8 million dollars.
In the United States, fire fighters have discovered the body of another victim of last fall's Hurricane Katrina "in the rear laundry room" of a New Orleans house they were searching. The current official count of those killed by Hurricane Katrina is 1577.

In Afghanistan, a demonstration was held following a traffic incident. The BBC reports that four died when a US convoy entered rush hour traffic. The AP reports that three humvees were involved on the US side and quotes eye witness Mohammad Wali, "The American convoy hit all the vehicles which were in their way. They didn't care about the civilians at all." At least four demonstrators have died, shot by "U.S. and Afghan security forces."

Meanwhile, as the situation on the ground in East Timor grows more dangerous and deadly, the United Nations is relocating UN family members and non-essential staff to Darwin Australia. Last week, East Timor handed over security duties to Australian forces following shootings, houses being set on fire and other violence. East Timor's president and prime minister are holding talks to discuss resolutions to the current situation while crowds have gathered outside the presidential palace calling for the resignation of the prime minister. The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Screscent Socities trace the current wave of violence to March of this year and are attempting to assist over 25,000 displaced persons. The IFRCRSS's estimates that 50,000 have left their homes due to the current violence. As the violence continues Australia's Federal Justice Minister Chris Ellison has been quoted as saying,"The United Nations, though, was the lead agency in all of this and the United Nations was, it had planned to pull out in a month's time. So I think really it's a question of the United Nations in this issue of whether people pulled out or not. It was the lead agency, not Australia." Peter Lewis reports that the New Zealand embassy in East Timor had to temporarily relocate the the Australian embassay due to threats from "armed thugs."

Yesterday, though the San Francisco Giants lost to the Colorado Rockies, Barry Bonds broke Babe Ruth's record for home runs. Bonds' 715 home runs now leaves him ahead of Ruth but behind Hank Aaron (755).

Though it seems long ago that Harriet Miers was in the running for the United States Supreme Court, those who remember the media coverage will remember Texas Supreme Court Justice Nathan Hecht. The media friendly Hecht has received an admonishment from the Texas Commission on Judicial Conduct for "improperly using his position" to promote Miers in an estimated "120 newspaper, TV and radio interviews" after he offered his services to the White House as some sort of go-to-guy for the media. Hecht is appealing the admonishment. In other United States governmental news, Feminist Wire Daily reports Brett Kavanaugh confirmation to the US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia "by a 57-36 vote." The Washington Post once described Kavanaugh as "a protege" of Kenneth Starr. In The Clinton Wars, Sidney Blumenthal recounts David Brock's statement that while watching the 1998 State of the Union address, Kavanaugh hissed "b*tch" at the TV when Hillary Clinton was shown onscreen. The co-author of the Starr Report now holds a lifetime seat on the court.

In news on the NSA warrantless, illegal spying on American citizens, Bully Boy is attempting to invoke the "state secrets privilege" to stop legal actions. The Center for Constitutional Rights Shayna Kadidal notes, "The Bush Administration is trying to crush a very strong case against domestic spying without any evidence or argument. This is a mysterious and undemocratic request, since the administration says the reason the court is being asked to drop the case is a secret. I think it's a clear choice: can the President tell the courts which cases they can rule on? If so, the courts will never be able to hold the President accountable for breaking the law. If the Executive Branch can secretly squash legal challenges to its conduct like this, then American democracy as we know it is in danger." The administration filed papers Friday arguing that "New York and Michigan to dismiss a pair of lawsuits filed over the National Security Agency's domestic eavesdropping program, saying litigating them would jeopardize state secrets." Also attempting to quash legal actions that might lead to further embarrasment is AT&T "which filed a 25-page legal brief" arguing that the Electronic Frontier Foundation's class action suit should be dismissed. The AT&T brief had contained redactions but a few simple computer steps allowed the redactions to be made visible. The brief does not confirm the existance of the secret room (reported on in Wired's "Whistle-Blower's Evidence, Uncut" and "AT&T's Implementation of NSA Spying on American Citizens, 31 December 2005") but argues that "'the same physical equipment could be utilized exclusively for other surveillance in full compliance with' the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act."

In other news, Amnesty is launching to highlight "governments using the net to suppress dissent."

In Cannes, director Ken Loach has won the prestigious Palme d'Or for his film on Ireland's fight for independence from England -- The Wind That Shakes The Barley. Reuters reports "The 69-year-old film maker told Reuters in an interview earlier in the festival that the Irish fight for independence against an empire imposing its will on a foreign people had resonances with the US occupation of Iraq today."

Amy Goodman noted the scheduled topic for today's Democracy Now! (noted on Thursday's Democracy Now!):

On Monday, we bring you an exclusive interview with British Lieutenant Commander Steve Tatham, former head of the British Royal Navy's Media Operations in the Northern Arabian Gulf during the Iraq invasion. He’s author of Losing Arab Hearts and Minds.

In addition to being able to watch it on TV or listen to it on the radio, remember that you can listen, watch or read (transcripts) online at Democracy Now!

This morning on KPFK (time given is PST):

Uprising! --Weekday Mornings from 8:00 to 9:00 am
Coming up on Uprising on Monday May 29th: A memorial day special with Stephen Kinzer on Overthrow : America's Century of Regime Change from Hawaii to Iraq.

This evening on WBAI (time given is EST):

7:00 p.m. - midnight: Building Bridges - Your Community and Labor Report
With Mimi Rosenberg and Ken Nash, a five-hour marathon special feature Greg Palast's latest investigative book, Armed Madhouse : Who's Afraid of Osama Wolf?, China Floats, Bush Sinks, The Scheme to Steal '08, No Child's Behind Left, and Other Dispatches from the Front Lines of the Class War.

Thought for the day from the Mamas and the Papas's "Too Late" (off the album The Papas & the Mamas) : "Cause when the mind that once was open shuts / And you knock on the door, nobody answers anymore/ When the love and trust has turned to dust/ When the mind that once was open shuts . . ." ("and no one can get in").

Saturday, May 20, 2006

Cole slaw in the Kitchen

Memorial Day is coming up and, for many, that means gatherings. There were a few e-mails asking for a recipe of a dish they could take -- always great to plan ahead. Samantha wrote to say she wanted to take cole slaw because it wouldn't require cooking.

Here's the problem I had, I really don't care for most cole slaw. Most of the time, you're dealing with some cabbage smothered in mayo. I mentioned to Wally's mother and Krista how I'd be providing a recipe but didn't really care for cole slaw and they both ended up providing recipes for cole slaw "you'll love!" This is a combination of two of their best recipes and it's actually very good.

I e-mailed Samantha to make sure she hadn't signed up to bring cole slaw and she wrote back that her family was "way too casual" for signing up. Which makes this dish even better. Why's that?

Picture cole slaw. You probably see green cabbage. This recipe uses red cabbage. So if you show up with the dish, it's different enough that if four people brought cole slaw, yours will still stand out. Krista told a horror story, it's why she uses red cabbage, that Wally's mother and I still can't get over. At a July 4th gathering on her father's side, one of her aunts ("who just took charge") was quite rude about the dishes brought. There were a number of cole slaw dishes and a number of baked beans. The aunt dumped all the baked beans dishes into one pot and all the cole slaw dishes into one container. Why? "They're all the same."

That is so insulting to anyone who brought the dish and since everyone has their own favorite ingredients, I can't imagine the combined dishes of either baked beans or cole slaw tasting anything but generic (unless they just ended up tasting bad).

The only one that didn't get combined, Krista said, was the red cabbage cole slaw that a cousin had brought. Both Krista and Wally's mother report that red cabbage cole slaw usually gets a little more attention if there are several cole slaws present -- just due to its color and the fact that everyone's expecting green cabbage.

Like green cabbage, red cabbage if packed with vitamins, minerals and a good source of fiber. In addition to that, red cabbage is also a source of anthocyanins which is an antioxidants. The jury may not have come back with the final verdict on antioxidants but it's thought that it might be able to slow the cross-linking that occurs within our cells as we age.

Thanks to my family, who are not fans of cole slaw either, for tasting variations and to Krista and Wally's mother for making their own version of the final recipe we're going with to make sure they, cole slaw lovers, enjoyed it as well.

Here's what you need:

2 medium red cabbages, shredded
2 bell peppers, thinly sliced or diced
4 medium stalks celery, thinly sliced and chopped
2 medium carrots, sliced and diced or strips

Two medium red cabbages? If you're an expert at shredding and see a large cabbage that's perfect, grab it. But for someone who may not be used to using cabbage, I think they'll be able to shred the medium ones easier. Krista worried about that as well and said for anyone who's confused, just do this: slice a head of cabbage into strips, then chop the strips into smaller pieces.

Bell peppers really bring a new taste to the dish. (Both Wally's mother and Krista use bell peppers.) In terms of appearance, they're shinier than carrots and give the dish a nice look as well as a wonderful taste.

Celery should be simple enough. Carrots? With all ingredients remember to rinse them first. In addition, you'll need to peel the outer layer off the carrots. You can buy carrots that are peeled but they're often smaller carrots. If you go with the already peeled carrots (still remember to rinse them off) buy eight of the small ones. Then chop them into small pieces or use a peeler to get strips.

That's the dry dish. Cole slaw requires a dressing. If you're pulling this together for the first time and your mind is reeling, Krista recommends Kraft's Cole Slaw Dressing which you buy in the bottle and then just follow the recommended directions on the back of the bottle for how much to use.

If you'd like to make your own dressing, here's an easy one that will bring out the taste of the dish:

1 cup sour cream
1/2 cup mayonnaise
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/4 cup white wine vinegar
2 tablespoons sugar
dash of salt
dash of pepper

Combine the above in a small bowl and then stir until it has a smooth texture. Add to the cole slaw ingredients and toss to spread the dressing. Now you can use low fat or no fat sour cream and mayo. If you're worried about sugar intake or have diabetes (or you know someone attending does), you can use a sugar substitute. You can even substitute red wine vinegar if you prefer.

If you've done all the above, you're done. But, if you'd like to do a little extra, bring a container of raisins or cranberries (or both). Don't add them to the dish. Not everyone likes them and you'll end up with at least one person complaining, "Raisins!" Just provide them on the side and people can add them to their portion if they choose.

My family enjoyed adding them and the cranberries was the only thing that convinced my son Mike to eat Friday's round of cole slaw. None of them are big fans and we had cole slaw all week as I attempted to find a recipe that everyone could enjoy.

By bringing the dish, with or without raisins and/or cranberries, chances are that even if others bring cole slaw, your dish will be different enough due to the red cabbage that there won't be an attitude of "Another cole slaw dish."

I'd thought there would be something to pull from this morning's Boston Globe but there isn't anything that really reached me. (My son has highlighted which is a nice op-ed, but I was hoping for some news in the news section.) So instead, I'm offering up three headlines from Democracy Now! which can be expected to highlight the stories we need to know about. I'm pulling from the best of Maria offers each week at The Common Ills (sometimes Miguel or Francisco does the selection and they'll be doing it this summer when Maria takes a vacation with her family to Mexico). If you've never looked over the summary, please do because the point of it, the reason all three take the time to highlight it, is because Democracy Now! is providing daily headlines in Spanish and English.

"Senate Vote Makes English US "National Language" (Democracy Now!):
On Capitol Hill, the Senate voted Thursday to make English the "national language" of the United States. The measure affirms that that no one has a right to federal communications or services in a language other than English except those already guaranteed by law. Immigrant-rights activists called the vote a major defeat.

Senate Votes To Build 370-Mile Border Fence" (Democracy Now!):
The Senate has voted to build a fence along parts of the Mexico border to prevent illegal immigrants from entering the country. In total, 370 miles of triple-layered barriers would be added near San Diego and in the Arizona desert. Senators also approved a provision that would prevent illegal immigrants from petitioning for a guest-worker permit without the sponsorship an employer. And in a unanimous vote, Senate accepted an amendment that would bar granting work permits to undocumented immigrants convicted of either a felony or at least three misdemeanors. The measure would effect even those who ignored a court-deportation order.

Bush: 6,000 National Guard Troops to Be Deployed to Border" (Democracy Now!):
President Bush has called for 6,000 National Guard troops to be deployed to the U.S.-Mexican border. Bush's proposal came during a rare prime-time address during which he also called on Congress to find a way to agree on immigration reform.
President Bush: "The United States must secure its borders. This is a basic responsibility of a sovereign nation. It is also an urgent requirement of our national security. Our objective is straightforward: the border should be open to trade and lawful immigration and shut to illegal immigrants, as well as criminals, drug dealers and terrorists." President Bush's call for National Guard troops on the Mexican border has already been widely criticized. Mexican President Vicente Fox called the White House on Sunday to express concern over the increased militarization of the border. In Washington numerous politicians said the National Guard is already stretched too thin.
Democratic Senator Richard Durbin: "How much more are we going to ask our National Guard? They have shown they will do everything asked of them to protect and defend this nation. They have demonstrated that in Iraq and Afghanistan and the Gulf Coast after Katrina, but our Guards and reserves are stretched dangerously thin."
According to the Los Angeles Times, members of the Guard will be deployed to the border for two-week shifts during a period when they would normally be in training. By losing two weeks of training, Bush's plan might result in Guard troops being less prepared for their primary roles -- responding to natural and other disasters.

Read all three of those and you see that the most pressing issue on the mind of Bully Boy and his supporters is attacking and scapegoating. The war must be going so well, I guess. (It's not, read C.I.'s "Democracy Now: Eduardo Galeano" for the details from Friday.) The economy must be booming, right? Wrong. But apparently attacking gays and lesbians might not fuel election hopes for 2006 so they need something to add to the mix. When you have nothing to offer the nation, you find someone to attack, in this case immigrants, so it's look like you're actually addressing the most pressing issues.

I'll add that I've always voted for Ted Kennedy and I'm glad to have him as my senator but he's dead wrong on the immigration bill. It really saddens me to see him, hear him or read of him endorsing the bill the Senate passed that does not provide any help to immigrants but does create a new hurdle for them. (Read C.I.'s "NYT: Carl Hulse provides the primer on advocacy journalism.")

Some of the things I enjoyed online this week:

"Surprise interview"
"rebecca winters has a warning"
"Leather Prada pumps and tears"
"NYT: Like an unnamed Dem is all excited and giddy about being invited!"
"NYT continues to play silent and stupid on the NSA scandals""Leather Prada pumps and tears"
"Helen Reddy, Burger King, Music"
"Church Committee Counsel Frederick Schwarz on Corporate Involvement in Government Spying"
"We hold the Iraqi government and the occupiers responsible for this brutal atrocity"
"Pearl Jam does Pearl Jam"
"Who exactly are the outlaws?"

Saturday, May 13, 2006

Popcorn in the Kitchen

A tough recipe for this week.

It requires a few minutes, some seasonings and a microwave.

Take the microwave popcorn of your choice and place a bag in the microwave. Pop until the timer goes off. Open bag, being careful not to let the escaping heat burn you, pour into a bowl and then add seasonings. You may want to use salt -- table salt or sea salt. I prefer sea salt. Or you may with to add some cheese such as parmesan.

If you have children, eat the popcorn with them while sharing details of the week or details you wished had happened in the week.

The point of this? Tomorrow is Mother's Day. C.I. noted something during "And the war drags on . . . (Indymedia Roundup)" that echoed my own thoughts. It's time to trot out another middle-class worry for the state of motherhood, apparently.

Mothers are overworked, just about everyone in our country is -- everyone except our vacationing Bully Boy. But women with partners need to get serious. If you have a partner and you're pulling all the weight, well, as Rebecca said on the phone last night, the sex must be good.
Why else would you put it up with it?

But there's an idea being pushed of a put upon woman who's just so busy doing it all. I read the magazine article (as did Rebecca and C.I. who may have also read the book the article was based upon -- I haven't read the book) and reading of the mother being the first one up to fix breakfast, get the child to school, do this and do that, I wondered exactly why she had a partner?

I've given birth eight times. Maybe that makes mine a no-frills approach? I didn't have the luxury of aspiring towards perfection. I did what I could and everyone pitched in. While I was fortunate to have parents and siblings and grandparents living nearby, the person who pitched in as much as me was my husband. (He still does pitch in equally.)

Forget raising eight children, I couldn't have raised one without help. But, to me, help always came from outside of our home. I never considered it "help" when my husband did his part. They were, after all, his children as well.

I also never suffered from the belief that I was less a woman if I didn't do it all or if the house wasn't just right. In pregnancy, we know we're not going to be able to wear that beautiful dress that looks just perfect and always earns compliments. That's because you're carrying a child even though it looks as though you've swallowed a water mellon. You have to be practical, or really brave, in those last months especially.

I always saw raising children as an extension of pregnancy. Just as you settled for pracitcal when choosing maternity clothes, you settled for practical in terms of the house once kids were a part of it. The fantasy of an white living room was on hold. A white sofa and kids do not co-exist naturally.

Some people raising children by themselves don't have the luxury of another person to do their share. They may also not have friends or family who can help out. If that's you, stop reading. It's Saturday and you already do enough so if you've got the time to read right now, use it instead to do something fun for yourself.

But if you're reading and you have children and a partner, I'll share a few things that you can take to heart or dismiss.

If you're taking your child (or children) to school every day, why is that? Your partner can't find the school? Is he (or she) banned from school property?

You're making breakfast every morning shortly after you rise, why is that? No one else can work the stove?

My point here is to ask: why?

In some cases it's because we buy into this notion that if we don't everything we're supposedly supposed to do, we're somehow failing. (As "mothers" for women -- but this may apply to some men, both straight and gay, raising children as well.) That's cultural learning, not practical experience.

With eight children, there were always multiple needs. If I was dealing with one child's crisis when another child needed my attention, I learned quickly my limitations as one person. "Go talk to your father." It's one sentence, you can say it. (Or "Go talk to your mother" for some people.) If it couldn't wait and I was already dealing with one issue, then I couldn't deal with two, or three, or four, or five, or . . .

Our son Mike has written about how all the children were expected to pitch in. That's a necessacity in a big family. It should be the case in any family. One person cannot and should not carry the burden or the bulk of the burden.

The children knew they were responsible for making up their own beds, to give one example. That didn't mean, and this is a point that had me nodding when I read C.I.'s entry, that I then went back and said, "That's not good enough for me, I'll remake that bed." I wasn't sleeping in it. If it was a little sloppy, to steal from Cedric, "Oh well." I had enough work without making additional work for myself by deciding that everything would be perfection.

Mike was the worst about making his bed. He knew his oldest sister would come along and straighten his attempt for him. When she moved out, he suddenly had to face that his bed wouldn't be fixed by her and he started making it correctly. All knew how to do that. They were shown that and then, however, they made it up was their business. (They did, however, have to make it up. It might just mean pulling the bed spread up, as was the case with Mike, but they had to make it.)

I thought of an aunt when I read C.I.'s comment a sociology professor had made. I called C.I. and aksed, "Is the woman talking about her mother having a problem with the beds?" She was. I knew it because that was my aunt. The bed had to be made just so, with the corners just so, the pillows just so, everything just so. Her husband would make it and she would rip everything apart and remake it herself.

If it was her hang up and gave her peace, more power to her, but everyone in my family felt she was making more work for herself.

So that's a piece of advice, don't make more work for yourself.

Children forget things. That includes making beds, so you send them back to their rooms to make up their beds. But I'm actually thinking of "I need . . ." It may be a practice or game that they've forgotten. In that case, Cedric again, "Oh well." If they waited until the last minute to inform me of a practice or a game, they didn't go. Even if I had the time or my husband had the time to take them. If they were old enough and able to get their own (walking or taking the bus), then they could go. Otherwise, they missed it. They quickly learned that if they wanted a ride, they needed to say something ahead of time. I came up with that rule early on and both my husband and I followed it with only the exception of a special practice or rehearsal being called at the last minute. If that happened, it certainly wasn't the fault of any child but of an adult who couldn't plan.

What about school projects? An assignment is due the next day and you hear "I need . . ." Due to that being something that's academic and graded, that meant going out at the last minute for it. But not without consequences. If it took us an hour to get ready for the store, go to the store, buy the item and come back home, that was an hour the child who had the need was giving the next day to something around the house. (Usually dusting because things always need dusting.) I said that upfront. "We'll run to the store now, but tomorrow, you're dusting."

As with missing a game or a practice, they learned quickly that they needed to be more on the ball and not wait until the last minute.

With the first child, I had all these dreams and probably would have tried to be Martha Stewart (or my concept of her) for several years had the second child not quickly followed. I also benifitted from the fact that I was raised after the second wave of feminism and was aware, from my own mother and her sisters, of the critiques that came before.

Maybe other women haven't been as lucky. But once you have children, regardless of what you know about feminism going in, you have real life experience. You can learn from it or you can live in a fantasy world.

If playing Joan of Arc is your idea of happy, go for it, by all means. And if listing all the duties you've grabbed is your way of feeling better about yourself, continue sharing. But most women I know aren't going to be listening and thinking, "You're awesome!" Hopefully, if it makes you happy, they'll be happy for you. But other than that, you're asking for something you're not going to get: sympathy.

Our second oldest son and our daughter Kelley (Kelley and Mike are the only ones who don't mind if I use their names here) was the worst about needing something cleaned. He was the first to be put on laundy duty as a result. After I taught him how to use the washer and dryer, he could wash anything of his whenever he wanted. He also took care of the wash period. That's a huge job in any family, especially one of our size. My husband and I would help him at least once a week and during spring cleaning, but we always let him know, "We're here to help, you're calling the shots." He took a lot of pride in the task. Before that, it was split between his older brother and sister with my husband and I on back up duties and we were forever running behind. When all he had to focus on was his own bedroom and the laundry, he took to it with such enthusiasm that we were all shocked. (He'll say to this day that he was so glad not to have different tasks each week but the same ones.) He made up his own schedule and, as we did with the kids on other things, he enforced it. If he did laundy Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays and someone needed something, just had to have it, cleaned Wednesday night, "Oh well."

Cooking meals was always my task. The kids, as they grew older, would often make their own snacks. But when you're cooking for so many children and at least two adults, it really is a task, not just in terms of the amount of work but in terms of knowing how much to fix. I'm sure I've done my share of complaing to friends and family about having to stagger half-awake into the kitchen each morning. But meals were the only task I made my own. And, as I've written before, the thought of several courses, went out of the marriage early on. (My husband would usually bring home chicken or pizza whenever we could afford it. However, with a large family, if something burned -- and it often did, burned beyond eating -- you were looking at throwing out a sizeable portion of food so it just wasn't worth it.)

If one of the children wanted to watch TV in after school and had passed the "Have you done your homework?" quiz, great. While they watched, they could pick up the living room or dust. There was always a number of things needing to be done and by spreading it out, it was done. That's not to say the house was spotless, it is to say it's always been liveable.

Except when a cold or flu was running through the family. When that happened, as a parent, I did pick up the slack. But when everyone was healthy, everyone did their part.

Mike's youngest sister, the baby of the family, has grown through life with the statement/threat that when she gets married, she's making all of her children do everything. As the baby of the family, she wasn't old enough to see what a team we really were. (She also doesn't grasp that what she does now, such as cleaning the living room, isn't as difficult as it was for her siblings when there were eight of them living in the home. There is much less to pick up now.)

But when she makes that vow/threat today, I'm not hurt. I think it's great that if she has children (she may not, not everyone has children, it's not a requirement though the article may make you think it is), she's already realized that she's not going to have to do it all.

Reading the article, and I'm being nice and not mentioning it, I felt I was reading about some with actual problems (such as single mothers with no support network) and some who had decided they were Joan of the Hearth willing to burn at the stake to be Super Mom. If that's your fantasy, go for it. But don't plan on having a large family unless you've got good insurance that will pay for your lengthy, hospitalized rest.

I kept thinking, "She needs an Alice." Remember The Brady Bunch. Did Carol Brady ever do anything besides read in bed and occassionally help Alice carry in the groceries? I'm not remembering it. I'm remembering Alice serving dinner at the table and Alice cleaning and Alice doing pretty much everything. If you can afford help, go for it.

But most of us can't. Which is why, I argue, you have to realize that a family is not a group of people you are there to serve. A family is group of people who all pitch in.

That's not one person and reading the tale of the first woman, I thought, "Give her two more years tops and she'll either be institutionalized or she's going to wise up." Nudge your partner in bed, and tell him/her to get up and make up toast. Toast can be a breakfast meal. If you're that stressed out, toast can be all that is cooked. It can be rounded out with a piece of fruit and/or cereal. And that shower the woman was rushing to take and get her make up on? She could have done that fifteen to twenty minutes later while her husband and child were in the kitchen.

I didn't dislike the woman, but I didn't sympathize with her. I felt she was taking on everything and that she needed to decide whether she got her kicks doing that or not. If she does, complain for fun, many people do. If she doesn't, she needs to stop trying to do it all.

That may be harder to grasp when it's just you, a partner and one child. You may think, "Well I should do everything." But I showed the article to my friends and we were all, sad to say, laughing at the woman. Not at the difficulties she had, but at the fact that she was making her life more difficult. She might get sympathy in some eager beaver Mommies & Me class. But among working class women, she just received a lot of laughs. She was trying to be Carol Brady and Alice rolled into one. Someone needs to tell her, "The Brady Bunch was a TV show."

Times are hard. Everyone has to work these days. That's adults (inside the home and often out) and children. No one can do it alone and, a point of feminism, no one should have to.

But what most bothered me about the article, timed to celebrate Mother's Day, was this notion of Mother's Day as a holiday. That's a nice little TV movie, it's not reality. There is never Mother's Day that is an off day. Quit kidding yourself. Once you have children, you are always "on." Even when they leave home, they often choose Mother's Day as the day to break some news, usually not, "I got a raise, Ma!"

But that's life. There's no holiday in life, either. You get together and celebrate the holidays you celebrate and they're as messy as any other day with someone breaking bad news or working through some perceived sleight from years ago. (I have an older sister who has to, has to, bring up the fact that our youngest sister got a wonderful coat, years after we'd left the house, when she never got her dream coat, always had to have a cloth coat, and how much that hurt her, at 23, to come home and see our youngest sister in that rabbit fur coat -- you'd think it was a mink stole. We've all heard the story a million times and know we'll continue to hear it a million more.)

I was also bothered by another thing and I was glad to hear from C.I. and Rebecca that they were as well. They felt the article was written for Young Bride and not for our current world. I'll agree with that. Reading over and over about "maternity leave" (sometimes the authors tossed in "paterntiy leave"), I did have to wonder exactly how well off the authors were? Reality is that these days, FAMILY LEAVE is much more likely to be used to care for an ailing parent. With the baby boom hitting the golden years, that's only going to become more common. Parents are going to have to deal with not only children but their own parents. The world portrayed in the article struck me as highly simplistic in many cases.

For all the sympathies to single mothers, the article struck me as something written by and for White, upper-middle-class women. It was divorced from reality.

Whether those with partners were taking on every duty or not, there wasn't a thing in the article that hadn't been written by second wave feminists and that women haven't been dealing with for many years. But the article didn't seem to have any appreciation for feminism. After the first story (the woman trying to do it all), it should have been pointed out, "You don't have to do it all." Feminist writing I grew up on would have made the point then if not opening with it.

It seemed to glorify in the notion of "Oh the work we do." Considering the state of the world, not present in the article, I was not impressed.

There was no discussion of the value of the work that goes unpaid, no suggestion, as Gloria Steinem has often made, that all this unapid work (essential to society) should be factored in the GDP (as is done in Canada). It was two women writing about women with no feminist perspective beyond "wages!" Wages are important and a huge body of work already exists on that topic that addresses the topic much better.

I imagined some good soul reading the article and making the mistake of making it a Mother's Day gift to their own mother. That's about as useful as the multitude of ties many fathers get every Father's Day. There's nothing in the article that should be news to most women. It read like a make-work project that was done between luncheons.

Is that harsh? So is life right now. We're a nation at war, not noted in the article, and they want to share a bunch of stories and a few facts (on wages) that aren't news to any but the most sheltered. Considering that the organization responsible for the book is the same organization that goes through periods of ignoring the war, that's really not surprising.

But if anyone's purchased the book as a Mother's Day gift, let me help you out and possibly salvage tomorrow, don't give it. No mother needs that book as a gift. She's probably quite aware of her life without a hastily put together book telling her about it. Give her something useful like CODEPINK's Stop The Next War Now. Or, as C.I. suggested, Judith Stacey, Susan Bereadu and Dan Daniels' wonderful And Jill Came Tumbling After: Sexism in American Education. (A great book that my mother gave me when I had my first child. At a time when I was getting various child care books, all with soothing language and soggy 'theories,' this was the only book worth the time of reading.)

Semi-soulful explorations on the state of motherhood may be news to some, but not to mothers. Possibly, those as well off as the authors appear to be may read it and be shocked that not everyone has all the benefits they do but working women have no use for this book. If they want to know about wages, they want to know about them at length and this article's factoids don't indicate that there's anything in it that addresses the structured system in the United States, merely notes it and proposes some hand wringing.

My husband wondered if the book might offer more than the article? If so, that the authors' problems. They got several pages to make their case (promote their book) and only served to waste time and kill any interest in their book.

I'll note this from CODEPINK:

Declare peace on Mother's Day with CODEPINK! We will be gathering in Washington DC for a 24-hour vigil outside the White House on May 13-14, and will be joined by amazing celebrity actresses, singers, writers, and moms, including Cindy Sheehan, Patch Adams, and Susan Sarandon! Bring your mother, children, grandmothers, friends, and loved ones. We will be honoring the mothers of the fallen by sending them organic roses. Click here to send your rose! We're also writing letters to Laura Bush to appeal to her own mother-heart, turning them into a book, "Letters to Laura." For event info click here, read our blogs and check out our online store for gift ideas.

I think you should know about it. Why? You can see how much attention it gets from the media. That's women honoring Mother's Day which isn't about, as intended, taking a "break" from the world. And most mothers tomorrow won't get a break from the world. Maybe, if they're of a certain economic bracket and they've martyered themselves all year, their spouses will take a little pity on them and give them breakfast in bed. Maybe even take them out for a nice lunch or dinner. But in the real world that most of us live in, we'll be doing what we usually do while hopefully getting a hug from our kids. That's reality.

So instead of trying to fix something wonderful this week, let's all just make a point to pop some pop corn and, if we're lucky, share it with the people in our lives. Have a nice conversation about what's going in our lives and in the world around us. Be part of the world around you.

Some things worth reading:
"The joke is always Thomas Friedman. Always."
"preaching to the converted"
"Different stuff"
"Guns & Butter and the crappy 1000th issue of Rolling Stone"
"Bully Boy caught lying & spying again"
"NYT: The intentionally blind and the willfully useless (yes, Dexy's back in print)"
"hud run by a liar"
"more on hud's lead liar alphonso jackson"
"The news is not good."
"Chaos and violence continue"
"TV: The Urine Stains of David Mamet"
"Head on Home (a musical in four scenes)"
"TV commentary takes a back seat this week to Colbert"
"Shame of the Week (Musical)"
"NYT: Says nah-nah, we did in December, though they really didn't (Shane & Lichtblau)"
"Kat's Korner: Pink's not dead or silent"
"Kat's Korner: Need deeper? Check out Josh Ritter's The Animal Years."
"Kat's Korner: Richie Havens: The Economical Collection"
"Kat's Korner: Neil Young's Living With War -- key word 'Living'"

Saturday, May 06, 2006

Pasta salad with avocado dressing in the Kitchen

Karla wrote to say that avocado's have gone on sale in her area and she's stocked up. These are fresh ones and she's wondering how long before they ripen? You can speed up the process a number of ways (I have an aunt who puts them in flour, I don't do that). But you should store them in a paper sack. It's summer and avocados will be on sale so with Karla's e-mail and Billie's asking for something simple and light, we'll do a pasta salad with avocado dressing.

There are many kinds of pasta salad and I think I love all of them. They can be made with meat or without. Shrimp, ham, chicken and scallops are among my favorite meat ingredients to put into a pasta salad. They are easy to make and even easier if you skip the meat.

This one is very simple and requires only boiling water for the cooking step.

You'll need:
8 ounces of small pasta shells
3 stalks of celery (cut into 1/2 inch slices)
2 medium tomatoes chopped
4 ounces of ham in 1/2 inch cubes (optional)

1 medium avocado, pitted, peeled
3/4 cup of mayonnaise
2 tablespoons of cider vinegar
1 teaspoon of Dijon mustard
dash of salt
dash of pepper

Boil water and cook the pasta as directed on the package. Drain the pasta.

While the pasta cools, you'll make the dressing. Cut the avocado in half and remove the seed in the middle. Scoop the avocado into a bowl. (Mike has his own way with avocados. He slices them in half, removes the seed, then peels off the skin, and dumps the two halves into a bowl.)
Using a fork, mash the avocado until it is smooth. Add mayonnaise, vinegar, mustard, salt and pepper and then stir with fork until well blended.

Chop the celery and tomatoes. Using a large bowl, combine the celery, tomatoes, ham and pasta. Add the dressing and toss the salad lightly to mix the ingredients. ("Tossing" does not mean throwing it into the air. My daughter is reading over my shoulder and said I should note that. Think of tossing as a form of stirring, if you're confused. You're not stirring in a circle, you're lifting with the spoon and then going to the bottom of the bowl to lift again, in order to make sure the dressing is mixed with the salad.)

So that's it. You can now serve it or, if you'd prefer it chilled, you can put it into the fridge (cover it) and eat it in a half-hour or hour.

Summer's gearing up and, with the hotter days, many people look for lighter meals. This is both due to the fact that you don't want to spend a hot day standing over a hot stove and also because many people don't want a heavy meal during the summer heat. So summer can be the perfect time for salads (pasta and non-pasta ones). Fresh produce is also more plentiful in the summer as well.

The fiber in fruits and vegetables can help you lose and/or maintain your weight if that's a concern for you. In the dish above, you get tomatoes, celery and avocados. You can also add to it with your favorite fruit or vegetable. (Radishes are my mother's favorite and she's always sneaking them into any salad.)

The news of the week? Porter Goss announced Friday he was stepping down as director of the C.I.A. and C.I. and I were discussing the news that Michael Hayden would be his replacement. A scary thought. Last weekend, a number of us went to NYC for the rally and march against the war. At some point over the weekend, the figure for American troops who have died in Iraq hit 2400. Today, the total is 2417. It's being reported that a British helicopter was shot down in Basra and at least four British troops have died.

If you've been following the Iraqi snapshot that C.I.'s been doing at The Common Ills, Monday through Friday, you know that despite Bully Boy's nonsense, things are not getting better. Nor will they. The United States government launched an illegal war. That's not something you move "past." The war was illegal from the start and the occupation has no validity for Iraqis. Nor would it for us, if we were occupied. "Democracy" and "liberation" do not come by a foreign government occupying and controlling your country.

With Vietnam, we were told we were "winning" or soon to be. That nonsense is echoed by the current administration. Something's you do not "win" because you're not meant to. When you have to lie to achieve your goals (or attempt to achieve them), your goals themselves are in question.

I was very encouraged by the numbers in NYC last weekend. They indicate awareness but more is needed as well as more action and more participation. It was a bit of a comedown, to put it mildly, to return home and find that a number of people were saying that they'd heard things were getting better and the Iraqi government was on track.

An occupied territory does not have an independent government. What they do or do not do is dictated by the occupiers (the United States government) and that's grasped by the Iraqi people. Having entered into an illegal war, there is no "victory" to be had.

The only solution is to withdraw the troops. Not to do so is to demand more deaths (of troops and of Iraqis). That is as basic as 1+1=2 and no spin can will change the reality (although spin obviously does manage to confuse people).

It's easy to get frustrated and depressed when you notice some people around you who would rather follow anything except the news from Iraq. One thing that cheered me up this week was reading Rebecca's "goldie's (and marlene's) house party last weekend to end the war" which very much addresses the power that we have as individuals.

For a light take on current news, I recommend Wally's "THIS JUST IN! DOES CONDI HEAR BELLS?" (his mother and I spoke many time this week and both agreed that sometimes his humorous take on the news provides the only "daily laughter"). I also enjoyed Mike's "Law and Disorder and lots of other stuff" and Cedric's "Bully Boy and check out Annette Rubenstein on Law and Disorder." Betty's "Thomas Friedman's Trash Dump Psuedo Politics" is funny and I'm so tempted to ask her if I've guessed one of the twists of Betinna's life? (I think I've figured out how Betinna ended up with Thomas Friedman.) But I especially want to recommend, dropping back to April 19th, "My pacificism isn't a cloak I wear some days and others put on war drag" which was a strong and, I think, beautiful post by Elaine. I think she says many things that a lot of us have been thinking. (And I see that now it's being addressed outside of the community.) Having demonstrated in Afghanistan and Iraq that he's incapable of allowing "freedom" or even ensuring "safety," I'm very bothered by the cries of some to turn the events in Darfur over to the Bully Boy's hands.

I have to wonder how closely those calling for that have followed the news in the last few years?
I think some people are fooling themselves and willfully dropping out from reality. Ava and C.I.'s "TV Review: Without a Point" is a wonderful review but I especially enjoyed the conclusion of the review:

They play it just as safe when they turn to a Jerry Bruckheimer show that offers what passes for flash and no meat. Near the end of Dostoyevsky's The Idiot, Mrs. Yepanchin says, "We've had enough of being carried away by our enthusiasms. It's high time we grew sensible." Watching the Bruckmeister's various franchises, we couldn't agree more.

Sunday morning, they told me that they hoped I would enjoy the review ("in some manner" -- they are very down on their reviews, wrongly so) and I was wondering about that? Others explained that they'd worked in something just for me. Dostoyevsky is one of my favorite authors and The Idiot is one of my favorite novels. So when I read the review Sunday evening,
I was very happy to come across that quote. One that I agree with and think we should all heed.