Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Mojo Mom declares a War on Holidays

Research shows that women's stress levels go up during the holidays, but I bet most Moms didn't need a scientific survey to tell them that.

What are we supposed to do now that the holidays never end? I just came back from my local CVS drugstore, and the Christmas Candy/Card/Gift aisle has already been transformed into the Valentine's Candy/Card/Gift aisle. Disgusting! I am declaring a War on all Holidays in protest. No wonder our kids are getting fat and unhealthy--they are bombarded by "holiday" candy just about every day of the year.

Calgon, take me away! (If only it were that easy.)

I am going to try to end my 2006 blogging on a positive note, so luckily I still have 4 days to find great news to share.

Freeing ourselves from a narcissistic trap

Our celebrity culture has gotten out of hand. Not only do magazine publishers think I will pay to read an "exclusive" cover story discussing Did they have boob jobs? Renee, Britney & Nicole--the truth behind the rumors! (this week's In Touch) but this ridiculous focus on gossip and appearance is spilling over into real life. This morning I saw a TV commercial for a new Olay Regenerist product. The ad shows a beautiful Addison Montgomery-lookalike frowning into a ladies' room mirror as the voice-over says "Your first age spot. You think everyone notices." The women on either side of her at the sink turn to stare and a spotlight beams down to shine on the alleged "age spot" for the rest of the commercial. I first caught the ad in the middle and I thought it was for acne treatment, because that's the kind of teenage anxiety it stirred up. I am sick of this! Not only do I still break out with occasional pimples at age 38, now I am supposed to be worried that everyone is staring at my age spots?

The truth is, nobody really cares about our age spots. No one is looking at our faces with laser-beam intensity. One of the dual joys and curses being a Mom is the flying-under-the-radar anonymity the role provides. As a grown-up and an author, it is a relief to finally be judged primarily for my ideas, rather than my looks. I am not going to let anyone sell me "paranoia in a jar."

I am all for skin care (wear sunscreen!) and yes, I wear makeup when it is called for, but I can't help but wonder what we could accomplish if we took the time, energy, and money we are supposed to be throwing at canned beauty and put it to better use.

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Foof of Life

I am feeling much better today. I stopped worrying about the last 10% of my to-do list and made waffles and went to see Charlotte's Web with my daughter instead. A much better day for all of us. I feel like I let go of my neurotic running around and eased back into the Foof chair of life.

I know I am going to sound like a high-school girl (circa 1999) writing in her BFF's yearbook, but I keep hearing Alanis Morrisette's song Thank U playing in my head and it has blessedly displaced the canned Christmas music. I suppose I am still waiting for my authentic spiritual Christmas experience to show up, but for now I am happy with a pretty good day.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Is there a holiday opt-out button?

Is there a a "holiday opt-out" button? I wish it were that easy.....

I am all for family time and counting my blessings. I like to think I am pretty good at that year-round. But the pressure of the holidays is just too much this year. The forced public celebration is turning my stomach. Maybe it's the incongruity of mall-tide Christmas Carols playing over a background roar of news of the war. In any case, I am not in the mood to feel cheerful on someone else's schedule!

This has been a tough year for our family with the loss of several dear relatives and health challenges for others. It's the first year I have really understood what a burden the holidays can be for people who are having a hard time. I have had just a taste of that....enough to get the idea. I definitley don't feel like chatting about "So, are you ready for the holidays?" one more time.

I am trying to summon up genuine good cheer for my family. It's mainly the wrapping, decorating, and resulting mess that are in my way right now. I brought the Christmas decorations down from the attic but only put a few of them up. I cleaned out the garage earlier this week and that added a bit more chaos into the house. As a housewife I give myself a D-, which is not a great feeling. I know I never applied for that job, but many of the "hearth & home" tasks fall on my plate whether I am good at them or not.

Ack, I am wallowing! I will visualize myself kicking back, having a glass of wine with all UnMartyred Mom and Pundit Mom, whom I am sure would tell me it's really okay to let the expectations go...and sit back and enjoy whatever genuine happiness shows up to play.

Monday, December 18, 2006

Work-life balance: Our ladder is up the wrong tree

All the research I have done as Mojo Mom has led me to a conclusion that I really need to share with you. As mothers trying to have an integrated life with many facets, have set our sights set on the wrong goal. Our ladder is up the wrong tree in a major way.

I am talking about “work-life balance.” This idea is everywhere, and has become a watchword for my generation, Gen X, which has put “work-life balance” on the map as our highest ideal as we negotiate with our hard-charging Boomer bosses. Although it is usually presented as a positive ideal, “balance” is a trap. I argue that rather than being our highest goal, “balance” accurately describes our current situation that asks families to do it all…on our own. Until we change our thinking on this issue, we are going to be stuck with the same set of unappetizing work-life “choices” that we are faced with now.

Think about it. Who needs balance? Jugglers, tightrope walkers….and Moms. Picture the iconic cover of a chick-lit novel, showing a woman struggling to “balance” a briefcase, cellphone. and pacifier. In real life there would most likely be a dog and stroller involved too, in addition to an actual baby. When we tell women to strive for balance, we’re really telling them to keep dancing as fast as they can. We are telling them that they are failing to keep it all together without asking for help.

“Balance” is in fact a telling metaphor for motherhood. Balance is the underappreciated sixth sense in our brains. Our sense of balance is active, dynamic, and takes a constant hum of processing and adjustment to achieve—yet this vital work barely registers in our conscious mind. We only notice it when our system fails and we are thrown into disequilibrium, left dizzy and unable to function. We couldn't get out of bed to stand up straight and walk, much less work and lead productive lives, without our sense of balance. But when is the last time you thought of your vestibular system, not to mention stopping to thank heavens for the vital job it does?

This is just like the work that mothers provide: unpaid, uncounted, and invisible labor that forms the foundation of family life. If it were counted, women's unpaid household labor would add an estimated one-third to the world's annual economic product, more than $4 trillion.

So if our balancing act is a farce rather than a lofty goal, what should we be aiming for?


This needs to become our new ideal, our North Star, our guiding metaphor. The motherhood movement should aim for creating a real support network that involves everyone--employers, communities, men and women. We need a team approach to holding up the world, one that recognizes the contributions that all family caregivers make, a system that does not just expect us to make the pieces fit all by ourselves on an individual level. My Mojo Mom Mantra is to "make the invisible work visible and then divide it fairly." We are still at the beginning of that first step, increasing awareness about what mothers and fathers contribute to society, through the sacrificial giving that is required to raise the next generation of children. Support and teamwork need to trickle up from the grassroots to a policy level. We can use this context to explain the motherhood movement to our supporters and skeptics alike.

I learned a lesson about support recently. I had ordered a giant beanbag chair called a Foof Cube for our home. My 7 year old knew a good thing when she saw it. Within a day of its arrival she had commandeered it for her bed, and she’s been sleeping in it every night since then. Kids are great at taking what they need.

I am also ordering another one for myself. In the meantime, I sneak into her room during the school day and sink down into the foam cube to remind myself what support feels like. I am cradled in a snug nest. I let go, and nothing falls.

I could get used to this.

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Saturday, December 16, 2006

Subscribing to The Mojo Mom Podcast on iTunes

I am still trying to find out how to create a cool little "Subscribe to The Mojo Mom Podcast" button for my blog. If anyone knows how to do this, please let me know! (You can email me via amy (at) mojomom (dot) com)

In the meantime, you can subscribe on iTunes by going to the "Advanced" menu, selecting "Subscribe to Podcast," and in the box that asks for the URL, paste in this address for my podcast's RSS feed:


This link will take you to The Mojo Mom Podcast's page on which will allow you to play the show directly through your computer or download episodes by right-clicking them and selecting from the menu that will pop up.

Isn't technology fun?????? I wish Apple would make the interface with iTunes a lot friendlier for podcasters.

Our brand new episode features an interview with Jamie Woolf, founder of The Parent Leader.

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Friday, December 15, 2006

Hooray! Sleep science and common sense agree

Parenting books are notorious for promoting one point of view strongly while ignoring all others. It's part of the publishing imperative--you typically need to come up with "Dr. So-and-So's Incredible Solution" if you want to sell books. Writing that "my ideas are good but other approaches work too" doesn't fit with the "expert" image.

Sleep has been one of the most heated battlefields in this respect. At least it was 7 years ago when my daughter was a baby. Things have finally mellowed out a bit with experts admitting that there is more than one way to get a baby to sleep. A scientific review of behavioral approaches to infant sleep shows that just about all sleep tecniques work--the key is to pick an aproach and stick with it. The study is published by the journal SLEEP and reported by The New York Times. Dr. Jodi Mindell says that “The key to this whole thing is parents being consistent. [Parents] need to pick a plan they can absolutely follow through on.”

This is important advice because no matter how gentle the technique, when children are transitioned to falling asleep alone, they almost always respond tearfully for at least three to five nights.

This transitional period is difficult but the investment is worth it. I completely agree with Dr. Mindell when she says, “What parents really need to focus on is the big picture. In the end, you’ll have months and years of everyone sleeping through the night and functioning better through the day.”

Remember that YOUR sleep an important family priority. I fell into the trap of bad habits that led me to become chronicaly sleep deprived, which carries a steep price. I've posted about this before, What Dr. Ferber Said...., but it's worth re-emphasizing my watchword to judge all parenting technniques: sustainability. The early weeks and even months of motherhood can seem like a big fog, but after that clears, you need to come up with a schedule that Mom, Dad and Baby can all live with.

If you have a newborn at home, it's worth studying up on the progression of baby's sleep patterns. Here's an article from to get you started. Babies' nervous systems aren't mature enough to sleep through the night until they are about four to six months old. After that, a sleep training strategy becomes appropriate. Remember that your own patience will be key!

Another useful resource is my friend Ann Douglas' new book, Sleep Solutions for Your Baby, Toddler and Preschooler. Ann understands that there is no such thing as a "one-size-fits-all sleep solution" and she has created a comprehensive, no-guilt guide that will help you navigate ever-evolving sleep challenges over the years.


Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Kid Pan Alley--Kids' music we can all love

With the mission, "inspiring kids to be creators, not consumers," you have to love Kid Pan Alley even before you listen to the music that this project brings to life. But give their CD a spin and you may become a true fan like me.

Kid Pan Alley brings together professinal songwriters, musicians, and kids to create new music. This Grammy-nominated collaboration has produced over 600 songs with 12,000 children. Imagine what this opportunity means for those kids--to bring this kind of artistic creation into their school day. The results are fabulous. I have had Kid Pan Alley Nashville spinning in my car CD player for a month now. I didn't want to give it just a cursory review, but I really wanted to see whether this music would make it onto my family's must-play list. It has. I am always on the lookout for music that kids and adults can both enjoy, and Kid Pan Alley Nashville is the only kid-oriented CD that I occasionally play when I am actually alone in the car. When my daughter is there, we listen to it a lot, with her serving as DJ, requesting "Put on track 17...track 10" as we sing along together.

The songs on Kid Pan Alley Nashville range from a gorgeous lullaby, "Whispering in Spanish," written in collaboration with a bilingual second-grader, to the hilarious bluegrass song, "Extra Hand," to the rock cut "No Fair" recorded with Will Hoge. (My favorite lyric: "The fair only comes to town once a year...IT'S NO FAIR!")

Get in a kids' frame of mind to enjoy a silly, catchy song like "Stinky Socks"...but any adult with a heart has to love songs like the hauntingly beautiful melody "Rainforest" sung by country artist Darrell Scott. "Rainforest" illustrates how music made through collaboration can transcend the boundaries of any one genre. The song opens with melancholy woodwinds and strings but builds to a Sgt. Pepper-worthy climax of joyful brass.

The songs are most successful when the elements of the kids' collaboration are brought to the forefront. The only misfire for me is the song "Download it All for Free" which is perfectly listenable, but communicates a preachy adult message, warning kids that if they download songs without paying the artists the music will go away. It comes across as a sermon against technoloy and globalization that lacks an authentic kid angle. That's the exception to the rule on this wonderful collection.

I look forward to listening to other Kid Pan Alley albums. If you are looking for a last-minute holiday gift for families whose kids are too old for The Wiggles but not yet ready for "High School Musical"--or whose parents are just too weary of overhyped commercialism and are looking for a more authentic kid music experience--you can't go wrong with Kid Pan Alley. The music is available therugh CD Baby, Barnes and, or the iTunes music store, where you can download the music in good conscience.

Check out Kid Pan Alley's own website to learn more about the founders' vision and the creative process that goes in to making this wonderful music.

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Tuesday, December 12, 2006

You can reach out to a woman across the world

During the five years that I have been actively involved with Women for Women International, I have been paired with five sisters who live in Rwanda. I have exchanged letters and sent monthly support to each of them during the year of training they have received from WFWI. At the end of the year, each woman graduates to self-sufficiency, having received job training, direct support, access to microcredit, and education about women's rights.

The work that WFWI is able to accomplish truly astounds me. Starting in 1993 with one couple's grassroots action, WFWI has paired over 55,000 women survivors of war with sponsor sisters worldwide. They have distributed more than $24 million in direct aid and microcredit loans, with a 98% repayment rate on all loans.

Today I was reminded once again of the profound effect that these partnerships between women can have. I opened the sponsorship packet that introduced me to my new sister, my first from the Democratic Republic of Congo. Impacted by the deadliest war in documented African history, women in the DRC face staggering levels of displacement, violence, and poverty. Eighty percent of the population lives on less than twenty US cents per day. We've all heard statistics like this and it is hard to take in. Seeing the photo of my new sister and reading about her life brought her need into focus on a human level for me. She is 28 years old and lives in a household of 10 people, including her husband, four surviving children, and four nieces and nephews. The family has precarious access to schooling, income, and health care. Through WFWI, this mother will be able to create sustainable income for her family, gain confidence, and become more active in her community. Women for Women International creates leaders, one woman at a time.

All that is required to become a WFWI sponsor sister is the commitment to exchange letters and the pledge of $27 per month. If you are reading this post, you surely have the capability of participating. It is a gift to do so. I became active in WFWI when my daughter was a toddler. I hardly had time to shower each day or pull two coherent thoughts together, but this was something I could do that would make a real difference in another mother's life. She would gain the skills and power to create a stronger family and community as her country recovered from the ravages of war.

This holiday season is a great time to get involved. WFWI has a page that links to their virtual Craft Bazaar and official Friends of WFWI partners. My websiste is one of those partners, by the way, as I donate $2 to WFWI for every copy of Mojo Mom that I sell directly through my website. I had the honor of interviewing WFWI founder Zainab Salbi for my book, and her wisdom is featured in sections about the power of women's friendship and the need for women's voices in global leadership.

I urge you to consider becoming a WFWI sponsor sister. Doing so will open your heart and your mind by connecting you to the vital concerns of another family. I am often so frustrated that our governments do not make this work a priority. It is clear that this is an effective strategy, as you can read in the recent article, To help children, empower women, UNICEF advises. You can see this effect in WFWI's work. Their programs have reached 70,000 women directly, benefiting 5.3 million family and community members.

What is frustrating is that this concept is still "news." We should know this by now and take serious action, yet the United States is the world's only industrialized nation that has not ratified the U. N. treaty on discrimination against women. The good news is that the grasssroots network of concerned people can lead the way forward. As pioneers including Zainab Salbi, and microcredit leader and new Nobel laureate Muhammad Yunus of the Grameen Bank have shown, we have the power right now to create new, sustainable networks of care across the globe.

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Sunday, December 10, 2006

Does the gender wage gap begin at home?

Cross posted from

If we want to understand the wage gap between mothers and others, we might need to start by looking at the way we treat our kids. A new University of Michigan study, as reported in the Wall Street Journal, reports that boys ages 10 to 18 are more likely than girls to be paid for doing housework, even though boys spend an average of 30% less time doing chores.

According to the WSJ, Professor Frank Stafford, who headed the resrarch, speculates that "Boys may be handling more of the kinds of chores that are regarded as a job that should be paid, such as lawnmowing. Chores such as dishwashing or cooking, often regarded as routine and done free, may fall more often to girls."

That hits me right in the gut. There is a path here that connects the personal to the political. As the author of Mojo Mom, I have been telling families for years that when it comes to housework and family care, we need to "Make the invisible work visible and divide it fairly." Professor Stafford's new research underscores the societal implications for doing this. Traditional women's work is truly invisible and consequently devalued. Family caregiving is not counted as work--Moms are "Unemployed". This work is not rewarded with Social Security. Raising children incurs a tremendous cost to mothers across their entire work lifespan.

Empoyment that mirrors traditional women's work is similarly devalued and taken for granted in our society. How many of us spend much time wondering whether the workers that clean our offices at night--unseen--are being paid a living wage?

MomsRising creates the vehicle to change this situation. Awareness is the first step. We are still at the phase where people really don't believe that there is job discrimination against mothers, or an economic penalty for raising children. We need to get our issues on the radar of our political leaders, who, we should remember, are still primarily men who have benefited from the invisible labor of supportive wives.

We know that family caregiving is vital, important work. I must admit that it is frustrating to know that after four decades of feminism, that message still hasn't gotten through to our societal power structure. Through MomsRising we must seize the opportunity to bring this message home, to not only our sons and daughters but to the House and the Senate.

Friday, December 08, 2006

A new way to subscribe to the Mojo Mom blog

I've been posting to The Mojo Mom blog for over three years, and it's amazing to see how life on the 'net has evolved since I founded I started my main site before blogging existed. Instead I linked to individual articles. Once blogging came to be, I used Blogger to create my ongoing writing outlet. Podcasting has been another huge innovation....stop me before I break into an entire rant of, "When I was a girl we didn't have computers, calculators, video games, VCRs, microwaves or touch-tone phones."

Side note: If you want to feel really old, show this little gizmo to someone under age 25 and ask them what it is. Chances are they won't know.

But I am not content to merely live in the memory of the glory days of 45 records, Pop Rocks and Pong. I'm trying to keep up with new ways to communicate with my readers. Yesterday my phone rang with some extremely helpful advice for advancing me further into the 21st century. Mojo Mom blog reader Sarah Zeldman called to tell me about the Feedbutton feature I could add to my blog.

This little "add feed" button, nestled in the right hand column of my blog under my Technorati profile box, will allow you to subscribe to my blog in most newsreaders, from Google to MyYahoo, MyAOL, or Windows Live. These newsreaders allow you to create a "customized front page" based on your interests. That way, instead of visting your favorite blogs and news sites individually, you can just open your news reader and automatically get the latest updates on one page.

Of course, all new technical advances come with their little glitches. I happened to switch to the new Blogger Beta yesterday, so my old blog postings came up as new when I subscribed to my blog with the Feedbutton reader, but I am assuming that as I add actual new posts this will work itself out.

Big thanks go out to Sarah Zeldman for caring enough to call me to share the Feedbutton tip! When I thanked her yesterday for taking a minute out of her busy day to pass along helpful information to another busy working Mom, Sarah said that is the whole idea behind her own website, I hope my blog readers will stop by Sarah's site and check out her free Busy Mom's Stress Relief Kit. I know we Mojo Moms can all use a little stress relief, especially during the holidays.

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Thursday, December 07, 2006

Mojo Mom Picks: 12 great things about North Carolina

I adore my adopted home state. I was talking to my husband this morning about what makes North Carolina special. He sees a culture of connectedness, which I think is a great way to put it. Michael said, "Other places I've lived, like New York and California, are places to go to school or work, but North Carolina is a place to put down roots and call home. New York has ionic bonds and North Carolina has covalent bonds." Much to our delight, we have been embraced by our Chapel Hill community as transplanted North Carolinians.

This is not to take away from any other state, as I would have been happy to live the rest of my life in California. I moved to North Carolina not expecting to stay, and yet I've fallen in love over the past six years. I've pulled together a list of a dozen Mojo Mom Picks for great things about North Carolina. These are people, places or organizations I would not have known about if I hadn't lived here. I have enjoyed most of these picks for at least two years, and I am organizing the list in order of how frequently I encounter them in daily life. These are unsolicited testimonials for people who are fantastic at what they do and deserve a shout-out of appreciation. Even if you don't live in North Carolina, you might enjoy seeing what makes life special here, and think about the people in your hometown who would love to hear a "thank-you" from you.

La Vita Dolce coffeehouse. This family-owned and operated cafe helps me start each day. The know to fire up a 3-shot grande toasted marshmallow latte as soon as they see me walking in the door.

North Carolina Public Radio, WUNC. Our public radio station is building upon their statewide success with the launch of the national program, The Story with Dick Gordon which you can listen to by podcast.

Montessori education. I have become a true Montessori enthusiast. I know that Montessori education is a global movement, but I may not have learned about it if we hadn't been living here. I am proud that North Carolina has public as well as private Montessori schools. In my 10-year life plan I am committed to finding a way to become inolved as a Montessori advocate. I believe that public Montessori starting at age 3 would go a long way toward solving our country's educational crisis and childcare crisis. For a scientific review that validates the basis of this educational system, read Montessori: The Science Behind the Genius by Angeline Stoll Lillard, Ph. D.

Carolina Web Solutions. My talented webmaster Patty Ayers provides some of the best service I have ever encountered. She's a gem. I've received a lot of compliments on her design of my website. She also created my smaller sites and I count Patty as a local treasure but she can work with clients worldwide through the magic of the internet.

Meadowsweet Gardens. I have to praise our local gardening experts. Their service and expertise are inspirational. They literally design and shape our North Carolina landscape.

Barbara Connor of Compassionate Acupuncture. I've had acupuncture for over 12 years, from many talented pracitioners in California and North Carolina. Barbara Connor is among the best. She uses a combination of craniosacral massage and acupuncture that is very powerful. She has a great sense for the body.

Chatham Marketplace Co-Op grocery. This community-owned store opened in Pittsboro this year after a massive grassroots effort to get it off the ground. They feature local produce whenever possible. Their sandwiches are awesome, and I have special appreciation for their catering operation, which does a fantastic job. Yum!

A Southern Season. Heaven sent treats for gourmet taste-buds and gift-givers. This store helps elevate our local University Mall into destination shopping. They do a booming online catalog business as well.

Duke Continuing Studies. Grownups need learning opportunites, too! Duke's short courses helped me get my writing mojo flowing when I was home with a toddler. I could still get out for a weekly screenwriting course or improvisational comedy session.

Carolina Basketball. The sports institution that fosters loyalty through excellence as well as the rivalry with Duke basketball.

The Grove Park Inn and Spa. The century-old arts and crafts style Inn looks like it was built by Hobbits on steroids. It's a wonderful mountain retreat in Asheville, with a truly amazing five-star Spa. The Spa reminds me of the luxury of Hearst Castle in California. Touring Hearst Castle, I always wanted to jump into their pool. At The Grove Park Inn Spa, you can! I love to visit Asheville in July during The Craft Fair of the Southern Highlands.

Blue Ridge Parkway. In the fall, there is nothing like driving through a tunnel of fiery trees and appreciating the mountain vistas of the Blue Ridge Parkway. The Parkway is a destination in itself.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Did you hear the news about the Vice President's daughter?

Did you hear the news about the Vice President's daughter? No, not the news that Mary Cheney is pregnant, although that's what was in the headline of the news item. The report also mentioned that Dick Cheney's older daughter, Elizabeth Cheney, "is on leave as deputy assistant secretary of state after having her fifth child with her husband in July."

Did anyone else know that Elizabeth Cheney had a position in the State Department? According to Wikipedia:

"In 2002 [Elizabeth Cheney] was appointed to the newly created position of Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs. According to unnamed US State Department officials, the new post was created specifically for the vice president's daughter, adding that she would work primarily on economic development in the Middle East. The appointment followed publicized policy divisions between the Vice President's office and the State Department on Middle East policy. She left that post in 2003 to serve in her father's re-election campaign.

In February 2005, she returned to the US State Department and was appointed the Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of State For Near Eastern Affairs and Coordinator for Broader Middle East and North Africa Initiatives.... Her position makes her the second-ranking U.S. diplomat for the Middle East.
Cheney also heads the Iran-Syria Operations Group (ISOG), a unit within the State Department's Bureau of Near Eastern Affairs. ISOG has an $80 million budget to promote democracy in Iran and to develop administration policy for Iran and Syria."

Wow. Way to shore up relationsh between the VP's office and the State Department. While Elizabeth Cheney may have relevant experience for this post, with a Vice President who is widely thought to wield too much power, having his daughter and son-in-law, in State Department and Homeland Security positions sure sounds like a bad idea to me.

I hadn't become aware of this situation until today, but upon doing some background research I came across this USA Today article from 2003 Don't let jobs grow on family trees that discusses Elizabeth Cheney and other examples of family members receiving political appointments.

Monday, December 04, 2006

27 things you didn't know about me.

My blogsophere buddy PunditMom "tagged" me with this quiz. If you are interested in learning a few random tidbits about me, read on.

1. Explain what ended your last relationship? Seeing that I've been married for over 10 years, my last boyfriend breakup feels like ancient history. The closest I've come recently to this experience is having a very good friend choose to not make time for me in her life, even after I tried to reach out to her. Painful, but I have to come to terms with with the fact that this friendship is dying.

2. When was the last time you shaved? Quick shift from serious to trivial....yesterday.

3. What were you doing this morning at 8 a.m.? Getting my daughter ready for school.

4.What were you doing 15 minutes ago? Reading PunditMoms' blog.

5. Are you any good at math? I was competent at math but I never loved it. At my 20-year high school reunion last month, I realized that all the advanced math I learned is quite unnecessary in my current life. I needed it to get into grad school but that's about it. Remember graphing all those functions in high school? Yikes, I hated that. It should be said that I had the boring math teacher as opposed to the inspirational and beloved Ms. Carol Gilmore. One of my friends who had Ms. Gilmore is now completing her Ph. D. in math education, to which I say Rock On!

6. Your prom night? Sober and fairly chaste 3 years running. Good thing, considering that none of those relationships ever took off. They were photo ops rather than true love. You asked this the week after I had my high school photos out for my reunion, so I am posting a photo, cropped to protect the innocent. You should have seen my white puffy-sleeved dress from the next year! If you could have filled those babies with helium I would have floated away. [The photo is from 1985. My current photo illustrates that your high school hairstyle is not your destiny.]

7. Do you have any famous ancestors? Roger Williams, founder of Rhode Island. Ralph Waldo Emerson--a poorly documented but interesting connection. I apparently had ancestors fighting on both sides of the Revolutionary War and I am really glad they didn't kill each other.

8. Have you had to take a loan out for school? No. One good thing I can say about grad school is that it paid for itself.

9. Do you know the words to the song on your MySpace profile? I would if had a MySpace profile. The only reason I can see to get a MySpace profile is to ask Pam Beesley to be my friend.

10. Last thing received in the mail? Too much mail of all kinds! One holiday card so far.

11. How many different beverages have you had today? Two lattes and one cup of herb tea.

12. Do you ever leave messages on people’s answering machine? Yes, of course.

13. Who did you lose your CONCERT virginity to? Men at Work opening for INXS in 1983. Followed closely by the very cool concert in Veterans' Stadium in Philadelphia featuring The Police, Joan Jett, Madness and REM. (We were all there to see the Police and we were like, "Who the heck is Rem?") Those were the days when I actually listened to the music being played on MTV. (VH1, I am all ready for my invitation to appear as a guest host on I Love the 80's.)

14. Do you draw your name in the sand when you go to the beach? No but I love to dig and to build sand castles.

15. What is out your back door? A newly cleaned up back porch, hooray, and a view of a beautiful Carolina woodland.

16. Any plans for Friday night? You had to ask about the night when my big plans involve a Pump It Up bouncy house birthday party. I am a bystander but that's where I will be on Friday night. My Mom and I are also trying to find a time to go see the new movie The Fountain.

17. Do you like what the ocean does to your hair? Not particularly, but if I'm in Hawaii or Monterey, CA I promise not to complain.

18. Have you ever received one of those big tins of 3 different popcorns? No, and I am happy to say I have reached the time in my life where I not longer crave one.

19. Have you ever been to a planetarium? Yes! Our family loves astronomy.

20. Do you re-use towels after you shower? Of course, since I don't see a maid standing by ready to replace them.

21. Some things you are excited about? Going away with my husband for the weekend after the holidays. Becoming involved in MomsRising. The 2008 election season. What can I say? I have become a political junkie on behalf of Moms everywhere. 15 years of listening to NPR + writing Mojo Mom = a political me.

22. What is your favorite flavor of JELLO? Ah, Jello, getting back to my Midwestern rootss. I'll take strawberry with lots of fruit in it, no cool whip on top.

23. Describe your keychain(s)? One has a silver and turquoise concha on it. The other has a photo frame keychain with a picture of my #1 girl. I have two sets of keys because it's hard enough to keep track of as it is.

24. Where do you keep your change? In every random corner of my purse except and in a bowl on my dresser.

25. What kind of winter coat do you own? I finally come to terms with the fact that, yes it gets cold in North Carolina, especially for early morning dog walks, so I just recently bought a puffy down coat, making me a much happier woman.

26. What was the weather like on your graduation day? I must be a graduation good luck charm. It was warm and sunny all 3 times I graduated, plus the 3 years I taught!

27. Do you sleep with the door to your room open or closed? Closed, because leaving it open led to 18 months of sleep deprivation!

28. Did you read this far? Consider yourself tagged (you know, if you wanna do it)!!

Sunday, December 03, 2006

Is your ladder up the wrong tree?

Motherhood can give us a fresh perspective away from the "corporate ladder" model of life, but as I have examined my commitments and activities one "ladder" metaphor keeps coming to mind.

I have found that the question "Is my ladder up the wrong tree?" can provide a useful check-in. Visually, you can picture yourself putting the time and effort in to climbing a ladder to reach the fruit growing on a tree. Is that pear really what you want? Is it worth the work you'll have to put in to get it? Did you choose this tree for your own reasons, or to satisfy someone else's?

Family obligations have been a useful focusing tool for me. Back when I was in my 20's, I spent almost 6 years getting my Ph. D. in Neuroscience without really considering whether committing that much of my life to that field was the right choice to make. Looking back, I am very glad that I finished my degree, BUT if I had to live a second life I'd definitely do something else. It turns out that I am a generalist who was getting herself trapped in a specialists' field. I was out on a limb but I found the courage to climb down.

Now, as a busy working Mom, I try to strike a balance between exploration and commitment. Doing research is exploration; writing a book is commitment. I am fortunate to have a lot of people inviting me to join them on their projects or causes, but at the same time, if I am ever going to get my own work done, I need to protect my time. I've had to re-evaluate a few longstanding commitments and decide to step away when a renewal point arrived. Looking ahead toward 2008, I am exploring how best to use my time and talents to ensure that mothers have a powerful voice in the next election.

By keeping a fresh eye on my commitments, I've been able to avoid becoming stuck up any given tree. In fact, at times I have swung, Jane-like, from one tree to another. This is how women's lives evolve. It's not just one career path, it is several. The paths fork, spiral, and go off-roads. The first time I left the path is was rather terrifying--I was sure I was letting somebody down, even though I knew what to do. Now I have left the ladder-based model of success behind and adopted an artist's model. I use every experience. Nothing is wasted, not even my neuroscience background. I look at the stack of books on my nightstand and think, "I bet no one's ever brought these ideas together before." Mojo Mom is evolving. I am not sure where I am headed next, but you can be sure I won't be stuck up someone else's ladder.

Friday, December 01, 2006

The Mojo Mom Podcast iPod winner is....

Today Sheryl Grant, my co-host on The Mojo Mom Podcast, drew the winning name for our iPod giveaway.

We'll be sending a 4 gigabyte iPod Nano to Jamie in Oakland, California.

Thanks to the podcast listeners who entered the drawing. We plan to give away another prize early next year. We figure, if we're going to spend money to promote our show, why not have it benefit our audience!

If you are new to podcasts and want to learn how to listen, check out our Podcast FAQ. We get down to basics, starting with the question, What is a podcast and why should I care?

Our show has been on for a year now and we are having a great time bringing you intelligent talk and guest interviews for thinking Moms. You can access all of our shows in our Mojo Mom Podcast Archive.

Moms' Voices are needed to support medical leave protections

Cross posted from

Buried on page 10 of my morning newspaper was a brief article stating that the Labor Department is seeking public comments about the Family and Medical Leave Act, the federal law that grants eligible workers up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave per year to care for a newborn or sick family member, or because the worker herself has a serious health condition.

My MomsRising radar was immediately activated! It is not immediately clear what the Bush administration has planned, but we should create an action to support the FMLA. As one of two main federal laws that grants any kind of family and medical leave, we need to speak up to support not only the FMLA but to insist on even stronger family leave laws.

Initial news coverage on this issue has been minimal. reports that the Labor Department spokesperson said that "This is meant to be a very objective review.... We're genuinely in search of information and having looked at the issues now for a number of years ... it became apparent we really needed some fresh thinking on this. I am hoping that is what all of this will yield."

The first reaction from Debra Ness, President of the National Parnership for Women & Families, was to be wary of possible weakening:

"Ness does not want to see sweeping changes "that could seriously undermine the protections that people now have, and our worry is that this is a step toward doing that.'"

Let's make sure the Labor Department hears from MomsRising supporters. This could be a perfect opportunity to work in partnership with other labor and caregiving supporters. The FMLA impacts anyone who needs care as well as anyone who gives it. The National Family Caregivers Association reports that each year more than 50 million people provide caregiving for a family member or friend. Perhaps we can join forces with them and the 33 million members of the AARP to let the Labor Department know that if they want "fresh thinking" on the FLMA, it had better be to strengthen it.

As caregivers and Mothers, we must not settle for crumbs, as one of the only 4 countries in the world that offers no national maternity-leave progra: Lesotho, Swaziland, Papua New Guninea, and the United States of America.

This is the start of a conversation....I'll let you know when an action has been created.