Friday, October 31, 2008

My favorite Get Out The Vote message

Hey everyone--I am sorry I've been gone for a whole week! But I traveled to Toronto for the Association for Research in Mothering Conference last weekend AND I turned in a new draft of the updated edition of Mojo Mom on Monday. I pretty much collapsed into a puddle for three days after that.

But I am BACK now in every sense of the word. And as readers of this blog know, the election is very much at the top of my mind. Earlier this week I heard an excellent segment on All Things Considered in which Melissa Block talked to a group of manufacturing job trainees in the swing state of Missouri. The group happened to be African-American and race entered the conversation, as well as jobs, hopes for the future, and the fact that everyone has to keep working hard to support Obama if he wins.

At the end of the segment, the trainees' supervisor told about a GOTV (get out the vote) text message he had received from a friend:

Rosa sat so Martin could walk.
Martin walked so Obama could run.
Obama is running so our children can fly.

If you are in an early voting state, I urge you to get out there before Tuesday to make room for one more person at the last minute.

I moved to North Carolina in 2000 just before the awful Bush-Gore election resulted in the interminable wait to find out who would be declared the winner. After eight long years, I could not be more ready to turn to a new page.

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Thursday, October 23, 2008

Election videos for the day

Okay this is not really about Mojo Mom but aren't we all obsessed with the election?

Here are the two best videos I've come across today:

First, the Kinesthetic Polling Station--At a booth, two performers will stand silently. A sign will be placed before the booth giving passersby instructions as to how to choose their candidate....

The only difference in appearance will be the faces: one performer wears an Obama mask and the other wears a McCain mask. Voters select which candidate they would like to vote for and make their selection through touch: Voters can high-five, hug, poke, shake hands with, etc. their chosen candidate. The candidates will not speak, and must rely entirely on their approachability. Whichever candidate is touched the most wins the poll. This is what's known as TACTILE DEMOCRACY.

(It makes a fascinating video, and bonus points for taking place in Providence, Rhode Island, my college home town.)

And second, the moment all of North Carolina has been waiting for, Andy Griffith and Opie endorse Obama. Yes, really. And the Fonz, too. If that doesn't get you out to vote, what will?

See more Ron Howard videos at Funny or Die

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Pundit Mom's questions for "maverick" Sarah Palin

Yesterday I got the Soccer Mom Myth newsletter in my email box, and the authors asked whether the term "maverick" would resonate with women as well as it does with men, given that one of the definitions of maverick is an unbranded calf, cow, or steer, esp. an unbranded calf that is separated from its mother.

What an ironic identifier of rugged American individualism as applied to a mother of five!

Lots of Moms have questions for Sarah Palin, and Pundit Mom came up with an excellent list that she wrote as a blog posting on, An Open Letter to Sarah Palin from Working Moms.

Starting with....

1. If you're elected vice president, what are you going to do to help all the other working mothers in America? You know, not all of us have the kind of support system of family and friends you do to take care of our kids, but we still have to work so we can afford food for the table, gas for our cars and the after-school day care arrangements because most of us don't have nannies....

So go read the whole post!

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Wednesday, October 22, 2008

The Sandwich Generation and our next financial meltdown

I have been thinking so much about our role as members of the Sandwich Generations--being a parent of a young child, a daughter of parents reaching retirement age, and a granddaughter as well.

In our family we have a quadruple-decker sandwich in which the 90-year-olds, the 65-year-olds, and the 40-year-olds all worry about each other. (Only the kids are blissfully oblivious.)

My 65-year old parents are each facing retirement as single divorced people, and each one of them also has one 90+ year old parent living in a retirement community.

There are two trends here that I have been meaning to write about. One is that when divorced parents reach retirement, you start worrying about them in a new way, and it's like a new sequel, "The Return of the Divorce," being written. I have long ago come to terms with the emotional issues of their divorce, but now 24 years later, the practical issues are huge. Now there are two individual Seniors who each need to plan retirement, and need care, or a family member to be with them and help navigate health challenges, and they are not working with each other as they would be if they were married.

I am an only child so their "person" is me. (Often, when there are multiple adult children, one of them still ends up carrying this responsibility largely alone.) There are financial issues galore, from the fact that a displaced home-maker receives a much smaller monthly Social Security check than her former husband, to the fact that it costs a lot more to fund two households and long-term care options in retirement.

I had been meaning to blog about this last month but then the Wall Street financial meltdown took over the financial spotlight. But we as adult children of aging parents need to get these issues on our radar NOW. Unfortunately, this could be our next financial meltdown, made worse by the fact that just about everyone's retirement savings have taken a huge hit this month. had a very sad article about Boomer adults kissing their own retirements goodbye because they need to tap into their own savings to pay for their parents' care when Mom & Dad don't have resources of their own: Hello Mom, Goodbye Retirement.

This is a huge issue for married women in particular because we live longer and yet we may let our husbands "handle the finances." If we turn our retirement planning over to our husbands and they mess it up, we may be left living with the consequences for decades as widows or divorcees.

That's an ugly wake-up call to imagine, but we can try to reframe it in a more positive way for younger women by emphasizing that each of us needs to take charge of our personal financial future and save for our retirement. This need is on par with our children's college savings and in some ways is even more important. If we can help our children save enough for basic college expenses, or show them how to qualify for student loans, then the extra savings beyond that level may be better allocated to our personal retirement savings. Our children may thank us when they are 40.

I'll be writing more on this issue, but if you are willing to dive in to the issue, I highly recommend Jane Gross' New York Times blog, The New Old Age. It's written from the perspective of Baby Boomer adult children caring for their elderly parents. If you are in your 30's or 40's, these concerns are likely to come your way sooner than you think.

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Monday, October 20, 2008

This week--moving forward toward our goals

This feels like an incredibly busy week for the whole country, doesn't it?

While our nation races toward the Election Day deadline coming up on November 4, I am moving forward toward my personal writing deadline this week, turning in the latest version of the new Mojo Mom.

In order to get my work done as I come down to the wire, I am going to have to unplug from my usual outlets this week, cutting way back on email, internet surfing, and even blogging.

So please know that I am thinking about you, Dear Readers, and working hard for you this week. You'll see the results next Spring!

Thanks again very much to everyone who wrote in to share your stories about what it means to be an employed or stay-at-home Mom. Your personal stories and advice will make the new book even better, and your supportive feedback about my work is helping to propel me forward.

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Thursday, October 16, 2008

I am not Joe the Plumber

I only have a minute to blog this morning, but I have to say that every time McCain and Obama addressed their debate responses directly to "Joe The Plumber," any relevance their responses had for me fell away.

It was a canny strategy on McCain's part because it seemed folksy and jovial but actually framed the responses withing the perspective of senior, older male business owners. Employees, women, young families, twentysomethings just starting out--we were left in the cold. And then Obama was forced to adopt the frame as well.

I thought Obama did a good job but if he had steered the conversation to women's issues more often (as he did with McCain's vote against Equal Pay legislation) McCains glaring deficencies on the issues I care about most would have been more evident. I just want Election Day to arrive. But I think we Moms should find a way to shout from the mountain tops I AM NOT JOE THE PLUMBER.

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Monday, October 13, 2008

Calling all stay-at-home Moms--your input is needed for the new Mojo Mom

I am blown away by the responses I received from employed Moms after I asked for their input for the new edition of my book. Dozens of Mojo Mom readers wrote me to share their stories. Thank you! Your thoughtful, articulate, honest responses are helping me write a better book. And, on a personal level, it was gratifying to connect this way with my readers, as though my book was talking back to me. I really appreciated hearing your voices.

I feel confident that my book already contains a lot of information for stay-at-home Moms, but your enthusiastic reader response has encouraged me to pose a similar set of questions Mojo Moms who are currently not participating in the paid workforce, so that I can round out a balanced selection of up-to-date personal stories and tips.

We all face many similar challenges, and I am fully aware that being "at work" or "at home" is not necessarily a one-way street. But it is helpful for me to gather information from many different life paths to share in the new Mojo Mom, as well as my blog and possible follow-up articles to support the new book.

Please email your responses directly to me, The deadline for me to consider input is October 17, but sooner is better!

Please be brief but as specific as possible in your responses.

Please tell me your name:
Job titles you have had:
Number of kids, gender, and ages:
Phone number for follow up, if necessary:

One theme of Mojo Mom is sharing information you wished you had, but didn't know ahead of time. Is there any "If only I had known...." wisdom you'd like to share with other Moms?

What are the biggest challenges of being at home?

What are the most significant benefits?

What kinds of support are key to "making it all happen"?

Is there support you don't get that would be extremely helpful?

Do you have plans to rejoin the paid workforce? If so, please describe. What would motivate you most strongly to look for a paid job? Do you perceive any barriers to returning to work, and if so, what would help you overcome them?

Did you experience an identity crisis after becoming a Mom? What did it feel like for you?

What is the most important thing you do for yourself? In other words, what aspect of self-care is so important that you make it a top priority?

Is there anything else you want to share with other women going through the transitions of motherhood?

Thank you so much for your input. I will email you to verify your quote if it's included in the book.

P. S. The employed Moms questionnaire is still active as well, so I am welcoming responses from all Moms.

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Sunday, October 12, 2008

City of Ember, a three-star family flick

I am so frustrated by movie reviewers who dismiss a kids' film by saying, "Eh, it was okay but only kids will like it," as though I am choosing between City of Ember and the new Leonardo DiCaprio thriller. That is ridiculous--I am just praying for something that is not Beverly Hills Chihuahua.

I love good kids' movies and in fact my screenwriting teacher always said that studying children's films was a good way to learn how to write. But not every film is going to be The Wizard of Oz, or even Narnia or Harry Potter (uneven, but generally enjoyable).

With that in mind, I give the latest literary adaptation City of Ember a solid three stars. The two young actors, Saoirse Ronan playing Lina and Harry Treadaway playing Doon, were appealing in a relatable way. They fit in to the dystopian surrounding, the collapsing City of Ember, an underground bunker designed to survive an apocalypse. The citizens were supposed to emerge 200 years later, but those instructions were lost, and after 220 years the city is in big trouble. One major problem is that the citizens don't even know they are underground and they are forbidden to explore the outlying dark regions, which would reveal that they are in a cave. Supplies and the electric generator are giving out. Can Lina and Doon save the day before the Ember dies out?

The movie is based on the excellent book by Jeanne DuPrau. I do have to say the changes made for the movie were mostly negative. While the theme of infrastructure collapse seems eerily appropriate right now, whoever decided to randomly introduce super-sized animals into the movie (Radiation induced? It's never explained.) should have been fired. The only good thing I can say about a giant (and I do mean GIANT) star-nosed mole appearing on-screen was that my daughter leaned over to me and said, "It's an R.O.U.S." Girl knows her Princess Bride! I must be doing something right.

The movie is a solid PG. A little scary, but not too bad, though the idea of the city going dark gave me much more anxiety on the screen than it did on the page. I think it' suitable for ages nine and up--it's nice to see something for older elementary kids. Watch the movie and then check out the original book and the solid sequel, The People of Sparks. They are great choices for families who still like to read out loud together even after the kids are old enough to read independently. However, you can skip the third book, the forgettable prequel, The Prophet of Yonwood, which so thoroughly failed to hold my attention that I didn't even finish it.

I just now learned there is a new book in the series, The Diamond of Darkhold. A reader review says it helps wrap up the series. Hmmm, maybe worth a read. Though I still feel burned by book #3, I care enough about Lina and Doon to find out what happens to them next.

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Friday, October 10, 2008

Employed Moms--your response has been amazing!

I've heard from dozens of employed Moms since I posted my request for your stories and advice on Wednesday. My inbox filled up with the most thoughtful, heartfelt emails within hours of my inquiry. I am so moved by your sharing, and the idea you would drop what they were doing to take the time to write about your experience. It reaffirms the power of telling our stories. As one Mom wrote, What a relief to say all this out loud! Okay, not so out loud. But still, I think that’s why your work is so important in my view. How many of us actually get the chance to say it all out loud?

I have walked the path of being at at-home Mom for three years and then becoming a full-time writer when my daughter unexpectedly ended up in full-day preschool rather than half-day (she would take an afternoon nap at school but not at home).

So I have a good personal understanding of the early transformations of motherhood from a SAHM perpective, and the preschool years and beyond as a working Mom. In the new edition of Mojo Mom I am trying to close the gap between Moms. Motherhood is rewarding and difficult for each of us, in our own way. I felt a bit of a mental block when it came to writing about going back to work after a short maternity leave--I felt a little presumptuous trying to explain it since I hadn't experienced it myself. Looks like I still had my own mental gap to close.

But I decided that I had to get over that block, and the solution was to turn to you, my readers, and ask you to share your wisdom and experiences. Thank you so much for your contributions. I hope that I can tap into my own mojo and journalistic expertise to do justice to your stories.

You'll see the results in the new book!

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Wednesday, October 08, 2008

Calling all employed Moms--your input is needed for the new Mojo Mom

As you may remember, Gotham Books will be publishing a revised and updated edition of Mojo Mom: Nurturing Your Self While Raising a Family next spring.

When I wrote the original book, most of the women I interviewed were employed Moms, but at the time, I was personally coming off several years of being out of the workforce. Now that I have the chance to write a new edition of Mojo Mom I would like to make sure that my writing is even more inclusive of the working Mom perspective and experience. I would love to get your input!

I am focusing on the challenges and benefits of the back-to-work transition, and I invite you to answer the following questions by email, and possibly a follow-up phone interview, to share your perspective in the new "Mojo Mom."

You can get the conversation started by leaving a comment on my blog, or email me at (Comments work best for short responses, email if you really get into writing.) The deadline for me to consider input is October 15, but sooner is better!

Please be brief but as specific as possible in your responses.

(If you respond by email, please provide the personal information, but don't leave it as a blog comment, to protect your privacy.)
Please tell me your name:
Job title:
Number of kids, gender, and ages:
Phone number for follow up, if necessary:

How long was your maternity leave, and was it paid, unpaid, FMLA mandated?:

One theme of "Mojo Mom" is sharing information you wished you had, but didn't know ahead of time. Is there any "If only I had known...." wisdom you'd like to share with other Moms?

What were the biggest challenges of going back to work?

What were the most significant benefits (personally as well as professionally)?

What kinds of support, at work and home, were key to making it happen?

Is there support you didn't get that would have been extremely helpful?

Did you experience an identity crisis after becoming a Mom? What did it feel like for you?

What is the most important thing you do for yourself? In other words, what aspect of self-care is so important that you make it a top priority? (For example, I know I'll be okay if I can just make sure that I exercise, eat well, or know that I'll be getting together with a friend on Friday.)

Is there anything else you want to share with other women going through the transitions of motherhood?

Thank you so much for your input!

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Obama's momentum in North Carolina

I wish I could blog daily right now but I think I need to cut myself a little slack. In addition to my Mojo Mom book revisions, I am still recovering from my being sick, and a large part of my brain is obsessed with the election.

I am a proud Obama supporter and visiting the prediction site has gotten better every day this month, as Obama has caught a new wave of support. North Carolina is a major swing state, and it has recently trended from light pink to light blue.

(Does anyone else remember those old-fashioned weather teller postcards that would turn blue for sunny weather and pink for rain? My visits to are starting to remind me of that!)

We are a true swing state, with a Democratic-majority state government, but the state hasn't voted for a Democrat for President since 1976. I moved here right before the election of 2000. The state has changed a great deal even since then.

One metric I haven't heard anyone discuss is the strength of volunteer commitment and passion for each candidate. I can tell you that the grassroots Democratic action here in North Carolina has been amazing, ever since it turned out that our May primary was going to matter after all. I've encountered volunteers registering voters at least four times in the past month. We may be waging an uphill battle but we are giving it our best shot.

Internet engagement a key tool for grassroots engagement. Let's check out the number of volunteer hosted events that anyone can join by logging into the candidate's web sites:

Upcoming Obama events within 25 miles of Chapel Hill, NC: 106

Upcoming McCain events within 25 miles: 1

(Listed by the search results as 2, but it's the same event posted twice)

106 to 1, that is a margin Obama volunteers can be proud of! And by the way, if you go out farther into the red areas of our state, 100 miles from Chapel Hill, Obama still commands an impressive lead in events, 203 to 6.

Four weeks to go, and early voting starts here on October 16!

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Monday, October 06, 2008

Mojo Mom Podcast with The Op-Ed Project

We're back on track with podcast production. This week Sheryl and I have a spirited discussion about overwhelmed Moms and the crucial need for mindful living after watching the Oprah episode with the remorseful Mom who had accidentally left her two-year old in a hot car, leading to her daughter's tragic death.

Then I talk to Katie Ornestein, the founder of The Op-Ed Project a highly successful training program that teaches women how to join the public dialogue through Op-Ed writing and other platforms.

We are faced with unsettled times and it's more important than ever that you make your voice heard. Katie can help you get started.

Listen to the podcast now:

This week's show notes:

Amy and Sheryl have a lot to talk about after viewing the Oprah episode from October 1 about overwhelmed Moms. It was a wake-up call to remind us that living mindfully is a worthy priority.

Then Amy talks to Catherine Orenstein, founder of The Op-Ed Project. She wants to change the fact that op-ed pages and airwaves are overwhelmingly dominated by men. Through her workshops, Katie teaches women the skills and strategies needed to join the public conversation. A timely topic in a month full of fast-moving news and an impending election

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Friday, October 03, 2008

Check out the relaunch of The Motherhood

Today two of my favorite Mojo Moms in the whole world, Cooper Munroe and Emily McKhann, are relaunching The Motherhood, bringing us a totally revamped version of their intelligent, innovative and authentic social networking site for Moms.

You can read all about the launch in Cooper's blog post in The Motherhood News circle.

Check out the photo she posted--what an amazing quote. It's giving me chills. I want to get the story about that wall! I'll ask Cooper about it when she'd had a weekend to at least exhale. I know their whole team has been working incredibly hard for today's launch.

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Wednesday, October 01, 2008

Schoolhouse Rock civics refresher course

Last hour on CNN, anchor Rick Sanchez was trying to explain tonight's congressional gyrations with a video pen, drawing arrows to and from the House and Senate, over the Capitol building, like a football commentator diagramming a play.

It was ridiculous. He would have been better off just taking three minutes to show the Schoolhouse Rock classic, "I'm Just a Bill."

I have been watching and listening to a lot of media this week as I recovered from my illness. I think it was Peggy Noonan who said that the problem with the bailout package as it has been communicated so far is that our leaders are scaring us without educating us about what is going on. I rarely agree with her but I did on this one.

I have to admit that the more I details I learn about the bailout, the more confused I become about what I think is the best way forward. I don't want to bail out the derivatives created from bad debt but I might buy up actual loans and renegotiate the mortgages.

Washington D. C. is suffering a true karmic payback this week. Not only should they have seen this crisis coming from a long way down the road, but since when have we ever seen the government do back-flips like this to act quickly to get things done? They sure haven't done that for regular people as they lost jobs. They haven't gotten paid family leave passed like every other developed nation. They can't even pass Equal Pay legislation to outlaw wage discrimination. Even immediate crisis management like Hurricane Katrina was completely botched. But Wall Street--that really captures their attention. So now is any wonder that regular citizens don't feel motivated to bail out a financial system that seems irrelevant to their lives?

I understand that financial intervention is probably necessary, but it is a crying shame to think about what a $700 billion investment could have done for families, education, infrastructure, the, so many pressing needs that affect all of us. To real Moms and Dads balancing family budgets, it boggles the mind. We have every right to be angry at the slow-motion financial catastrophe that suddenly explodes into an urgent, rushed response.

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Palin needs to stop answering "personally"

I don't have a tally of how many times Sarah Palin has framed her answers in media interviews in terms of her personal beliefs, but she's done it one time too many.

Palin is entitled to her own personal beliefs. I wouldn't be concerned about her religion or morality if it weren't for the fact that she could be in a position to shape national policy that affects all of us. Such a simple, essential idea, but one that Palin fails to project in her responses. Case in point, her answer to Katie Couric about what she thought about a 15-year-old incest victim getting an abortion (via Salon's War Room blog):
Then, when questioned on social issues, Palin avoided giving straight answers. Here's the conversation about whether Palin opposes abortion even in a case of rape or incest:

COURIC: If a 15-year-old is raped by her father, you believe it should be illegal for her to get an abortion. Why?

PALIN: I am pro-life and I'm unapologetic about my position there on pro-life, and I understand good people on both sides of the abortion debate.

Now, I would counsel to choose life. I would like to see a culture of life in this country. But I would also like to see, taking it one step further, not just saying I am pro-life and I want fewer and fewer abortions in this country. But I want, then, those women who find themselves in circumstances that are absolutely less than ideal for them to be supported, for adoptions to be made easier.

COURIC: But ideally, you think it should be illegal for a girl who is raped or the victim of incest to get an abortion?

PALIN: I'm saying that personally I would counsel that person to choose life despite horrific, horrific circumstances that this person would find themselves in. And if you're asking, though, kind of foundationally here, should anybody end up in jail for having had an abortion? Absolutely not. That's -- that's nothing that I would ever support.

Notice that she doesn't really answer the question about illegality, and keeps falling back on her personal viewpoint. It is possible to be personally opposed to abortion for oneself, or even opposed to the concept in general, while realizing that there are sound legal and moral reasons to refrain from forcing one's own beliefs on other women.

Alternet had a very interesting discussion, "Can You Be a Feminist and Anti-Abortion?" looking at Jennifer Baumgardner's new book, Abortion & Life.

In this election year it's important for all of us to spend time thinking about how we think about and value reproductive rights and self-determination in many forms, including sex ed and access to birth control (currently under fire from the Bush administration). As voters we need to consider what kind of leaders we want for all citizens and what rights those leaders should protect as a matter of public policy and social justice.

As a starting point, I would suggest the SisterSong Women of Color Reproductive Health Collective's paper, "Understanding Reproductive Justice," as required reading. It would challenge Governor Palin to start thinking about reproductive issues systemically, politically, and legally, and not just personally. If she is going to advocate denying reproductive rights then she should own that policy and real-world consequences and not just that belief. The fact that she is not even at that basic starting point yet is one more reason that she is not fit to become second in line for the Presidency.

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Gas shortage reaches Chapel Hill

We've watched the gas shortage spread throughout the Southeast, and it has reached Chapel Hill. I was out and about early this morning for a field trip dropoff, and I decided to fill up my one-third-full gas tank.

To my surprise, the first four gas stations I passed near East Franklin Street and Estes Drive were completely out with the pumps covered up. Three were BP stations and one was a Kangaroo. I finally found an Exxon station open. I still hate patronizing Exxon (never forgave them for the Valdez spill) but I figured I couldn't afford to be picky today.

I was out early, about 7:30 am, so it is possible the other stations will get replenished today, but I thought it was notable to find them empty since I have never seen that before.

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