Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Countdown to the new Mojo Mom!

The new Mojo Mom book release is almost here! I've been working on it for a year now so it's very exciting to be just a week away from April 7th.

I'll be announcing my author events soon. I'll be doing a few in-person events as well as at least 20 radio interviews, which feels like the most efficient way to tour the country. As much as I'd like to visit you all in person, I don't think my family would be very happy to see me go on an extended tour. I've always been conscious that it's important not to wreck my actual family life in the process of writing a book about how Moms can improve their lives!

My first "event" to announce is a virtual book release on Facebook, and if you are a Facebook member I'd really appreciate it if you'd RSVP to attend. This will help spread the word and show support for the new book. Publishing is such a challenging and competitive industry--the book has to prove itself by Mother's Day. It's almost like a movie release, but instead of two weeks to be judged a success, a book has about two months.

I'll be writing more soon about a few simple things you can do to support the book release. I've tried to be informative and generally noncommercial over the years, but this is the one time I really need to ask you for your help in recommending my book. My fans are my most powerful grassroots advocates!

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Monday, March 30, 2009

Police pick up ten-year old boy for walking to soccer practice alone

Last week I had just interviewed Kidpower founder Irene van der Zande for The Mojo Mom Podcast, talking about teaching kids skills that enable them to navigate the world independently. The next thing I knew, one of my neighbors told me that her ten-year old grandson who lives in Mississippi had been stopped and picked up by the police because he was walking to soccer practice alone.

The soccer field was at the elementary school about a half mile from his home!

Here's an excerpt from the Columbus, Mississippi local news coverage:
William made it as far as Seventh Street North, near what used to be Barnhill’s Buffet, when a Columbus Police Department cruiser stopped the boy. The officer was responding to several 911 calls made by people who had seen William walking the sidewalks alone.

The officer drove William the rest of the way to soccer practice, and then went about the business of tracking down [William's mother] Lori Pierce.

He caught up with her at her son’s soccer practice and proceeded to read her the riot act regarding the safety of her child and potential criminal liability she could have faced had anything horrible happened.

“He told me I could have been charged with child endangerment,” she said. “I was so shocked.”

Although Pierce is quick to point out she never felt anger toward the officer nor the police department, the stern warning given to her by the policeman concerned her deeply.
I feel for today's parents, I really do. I have these questions myself--how much freedom can my child handle? How much leeway do I give her? And importantly, I think we need to consider the cost of letting them grow up without life experience.

William's case seems like a slam dunk to me: of course a mother can analyze the situation and decide that her ten-year old can walk a half mile alone. William wasn't in distress. He had a plan and a cell phone. His Mom was going to meet him at practice in a few minutes. But what do we do when well-meaning neighbors start calling 911?

It's no surprise that William's story was reported on Lenore Skenazy's Free Range Kids blog. Last year Skenazy caused a stir by allowing her nine-year old son to ride home alone on the New York subway.

I am not going to tell you how you should feel about the Skenazy family's experiment, but the media firestorm that ended up labeling her America's Worst Mom was an overreaction if I've ever heard one!

At the time, Skenazy wrote about the conflicting feelings of today's parents:
Even as the stations (and Web sites and Web logs) were having a field day with the story, people kept pulling me aside to say that they had been allowed to get around by themselves as kids, and boy were they glad.

They relished those memories — and thanked their parents! — and then in the next breath they admitted: They would never let their kids do the same.

Why not? Has the world really become so much more dangerous in just one generation
The world hasn't gotten so much more dangerous, but we have evolved a keener sense of awareness and stricter standards of child safety and supervision. I generally think that this is a good thing. But the problem is that we have few clear societal guidelines or consensus about how to implement safe judgment about when to let our children operate independently. By "locking them up," metaphorically speaking, we may feel that they are safer, but by doing so we may deprive them of essential life experience that can only be gained by doing.

Remember the story of Sleeping Beauty? After it was said that Aurora would die on her 16th birthday after pricking her finger on a spindle, her well-meaning father had all spinning wheels destroyed. So when the witch showed up on Aurora's birthday with the spinnning wheel, what did Aurora do? She was immediately drawn to the spindle and pricked her finger. (Magical intervention allowed her to fall asleep rather than die.)

I am NOT saying that we should let our kids experiment with dangerous things (such as drugs or alcohol), but I am saying they need life skills and chances to operate independently and exercise judgment, within generally safe parameters.

We're confronted with what I call "The Paradox of Parenting," which can be summed up by the classic quote: "Good decisions come from experience...experience comes from bad decisions."

That's why I am so proud to be working with Kidpower, which teaches parents how to give those skills to their kids, so that kids can get experience by exploring the world with safety and confidence.

So what do we teach in Kidpower? Just today I was sent this excellent graphic that illustrates our Kidpower Tools to Live By (follow link for full-size text!). Check it out and think about what the world would be like if all children and adults had the training that empowered them to call on these skills. You can find more information and free resources at www.Kidpower.org

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Sunday, March 29, 2009

Mojo Mom Podcast and Kidpower

I am pleased to welcome my friend, teacher and mentor Irene van der Zande as my guest on this week's Mojo Mom Podcast episode, Mojo Mom and Kidpower.
Twenty years ago, Irene founded Kidpower, a grassroots organization that has grown to teach personal safety and self defense skills to over 1.2 million people worldwide.

Listen to the podcast now:

I believe so strongly in Irene's work, that I have become an instructor and brought the Kidpower program here to North Carolina. What I love about Kidpower is that it gives people of all ages the skills they need in order to navigate the world with safety and confidence. I don't blame parents for being confused about how to teach their kids these skills--most of us parents have not been taught this vital information. Kidpower steps in to fill that knowledge gap with high-quality training. To me, Kidpower is a much-needed antidote to "helicopter parenting."

Kidpower has training centers across the U. S., Canada, and around the globe. The Kipower website is also chock-full of quality resources for you to explore, including articles and their own People Safety Podcast.

Her is a photo of me demonstrating a high-elbow strike at Kidpower instructor training in Santa Cruz last January. Most of Kidpower skills are everyday life skills, such as identifying trouble and maintaining a safe distance from unsafe people or situations. We do also teach physical self-defense skills that allow escape from an emergency. It is empowering and satisfying to realize that you have that capability! (Further proof that mojo comes in many forms!)

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Friday, March 27, 2009

Chapel Hill: Free DragonFly TV Nano Day on Saturday

I know we're all looking for fun, free family events these days. My friend, Manic Mommies' Erin Martin Kane, told me about a cool event happening Saturday afternoon in my own backyard, at Morehead Planetarium in Chapel Hill. I've always found nanotechnology quite intimidating, and it would be fun to hear it explained and demonstrated in understandable ways.

Here's the event info:

Dragonfly TV Nano Celebration

Saturday, March 28, 2009
2–4:30 p.m.

It's time for the Dragonfly TV Nano Celebration ... and YOU'RE INVITED!

During the summer, Dragonfly TV — the popular children's science show on public television — taped two episodes about nanotechnology in North Carolina (one episode here at Morehead Planetarium and Science Center, another episode with our friends at the Museum of Life and Science). The episodes will be featured in April on UNC-TV.

Morehead is celebrating the premiere and saluting NanoDays with its Dragonfly TV Nano Celebration for families. Come watch the Morehead premiere of the Dragonfly TV episode taped here, learn about nanotechnology with hands-on activities, tour a scientist's lab, take home a fun Dragonfly TV giveaway and maybe even meet a local star of the show!

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The end of my monkey mind's blogging rebellion

Since I've finished my book, my mind has felt a little like a fizzy bottle of soda with the top popped off. My mind has been racing, undisciplined, and rebellious. After months of being focused on my writing, I kind of wanted to slack off for a few days.

I've felt guilty about not blogging every day. I've had ideas pile up that I just didn't get around to crafting into posts. But now my writing mojo is back, and my desire to connect and share is warming up again. So I hope and plan to be here every day (Monday through Friday, let's be realistic!) through Mother's Day, as a goal.

We've been working hard behind the scenes, and I'll have lot to report in the next few weeks as I celebrate my book release on April 7.

Thanks for hanging in there through my blogging dry spell and I promise to do my best to bring you good intel!

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Monday, March 23, 2009

Married to the world's coolest geek....

Here's how I know I am married to the world's coolest (sweetest) geek: who else would choose as the new Daddy-daughter musical toy....a theremin?

What's a theremin, you ask? It's this strange antenna-based instrument that you play by waving your hands near it. It makes the sci-fi "woooooo-oooooo" sounds, like in the Star Trek theme song or a horror movie.

So, Mojo Dad, Mojo Mom, Mojo Girl and even Mojo Grannie have been woo-wooing it up. And now I have finally learned what the dining room table is really for.
We also treated ourselves to some mad improv last night, with me playing the role of the kid trying to bring her theremin on the camp bus.

You said we couldn't bring iPods and Game Boys but you never said I couldn't bring my theremin!

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Friday, March 20, 2009

Mojo Mom Podcast and Who Does She Think She Is?

This week's Mojo Mom Podcast features guest host Patty Ayers, the "silent partner" who produces the podcast behind the scenes, and now steps out to take her turn at the mike. Patty is the talented web designer who worked with me to create MojoMom.com and my other sites, including KidpowerNC.org and AmyTiemann.com

Now Patty has created a new line of work as a virtual assistant, which gives her the flexibility to reinvent herself as a newly-hatched "empty nest" Mom. Patty now lives and works much of the time in Tulum, Mexico. You can learn about her "working adventure" on her blog.

Then in our guest segment, I interview film director Pamela Tanner Boll. Pamela's new film, Who Does She Think She Is? explores the courage required to combine motherhood and art. The film highlights the importance of women as artists, the importance of women's work as mothers, and the essential humanity contained in the artistic impulse. You can learn more about the film at www.WhoDoesSheThinkSheIs.net

The trailer alone made me cry, and I cannot wait to see the entire movie!

Listen to the podcast now:

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Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Mojo Mom joins the ranks of the angry populists

As Jon Stewart can tell you, angry populists are a dime a dozen these days. Even less, on discount, I would imagine. But I am really feeling it today.

I just received a New York Times news alert that says:

Fed to Buy More Than $1 Trillion in Securities

Saying that the recession continues to deepen, the Federal Reserve announced Wednesday that it would pump an extra $1 trillion into the mortgage market and longer-term Treasury securities in order to revive the economy.

A trillion here, a trillion there...pretty soon, before you know it, you're spending real money.


Beyond the $700 billion TARP bailout, there's been a little-discussed process of "quantitative easing," which basically means the Treasury creating more money or extending more credit (I have to admit it's totally confusing but some form of it has been going on). Now $1 trillion more money into buying securities.

And by the way, that poorly-understood Credit Default Swap market, the one in large part responsible for unraveling AIG right now, an esoteric, behind-closed-doors secret market that isn't regulated, that was worth $45 trillion in mid-2007, roughly twice the size of the entire U. S. stock market.

Yes, the economy needs rescuing, but we've created a real mess now, necessitating the bailout of people who did really stupid things. What makes me so angry is that for years, we mothers have been told by our politicians, "We can't afford universal health care....paid maternity leave...paid sick leave....because that would raise taxes and be unfriendly to business."

But when Wall Street f*cks up in an orgy of unregulated greed and incomprehensible levels of incompetence, the question suddenly becomes "How many trillions of dollars does it take to help?"

The population of the United States is roughly 300 million people, so every $1 trillion decision costs each woman, man and child in this country $3,333 (before interest). That's a lot to ask.

Or, for another perspective on how much is a trillion:

A million seconds is 12 days.
A billion seconds is 31 years.
A trillion seconds is 31,688 years.


I've been listening to a lot of news about the economic situation lately and I recommend the following as being informative and thoughtful:

This American Life
radio series and NPR's related daily Planet Money Podcast. Planet Money is so up to date they'll say, "It's Friday at 4 pm when we're recording this...." They specialize in making the incomprehensible details of the financial meltdown comprehensible to regular people.

Fresh Air
interview with Pulitzer prize-winning NY Times financial columnist Gretchen Morgenson about AIG. (March 16)

Fresh Air
episode with Karen Tumulty of Time Magazine (see also her recent Time article) and economist Uwe Reinhardt on the messed up American health insurance system. (March 11)

Finally, in print, the Stanford Magazine wrote about an alumna, Brooksley Born, who warned that unchecked trading in the credit market could lead to disaster, but the power brokers in Washington including Alan Greenspan ignored her. I found that piece enlightening and her May 1997 interview with DerivativeStrategy.com absolutely prophetic. That last interview with DerivativeStrategy.com was pretty dry but the basic message says that we not only should have seen this situation coming, we could have prevented it with proper regulation.

Our priorities have been backward for years. The rest of the industrialized world has better health care, better family leave policies that we do. We've settled for very poor service for all the money we spend in taxes and health care costs. It's time to say that yes, we'll do what it takes to get the economy back on track--with actual transparency and accountability--but we also want our families, health and education to be taken care of, too.

President Obama will only be able to get this done if he and Congress have the overwhelming support from all of us. It's time we stop settling for less than the social support network we deserve. Ironically, in this economy, we need that support sytem more than ever.

Stay informed, stay angry, and let your leaders know what's on your mind and the challenges you face in your real life.

The new Mojo Mom focuses on women's career paths across our entire lives, which is also more important than ever, because at this rate, we're each going to have to count on working for a long, long time.


Beginning a new chapter

Finishing Mojo Mom has been a strange experience for me. I've been working on it for so long that I deeply feel both an ending and a beginning as I wait for the new book to come out.

Last week, when I finally had a free day I wanted to rebel and sit around and watch Jon Stewart (it was the Jim Cramer smackdown, after all). Then I looked at my house and thought I really don't want to clean it--that's not the reward for finishing I had in mind! Then I started to think about ideas for my next book and that made me feel better. (That impulse surprised me because it's kind of like asking a woman who just had a baby whether she wants more kids.)

What's strange is that even when I published a previous edition, I did not feel that sense of completion the way I do right now. I wrote the first edition largely in solitude, because the cultural conversation about motherhood had not exploded yet. A lot has happened since 2005, and I wrote the new edition in community, involving and responding to other writers, bloggers, and readers. That's been such a wonderful experience, and now that I have updated the book, it finally feels like the work I always wanted it to be.

I spent nine months working intensively to revise, expand, and update the book. I had to stay on an adrenaline roller coaster to get it done, meeting fast and furious deadlines, so it's no wonder I feel a little disoriented now that I have the week of down-time I have been craving for so long. The trick is to go into down-time without just mindlessly wasting it.

It's also strange that I feel like I've transitioned into "stay-at-home Mom" mode for a short time, just before I go into intensive "working Mom" mode. Just shows you that those labels are too narrow--and perhaps the wrong framework altogether--to describe real life. Today I'm cooking chili, following our shedding dog around with a vacuum cleaner, and driving carpool. In two weeks my husband will step into primary caregiver mode while I focus on the book launch throughout April and May. I like living a life that is full of variety, and defies simple characterization.

So I am about to step onto a new roller coaster--the book release--and see where that takes me. I also know that I need a true break when it's all over. I have a Mom-daughter adventure in the works for this summer, and I will also have a week of solitude (what's that???) when my daughter goes to camp and I park myself on the opposite shore of the same quiet lake. I have not had a week away from hands-on parenting in ten years, or a week alone like this since 1993, before I met my husband. I wish he could be there during the camp week but he's scheduled for a business trip, so I will make the most of the chance to spend time relaxing on my own.

Since I already feel the pushes and pulls of transition, I am also really looking forward to reading Mary Pipher's new book, Seeking Peace: Chronicles of the Worst Buddhist in the World. She tells her story of what it was like to become famous after her book Reviving Ophelia took off and became a huge success. She eventually experienced a personal crisis and had to craft a quieter life.

Based on what I am feeling right now, I know that the ideas and practices of Buddhism would really benefit me. And wouldn't you know, once again the Quote-of-the-Day widget is telling me a message I really need to hear (again....and again):

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Monday, March 16, 2009

Mojo Mom is in this week's Publishers Weekly

Has Facebook made me a lazy blogger? Probably a little bit. It's easy, and useful, to post interesting links to my Mojo Mom Page on Facebook. But I want to make sure I keep up the blog, too!

So here's a blog mention of some really good news for the new Mojo Mom, which comes out in three weeks. The book was mentioned in this week's Publishers Weekly, the industry magazine that publishers, authors, and booksellers read. I was interviewed for Sarah Robbins' feature on "Straight Talk Parenting" spring book releases:

Gotham Books will offer an exploration of women's lifelong relationships with work by a neuroscientist and teacher who faced a crossroads after becoming a mother: “I didn't realize it was going to be an identity crisis for me, leaving behind a career, even for a short period of time,” says Amy Tiemann. She says that Mojo Mom: Nurturing Yourself While Raising a Family is the guide she wished she had. “It's about giving yourself permission to take the time to explore new things and figure out which parts you want to hold on to,” she says.

This is a really big deal for me--it feels amazing to make it into the main industry publication. Gotham Books has been so supportive and active in getting me out there in April and May. A book release has almost become like a movie release: you have about two months to prove yourself rather than one opening weekend, but the book will be largely judged by how well it sells through Mother's Day. So I will be asking my fans to buy the new book in April and May. I've poured my heart into it and I think it turned out really well.

Stay tuned for more developments...and more regular blogging this week. I still have a stack of links on Moms and work a mile high I should be writing on.

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Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Mojo Mom and the Zen of Tennis

Last week I wrote about the difficult time I am going through, and the facts have not changed, but today I finally found the true release I was looking for. I played the first tennis match of the season with my new team and I won a hard-fought singles battle, which helped contribute to a team win.

I used to feel rather sheepish about waxing rhapsodic abut my love for tennis, as it can sound like a "ladies who lunch" indulgence. I realize it's a privilege to be able to plan my work day to include a long tennis match, but tennis has become really meaningful in my life and I am letting that flag fly.

First of all, it's the best meditation I have found. Instead of observing my breath, I observe the ball (and run around and breathe hard in the process). I get feedback with every stroke that tells me whether my mind is really on the ball. I never find time to sit still and meditate, so I take my focused concentration wherever I can find it!

The mental game of tennis just keeps getting more interesting as I get older. Today I won by reminding myself to just be me, that if I could settle into my center I would do fine. That's a refreshing change from earlier years when I'd try to anxiously psych myself up or get mad at myself if I wasn't doing well. Believe me, some days I still go there in my mind, and ebb and flow mentally within a match, but today I stayed really focused. I am so tired of self-improvement messages and it felt great to think, "Just be myself, that's good enough." I found the acceptance that has eluded me so much lately--now I am hoping that feeling will spill over into other areas of my life.

So, getting my mental mojo back, untethering myself from my computer to get outside to exercise, and hanging out with some excellent friends on a beautiful spring day--that's what I need more in my life right now. But there's one more really important thing.

Tennis is something my Mom and I love to do together, as doubles partners or singles opponents. I've played with her since I was 16. It took me until I was 34 and she was 60 to be able to beat her on a regular basis, and at age 67 she's still a force to be reckoned with. She's a singles specialist, which is rare for someone who could be playing in a Senior league.

And she's continued to play through rounds of cancer treatments. She's the kind of woman who will play in a weekend Breast-cancer-research fundraiser tournament and never tell anyone she's been through that, too.

Last fall, she and I played a couple of times on a doubles team together, right up until the evening before I got my appendix out (we won, go figure, that's how suddenly the appendix trouble materialized the next day). At our first practice for that team, Mom wasn't there, but when my new teammates learned that I was "Ann's daughter," they told so many stories about how Mom had helped them improve their games. She'd take each of them out to hit as she developed her team. I had not realized what an awesome mentor she'd been to so many different players. It was a spontaneous tribute to her that I'll always remember.

So if you ever see us out there, burning up the courts, you'll know you are getting a glimpse of Mojo Mom and Mojo Grannie together in our element.

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Friday, March 06, 2009

Mojo Mom Podcast with The Stay-at-Home Survival Guide

It's been quite a week--from two inches of snow on Monday to 75 degrees and sunny today. And from a tough week for me, to a fun afternoon playing outside. I'm outta here in a minute, but first, I did get this week's Mojo Mom Podcast posted.

Listen to the podcast now:

This week Amy vents a little steam to Sheryl, who provides some free therapy.

Then Mojo Mom talks to Melissa Stanton, author of The Stay-at-Home Survival Guide. This is one of Amy's favorite books that is written specifically for stay-at-home Moms. Learn more about Melissa's work at www.stayathomesurvivalguide.com

We're giving away an iPod tomorrow--listen in to find out how to enter!

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Thursday, March 05, 2009

The sun came back out today

I am feeling so much better today. Thanks to the readers and friends who wrote me to offer their empathy. It means a lot. And venting on the blog really did make me feel better. Today I woke up more energized and ready to tackle what lay ahead of me, even though the challenges are still there.

This morning I interviewed Melissa Stanton, author of The Stay-at-Home Survival Guide, and that podcast will go up Friday.

And speaking of podcasts, this Saturday March 7th I'll be giving away an iPod Nano to one of my Facebook Page fans. So I hope you'll become a fan!

Also, on Goodreads.com I am offering a book giveaway--ten winners will receive a signed copy of the new Mojo Mom, to be awarded April 7th, the day the new book comes out.

All to say thanks for reading my blog and listening to my podcast, and I hope you'll help spread the word about the new book!

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Wednesday, March 04, 2009

Even Mojo Mom gets the Blues

I am so thankful for Momma Zen this week. I've been feeling really down, and when I have a challenging day I check out her Cheerio Road blog to see what she's up to. I always find something that helps me. (And as it happens, today she's also the Quote of the Day on MojoMom.com!)

This week the post that spoke to me was My BFF has PPD.

I am feeling like I am going through PPD...9 1/2 years after the fact. I guess technically that would just be plain old D. (I hope not.) Momma Zen made me feel not so nuts for thinking of it as PPD:

Seems like everything in life is post-something else, and nearly all of it is depressing. Someone far more ordinary than me once observed this truth and called it, of all things, noble! BTDTGTS!

Recently I said as much to a friend and mother. "Every mother has PPD. I don't see any other way." In some cases, PPD is medically diagnosed and treated as such, in other cases, not. I say it is universal not to make less of it, but to make more of it. Motherhood is a profound spiritual transformation. It is a passage that shatters your physical self, emotional self and psychological self, and thereby your total self image. Your every idea of self. Poof! To say it is depressing is to say it mildly. We are, in PPD, dead mothers walking. NUFF.

So what's going on with me? I am feeling burned-out and so responsible for things that are largely out of my control. I don't want to transform again, yet life keeps dishing up new responsibility. Being part of the sandwich-generation feels crushing and suffocating. It's not polite to admit that, but it's how I feel. And when a crisis comes up, I often feel like I have to fix it all, on my own. I know that is not truly the case, and I am searching for the right support. My husband is great, and he's working with me on the practical issues, but being the only child of divorced parents is becoming its own kind of loneliness now that they are getting older.

For now I am reaching for the Serenity Prayer, which really makes sense when it comes to crazy-making situations:

God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change; courage to change the things I can; and wisdom to know the difference.

I know that my resilience is at a momentary low, and I am trying to build it up again, because I know that is what I need. (I think the qualities we all need to develop right now are authenticity, resilience, and commitment, which I will write about later.) For now I just feel so tired, and vulnerable.

My daughter had a mishap with a pencil on Tuesday. She basically fell toward a pencil tip and it scratched her eyeLID, enough to make it bleed. I am so thankful that it missed her eyeBALL, yet rather than genuinely experiencing that gratitude, I still feel all shaken up and scared by it. I haven't felt so fragile about her well-being in a long time, not even the time she went in for elective surgery. That was controlled. This was pure, terrifying accident, and it happened when I was sitting in the same room with her.

My theme this week, when it comes to the tragic news on the radio, the economic meltdown, and the crisis within our extended family is that I don't want to look for the silver lining. I don't want to learn important life lessons or gain wisdom. I just want life to be easier. I wish I were a kid again, instead of a "responsible adult," and I want to scream that I DON'T REMEMBER SIGNING UP FOR THIS. I know it's a temporary tantrum, but possibly one that I need to have.

The thread I want to follow that I can't quite trace yet is the anger that is involved, especially the anger that when it comes right down to the wire, women are left in charge of so much caregiving, the work that no one accounts for. (Time to go back to read classic feminist literature, because it feels like the same old story over again.)

I need to yell, dance, swear, cry. But for now I am sitting in silence, with only the blog to scream for me.

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