Monday, August 31, 2009

My complaint email to Totes/Isotoner customer affairs

Here is what I wrote to complain to Totes/Isotoner. It's not Shakespeare but I think
that any short email in each person's own words will help make an impression. I'll let you know what I hear back from them.

When I get the corporate address I plan to mail my favorite Isotoner
socks back to the CEO.


Dear Totes/Isotoner,

I have bought your products for as long as I can remember; gloves,
socks, slippers, umbrellas. I am sorry to tell you that I can no
longer buy your products now that I have learned about the Totes/
Isotoner firing of a breastfeeding employee. I know this happened
several years ago, but of course the news of the Ohio Supreme Court
decision has brought it to the attention of the blogosphere and
motherhood and anti-discrimination action groups. The discussion
boards I participate in have been absolutely on fire with outrage over
your action, and we are watching for your response.

Who do you think buys your products? I am sure it's women and mothers
buying for their whole families. You owe all of us an apology, you
owe LaNisa Allen a job, and you owe all your employees better
treatment. Wouldn't it be easier to make reasonable accommodations
for nursing mothers, rather than firing them? In addition to being
the right thing to do, of course!

Please send me the corporate contact information for your CEO, so that
I may register my concern directly and request a reply.

Signed, a former customer,

Amy Tiemann

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And we wonder why more mothers don't breastfeed?

I just have a few minutes to blog this morning, but wanted to make sure you had all seen the story that had people talking all weekend.

Lactate on your own time, lady is an important Broadsheet post that tells the news of a woman who was fired by Totes/Isotoner for taking "unauthorized work breaks" to pump her breastmilk.


The Ohio Supreme Court ruled that Totes/Isotoner could legally fire breastfeeding mother LaNisa Allen [corrected a mistake that attributed a quote from the lower court decision to the Supreme Court] on the grounds that she was fired for insubordination rather than because she was breastfeeding. Overall, a complete head-scratcher. How did this come to firing in the first place? It seems crazy.

This situation bothers me on so many levels: 1. That an employer would be so adversarial and insist on the outmoded "unencumbered worker" model of business. How about accommodating breastfeeding rather than firing her? 2. That the laws as currently written don't protecting employees from this kind of discrimination and 3. That the court ruling didn't see this as breastfeeding discrimination.

This may need to change at the legislative level rather than through the courts, but it needs to change! We need to put the word out about this case. I will report on any activist opportunities that come up around this situation.

It also helps explains why nursing, employed Moms are satisfied to have any spartan accommodations set up for them, like the spartan closet in the women's bathroom at IBM where the mothers of The Milk Memos (a good book, by the way) turned into their "pumping palace." But isn't it time that we deserve better? If breastfeeding is not protected by employment law, then it's time to specifically write it in to Federal statues.


Journal News (Ohio) reporting, written before the Supreme Court decision was rendered, gives more details of LaNisa Allen's expereince, including her work schedule. I don't question her need to take breaks, but some letter writes on wondered what her exact schedule was.

Totes customer affairs email:

Updated to correct an earlier misattributed quote, 2:00 pm ET.

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Friday, August 28, 2009

Triangle MomsRising calls on Senator Kay Hagan and Rep. Brad Miller

This week, our Triangle MomsRising group made office visits to Senator Kay Hagan's staff and Representative Brad Miller in Raleigh. It was my first Senate office visit and I was blown away by the powerful health care stories that our members shared.

It definitely made an impression on Senator Hagan's staff that many of us brought our kids along to the meeting. Just getting in the door through security was quite a task, but worth it, to make the point that our kids are their constituents, too. They welcomed our kids, which I really appreciated.

Our large MomsRising group made an impression on Senator Kay Hagan's staff.

The members of our group, ranging from babies and kids, to moms of all ages, and a concerned male ally, told striking stories that underscored why we need health care for all families. We shared our own experiences: a premature baby whose life was saved by expensive medical care; a baby born with a condition that required a breadwinner to quit her job, lose her insurance, and sell her home to pay medical bills; Moms as small business owners wanting the independent contractors who work with us to be able to buy insurance; the mother of a 27-year-old college graduate who sees her son working two jobs yet not provided health insurance; concerns about public health, with many serious illnesses going untreated; spouses with pre-existing conditions that mean that we are at risk for losing our health insurance, which would be disastrous.

As we went around the room, telling our individual stories, tears welled up in my eyes, with sadness and anger that we are not meeting the goal of providing basic health care for all. I truly believe that one of the best things about becoming a parent is that you develop empathy--you realize how any family could be vulnerable to losing health care and encounter disastrous consequences under our current system, and even if it doesn't happen to me, as a mother I find it completely unacceptable that it could happen to another family.

Senator Hagan's staff listened attentively and talked to us for quite a while, saying that our leaders really need to hear from us about our strong and unwavering support for health care reform. They asked us to talk about facts with people in our daily lives, and to counter myths that are taking a lot of the politicians' time away from the core debate. They asked us to think carefully about the political process and what compromises we might find acceptable in order to get any kind of reform passed now--the ongoing strategic question of whether to accept half a loaf now and get the rest later, or to go for the whole enchilada with no compromises.

Nine MomsRising activists continued on to meet with Congressman Brad Miller

Five moms and four kids continued the day's activism by calling on Congressman Brad Miller. Beth Messersmith, one of the intrepid Triangle MomsRising leaders, said that "Congressman Miller was pleased to meet with us and our children and glad to hear our stories. He seemed truly happy that we had brought the kids. He answered all of our questions with detailed information, and assured us that he was committed to making this happen. He truly seems to understand that this is a personal and moral issue for America's families."

So thank you goes out to our Triagle MomsRising leaders who pulled together these important visits that inspired me to do more outreach to all my representatives in Washington D. C. I hope that we will call on Senator Richard Burr, who is "strongly opposed" to President Obama's plan. This visit made me realize that it's important to let all our elected leaders know how we feel, and demand accountability for their stances, whether or not their views agree with ours. I don't want any Congressperson to be able to say, "All the calls I have received are opposing health care reform."

I was heartened to learn in a recent Fresh Air interview with T. R. Reid, author of the new book The Healing of America, that in Taiwan, when the country recently decided to overhaul their health care system, the issue became so important to the citizenry that both the conservative and liberal parties wanted to take credit for making it happen. Thinking about that during our visits to Raleigh inspired me to keep spreading our message forward, to not give up until we have health care for all families in the United States.

Cross-posted to the blog.

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Monday, August 24, 2009

Back to school blast-off!

It's Back to School day for my family, and I think we are all breathing a sigh of relief, including Mojo Girl. She is so active that she missed the daily interaction with lots of friends in her classroom.

I feel a renewed sense of appreciation for having six hours of work time that allows me some breadth and depth of effort, not just a total rush that requires me to squeeze things in two and a half hours of summer camp. In fact, it reminds me a lot of how I felt when my daughter first went off to preschool and I had about two hours to write, which felt like an incredible luxury compared to the mere minutes I'd have to steal before then.

I have the luxury of working around a variable childcare schedule. I feel for those parents who have to find a way to work 9 to 5 all summer long. In nearby Wake County, the school system is tweaking their weekly schedule to have kids get out an hour earlier on Wednesdays, and staying 10 minutes later on the other four days. What a nightmare for many parents to find a way to cover that one hour, once a week. It's an unwieldy gap: too long to leave unaddressed, but too short to really merit a new childcare solution.

This schedule change was done to give teachers an extra hour of planning time each week, but I think that the practical impact on families should be given much more consideration when these kinds of changes are made.

I'd be interested in reading your comments about other scheduling situations that might seem like a small adjustment, but create a big inconvenience for parents.

And speaking of schedules, *ding* my work time is just about up for today. On my way out the door I'll recommend Lisa Belkin's latest Motherlode Blog post on the NY Times, "How to Send Your Son Off to College." Almost guaranteed to bring a tear to your eye, no matter how young or old your kids are!

And finally, a big shout-out to all the Moms who are going back to school themselves this fall. I wish you all well, including my friend Katherine who is starting law school today. You go, Mojo Moms!

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Tuesday, August 18, 2009

What I want for my birthday....

I have to get a copy of this poster! Hat tip to PunditMom, thanks for sharing!

Share photos on twitter with Twitpic

(click image to expand)


What is your defining question?

This summer I really had to take some time off to bounce back from the burnout I felt after the new Mojo Mom had been released. It had been such an intense year, when I had to push forward no matter what, to meet my book deadlines. Once I crossed the finish line, including dozens of interviews to launch the book, my mind and body went a little numb.

So this summer I slowed way down and gave myself the luxury of pondering the defining question, "What do I want?" At first I just wanted to rest! Then I allowed myself a good long time to consider different potential sources of inspiration.

Those thoughts are still with me, but they are now coalescing around a second defining question, "What am I willing to commit to?" That's a serious one, as I don't want to spread myself too thinly and I don't want to make promises I can't keep.

When I am ready to share big news this fall, I will announce it first through my e-newsletter, so I hope you will sign up on to receive the newsletter and Mojo Mom Party Kit.

I am curious to find out what is your defining question right now. As you face transition, whether it is back to school, off to school for the first time, kids leaving for college, new job, new interest, or milestone birthday, is there one question that is helping point you toward your next step?

If you need a gentle nudge to take a step back and look at your life, I highly recommend Natalie Angier's article in today's New York Times, Brain Is a Co-Conspirator in a Vicious Stress Loop. It sounds scary, but it boils down to the necessity of giving yourself a chance to stop digging deeper when you find yourself in a rut!

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Monday, August 17, 2009

T-minus-seven: Back to School countdown!

So, is anyone else thoroughly sick of summer "break" yet? We've had our fair share of fun, but twelve weeks off from school is a real momentum killer for work-from-home parents, an expensive childcare challenge for work-outside-the-home parents, and possibly a special kind of craziness for fulltime caregivers.

My daughter even says she's ready for school to start. We've been to see see family...we've visited a lake...she joined swim team...she did camp...we've just about exhausted the library...we've played with friends who we could find at home.

We thrive on the school schedule and we're now floundering without that structure! And her mind is so active, such a wonderful sponge, that I have a real challenge helping her keep her time filled all by myself. Mentally and physically, if I have to run her around all day until she's tired, I will collapse first! I am in awe of the fact that I basically did this for her first three years as a stay-at-home Mom, something I was clearly not cut out for in the super-long run.

I know it's not my job to keep Mojo Girl entertained 24/7, but she would sure like me to try! Only once did I manage to guide her to "boredom Nirvana," when she decided to stop asking to watch TV in order to make a diorama to show how people live in Japan. That was pretty cool for one evening.

If I worked in an office, I would have had to arrange firmer childcare plans. We tried an experiment of having no summer camp in August, after the comedy camp that my daughter was signed up for was cancelled.

Big mistake. As much as we love each other, we are getting on each others' nerves and starting to drive each other nuts. As a college town, Chapel Hill is a particularly boring place to be in August.

The good news is that school starts next week--ridiculously early by some people's standards, but it works for me. And, thankfully, this week I managed to sign her up for clay camp in the afternoons, which provides structure to our day and guarantees that she'll spend time with other kids and one of her favorite teachers each day.

Do you love or hate summer vacation, and how are you keeping busy if your kids are home?


Friday, August 14, 2009

Ann Douglas' interview with Mojo Mom and more

Warm thanks go out to parenting expert Ann Douglas for including me and Mojo Mom in her group interview on her Yahoo! Parenting blog, along with Jenna McCarthy, The Parent Trip, and Jen Singer, author of Stop Second-Guessing Yourself: The Toddler Years.

I loved the way Ann thoughtfully wove the conversation together on a wide range of topics, from how motherhood changes for each generation, to what policy makers don't understand about mothers.

Check it out for yourself:

Part 1: The Motherhood Manual(s): Motherhood, babies, and advice

Part 2: Motherhood convo: our moms, ourselves, and mothers of the future

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Tuesday, August 04, 2009

Mojo Mom, back in the blogosphere

A tranquil mind is a beautiful thing...

Hey Mojo Mom blog readers, I am back from an unexpectedly long break. It turned out that what I really needed this summer was a vacation, and a news holiday and that turned into a break from blogging. With the kind of blog I write, it's hard to post without reading or watching any news. If the President of France can take three weeks off, I figure the world can live without me posting for that long.

While I was away I went online a few times, but it didn't feel good. In just a few minutes I would inevitably come across the most horrendous stories, even sticking to the NY Times and So I allowed my break to extend one day more, then another....

I found that what my mind really wanted to do is read, for pure enjoyment. So I have written several new book reviews in the past few weeks.

I'll chime in with more details and insights shortly but just wanted to plug myself back in to the blogosphere.

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