Tuesday, November 30, 2004

Non-profit politics

First, the background on the politics. I am still sorting through it, I'll fill you in on what I know. Basically, there is one powerhouse non-profit when it comes to heart issues: the American Heart Association. Many other non-profits have had issues with their focus being entirely on white men. Me, being female, and having a kid with heart disease, I've joined some other organizations that have emerged. I also co-chair a committee for the AHA on cardiovascular health in the young. ( I'm just beginning to tune in to the undercurrent and big business of saving people from heart disease) WomenHeart, a patient advocacy group for women with heart disease, in partnership with the AHA and the National Institute of Health, developed the Red Dress Campaign, using the red dress symbol in a manner similar to what the pink ribbon is to breast cancer. Last year, AHA pulled out of the Red Dress Campaign, lauching their own campaign: Go Red for Women. Well, that's great, same message. The more the merrier. But then today, when a major project came together, I am beginning to see how ugly it can be. Two WomenHeart reps, and my friends, appeared on the Jane Pauley show this week, both discussing the importance of making the public aware of their personal risk for heart disease. Meet two of my fellow WomenHeart spokeswomen: A heart attack killed Wanda's sister, but she still didn't realize that she was at risk - until she had a heart attack of her own at 31 years of age. Then, she had a second heart attack only a week later. Today, her heart is working at only 25% and she is on permanent disability. She's here today, on what she says is now her "life's mission," to spread the word about women and heart disease. Wanda's story is just one of many profiled in Glamour magazine's ongoing feature about women and heart disease. Aggie also had several heart attacks and suffers permanent damage. She was on another show about renewing wedding vows after a serious illness. She and her husband won a surprise second honeymoon after appearing on the show. Well, Jane Pauley's producers worked with our organization for 6 months in preparation for these two shows. Imagine our surprise today when the show aired, and all plugs were given to the American Heart Association's Go Red for Women campaign. Not a mention of WomenHeart. Not even on the site. The producers actually contacted WomenHeart, interviewed and filmed a bunch of us (I got cut), and then didn't credit us. AHA had refused to have any connection to WomenHeart whatsoever. Hummmph. On a happier note, I am proud to call Wanda and Aggie friends. We are part of a group of women in our 30s, all with small children, doing advocacy work for women and heart disease. Aggie will also be featured in the upcoming print campaign that I'll be in with Lily.

Sunday, November 28, 2004

Long weekend notes

Well, I managed to eat some gluten on Thanksgiving, so I spent the rest of the weekend feeling cruddy. No matter how good the intentions of the host, I just can't eat at other people's houses unless I'm there during food preparation. *sigh* The women came on Friday night for full moon. One of the regulars invited a friend, and forgot to mention that it was a women's circle. So, she brought her man. There were a few raised eyebrows at first, but he participated and it felt just fine from my perspective. The universe is just reminding us to be flexible, right? Finally managed to put away the Halloween decorations, and to find the other boxes of holiday stuff in the very cluttered basement. I carefully packed up all of my bride and groom skeleton sets, all of which have been gifts from our friends Mark and Dave. Getting married on Halloween set us up for some interesting stuff. Here is a sample of the dead bride and groom sets we've received: First anniversary: my favorite still, stays out year long Third anniversary: my daughter would NOT let us put these out this year. Sixth anniversary: if only this were an audio blog, you could hear them sing "I got you, babe"

Tuesday, November 23, 2004

What's happening in Texas?

I just heard a news piece on a mother in Texas who cut off her daughter's arms. For some reason, they played the 911 call, in which the very calm mom explained what she had done to her 11 month old baby, and then refused to do anything to help her. When the police arrived, they found the mother sitting on the couch, covered in blood. She now faces murder charges. Andrea Yates, who drown her 5 children in the tub, was also from Texas. I am so disturbed by these cases, I can't dwell on them. Will Texas become famous for the murdering moms? A list of other moms who kill. Several more from Texas.... For the record, I know one seemingly sane and rather witty woman from Texas. Her name is Cait, and you can read her blog here. It is shared with Miko, offering a very entertaining perspective of life from Japan. Opposite ends of the planet. Now, lest you Texans think I'm lumping you all together with the homicidal parents, let me state that I am from Wisconsin, home of the best cooks. They would be Ed Gein, and Jeffrey Dahmer. So far, coming from the same area hasn't changed my food habits.

Monday, November 22, 2004

It's over

It was one of those books I never wanted to finish. I want to spend more time with these characters. I laughed out loud ~ a lot. So many layers of humaness touched upon: war, love, sex, friendship, death, siblings, gender, nationality, patriotism. A very good read.
Buy it here.

Saturday, November 20, 2004

Red Dresses

I was 32 years old when I was diagnosed with heart disease. I had just given birth 7 days before, and my OB/GYN refused to see me, saying that I had "new mom anxiety". What I had, in fact, were several pulmonary embolisms and my lungs more than half filled with fluid. That, and the fact that I was in end stage congestive heart failure. Thank goddess for an astute ER doc who sent me into Boston to get the help I needed. It was four years ago this week that I asked that question, " Am I going to be OK? " The ER nurse said, "we're doing everything we can honey." I asked again after the drama of helicopters, transport to Boston, and goodbyes to my 7 day old girl. The resident explained my situation: I had a 50/50 chance of surviving one year. After that, the chance of my survival decreased as each year passed, and no one with my heart function lived more than 5 years without a transplant. I was so stunned, I didn't even tell my husband. All I could think was that this sort of thing happened in movies. My primary cardiologist, the chief of clinical cardiology at Beth Israel in Boston, was reluctant to discuss how much time I had. He wanted to get me well enough to care for my baby. My heart was working at less than 1/3 of what it should have been. My oxygen saturation level was in the 60's. My physical therapy goal when I arrived home from the hospital was to walk a total of 5 minutes each day. And I was not allowed to climb stairs. The first two weeks of my daughter's life were managed by my husband, and when I had to take over, I was almost too weak to lift her. We had to hire help. I was courted by every cardiologist within 20 miles of Harvard. They loved me, I was a freak case. Classes came to my hospital room, and students called me at home. I took 7 different meds, including injections of blood thinner. Then onto Coumadin, more commonly known as rat poison. So, here I am 4 years later. Normal heart function. When I hit that 5-year mark that they said I wouldn't, we'll have quite a party. Can you all come? I'm a national spokeswoman for women with heart disease. Somehow, most of us don't understand that it is the biggest killer of women (and men) in the U.S. The Pink Ribbons have done a world of good for breast cancer. We've modeled our public education campaign after the pink ribbons. It's called the Red Dress Campaign. Look for the red dresses just after the holidays, and for the new ad campaign which will feature Gaiagal herself, along with the Princess Lily. Who also has heart disease. (another post, for sure) We'll be on billboards, magazines, and newspapers. And subways. I've also done some interviews for Dateline and PBS, I'll let you know when those will air. You didn't know that you were reading the blog of a famous supermodel, did you? Take care of your body, listen to your heart. Go buy a red dress pin, tie, scarf, whatever: Womenheart

Thursday, November 18, 2004

10 X 10

Every hour, 10x10 scans the RSS feeds of several leading international news sources, and performs an elaborate process of weighted linguistic analysis on the text contained in their top news stories. After this process, conclusions are automatically drawn about the hour's most important words. The top 100 words are chosen, along with 100 corresponding images, culled from the source news stories. At the end of each day, month, and year, 10x10 looks back through its archives to conclude the top 100 words for the given time period. In this way, a constantly evolving record of our world is formed, based on prominent world events, without any human input. Go look! Same concept, but collecting WORDS.

9 People

There are 9 people in this image. Can you find them? (a couple I could just barely see AFTER looking at the solution) Solution here.

Wednesday, November 17, 2004

I win, I win!

My husband just informed me that I am the coolest person that he's ever known. Now, I fear we are both a bit geeky, and this proclamation wouldn't hold water in the real world, but I am thrilled to hold the title in his eyes.

Tuesday, November 16, 2004

The Blues Brothers

Joseph Blue (with Christina)
What better way to mark the passing of my dear friend India than with a few words about her fabulous kids? Joe is a junior UConn, and took it upon himself to plan a lovely lunch today with included his grandmother and several close friends of his mother. In watching him with Momo, I was so proud to see what a loving, sensitive young man he is becoming. Gracious, warm, sincere. I was blessed to be a part of his life since he was three years old, and I am honored that he chooses to stay connected even after the passing of his mother. He treats his longtime girlfriend, Christina, with respect. India always used to thank her for dating her son.
Nicholas Blue
Nick graduated from Fordham University in NYC last May. He lives in Manhattan now, and is pursuing acting. He is a triple Aries, and any of you who know a bit about astrology know that means that he'll likely be in Hollywood soon. He also has handled this past year with grace, and I'm so proud of how he is conducting his life. Focused on his goal, he stays healthy, no drinking, and often calls with spiritual questions and concerns. He is a man with a plan. He and his mother were just entering into a new relationship, one based more on mutual interests than parental guidance.
India Blue
India would have turned 50 this coming December. Sometimes it seems she is as much a part of my everyday as she ever was. Her wonderful boys, loyal friends, and continued legacy of community work are still a testament to the woman she was. She was a brilliant friend, loving mother, devoted daughter. She is dearly loved.

Sunday, November 14, 2004

What about this?

The Consequences of De-Christianization
LONDON, NOV. 13, 2004 ( Britain's Royal Navy stirred the waves last month when, for the first time, it gave official recognition to the practice of Satanism. According to an Oct. 24 report in the Telegraph, Chris Cranmer, a naval technician serving on the frigate Cumberland, is now allowed to perform Satanic rituals on board ship. He would also be able to have a funeral carried out by the Church of Satan if he were to be killed in action.
Call me crazy....but don't you have to be Christian to worship the Anti-Christ?

Friday, November 12, 2004


Well, anyone with experience looking at strange stuff in photos? For the last week or so, these orbs have been appearing in photos with my kid. They are only in the photos of her. None of the 15 photos of other family members and pets have orbs. Just Lily, and always at about head level. The above shot is cropped from this photo trick-or-treating. Another photo a few moments later. Ignore the woman in costume, and look for the orb on my skirt at her head level. And, at her school Halloween party, a rainbow orb. And there are several more examples. I have an Olympus D-560 digital camera. Any thoughts?

Where are my boots?

Ahhh! Look at my backyard!

Thursday, November 11, 2004

Poor puppy

Willow with Mrs. Potato Head's earrings.
Also in our repetoire of doggy torture: Willow's face covered with corn pops after she fell asleep. Willow watching in horror as the grumpy Himalayan feline drinks from her bowl.

Monday, November 08, 2004

Biological Kidney Implant

Just the sort of thing I'm hoping for....John is headed for a 3rd kidney transplant. His first transplant was from his brother, and the disease took it over quickly. Second (cadaveric) transplant has held for 13 years. Average is 10, so he's doing well. But it is working at about 1/3 now, this is timely news for us. One day at a time.
Ten kidney patients at the University of Michigan tested the device, which works in the same way as dialysis but is partly made of human cells. Eventually, scientists hope the device will become an implantable long-term replacement for failing kidneys
Read more here.

Has anyone read this?

What's the Matter with Kansas?: How Conservatives Won the Heart of America.

by Thomas Frank

From the Washington Post:

In "Kansas," Frank sets out to prove that the noisy, seemingly endless American culture war -- fought over such issues as Hollywood depravity and the alleged disparity between mainstream values and those of cultural elites -- is a giant smoke screen that clouds the real cause of Middle America's distress. And what might that real cause be? Frank thinks it's economic. To be specific, it's unconstrained free-market capitalism, which has routed the social and political forces that once kept it in check.

Holy sacred cow, Batman! How far out of the mainstream can one man be?

Frank argues that it's unregulated capitalism, taken to its laissez-faire extreme, that has outsourced the blue-collar prosperity of cities like Wichita and driven the Kansas farm economy to "a state of near collapse." What he really wants you to understand, however, is why so many aggrieved Kansans have banded together not to fight the economic philosophy that, in his view, has put the screws to them, but to elect and reelect proponents of that very laissez-faire philosophy.

To explain this paradox, Frank points to what he calls the "Great Backlash," a species of conservatism that emerged in reaction to the social and cultural upheavals of the late '60s. The backlash, he writes, "mobilizes voters with explosive social issues -- summoning public outrage over everything from busing to unchristian art -- which it then marries to pro-business economic policies."

It's not a marriage between equals, he says. The business agenda gets enacted, producing "low wages and lax regulation." The rich get obscenely richer as a result. Yet the cultural agenda remains unfulfilled. "Abortion is never halted. Affirmative action is never abolished. The culture industry is never forced to clean up its act." Meanwhile, backlash strategists have repackaged the idea of the American "elite," to devastating political effect.

In its new meaning, retailed incessantly on talk shows and in screeds with titles like "Treason" and "Bias," the term doesn't refer to members of the nation's economic upper crust, who reap the benefits of tax cuts and deregulation. No, in backlash-speak, an "elitist" is a member of an exclusively cultural establishment, defined as a collection of liberal snobs in the media, the academy and government who sneer at the values of ordinary Americans. Hapless liberals are forced to fight a rear-guard action against these charges, Frank writes, in large part because they've conceded most of the economic ground already.

The Washington Post

Buy the book here.

Sunday, November 07, 2004

Literally speaking

I asked her to vacuum under the bed. What a work ethic.

Impromptu trip

Being unable to travel to France this morning (or anytime soon), Lily and I turned our hallway into Paris. You'll recognize, of course, Le Tour Effiel, Notre Dame, et Le Sacré Couer; all in a row. Les Jardins de Luxembourg, Le Métro, et Le Arc de Triomphe face the dining room. Le Musée d' Orsay, Cluny (Musée du Moyen Age), Le Conciergerie, et L'Obélisque de Luxor are grouped together around the corner. For those of you still with me, this artisitic endeavor came about after I told Lily about the Unicorn Tapestry at the Cluny. (my fav museum of Paris!)

Saturday, November 06, 2004


Before dawn for the next few days you'll see a special treat as two especially bright planets look as though they're about to collide.

Venus and Jupiter are lining up in the eastern sky, and Tuesday a crescent moon joins in.

"Then the unlit portion of the moon exhibits a real sky-watcher's treat, something we call Earthshine," says Greg Redfern, NASA's solar system ambassador.

Earthshine is a reflection of sunlight off of the earth's oceans and clouds that shines back into space and falls on the face of the unlit moon. With binoculars you'll be able to see the four main satellites of Jupiter. Jupiter will be just above and to the right of Venus.

Redfern says some scholars believe when the convergence happened in 2 B.C. that it created the star of Bethlehem.

Entire article here.

Friday, November 05, 2004

Stories from Palestine and Israel

Dan is just home from spending 2 weeks in Israel and Palestine. He sent emails while traveling, partly to journal his day to day experience, and partly to calm some of his worried friends. I especially enjoyed the stories shared in this excerpt from his second email:
We've been meeting with lots of people over the last few days, but two stories touched me very deeply. The first was from an Israeli Jewish man. His name is Rami Elhanan, 55 years old but looks no more than 40, with sandy brown hair, almost like a Jewish Bobby Kennedy. I've noticed folks on both sides here age incredibly well. He was born in Israel and served in the Israeli army during the 1973 Yom Kippur War, in a tank unit. He says his unit lost 8 of 11 tanks, many of his closest friends. When the war ended he was very very bitter. "I built a bubble around myself," he says. He focused on raising his family and staying out of the political situation. He had three sons and a daughter. Seven years ago, a few days before Yom Kippur, his 14-year old daughter was hanging out in Jerusalem, on Ben Yahuda, a popular hangout with lots of cafes and shops. "Two Palestinian suicide bombers blew up my bubble," he says. He spend the night searching for his daughter in police stations and hospitals, and then finally found her in the morgue. After he sat shiva and was visited by thousands of people, he tried to go back to work and normal life, and after a year realized this was impossible. He says his first instinct was to get even, but asked himself whether killing someone else would bring back his daughter. Eventually his meditation brought him to a group called Parents Circle, where Arab and Jewish parents who have lost children in the violence come together to share their emotions and advocate for an end to the violence, which includes an Israeli pullout from the Occupied Territories. "If we, who paid the highest price possible can [come together], then anyone can," he says. He says his oldest son was in the army at the time, and after staying home for the funeral went back to his paratroop unit. His commanding officer offered him a mission and told him he could use it to avenge his sister. Elhanan says in that moment, the cycle of violence clicked in his son's mind, and he declined. His son is now a leader of the refusenik movement, where Israeli reservists say the country should have a defensive army, but not an occupying force, so they refuse to serve in the Palestinian territories. This movement has really scared the shit out of the government, because these are clean cut Israeli boys, not radical peaceniks. But one aspect of Elhanan's thinking really spoke to me. He was talking about how criticism of Israel has become equated to anti-Semitism in many parts of the world, and how that linkage is used to shut down discussion about the situation here. He says it is time for Jews to stop thinking of themselves as victims. If the Jewish people are actually a confident, soulful people, then we should be able to engage in self-criticism and handle doubts expressed by others, without having to cry anti-Semitism to avoid debate. "The Jewish people deserve a homeland, but you don't correct mistakes by making other mistakes," he says. Though I agreed with his points about an end to the psychology of victimhood, the situation here is so bad I don't know if it can be fixed- basically I don't think the ideal of an ethnic state can be reconciled with human rights and democracy (but that's a subject for a whole other email). I did feel sad that this man had to lose his daughter in order to gain the kind of moral force with which he speaks. The second man is a Palestinian named Abed, who lives in a refugee camp called Aida, next to Bethlehem. I actually met him first when I came last year- I wrote a story about him for the Advocate. He runs a theater and arts program which teaches Palestinian kids non-violent resistance to the occupation. He is extremely intelligent- educated in France with a science background, speaks several languages, writes poetry, looks like a professor with round spectacles and very short hair. He came to join our group for dinner last night, and we talked for a while. His wife is a Palestinian born in Jerusalem, meaning she is permitted to live there in Israel. So they have a house in Jerusalem with their three young children. Abed is a refugee, though, so since the beginning of this intifada he has not been allowed to leave the West Bank. That means he must circumvent the checkpoints to see his family, climbing through barbed wire, etc. Its a trip that should take ten minutes by car, but for Abed it takes 3 hours. If he is caught in Israel, he must pay a fine, and is always threatened with imprisonment. He was talking about how he has never taken his family to the beach, then segued into how bitter and frustrated he is by the time he reaches his family in Jerusalem, after dodging the checkpoint. He finds himself emotionally drained, and that makes him short tempered with his kids. "I cannot be the kind of father I want to be for my children," he says. According to Abed, the occupation is finally starting to break down the threats of Palestinian society. In Aida camp where he lives, he says kids have been found dealing pornographic movies and drugs, unthinkable before. Understand that while Palestinian society is not radical religious by any means (only about half of Muslim women wear a head scarf, and most look more American than anything), it is still extremely traditional. The other day I visited a friend I made last year, and when she greeted her boyfriend in a crowded place, they shook hands instead of giving each other a hug. So the appearance of drugs is a very terrible sign. Abed says they go and confront the families whose children are caught dealing, and the parents throw up their hands, because everyone is unemployed and so they find they can't control their kids anymore. A little bit on the political situation: Apparently Arafat is very sick with Parkinson's disease. I had to laugh when Arafat's name came up and one Palestinian started twitching his lips. They HATE this man. I spoke to a couple people who think Israel will just wait for Arafat to die on his own, and then try to impose some kind of puppet ruler. The question will become whether the Palestinians will have the ability and organization to advance a leader who is not part of Arafat's circle. Personally I can't see it happening. I mean, when the occupation makes it impossible to drive from one point in the West Bank to another to see a husband, I don't see how the next wave of Palestinian leaders can build a political movement. Everyone here feels pretty hopeless. On Monday the Knesset is voting on Sharon's plan to withdraw from Gaza. The Israeli peace movement (such as it is) thinks the entire plan is a sham meant to divert attention from the wall in the West bank, and that Gaza will eventually become the destination for Palestinian population transfer from the West Bank. A modern day Warsaw ghetto. Meanwhile, the Israeli radical religious right wing doesn't want to give up anything, even if it is a sham (Sharon's deputy PM leaked the sham logic in an interview to Ha'aretz newspaper, apparently an attempt pacify the religious right). So if Sharon can't convince these nutsoids to go vote with him, he will have to call new elections, which will essentially be a referendum on the plan and his leadership. These calculations make American politics seem like kindergarten stuff.

Thursday, November 04, 2004

Too early for holiday list?

New Tomy toy: Hokoton animals. They learn a rhythm from the user, and then dance. You can buy me one here. The monkey is darn cute, but I wouldn't mind the pig and chihuahua. Ok, so all of them would make an adorable performance. via Popgadget

Wednesday, November 03, 2004


This is what the sky looks like November 3rd from Hartford. The day Americans re-elected Bush; or, just my kid's birthday if you choose to live in denial with me. Fun site: Heavens Above Also, if you enjoy night skies, check out Indigo Night. You can give them a date and place, and they create a graphic of the night sky. You also personalize it with words and setting, for example a particular city skyline, or country scene. We enjoy giving these as wedding gifts.

"La,la,la, I can't hear you...."

Choosing to check out of reality today in order to celebrate my daughter's 4th birthday. Election? There was an election? Happy day to Lily!

Monday, November 01, 2004

Language and politics

George Orwell on Politics and the English Language. Most people who bother with the matter at all would admit that the English language is in a bad way, but it is generally assumed that we cannot by conscious action do anything about it. Our civilization is decadent, and our language–so the argument runs–must inevitably share in the general collapse. It follows that any struggle against the abuse of language is a sentimental archaism, like preferring candles to electric light or hansom cabs to aeroplanes. Underneath this lies the half-conscious belief that language is a natural growth and not an instrument which we shape for our own purposes. Now, it is clear that the decline of a language must ultimately have political and economic causes: it is not due simply to the bad influence of this or that individual writer. But an effect can become a cause, reinforcing the original cause and producing the same effect in an intensified form, and so on indefinitely. A man may take to drink because he feels himself to be a failure, and then fail all the more completely because he drinks. It is rather the same thing that is happening to the English language. It becomes ugly and inaccurate because our thoughts are foolish, but the slovenliness of our language makes it easier for us to have foolish thoughts. The point is that the process is reversible. Modern English, especially written English, is full of bad habits which spread by imitation and which can be avoided if one is willing to take the necessary trouble. If one gets rid of these habits one can think more clearly, and to think clearly is a necessary first step towards political regeneration: so that the fight against bad English is not frivolous and is not the exclusive concern of professional writers. .