The Writing Mamas Daily Blog

Each day on the Writing Mamas Daily Blog, a different member will write about mothering.

If you're a mom then you've said these words, you've made these observations and you've lived these situations - 24/7.

And for that, you are a goddess.

Sunday, August 31, 2008


And You Thought Legos Were Just for Building Stuff

“I don’t want to go to school!” Eric wailed this morning.

Already?  On the second day? Last year this chant was too familiar -- but this is a new year. 

It is supposed to be a new beginning. 

“What would make you want to go to school?”

“I want to go to Lego school!”

Of course!  Why didn’t I think of that? This is our second try at kindergarten after an expensive detour including an extra year at preschool. Of all the things I considered -- from home schooling to boot camp at a military academy, Lego school had not crossed my mind as an alternative for kindergarten.

He has done Lego camps, Lego drop in and basically plays with them every day.  I wish he could go to a school and do Legos all day. 

I wish I could go!

So we agreed that FIRST he has to go to kindergarten.

THEN he was going to speech therapy.

FINALLY, we will go to Lego class. 

“And you're going because of what kind of behavior?”

“Good behavior!”  He sings.

Yay!!! This school thing might work after all.

By Cathy Burke

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Saturday, August 30, 2008


Lose Weight the Jon Lovitz Way!

On the finale of “Last Comic Standing," comedian Jon Lovitz explained, “I discovered the secret to losing weight. As you all know, muscle weighs more than fat. So if you really want to lose weight, you really have to get rid of all that muscle.”

I think I’ve been on that plan lately.

With both kids in preschool for the past three weeks, my body is changing. Where I used to be constantly on my feet, wiping bottoms, cleaning up spills, and running after bikes during the morning, I’m now happily seated, sedentary, rarely moving, in front of the computer, writing. 

I’m loving my time, don’t get me wrong, but my butt seems to be enjoying it as well, seeing as it has grown a bit. I haven’t gained weight, but my pants don’t fit anymore (except for stretchy yoga pants, thankfully.)

And no, I’m not pregnant.

I’m happy with my body as is, but would like to be able to wear my non-sweat pants again. So I went for a run/walk today. It felt good to exercise again. I’m going to yoga when I can.

Of course, my nightly Häagen-Dazs habit doesn’t help. But a girl has to have at least one vice in her life, right?

But I’m curious.

What is your exercise routine? 

What is your vice?

By Kristy Lund

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Friday, August 29, 2008


A Broken-Hearted Writer Who Dreams of Better

A friend called me a “three-quarter girl.” 

“What?!?” I said. “What does that even mean?”

“It means,” she said, drinking a sip of water, “that you get almost all the way done with your writing assignments and then walk away from them.” She took a breath as if it had taken her some courage to say this, and then her eyes flashed and she smiled at me as if daring me to say otherwise.  “I see it. I got your number.”

I thought for a minute.  Any casual observer would not call me a three-quarter girl. I have a string of accomplishments, and I am often rigidly compunctual in order NOT to leave things undone.  But I know the truth. I know how panic sets in when I pass the halfway mark. I know how I have to talk myself through the finish line as if I were in a control tower guiding an airplane flown by a sixteen-year old pilot to a forced landing on a foreign runway in the dark.

Where does this anxiety come from? 

I have had it all my life.

In college I wrote a poem called “The Mediocre Midwife,” in which I bemoan my lack of diligence and attention to my own creative process.  The work I bring to life is only half done, and I, the midwife, am to blame for not persisting through the whole birthing process.  

There is a stanza in which I compare myself to an alchemist:


                        I am a half-ass alchemist,

                        an alky,

                        who falls back,


                        Ready to retire

                        as the first glimmer of gold


                        from the lumps of clay and fire.

 Looking back, I think the poem is not bad -- but I never finished it.

 “You have to finish things," my friend went on. "Just to learn how to do them.”

 I am so scared as she is talking that I can barely breathe.

I have noticed that when something I write starts to please me, I begin to think that every line has to be better than the one before it. 

I grind to a halt.

I tell my friend that.

She listens. “It’s going to suck?” she said.

“What is?” 

“Everything! The writing. The ending. The fact that nothing is as good as you think it's going to be. And then one day -- something is. And the next day -- it isn’t again.”

She went on.

“But you have to keep going through it. It’s a numbers game. You have to write your one-hundred crappy essays to learn how to write a single good one.”

I think for a minute about the piano. I am learning as an adult, at almost 40, to play. I am teaching myself. 

I suck.

I am no musical genius. But I love it, and I will sit down at the piano for HOURS just to learn how to move my fingers that way. 

I will never be famous, and my friends listen to me for about five minutes before they start talking amongst themselves.

So why do I practice over and over?  Why am I drawn daily to the piano, working on sight-reading, beat, rhythm, chords? 

Because I will never be brilliant at it so it does not scare me.

I wonder how good my writing would be if I devoted even half the time to it that I spend on the piano.

Do I really think I am a brilliant writer?  Some days, I think I could be. Except for the small matter that I am not. 

It is that interplay between the possible and the real that catches me every time. It’s conceivable a piece might be remarkable. Oh, please. Please don’t let it not be. I couldn’t bear the disappointment.

Maybe I better walk away before my heart breaks from yearning.

By Lianna McSwain

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Thursday, August 28, 2008


The First Day of School -- A Success!!!

The morning began with my daughter, Mimi, telling me that she did NOT want to go to school.

As this was her first day – so far not so good.

Then she wanted to know if she could play her Nintendo DS.


A lack of enthusiasm on her part, over-screaming on mine.

We agreed to begin again.

Together we made scrambled eggs. Mimi noted the pretty color swirls of the egg and yolk.

Good, I thought. Her artistic muscle is starting to move again.

I told her she could pick out any dress and shoes she wanted. To my delight, she chose the outfit her father had wanted her to wear. It was also the dress he had bought her. I consider myself incredibly lucky in that department as he buys all her clothing.

We got to school just as the first bell sounded and made it within the classroom before the second one did. I promised Mimi she would not be late a single day this year and I plan to keep that agreement.

Her teacher shook my hand and greeted us warmly. Some of the kids yelled out her name. Big smile. Mimi was assigned a seat next to a friend from last year’s class and her table was right next to that of one of her closest friends.

More importantly, the classroom felt right. What was so correct about it was its size: small. The room was intimate. This was what a classroom should be, and should have been during her previous grades. Now she would get the attention that all students, especially young ones, need to receive.

But that is behind us: the remainder of the year is ahead.

Mimi was completely happy. I left joyful, too. As I surveyed the school lawn filled with mommies in seemingly earnest conversations, I saw that the mothers I had decided I would hit up early for play dates were deep in talk and I didn’t feel perky enough to join in.

I realized I also lacked the required joviality to attend the parents’ coffee in the auditorium.

Besides, I had errands to run, an article to write and the classroom experience was so perfect -- I didn’t want to mar it.

I’ll bring my appointment book with me tomorrow and try again. If that doesn’t work, perhaps the next day.

Though I have this sense that I may not need to be involved in my daughter’s play life at all.

She seems to be doing just fine on her own.

School is for her. It is not social time for me. I already suffered through high school once. I don’t want to have to do it a second time.

By Dawn Yun

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Wednesday, August 27, 2008


A New School Year Better Than The One That Came Before It

Tomorrow begins second grade for my daughter.

This is a big milestone.

It marks for the first time, in at least five years, that I may feel comfortable about her schooling.

I didn’t care for her preschool. I felt the director showed too much favoritism toward “special” students – mostly the ones whose parents contributed additional money.

I stayed because Mimi’s friends were in the school and I was good friends with their parents. Mimi had no idea of what I was experiencing. She was treated well and had lots of fun.

In kindergarten I choose a K/1 class for her because it seemed so much brighter and happier than the other classes. I emphasized to the teachers that I was not an uber-mother, and though she seemed bright, that was not yet apparent to me.

It seems it was never was apparent to them, either. She got “labeled” as being one of the slowest readers and writers in her class.

I tried volunteering for things others parents didn’t want to do like making copies, though I don’t know how to make them and I have a history of breaking copying machines. I broke two at her school. Within minutes of each other.

I learned that the yellow dot on her papers meant that she was in the slowest group. This I discovered while I was teaching her and her fellow students how to read.

Finally, I told her teachers about my health issues and they said it probably affected her emotionally, hence her falling behind. My worst and guiltiest fear. Mimi was in a class with kids reading chapters books while she could barely make out Dr. Seuss. If only I had been more emotionally available to her. . . 

But now Mimi has a wonderful second grade teacher. I met the woman and she told me she can sometimes be scattered, but she always knows what she’s doing.

I liked her immediately. She’s not too strict. One of Mimi’s best friends since the age of three is in her class, that friend’s friends are in there, too, and Mimi knows nearly half the other kids who were in her genius class. So she will be comfortable.

I was a quiet child who became a talkative adult. Mimi is a talkative kid. She’ll speak to anybody of any age, any gender, about anything.

While she is not fond of homework, she has caught up. She can do it. 

In the genius class Mimi was not a child who had a lot of play dates.

I was always amazed at how hard other mothers worked it to ensure their kids had something going on with the other kids all the time.

I have to also admit that given my health issues, I was surprised more mothers didn’t offer to help and include Mimi on play dates. I’m no Lady Godiva, but I know what’s important.  I’m not sorry for me, but I am for my daughter that more mothers did not reach out to her through their children.

I think if the class had been a regular one with only 20 kids instead of 40, perhaps more offers would have been forthcoming. People knew my situation.  News travels fast in school.

That’s why I’m so happy about Mimi’s new class. The teacher rocks! She already has friends. I’m going to volunteer to read or come up with creative games that the  kids can play twice a month.

I feel like it is a new beginning for Mimi and for me. I feel as if our baggage has been left behind.

I’m even going to attend the coffee social in the morning though I have to rush home to do interviews and get an article written before one when I have to pick Mimi up.

I have no doubt there will be tons of play dates already lined up. But I’m bringing my appointment book, a pen and will be ready to start arranging play dates for her.

More than anything, I hope she enjoys school, loves to learn, reaches her potential, and makes good friends.

Though she’s starting second grade, it’s as though she’s beginning school anew. With new beginnings come wonderful opportunities.

This is going to be a fabulous year.

By Dawn Yun

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Monday, August 25, 2008


A Mother's Very Maternal Instincts

I finished reading a memoir of a painful childhood by a favorite writer who tenderly depicts suicide, secret affairs, abject neglect, and intellectual genius in her family.

It touches my heart, partly because when I was in my early twenties, I was engaged to the little brother in the story.

In being reminded of what he had gone without, and lost, in his vulnerable early years, which ultimately played out in the demise of my first true love story, I cried for both of us.

Looking back, way back, at him from my current midlife mom position, I feel maternally protective and soft-hearted toward him. I start feeling how I failed him as he was falling into self-destruction.

I walked away.

Having children is the difference in my reading his story and changing his depiction in my life story.

I understand the child in the story more deeply, having lived the vulnerabilities of my own trusting and permeable babies. Kids gave me a bigger heart and eased my sharp judgment.

One memory from long ago with the man in this book, so long wrapped in anger at his seeming betrayal of poor me, is allowed some breathing room. My little autobiography can expand, allowing the true dimensionality of people I loved and counted on to unfold.

My maternal self has given me the gift of being able to forgive, remembering that we’re all someone’s child and none of us was born wanting anything more than to be loved.

By Avvy Mar


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Gyno Gratitude

Yesterday was my annual OB-GYN appointment.

I was filled with such gratitude for the doctor who brought my boys safely into this world.

Without her, the outcome of my first son’s birth may have been different.  During the twenty-four hours prior to her entry into my son’s birth story, the other doctor and nurses were expecting me to make important decisions and lead the birthing process. 

I didn’t know what I was doing -- this was my first time!  

When they gave me medication for nausea, I couldn’t keep my eyes open so they let me sleep.  The next doctor took her shift.  I was awoken from my slumber with her shrill voice filling the room and demanding, “What? She’s ten centimeters! Why isn’t she pushing?”

I had never met this woman, but my people-pleasing desire kicked in and I started pushing.

She made a crucial decision in the last minutes of labor by calling the specialized neo-natal team "just in case." When Lucas was born in a bit of shock (and who wouldn't be, really?), they were there to help him in the first few minutes of life. How can you thank someone for such an impact?

I've told her many times that she’s intuitive, but she would never call herself that. She's about five feet tall, dresses in fun clothes with artsy glasses and is probably the most energetic person I've ever met.

Her office is bright with pinks, yellows, and greens throughout, and cool quotes painted on the walls. I was happy to hear that she has hired a midwife. Almost makes me want to have another baby.


By Kristy Lund

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Sunday, August 24, 2008


The Prius Greening of America

After preschool today, I was loading both boys’ bikes into the back of our Prius. A man walking his two dogs stopped next to our car. He was a big guy with large biceps and a bald head. Normally I’m used to getting comments about the kids’ bikes, etc. from fellow parents, but he wasn’t looking at the bikes.

“How do you like your car?” he asked. I explained how much I love it. He asked how often I fill up the tank. I said every two weeks, but I actually have no idea. I fill it up when it’s close to empty. But I told him it gets about forty-five miles a gallon.

This I knew.

“Nice.” he responded, nodding approvingly like guys used to do when eyeing trucks on top of large wheels or some vintage Chevy. I’m not a car person, but I felt “cool” in that moment. It makes me happy that fuel-efficient cars are attracting attention.

Buddhism teaches that positives often come from a negative. This is how I feel about gas prices right now. Yes, they suck. But they are making us look at gas consumption in a new way.

I really wish my kids’ school was within biking distance.

Maybe in the future.

By Kristy Lund

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Saturday, August 23, 2008


Food Network -- Here's Your New Lunchtime Star

The most important meal of the day?

After being married for almost ten years, I just started cooking dinner on a regular basis. Luckily for me, my husband has always been the chef in our house. He can take anything out of the fridge and create a delicious meal. 

I can take the simplest combination and ruin it.

I now have one recipe and I make it once a week. It is delicious and easy and I see no reason to change it or even add another to my repertoire.

Dinners are just not my thing. I simply have a hard time managing all of the necessary courses, nutritional guidelines and simple preparation in the given time period. Somehow, I can even manage to have one course burned, one not quite done and the third somehow inedible.

But when it comes to my kids’ lunches -- I am a star.

As I am clearing away the dinner mess, I manage to set aside perfect portion sizes of food. I can already picture my six-year-old’s delight as he opens up his dinosaur lunch box to find a plastic baggie of steak with the grill marks cut off. I envision my four-year-old smile upon spotting two meatballs from the night before’s spaghetti dinner.

I know just what they like.

In mini portions I can create the perfect smorgasbord for them. Often their breakfasts consist of frozen waffles, so when I open their lunch boxes at the end of the day and find them virtually empty -- I feel confident that I succeeded in feeding them at least one good meal.

Good job, mommy!

Out of all the tasks on my daily to do list, my favorite thing to cross off is “make lunches.”

If only scrubbing the bathroom was as satisfying.

By Cathy Burke

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Friday, August 22, 2008


But Wait, We're Still Summering

I’m lounging in my pajamas again, on a school morning at that. Why not? There’s no need to race from the shower in order to beat the family morning rush with wet hair. Instead I’ve gotten used to actually reading the newspaper cover-to-cover before the kids stampede down the stairs. My day is beginning with a quiet, peaceful morning graced with a strong, aromatic cup of coffee.

It’s just too good to last.

Summer is finally hitting a nice groove in our home. After weeks of camps and various other activities, we are all enjoying unstructured days spent outdoors, often returning home from the park near eight p.m. under a sunny August sky. The kids are relaxed, content to lollygag about, playing with friends, climbing trees or retreating to enjoy a favorite book.

Last night they got an even later bedtime and so I’m pleased and surprised to find it’s almost eight a.m. again without the interruption of feet stomping down the stairs.

Ah, summer.

I take in the view of the hills outside the glass doors and relax in the quiet of my day before doing a mental check of any agenda. Let’s see, it’s Thursday which means a trip to the pediatrician’s office for a yearly checkup and oh, a stop at Staples to buy school supplies. And have the lunchboxes we ordered arrived? Did Lauren want to keep those jeans or return them for others? Does William have enough socks, any socks? I better look through those shirts, too. Grace needs to start wearing those shoes again since Crocs aren’t allowed at preschool.

I feel a familiar rush of adrenaline surges through me then my eye intuitively darts to the oven clock. Oh shit, it’s eight-thirty a.m. already. On Monday the kids will be expected to be attentive in class at this time rather than slumbering against soft pillows.

I have exactly four remaining nights to readjust my kids from roughly sixty-eight nights of different sleeping schedules.

But it’s the Olympic season so anything’s possible, right? I wonder if Michael Phelps’ Mom let him sleep in during the summer. No, I bet even in preschool he was completing his warm-ups by now and probably made his bed before he left the house.

I consider my kids’ academics for the first time all summer. Does Lauren remember any regrouping for division? Can William write anything besides his name? I better make sure that ‘a’ is kept lower-case. OK, four days to go. Can I cram a recap of the previous year’s curriculum between now and Monday?

Should I?

Oh hell, the kids will probably be sleepwalking those first weeks anyway since I, their Mother, didn’t keep our schedules on track. Dark eyes, sullen looks, snapping mouths – wish it were true that I was describing characters from Maurice Sendak and not my own offspring.

I had also hoped to take on one home project given the freedom and flexibility summer allows … what was it going to be again?

The dog barks, interrupting the downward spiral of thought. A crisp, autumnal morning chill greets me as I open the door. The season will be changing soon. Gone will be the daylight-basked evenings and warm air wafting pleasantly through the window screens.

I imagine the dark winter mornings with my setting out breakfast and packing lunch boxes while weary little forms trod down the stairs with the greeting, “Do I have to go to school again today?” and their little sister chirping at the mere mention of the ‘s’ word, “I don’t go to my school. I miss my Mommy.”

Ah, fall. Summer was too good to last.

By Maija Threlkeld

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Thursday, August 21, 2008


There Aint Nothing Like Sisters

Recently my sisters and their families came to visit.

The entire trip from landing to departure was entirely about our children, the cousins, and the pure joy they had being with each other.

The brother-in-laws got on extremely well.

My sisters and I acted the same as when we were the ages our children are now.

My sister, Robyne, a psychologist, came out of my bedroom, her arm adorned with my silver bracelets.

“Did you know you had these?”

I gave her an RU kidding look.  “Of course I now I have – notice the present tense? – that jewelry.”

“Oh, just wondering,” she said.

“You want them, right?” I asked.

She quickly nodded her head, as her eyes grew wide and a smile, like a rainbow, appeared. “You can have them,” I said, since I never wore them.

At Sea World, my new wide-brimmed hat got completely soaked.

My youngest sister, Heidi, was staring at me.

“It’s the hat, right?” I asked.

“It looks wet,” she said “Not that it doesn’t look good,” she quickly added.

“But it doesn’t look crisp, does it?” I asked.

“Not crisp,” she agreed.

“You want it, right?” I said.

“I want it,” she quickly added. I later gave it to her, along with a Movado watch that needed to be fixed.

Robyne, who fixes peoples’ psyches for a living, wanted to know why it was fair for Heidi to get my Movado watch. She asked this while gesturing with her own Movado watch on her wrist.

“Must I answer this?” I wondered.

“Unfair,” insisted Robyne.

“Look, you got ALL of Mom’s jewelry when she died and ALL of Aunt Natalie’s diamonds. Heidi got nothing.”

Robyne “claimed” this was untrue. Heidi and I gave her each other knowing looks.

“We all have nice watches except for Heidi. I’m giving her the Movado.”

That evening, my sisters, who give new meaning to the word “shopaholic,” insisted that we go purse shopping. Robyne had a slight stain on her five-month old Coach bag and asked the cashier if she could remove it. In so doing, Robyne pointed out that the woman only made it worse. Somehow, she not only walked out with a new purse, but in a different color.

“Do you know I got that purse for $60 less in Chicago?”

No, but somehow yes.

Onto Nordstrom where Heidi, feeling deprived with her no-name purse, was determined to get a deluxe one. Robyne had her Coach, I had a Prada, a gift from a friend, and Heidi had a cheap one. She eyed a Michael Kors. It was a little over three hundred dollars.

The people behind the counter and Robyne and I were pushing Heidi to buy it.

“I have to ask my husband,” she said.

We all screamed out, “Never ask your husband! That’s a sure noooooo!!!”

My husband, John, answered the phone as Heidi asked to speak to her husband, Bob, but not before my husband said to her husband, “It’s your wife. She wants to know how much money she can spend.”

John told me later Bob dropped his hand into the bill of hand and shook his head.

“Heidi, please. We’ve already spent a fortune on this vacation. Please, don’t do this to me.”

“We told you,” we all said to her, as she put the purse back with a sad face. I also pointed out that instead of buying four or five crappy purses, why not buy one really nice one, so she wouldn’t need to keep buying so many.

She’s a shopaholic. She can’t help it. She needs to keep buying them.

At home the boys were running around the kitchen island and snapping towels at each other, gym style, while the girls were in my daughter’s room playing with some of her five thousand stuffed animals. John and Bob were watching sports.

My sisters and I opened a bottle of wine and sat on the deck, staring at the last lights over Mt. Tam. It was our final night together. It had been a long, intense, non-stop week of vacation.  More importantly, it was time spent together. Other than my two best friends, I never laugh more than I do with my sisters, and nobody knows me better than they do.

Oh, sure, we fight. We’re sisters. But we love. Deeply. We act the same as we did when we were in single digits as we do now in advanced double numbers.

Next year we’re thinking about taking a family vacation on Cape Cod. I don’t know. I only know that when we’re together there is a familiarity borne through pain, suffering, misery, laughter, accomplishments and genuine pleasure in each others’ happiness.

Despite all that we’ve seen, all that we’ve done, when we are together, we are young again.

We remain children, just like our kids. I can’t imagine us ever growing up.

By Dawn Yun

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Wednesday, August 20, 2008


Leaving No Stone Unturned. . .

From Friday at ten a.m. until Sunday ten a.m., my husband was going to be taking my kids camping, while I stayed home and enjoyed my own stay-cation writing retreat.

About six Friday morning my husband awoke, doubled in pain, saying, "Ow, ow," and complained when he peed he had blood in his urine.

I immediately thought of my neighbor who is undergoing radiation for prostate cancer, I thought of John's brother, who passed away this summer of a heart attack. I thought I probably smell, but I don't care. I threw on some clothes, did NOT brush my teeth, awoke my daughter -- "We're going on an adventure!" -- and drove my husband to the hospital.

I let him off in front of the emergency room while we found a parking space.

"Yes, Mimi, this is where you were born. No, maybe we'll go into your birthing story and Mommy's loud screams a little later, OK?"

By the time we got to the emergency room, my husband was already in a hospital gown and laying on a gurney.

I pulled the light cloth down so it covered his underwear. I know a little something about hospitals and a lack of dignity.

Mimi had her Nintendo DS, I know, bad Mommy, but also smart Mommy since she was preoccupied.

The nurse, who was good, and efficient, had already given John pain medication and muscle relaxants.

He complained of feeling light headed.

"That's what pain pills do," I explained. He never takes anything stronger than aspirin. I told the nurse, "He's a guy. When you ask him about his pain level he's probably underestimating it. He's not much for hospitals, no offense."

She smiled. She had seen his macho type before.

While they took John upstairs for an MRI, I took Mimi to the cafeteria for breakfast. It was like a toy store. Stacks of fresh pancakes, eggs, orange juice. I had black coffee. 

After she was sated we went downstairs in time for the X-rays to arrive. 

"Don't go there," I thought to myself. "Wait to hear the prognosis before freaking out."

"It's just what we suspected," the nurse said. "Kidney stones. Two."

Painful yes. Fatal no. They gave John more medication and he passed a stone. Since his pain level was tolerable they let him go home.

When we got there, John announced that he felt much better. In fact, so good that he could still go camping.  Why not just go outside and lift a truck off the ground with his bare hands? I explained that he wasn't going camping. He wasn't going anywhere. He was going to stay home, rest and watch sports.

After a short protest, he acquiesced. I called my stepson at his mother's, told him his father had just come back from the hospital and they wouldn't be going camping, but he should come over.

I never did get my writing retreat. But I got something better. My family and their health.

By Dawn Yun

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Tuesday, August 19, 2008


A Girl's Just Gotta Have the RIGHT Black Bag

She stood in front of me in line, chatting with a man several years her senior.  We were waiting to be let into Il Fornaio restaurant in San Francisco, for a luncheon with Mario Battali, celebrity chef. 

I recognized the man, a local restaurant critic. 

She and I were both dressed in the uniform of big cities - black pants, black jackets, black shirts, black bags.  I looked like an aging business woman.  She looked hip.  Her boot cut pants had two thin stripes of tiny white stitching down the middle of each leg.  Fitted black t-shirt and cropped jacket that could fit in San Francisco or on a humanitarian trip with Bono to Africa. 

I fixated on her bag. 

Mine was a black leather medium-sized satchel.  Maybe indicated classy.  More likely read as dull, does not take chances.  Her bag was messenger bag material, but not messenger bag shape – a rectangle with the long sides horizontal.  The sturdy strap rested on her shoulder and across her body.  The bag sat low on her body, hitting her right knee.  A cell phone compartment on the lower left side and three other compartments, two with zippers, one with a Velcro close.  You could fit a laptop or a change of clothes in the main compartment.  I strained to eavesdrop -- was she saying she’d just returned from Europe?

I coveted the bag. 

Once home, I logged onto, filtering out other bags until I found it.  Not a bad price.  I was tempted.  But didn’t I already have several purses and tote bags?  Buying this bag would be impulsive, not practical.  I passed.

My family took a sixteen-day vacation to France.  The bags I used worked great.  I then started a new job commuting from Oakland to San Francisco.  My black purse and outlet Coach black leather tote functioned well to bring work, books and food back and forth across the Bay Bridge.

About midnight one Friday, I found myself back on  The young, hip, adventurous woman and her bag had stayed in my mind for three months.  I’d just have another look.  I looked.  I bought.

When the bag arrived, I tore open the box and then left the bag in my closet for a week.  Afraid it wouldn’t look the same on me.  The following Sunday, I transferred the contents of my purse and my tote to this one functional and hopefully chic bag.

I adjusted the shoulder strap so the bag hit right above my knee.  I checked myself out in a mirror, expecting disappointment.  Can a bag really change you? 

The bag looked great.  My look was more contemporary.  I swear it took five years off my age.  And it’s functional.  I love it and enjoy it every day.  The unwitting and unknown kindness of a stranger helped me change my internal and external image of myself. 

By Marianne Lonsdale

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Monday, August 18, 2008


How One Mother Found Her True Vocation -- and Love

Three years after the birth of my daughter, I began to wonder if one could actually die of boredom.   How many times can you sing, “The Wheels on the Bus” before your eyes glaze over and you start to fall into a comatose state? 

Before my daughter was born, I made the conscious decision to be a stay-at-home mom.  My mother had done it, her mother had done it and I decided to follow in their footsteps.  I planned to experience every milestone of my daughter’s childhood, from her first word to her first day of school.  And since I no longer brought in a paycheck, I figured I should be the perfect wife, too.   We joined playgroups, went to music class, and spent afternoons at the park with friends. The baby was bathed, dressed for bed and dinner was always ready when my husband got home from work.  

I had become June Cleaver. 

Around my daughter’s third birthday something shifted and I began asking myself,“Who the hell are you?”  I was no longer the woman who sang Aretha Franklin’s “Respect” in the shower at the top of her lungs or the woman who had once dreamed of working for the United Nations.  In those three years I had become exhausted, forty pounds heavier and, I’m sure, bitchy -- if you asked my husband.  I had become one of those women who forget that there is more to life than being a wife and mother.  I had forgotten about the things that made me an individual.  Peg Bundy was starting to sound like the perfect role model.  I sat and wallowed in my self-pity with a box of cookies. 

I finally got my act together after my daughter was diagnosed with asthma.  She missed two weeks of preschool and we had plenty of bonding time.  One day she asked me with the brutal honesty of a three-year-old, “Why don’t you go to work like Daddy?  If you do, then Daddy could stay home with me and I would have fun.” 

That pretty much said it all.

It was time for me to go back to work, but there wasn’t really a career to go back to.  I had worked for the federal government most of my adult life and had no intention of returning to that.   It was then I realized that what was missing had never really been there.   I had never had a career that made me hop out of bed every morning with a spring to my step as I headed out the door to work that fulfilled me as a person.  

At the age of 40, I decided to find one.

My husband, being the supportive man that he is, told me to go forth and create my dream career.   We weren’t starving on one paycheck, so I was free to imagine the possibilities. 

I knew what kinds of things I felt passionate about, but I just had never found a way to create a life around them. I decided to take a class on career and life transition being offered at a local high school and for the next three weeks, I pondered what to do.  My old Myers Brigg results showed me a list of plenty of careers that were supposed to be a good fit for my personality type.  I also needed to consider how this newly found career would affect my family.  One thing became clear almost immediately: having a child and a career could definitely get complicated when you have to work around asthma attacks, early-dismissal Wednesdays and summer vacation. 

In one month, I looked at every career that was on my list.  I thought about becoming a nurse, until I decided feeling queasy at the sight of blood would make me pretty useless.  Psychologist was an option, but I thought it would depress me to listen to other people’s problems all day and then come home to a tantrum-throwing three-year-old.  I finally looked at the career I had always wanted to do, but was afraid to actually try:  writer.

For as long as I can remember -- I’ve wanted to write.  I went to journalism school to pursue my dream of seeing my name in print, but I got sidetracked by marriage and motherhood.   I thought, “Why not?”  I’ll never know if I’m any good at it until I really try.  I loved everything about writing, from seeing an image that inspires me, to making a jumble of words come alive on paper.   What I especially loved was being able to work in the early hours of the morning with just me for company.  It was the perfect career for me.  I’d made my decision, so now what?  I had a half-finished book that I had started years ago.  I pulled it out, read it and thought, “Not too bad.”  I gave myself the pep talk and said, “Karen, you wrote this and you can finish it.” 

I still have days when I whine about being a stay-at-home mom, but then I remind myself that I have a new title: writer.  The simple act of reclaiming that part of my life has forever changed me.  I am now in a much happier place and so is my family.  My husband is again seeing the woman he married and I hope my daughter sees a woman she can call role model as she takes her own life journey. I now get up at five-thirty in the morning full of energy after losing those forty pounds and write my heart out.  True, some days it might be that book I’m working on while other days it’s my grocery list, but at least I’m writing. 

By Karen Mixon-Martin

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Sunday, August 17, 2008


Vacationing with Adult Children; Relishing Time Together

I am poised on the edge of my seat as I prepare for our family vacation at Stinson Beach.

About five years ago this same vacation destination took place with myself, my darling husband, David, my lovely daughter, Alicia, and my handsome son, Dante: each of us thriving and enjoying one another’s company.

At the time, my daughter, then twenty-one, had just returned from a trip to Australia and she spent many beach hours compiling a beautiful photo album. My son was sixteen and his time was taken up daily with many of his Bolinas girlfriends visiting him in casual beach attire.
Trying to bring back the laid-back, relaxed atmosphere we attained then somehow has a different edge at this stage in our lives.

Now attempting to rekindle that tranquil beach vibe feels like a challenge to our full, adult lives and calendars. Dante is inching ever so close to becoming twenty-one. He lives the bachelor life in an apartment of his own and holds down a full-time job.

Our daughter of twenty-five just finished getting her masters degree at Mills College. She also works full time, and loves living in her Victorian San Francisco apartment. Being a parent of seasoned adults just has a different feel to it.

Imagining the beautiful waves of Stinson beach past carrying my son and daughter on boogie boards with their joyous smiles is heartwarming. We always aspired to give our children the freedom to experience the mighty ocean waves.

However, it is a thrill-seeking sport. Today, I will not throw caution to the wind, having read the headlines of shark warnings, shark sightings and shark attacks at Stinson Beach. My present day itinerary will not include anything near a boogie board. Tame wading in the cold surf will just have to suffice.
I hope to have the oceans roar as a mystical backdrop as a start to our days together while I cook up hearty breakfasts of pancakes, turkey bacon, French toast, and eggs. My two young adults have been on their own now for quite some time, so I want to spoil them in safer, more comforting ways.
Maybe I will be able to interest them in long beach walks where we can share family connections at a deeper level. In the fast-paced lives they lead with full-time jobs those spontaneous emotional exchanges are few and farther between.

I can only hope the love we continue to share will be nourished with surf, sand and Mount Tamalpais as our backdrop.
In my vision of family unity our happy history at Stinson beach remains a safe place to play. Surely the family events that take place will entertain us like a photo album of memories.

And they did.

On Saturday, my daughter’s friends came to visit. Anna, a childhood comrade, now a mother of a five-month-old darling baby boy, entertained us for hours. We all took turns holding her baby. My daughter’s graduate-school friend, Alison, also came and enjoyed a well-rounded barbecued dinner, and spent the night with us.
These invitations remind my husband and I of the comfort our daughter shares when she puts our family on display. Thankfully, we can be accepted into this window of her friendship circle.
During Saturday evening our son chose to watch a Tom Cruise movie, “The Last Samurai.” Knowing full well how enamored Dante can be with heroic displays of manhood, we gladly honored his preference. The big surprise from our son was when he announced to all he would be spending his Saturday night sleeping in the outdoor hammock. We joked how he would be jostled during the night by bats or get so cold he would need to come inside to a warm bed. He just smiled. Ultimately, he proved us all wrong as we awoke to see his trusty baseball cap peeking out of the yellow down comforter he wound himself up in all night.
I did manage to ask Dante for a heart-to-heart beach walk only to receive a perplexed look. “You really want me to do that?”
All-in-all I am totally appreciative of every moment my two grown children choose to show me their affection whether it be outgoing or symbolic.

Thank God for simple pleasures.

By Cynthia Rovero

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Saturday, August 16, 2008


Loving Family Shatters an Olympics Record!!!

Did you catch the opening ceremonies for the Beijing Olympics?  They rocked!

And to think I hadn’t even been planning on tuning in.  Despite all the run up for the summer games, I haven’t honestly been paying much attention.  I’m not much of a sports fanatic, for one – plus I’m pretty pregnant right now, so I’ve got other things on my mind.  Like where exactly I’m going to fit a second kid in my one thousand, one hundred square foot, two bedroom, one-bath house. 

I’m in home improvement/nesting mode and have been riding my poor husband’s ass to clean junk out of the garage and rearrange the configuration of our home office so that it can double as a nursery.  I’m seriously considering hiring one of those closet organizer consultants.  But, my three and a half-year old daughter spotted a photo of the opening ceremony fireworks in the morning newspaper on Friday --  “Look Mom, FIREWORKS” – and she was so jazzed about the photo alone that I promised her we’d all hang out and watch the show that evening on TV. 

She proceeded to talk about it all day… 

Emi at ten a.m.: “Is it time for the Olympics yet?”

Me: “Not yet.”

Emi at noon:  “Is it time for the Olympics yet?”

Me:  “Not yet.”

Emi at three p.m.:  “Now?

Me:  “No.”

She pounced on my husband the minute he got home, “We’re going to watch the Olympics!  And there’s going to be fireworks!” 

Finally, bathed, fed, teeth brushed, in her PJs, she was literally jumping up and down with excitement as we tuned in to the actual event.  She pretended to do gymnastics like the girls that appeared in the pre-show athlete montage – diving into a sofa cushion after executing one of her “moves.”  She sailed around the living room as the thousands of Chinese dancers took to the floor, mimicking their elegant hand movements and gushing that they all looked like princesses.  She asked questions about everything.  When the fireworks did explode on the screen, Emi jumped in the air and yelled, “Those are the most TREMENDOUS fireworks I’ve ever seen!!!”

I don’t recall having this much fun watching the kick-off of the Olympics since the reign of Mary Lou Retton, when I was in the fifth grade.  This reminds me of one of the reasons, despite all the work and the sacrifice that raising kids can entail, that my child brings me so much joy:  I get to be a bit of a kid all over again through her eyes.  Because of her, I get giddy on Christmas Eve again. I stop to coo over baby ducks in a pond (so cute!) and fireworks are an occasion for an all-day build up of anticipation.  With dancing and twirling and jumping at the end. 


By Shannon Matus-Takaoka

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Friday, August 15, 2008


Immortality Can Be Found Through Our Children

Many of us go rushing through life thinking we should do something important, be someone, and then we die and recycle back into another piece of the whole and what is remembered?

I think of my mom and remember her Angel Food Cake.  No one ever has, or ever will, make one like it. 

I have her recipe and I fail every time I try to make it; so do my daughters.  With her flat, antique whipper she produced it joyfully to the end; partly because I had surpassed her in so many other endeavors as she grew older.

When her hands grew arthritic, the grandchildren did the whipping and under her direction they were prideful and successful. The cake was there when I had a birthday, when my children were born; when I came home after surgery, and always appreciated.

I remember my Dad for wonderful rowboat rides up Curly Creek where he spun extemporaneous stories of the Adventures of Princess Virginia, or recited Shakespeare, Kipling, and Robert Service aloud to any and all who would listen.

I knew the “Quality of Mercy” from “The Merchant of Venice” by heart, long before I could understand its meaning. I remember breakfasts where he starred as the chef, making imaginative pancakes where his thin batter somehow managed to spell out our names or take the form of balls and bats or monsters.

I asked my eldest daughter once what she would remember me for. Without a moment’s hesitation she answered, “For showing me the star in the apple. You taught me to cut the apple the other way so I could find the five pointed star.”

I told her that her father had shown me the star in the apple before she was born, when we were first married. 

My youngest child was birthed after his paternal grandfather had died, yet his older sisters would take their two fingers and walk them up his arms and legs chanting, “Here comes the walking man, the walking man, the walking man,” just like grandpa Scotty had done to them when they were toddlers.

Our son would giggle and squirm with delight unaware of this link with the past, the fact that he was experiencing grandpa’s immortality. Pasternak says it all in “Dr. Zhivago” with one line, “You in others, that is your soul.” 

We are not to choose or ever know what small or great act will live on after we are gone and recycle back into the whole. Perhaps that is the true mystery of life, the meaning of oneness.

And so it goes on and on and on. What we are to each other we will perhaps never really know, but I think the good we do, the joy we produce, the positive, somehow goes on and the rest is eventually forgotten, forgiven, or just weeded out.

By Ruth Scott

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Thursday, August 14, 2008


You Never, Ever Get Over It, But You Try To Move Forward

Sometimes I dream that I am falling.

There is never any bottom to this well.

I am falling into blackness.  In slow motion down the rabbit hole but instead of jars of marmalade and lovely tins -- there are flashes of a life that was supposed to be.

When I lost my son I thought I would die. 

It felt as if my chest was griped in a vice and every breath was torture.  How could one be expected to live like this? I thought about jumping off a bridge.  I am fearful of heights, and there was no bridge high enough to give me anything but a broken leg, but jumping just seemed right. 

I was falling… into despair and depression, and my life seemed like it was coming undone.

I was offered antidepressants, but the cure I wanted was my son returned to me. 

Somehow, I managed to keep going, though the thought of killing myself was strangely comforting. 

Like there was a Plan B, an exit route from the well of grief, that there could be an end to my descent.  There were probably a million reasons and no reason at all why I never went past those dark thoughts. 

I wouldn’t say that I am whole again, but I am mended, like a china cup that slips from soapy hands.  I have been glued back together -- but the cracks remain.

I think about the time I wanted to jump off a bridge almost every day as I drive across one that accounts for so many tragic ends to broken lives. 

I wonder if those people were falling, too.

By Jennifer Gunter


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Wednesday, August 13, 2008


School Blues -- They're Coming B-A-C-K!!!

After returning home from a fun, but intense, non-stop vacation – it is hard to believe that in three weeks school will begin.

My daughter has spent the last two years in K/1, a class of forty students, half in kindergarten, half in first grade. In kindergarten her homework rivaled that found in college. By first grade it had eased up.

I made a mistake by putting her in that combo class, where most of the parents call it advanced and see their children as being such.  

Perhaps it might have worked for Mimi if I hadn’t gotten sick.  But it was a class where nurturing was secondary to independence.

My daughter needed the former.

I would not repeat my error. Before school ended, I interviewed all the second grade teachers, spoke with my daughter’s then instructors and discussed Mimi’s education with her principal.

All agreed on the teacher she should have in straight second grade, which will have only 20 kids. Mimi will have to start over and meet new friends, as most of the old ones will be staying in the genius 2/3 classes.

I’m really happy she is moving onto something smaller and warmer.

I am less thrilled with the prospect of homework. I think Mimi is smart. I’ve been cautious about deciding that, but after watching her do some challenging math --thrown at her by her older brother  -- and her knowing the answers, my hope is that arithmetic will not be a problem.

She doesn’t like to do it, though.

We’ve since had long talks bout the importance of doing well in school.

“But if I get really good grades, Mom, then I’ll be a nerd.”

‘Did she actually say that?’ I thought.

I asked if she thought her cousin, Tiffany, who graduated with honors from Stanford with undergraduate and graduate engineering degrees in just four years, was a nerd.

“OK, maybe not Tiffany. But if you’re super smart, you are a nerd, Mom. It’s true.”

I launched into a long explanation that being “super smart” does not mean you are a nerd. You are “super cool.” (Of course, just by saying those two words together  -- you’re not).

I told her that daddy and mommy are smart. Her aunts and uncles are intelligent. It is OK to be smart, be good at art, at sports, have friends, enjoy school, and do well at homework, too.

“Can’t I just play?” she asks.

“No, you can’t just play. You have to go to school!”

Three short weeks.

I’m feeling a bit like a faux parent. Though I got straight A's in elementary school, once I got to middle school I saw how much fun NOT being a nerd could be.

I want her to have a different educational journey. I have signed up for parenting computer groups and will be volunteering more at her school and might EVEN get involved in the PTA.

I realize that simply because I didn’t try my best doesn’t mean my children have to go down that road. I remind them of that all that time, and always explain my regrets at not doing better.

I tell them I will be returning to college for a graduate degree in a year.  They find that intriguing. I tell them the point is to always keep challenging ourselves.

Still, this year I will do what I said I never would. I will actually bribe them with allowances and prizes for excellent grades. My son, who is in high school, has gone from Fs, Ds and Cs to a straight B average based on praise (and a bit of yelling).

Mimi, our material girl, finds inspiration through the acquirement of things (as well as lots of props). If I have to spend money, then I must.

Otherwise, it will be spent on tutors.

I’d rather she “earn” her way to good grades, and we make her path as fun as possible.

I think it's possible. Well, I guess we’ll see in three weeks.

By Dawn Yun

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Tuesday, August 12, 2008


Corduroy in 90 Degree Fall Heat

For longer than I care to admit I have bought into the concept of “fall back-to-school fashions” as envisioned by retailers nationwide. Back to school fashion means abandoning faded T-shirts and khaki shorts for autumn-hued sweaters and thick corduroy trousers to wear stomping in crackly maple leaves.

Or hopping off the ubiquitous yellow school bus in cable-knit stockings and solid jean jumpers with the smell of wood burning in fireplaces wafting through the cold, still air. Perhaps a dapper plaid hat is added to the mix? A comfy scarf wrapped around the neck? Brown leather shoes!

Yes, fall has arrived!

Problem is, fall hasn’t arrived here in sunny northern California by the time children are marching back to the classrooms. The autumn months here are known for their long “Indian summer” days of sunny skies with record temperatures.

Has that stopped me from giving in to the retail buyers’ vision of fall? Have my children sweated through recess on their first day back to school in heavy “fall” clothing?

Before I answer that I’ll share with you how cute they looked --during the first photo taken at the front door, before they stripped down halfway through recess in a desperate attempt to cool off. I, too, remember that first day of school, partly for the memory of happily flinging off my heavy, hot, fall outfit the moment I arrived home and donning a faded T-shirt and cool khaki shorts.

It’s almost a twisted right of passage.

This year will be different. My kids will enjoy their first weeks of school in appropriate warm weather clothing, though not faded T-shirts and khaki shorts.

Come Halloween when the weather tends to take a turn towards fall, chilly nights and we often receive our first rainy days, and I’ll allow myself to buzz happily over the fall clothing in the store windows.

By then, however, the retail shops will be bursting with Christmas-themed pajamas and Santa red sweaters, garments which adorned in November may be a greater fashion faux pas than donning a faded t-shirt and khaki shorts.

But don’t tell my kids.

By Maija Threlkeld

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Monday, August 11, 2008


The Day Will Come When My Children Grow Up

I am standing at the doorway of my parents’ house, next to my mother, with my daughter in my arms, and my son at my side. 

The car pulls away, taking with it my brother, his wife, my nephew and my twin nieces. 

In my peripheral view, I see my mother’s head droop.  I look at her and notice her lips tighten and her eyes begin to overflow. 

She is silent in her sadness.  

It occurs to me that this will be me someday.  Standing at my doorway, waving goodbye to my beloved children, with tears in my eyes. 

It seems impossible. 

So far away from where I am today, knee deep in diapers and discipline and dinosaurs.  It is hard to imagine my children grown up, able to prepare their own meals, do their own laundry, and manage their own lives without my husband or me. 

The day will come when, God willing, they will each find their own way and lead healthy, happy and fulfilling lives. 

I say to my mother, “One day it will be me, standing in my doorway, sadly waving goodbye, as my children drive off to their own lives.” 

“If you’re lucky,” she replies. 

By Jennifer Taekman

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Sunday, August 10, 2008


A Mother's Point of View: Choose Life

I was not always in favor of a suicide barrier on the Golden Gate Bridge. Here’s what changed my mind.

Three years ago a colleague shared that his friend's fourteen-year-old son, traveling between school in San Francisco and home in Marin County, got off the bus one day after school and walked to the railing of the Golden Gate Bridge. Some things were troubling him, and he put his leg up over the railing, preparing to jump. Then he took his leg down, caught the bus home, and told his mother, who sought help immediately.

He's fine now.

My daughter was fourteen at the time I heard this story. Any lingering ambivalence I felt about the barrier evaporated. So much of the barriers to the barrier have to do with our failure to identify not only with the person who is suffering, but also with the hope that lies beyond one moment. A bridge barrier will not save every life, but it will buy precious moments that will save many lives.

The evidence is overwhelming that the vast majority of people who are stopped from committing suicide do not go on to kill themselves. Some will, but most do not--impulses pass, circumstances change, help is found, the balance toward affirming life over death shifts.

A barrier will save not only most of the would-be jumpers, but the families, friends and communities who are always devastated in the wake of a suicide.

If the choice were between spending forty million on a bridge barrier versus forty million on excellent mental health services, I would choose the latter so that more people could be helped. But it's not as if there's an existing pot of money that will get transferred back and forth between important competing causes. Both need commitment and will, and right now the time is ripe for the commitment and will to erect a suicide barrier.

Refusing to do so out of a false hope that the money will reach those in need some other way is misguided

Several years ago, a toddler tragically fell to her death from the Golden Gate Bridge in a freak accident. She had somehow slipped through a narrow gap between the curb and the roadway. Funds were immediately found to close the gap, although this was the only such death to have ever occurred and there was almost no chance it would happen again. Arguably, the money could have been better spent since it was unlikely that more such tragedies would occur. Nonetheless, an infinitesimally small risk was quickly remedied.

True, this remedy did not obscure any views. Nor did the loss of life involve mental illness or teenagers or difficult or impulsive people.

It was a matter of will and empathy.

So is the bridge barrier.

Suicide is not a freak accident, but a real and preventable risk. Imagine if it were you or someone you loved about to swing a leg up over the rail. You might then find the money and the ability to get used to a slightly different fabulous view.

By Lorrie Goldin

Note: The Bridge District is accepting comments on the five options for a bridge barrier until August 25. I encourage you to go to the Bridge District Website and vote in favor of a barrier (not the net, which poses its own risks and extra costs). The site is On the right side is a link for "Comments to the DEIR/EA" (Draft Environmental Impact Report/Environmental Assessment). Click on the link, and then enter your name and your choice.


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Saturday, August 09, 2008


Saving the Whales

There we were the four of us at Marine World.  We’d gone on the Thomas the Train kiddie rides, and our next stop was to see the show starring Shouka, the whale.

My husband got lunch, and we sat there while they entertained us with environmental trivia and advertisements.  The male announcer was handsome in his polo shirt.  The female trainers were cute and energetic in their wet suits.  The music pounded. 

Then Shouka came out.  She is thirteen years old and sixteen feet long.  She weighs in at a slim four-thousand pounds.  She was wearing what’s “in” right now -- black and white.

She did one swim around the stadium, and then went back to her private area in the back.  Finally she emerged again and did what they wanted her to -- waving to the crowd with her fin, splashing an unsuspecting visitor with her tale, and jumping high to reach the suspended balls.

All of a sudden I found myself crying.  It totally took me by surprise.  I hadn’t gone in there thinking, “Oh these poor animals…” I had been looking forward to seeing a beautiful whale.  But seeing her do these forced human actions and realizing how small the aquarium is versus the ocean, I just felt so sad.  I imagined being confined to a small area for my whole life.  The feeling was suffocating.

The sadness seemed to have a life of its own.  I wasn’t thinking about the whale, I was feeling.  I held my two-year old close to me as I donned my sunglasses.  I wanted to run away, but I didn’t.  Everyone else seemed to be happy and clapping to the nauseating music.

My husband later asked why I’d been sad.  I told him I felt bad for the whale being cooped up and having to do these stupid tricks.  “You aren’t going vegan are you?” he asked. 

It was a fair question, but no, I’m not going vegan.

I want to believe that these animals are ombudsmen, teaching children and adults to care for the earth and its inhabitants and therefore their captivity is worth it.  Or that if they are not born in the wild they don’t know what they’re missing. 

But I don’t buy it.

By Kristy Lund


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Friday, August 08, 2008


Shirking Responsibilities

Blonde. Girl. I look across the table at my beautiful daughter and realize she shares two attributes with the victims of the latest schoolhouse shooting madness. There have been so many.

Innocent. Apparently safe. Two more profile matches.

It could never happen. But that’s what Amish mothers and mothers in Denver thought, too.

I’d like to hide the newspaper, continue our cheery breakfast chatter. Why make her anxious?

But she’ll hear about it at school anyway. I’d be shirking my duty if I didn’t create a safe space for her to ask questions, share her feelings.

It’s a duty I’d like to shirk.

Warily, wearily, I venture forth.

“Did you hear about what happened at these schools?”

“No. What?”

There is no retreat from oblivion now.

By Lorrie Goldin

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Thursday, August 07, 2008


When a Mother Is Most Needed

“Hold me?” my four-year-old daughter whispers from a pile of blankets in the middle of the hide-a-bed.

She’s been out here in the living room for twenty-four hours now with a flu bug.

First, she’d been pale and stoic, retching so often over a seven-hour period that I quit counting after she hit the double digits.

Next, she and I spent a steel bar in the back kind of night side-by-side on the hide-a-bed while my husband and son slept together in the master bedroom, steering clear of our makeshift infirmary.

Today, with cheeks flushed and forehead hot, she’s laid on the hide-a-bed alternating between short naps and long stares at different objects in the room -- the Christmas tree, the guitar, the fish tank -- scaring me with the questions she whispers: “Are the fish going to live very long? And if they die, are we just going to get new ones?”

Between cups of coffee and trips to the laundry room, I lean over her and kiss her warm cheeks.

“Hold me, momma?”

There it is again.

I sweep aside the blankets, stack some pillows behind me, and stretch my body the length of the bed.

“Come here, darlin’,” I say quietly, pulling her toward me and curling her against me.

And with her head tucked under my chin, her ear to my chest, we’re back to that familiar position we established in her infancy -- back to the ultimate comfort, that primal whisper, the heartbeat.

By Anjie Reynolds

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Wednesday, August 06, 2008


Say a Little Prayer

Despite my numerous warnings about its scary and rather unscientific nature, Carl really wanted to see “Jurassic Park III” because it features his favorite dinosaur -- Spinosaurus, a prehistoric predator bigger than T-Rex.

He waited impatiently for the copy I reserved to arrive at the public library next to us.

He watches it halfway from the hallway ready to dart behind the wall when a dinosaur approaches. Afterwards, he decides to sleep with us. I don't mind. I would be scared, too, to be by myself.

“Are you scared?” I ask when he snags close to me.

“No. The nightmare will come later,” he explains.

“Yes, when you are the most relaxed and vulnerable,” I joke.

His eyes open wider. Nice job, Mom!

I calm him down. “You won't be alone. I will be here for you. Sleep now.”

"What will you do?" he asks.

"I have this prayer that my grandmother used to say. It helped against nightmares."

I say it loud. God, did I mess it up? I try again wondering if after twenty some years I might have forgotten the wording and intonation that grandma used.

Carl doesn't understand a word: "I think it needs to be an American prayer."

"An American prayer against a Hollywood induced nightmare?" I kid my kid again.

"An Industrial Light and Magic* strength prayer," chimes in my husband from the right.

*ILM created most of the effects for Jurassic Park movies.

By Dilyara Breyer

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Tuesday, August 05, 2008


Breastfeeding at Starbucks

What got me out of the house for the first time after giving birth was an overwhelming desire for a latte.

I headed to Starbucks, proudly wearing my four-week-old baby Scarlett on my chest. When the teenage barista brought over my coffee, she frowned at the squawking in my shirt. I was trying to feed Scarlett, furtively and awkwardly, but Scarlett had unlatched – and, boy, was she mad. When I lifted my shirt to quiet her, revealing a newborn whose head was smaller than the heavy, blue-veined breast she nursed from, the barista ran away.

Embarrassed and apologetic, I ran, too, taking my baby and my latte for a nursing session in the back seat of my car.

Breastfeeding was new to me. You could tell by my self-consciousness and all my gear: nursing bras with circles cut out, capes for hiding behind, support pillows worn like foam tutus. But as my confidence grew, I went au natural, just baby and me and the elements. I breastfed everywhere – the woods, the beach, the farmers' market,  BART stops and barbecues, museums and malls. Even in the presence of my in-laws.

But the fact is that I was proud. I was entirely sustaining another human being, and she was getting fat and rosy off mother's milk. Breastfeeding is a privilege. And I confess I liked confronting the world with this small act of intimacy, the private in the midst of the public. Plus, the baby's hungry.

To the new nursing mother, breasts are about as sexual as elbows. Birth reinterprets her body as little more than an internal bed and breakfast. In a culture of cleavage, breasts that actually do their job feel radical. Perhaps the nursing mother has become a political figure.

These days, I see so many mothers, pregnant ones, others behind Ergos and strollers. If you see one of us nursing in public – and we are, everywhere, all the time – realize that for her, it's nothing special. It's simply life. Don't be afraid to offer an encouraging smile. Or better yet, a latte.

By Mary Wang

Note: This will air on NPR’s KQED’s Perspectives on Wednesday, August 6 at 6:06 a.m, 7:37 a.m., and 11:33 p.m., with a weekend repeat on Sunday, August 10, at 8:37 a.m.

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