Wednesday, July 25, 2012

If I ever find myself the victim of gun violence ...

If I ever find myself the victim of gun violence I beg you to start politicising the 'incident' immediately.

Don't waste time asking whether the person holding the gun was mad or bad. That is a question for the criminal justice system, not the media or the general public.

Devote your energy to fighting the evil that is the NRA.

Let your elected representatives know that you will support them when they support sane gun laws. Counter the NRA's pro-gun rating of politicians with a pro-gun reform rating. 

Do not be fooled by those who argue that reform is impossible, that the constitution or the culture of this country is so flawed that the right to own a killing machine is more important than the right of the general public to go about their day with a reasonable expectation that they will not be shot.

Do not let the murder of 12 people, the injury of 71 people, and the devastating impact on their families and community, be in vain.

This massacre of innocent people doing something so ordinary was made possible by insane gun laws. The criminal justice system will deal with the person who fired AK-47s (note the plural) into a crowded cinema screening of Batman, who bought those guns and ammunition without breaking the law.

It is up to the rest of us to use our voices, our dollars and our votes, to support candidates for political office who are not supported by the NRA.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

One story: World Refugee Day

Before today, I had never asked Kenny how he came to America. In fact, I'd never thought about whether or not he was born here. We had chatted often enough, mostly about the weather, our kids and what to order for lunch. Kenny is the owner of my favourite cafe.

Today our conversation took off in a new direction, as we joked about letting my own daughter get behind the counter and start working. We discussed the regulations governing the hiring of teenagers, including the paperwork that must be signed by businesses to ensure that kids are not working too many hours on school nights. We agreed that Ms10 would make an excellent employee - in five years time.

Then Kenny told me that he had started working at the age of eleven. He did this in order to help his mother - who was working multiple jobs herself - support himself and his four siblings. And in his own words, since the age of eleven he has never stopped working.

Kenny came to America as a refugee. He fled Vietnam with his family when he was five, spending two years in refugee camps in China before arriving in America by boat. He has returned just once and is now thinking about sending his own three children back to show them where they came from and just how lucky they are.

I had no idea it was World Refugee Day when I walked out my front door this morning or when I spoke to Kenny about his own remarkable journey from Vietnam to the United States.

A year ago I wrote this post on Australia's approach to refugees, one that demonises people just like Kenny for political gain.  It doesn't seem that much has changed, and the detention of Ranjini and others like her represents a whole new and troubling chapter in our nation's story.

Sunday, June 17, 2012


There is no end of planning that takes place around childbirth. And of course the best laid plans often get thrown out the window.

Some women vow to avoid drugs and other interventions if at all possible and draw up official birth plans. Mia Freedman labels this group of women Birthzillas, a term destined to sit comfortably beside the equally horrid Feminazi; a catch-all that will be used to sum up and dismiss women who dare to assert any sort of power and control in decisions around childbirth.

Freedman remains remarkably quiet about another group of women who also make significant plans for their births. These women plan in advance to have epidurals, c-sections or inductions for non-medical reasons, plans that are more likely to lead to other interventions that are not in the best interests of the baby. Some even actively plan not to breastfeed, even though the overwhelming medical evidence says that breastmilk is best for baby.

Yet Freedman does not lampoon these women's plans, or accuse them of being selfish Birthzillas, of putting their own needs for a conveniently timed or pain free birth over the needs of their child. Nor should she. And if somebody else did, she would no doubt accuse them of being judgmental and disrespectful, of inducing unnecessary and damaging guilt, of pitting women against each other.

In fact, she might even argue that women's "choices" about how they give birth are complex, that they are framed and constricted by existing ideologies and options, as well as personal histories; that they cannot be reduced to a question of individual selfishness or selflessness.

But that is not nearly as much fun as hanging a snarky column on an anecdote about a woman and her carefully thought out plans for her placenta. It is the sort of anecdote that makes for terrifically entertaining dinner party conversation but perhaps should be employed with a little more caution and a greater sense of responsibility when writing a widely read column for a major newspaper.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Small scenes

It was a scene that could have been lifted straight out of an Anne Tyler novel. A genteel old man, well dressed and well mannered, forgets at the check out whether he has a discount card for this particular drugstore; the line behind him grows as he rattles around looking for his card, but the gentle humour with which he handles his moment of confusion and the respect he shows for the cashier seems to bring out the best in the rest of us, discouraging even a hint of impatience.

Moments later, I step out into the parking lot, not entirely sure where I left my car. There is some sort of commotion at the exit; a small prang seems the most likely explanation. I try not to panic, aware that I am on a tight deadline to pick up the kids from camp.

I locate the minivan after wasting time looking for the wrong car, and find the traffic near the exit is at a small standstill. When it begins to move I am not in the least bit surprised to see that the same old man was involved in the parking lot prang or that he is driving a Mercedes. Somehow he is still smiling as he exchanges details with a woman in her sixties. I am relieved that this mishap did not bring him into the orbit of a more aggressive personality.

I think he really shouldn't be driving anymore but guess that nobody has the heart to tell him. Or maybe his gentle manner disguises a stubborn streak that only his wife and children are privy to.

I drive out of the parking lot and make the trek to Mountain View to collect the kids, arriving ten minutes early.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Through the eyes of a parent

A mother discusses whether science has proven that germs are good for a baby's immune system or if the benefit is to be found in the exploration itself; an exploration that is immediately followed by thorough hand wiping. I smile to myself, envious of the simple dilemmas that govern her world for now.

Two infants lie side by side on their parent's laps, and I look on, gushing over their new baby deliciousness. They laugh as I reminisce about the days of being glued to the couch for the evening, juggling a baby at the breast while eating dinner one handed. I talk about this scenario with joy, forgetting the frustration at being literally trapped in one place while the world moved on without me.

My children have grown impossibly big. The new parents ask with astonishment if he is mine, the teen amongst the preschoolers, and I see that they cannot yet comprehend what it is to parent a child who no longer automatically reaches out to you, who has begun to see you as their equal and increasingly, the enemy.

I watch a video of myself as a child and I am shaken in a way that is hard to explain. I look at this child, myself at ten, through the eyes of a parent and I want to reach out and tell her how great she is. I think what a difference it would have made if I had understood this then.

On the radio, I hear that Fiona Apple reads parenting books all the time even though she has no plans to have children. The interviewer is perplexed, but she explains that she can learn from these books about how to parent herself. Instead of rolling my eyes at celebrity logic, I find myself agreeing.

My favourite aunt flies away and I am reminded what family feels like. And I want it back.

Friday, June 8, 2012

The Audience

Last night I asked Mr5 what part he will be playing in tonight's preschool performance of Where the Wild Things Are.

He answered, with confidence and pride, "I am going to be The Audience."

Aside from making me giggle, I silently cheered his preschool teachers for finding a way to make my child, a natural introvert, feel a valued part of the classroom community. Again, they have shown complete respect for his temperament and needs, recognising that being in the play would be a step too far outside of his comfort zone at this point in time. And I also thought about what a great Audience Mr5 will make.

As the youngest of four he has a lot of experience in this role. He has sat through endless school assemblies, music recitals and children's theatre pitched to a slightly older age group. And aside from falling asleep at the end of last year's musical The Secret Garden, he has on most occasions been an excellent audience member.

Today, when I picked Mr5 up from preschool he was busy playing Where the Wild Things Are, rocking wildly on the designated Max boat with his best friend. He was living completely in the moment, just as I expect he will tonight, wide eyed and spellbound as he watches his friends play their parts. The perfect Audience.

As predicted, Mr5 was most excellent in the role of
The Audience 

After the show two of my Wild Things permitted
a photo on  the set

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Like water for ... rice

Less books that lend themselves to plain boiled rice ...
My son's English teacher likes to keep things interesting, fresh. So each term students present a book to the class, of their choosing, and bring in a food item that somehow matches the story. Unfortunately, this term Mr12 chose the third book in The Hunger Games trilogy. He brought in a pot of boiled white rice. And then he brought the pot home again. Full.

Which led to me handing out some bad advice. Kids, pick only books which lend themselves to excellent food choices. I got the ball rolling with two entirely inappropriate but obvious recommendations.

"How about Like Water for Chocolate?" I asked.

"What's that about?" Ms10 inquired.

"Um, chocolate ... and love ... sex ..." My voice trailed off.

"I know, I know. The peculiar taste of lemon cake." This would definitely be my top pick for delicious and easy book-food choice.

Again from Ms10. "But is that appropriate?"

"Nah, not really." And I thought about the very adult themes of a book written in the voice of a teenage girl with an unusual supernatural power: she can sense everything her mother is feeling through her cooking, literally. Which leads her to the eventual discovery that her mother is having an affair. Amongst other things.

At this point I was pretty much out of ideas. Apparently books that lend themselves to great food tend towards the raunchy. Which is fine, except when you are a mother attempting to be vaguely appropriate.

So help me out. What are your book recommendations for tweens and teens that lend themselves to great food? Or even okay food. Pretty much anything but white rice.
More books that lend themselves to food involving this ingredient

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