Musings, Thoughts and Creations

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Benevolent Dictatorship

I’ve decided to become the benevolent dictator of California. I’ve realized that the US is far to big to save, so it’s going to have to be a state thing. Which is no small task either, given that California is probably bigger than most countries anyway.

First decree of my dictatorship, we follow our Hawaiian brethren (and a part of Arizona) and get rid of daylight savings time. There will be no more falling back. We’ll spring forward in March and stay that way.

That’s an easy one and now that it’s out of the way, it’s time to tackle the real issues. Healthcare, education, and the economy.

I’m going to need to hire a lot of experts, but ultimately I will make the decisions. I have some pretty clear goals, it’s just a matter of making the money work to achieve them.

1. We’re getting universal healthcare. It will be a statewide healthcare system based on the best aspects of nationalized healthcare in Canada and Europe. Conservatives, don’t worry about paying for illegals and uninsured – we already do. I guarantee this will all cost businesses and taxpayers less in the long run.

2. We’re going to need more medical schools and more doctors. We don’t have the infrastructure to support all these newly insured people, so the thousands of qualified applicants that are turned away from medical school admission every year will now get a chance. We’ll probably need more nursing schools as well. Throw a few more of those in there too.

3. Legalize and tax drugs. I’m not sure about all of them, but definitely marijuana. This will bring in additional revenue that we can use for our…

4. Brand spankin’ new amazing education system. No more will we be at the bottom of every list for spending and achievement. I’m taking a cue from France, we will take care of our children from the very beginning. Public day care centers for the tots, public preschool, and quality elementary schools. Vocational classes that teach skills to high school students tied to what businesses actually need. I could really go on and on about all the ways that our educations system will be better, but this post will never end. There will be a lot of very smart people devoted to making sure our education system works for children and families.

5. There will be less people in prisons. It’s going to take some time, possibly even a decade or so, but I’m a dictator, and not worried about reelection, so I’ve got time. With the improved education system, with improved health care (including mental health care), and without all the drug convictions, there’s just going to be less people locked up. This means less money spent on prisons.

6. How will I pay for everything? Well, healthcare will all even out in the wash. When you take out the bureaucracies and inefficiencies of private health insurance and the government run agencies, we can make our money go a lot farther. We might actually save some money in the long run. Which is good because we’ll need it to fix our infrastructure and parks and everything else in this state that’s totally whacked right now. I’ll be honest, even if I’m able to trim a lot of fat, I still might need to raise taxes. We have a lot of work to do in our education system and that’s going to take some cash initially. But, I think the improvement in our collective quality of life will more than make up for the pinch on your pocket. Also, this will be a short term expense. Sort of a spend money to make money theory. We have to invest in our state now, so that we can improve it and pay less taxes later.

7. There’s bound to be problems. I won’t promise perfection right away. But without a squabbling congress, problems can be solved swiftly. Remember I will be hiring lots of experts to keep an eye on things.

So that’s my general plan. Feel free to peacefully stand behind me as I take this big, beautiful state over and make it a shining beacon of what the country should be in the 21st century.


A bit of junk?

I was reading this blog post by my favorite blogger, Jason Good: and it definitely struck a chord. (Ignore the weight part of the title, it’s actually about junk food – I am not obsessed with weight, I promise).

So far we’ve raised Lily with the barest, tiniest exposure to sweets and junk food. Partly due to her milk allergy (easy not to have ice cream or pizza or cake or anything yummy), partly due to Rob’s medical school fear tactics, and partly due to the fact that we just want the best for her. The other day I made her a special almond milk pancake when I made pancakes for Rob and I. Rob wondered why I bothered since there’s little to no nutritional value in a pancake and syrup. My only defense is that I wanted to. I grew up eating pancakes on Sundays and when our family gets together. It’s a special meal with a lot of memories, that I’m good at making and I want to share it with my daughter. He really had no comeback after that.

But if you don’t count cheerios, other dry cereal products, and raisins, and one cupcake, Lily has had almost zero exposure to anything bad for her. The question is, how long should we keep this up?

She doesn’t know any better now. And these days she’s not eating quite as voraciously. If she’s going to eat anything we’d like the bulk of it to be fruit, veg, protein, and fibery grains (yikes, this sound so healthy) so she has the bare minimum of essential vitamins and nutrients, right? But eventually she’s going to want some chips, or Lucky Charms, or god forbid, soda. And I want to let her, within reason. I think.

I don’t want her to be like Jason Good, gorging on crap when she’s 40 because we never let her have Skittles as a child. I also grew up in a pretty healthy household. Not that I never had dessert or fast food, but I didn’t have a lot of sugary cereals and packaged junk. So when I would go over to my friend Abby’s house. I would eat her Fruit by the Foots, drink chocolate milk with dinner, and have Lucky Charms for breakfast. I got my fill of junk before going home. But maybe Jason and I just have impulse control and a bit of a sweet tooth/junk addiction, and it was a good thing we grew up in healthy household or we’d be obese food addicts who finish off entire bags of oreos, regularly.

Food is also fun. There’s pleasure in Halloween candy, freshly baked cookies, and ice cream in the afternoon. A little too much pleasure, if you ask some dietitians. It literally activates the pleasure centers of our brain. I don’t want my daughter to be an obesity statistic, but we’ll never even come close to that with our nutritional diligence.

Hopefully in a year or so this milk allergy will go away and the poor child will be able to experience all the junk that the world has to offer, in moderation of course. At least she’ll get to have pizza for god sakes. Pizza sounds soooo good right now…

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The issue of weight

Most people would love to lose a few pounds, or these days, 100 pounds. I’m the annoying person that’s trying to gain weight.

In high school I was around 130/135 pounds. When I went to college I gained about 10 more, most likely because I went on the birth control pill, but it also could be part of the dreaded freshman 15. And I stayed that weight of about 140/145 for 10 years. I was fine with my weight. Of course I would have liked to be a little more toned, for my favorite jeans not to fit so tightly, but basically I was fine with my weight.

Right before I got pregnant with Lily I walked and exercised a lot to get ready for a half marathon I walked with my mom. I lost a few pounds doing that. Then when I was pregnant, I was nauseous and uninterested in food. I ate because I knew I had to, but I ate the bare minimum. At 10 weeks pregnant I was 130 pound, and had lost more than 10 pounds from my usual weight.

I have to say that when the nausea wore off, I felt what the media has programmed me to feel – I loved my new slimmer body. My bra size had increased, due to being pregnant, so I was thin and busty, the coveted perfect female form. It’s what’s in the magazines. It’s what celebrities diet and get plastic surgery to achieve. It’s not a realistic form for the majority of people, and took a collaboration of unusual circumstances to achieve. Girls if you want the perfect bod, just exercise, get pregnant and feel like sh&t for a month.

The issue of weight is big when you’re pregnant. You have to gain weight, but not too much. Some gain a ton, some just hold that basketball in front and never seem to gain weight anywhere else. Some lose the baby weight right away after the baby is born, some work to take it off, and some never do.

I think it’s a crapshoot. Yes, you can make healthy and smart choices while pregnant, just like any other time. If you eat lean protein, fruit, vegetables, healthy fats, and fiber-y grains (basically the diet everyone should have all the time), you probably won’t gain 60 pounds. But on the other hand, a lot of it has to do with genetics and metabolism. If your mom got big as a house with you, you’ll probably be the same. I knew women that threw up for six months and still gained a ton of pregnancy weight. And if you’re throwing up every day, it’s hard to make “smart choices” with food. You’ll just eat anything that won’t make you sick, and might keep you and the baby alive.

I guess what I’m saying is that it’s annoying when women’s pregnancy weight is such an issue. My doctor was concerned when I was losing weight and then a few months later, raised an eyebrow when I’d gained something like 15 pounds since my last appointment. What?! My cousin said that in Amsterdam they don’t stress about how much weight a pregnant mother is gaining. As long as you’re gaining enough, you’re fine.

We have this obsession with weight in America, and yet we’re the fattest of anyone. It’s a very strange dichotomy. On TV everyone is a stick, and that couldn’t be more of a stark contrast to what is actually walking around in America. I don’t think either is particularly healthy.

When Lily was born I lost the weight immediately. I think partly because of breastfeeding, partly because I limited my sugar intake for the first two months because of a breastfeeding issue I dealt with, and partly because my metabolism increased. I continued to lose weight as Lily continued to gain. I got down to 120 pounds, a weight I haven’t been since I was 12 years old. Did I do this on purpose or work at it? No. And I got compliments everywhere I went. Compliments are nice, but I did feel like it was a little wrong. I knew lots of pregnant people in my circle of friends and family and through moms groups I was a part of, and there were those that lost the weight and those that didn’t. We were all breastfeeding. We were all trying to eat healthy and take care of our babies. Some just got lucky in their genetics and metabolism and some didn’t. All postpartum mothers should get compliments, especially the ones who are slow to lose the extra weight.

And now, here I am pregnant again, with twins. And I find myself in the position of needing to gain weight. A lot of it. Like 50 pounds. 50 pounds! I feel like an actress preparing for a role. It’s so method.

50 pounds sounds nuts, but it’s the best way to make sure I deliver fat, healthy, full term twins. That’s one segment of our society where it’s perfectly acceptable, desirable even, to be fat. Babies. Live it up babies, because once you hit a few years old, that baby weight better fall off or else.


I hate leafblowers

You know that you’re home way too much when small things start to drive you nuts. Every week, we have two sets of gardeners come to our condo complex. One tends the plants and borders of our condo complex and one mows the big lawn that is between the condos and the marina right below us. I’m not sure if the marina or the condo complex mantains the lawn and hires the gardener, but the guy who blows at the end of the day drives me insane.

So they mow, and edge, and do all the normal lawn maintenance. Not lovely noises, but it’s pretty expected and necessary. I have no problem with that part of the routine. But at around 3:30, just when you want to open up the sliding glass doors and catch the afternoon breeze, I hear the rrrrrrnnnrr rr rr rr rrrrrrnnrrrr… of the leaf blower. It goes on for an eternity (an hour).

As a general rule, I hate leaf blowers. Whatever happened to rakes? They’re quiet, they don’t require power, and let’s be honest, most people today could use the extra exercise rakes require. And they don’t disturb anyone’s morning or afternoon.

We’ve lived in the suburbs long enough to hear those damn things every Saturday/Sunday morning when someone does their own yard maintenance. Rob would get woken up every Monday by the gardeners who came to our duplex. But for a lot of the week, I was at work and blissfully unaware of all the blowing and edging and mowing going on.

Now that I’m home all the time, I hear it. All the time. And the worst is the blowing, because it’s so pointless and futile. We live in what has got to be one of the windiest places in California. Give it half a day and whatever lawn clippings or scant leaves (it’s June for God’s sake!) remain on the sidewalk will be naturally scattered away.

I think someone told this guy, “Hey go blow until I come pick you up.” So that’s what he does, whether it needs it or not. I will stand on the balcony watching this portly Latino guy blow 15 leaves around for 15 minutes. He blows whatever is on the sidwalk onto the grass or into the water. Because that’s better apparently. Efficiency or expediency is not the goal. I’m pretty sure the goal is to kill time and to look busy.

I feel so helpless against this scourge. I can’t ask the guy to stop – he’s just doing his job. I want to contact the manager. Tell them it’s not necessary. Save the time and money. But they’re just following the gardening protocol as well. I want to be annoying and go to the homeowner’s association and ask to ban all leaf blowers from the premises. Or maybe I just need to go to the ocean, achieve Blue Mind and get over it.


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Big Ed

My mom has three sisters. And each of her sisters has at least one daughter. And some of the daughters have a daughter. When we girls get together, I feel badly that the men miss out on such sincerity, hilarity, gossip, and fun. I would go through the travails of womanhood ten times, just to be a part of the elite club of the women in my family.

Some of my best memories are sitting around a living room or a hotel room, just talking and laughing. The conversation is not usually highbrow – bodily functions are a consistent topic – but those conversations are the most fun. And my stomach will literally ache from laughing so much.

The ringleader of all this is my Aunt Edda. She is the comedian, and when she gets going, we are all in stitches.

My mom and her sisters are named Sandra, Patricia, Christina, and Edda. Edda always jokes about the raw deal she got with her name. “How can you look at a tiny baby and call her Edda? What kind of a name is Edda?” She often refers to herself and signs her emails as Big Ed, which cracks me up every time. She and my aunts are all almost 6 feet tall (my mom, strangely is only 5’7″). So big is appropriate, though there is nothing manly about my beautiful aunt. But Big Ed makes me laugh all the same.

I wish I could relate all the funny stories that Edda tells, bring them alive here, but I can’t. I’m not funny enough to do them justice. I wish sometimes that I could bottle up the jokes, the stories, the feelings that I get when I am with my family, and then transcribe them so that I’ll have them forever. All I have is the soft, sort of shadowy memories that make me smile even if I can’t quite remember why.

I hope to see you very soon Big Ed. I miss you and all my aunties, and I need a good dose of your kooky antics.

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Blue Mind

My mother-in-law sent me a link to an article, a little bio on a Santa Cruz resident named Wallace J. Nichols. In the article he talks about the concept of “blue mind,” which is the calm state you get when you’re in or near the ocean. The ocean takes away our “red mind” of stress and anxiety and just chills us out.

I completely agree with the blue mind idea. Every time I am at the beach, staring out at the abyss of an ocean before me, hearing the rhythm of the waves, smelling the salty air, it’s an immediate detox. But you have to empty your mind and just let the ocean in. If you go with your kids and you’re worrying about sunscreen and lunches and drowning, you might not get to relax. You have to just let it all go. No walking, frisbee throwing, or body surfing, just the quiet appreciation and mental takeover of the ocean. Then you can take a walk or throw the frisbee, or rub sunscreen on a child in your newly zen state.

I don’t think blue mind is limited to the ocean or bodies of water. You could also get blue mind at the top of the mountain, in a grove of trees, in the middle of a meadow, or looking at a lake. I don’t think it actually requires an ocean. It just requires a “quiet” place where you can sit and lose yourself in nature. When I say quiet, I mean quiet from the modern world and other people. The noises of nature – wind, birdcalls, waves, and water lapping – is welcome noise.

This is one of the reasons Rob and I want to make our final home, the place where we put down roots, (10 years from now?) near the ocean. Hopefully there we can live a blue life.


Work ethic

At my niece’s graduation party this weekend, Rob talked to an older man who had been a plumber for over 60 years before retiring. He told Rob how his wife complained that he never took a day off. He worked for 60 years and never just took the day off. I’m sure he took vacations, but didn’t wake up one morning, not feel like working and call in sick. Whether this is an exaggeration or not, and whether that’s healthy or not, it’s certainly admirable. He talked about growing up during the depression, and that everyone in his family, no matter how young, worked. Everyone could make a buck here or there to contribute.

That was definitely the work ethic of his generation. My grandfather moved out of his parents’ house when he was 14, and bought a vineyard that he would farm himself, when he was 90. We worked until he just physically couldn’t do it anymore. And I was just reading in the Benicia Magazine about a 93 year old man talking about his life. Same story. He worked until retirement, but then got involved in preserving the history of Benicia. He started the Benicia Historical Society and helped to start the museum. He wasn’t getting a paycheck, but he was volunteering and doing something meaningful.

This generation grew up in a time before the automation of household chores, modern conveniences, and government assistance. They grew up in a time where you worked. You just did. Everyone did.

We have some of that work ethic still. I see mothers who are raising kids with limited help from working husbands, doing household work, running businesses, running social groups. I am impressed by these super moms with an incredible work ethic.

And clearly there are men and women in the world of paid work that put in 12 hour days, then come home and read stories and do the dishes.

So I won’t say that we don’t have that Great Depression work ethic anymore.

But… I definitely see a lot of people who don’t. And I’m not sure who’s at fault for this. The goverment, for creating groups of people that live off government aid with little contribution to society in return. The baby boomers for having an easier life and spoiling their kids. The subsequent generations that spend way too much time in front of a screen.

This is not a good direction to be heading. If we want our country to get out of this economic slump, we are going to have to force people off their butts.

Don’t do away with government assistance, but make people work for it. I think unemployment is the biggest joke. When able bodied 20 year olds with no dependents are collecting unemployment, there is something wrong with that system. So you were a white collar worker who got laid off and can’t find a similarly paid job. Well, there are farmers whose fields need to be picked. There are tables that need to be bussed. No job is beneath you. 100 years ago you would take anything you could get and be thankful for it.

If there are literally no jobs in the town, then by all means collect unemployment and here is a list of community service jobs you can do while you wait for the paid stuff to come in.

So there are no jobs for uneducated, unskilled workers in your town. Well, you can move or you can gain a skill. The government can help you out while you are gaining that skill with education grants or welfare, but only if you are putting in the work.

And our education system needs to change in order to go along with this newer, better America I’m planning, but that’s another post (or 5o) for another day.



No writing :(

I really wanted to make it a goal to write something every day. And look I haven’t written anything in weeks. First trimester nausea/exhaustion, plus having the hubby home (which somehow makes us less productive as a unit?), plus a ton of emailing and computer work for the Benicia Moms Group, and of course darling Lily as the biggest time suck of all. All of this equals zero energy for blogging. Plus I want this blog to be about more than the day to day baby banalia (not a word). It’s wonderful in it’s own way, and I love it, but I have another blog for that (which I also haven’t posted on).

So anyway, tired or not, even if all my plants are dying of thirst, and the dishes are stacked up, I am going to write. I have about one more month of this shitty nausea, but I’m not going to let it bring me down. I am going to write in this blog every day for a month. Even if all I manage is a haiku, it is happening. I can haiku on my phone if have to and post from there.  : )

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Love at 800th sight

This is long and gushy. I apologize, but I’m feeling nostalgic.

It’s a very romantic ideal to say that Rob and I fell in love the moment we looked at each other. Our eyes met across a smoky bar, sparks flew, alarm bells went off, and the rest was history.

More accurately we met across a semi-quiet classroom. But really I don’t even remember when we first met. Rob tells me we had freshman religion together, but I do not remember him from that class. Crazy to say that I don’t remember the first time I met the love of my life, but to be honest I don’t remember much of freshman year period. Probably not a good thing to have so many holes in my recent memory (it’s not like it was 40 years ago), but the strongest memories I have of freshman year are of my classes, the pain of losing friends and being lonely, and the joy of finding new friends and having someone to eat lunch with again.

I DO remember Rob from sophomore year. We had geometry class together and he and this other boy Kyle both had curly hair. They were kind of dorky and got in trouble for talking, once, a few times. Maybe I’m just usurping Rob’s memory of this class. That’s about it.

My first real introduction to Rob came at the very end of sophomore year. I remember that I was sitting on the metal picnic tables in the courtyard by the student store. Mr. Khoury, my biology teacher, introduced me to my partners for DART (Drug Abuse Research Team), a program we’d be at for a week that summer and all of next year. He introduced Rob and a girl named Lenore. And my first thought was, ugh, I have to be stuck with these nerds for a whole year? Yes, I’m not proud of it, but I was a judgy, little self-absorbed brat when I was 16.  If you could see some of the pictures of me from when I was a sophomore you will know that I had very little room to judge anyone, nevertheless…

That summer I got to know Rob a bit better. We went on the same high school trip to Europe for three weeks, and we spent 5 days in Sac State for DART training. I still thought he was a dork, but a funny, smart one.

We spent a lot of junior year together. We had a lot of classes together, we did DART work together, we now had the same group of friends so we would hang out together, we were in speech together, we went to formal together (not as dates, just in the same group), and I would hang out at his house after school a few times when we had AP Biology labs in the evening. Was I falling in love during all of this? No. At least, not consciously. But he was my friend.

It wasn’t until a few months later, during the summer when I realized I “liked” Rob. I hadn’t seen him for a while, and we went to Great America together with two other friends. After that day I couldn’t stop thinking about him, and I realized I missed him and wanted to see him again. When school started back up again, I did get to see him. But in the irrational way of teenage girls, I avoided him, lest he detect my feelings and vulnerability. If I had told him right away would he have reciprocated? Probably. But I did not, so that didn’t happen. Instead he got a girlfriend.

After that I tried to forget about liking him, and told myself that it was a passing crush. Over him. Moving on. That lasted for a few weeks… In October we were partners in a debate competition for speech (yes, I realized our nerdiness rating in high school was extremely high). All the feelings I had tried to shove away came back. And to make it worse, he was still dating his girlfriend, and I had a giant zit on my chin. After one of our debates, Rob high fived me and said, “That’s my girl.” I haughtily told him, “I’m not your girl.” Nice one Jill. That ought to win him over. It seemed the more I liked him, the more I pushed him away.

A few weeks later Rob and his girlfriend broke up. And a few months after that we went to the winter formal together. And it was on this night that sparks flew and alarm bells went off. And the rest is history. : )

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Obesity: Societal solutions vs. individual’s choices

A friend of mine posted this link on Facebook and asked for people’s thoughts. It sparked a big debate on whether people are obese because of the way our society has become, or as a result of their personal choices. To me it’s a little of both.

Let’s start with children and schools, because these are the members of our obese society that have the least personal choice.

Societal problem: We’ve eliminated a lot of physical activity in schools because of the lack of time and an emphasis on other more academic subjects. Societal solution: Extend school days to include 45 minutes of PE a day, taught by PE instructors (not teachers).

Societal problem: Children do not play as much at recess. They are not used to it. They play indoors a lot because of parental fears for safety. Societal solution: Continue to fund/improve open spaces and parks, especially in urban areas. Fund community activities that get people out of their houses. Fund open gyms like Natalie has in Amsterdam and I have in Benicia, safe places to bring children to play indoors and out. Make these place available in the evenings and on weekends too. Personal choice: Parents need to limit the amount of time their kids spend watching TV and playing video games. They need to say, “Here’s a kickball. Go outside and play.” I don’t know how to force parents to do this.

Societal problem: Children are being served processed and packaged food in the cafeteria. It meets the bare minimum of nutrition guidelines, but fosters a love for generally unhealthy foods such as burgers, waffles, pizza, and chicken nuggets. Societal solution: Increase funding to schools with the condition that it be spent on more food workers and on healthy ingredients so that every child is served healthy food everyday. Do away with 5 choices. A child has so many choices in the cafeteria and their both loaded with vegetables and whole grains.

Societal problem: Children eat the junk that they’re parents buy for them. Societal solution: Educate parents at the beginning of every school year about what their child should bring to school for snacks and lunch and ban unhealthy drinks and foods. Encourage them to follow the same guidelines at home. Personal choice: You cannot really make a parent feed their child healthy foods. Part of me wants to punish the parents of obese children, but part of me is repelled by the idea of that much government influence. I think the solution is just more education and creating an environment where it’s possible and even easy to feed your child healthy foods.

Can I make an adult eat less and exercise more? No. And I don’t think I should. They are an adult and they can make their own choices. But children do not have a choice, and all should be given the same healthy start in life. Therefore we do need to make societal changes so that those with the least power and control over their lives are given more of a chance.

To do this, we should:

– End government subsidies on crops that make high-fructose corn syrup, partially hydrogenated vegetable oils and other obesity-promoting foods very cheap.

– Ban food ads on children’s television programs.

– Fund obesity fighting programs in schools and communities.

Here are some more controversial ideas that I’m not sure how I feel about:

– A tax on sodas

– Subsidizing organic farmers to grow more fruits and vegetables

– Health insurance discounts for people at a normal weight and who don’t smoke

– Special loans and funding for a new type of fast food restaurant that provides low cost, healthy foods or tax deductions for existing companies to offer healthier alternatives on their existing menus

– Mandating some healthy food/drink options at malls, sports arenas, and amusement parks

So while I think that a lot of the problem is caused by personal choice, it is also due to the environment we live in. We need to fix certain aspects of our society (starting with children) to make it possible for people to make better choices.

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