Archive for the 'Totally Random' Category

Somebody Get That Elephant a Rose!

April 6th, 2008 by MamaBear

I just finished watching an incredible and heartwarming video about a painting elephant. Watch the following video and feel glad you are able to witness (through the magic of modern technology) at least one elephant in captivity (and in the background, several more) being permitted a positive outlet for its experiences. If any of you wonderful readers decide to visit this elephant (I believe it lives in Thailand), and if you decide to actually give the elephant a rose, shave the thorns off first. I think it might appreciate that.

More elephant paintings and additional information can be found on The Asian Elephant Art and Conservation Project page.

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Be Grateful…

March 27th, 2008 by MamaBear

…For what you have. Right now you could be a starving orphan in Iraq. Or one of millions of Iraqi refugees, half-forgotten by the world. Be grateful that you are not a newly hatched and vulnerable tropical baby bird in a nest up in an old-growth forest that’s about to be demolished in order to make way for “progress” and “civilization” somewhere in Central America. Thank God you aren’t a caged zoo animal that exists solely for the bored amusement of others who pay to ogle you somewhere, anywhere, on this globe.

Be grateful. Be grateful. Be grateful.

I am. Or at least, I try to be.

One of my daughter’s all-time favorite books is Global Babies. It is a book about babies around the world. Strangely enough, it has two pictures of babies from the United States (out of a total of 16 babies in the entire book), but I guess it’s a silly way of appeasing the now-dominant Imperial power (the new Rome, if you will, which = United States of America)??? The publisher is located in the United States, so I guess that’s part of it too. Other than this minor little detail, the book is truly wonderful, and my daughter asks to have it read to her over and over and over again. I highly recommend that you either borrow it from your library or purchase it to have for your family’s collection. Its virtues and peaceful teachings are numerous.

Here’s a picture of the cover:


What I really want to do here, though, is include a picture of the Iraq baby:


This baby is loved (as are all the babies in the book).  I can’t tell if the Iraq baby is a boy or a girl (I’m guessing boy), but it doesn’t matter. I wonder about this baby a lot. I wonder if this baby is safe, if this baby is being fed. I wonder if this baby has a mother and a father now, after this long and unnecessary war has waged on for so long. More than anything, I wonder about other babies like this one, other babies born and now being raised in Iraq. Are they safe? Who is taking care of them? Who is making sure their mothers and fathers are safe? Do they have clean water to drink? Are they safe from radiation from U.S.-made weapons? Who is making sure these Iraqi families feel peace? What are we doing to make sure these children and, more importantly, the caretakers of these children, are safe, clean, comfortable, at peace? Who is caring for the mothers and fathers of Iraq so that they may care for their children?

Think about what life may be like in Iraq for these families.  I dare you to complain about anything in your life right now.

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February 2nd, 2008 by MamaBear

Years ago, when I had the freedom to take off wherever I wished without having to be accountable to anyone for it, I took a trip from Houston, Texas to London, U.K. Alone. I had no one waiting there for me. No hotel or hostel reservation. No car rental. No business meeting. No secret rendezvous with a mysterious lover. No friend or acquaintance, internet or otherwise. No pretense. Nothing. I had a plane ticket, and that’s it. I knew no one there. Not one soul. And I wanted it to be this way. I decided I wanted to see London, so I did. I was in my mid-twenties, so I figured that’s what you do when you’re in your twenties: you travel. You see the world freely, as it is, no frills and no distractions (no other people along for the ride, no other opinions interfering with the impression you receive from the travel itself).

To make things more interesting, I almost didn’t go. I had a non-refundable ticket, and I was torn, just before leaving. I was torn because I was a little afraid of traveling this way, not knowing what would be there or what would happen when I got to my destination. I was in denial of not wanting to go. I had spent maybe $600 on the ticket, and I was seriously considering waiting until the date came and went and pretending I’d forgotten if anybody asked about it (which I figured nobody would anyway, so it was a moot point).

But something really cool happened. I met a fella. He found out I had this ticket, which I almost didn’t tell him I had. When I told him I had this ticket, the date for which travel was going to occur within a short time from the time I told him about it, he urged me to go. I think he could sense that I was seriously considering not going. Once he realized I was serious about this, about opting out of this solo trip, he spent his time reassuring me that it would all be o.k., that this trip would be good for me, that I would learn a lot of good things… And most important of all, he told me not to fear it. “I think you’ll get a lot out of going there,” he told me. So, tentatively, I believed him. I trusted him. But I didn’t pack any bags.

When I boarded the plane, I carried with me a light backpack, an Eastpak I had since college. I couldn’t really say I’d packed, yet what I took was more than sufficient. In the backpack, I had: my passport, my ticket, my ATM card, my new-fangled (at the time) digital camera, a pair of flip-flops, and maybe 2 changes of clothes (one for warm weather and one for windier conditions). No toiletries or other details. I remember buying a toothbrush at a chemist when I got there, along with some inexpensive, plain Colgate toothpaste. I didn’t take any United States cash with me, of course, because that would have been silly. An ATM card is sufficient for a big city like London, where you can withdraw what you need in the currency of the country you’re in rather than going into a special building and taking the extra step of currency exchange. I’d already done my fair share of traveling to other parts of the world to know this much at least, so that was good.

So… What happened after I arrived in London? I didn’t stay very long, not long enough to really put down roots. I think it was a week or two. But I… Somehow I … …found my way in London. I guess that’s the best way to put it. I found my way there. And I loved it. London is a very forgiving place, at least in my experience. I had no one there, no one I’d ever met before. I was completely anonymous, just another face in the crowd. Yet the city was mine. I felt like everyone there was just another friend I’d yet to meet. And it was so. It was very interesting meeting people who were in groups, and most people there, even those who were travelers like myself, belonged to one group or another. Group dynamics were and always are quite fascinating.

I met Australians there, and learned from them that for many Australians, it is a rite of passage to make a trek to London, to the U.K., at least once in a lifetime. I had no idea before my trip there that that was the case. I met South Africans there, too. I met Indians, and Pakistanis, Canadians, and so many other really nice people. So many other things I learned, too, some which surprised me, but most didn’t. The most important thing I learned from that trip, though, is this: people are what you make of them, and they are essentially the same everywhere. We all have the same basic hardware… The software that’s loaded up inside us isn’t always the same, but if we choose to, it can be compatible with other people’s… Because we are not machines. We are so much more than that.

I have to say that there were moments during that trip when I wasn’t sure if I could tolerate the loneliness… …though I was in a crowd of people most of the time, whether at the Tate Modern or at the Globe Theater. I walked that city, rode the Tube (LOVE the London Underground), walked down the winding stairs of the tallest underground stairway in London (which I was reminded of as I watched the end of Atonement recently — btw, incredible movie; if you’re on the fence about it, don’t be — it’s worth your time)…. Alone. I watched the people all around me, talked to them if they talked to me… Sometimes even if they didn’t. :) Got to know a few. I think a part of me knew I wouldn’t be seeing any of them again, but it was worth getting to know them, if even for the short time I did. They were, all of them, wonderful, even when they weren’t, if that makes any sense.

I remember a moment in time, captured forever in my memory. It was only a moment, probably lasted a grand total of fifteen seconds, but for some reason, I remember it. There was a guy, my age (maybe older, maybe younger — I really don’t know). He looked like he really wanted to get on The Tube, but he couldn’t afford a ticket. I had a day pass, because that’s something you can do in London (I learned that the first day), you can buy a Tube ticket for the day or you can pay for individual trips. Since I was people-watching, I bought a day ticket ’cause it gave me more freedom to roam. Well, at the end of my people-watching and roaming, I wound up at the Earl’s Court station, which was my stop, my home base (for the time I stayed there, anyway — and that is a story in itself). Anyway, there was a guy there in the darkness of the station as I walked out. He was … It looked like he was panhandling. And I remember there were signs on the walls there discouraging the giving away of Tube tickets to random people, with some lame excuse about increased crime and whatnot… But I thought then (and I still think now) that that was because it decreases revenue for the London Underground more than anything else, and not really for any other reason… Well, I’m not much for corporate anything, as much as I adore The Underground… I love people much, much more. …And I’m not apologizing for it. He looked the crowd over. His eyes were searching, searching. He looked me over. I looked at him. I’m guessing if he had bad intentions, he could have done whatever to hurt me. I don’t have a black belt in anything. But he didn’t, of course, and never did I get the feeling he would have either. What he wanted was a Tube ticket, which I conveniently had. I could have thrown it away, he never would have known, but why would I do such a thing??? There was a person standing right in front of me that clearly wanted one, and mine was still valid. I wasn’t going to use mine, because it was getting dark and, tired, I wanted to go back to my shared hostel dormitory to rest my weary bones anyway.

So, without a word, I looked at him, and he at me. I showed him my ticket. I smiled and handed it to him. He took it, quick as a flash, and darted off ahead to find a train to go wherever it is he wanted to go. I almost didn’t hear him, but I did. He said, as he ran,”Thanks.” But even if he hadn’t, it would have been enough for me, the look of relief on his face as I handed it to him. Who knows what he had to go do, but whatever it was, I hope it was good. I think it’s all o.k. regardless. As far as I know the Underground is still transporting lots of people from place to place with no more and no fewer problems than before I stepped foot there. :)

When I got back from London, the fella, my fella, the one that told me to push past my fears and go to London alone anyway, was waiting for me. He picked me up from the airport. I didn’t have to ask him to; he wanted to, because that’s the kind of man he is. We hadn’t known each other for very long, but something told me this one, this fella, was special. I may not have gone on that trip and experienced such growth without his encouragement. And I’m so happy I did. I trusted him and it paid off. That fella is now the proud Papa Bear of our child. It’s been almost five years since that time, most of which time since then has been spent with each other. How much is >20 hours a day X 365 days X 5 years? It doesn’t matter. It adds up to an exquisite dream… another fantastic, wonderful journey. Ongoing.

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Death and Rebirth

January 16th, 2008 by MamaBear

Our dog died today. She was old. She had lived for over fifteen years, by our estimates. We awoke this morning to find her having one long continuous seizure in her bed. My husband held her for most of the morning. She calmed down in his arms and in his soothing presence. However, the seizures never really stopped. After a while, we both knew they weren’t just seizures; these were death throes. We both spoke to her reassuringly, telling her it was o.k. It was all o.k. She was accepted as she was, and that whatever she did at this point was all right by us. We explained to our daughter what was happening. She wanted to pet the doggie.

I never liked the dog. I never felt like she liked me. She was extremely aggressive when I met her; surprisingly so. I’d grown up all my life with pets of various sorts, and have always gotten along well with animals in general… I was not prepared for the negative energy I felt coming from her. Years ago, she jumped up and bit the skin off the shin of one of my husband’s guests at a party, completely unprovoked, right in front of me. If I hadn’t seen it myself, I wouldn’t have believed it.

She bit me once. Only once. But it was memorable enough that I didn’t make any effort to get close to her again.

She belonged to my husband’s mother, and she gave her to us to take care of for a while. “For a while” turned into forever due to circumstances beyond anyone’s control. And thus began a journey of resentment for the both of us. She would take dumps in random locations of the house, almost out of spite, it seemed. She also used to mark territory with her urine pretty much wherever it would create the most work possible. So we learned to use baby gates judiciously far before we ever conceived a baby. Life with her became one long, unpleasant, perpetual clean-up ritual.

The older she got, the more two things happened: (a) the more random her soiling became (thankfully by this point it was only confined to the kitchen at night and cold days and the backyard for the majority of the time), and (b) the more calm and less aggressive she became. I began to realize she was letting go of whatever resentment she had been holding onto all these years. And as I watched her calm down, so did I, even as I cleaned up yet another turd and mopped up yet another puddle of urine. I no longer resented her. I almost liked her, except for the fact that she stank horribly even immediately after a bath. Also, by this point she not only would squeeze out turds in random locations of the kitchen (usually nowhere near the wee-wee pads I’d put down for her, in the same place so as not to confuse her) but she now would step on her solid waste and grind it into the linoleum. And walk in a circle. And re-grind her own feces into the linoleum yet again. If I wasn’t right there when she took a shit, I paid for it later. So she became a constant source of background stress for me. She probably took about 3-5 dumps in one day, all random, almost all of them destined for linoleum-grinding if I didn’t run and pick them up immediately. No amount of scrubbing of that kitchen floor made it feel clean enough to me, because she would re-soil it within a couple of hours anytime she was indoors. I couldn’t let my baby’s feet touch the kitchen floor because I feared she may contract parasites from the dog’s feces through her delicate feet. So the baby gate was there not only to keep the dog (and feces) contained in the kitchen, but to keep my precious baby out of harm’s way, in more ways than one.

I didn’t notice how much of the stress created by this reality I was taking on until she finally passed on. It feels like an enormous relief to not have this burden anymore.

Yet I am sad. My daughter knew we had a dog. During those times when she’d see her beyond the gate, she’d look at her, point, and say, happily, “Woo-woo-woo!” (Her word for “dog”.) During those times when I had the temerity to allow her in the kitchen (with shoes on, of course, and body armor — …O.k., I’m exaggerating a little about the body armor, but not by much), she’d go straight for the dog. And she’d pat her softly. And she’d hug her gently. She knew she needed to be gentle, because the dog was old and frail. My baby loved that dog. The dog never bit her, never even seriously tried (though she did bare her teeth at her a little a couple of times, which would have made me nervous, if not for the fact that the dog had only about a dozen teeth left in her entire mouth). If my baby could love her, how could I not?

This afternoon, when we noticed the dog wasn’t seizing anymore, wasn’t breathing anymore, and her eyes started misting over with the characteristic look of death, I decided I needed to bathe her one last time. There were fleas, stubborn fleas that were apparently resistant to Advantage and Frontline, fleas who now realized the body they were feasting on no longer had enough warmth to attract them anymore. I carried her flea-ridden body, bed and all (that’s where she passed on — in her own comfy bed after being held and petted for a good long time) upstairs to the tub. I ran the water until it was hot and drizzled some baby shampoo in it. I washed her rigid body in the hot soapy water, keeping her nose above the water line, just in case there was still life there. The heat of the water made her body pliable again, everything but her legs, which were tense and unyielding like small old tree branches. Afraid of snapping them off, I left them mostly alone and worked on scrubbing the fleas out of the rest of her. I watched the fleas drown, glad that they were no longer on her anymore. I want nothing to interrupt her rest as long as she is still with us. I rinsed her body, surprised that her formerly misty eyes now looked bright and dark brown again, as though she were still alive. Could it be, I thought, that the heat from the bath is bringing her back to life somehow? I looked for a good long time for any sign of life, a twitch, anything. All I saw was those bright eyes staring into the distance, looking strangely alive. I kept her nose above the water, just in case.

My husband brought me some towels. He felt grateful that I was doing this, that I was reconciling with her. He knew about our history, and he wanted closure for us as much as I did. I wrapped our dog in the towels, tightly, like a burrito. I made sure her nose was sticking out, but nothing else. I wanted to keep the warmth of the bath in her for a good long time. I held her like a newborn and spoke to her, a few things just for her to hear. I placed her in her clean bed again, in the kitchen where she was accustomed to sleeping, and she is still there. Her body will stiffen once more, as she lays there peacefully, flea-free this time, unburdened of her past and surrounded by the love of her family.

Tomorrow we will bury her in the backyard. She will go back into the Earth, into her original mother, everyone’s original mother. There will be nothing separating her from it — no plastic bag, no cloth, nothing. She will go back as it should be: authentically. No bullshit. We may say a few words for our dog, but no words really need to be spoken. The Earth knows what she does, and we trust her enough not to tell her how to do her job.

We are probably not going to be getting another dog anytime soon. In all likelihood, our lives will run much more smoothly now that cleaning the kitchen floor will mean that it will stay clean for longer than 12 hours. Still, there is a sadness there, a void. It will pass eventually, and when it does, it will be a new day indeed.

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Hillary and Obama for President :)

January 8th, 2008 by MamaBear

In a world where we are often made to feel that we must choose between one or another thing, I’d like to believe we can have what we really want.  And I believe that what we really want is to be taken seriously, among other things.  Concerning our upcoming presidential election, I feel optimistic about a more positive future, one where cooperation rather than division prevails.  I was hoping that Oprah Winfrey would decide to run, but it looks like this year she won’t be.  She is putting her energy into many good things, though, as she is wont to do.  :)  I am as well, and I am confident you, dear readers, are, too.  :)

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Required Consumption

September 30th, 2007 by MamaBear

I’ve been talking lately about corporations and corporate interests (regarding some of my posts on Prolacta and Nestlé), and I think a lot of what I say may be misinterpreted by some, and some of it may just not be registering at all for others. I have had the blessing of being educated by incredible influences in my life, and it is part of my life’s mission to impart some of this wisdom to the world. It’s one of the reasons why I blog. I am not trying to sound arrogant. If anything, I want to make sure there’s more equity in the world by making injustices be known so that they can be corrected. I always try, whenever possible, to include links to references so that you may be the judge of what I say. Ultimately, I want my readers to assess for themselves if what I’m saying is true. Don’t just take my (or anyone else’s) word for it.

I want to make sure that everyone is on the same page before I continue with my blogging, so in order to do that, I want to make sure you know what I know. I’m embedding this video, of a documentary called “The Corporation,” as a primer for starting to understand how things work in the corporate world. Incentives and motivation are key in people’s lives, for both individuals and corporations. While it is really hard to distill into one thought the wealth of information contained in this documentary, I will say that one of the important lessons I learned from watching it is this: “A corporation has all the rights of an individual, but none of the responsibility.” It’s a very powerful statement, and an apt assessment.

Please note: I don’t think there is anything wrong with making money. Money (and having to make a living) are necessary aspects of life. I have a problem with hurting others to make money, and I do not think it is necessary to hurt others in order to make a living. “Hurt” can be a matter of interpretation, where “deception” may be considered by some to be perfectly reasonable and not the same as “hurt.” That’s for you the viewer to decide. Personally, I think it depends on each individual situation (in some cases, “hurt” is pretty clear-cut and in others, not so much).

Also, some required reading (if you have the time after sitting through the whole 2.5-hour-long documentary): Blink (a book that is essentially an analysis on Occam’s Razor), The Tipping Point (about ripple effects), and Freakonomics (Yes, Jill, I know he’s your friend, but it’s a really good book on some of the hidden economies of life, so I’m recommending it despite that). ;)

“The Corporation” (first there’s a brief commercial of sorts, where the filmmakers ask for monetary donations for the film; after that, the film begins). Film is in two parts, both embedded here:

Part 1 lasts one hour, 26 minutes and Part 2 lasts almost exactly one hour. Total time is about 2:30 hours. Dedicating the time to watching it is time well spent. Cheaper than a college course, way shorter, and almost as informative (actually, depending on the course, probably more informative). You owe it to yourself to watch this.

Edited to add:  I’ve found some transcripts on some of the interviews seen in “The Corporation” on the official website.  I apologize in advance that I can’t find anything better for my Deaf and hard-of-hearing readers.  I wish closed captioning were available in the video itself.

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Working on more important posts… But for now… “Africa.”

September 22nd, 2007 by MamaBear

Listen to and watch this guy. The following is not a video about breastfeeding, but if you’re nursing at the keyboard (nak) or pumping at the keyboard, it might help with let-down. It’s worth a shot. :)

Anyway, this guy is so completely bad-ass. He totally rocks and, whenever possible, everyone should listen to him play pwn his guitar. His name is Andy McKee. Notice how for the song “Africa” he not only manages to recreate several instruments’ worth of sound on one acoustic guitar, he also captures the vocal track as well. Brilliant talent taken to its full potential. Awe-inspiring.

I love the internet.

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There’s a reason why I don’t watch television (not about lactation, but worth reading anyway)

September 20th, 2007 by MamaBear

I don’t watch television like a normal person. I’m not aware of schedules, or of trendy shows that come out, unless I read about it somewhere (usually online) or if a close friend recommends it. This doesn’t mean I don’t watch. I love television shows: I pick and choose which ones to watch, and then I watch them when I want to, without commercials. I do this through the magic of the internet, awesome computer geekery, dvds, and dvrs (which are one of the best inventions ever).

The average child is exposed to 20,000 television commercials in a year. While I cannot eliminate all television commercials and their influence from my family’s life (sporting events are usually viewed live and, unfortunately, with commercials, though often muted), I think we do pretty well. This is a pretty insular existence, but one I’m happy to have (and one which I wouldn’t trade for the alternative). When I try to watch television with commercials, I am very quickly annoyed with (a) the constant, unceasing interruptions to the plot of whatever show I’m watching and (b) the sheer volume of crap I’m forced to watch of someone trying to sell me something I don’t need. It could be anything: a burger, some new gizmo that’ll promise to make my life easier, room deodorizer (probably the most useless product on the market today)… It doesn’t matter what the product is; years of living virtually commercial-free make going back to the banality of commercialized television insufferable.

This is all a preface to the video below.

So I am aware that there’s this show called America’s Next Top Model. I know, I know, this is the sort of statement that makes people say, “Well, duh,” because it’s been around for a while. It’s not one of the shows I watch. I watch a lot of shows, but this one doesn’t pass muster. Not that ANTM would have had much of a chance anyway at making it onto my (really long) short list of shows that I watch, but this video seals the deal for me. The video, in my opinion, is NOT appropriate for watching in front of children, and I don’t consider it safe for work either. It depicts battered models playing dead, complete with blood spatter and sexy poses. I don’t know who thought this was a good idea, the sexualizing of violence, and I don’t consider this “art.” Obviously “art” is in the eye of the beholder, and if this were to be found exclusively in a modern art museum, I’d think, “It’s distasteful, but it is in a museum, after all.” When you go to a museum, you expect to get shocked sometimes.

These pictures are NOT in a museum; they’re on a television show, a show which is probably watched by millions of little girls all over the country, aspiring models or merely fans of them. Normalizing these images only serves to perpetuate violence against women, with the added “bonus” that the women-to-be victims of the future might think the abuse is to be expected. After all, they’ve already become desensitized to seeing bloodied half-naked women in lingerie. Even when you’re getting beaten half to death you should look your very sexy best, don’t you know… Anything less would be criminal.

For more information, including how to take action, read “America’s Next Top Rape Victim.”

And while we’re on the subject of television, don’t even get me started about Kid Nation.

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September 11th, 2007 by MamaBear

This has nothing to do with breastfeeding. I saw a movie yesterday that was very appropriate for the anniversary of September 11th. The movie’s name is United 93. I’d never seen it before, but I highly recommend it (to adults). It shows, without any narration at all, what happened on the fourth hijacked plane on September 11, 2001. What I especially like about the movie is that it doesn’t seem to have an ulterior motive favoring either major political party. What there is is the raw story, as it unfolds, in real-time. It is terrifying, and it’s very real. Knowing the outcome doesn’t change the power of the story itself, or the relevance of watching the details that led up to the inevitable end. It is very worth watching, but spare young children. The beginning will bore them, and the middle and end would just be too horrifying to show them.

The film appears to have no other agenda than to tell this story. It neither argues for nor against the Iraq War… It doesn’t preach on what could have been done, or should have… There’s no mention of politics or criticism of the military, or even of the terrorists… It doesn’t even speculate on possible conspiracy theories. All it does is reenact the story of what happened September 11, 2001, with a special emphasis on the fourth hijacked plane, United 93. Watching it, you might find yourself reliving the oneness Americans all felt that day, a oneness that reverberated in sympathy from people all over the world, if only for a moment. After you’ve finished watching the movie, here’s the most brilliant part: even you won’t know what the best course of action could have been that day, given how completely unexpected it all was.

Some United 93 movie trivia.

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