Tyler Clementi committed suicide last week.  Dharun Ravi and Molly Wei are charged with invasion of privacy.  We will never know why Tyler committed suicide.  We can presume many things, but we will never know.  He took those reasons with him to his grave. 

From a sociological perspective, I am more interested in what motivated Ravi and Wei to take the actions that they did.  Were they:  (1) looking to become popular with their peers; (2) homophobic and looking for a way to punish someone who they presumed was gay; (3) extremely facile with technology and felt the need to utilize it to pull off a prank; or (4) so completely and utterly self-involved and bored that they thought this would be a good way to pass the time.  What is clear is that their actions demonstrate a clear lack of empathy and compassion.  To record another person’s private sexual encounters without their knowledge and permission is a direct violation of every shred of decent human behavior.  I seriously doubt that their parents “taught” them that this was appropriate behavior, although it is up for debate whether their parents instilled in them a sense of hate, homophobia, and entitlement.  Clearly they did feel a sense of entitlement – they felt “entitled” to invade Tyler’s privacy, “entitled” to publicly humiliate him, and clearly they felt “entitled” to benefit from said invasion and humiliation.  Perhaps they can learn a new slant on the notion of entitlement – they will become entitled to receive whatever punishment is deemed appropriate for their actions under the law. 

I seriously doubt that sensitivity training, anti-bullying campaigns or mandated “awareness” seminars will cause a sea change in this type of behavior.  Those who are empathetic, sensitive, and non-bullying in our ways already choose the right path of human conduct.  Those who belittle, denigrate and harass rarely have the aptitude or capacity to feel compassion or remorse.  What they feel is “entitled.”  And this, I am sorry to say, will probably never change.

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Did You Miss Me? A Sales Force and Tour de Force

Okay, so I was out sick on Monday and I didn’t have time to blog yesterday.  I hope you missed my wit and verve. 

I am in the midst of selling wrapping paper and other assorted and sundry items for my son’s school.  It is, indeed, fundraising time.  A time when all parents are forced to assault their friends and beg them to buy useless crap from a catalog.  Stuff they never wanted but stuff you now have to convince them they desperately need.  I always begin my plea with the proviso that I’ll still be your friend if you don’t make a purchase.  I realize that we are all plagued with these requests, and I empathize with our mutual plight.  However, I do summon the requisite assertiveness and courage to “make the ask” because I know that supporting my son’s school is, in fact, a means of supporting my son.  So, being the typical gung-ho fundraiser that I am, I have chosen to plunge ahead and face this task with as much dignity as possible.  And, like the pain of childbirth, perhaps my friends will forget that I delivered the same cry for help last year and are in the mood for a little frivolous shopping.  I’ll be calling you soon.

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Hospital Food

I was at the hospital this morning for a routine test.  I arrived early and decided to get some breakfast in the cafeteria.  Scrambled eggs and bacon, to be exact.  A nice cup of decaf coffee.  Aside from the fact that I needed something to get me going, the food was really good.  So was the coffee.  I love hospital food.  It’s inexpensive, predictable, and always available.  I love getting my tray, surveying the different options available, and then zeroing in on my final choice.  I also appreciate the expediency of the cafeteria line, as well as the no frills dining experince.  It’s exactly what you need when you need it most.

Probably one of the best meals of my life (at least quite a memorable one) was the morning after I gave birth to my son.  I had given birth at 8:36 p.m. on a Thursday evening.  Sometime that night I was offered some crackers and juice, which I gratefully accepted.  I think the sheer exhaustion of giving birth overrode any greater feelings of hunger I may have had.  That is, of course, until the next morning when I was ravenously hungry.  I think my breakfast must have been delivered fairly quickly, because I’m pretty sure I was willing to walk out of my room half naked to steal whatever food I could find.  I fixated on the smell of the food before I could actually see it.  Glorious pancakes, sausage (heck, it may have been bacon, but it went down the hatch so fast it’s difficult to remember), juice, coffee, fruit.  Oh my goodness, the absolute best breakfast ever.  I think I could have eaten two or three rounds of breakfast, if given the opportunity. 

Other hospital visits, and one hospital stay (for my gallbladder operation), all yielded delightful meetings with what can best be described as “generic cafeteria food.”  I have yet to meet a cafeteria meal that I didn’t enjoy.  The important thing is to view the meal in the context of the situation.  You’re in a hospital, you’re hungry/sick/upset/stressed/weak and you just need something to fill your belly.  A meal from Lacroix or The Continental is not what you’re looking for.  You need plain, comforting, recognizable food that doesn’t challenge you and doesn’t add to your angst.  And you’ve found it.  It’s just what the doctor ordered.

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7 Dirty Words

Many of you are familiar with George Carlin’s “7 Dirty Words.”

A brief recap fromWikipedia:

The seven dirty words are seven English-language words that comedian George Carlin first listed in 1972 in his monologue “Seven Words You Can Never Say on Television”. At the time, the words were considered highly inappropriate and unsuitable for broadcast on the public airwaves in the United States, whether radio or television. As such, they were avoided in scripted material, and bleep-censored in the rare cases in which they were used; broadcast standards differ in different parts of the world, then and now, although most of the words on Carlin’s original list remain taboo on American broadcast television as of 2010. The list was not an official enumeration of forbidden words, but rather was compiled by Carlin. Nonetheless, a radio broadcast featuring these words led to a Supreme Court decision that helped establish the extent to which the federal government could regulate speech on broadcast television and radio in the United States.

I will not elaborate on what the specific words referred to are, but rather let you investigate on your own.  Now, I am aware of the fact that I drop the “F”-bomb occasionally, and sprinkle in a few other less than savory nouns and adjectives.  The other day, however, my son informed me that he knew a lot of “bad” words.  Now, in our house we don’t say “son of a bitch” — we say “son of a boosky.” My son knows that bitch is a bad word (we haven’t taught him yet that it can refer to a female dog).  I asked my son to write down all of the so-called “bad” words that he knows, with the proviso that it won’t get him in trouble, we just want to see which ones are on his radar. 

Well, folks, it was pretty funny.  My husband wasn’t aware that I had made this request, so I was the first to see the list.  It included the following (list incomplete and spelled exactly as given to me):  stupid, lame, dickhead, dishwrag, poophead, peehead.  Well, I’m not sure what I expected to see, but I thought I’d be witness to something more akin to Mr. Carlin’s list.  I am happy to report that I explained that these were, indeed, bad words and that he should not use them.  What I also realize is that as each year goes by his list will inch closer and closer to Mr. Carlin’s list.  For now, I am relieved that it has only reached this level.  To think that he would know no bad words is unrealistic.  Hopefully going to a Quaker school, where they instill respect for others, kindness, and tolerance, will lead him on a path towards gentler words. 

And while this honeymoon phase of language development may be reassuring to me now, I have no doubt that at some point during his teen years (hopefully not sooner) he will get mad at me or my husband and tell us both to go to hell.  Until then, we’re enjoying his relative innocence and will try to protect him from potty mouth.  But, as we all know, it doesn’t take a curse word to cause harm.  Choose your words carefully.

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First Day of Fall

Summer is officially over.  I am sad, but not depressed.  I savored it, lived it, and rejoiced in it.  Time to move on.  Instead of mourning what was, I have chosen to celebrate what will be.  So, here is my laundry list of things I’m looking forward to this fall.

In random order:

Pumpkin pie and all things pumpkin related:  I am a pumpkin junkie.  Of course, pumpkin pie is a fantastic vehicle for whipped cream, another of my ongoing vices.  I love pumpkin pie, pumpkin spice lattes, pumpkin muffins, pumpkin bread, pumpkin gnocchi, pumpkin raviolis, pumpkin roll.  Pumpkin – bring it on!

Caramel dipped apples:  I take granny smiths and dip them in rich caramel and dark chocolate, coating them with chopped almonds, pecans, etc.  I do several variations, all equally indulgent.

Halloween:   What my kid won’t eat, I will.  Enough said.

Butternut Squash:  This is truly one of those vegetables that you need to wait until  fall to eat.  Delicious in a gratin topped with parmesan cheese.

Apple Pie:   My son wants to make an apple pie with me this year.  Another opportunity to teach him about cooking and bond in the kitchen.  My late mother-in-law made a fantastic apple pie with a cheddar cheese bubble crust top, which was to die for.  We can’t find the recipe, but I’m searching for a similar one.  Topped with vanilla ice cream, it was meant to shut down your left ventricle – but you’d die a happy person.

Wearing Boots:   I love wearing boots, and I don’t have to worry if my socks match. 

Leaves Turning Colors:   A nice drive to New Hope satisfies my craving for autumnal bliss.

Thanksgiving:   My favorite holiday.  All food.  No gift giving, except giving the gift of your love and friendship to others.

Braises, Stews and Chilis:   I am excited to try a number of new recipes this year.  Leftovers are encouraged.

The Beginning of the TV Season:   I only watch one or two series, but season premieres and new episodes are always something to look forward to.

There is at least one item which you might think I have inadvertently forgotten, but rest assured, it is not a pressing matter for me.  I am not a football person, so the start of football season does not cause my toes to tingle and my lips to sing.  Now, that is not to say that I don’t enjoy the occasional football game.  But I have no qualms about saying that I am not a football junkie.  I’m sure I’ll be hearing from some of you about this horrible lapse in character development.

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Yesterday was our 24th wedding anniversary.  Here are a few observations I have on marriage.

1.  Marry for love, and marry for good conversation.  Marriage is one long conversation, and if you don’t like who you’re talking to, it can be very painful.

2.  Forgive your spouse.  It’s hard to be perfect all the time, and a little forgiveness goes a long way. 

3.  Don’t expect your spouse to make you happy.  Make yourself happy, bring 100% to the table, and then enjoy each other’s company.  Only then can you reap the benefits of a mature relationship.

4.  Develop your own interests and friends.  Not everything needs to be a joint effort.  Individuality is still important.  It’s knowing when to let go of the “me” and become a “we” that leads to a succesful union.  Marriage need not obliterate the true you.  If done right, it will enhance each partner’s good qualities and diminish any negative ones.

5.  Laugh at yourself, laugh at your partner, and above all else, laugh together.

6.  Do not compete with your partner.  You are a team – it’s you against the world.  A true partnership is a merger that acknowledges a bond greater than the sum of its parts, yet inherently recognizes that there are individual players in the mix.  You are an emotional, economic, and spiritual team.  Cheer yourselves on, and always support your teammate.

7.  Lastly, love your partner unconditionally.  It is only with unconditional love that we can be secure in our relationship.  Thank your spouse for the little things, and don’t question the bigger picture. 

One of my favorite lines is from Sleepless in Seattle, when Annie’s brother Dennis says “Annie, when you’re attracted to someone, it just means that your subconscious is attracted to their subconscious, subconsciously. So what we think of as fate is just two neuroses knowing that they are a perfect match.”

I found my perfect match.

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The Mix – Another Confession

I make brownies from a box.  I’ve made Betty Crocker, Duncan Hines, and Ghirardelli.  I like them all.  I made brownies once from scratch.  They were not as good as the ones from a box.  This may come as a surprise to those of you who are familiar with my cooking skills.  However, I am a firm believer that if there is something out there which makes your life easier and maintains the same standards as those you would normally hold yourself to, then there’s no reason not to indulge in that item or service.  For instance, I am a huge advocate of the epidural during childbirth.  I’m in pain, and someone was nice enough to go to all the trouble to invent something to put me out of my pain.  It won’t screw up my kid, and it will give me immediate relief.  Why the heck not?  The epidural was a life saver, and whoever invented it has my undying gratitude. 

Now, I certainly don’t think that brownie mix rises to the same level as an epidural.  However, a good brownie mix solves a lot of problems with minimal effort and expense.  I was able to procure a really good dark chocolate brownie with the addition of water, oil, and an egg.  In 45 minutes I was mother of the year, and had produced an 8 x 8 pan of glistening espresso-colored fudgy cake that smelled delicious and tasted even better.  The fact that I had made these brownies for a school dinner, which was cancelled due to rain, and had to (sob, sob) bring them home for us to eat was simply unimportant.  I cut out a beautiful square, wrapped it in foil, let it warm up for 10 minutes in the oven, and then scooped some vanilla ice cream on top and drenched it in whipped cream.  Bliss ensued.  My nirvana was not diminished by the fact that this was not a “from scratch” brownie.  So, thank you Ghirardelli, for helping me to carve out a little bit of happiness and have more time to enjoy it.

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