Thursday, February 26, 2004

Nowhere Else on Earth

Last week, I finished reading NOWHERE ELSE ON EARTH by Josephine Humphreys, a historical fiction novel about the Lumbee Indians of North Carolina and how they survived the Civil War. It was a fascinating story that, even though it was based on a true story, I didn't know anything about before I read it. And I'm glad for that because it made me enjoy the book even more. The story is told from the point-of-view of Rhoda Strong, daughter of a Lumbee mother and a Scottish father. Her brothers, along with other young men from the community, go into hiding during the Civil War to avoid being conscripted as laborers at a nearby fort or worse, killed by the Confederate Home Guard. The leader of the gang in hiding is Henry Berry Lowrie, son of a prominent Lumbee businessman, whom Rhoda is destined to marry. Henry and Rhoda dream of a life together after the war when tragedy strikes in more ways than one. Surrounding the tale of the colorful cast of characters that make up the "Scuffletown" settlement is the history of the Lumbees and the theory that the tribe may be the lost descendants of Sir Walter Raleigh's first Roanoke colony.

After I finished reading, I did a couple of quick searches online and that’s when I found out the book was based on historical accounts of the real Henry Berry Lowrie, who is a folk hero to the Lumbees, and his wife, Rhoda. A few websites even had photos or paintings believed to be of Henry and Rhoda. The most useful website is the official Lumbee Indian website, which documents the Lumbee’s attempts to be recognized as an official Native American tribe by the federal government.

Coincidentally, the subject of the Lumbee Indians came up just this week during the performance of American Idol semi-finalist Charly Lowry, who is a Lumbee Indian.

Wednesday, February 25, 2004

"And yeah, my heart's not in trouble anymore..."

I finally went to Curves Monday night with my sister-in-law. I loved it! It was everything everyone said it would be. The exercises were challenging, but not overly so. I was never so out of breath that I was huffing and puffing, but my heart rate was up. I actually enjoyed myself. I'm going to go back as a guest again Friday night, then I have three free passes from a promotion at the grocery store to use, then I'll decide if I want to join permanently. You don't have to sign up and pay for a whole year - they also offer a month-to-month option.

I guess this happened at the right time because I went to the doctor yesterday evening and my blood pressure was still high (actually a little bit higher than it was in November), so my ob/gyn wants me to stop taking the pill after I finish the current pack. I'm devastated! She's hoping that stopping the pill will correct the problem immediately, then I could try the Depo shot. But I still need to see my primary care physician and that appointment isn't until March 20. I'm going to try and see her before I finish this pack of pills. I know I need to lose weight, and that will help some, but I'm also cursed by genetics. My dad started taking blood pressure medication when he was about my age, early thirties, and my mom started taking it around the time she turned 50. I cut back on my salt intake while I was pregnant and have stuck with it - not buying a lot of pre-packaged, salty foods like those dinners-in-a-box - and I stayed off the caffeine, too. I guess we'll wait and see what happens over the next few months.

Friday, February 20, 2004

Working Mothers' Debate

The Internet is swirling this week with discussions of Caitlin Flanagan's article in the most recent issue of The Atlantic Monthly, "How Serfdom Saved the Women’s Movement," about professional working women oppressing the nannies they hire. I first heard about this article by reading a column written by Susan Reimer in the Baltimore Sun on February 10. Then, yesterday morning, author Jennifer Weiner linked to an interview with Ms. Flanagan, also in The Atlantic Monthly, about the article. I spent most of yesterday reading both the interview and the article, then fuming so much I couldn't put my words down on paper until today. I'm writing this now after reading this week's diary/e-mail exchanges on My problem with what was written, and it's mainly the interview Ms. Flanagan gave, is not the issue of hiring a nanny, but Ms. Flanagan's contradictory remarks about working mothers in general.

First, some background about me. My daughter was born in September 2002. I took my allotted 12 weeks maternity leave – 6 weeks paid, 6 weeks unpaid – after she was born. Upon returning to work in late December, my daughter was placed in daycare. I consider myself a professional woman, but not one who is able to afford a nanny. My daughter is in an in-home daycare run by a white, thirty-something woman with an upper-middle-class, suburban background much the same as mine. In addition to my daughter, she also watches two other children, ages 2 and 1 1/2, as well as her own 3-year old daughter. She watches Hayley from 7:30am-5:30pm, feeds her two snacks and a lunch, changes her diapers, and interacts and plays with her and the other children. For this, I pay her $170 a week, which she claims as income. I pay her even if we do not use her services for a week while we’re on vacation, but I do not pay her when she is on vacation.

I work because I have to work, and maybe part of me wants to work, but, as the saying goes, I would give my eyeteeth to stay home with my daughter full-time. But I work so we can live in a good neighborhood with solid public schools. I work so we can take a nice vacation every year to experience different things, which I view as a valuable part of growing up. I work to save money so H. will be able to go to college. I work so I don’t feel like my parents wasted almost $100,000 on my college education. I work because my husband said he felt it would be a lot of pressure for him to be the sole breadwinner and supporter of H. and me. There are other reasons, too, but I think I’ve hit the high points.

That being said, let me address what I felt were the inconsistencies in some of Ms. Flanagan’s writing and remarks. I've tried to be concise and logical, but forgive me if this jumps around a bit.

First and foremost, Ms. Flanagan thinks of herself as an at-home mother, when she is, in fact, a working mother, albeit one that works from the home. She is a writer. Even though she's done away with the nanny because the kids are now in school, I find it hard to believe that she only writes while they are at school. Does she write in the evenings? When the mood strikes her? So when she chastises or belittles working mothers, she’s really talking about herself. And when she analyzes things from the point-of-view of an at-home mom, it's misleading. I think Barbara Ehrenreich sums it up nicely it the Slate article: "Caitlin… took the odd and astoundingly privileged course of staying home with the nanny…," then kept the nanny on so she could work as a writer for The Atlantic from home.

In the interview, Ms. Flanagan confesses, "I'd rather sit next to the working mom at a dinner party than the at-home mom. The working mom would have more to say that would be of interest to me." I found this statement incredibly insulting and I’m not even an at-home mom. I know there are lots of at-home moms who would be insulted as well. Natalie, how about you? Natalie is creative, witty and well read. Anyone who reads her website knows she has more to talk about than Legos or changing diapers. I would love to sit next to her at a dinner party.

Along those same lines, Ms. Flanagan comments on a conversation she overheard in the parent’s lounge from a group of at-home mom's discussing a holiday party. "…It certainly wasn’t the kind of conversation you hear at important places of business or in hospitals or universities." Well, we can't all be doctors or lawyers or self-important writers! But guess what? Most parents like to talk about their kids and their activities! Especially when they're very young and doing new things every day. I'll talk to strangers in the grocery store about whatever cute thing H. did or said that day. But that doesn't mean I don't have other interesting things to talk about, too.

At the end of that same paragraph, she puts in parentheses, "Although, if the moms in the parent lounge had asked me to make some of the sandwiches, I would have been on it in a heartbeat!" I’m not even sure what to make of that statement. She'll hang out with them and help with the party, as long as they can talk about politics or the economy while doing it?

Further along in her interview, Ms. Flanagan answers the question if she would have just stayed at home if she hadn't been able to have a nanny in order to pursue her second career as a writer. "Yes! They're the only children I have…However, I must tender a caveat to this: I was not trained for a glamorous career; I was a schoolteacher. Perhaps I would have felt differently if I'd been an attorney or a physician." Not only is this statement insulting to teachers, but I interpreted it to mean that Ms. Flanagan feels it's only acceptable for moms with glamorous careers to work. I find that an inexcusable statement to make and demeaning to every working mother who works to try and make a better life for her family, regardless of what type of job she has.

In continuing her response to the same question, Ms. Flanagan also said, "If I ever said [to my husband] I was going to take some big job outside of the home, he'd say, 'Wait just a minute, here; that's not going to work for our family.' And I’m glad about that: he fully believes that my work here at home with the children is important." Ugh, I don’t even know how to respond to that it's so exasperating! Talk about oppressed!

Moving on to the actual article, Flanagan writes quite a bit about how having a nanny has saved her and her husband from arguing over housework, a typical argument when both parents have careers and want to divide work equally. "I have never once argued with my husband about which of us was going to change the sheets of the marriage bed, but then—to my certain knowledge —neither one of us ever has changed the sheets. Or scrubbed the bathtubs, or dusted the cobwebs off the top of the living-room bookcase, or used the special mop and the special non-corrosive cleanser on the hardwood floors. Two years ago our little boys got stomach flu, one right after the other, and there were ever so many loads of wash to do, but we did not do them. The nanny did." Once again, Barbara Ehrenreich hits the nail on the head with her response to this, which is part of her own reason for never having a nanny: "Caitlin...reports that this personage [the nanny] washes the sheets and generally cleans up after the kids go through a bout of stomach flu. You think the kids don't notice that mommy is available for reading stories but only nanny deals with actual diapers and shit-stained sheets? You think this division of labor doesn't make a lasting imprint on them?"

Finally, Ms. Flanagan sums it all up herself at the end of the article with the statement, "It’s easy enough to dismiss the dilemma of the professional-class working mother as the whining of the elite." I think I will. But I will not dismiss it as a dilemma of all professional-class working mothers, but only the dilemma of Ms. Flanagan the working mother who is a snob who fancies herself as an at-home mother while disparaging other working mothers. In addition to the other online comments about how Ms. Flanagan never mentions the role of the fathers in this "dilemma," I think she also missed the mark by not mentioning other factors – more flex-time or telecommuting options, full-time pay for part-time work, - that could improve the lot of working mothers with or without nannies. As Ms. Ehrenreich concludes, and I wholeheartedly agree, "So, in addition to fighting for childcare, I want to see a battle to salvage the eight-hour day and, beyond that, to win the flex-time options we used to talk about. All parents (and grandparents, if they're as besotted as I am) should be able to enjoy a few unpressured hours a day with the tiny people in their lives."

Thursday, February 19, 2004

Book Quiz

Natalie was right! I took the book quiz and it was dead on. Well, the title was dead on. I'm not so sure about the description that goes along with it. But this is one of my all-time favorite books. I have loved it since elementary school (mostly due to the Adventures of Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn series that used to air on Showtime) and have read it many times since then.

I like to think I have an adventurous spirit and I'm definitely more drawn to rivers and mountains than oceans and beaches. But I don't speak with an accent (unless a Baltimore accent counts) and I think most people take me seriously (except when wearing a straw hat).

You're Adventures of Huckleberry Finn!

by Mark Twain

With an affinity for floating down the river, you see things in black
and white. The world is strange and new to you and the more you learn about it, the less
it makes sense. You probably speak with an accent and others have a hard time
understanding you and an even harder time taking you seriously. Nevertheless, your
adventurous spirit is admirable. You really like straw hats.

Take the Book Quiz
at the Blue Pyramid.

Tuesday, February 17, 2004


I realized it's been a little while since I've posted any new pictures of H. Since I just had a roll of film developed, now is the perfect time! She's changing so much every day. She's already lost a lot of her baby fat now that she's walking. And she never sits still - it's always go, go, go. She's learning a new word almost every day and has a vocabulary of about 20 words right now. Of course, mommy and dada (not daddy yet), hi and bye-bye, plus Pop-Pop. Mimi, Melmo for Elmo (her favorite!), bear, Pooh, peek-a-boo or sometimes just boo, Wiggles, ball, car, cup and ninny (what we call her pacifier - and believe me, that one comes through loud and clear). It amazes me how much she is absorbing right now. She follows directions really well (most of the time) and is developing her own personality.

In her snowsuit

Fresh from the bathtub just before bed

Monday, February 16, 2004

V-Day Weekend

Happy Belated Valentine's Day weekend, readers! I wanted to update on Saturday, but the day got away from me, even though I didn't do much of anything but relax. M. and I exchanged gifts and it was a very comical scene. I gave him a stuffed Boyd's gorilla carrying a heart that said "Love Bug" and he gave me a Laser Level. I typed that correctly, not the other way around. It just made me laugh! The Laser Level was exactly what I wanted, since I'm the one who does all the picture-hanging in our house. In fact, I wanted the combined Laser Level/Stud Finder, but M. said the home improvement store hasn't been able to keep them in stock they're so popular. I joked he could get me a stud finder for Mother's Day. We just had a nice dinner at home Saturday night. I didn't feel good all day, so I wasn't in the mood for going out anyway. It took me until late afternoon until I was feeling better and I'm not even sure what it was, just kind of run down and tired, maybe because H. was up some on Thursday and Friday nights.

Sunday, we watched the Daytona 500 together (what a great race!) while I caught up on the laundry I didn't get done on Saturday. The washing machine is still acting weird - after a load of towels, they were so sopping wet I had to run them through another spin cycle before I could put them in the dryer.

My mom came over around 4pm, then off the two of us went to see Toby Keith in Baltimore. We were in almost the exact same seats as when we went to see Martina McBride, so we had an excellent view of everything. Blake Shelton was the opening act, which we didn't know about, so that was a pleasant surprise. In addition to his few hits, he also sang a couple of Conway Twitty songs (SLOW HAND and TIGHT-FITTIN' JEANS) and a version of the Bellamy Brothers' REDNECK GIRL, all of which I felt he did justice to with his deep voice.

The show started at 7:30pm and Blake Shelton was finished by 8:20, but for some reason Toby Keith didn't take the stage until 9pm. The most bizarre part of the evening was that G. Gordon Liddy came out to introduce him. I kid you not! I guess they're friends, but I really couldn't make sense out of it. The show itself was a high-energy rock show, with only two of Toby's slower songs played. I loved his horn section - three guys who danced and rocked throughout the entire show. He played for two solid hours, with the grand finale of AMERICAN SOLDIER and COURTESY OF THE RED, WHITE & BLUE, complete with fireworks and confetti. He did a one-song encore, which hardly seemed worth it. The finale was a hard act to follow.

The only downer for the night was trying to leave. We sat in a nearby parking garage for an hour. And by sitting I mean, we sat in our parking space for that hour, not even inching along toward the exit. Terribly frustrating for several reasons - paying on the way out instead of paying on the way in, no traffic control at the light right outside the garage exit, etc... And downtown Baltimore wonders why it has trouble attacting people from the suburbs.

So we didn't get home until 1am. When the alarm went off at 5:45am this morning, it felt like the middle of the night. I'm going to be dragging all day today.

Friday, February 13, 2004

Small World

Small World

I just had a "small world" experience over lunch. I usually eat at the same bagel shop on Friday's after going to the bank and my officemate usually comes along, too. She couldn't come today, but asked me to bring something back, so I was just going to get both lunches to go. While I was standing off to the side waiting for my order, a woman I used to work with when I worked in downtown Baltimore came in. She still lives in Maryland, so she was one of the last people I expected to see.

Turns out she was dropping off her cat to be boarded for the week nearby and stopped in for some lunch. So instead of getting my lunch to go, I sat down with her for some catching up and reminiscing. It was so great to see her and hear how mutual acquaintances were doing! At the end of this month, I will have been at this job for four years, so that's about how long it's been since I've seen her. My poor officemate had to wait until 1:30 for her lunch.

This is the second "small world" experience I've had in the past year. Last May, just before I started this journal, I went to pick up H. at the babysitter's, just like any other day. Also at the sitter's are a brother and sister who, at the time, were 1 and 4, respectively. I had met both of the parents at various drop-offs or pick-ups and chatted for a couple of minutes and that was that. That day, their mother came in shortly after I arrived. I knew her name was Wendy because the sitter's name is Wendy, too, and she always calls her "the other Wendy."

Well, that particular day, for some reason, she looked really familiar to me and the planets aligned and something just clicked. I asked her, "Wendy, what’s your maiden name?” She probably thought I was insane. "F.," she said and I started laughing. "Do you know who I am?" I asked her, and then it clicked for her, too. We had grown up together on the same street in the suburbs of Maryland. She was older than me, but our older sisters were friends, so we hung out together, too. For a couple of years, we were really close until the age difference separated us as she went off to junior high. I hadn’t seen her for fifteen years and there we were, in a different state, using the same babysitter for our kids. I was just blown away for the rest of the evening.

A small world, indeed.

Monday, February 09, 2004

Clean Sweep

TLC's Clean Sweep is my new favorite decorating/home improvement show. I watch it almost every day when I get home from work. On the one hand, it is inspiring, more so than just a decorating show, in that getting organized and learning how to let go of some of my belongings is more my problem than how to decorate a room. On the other hand, it also makes me feel better about my pack rat-ness because most of the people featured on the show are much worse than me! But I can see elements of myself in some of those people and know I need help in this area. (Did you see the "Friends Don't Let Friends Keep Leisure Suits" episode? Stacie has all these pens that she can't seem to get rid of. I have a mini-crate full of pens of every shape, size and color. I could never use that many pens in my lifetime, but I continue to save them.)

So this weekend I went on a big cleaning binge. Our "guestroom" could be featured on Clean Sweep, since it essentially serves as my walk-in closet slash miscellaneous storage area. You usually can't see the bed because I have clothes piled on top of it. In the dresser drawers are a ton of work papers I need to sort through, with saved craft magazines on top (but organized very nicely in magazine racks by date). My craft supplies and photos are stored in plastic bins under the bed, although some are spilling over.

I ended up with two big bags of trash and that's just the beginning. But you can now see the bed and I can acually close the closet door all the way. I was finally able to part with the pair of Nike high-top sneakers I wore when I played basketball in high school. I threw away a whole drawer full of belts - I'm not kidding, there must have been about 20 or 30 belts in this drawer and I couldn't even tell you the last time I actually wore (or needed) a belt. I organized some other things into piles for storing in various other places around the house, including a big pile of papers that needs to filed in the filing cabinet. I started a clothes pile for Goodwill and even have a few things I want to sell on eBay (something I've never tried to do before). After payday this week, I'm heading to Walmart to buy some plastic storage bins to continue my organization quest.


I didn't watch the Grammy's last night. I didn't have the energy to commit to it. We watched some of the Pro Bowl instead.


Saturday I dropped off all the paperwork to have our taxes done. The sooner the refund, the better!


My sister-in-law is trying to talk me into joining Curves with her. Anyone out there have an experience they'd like to share - please e-mail me. She loves it and her membership includes guest passes, so I think I might try it a couple of times next week.


I think after we have finished paying off our dryer, we're going to buy a new washer the next time 0% for a year is available at Sears. Our washer is still working, but it's old and doesn't seem to be working very well. Hayley's clothes are hard to get clean, even after treating them with Spray 'n Wash and OxyClean. I'd also like a washer with a much bigger capacity, especially for Hayley's clothes and Mark's work/garage clothes. This is definitely next on my house wish list...

Friday, February 06, 2004


Can someone please explain the new Quiznos commercials to me? I really don't get them. Is that a mouse or a rat or a hamster? Or something else? Either way, I'm not so sure it's the right mascot for a place that sells FOOD. They're very bizarre commercials.

Wednesday, February 04, 2004

God Bless Fr. Lerch

I usually don't read the obituaries in the newspaper, but Monday night, when I was finally getting around to reading Sunday's paper, I happened to glance through them. To my surprise, I saw a name that I recognized - I guess I was meant to read them by chance on Monday. The priest who married Mark and me back in 1998, Fr. Lerch, died last week and his funeral was yesterday.

I believe we were the last couple he married. Our wedding was Dec. 12, then he was retiring from the parish at the end of the year. Obviously, as a priest, he was never married, but he was very close to his family and his obituary listed that he had 10 nieces & nephews and 27 great-nieces & nephews. A more detailed obituary about his life appeared in today's paper. I had just assumed he died of old age, but he was diagnosed with colon cancer last year and was only 77. How wonderful to have such a rich and full life and to have people say wonderful things about you in the end. God Bless Fr. Lerch.

Monday, February 02, 2004

Monday, Monday

I think the winter doldrums are setting in. I honestly have nothing to write about. It was -2 degrees when I woke up this morning. Who wants to leave the house when it's that cold?

M. and I watched the game by ourselves yesterday - we usually do. H. went to bed at half time, so I missed the whole Janet Jackson/Justin Timberlake stunt, which I am now thoroughly sick of hearing about, so I have no further comment. Other than that the streaker guy at the start of the second half is getting no air time because of it.

We hardly did anything this weekend - we didn't even rent a movie. I think it's time to plan a weekend getaway or atleast some sort of activity to break out of this rut.

Is this a depressing entry or what? Sorry it's so lame. Hopefully I'll be more cheerful tomorrow.