Category Archives: blogging

If Bush Tax Cuts are so great, Where Are All of the Jobs They Are Supposed to Create?

bush

THE LEGACY CONTINUES

The short term memory of the American public often needs a jolt of history and there has  never been a more important moment than now to exterminate our amnesia. I would like to offer a view of the situation as I saw it evolving during the last administration.  People on Main Street were suffering from the toxic effects of the Bush administration’s economic policies much earlier than their radioactivity hit Wall Street and other investors.

For people on Main Street it went something like the chronological list below combined with imagined (though probably not too far from the truth) conversations among President Bush’s string pullers and other Republican power players:

• 1999-2000 The economy continues to soften after the dot-com bust.  
• Wages flatten
• September 11, 2001
• Voila’ a distraction from our economic woes
• A great way to capitalize on this American rally & create more profit for our wealthy base is to ramp up the war machine
• Anyone who opposes war becomes unpatriotic
• Go to war & keep the American public in a state of fear
• Don’t let the public see the real cost of the war by creating tax cuts for everyone
• Make sure the public believes that the tax cuts for the wealthy will stimulate jobs
• When this doesn’t work, hide the fact by lowering interest rates
• Promote “It’s patriotic to shop.”
• As Americans get a little more money in their hands & a lot more credit available to borrow, everyone experiences the illusion of wealth.
• Even the poorest Americans are swept up in the moment with credit they never had before!
• Poor people in America have big, shiny trucks, SUV’s & Hummers & own homes for the first time. Magically, many first time homebuyers even qualify for homes big enough for 3 families, complete with 3 car garages.
• Regulators turn a blind eye so a building boom can further disguise the true cost of the war and real weakness of our economy, just until the elite & savvy base can quadruple their wealth.
• All that matters is whether housing starts & the DOW are up; just hide the rest.
• Tax breaks for the rich are tasty as regulators sleep. The real clever rich hide more money in Swiss banks so they don’t have to pay taxes at all. This party looks like it will never end.
• Deficit grows further (but the true cost of the war still is not disclosed in the Bush budget; private contractors create an unknown factor that works to the advantage of the Bush policies).
• Let’s distract further and go after Saddam Hussein; we can buy a few more years from this one and no one will notice whether or not we find Osama Bin Laden if we catch Saddam Hussein.
• People protest
• Interest rates drop further.
• Let now become the best time to buy a house.
• It’s the best time to buy a big, new car.
“An Inconvenient Truth” is released.
• Consumerism starts to wane as conservation efforts multiply.
• Economic woes continue as the bubble starts to burst & consumers realize that too much debt & waste is not the key to happiness.
• Bush administration ignores the economic warnings, just until they get enough of that wealth stashed away.
• Election of 2008 takes place.
• Let the Democrats deal with this & let’s make sure they fall flat on their faces by depending on the American short-term memory.
• Obama reveals the true cost of war.
• Obama continues to shed light on the true American problems, removing the veil of illusion. (Of course, Obama cannot help but have some of the problem makers work with him to untangle the mess they made.)
.• Republicans find the best strategy to channel the anger at the true devastation to the American economy is to again, use distraction by igniting the witch hunt against Obama.
• Let’s make Obama the problem; let’s hide what really went on by allowing the Tea Party voices to drown out the truth once again. Fox News will help, which they do!
• Damn- we’re good!
• The perfect storm for the 2010 election now that the Democrats have been successfully characterized as the problem.
• And on and on and on………

So, my question is:

IF THE BUSH TAX CUTS FOR THE WEALTHY ARE SO GREAT, WHERE ARE ALL OF THOSE JOBS THEY ARE SUPPOSED TO CREATE ?

They never were meant to create jobs as much as they were meant to extend the free ride for those at the top in an act of  The Base self-preservation, protecting  investments with no strings attached. These tax cuts encouraged investors to seek haven outside the U.S. and outsource to increase profits.  Instead of job creation, tax cuts for the rich that are still in effect today continue the lifestyles of these rich and famous, like personal luxuries shown on the Today Show recently where $75,000 a pop did not seem to make these tax cut beneficiaries think much about job creation: “Gone in 180 Seconds” is how Neiman-Marcus  the run on 100 specially outfitted 2011 Chevrolet Camaro Convertibles from the luxury department store’s annual Christmas catalog.

So, for anyone on the fence about a candidate and all others, including  Tea Party candidates and Republicans who think that trickle down really works, think again! These policies have not worked. If they have, WHERE ARE ALL OF THOSE JOBS?  Perhaps the Fair Tax is what we need!

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Sedentarianism: Disease or Addiction? The Dilemmas of a Sedentary Society

sed

                 The escalating rate of childhood obesity in the U.S. is just one example of  “the canary in the coal mine.” There is a much larger, more encompassing issue at hand of which childhood obesity is just one symptom. This issue is a growing disease/addiction I call “sedentarianism.” In my book published last November, 2009:  The New Physics of Childhood: Replacing Modern Myths with Simple Solutions, I introduce the concept of sedentarianism because in order to fully address the problem of obesity, behavioral issues and an increasingly illiterate and unskilled labor force in the United States, we need to look at all of the connected and contributing factors to our increasingly sedentary lifestyles, not just school lunch programs, high-fructose corn syrup or income disparities.

obesity

The terms sedentarianism and sedintarianism and sedentarism  have been used by others before in publications and posts, yet this post is not do dispute the word itself, but to understand the term itself and its implications in our global future.

The definition of a disease is:  1. A pathological condition of a part, organ, or system of an organism resulting from various causes, such as infection, genetic defect, or environmental stress, and characterized by an identifiable group of signs or symptoms. 2. A condition or tendency, as of society, regarded as abnormal and harmful.

The broad medical definition of an addiction is: persistent compulsive use of a substance known by the user to be physically, psychologically, or socially harmful..

I make my case below for a more conscious global plan to combat sedentarianism. You can decide whether or not it qualifies as a disease or an addiction. Regardless, I hope you will agree that it is worthy of escalated attention.

Sedentarianism is the abnormal daily way of life for a growing number of Americans, adults and children, evolving subtly and slowly over decades of cultural shifts, inventions, and failed policies. We are now in a moment where many of us don’t even realize that sedentarianism is an abnormal way of life, that it is extremely life-threatening and contrary to the physical, psychologial and social needs of every person it affects.  Shift-by-shift and invention-by-invention, we have been and still are, chipping away the amount of physical activity and outdoor activity that each American gets compared to life 50 years ago. With every next new technological invention or seemingly helpful new product or service, we are slipping deeper and deeper into a deceptive lifestyle that is literally killing us from a multitude of angles.

Sedentarianism is an individual problem, a family problem, a city, state, national and growing global problem. Everyone is effected and in order to address this global threat efficiently, we need everyone to be a part of the solution: parents, mayors, city planners, educators and policy makers. Investing in the preventives to sedentarianism with save billions in health care and crime while creating a stronger, healthier, more capable and productive country, whereas if we just focus on antidotes like prisons and pharmaceuticals, we will be drowning in debt with a lose-lose situation for all. So, let us take a closer look at preventives by looking at the subtle changes and symptoms that have led the U.S. to become a nation suffering from sedentarianism.

From The New Physics of Childhood, Chapter 6:

“Many homes in the U.S. today have yards which are surprisingly not even set up with growing kids in mind. Yards are filled with kid-prohibited landscaping like poisonous plants, sharp drop offs, pools without fences, and bare concrete, with no swing-set or jungle gyms or tree forts to play in. Or worse yet, there is no yard at all. There are even people who design new homes to cover an entire lot, foolishly omitting the yard for both children and adults to enjoy.”

couch potato 

 

From Chapter 15:

“Once again,  it is important we discuss “sedentarianism” and the role that city planners and developers have in this social disease. Sedentarianism is propagated by suburban sprawl, box stores, and zoning laws in suburban, rural, and urban communities. Fast food becomes the standard meal for working families when isolated communities are not offered convenient fresh food choices due to zoning laws that favor large chain stores over neighborhood grocers and/or farmer’s markets. Sedentarianism produces higher crime rates when urban communities have zoning laws that permit liquor stores on every corner, selling alcohol, cigarettes, soda and even guns. Sedentarianism increases diabetes rates when these same communities have grocery stores with fresh food on the average of a mile apart with fast food alternatives in closer proximity. Sedentarianism increases isolation when we build new housing tracts far from a city’s hub without connecting public transit. Sedentarianism increases addiction and obesity rates through isolation when we allow apartment buildings to exist without playgrounds, parks, and safe outdoor common areas and/or community centers. Communities forced indoors due to limited healthy opportunities to interact experience numerous negative consequences that impact the larger society.

If we replace six-foot high solid fences and walls that separate and force isolation, with short, and open white picket fences, we invite a smile or wave from a neighbor. If we create front porches with benches or swings that encourage neighbors to sit and greet passersby during morning and evening walks, we encourage familiarity and conversation with one another. If we design garages that do not dominate the front of a house, but are discreetly set in the back or to the side, observation and connectedness become priorities, replacing isolation. We remove the fear factor, “the fear of the unknown.” Lack of knowledge about our neighbors creates a climate of mistrust, fear, and secrecy. These emotions are breeding grounds for crime because unknown community members lack accountability. Isolation robs a person of the feeling of belonging or responsibility to a larger community.

A heightened sense of belonging and higher quality of  life is invaluable to every resident, regardless of age. Safety and inclusion result when grocery shopping is within walking distance, bicycling trails are within every housing tract and neighborhoods connect to every other neighborhood, and are continued to downtown areas in all residential and commercial zones—regardless of distance. This community model is not new; it has been the common European model for centuries; in fact, most of the world’s communities are designed like this and should be celebrated and maintained instead of being replaced with the highly problematic designs of the U.S. suburbs and urban areas.

Commercial facilities and factories with healthy outdoor environments also experience more indoor productivity by increasing employee satisfaction during breaks and lunches. Bicycle trail connectedness from residential communities to the workplace and shower/change facilities at work increase employee health and reduce sick days. Plain and simple: connectedness increases well-being and safety for all.

Communities designed with the citizenry walking and greeting each other have less crime and less problems with adolescents because again, all eyes are upon everyone: nature’s built-in—free of cost—security system.”

from The New Physics of Childhood: Replacing Modern Myths with Simple Strategies

I was in Finland this past winter. After only 1 week, I had already learned about the issues arising from the isolation Somalian immigrants were feeling in Helsinki. Racism and cultural differences are creating a situation that is causing many of these intimidated immigrants to remain indoors, escaping their pain through television.

This newly produced Finnish problem smelled awfully familiar to what I have seen evolving within the immigrant Latino communities I am familiar with in the U.S., specifically California. Disenfranchised populations will isolate themselves as a survival mechanism, yet the devastating effects of sedentarianism prevail in these situations such as obesity, insomnia, depression, aggression, and illness, among others. When immigration policies create fear in any community, sedentarianism increases with all of its by-products.

The education component of sedentarianism is just as important to consider in the future financial and economic health of our planet.  When children and adults are sitting in front of a television or video game or spending hours of useless time on cell-phones and computers (versus productive time), every community is losing this valuable time individuals used to be spending on reading, creating, training, and working. The long-term devastating iphone effects on our global culture are yet to be seen now that our current focus and mania has become the latest “App” or “Tweet” or “Wall Post” instead of the real, tangible activities that drive any healthy economy.

We know today, that children are under-educated, but they are also becoming socially and emotionally incapacitated with an increasingly sedentary culture if they are not getting the “optimum” physical and social face-to-face opportunity to develop these crucial communication and social skills with their own families, peers, and community members. Technology has created more opportunities for socialization on one hand, but on the other hand it has also created more isolation from the outer world, specifically the outdoor and in-person social world where instincts and a multitude of sensory skills are developed.

We have replaced productivity with hobbies, feeding this disease of sedentarianism until now it has become so interconnected into our daily life that it is accepted as normal, even with symptomatic abnormal behaviors like insomnia.  These time wasters of misplaced creativity and distractions are the pathogens, but what we don’t realize is that these pathogens are weakening our physical, psychological and social constitutions which are reducing our chances to transform into productive and prosperous societies. New technology, like a euphoric, fleeting cocaine buzz, has now become indispensible to our economic growth and to everyday life. The product pushers of our economy, who are also addicted, deny this dilemma because it feeds the larger monster: the global economy. Now, as a global culture, we are addicted to the products and behaviors that promote sedentarianism.  Country by country, those who adopt our American dysfunctional ways and seductive products are suffering the same symptoms such as obesity, behavioral problems, learning challenges, suicide, etc.  These results are all connected to this spreading addiction of  sedentary indoor activities that are replacing the vital physical needs of our bodies, minds and spirits.  Though, if we carefully examine this quandry that feeds our economy while killing our population, we can begin to design and promote a new era of productivity based on the real needs of the human being, not perceived, vacant, market driven products that feed the spread of this disease/addiction.

Personally, like the billions of others, I am enthralled with all of these social networking tools. I Twitter & have several Facebook pages  & blogs, but I have seen in my own life how addicting these activities can become. I made a vow this Spring to make the effort to start working more with my hands again and not just on a keyboard. I started a bit of gardening and made a blanket for my new granddaughter that will arrive in August. Last night, as I sewed all of the crocheted squares of her blanket together. I reveled in this very tangible act of  love that would last for many years, just as my latest grandson’s blanket has lasted for him.

At the end of the day, a tangible, creative and lasting measure of my efforts is the most rewarding, whether it be a weekend with my daughters and grandchildren, a published book or a blanket. For me, these are the measure of success. (Of course, I also feel accomplished when a blog post receives an abundant amount of hits and/or comments.)  We all have to find our own measure of success and go for it until we achieve it and then go for it again and again and again. It may be that part of that success does involve sitting at a computer, but at the end of the day, isn’t balance what we are striving for to ensure we are not suffering the effects of sedentarianism?  When we stop going for it is when we are more susceptible to the many addicting distractions of sedentarianism. The distractions that can take us further from ourselves and leave us feeling empty and unfulfilled at the end of every day. We all have physical, psychological and social needs to be fulfilled, regardless of where technology is leading us.

Of course, in my own life, I have found that by being honest with myself about my own vulnerability to succumb is the first step. Then, I know that I need to make sure I start my day physically with exercise, because if I have numerous tasks to accomplish on my laptop such as this blogpost, I know that I will get sucked into this seductive world and that my body will suffer if I don’t start with exercise first!  For me, insomnia and body aches are my clues that I have been too sedentary. We each have our own warning signs. I also know that those around me are observing and learning from my own choices, so I have to kick it up a notch, which becomes a motivator. I love it when my  1 1/2 year old grandson, Hudson comes to watch me exercise and joins in to do his squats. Hudson also gets me out of the house for walks more frequently than when I am by myself. I am just as prone to sedentarianism as the next person. It takes tremendous will power to counteract the everyday temptations like that closer parking spot, the elevator instead of the stairs, television all evening instead of a refreshing walk around the neighborhood, coffee before exercise (which will ruin everything for the day).

Sedentarianism is a preventable. Whether it is cultural disease or addiction, it is being fed in many forms throughout our days in blatant and oh so subtle ways. Even baby monitors today make it unnecessary for a parent to get up and walk to their child’s bedroom to see if they are okay! It seems like every latest invention is geared toward less physical activity, not more. Many of the newest children’s outdoor toys are now battery operated so kids don’t even need to use their legs to make their bike or razors move!

With honesty and awareness we can consciously insist and reward innovations for anyone responsible for city planning and/or new inventions make considerations to increase walking, movement and productivity, while boycotting products or community designs that promote the life-threatening, costly effects of sedentarianism. We are creative beings that are always searching for products or “Apps,” to make life easier, but if easier means less physical movement, perhaps we should consider passing! Maybe that is where the next phone “App” revolution should be: to increase physical activity. I am still waiting for this idea for every classroom in the U.S. : Energy Efficient Bicycle-Powered Classroom  Focusing on inventions like this will stamp out sedentarianism!

Granny Pants

Owner, Chamelea Productions

Author of The New Physics of Childhood: Replacing Modern Myths with Simple Strategies

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STAY AT HOME DADS- UNINTENDED CONSEQUENCES?

Today, our fathers are more important than ever! We are grateful they are taking on these new roles in caregiving, providing our children with an awesome opportunity for the first time in American history! Yet, with these economic driven changes taking place, there are also some current considerations.

In my profession, I observe diverse family systems, the changes they go through, and the effects these changes have on children. It doesn’t matter whether the children are in the United States, Finland, Mexico, or an other country I have experienced.  Children all have the same basic needs and when these needs are not met, they communicate this imbalance to us in a variety of ways. Imbalance expresses itself differently for each child. It may look like withdrawal from the world in one child or acting out in another. It may show up in the form of insomnia in one or stomach aches in another. Because of all of these different “shouts for help” coming from our children, there is one new need that children will be suffering from in the future that we should all be aware of and work towards handling so we don’t see a new form of preventable childhood problems.

My focus has always been on the preventive. It is more cost-effective and harmonious for all concerned to prevent a problem rather than ending up with a host of problems that not only torture all involved, but also become very costly to treat.  I urge you to keep this in mind when I communicate the following:

bnbWith the new trend of Stay At Home Dads, largely in part due to our current economic downturn and high rates of unemployment, many Dads are embracing unemployment as a gifted opportunity they never had before. Children are also benefitting from having their fathers more present in their daily lives than any other previous generation in the U.S. (Though many European countries already recognize the importance of Paternal Leave.)

As we witness this beautiful evolution in our fathers, which I see on a daily basis, and most personally, with my own son-in-law right now, many fathers are showing themselves as capable caregivers, and in some respects, even better housekeepers than their wives. I say Hallelujah for this!  When the mother does not have the burden of working, cooking, shopping, caregiving, and housework entirely on her shoulders, she will be more balanced in her own life, and perhaps even more available emotionally and physically to her husband!

However,  just as unplanned suburban sprawl has created numerous unintended consequences to our culture and planet such as isolation, over-consumption of resources and energy, obesity, and addictions, we need to prevent unintended consequences from this current trend in Stay At Home Fathering. We need to have a plan and consider all ramifications before we have a spiraling out-of-control situation that we did not foresee or know how to stop.

There are two specific  issues I am bringing up with this post to consider, regarding this modern day phenomenon:

#1. When fathers are not trained as caregivers from birth as mothers are from generations of gender stereotyping, experience, and role-modeling, it is important they have had good role modeling, and/or training and support in basic healthy practices and effective child rearing methods in order to prevent the further deterioration of our children’s nutritional, emotional, and cognitive states, especially in the U.S. Granted, our children have a  host of problem these days, regardless of who their caregivers have been. However, since most fathers are not known for their focus on nutrition and vegetable consumption, we have the potential of a back slide from the current consciousness we need in this country to get our children back on track with the health, academic, and social skills they need for success in life. We need fathers to adopt and support a set of nutritional standards for their children so their daily care is actually strengthening our bnbj children’s physical health and immune systems.  How about: No foods purchased with sugar and high fructose corn syrup to start with. (Though nothing can replace the fun and satisfaction of a once in a while batch of homemade cookies.) How about focusing on more vegetables in meals. We all know that a large percentage of men, husbands, are not so keen on vegetables. In fact, it is usually a major issue of contention in many families and has affected the family’s nutritional state for generations. So, what will the effect be if our fathers today are the primary caregivers and meal makers, if they lower the vegetable intake of our households when we should be increasing this intake for our overall health.

Of course, there are many Dads who are doing a great job providing the best for their children, but aren’t they the minority? Prove me wrong please, and then I won’t take issue with this point. What I am saying is that if a father is now responsible for the nutritional standards and meals of a household, shouldn’t they be trained and committed to ensuring their children are getting their nutritional needs met? This is yet another case for a return to required Home Economics for all students in the U.S.!

The other consideration of point #1 is boundaries, limits, respect, emotional maturity, and physical exercise (instead of TV, movies, the internet, or video games). I know I am being very general about many things in this post and there are exceptions to every one of my points, but as a rule, we need to look at the majority of households, which will have the largest future impact to society, regardless of exceptions. When a father is caring for his own children all of the above considerations now become his responsibility to provide, along with the other daily needs of his children and household. To do it right, to ensure children have the best chance at success and happiness in life, all caregivers must be more, not less conscious of these aspects of caregiving.  Now is the time for all parents in America to step up; we cannot afford to push back the issues of our children’s physical, emotional, and cognitive health because life has thrown us changes!

Fathers bring many assets to provide our children with these needs. From my experiences, I have seen many fathers actually provide more hands-on opportunities and be more adamant about getting outdoor exercise than some mothers, which I personally believe comes from some genetic intuitiveness. The firmness (not cruelty) that some fathers bring to the table is probably a good thing for most of our children because they need a better foundation of respect for others and more limits to foster their emotional maturity. In this respect and numerous others, children need and benefit from more of their father’s influences, especially if it is firm, loving and infused with clear limits and consequences.

However, when some (not all) current popular father bloggers seek and succeed at high ratings from their witty, clever posts that boast poor parenting practices (Messed-Up Parenting Tips), we see the influences of popular internet culture becoming convoluted and potentially harmful to the future of our children and the idea of Stay At Home Dads, unless we have louder voices of common sense and consciousness prevailing, like the great father blogs like Natural Papa! Of course, I like my own Granny Pants’ Daily Parenting Tips, which always considers the present and future of the child over popular or market-driven trends.

We are stepping into new territory. Child rearing has not been very successful in the U.S. in the last several decades for a variety of reasons. Marketing pressures have influenced parents to choose convenience over what is best. Our current trend of kids raised on TV, DVD’s and video games has led to a country filled with hyperactive, physically unfit, obese, disrespectful, illiterate, depressed, and often violent children. Fathers who are at home with our children now have a new responsibility to embrace the preventive strategies to combat these challenges.

We cannot cvb afford to slip back into a nation of sheep, unconsciously allowing our children to self-medicate through TV, computers, movies and video games. We need fathers to take a stand and ensure they are not a part of the problem. We need fathers to disconnect those DVD players in your SUV! They are making our kids grow up illiterate and unable to communicate with their own parents or others! Their creativity is being extinguished because they have no time to listen to their own inner processes and expand their experience. They are constantly plugged into someone else’s creativity, not developing their own. We need all parents to kick them outside, teach them how to build, garden, paint, hike, explore, swim, care for animals, etc….

And, please teach them respect for others, all life, and compassion!

#2.  This next issue is something I have been pondering for a while. I am not really clear about what the solutions are, but I have some ideas, which are worth considering. Many of my approaches throughout the years, though seemingly radical at the time to others, have slowly become what are recognized as valid and proven preventives through numerous studies. I am heartened by knowing that common sense and pragmatism is seeping back into American culture, however slow it may be.

Have you ever had something you never knew you would like and then you had it, like a chocolate milkshake? (This reminds me of the story The Fonz told Richie when he was explaining to him how divorce’s were used to having sex all of the time because they had been married with easy access.)

This is the potential situation our kids will be in when fathers return to work. There are already fathers that have returned to work and already children dealing with this withdrawal feeling. They may not have been used to having Dad around, then they got used to it, then he left again!

So, how do we handle this emotional void for both Father and Child? We do it consciously. We do it by conversing with children about it, by carving out some very focused father/child time together every week, no matter how busy a schedule may get. With Skype, we can ensure regular communication during long absences, like military families and traveling business people have been using. We also do it by watching for the signs that our children are suffering these losses as in the ones I listed at the beginning of the post.

By all means, it is best for parents not to let guilt drive their responses to a child who is missing him/her.  Guilt is an unhealthy emotion that can lead to permissiveness, especially in inappropriate situations, where structure and limits are needed. Children pick up on and run with a parent’s guilt if they sense it, which can serve to drive even more symptomatic behavior and create a perspective of victimization.  Guilt and blame do not empower a child to deal with a situation. Whether it comes from the absent parent or the parent at home, what children need is adult maturity in these moments.

Honest conversations about changes and feelings are important, expressing that the adults too are missing their children. Working together as a family on healthy responses and solutions teaches a child emotional maturity and resiliency, not victimization.  Adults seeking solutions while expressing empathy are what children need to learn to deal with any loss, change or challenge.

Because a new position or career change can take off like a jet plane, leaving everything else behind, it is extremely important we acknowledge this reality while also acknowledging the need to maintain the investment in our children’s emotional security and maturity so we don’t lose the investments these fathers have already made if and when the family decides that the father take on an outside employment position!

Many baby boomer children and beyond look back and wish they could have had their own fathers more present and active in their lives. Today, so many fathers are realizing this awesome opportunity to do just that. Yet, because we have an unprecedented situation, we need to create a realistic and thoughtful plan. We need to go beyond market driven decisions and popular culture that throws fix-it remedies at parents like a pitcher to a batter. Most remedies strike out for the long haul because they are profit driven and do not consider the future of the child.

AND, many Dads already foresee their own heartache at returning to work and have considered the full-time stay at home alternative. We are at a precipice, a defining moment  in American family life. Let’s have the conversation on these important and valid points. When I see my whiny grandson missing his father, now that he is gone 3 weeks this last trip after months of being at home, when I remember a former employer and his son who used to act out frequently as a result of his father traveling, after seeing his Dad day after day and traveling with him for months, and when I have witnessed hundreds of fatherless children firsthand with their numerous behavioral and emotional problems, I can see the situation repeating from this completely different situation: The Stay At Home Dad Who Was Here Today & Gone Tomorrow

It really is all the same when a child is suffering loss. And toys and gifts and food and money thrown at a kid to soften this absence never fill the emotional void. It takes a conscious father to recognize the needs of his children and himself to make up that time by being present, even for 20 minutes a day or during a weekend excursion. Absolute 100% focused time with a child is 100% appreciated by every child!

What I am saying to all of the fathers out there is “Please don’t let life take over again, leaving your kids on the sidelines.”

And, for mothers and other caregivers, perhaps more hugs, more Mommy time, some male teachers, nannies, or relatives to fill that male void while Dad is gone, and maybe a little more tussle and outdoor play time is also in order!!!!!

For the Dads who choose to stay at home, please recognize this awesome responsibility and find support for making the best choices for your children! Recognize the powerful marketing influences of pop culture and steer clear for your kids sake as well as for your pocketbook! This 5 minute video is worth pondering: (Consuming Kids

Do you have any exemplary or despicable Stay At Home Dad stories to entertain us with? Please share them here with other readers in the comment section!

Are you a Stay At Home Dad by choice or necessity? Will choose to stay at home for a while or will you leave for a better paying position? Why do you enjoy staying home with your kids? 

Granny Pants

http://TheNewPhysicsofChildhood.com

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Part 1- A Finnish Christmas Dream Come True

I can’t stand it another minute! I cannot bear to wait to share the perfection of these moments with anyone and everyone. I am in the midst of the picture perfect Finnish Christmas that one could only dream of experiencing. With my own Finnish family roots, I feel as if I am capturing a slice of culture to pass on as I take in every precious moment.

A Finnish Christmas 2009

The beautiful view from the kitchen table

After a 5 hour train ride to the North East of Finland, we are staying in the family home where my dear friend’s Grandfather was born. It was once a very large estate, but now it is smaller, only about 42 hectares (1 hectare is about 2.471 acres).

I am surrounded by snowy, tree filled landscape, ancient outbuildings and the most endearing brick oven which we are going to bake our traditional Finnish Rye Bread today.

This bread is from a sourdough starter that has been kept alive in the family for three generations! We are following the very calculated three -day process to

Traditional Oven

Traditional Finnish stove and oven

 bake it.

With all of this and more, I am so overwhelmed by this perfect and blessed moment in my life that I cannot possibly recall everything. I am too busy enjoying it, which is what I should be doing.

Anyone who knows my history of bread baking knows this is absolute ecstasy for me to be a part of this experience! I will be posting the entire bread baking process with the recipe once we are finished, but until then, I just pray that we will be able to pull it off! Just for a taste of what we have taken on, here is a picture of the 5 gallon bucket we are using to mix the dough for 8 loaves:

finnish sourdough starter

The Ancient Family Sourdough Starter in the 5 gallon bucket

Just had to post a note and will continue to do so as the opportunity arises. Between sick babies, cooking, rearranging the house, preparing for Christmas, and baking this bread, I am in a place called Finnish Christmas Heaven! All I need is Santa Claus and my own loved ones to make this dream complete.

This is the only way to travel! How could you ever understand a culture otherwise than by living in the moments amidst the families that are a part of it?

The snow has started to fall quick thickly again and I have to get to work! Merry Christmas!!!!!

The view from my bedroom window

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CONFESSIONS OF A FIRST TIME AUTHOR

It has been made extremely clear by those who are closest to me that I need to share my process of writing, publishing, and promoting to people who share my obsession with these subjects. Though no one has actually said this to me directly, I can tell by the questions that have stopped being asked about “my book,” the quickness in the change of subject when I mention “my book,” and the relief we all feel when we are talking about something else other than “my book.”

Ahhhh!!!!!! Am I the only one who gets sick of conversations about “my book” at the same time I feel the satisfaction of self-indulgence?

This is a confession of sorts. I know I have neglected my own family in the process of publishing this first book, which I suppose is quite normal. I qualify this obsessive behavior because I realize a degree of tunnel vision and consuming behavior is necessary to produce any project, whether it is building a home, starting a business, or starting a family. Writing a book is similar and requires intense focus and dedication. It requires ignoring dusty corners, dirty laundry, and old leftovers in the refrigerator. I think a first book requires that one not get derailed by the lives of others, because as many writers have experienced, getting derailed is quite easy. How many years do people dream of writing a book or completing their first book, but never get there because we do get derailed by getting involved in the lives of our loved ones, by being there when people need us. There is always something pending that takes precedent over writing, editing, re-writing, and editing some more. Derailment is both the savior and saboteur of the unsuccessful writer.

But, now that my book is published, it is time to move on. Now it is time to talk to my family about more than “my book” after three years of devoted listening. Now is the time for me to be there for them when they need me, both physically and emotionally. I want to hear more about their lives and about what is important to them, even though I still do have the deep need to share my process with someone who will listen.

So, with this blog, I give my entire family an eternal break from the day-to-day mundane, exciting, and often gut-wrenching details involved in writing. I am grateful for their support and their indulgence while I incubated and finally birthed this new life for myself, the life I have always dreamed of and visualized.

However, the biggest confession I have to make about the experience of writing my first book is that while my husband has been the most patient and supportive throughout my entire process, admittedly, the events of the past years due to the economy and my obsession to complete my book has changed our relationship. After grieving these changes, I acknowledge the gratitude for him in my life and his support and our connection in life, no matter where our lives may lead in the future. This may sound callous to be so matter-of-fact about this subject but after a lifetime of traumatic events, I have had to learn to roll with the changes. This is the only way not to let them take over my life and fill it with daily suffering. Life is too important to wallow in what could have been. I have learned to accept what I have been given and love all of those in my life along the way, even though how we are connected may change.

Catharsis, the honest expression of what is real for me has become the essence of my inspiration. Being safe is boring. The most exhilarating moments I have experienced have been while speaking to groups of people, sharing the frank, somewhat provocative and inspiring reflections from my life experiences. These experiences somehow link us all together because I am not the only one who has suffered through the school of hard knocks and picked myself up again. We gain strength from being surrounded with resiliency.

Most recently, at my 2nd book signing at Underground Books in Sacramento, California, I found myself in front of a group of people, most of whom I did not know. I was so grateful for each person that turned out for this event because it was a cold, dreary, rainy day in a city where people really don’t really know me, not even when I was living there. The discussion format of the event was perfectly suited to my open nature and the exchange was a spontaneous dance, leaving us all satisfied when it was over. I knew I was in the right place doing the right thing; just another affirmation that all of my former steps in life had been perfectly placed to lead me to this moment.

After the fulfillment of that event, there is no going back for me now. If I had any thoughts that I should give up on this dream of mine and get a “real job”, I erased them that afternoon.

Writing is a way to create a lasting record of those conversations, even though it requires much more patience, perseverance, and perfection than I ever imagined! I hope to find a way to integrate the spontaneous exhilaration of those live exchanges into more of my future published products, which is probably why blogging satisfies me.

Blogging and posting to others blogs gives me the platform and satisfaction of spontaneous expression while encompassed in the grueling work of writing an entire book. I love living between the evolving ethos of cyberspace and the permanency of the printed page. It is time to embrace all that I have been given without apologies, for this is who I am!

As I deal with jet lag this week from Helsinki, I am finding that blogging is even a better 4am friend than I had ever realized, but I need to make sure that it doesn’t become another derailment to my next project. While I hunker down to start the research on my next book, I know I need to focus, but it still feels good to get out my thoughts of the day.

I sold my first book in Finland yesterday! Yes, it was to a friend, but a sale nevertheless! I consider each and every book I share with the world a fulfillment of my mission, whether I know the person or not. I have to admit though that I do want to know that they are actually reading the book! I don’t to sell, but to share information. There are much easier ways to make a living, but very few compare to the feeling of having a book in print to share with others.

I pray that the Finnish community, with their pragmatic sensibilities, will embrace the messages in this book, which also embrace the best of their own constant cultural influences, while cautioning against the take over of modern life as it relates to their infants, children and teenagers. No matter where we are on the planet today, children are influenced by technology, which has its wonderful advantages. However, we also need to ensure that technology maintains its proper place and does not replace the deeper needs of the community members, whether they exist in cyberspace or just around the corner.

6:45am…time to get some sleep. Are you a writer of books, blogs, etc.? Have you found that blogging spares your loved ones from obsessive thoughts and midnight musings? Is this is a universal experience or do other writers find it easier to refrain from self-absorbed conversations about their books, especially first books and just prior to the publishing process. Who do you talk to about all of these details without boring them to death?

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KEN BURNS’ BEST IDEA

Yes! I am one of those reignited Americans.

After watching Ken Burns’ deeply resonating and extremely patriotic documentary on the history of America’s National Parks, “America’s Best Idea”, I have renewed passion for our National Treasures. Through tears and laughter and constant gratitude, I watched this indepth historical journey. I reflected on my own experiences with our National Parks and imagined those to come. As a child I grew up with memories of a very few, yet significant family camping trips. My grandparents were more equipped than us to do such a thing; their old family movies include reels and reels of family camping and fishing trips on lakes and campgrounds along the Pacific Coast. When I became a mother, I exposed my own children to the beautiful Colorado Rocky naturescapes and the Pacific Coastal wonders as much as I could. An innate feeling that nature is healing and necessary has always been a part of me. Perhaps my early park experiences helped to shape this idea.

After my children were grown, I made it a point to visit some of the National Parks I had never been able to visit before. The first time to Yosemite was an absolute epiphany.

The Breathtaking Yosemite Valley

The Breathtaking Yosemite Valley

I had traveled the world prior and frequently met other international travelers that asked me about Yosemite. Apologetically, I confessed I had never been.  One year, at the last minute on an unexpected free weekend, I decided to find out what all of the fuss was about. I also decided not to buy into Yosemite’s 6-month reservation calendar because my life could not accomodate long range plans like this. And as was my nature (a quality I hope to never lose), I just packed up a sleeping bag, some food, a flashlight, my journal, a knife and headed for the Yosemite Valley.

Half Dome

Half Dome

When I first entered the park, after gasping at the spectacular views, I found myself at the base of Half Dome, observing a mountain climber, along with about 50 other tourists. At this moment, still without a campsite for the night, I met a woman from New Zealand who was then living in Sedona. She, like me had also left for her Yosemite adventure without reservations. We buddied up and found a campsite right at dusk. This woman had come all the way to Yosemite to see a bear! She told me she had dreamt of coming to Yosemite to see a bear her entire life. I told her not to wish for that because it could mean trouble, though secretly, like all Yosemite or Yellowstone tourists, I wished to see a bear too!

 

Young Bear Yosemite- from Flickr Photo stream: StartAgain

Young Bear Yosemite- from Flickr Photo stream: StartAgain

While we were preparing the site for our dinner in the pitch black of the full-to-capacity campground, I suddenly heard this woman talking to someone. When I looked up, I saw her running through the campground with her flashlight after a young, adolescent sized black bear! As she ran after it, she was calling out for it to come to her like someone would call a dog. The bear must of thought this woman was as crazy as she was and it most assuredly escaped her madness with success. After he got away, we laughed at the story that we both knew would become a part of our individual Yosemite history. My other memories of Yosemite during that first visit were more introspective than the drama of a bear sighting so I will not recount them. There are just some things to keep to yourself. This Spring, I introduced the magic of Yosemite to my husband as well. It is a thrill to relive your own first time as you watch the eyes of a person seeing the Yosemite Valley for their first time. Yosemite was a birthday present with timeless value.

 

Tranquility

Tranquility

Most recently this past week, for the first time in years, I went camping at a small lake near Lake Tahoe with my daughter and my grandson. We camped for the better part of five days right next to the tranquil lakefront where we fished from our raft. We hiked to the top of a mountain where we saw a bald eagle protecting it’s young in a treetop nest; we roasted marshmallows; we gazed at the magnificent Milky Way Galaxy in awe of how miniscule our moments really are on this planet in the scheme of the life of the universe; we listened to nothing, to the stillness, to the birds and the chipmunks playing chase with our dog. We reveled in the gifts that nature offers us without asking anything in return, other than to protect it. We did this without cell phones or internet and we survived! Yes, after watching Ken Burns’ fabulous documentary following this most recent camping trip, I have a renewed commitment to ensure I do not deprive myself of these gifts of scenery and solitude I am so blessed to have-like every other American! Our state and national parks are ours only because of the tireless dedication of the many individuals that fought to preserve them during the last century. They fought to protect and maintain their beauty for us to enjoy.

Each park has it’s heroes and most importantly, the President of the era, who also understood the need to protect our National Treasures. I feel newly blessed to be able to live in the United States and to have the freedom to visit these glorious monuments of nature whenever I choose. I promise to always do my best to explore another park I haven’t seen, and to continue to share these parks with others who haven’t experienced the euphoria they offer.

We owe it to our children and grandchildren to share these blessings, whether we enjoyed them as children or not. In a down economy, or during a period of unemployment, what better gift to give our families than the peace, tranquility, and awesome magnificence that transcends momentary challenges. What better, economical gifts are there than those gifts that our natural world offers to us. Create your own stories, share these parks with your own children, Fall, Winter, Spring, and Summer. No matter what is going on in the planet, we still have our National Parks! Thank you Ken Burns for reminding us how absolutely blessed we all are as Americans, how reverent we owe ourselves to be for these gifts, and how those with persistence and vision beyond the moment have given us these timeless legacies. I wish every single American could watch this documentary from beginning to end. It is some of our most important national history to be learned and preserved. http://www.pbs.org/nationalparks/

THANK YOU KEN BURNS! THIS DOCUMENTARY ON THE HISTORY OF OUR NATIONAL PARKS WAS YOUR BEST IDEA!

Most Gratefully,

Granny Pants

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Twitter: Value or Vanity?

twitter bird iconWhy do I Twitter?

This is the question each Twitter user will eventually ask when they come to the crossroads of either adopting or dropping Twitter as a way of life. We all know the following: The ‘new toy’ syndrome is short lived if the function does not bring value or satisfaction. Early adopters will try just about anything if they can see value and potential, while at the same time popular culture will try just about everything because everyone else is doing it. Both will drop a new ‘trend’ just ask quickly as they adopt it if there is no lasting value.

I think I fit into the former category. However, because I am not a ‘techie’ I study new trends before I adopt a new habit, so perhaps I fit into a middle category. Regardless, I took my time to step into the world of Twitter.

The thought of another social networking site filled with boring narratives about mundane activity did not stimulate or inspire me. Who cares what we are doing from moment to moment? For me, these endless vacant narratives are the epitomy of narcissism and an endless pit of wasted time.

I didn’t need time wasters. I needed value before I would become a ‘user’. I also wanted to make sure I would be providing value to others. I wanted to make sure I would actually have something to say if people followed me and that I was not just taking up cyberspace or just another notch on a member’s Twitter tree.

Initially, when I entered the Twitter world, I was seduced by the ‘recommended’ list of people to follow, but this list proved to be boring and unrelated to who I am-regardless of the lure of  ‘celebrity Twitter potential’. Celebrity does not impress me unless there is philanthropic or inspirational value to the twitters of the celebrity, little of which was occurring in the celebrity twitters I explored.

After a seemingly futile first attempt at finding value in Twitter, I realized I could discover on a daily basis what the people I was interested in were doing, thinking, acting on, and recommending.

The doors of Twitter opened. Following the thoughts of the creative minds and innovative leaders of our time was the song that spoke to me. Now I am an official Twitter user. Perhaps what is evolving for middle of the road users like myself is a new level of social networking that moves from narcissism and the mundane to an ability to reach others of like mind with a more efficient model. This is what I have found social networking to offer. I admit that I am a late bloomer like many of my same-age peers because now, I find myself excited about the potential of this phenomenon called social networking. The evolution of this discovery came in waves and has gone something like this:

My politically active spirit wanted to know what our new mayor of Sacramento, Kevin Johnson was up to every day! What is he really doing to improve our city’s image, economy, and quality of life? What is Gavin Newsom really up to in his race to Governor? Is his platform consistent with his SF mayorship? What is Jerry Brown doing with his time as California’s Attorney General? Is he focused on the governorship, or is he doing his job? What is the real future of the GOP up to, meaning Meghan McCain? Even though I am a Democrat, I believe Meghan McCain is the only current hope for the Republican party to gain the moderate Republican and youth vote. She exhibits common sense and hasn’t jumped on the irrational and hateful bandwagon that has recently hijacked the GOP.

Twitter gives me answers to these political questions on a daily basis.

And for a creative spirit that loves to be inspired, I follow ‘Etsy’ and other fun sites that update me on the latest creative inventions in DIY ideas.

Social networking entrepreneurs inform me on current trends and beneficial tech. functions that have the potential to enhance my business. Yes, Twitter has become a marketplace in many respects. The difference is that we choose who we market to and who markets to us. There is mutual agreement.

The eternal hunger to have an input system of media checks and balances sent me in search of ‘my’ reliable media sources on Twitter like DemocracyNow.org, Tavis Smiley, Treehugger (recognized by a Webby nomination in 2009), and whitehouse.gov (for the entire uncut, unfiltered version of our President’s speeches). Through Twitter I receive regular updates about newsworthy events that may never make it to mainstream television or popular internet media! The sites I have chosen to follow save me time; their ‘tweets’ dial in what I really want to know about: the behind the scenes events and activities of our time.

Then, there are those who are living a like-minded reality to mine. Many environmentally and socially conscious people and organizations have worthy businesses, blogs, and products that offer solutions for children, families, and global culture. By following these people on Twitter, I consider myself a helpful catalyst for their success while I continue to inform myself through their perspectives and industry progress. ( http://twitter.com/CWAE , http://twitter.com/askthedoula , http://canadian-natural-mama.blogspot.com/ ,  http://twitter.com/greenOD ,  http://twitter.com/Unnecesarean  are a few of my faves. ) Though as with everything, I found out through trial and error that there is a filtering process to following anyone if you want to prevent corporate driven information!  I learned to block people who were just interested in marketing to me or increasing their follower base. I learned to use key words and my own filtering methods to find like-minded users.

Today, Twitter has become a way for me to create my own media site in real time that is faster and richer than Facebook.  I receive the news and ideas on innovation that I want to hear, not what a corporation wants to feed me. I decide who I trust to give me information.

Twitter has given me more control over the media and information I am exposed to by my own design and I like it!

I spend less time on fruitless, mindless browsing as a result. I am more productive and more informed about what I care about, but I had to figure out how to actually make Twitter reflect my values before this value showed up!

OKAY, this does sound like a Twitter Promo, doesn’t it? I guess it’s just my way of saying Hooray! What could have been a fleeting trend has actually turned out to be a useful tool. This post will probably not change the minds of any current tweeters or savvy social networkers, but perhaps it will give the sceptics a different view of Twitter possibilities. For those who continue to use Twitter as a platform for the mundane,  C’est la vie!

Good luck in finding your own social networking value. If you are curious, you can check out who I follow on Twitter (which interestingly, are very different from my Facebook friends) @ http://twitter.com/GrannyPants. Some of those I follow have very informative twitters, others are merely a connection to maintain, but most importantly, all are by choice!

Christina Ivazes

a.k.a. Granny Pants

Disclaimer: I am not affiliated and have not been paid or rewarded by any entity of Twitter in any way. I also reserve the right to use Twitter as a platform for the mundane if I so choose.

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