Monday, March 26, 2012

Principal Smith is Always Watching

It recently came to my attention - aka I got in trouble by the principal - that Daisy had 16 tardies to school in a quarter. I knew she was late because I was there, but I didn’t realize there were so many times.

For us, morning isn’t just a time of day; it's a journey with fire-breathing dragons and damsels in distress. The kids are still adjusting to the divorce. Violet said recently, “I jus wanna be a reguwar famwe.” I told her there’s no such thing as regular, and even if there was, we are every bit as regular as the next family.

Violet is still struggling with the realization that there have to be kindergartens in this world, and she only gets dinner with her mama twice a week. Sometimes, morning is all we’ve got. I have decided I’d rather be a few minutes late than scream at Violet until my eyeballs pop out of my head while she curls up on the floor, civil disobedience style, refusing to get dressed. When I'm dealing with Violet, Daisy pauses from fighting with her sister just long enough to stand in as her defense attorney or counsel me on my approach.

And that’s my cue to remind Daisy that she is the daughter and therefore not responsible for defending or parenting her sister. I am all about nipping that codependent tendency in the bud, and it brings out the wild-eyed mother lectures, “You are the kid. Give it up! Hand it over! You are NOT responsible for taking care of the family!”

On one tense morning, Daisy stormed out of the car when we arrived to school, refusing to speak to me. Later, her teacher expressed concern that she came to class so upset and unable to work. Overall, Daisy is doing much better – academically and socially. We just haven’t mastered our morning routine, and when I say we, I mean Violet. Which really means it’s all my fault.

So I told the girls the principal is watching us and we are in trouble, starting many a paranoid discussion of when the principal might be able to see them and how. It’s helping – we’ve been getting to school on time.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Bindy, I'm Not a Giver Upper

So Bindy's response to my last post wasn't the most encouraging.

Hey, just read your post.  At least the videos I forward are light-hearted (except for the accident, sorry about that.)  I’m against moms, and I’m against peace, so I’m not your woman.  But yes, Diablo power plant is in SLO, and it is a lovely facility.  You can tour it next time you visit.

On a different note:
My dad will be here on the 4th of July, but I really still want people to come down!  I (censored), and he was ok with that.  So…………..


That's OK, Bindy. I NEVER give up on the first try. Unless it's sports.


How can you be against moms and peace? can't you go to just one event??? puh-leeeze?

how are you by the way. long time, no talk. let's talk soon. don't have my phone today...


See? I'm going to TALK to her about getting involved with Mothers for Peace. She loves it when I call her. Because, it never happens. And as soon as I replace my phone, I'm going to be calling her all over the place. I might even agree to spend the 4th of July with her AND her father.

About the phone.

I knew I had it in my hand when I got Daisy and Violet to the car this morning. I thought I must have left it at home when I was at work. But, it was nowhere to be found tonight, so I used the phone locator and it was found at the side of the road about a mile away from my apartment. It apparently flew off the roof of my car this morning on the way to drop off the kids with their dad.

This is where it gets weird, Bindy. My broken phone was IN FRONT of the Quaker Church. Where those meetings are held. The ones I said I'd go to when you get busy with the Mothers for Peace. Just keep it in the back of your mind.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Dear Bindy, I have an idea

But before I tell you what my idea is, you have to watch this video first. Don't even complain. I watched a movie-length video of a cat and bird today because of you, and I'm still haunted by that awful car accident you sent me a few days ago.

I was surprised to learn that you live relatively close to the Diablo Canyon Nuclear Power Plant. Your town is my vacation spot for life, and I have to say I'm feeling a little paranoid and also concerned.

So the mission I have for you if you choose to accept . . .

Try to keep an open mind . . .

Maybe you could bring a friend . . . or your daughter . . .

Mothers for Peace.

Get Involved!
Become an Ambassador for the Mothers for Peace
Since 1973, the San Luis Obispo Mothers for Peace has played a unique role in the struggle to assure that Diablo Canyo
  1. Donate money to help with the costs of legal intervention.
  2. Volunteer to help with fund-raising and event-planning. Such volunteers would not be expected to attend general meetings or to become experts on technical or legal issues.
  3. Invite a spokesperson from Mothers for Peace to come and speak at your book club, service organization, or any group that would be interested. Contact: Jane Swanson, 595-2605 or
  4. Share your concerns about nuclear power with your friends and let them know why you are a supporter of Mothers for Peace. Hand them a brochure or direct them to the website:
  5. Consider planned giving. Mothers for Peace is a partner of Leave a Legacy on the Central Coast, and there is much helpful information about how to make provisions in estate planning at the website:
Individuals can make a difference. Become a part of our efforts to preserve and protect the Earth.

Contact the Mothers for Peace regarding further information, future meetings, or to be added to the mailing, e-mail, and/or telephone lists.n Nuclear Power Plant operates as safely as possible and that the radioactive waste is safeguarded during the millennia it will remain radioactive. This group of local citizens has obtained the services of the best attorneys and expert witnesses in the nation, and it uses the available legal processes to hold the Nuclear Regulatory Commission accountable for protecting public health and safety in accordance with the laws and mandates of Congress.

Mothers for Peace believes that we owe it to future generations and to the environment to continue this role of nuclear guardianship.

Here are several ways you can assist the Mothers for Peace and serve as Ambassadors to educate others in the community.

Be honest, Bindy . . . what are you thinking right now? Are you into it? I know we don't have time for this, but aren't you curious to check out these mothers? And then, you can write about how freaking awesome the organization is and how it changed your life and what we can do to help.

What's to lose?

And while you do that, I'm going to figure out a way to check out this. Right now, their meeting times conflict with my work schedule. But how can we ever make the earth safer if we're going to let a few scheduling conflicts stop us?

Remember the earth tattoo. Enough said.

One more video.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Leadership, Please

My concern about radiation stemmed from an irregularity in my 8-year-old's thyroid that we learned about after her hair started to fall out in the fall. After a couple blood tests, it was determined that she is OK now, but her thyroid needs to be monitored. Let me clarify that there is a genetic predisposition to hypothyroidism in my family, so I am not suggesting that her situation is at all related to radiation from the 3.11 nuclear meltdown. However, as I researched what this means and why it happens, I kept running into information about the link between nuclear radiation and thyroid disorders, Fukushima and the state of U.S. nuclear power plants, the outlook for residents of Japan who have been exposed to nuclear radiation and the controversy around how this is being handled by the government and the media.

I'm slow on the news uptake, but I was stunned to learn some people are denying there even is a problem with being exposed to the current radiation levels in Eastern Japan. I would have to say it's one of those issues that I would prefer to stay on the safest, most not-radiation side. And, how could anyone disagree with that?

from Fukushima Victimization 2.0

The pacifying statement that most outraged local [Fukushima] citizens was in a public presentation by Dr. Shunichi Yamashita who ended his presentation on the threats of radiation to a community meeting with the statement that:

“Conclusion: A small radiation is good for your health.

There are two sides to radiation.

Small dose: Like an angel’s smile (even at 50 millisieverts/year)

Large dose in short time: Like a devil’s violence.

From now on, the number of cancer patients in Fukushima will decrease.

Food items with a small amount of radiation will fetch ‘premium.’

Fukushima Prefecture will be the Number One health land in Japan, and people will flock to Fukushima.

Our future is bright.”

Public outrage over the comments of Dr. Yamashita led the later resignation from his position as a radiological health safety risk advisor to the Fukushima prefectural government. Yamashita was later to explain that the people of Fukushima were suffering from “radiophobia.” He framed his statements as efforts to support public health, claiming that, “The mood of the people was really depressed. From animal experiments with rats we clearly know that animals who are very susceptible to stress will be more affected by radiation. Stress is not good at all for people who are subjected to radiation. Besides, mental-state stress also supresses the immune system and therefore may promote some cancer and non-cancer diseases. That is why I told people that they also have to relax.”


Here in Japan there has been a campaign to support the small farmers and fisherfolk of Tohoku by buying food from the affected region. Former Washington Post Tokyo correspondent Paul Blustein has written that he and his wife enthusiastically feed their family food from Fukushima: “Let me explain why my wife and I have no reservations about eating Fukushima food and feeding it to our sons, who are 8 and 10….The amounts of radiation that would endanger one’s health, we’ve come to realize, are way above the levels that anyone living a normal life in the Tokyo area could plausibly encounter from Fukushima-related causes. About a third of Japanese die of some form of cancer — roughly the same as in other advanced countries — and the chances increase by 0.5 percent for people exposed to an annual cumulative total of 100 millisieverts, according to widely accepted calculations by scientists.” This has led Blustein to bemoan earlier this month that, “It’s distressing that visceral fear is trumping rational thought, especially since such attitudes could dash hopes for recovery among the hundreds of thousands of disaster victims. Saddest of all are signs that people in the northeast may be cracking under the strain.” Presumably he means the strain of “radiophobia” and not believing the same “experts” in a very contentious scientific disagreement that he does.

More here.

Here are other perspectives that I pray are wrong. I'm serious . . . if you pray, however you pray, and whoever you pray to, let's go. And, if you're not big on praying, how about some leadership? Where is the objective research? What steps can be taken to help people and minimize the human and environmental toll? This Arnie Gunderson sounds pretty good. He's taken it upon himself to get the word out. What's the plan, Gunderson?

from Nuclear Expert: Fukushima 10 Times Worse Than Chernobyl - 1 Million Cancers

While many think they are out of the woods in respect to the Fukushima nuclear meltdown, the disaster may not even have started and that has sent nuclear expert Arnie Gundersen on a personal quest to raise the alarm to residents in Japan.


He says that the people in Tokyo should not feel safe simply because no one has confirmed to have been killed from the radiation due to the fact that it takes an extended amount of time for cancer to develop and start showing up as an anomaly in populations.


Gundersen on Fukushima vs Chernobyl
  • Chernobyl was a single reactor running at about 7 percent capacity when ruptured
  • [Fukushima] had three reactors running at 100 percent capacity and seven other reactors with spent fuel pools that were crippled
  • Chernobyl stopped releasing radioactive material after about two weeks [...] this is not the case at Fukushima one year on

And from other sources but in the same post:

According to a report from Reuters, residents are shoveling radioactive topsoil from their lawns and dumping it into forests, parks and streams in an attempt to protect themselves from high levels of radiation. Reuters quotes one resident as saying a Geiger counter measured radiation levels of 10 microsieverts per hour being emitted from the topsoil in her lawn.


According to the article, the study revealed that 45% of the children surveyed in the Fukushima prefecture had already suffered thyroid radiation exposure by the time the survey was completed at the end of March [2011]. The survey found levels up to an equivalent of a 50 millisieverts per year of thyroid radiation exposure for 1 year olds. To put that in perspective, the US has an annual radiation exposure limit of 4 millisieverts per year in drinking water for adults.


Fukushima nuclear power plant radiation recordings of external gamma radiation have been so high this week, they went off scale said veteran nuclear expert Arnie Gundersen on Thursday after the famous physicist, Dr. Chris Busby told the Japanese people this week that radioactive air contamination there now is 300 times that of Chernobyl and 1000 times the atomic bomb peak in 1963, possibly inferring that hundreds of millions of people are now dying from Fukushima radiation, including people in the United States.

If noticing unusual amounts of hair falling out, confusion, nose bleeds or other odd symptoms typical of radiation sickness, it might be due to the United States record high levels of radiation, now multiple times acceptable safety limits not only on the west coast, but also in other locations around the nation.

Because Fukushima radiation data retrieval and interpretation has been so complex or non-existent for the concerned public, citizen reporters in Japan and United States have now established easily accessible ways to view radiation levels on the internet.

More here.

Here is one of the radiation monitoring sites, the Radiation Network, organized by citizens.

Saturday, March 10, 2012


With downtime in the last two weeks, I've read a lot about the 3.11 earthquake and a year of its effects. A year is no time. We are still on the mountain, so to speak. It will take years to get off the mountain and far enough away to be able to survey it in its entirety.

I’ve tried to imagine how many lives is 20,000. I’m not big picture; I’m always drawn to the details, in this case, the individual stories of those who left life so immediately and those who must live with their ghosts. The 3.11 Portrait Project was created to offer hope to the people still living in shelters or temporary housing.

The 3.11 Portrait Project is a project supporting Great Eastern Japan Earthquake recovery with the participation of photographers from different fields, hair & makeup artists, [and] models . . . What they witnessed – people who had shutdown emotionally from suffering opening up a little each time a shutter was pressed. People overcome with joy over photographs they picked up out of the dirt. Middle-aged women who seemed to brightly laugh off even unprecedented hardship. The photographers and volunteers who witnessed this asked their colleagues, “Will you work with us to shoot photographs of the victims?”

The members …reveal their individuality against a common white backdrop. The only things present there are the feelings of the subject and the person taking the photograph. They feel that photography’s intrinsic “preservation” and “communication” functions will prevent this disaster from being forgotten, and that photography moves people and has the power to change grief into smiles. And in front of them, the photographers have the optimistic, I’m-not going-to-let-this-beat-me attitude of the people who have come forward to be their subjects. We would like others to experience their spirit . .


 --from the 3.11 Portrait Project website

I can't help but relate to any tragedy as a mother, but all children are our children. Borders are meaningless in the face of earthquakes, tsunamis, and nuclear meltdowns. The fact of whether or not you’ve reproduced doesn’t matter. The thousand daily choices we make as adults, our collective solutions to large-scale problems, the issues we ignore, are the legacy of our children.  And I say that more as a reminder to myself than anything. I used disposable sandwich bags in my kids' lunches recently, I still have no regular news source, and until last week, I didn't know there was a nuclear power plant in Central California. There's no excuse.

Strong Children is a continuing collaborative art project by English artist Geoff Read. His work as a co-artist aims to give children experiencing difficult circumstances - of any kind - a way of expressing and communicating their thinking and feeling to a wider audience. At the time the triple disaster of 11th March 2011 struck he had been living in Fukushima prefecture with his 8-year-old son for two years. Six months and a flood later, the family self-evacuated to Kyoto prefecture.

The images are designed and made by the children as much as possible, with words too if they wish. First they make a small sketch of their idea, and once we have understood each other, they draw or paint their picture, then I put their portrait into it according to their instructions. Sometimes I do their portrait then they draw around it. They choose the pose, facial expression, colour and feeling. It is a collaborative process, but they are the boss. I try and help them realise their idea, and do what they tell me . . .

"I painted a picture of flying on clouds. I am flying with dogs. I wish I could fly."

Kurumi is 7 and lives in Koriyama, Fukushima, Japan.

Her situation:
The levels of radiation in Koriyama are so high that most parents and schools are not allowing children to play outside at all, even though soil has been removed from many school grounds. They wear long sleeves and face masks when outside, and avoid the rain. They try to be careful about food and water. Koriyama is a city of 340,000 people 60km west of Fukushima Daiichi.


Ami is 10 and lives in Yanaizu, Fukushima prefecture.

Her situation:
As well as living with the nuclear accident of 11th March 2011, which is still ongoing, a few weeks after this drawing was made it was reported on TV that 640 tons of highly radioactive sewage waste from Koriyama had been secretly dumped near her village against the wishes of the council.Then on 29th July, a major flood hit the valley.

He is 10 and lives in Yanaizu, Fukushima prefecture.

His writing on the picture says "Now the earth is anxious and troubled. What can we do about it?!"

His situation:
As well as living with the nuclear accident of 11th March 2011, a few weeks after this drawing was made it was reported on TV that 640 tons of highly radioactive sewage waste from Koriyama had been secretly dumped near his village against the wishes of the council.Then on 29th July, a major flood hit the valley.

--from the Strong Children Japan blog

Friday, March 9, 2012


Five-year-old Violet has discovered writing as an outlet. I couldn’t be happier, because, let me tell you, that kid is frustrated. She’s been talking a lot about the divorce again. And, I’m on my second week of homerest. I’m not sure if you’re familiar with the reaction little kids have to a sick mother, but they typically join the rebel army in the face of weakness.

Here’s an example of what I’m dealing with. On Monday, thinking I might be returning to work the next day, I took Daisy on a thrift store tour in search of a Princess Di-esque gown. She’s going to be Diana for a live wax museum the third graders put on at her school.  Of course, Violet was along for the shopping, which meant I would be purchasing two evening gowns. Little Violet found the dress she wanted at our first stop. I was firm, “If you get this now, when sister finds hers, you won’t get another one.” She agreed, but I knew I was a sucker.

A few stops later, Violet was pissed when she saw the sparkly off-the-shoulder gown her older sister was smiling about, “It’s not fai-yah! I hate you sis!” As I was paying, Violet took off in a huff out of the shop. We ran after her. Then she realized . . . why run from your problems when you can attack your sister? She did a tight U-turn and came at her sister with fists flying. Family streetfighter style, I blocked her and grabbed her as she fell backwards. She howled in frustration as I carried her to the car. It was the worst case of dress envy I’ve ever seen.

The kid’s got feelings she doesn’t know what to do with. I recognized a teachable moment after another recent sister altercation at home that ended with Violet punching her sister on the side of the head. I sent her to her/our room, and she grabbed poster paper, markers, and tape on the way in.

Let me translate.

Everyone hates me. Nobody likes me. Nobody understands me. Nobody come in.

When we debriefed, I gave her props for writing about her feelings. Obviously, she needs to write in her journal instead of punching her sister. Per Daisy’s counselor’s recommendation, the kids write me notes in their journals, which I read and respond to.  The journals are meant to be a place to put their concerns and questions they might be hesitant to address with me directly. So far, Violet has used her journal only to express her mama love.

The evening of the Princess Di dress incident, Violet brought me her journal when we got home. I was putting my feet up, spent from a long and unexpectedly painful doctor’s appointment earlier in the day followed by an afternoon of rebellion and dinner that began with another meltdown.

Violet wasn’t a fan, “I don wan dat in my love book.” OK, well, don’t act like a maniac. I took her on my lap and hugged her tight. Even though she’s a fighter, she’s mostly a lover. She eats this stuff up . . .

Sunday, March 4, 2012


I’ve been on doctor-prescribed homerest for the last week. On Monday, I discovered my blood pressure was out of control. For a couple weeks, I had been battling a constant headache, exhausted, with dizzy spells. I don’t like to be slowed down, so I hit a wall and slid to the floor before I called my doctor . . . um, I think I need to come in now.

I’ve actually been proud of what I’ve managed on my heaping plate of responsibilities. There was a time several months ago when I kept thinking: I’ve got to get organized. And then, I did pretty well. I whipped my apartment into shape, I got the kids on a better routine, I could give people rides without embarrassing myself with the interior of my car, and I was managing a hefty share of duties. Sure, I didn’t sleep, but at least I exercised . . . a little. The first sign of trouble was the floating smurf collection I discovered in my center console on the way to work: where did those smurfs come from, and what are they floating in? Then, the growing wave of obligations crashed over me, and I found myself sitting amidst piles of laundry that I couldn’t be sure were clean or dirty with a view of days of kitchen mess. Because of work or just being overwhelmed and bone tired, I couldn’t get myself off the couch after getting the kids to bed. The kids were good sports about it, going from one laundry pile to the next, “Mom, have you seen my pants?”

So, I went on a third blood pressure med and am trying an anxiety med for the first time. Immediately, I felt the effects of the new meds, especially the Zoloft. It feels like a reunion with serotonin, which as my friend Dr. Bindy explained, means I probably had an imbalance. (She says she’s not a doctor but she stayed at a Holiday Inn Express once; I’m not sure what that means either.) Anyway, a week of rest, partly without kids, has been soothing, healing, wonderful. And I’m hoping to get clearance from my doctor to go back to work on Tuesday.

But there’s a larger issue I need to address, which is the need to take care of myself for the long haul. I live in the middle of anti-Western medicineland, so I’m fully aware of the limits and side effects of a drug like Zoloft. I believe that right now, it’s a good move, but long term, for my particular situation, I need to focus on lifestyle changes. My goal is to get down to no more than one prescription for blood pressure.

Sleep is huge.  Too often, I’ve been running around on four to five hours. Food is also critical. A surprising side effect of the Zoloft, at least in the first week, is I don’t think about food; I have no cravings. It’s allowed me to be very deliberate about what I’m eating, so I’ve stuck to lean protein and stuff like beets and kale with whole grain carbs, avoiding sugars and harmful fats. I’ve lost weight 5 pounds this week just lying around. Then, there’s making time for exercise. Totally basic.

The last piece is my most challenging: relaxation. I am a terrible relaxer. I have used my mid-level anxiety to accomplish things for years. If I wasn’t such a nervous public speaker, I would give motivational speeches about how worrying about things has been at the foundation of many great achievements. If we weren’t worried about blankets falling off our bodies, would Snuggies even exist?

The problem is I recently crossed the line of motivational worrying into self-defeating anxiety. I kept up my work and kid responsibilities very well, I must say. However, I let myself down and my body’s completely over being neglected. Enough is enough.