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Friday, September 30, 2005

More questions than answers

Last night The Philadelphia Inquirer broke the news that New York Times reporter Judith Miller was released from prison, claiming she had been personally released from protecting the confidentiality of her source, one I. Lewis Libby.

There was some journalism brouhaha about the fact that the Inquirer broke the story. But the LA Times notes that Libby’s lawyer, Joseph Tate, is from Philadelphia. Coincidence?

Anyway, it seems a guy nicknamed Scooter, and also Dick Cheney’s chief of staff, claims to have released Miller from protecting him more than a year ago.

And Tate and Libby seemed genuinely surprised that it was on Scooter’s behalf that Miller was in jail. So much for good communication skills. If that's true then the obvious question, asked by the Inquirer, is why was Miller in jail for 12 weeks?

Perhaps today’s testimony will reveal the answer.

News of the investigation reaching a conclusion can’t be welcome in the White House. The Wall Street Journal reported:

Regardless of the details of Ms. Miller's testimony, the resurfacing of the investigation comes at a bad time for the Bush administration, as it struggles to get its agenda back on track after a series of Republican missteps, including the indictment Wednesday of House Majority Leader Tom DeLay and the botched response to Hurricane Katrina.

Today’s Washington Post infers that Miller was looking for a way out of jail after catching wind that special prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald had the authority to extend her prison time beyond the federal grand jury’s end date of Oct. 28.

So what exactly is he expecting from her testimony? It begs the question why does a reporter who never wrote a story hold in her hand the testimony that marks the end of this two-year investigation?

Miller's role had been one of the great mysteries in the leak probe. It is unclear why she emerged as a central figure in the probe despite not writing a story about the case.

Arianna Huffington asks a lot of questions of The New York Times today, including:

Had a Plame/Wilson story been assigned to Miller or not?

What, if anything, did she say about the story to anyone at the paper at the time… and what did they say back?

Why did the Times hold back the story about Miller’s release and let multiple other news sources scoop them? Were they trying to miss the evening news cycle and avoid the overnight thrashing their spin has rightly received?

So, as the image of Judy as a principled, conscience-driven defender of the First Amendment gives way to the image of Judy wearing her "new" waiver as a fig leaf allowing her to get out and sing, the big question remains: What is she hiding?

According to the AP neither Fitzgerald nor his spokesman Randall Samborn are commenting. For now, we’re playing the waiting game.

My prediction is that this will all be for nothing. No one will lose his or her job. No one will be held accountable. Bush has already backpedaled on his insistence that he would fire anyone who leaked the name of former CIA operative, Valerie Plame.

As some reports and legal experts have said, proving someone intentionally disclosed the identity of an undercover agent is incredibly difficult. So that begs the question: What is all this nonsense really about?

Smart AND funny
I’m addicted to The Daily Show, just ask my kids. “Mom, your show is on,” they tell me when it airs in the early evening. That opening segment of Jon Stewart’s is just some of the smartest stuff being written today for television. And Steven Colbert’s “This Week in God” is a brilliantly crafted parody.

So now it seems Stewart has taken his caustic wit to the magazine industry, when he addressed 1,000-plus members of the Magazine Publishers Association last night.

Time’s controversial decision to turn over documents in a federal investigation was on Stewart’s chopping block as well. “Time magazine has been a tradition in America," Stewart said to Kelly. "(Yet) one federal prosecutor asks for some documents, everyone pulls their underwear over their heads and you turn them over. And not only that—Newsweek breaks the story. Jim, what the f**k?”

"The Thought Stream"
I hate the name blogosphere, but I love how Tim Porter describes it:

When I think of the blogosphere, I recall the colorful world maps that hung on the wall of my high school geography classroom. On them, curved arrows and various shapes and sizes depicted the swirling rivers of ocean and air currents that move endlessly, seamlessly around the globe. The Jet Stream, the Gulf Stream, the Alaska Current. The blogosphere is the same — The Thought Stream — moving across geography, beyond nationality, node by node from one individual to another, tying people together in a swirling current of ideas, debate and interaction.

I found this by way of Jay Rosen’s Press Think, which contains an interesting rehash of this week’s Blogger and Big Media Fest. Sadly, on both sides of the roundtable were the usual suspects (so much for tapping fresh voices). And much of the discussion revolved around the same positioning against bloggers:

• What’s the revenue model for blogging/Internet/citizen journalism?
My answer: Does it really matter? They are here and a part of the public discourse whether or not they make money.

• They’re nothing but a bunch of crazy curmudgeon’s in their PJs.
Okay, so I’m in my PJs. But that’s unusual for me. It’s Friday, I have no appointments and I’ve been writing like a fiend since 6 a.m. The shower and street clothes will come after my noon workout. And that’s a practice I do whether I’m writing for print or online.

• Credibility is a problem because they play loosey-goosey with the facts.
Media people want to believe in the figure of the “who cares if its true?” blogger, the one who will run anything, who has no editorial standards, who can be duped or dupes others. The image still tends to dominate their imagination, perhaps because it puts the most distance between what bloggers do and what they do.

But there were some goodies found in the discussion as well, according to Rosen:

Still, it was agreed: Big Media does not know how to innovate. What capacity for product development do news organizations show? Zip. How are they on nurturing innovation? Terrible. Is there an entreprenurial spirit in newsrooms? No. Do smart young people ever come in and overturn everything? Never. Do these firms attract designers and geeks who are gifted with technology? They don’t, because they don’t do anything challenging enough. They don’t innovate, or pay well. So they can’t compete.

• Big Media can’t dismiss bloggers because they are better tuned to “what’s bubbling up” than MSM. If you’re in doubt, then spend some time at Brewed Fresh Daily or Democracy Guy.

• And then there’s the potential changing thought, hmmmm:

Terry Heaton
writes: “Andrew Heyward, president of CBS News, noted three areas where his thinking has been changed.” 1.) Heyward talked of a breakdown in newsroom formulas influenced by bloggers and the power of their conversation. 2.) The illusion of omniscience is hurting news. “That’s the way it is” journalism isn’t credible anymore. 3.) Therefore point-of-view has started to become more acceptable because it seems more inevitable. This was probably the most significant surprise of the meeting: an actual shift in press think. At the top, no less.

Thursday, September 29, 2005

No school today

Phone rang at 6:30 this morning. It seems last night’s winds knocked out power to the Bay Schools, and so there’s no school today. We all reveled in that news, heading back to sleep for an extra hour.

Having a throwback kind of day with young Michael. The big boys ditched him to go up to our neighborhood park to play football (as if they don’t already get enough of that during the week). He was heartbroken that he couldn’t go with them. Though I'm sure he could hold his own with them, I don't really want him exposed to that many teenagers.

As consolation for being stuck with mom, first he wanted to go to Target to get a football (we have at least a dozen already). Then he wanted McDonald’s for lunch (he had it for dinner last night and more than once in a week violates my fast food consumption code). I sat with him in our favorite reading chair and told him that even though they were off school, Mom still had to do some work. We were staying put.

This news did not go over well. How to distract him…

I suggested he watch a movie, something he hasn’t done in ages, and he chose Disney’s version of “Peter Pan.” That’s quite a departure from our usual fare of “Coach Carter,” “Austin Powers,” etc. Mikey turned it on while I made him some macaroni and cheese for lunch.

As I listen to Father Darling howl, "Wennndddyyy," I chuckled to myself. Must be something with the name. Mostly, I had forgotten how peaceful the sounds of Disney movies are at lunchtime. Makes me want to grab my woobie and take a nap.

Alas, I couldn't convince Mikey. He's back outside and on his bike and I'm back at my desk.

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Ambassador Hughes?

For crying out loud, we saw this coming, no? I mean, are we really that stupid to presume that everyone in the world wants to be like Martha or Katie or Donald or any American?

The Bush Administration, in its woeful attempts to make peace in the Arab world, sends Karen Hughes, supposedly its “most scripted and careful members” to reach out to Saudi women and appeal to their desire to westernize. Only it seems that many of the highly educated women in the Saudi audience took issue with her fundamental premise — that they are unhappy with their station in life.

Sheesh! Couldn’t we have a done a little advance prep and research before we started touting the American way to Muslim women? We're doing ourselves a huge disservice by presuming everyone wants to be like us.

Hughes also met a hostile audience in Turkey over the U.S. decision to go to war in Iraq. Hughes defended Bush by saying it was a wrenching decision, but necessary to protect peace.

"War is not necessary for peace," shot back Feray Salman, a human rights advocate. She said countries should not try to impose democracy through war, adding that "we can never, ever export democracy and freedom from one country to another."

Tuksal said she was "feeling myself wounded, feeling myself insulted here" by Hughes' response. "In every photograph that comes from Iraq there is that look of fear in the eyes of women and children. . . . This needs to be resolved as soon as possible."

Cool Cleveland by way of PWLGC
Spoke to a class of magazine journalism students at CSU last week and some were looking for ways to break into freelancing. Here’s an opportunity at Cool Cleveland:

Hey Writers! Wanna write about Cleveland music? Cool Cleveland has a
slew of recently-released CDs and DVDs by Cleveland-area musicians that
could use your critical commentary for Cool Cleveland Sounds. If you're
interested, send us a note at

Pilot was a disappointment
I’ve been a huge West Wing fan since the series began. I love its premise, the rich, dynamic characters and lightning-quick dialogue. For a time it was simply the best-written show on television.

And so I was looking forward to ABC’s pilot, “Commander in Chief” last night. What a huge disappointment! The pacing simply dragged under the strain of poor writing and cartoonish characters. Even Geena Davis as the first female president lacked any kind of verve in this role. In fact, the whole episode was circa 1970s cliché of women in the workplace.

WAPO’s always delightfully irreverent Joel Achenbach had this to say about last night’s episode.

Times Select sucks
I hate that the New York Times online is charging me to read Maureen Dowd. Guess I’ll have to wait until it runs in tomorrow’s PD. Apparently I’m not alone in my disgust. See this from mediabistro.

Bush and the ad lib
From our esteemed leader’s mouth on Monday:

"[W]e can all pitch in by using -- by being better conservers of energy. I mean, people just need to recognize that the storms have caused disruption and that if they're able to maybe not drive when they -- on a trip that's not essential, that would [be] helpful. The federal government can help, and I've directed the federal agencies nationwide -- and here's some ways we can help. We can curtail nonessential travel. If it makes sense for the citizen out there to curtail nonessential travel, it darn sure makes sense for federal employees. We can encourage employees to carpool or use mass transit. And we can shift peak electricity use to off-peak hours. There's ways for the federal government to lead when it comes to conservation."

Monday, September 26, 2005

Chugging oxygen today

If you’re here today, there’s a good chance you saw this column by Connie Schulz in today’s Plain Dealer.

I am so profoundly touched that she found my meager plight as apt illustration, worthy of sharing with her many readers. If she thought it would help others, she could certainly use my example. As writers we are always searching for the universal truth in our experiences. That’s what I try to write about here on Creative Ink, sometimes satisfactorily, sometimes not.

But Connie’s column is about more than sharing my specific experience as harried working mother. It’s a shining example and testament to the power of women helping other women.

She’s a master. When she called last week to discuss the column and how she wanted to use my example, she also asked if it was okay if she used my whole name and blog address. I was almost speechless.

“Courage, Wendy, courage,” she told me. And that’s something about me that she understands so well. She knew what I didn’t say in my blog entry, about the pain of feeling selfish for wanting more in my life. She also knows what fears keep me from pursuing more. She has challenged me in the past to share more about what I feel because she, like most writers, knows that if I don’t, I may someday simply shrivel up.

So much of what I feel has been buried for so long that it’s scary to think of letting it out. I’m always casting around for that safety net, that cork I can stuff back into the bottle when it all feels to real and raw.

But then I remember her words to me: “Courage, Wendy, courage.” And I tiptoe into the unknown and feel the support of her and other very important women in my life leading me forward.

If you read here regularly or know me personally, you know that I love my family deeply. But I also feel blessed that I’m able to pursue my career in the manner I do. It’s an important part of me that demands to be fulfilled. It’s a paradox that we’re encouraged to be successful career women, yet made to feel horribly guilty if we so indulge.

We have to do better for our children by setting a healthy example of what it means to be a woman today. The more we talk about how we make it work, and the reality that it doesn’t always work, the more women will find comfort in our shared experience. Maybe then one less woman will cry in her shower from the frustration of constantly trying to do the impossible.

It was fitting that the first four people I heard from were my closest friends — Patty Banks, Jill Zimon, Lisa Best and Lisa Karnatz. I’m able to endure days like the one Connie describes because I have people like them who are always there to tell me I’m not alone.

That hasn’t always been the case.

The first time I watched the DVD, “The Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood,” I wept from a place that I didn’t often acknowledge, as a little girl who was shunned by other girls. It struck me that I had no one except for my sister who had shared my history in the manner of the four women in the movie and the book. And I was saddened to think of myself as so alone in this world. Yet it was a state I had willingly cultivated for myself. But nothing, least of all me, was growing in that solitary garden.

One of the most courageous moves I’ve made in the past few years of my life is to seek out new female friendships and nurture existing ones in a way that seemed wholly foreign yet essential to my growth and existence.

It seems to have paid off because today I am feeding off of their love, support and friendship … like oxygen.

Saturday, September 24, 2005

Little miracles

COLUMBUS (OHIO) -- No matter how many times you experience childbirth either directly or vicariously through family and friends, the extraordinary miracle of life never ceases to amaze.

Charles Stewart Griffith, known as Charlie after my dad, arrived at 11:14 a.m. yesterday at Mt. Carmel East Hospital in Columbus. He's a big boy as we expected, weighing 8 pounds, 15 ounces, but he also was 22 inches long!

He arrived in this world the color of a bruise with the umbilical cord wrapped around his neck. But within precious minutes, the NICU nurse had him all pinked up and grunting and singing. He has masses of jet black curly hair and a ruddy complexion and looks every bit the eskimo that Jenny looked when she was born.

His feet seem very big to me and I laughed out loud when the nurse when to ink his foot for an imprint because he spread his toes very wide in exactly the same way his mom has all her life.

He had a rough entry into this world that resulted in fluid in his lungs. So Jen got a brief moment to hold her new son and he was whisked away to the NICU for tests and observations. We went to visit him later in the afternoon and he was sleeping soundly in the warmer, with only a diaper and the many probes that messure his oxygen levels, respirations and heart rate.

Nestled on his tummy with his little froggy legs and arms tucked under him he looked every bit the picture of a healthy baby. And indeed he is. As we learned from the most amazing nurses on this planet, he had a tiny hole in his lung that allowed fluid to escape into his chest wall and that's why he was grunting instead of wailing. But x-rays showed that the tiny hole was quickly closing. With luck, he will join his mom this morning.

Can't wait to hold the little guy today. There's simply nothing so sweet as the smell of a newborn baby.

But for a bit this morning I'm going to entertain Charlie's big sister, Natalie. Last night after she and her dad got home from the hospital, I took her up to her room and we danced in ourPJs to the Wiggles. We talked about Winnie the Pooh and she showed me her favorite toys and animals. She is all girl and makes me laugh.

I was in the room for Natalie's birth as well. My role was as Jen's personal cheerleader/trainer. She gets easily frustrated and I hope I helped her to focus on what she had to do. Labor and delivery is the toughest thing any woman endures, but I can see already that Jen is on the mend more quickly this time.

She's strong...and now she has two babies, and well that dynamic changes everything.

Thursday, September 22, 2005

Put me in, coach

Tom Feran wrote an interesting column earlier this week about helicopter parents.

We all know more than our fair share of parents who hover. Guess I didn’t realize how long the hovering lasts. Letting go is a scary thing, but we give our kids the best foundation we can and then send them on their way. It’s the natural order of life and when we don’t follow it we can inadvertently be setting our kids up for long-term life failures.

I know I’ll have to fight the compulsion to help my kids with their college applications and essays. But we must be mindful of the negative messages our interference sends. What are we telling our kids when we interfere with their life’s goals or college choices? It’s like saying, “Hey, we don’t think you can handle this or you’re not smart enough to handle this,” even when deep down we don’t feel that way.

Kids need to figure stuff out on their own. I’m even more convinced of the need to let my own kids do so after an article I wrote for The Plain Dealer about surviving the college roommate experience.

Susan Fee, a local counselor, has written a book: “My Roommate is Driving Me Crazy!” and the article was based on an interview with her about her book. How you live before you go to college affects how your will deal with communal living. Certainly those who come from larger families or who share a bedroom are better able to adjust.

But many kids today come to college from sprawling homes in which they have their own king-size bed and private bath. They often feel entitled to better or to privacy. But learning to live with someone else (even someone you're not very fond of) is a valuable skill. After all, how will kids learn to resolve conflicts and set boundaries when they live with a spouse if they can't manage in college?

Kids today rely heavily on technology as a primary means of communication. They need, with their parents help, to also develop good interpersonal communications skills. Fee explained that roommates will carry on fights through Instant Messenger even while they are in the same room! And kids are less likely to hang around dorm hallways and get to know one another when they can e-mail instead. Now I consider that very sad indeed. Some of the best conversations occurred in the hallway.

Part of growing up is learning how to advocate for yourself. But kids will never learn that valuable skill if parents keep running interference. As parents we feel uncomfortable letting our kids fail because we feel it’s a reflection on us if they do. But it’s time to let go of that notion because 1) it’s not about us and 2) we risk raising a generation of kids who don’t know how to speak up for themselves or make their own kind of magic. We had a real-world lesson just this week.

Ryan plays on the seventh-grade football team at his school. This is the first year of inter-scholastic sports for these kids and others like him around Ohio. For many it’s the first time someone other than dear old dad or a fellow parent is coaching them. No more club sports, no more rec ball, no more travel leagues (the bane of sports in my humble opinion). This is the big time. Now you’re playing for your school. The coaches are paid to do what they do. As parents, Danny and I will always defer to them. If our kids have a problem, THEY need to work it out.

Apparently after last week’s game, some parents expressed their deep dissatisfaction with the coaching staff about their sons’ lack of playing time. The coaches responded the next day with what I consider an incredibly well-crafted letter telling all parents (diplomatically) to butt out!

“As a general rule, we do not discuss playing time, player positioning or team strategy with parents,” he wrote. “Certainly, a player can inquire with a coach about ways to improve attitude or performance.

“Players play in a game based on a few criteria. First, attitude and effort in the classroom and in practice can affect playing time. Second, the ability to perform and apply what is taught in practice can affect playing time.”

In other words, if your child is not playing much, it’s up to THEM, not YOU to discuss with the coach how they can improve their playing time. Encourage your children to advocate for themselves. Ask them if they've done everything they can to play. Give them the words they need to get the conversation started. “Coach, what can I do to improve my playing time?” That lets the coach know that they are not blaming and that they are willing to do the work necessary to improve their performance.

What coach wouldn’t respect and value such an attitude from a player?

Ryan plays a lot in every game. He’s a good athlete, but that’s not why he plays so much. It’s more his attitude, effort and leadership. But he’s a kid, too, not quite 13 years old.

At Tuesday’s game, Ryan let his frustration get the best of him. He shoved a player who was trash-talking to him and nearly got into a fight with another player. He was angry and it showed. If I were his coach, I would have yanked him out of the game for attitude adjustment.

I explained to Ryan on the way home that night that his actions and mood set the tone for the game. When he’s up and encouraging his teammates, they respond in kind. When he’s frustrated and down, the energy of the team goes out like a deflated balloon. It’s a team sport for sure, but it only takes one person to fire up or deflate the bench.

That’s the responsibility and the burden of a leader. But I also know he is up to the task.

We’re proud of Ryan for the positive example he sets, especially for his younger brothers who watch and admire his every move. Patrick is not the ferocious athlete that Ryan is, but even after getting pancaked by a defender the size of his dad last Saturday, he recovered and got his helmet on and stood near the coach, ready to go back in.

Attitude and effort. That's the name of the game.

Sending prayers and good chi
Just talked to Jen. I’m on my way down to Columbus tonight to help her out with the impending birth. More from our state capital.

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

What does God want?

What a gorgeous day! Sometimes I forget that one of the benefits of working from home is that I can sit and read in the park if I so choose.

My main task today was to finish my review book and write up my next review for The Plain Dealer. But the weather was spectacular. So after my errands, I packed up a picnic lunch, my book and my cell phone and decided to ride my bike up to Huntington Beach.

The best time to experience Huntington is in the fall, when the summer crowds have dispersed and it’s once again a haven for locals. The water and sky were spectacularly blue. And the cool gentle breeze I found sitting on a bench atop the bluff reminded me that these days are getting fewer.

Beach sounds are the most soothing on earth — the gentle lapping of the water along the beach, the occasional child’s laughter and the quack of a duck or cry of a gull. I sat on bench that was inscribed, “In loving memory of Dorothy Smith who brought joy to so many….” Made me want to know Dorothy and find out what was so special about her. How lovely that she’s still bringing joy to others through her bench high above the beach.

The day fit my mood. I’ve been somewhat contemplative lately for a variety of reasons. Mostly I’ve been thinking a lot about what God wants from me. And so I wanted to point you to today’s review, which is a book called, “What God Wants: A Compelling Answer to Humanity’s Biggest Question,” by Neale Donald Walsch.

In the weeks since I first wrote the review that appears today, I’ve not been able to shake the fundamental premise of the book: That God wants nothing from us.

“There has scarcely been a day on this planet when a battle has not been fought or a human being not killed in the name of God, or for God’s cause,” Walsch writes. Our relationship with God is dysfunctional because we both love and fear him.

He believes that traditional religion teaches a “theology of separation.” In other words, God is over there and we are over here. Us and them. The saved and the damned. Rich and poor.

The very best reason to believe in God is that we don’t need God. God has made us capable enough to get along just fine, as any parent would. Thus, we can be open to just loving God — and just loving God is the most powerful thing any of us could ever do.

He wants nothing from us. But when we imagine he wants something from us then we fear that we will let him down and he won’t give us what we need. It’s like saying to your kids that they are responsible for your happiness.

Perhaps ‘God’ does not want something from humans, but exists only to give something to humans. And perhaps what God wants to give to humans is exactly what humans want. Nothing more, and nothing less.

Hmmm. Now doesn’t that make you stop and think? Don’t be hasty. I was at first and breezed through his argument, but I find I can’t stop thinking about it.

We're all an expression of God. There was someone who came before us and said that we should give what we wish to receive. Only over two millennia we seem to have forgotten what He taught, even as we invoke His name.

But here’s what I’m wrestling with: Traditional religion would have us seek perfection to be like God, but only God is Perfect. And so we’re set up for failure. No wonder so many of us are in spiritual crisis. Walsch’s answer is that God is Life and Oneness.

God does not want Oneness, with humans or with anything else. God IS Oneness, and God does not want what God is already experiencing.

We, and by that I mean humanity, will only find what we are looking for when we look in the mirror. It’s like when you’re looking for your glasses and they’re on top of your head only you never noticed until you passed by a mirror.

But you know what? We’re not so good at looking in the mirror. It becomes a painful, sometimes awkward exercise. A recovering addict once told me that addicts and those in 12-step recovery programs have the benefit of engaging in intense self-examination and reflection. Too bad everyone can’t turn the magnifying glass on themselves.

God is the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End, the Omnipotent, Most High, the One and Life itself. “If God is everything, has everything, can create everything, and has created everything, what is God without?” What does God want?

What do you think?

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

Power to ALL the moms

Jill Zimon and I can be a force of nature. We seem to feed off of each other’s creative energy and intellectual passions. So while I took some time out yesterday for some much-needed research for story pitches, I happened upon a book called “Mommy Wars,” by Leslie Morgan Steiner, being published in March 2006.

Readers may recall my absolute disdain for such sobbing and whining about the difficulty of motherhood when Judith Warner published her high society screed, “Perfect Madness,” last year.

So I forwarded the catalog entry from Random House to Jill and her immediate response, like mine, was “ICK, ICK, ICK.”

She posted a great entry yesterday imploring us to quit the sobbing. I concur. The point today is how to tell the story of real moms without the sobbing and whining. Is motherhood difficult? Hell, yes (just look at yesterday’s post). Is it tough to be a working mom? Absolutely. Is it tough to be a stay-at-home mom? You bet. Is it tough when you lack the choices between the two? Most certainly!

So let’s have a serious discussion about what makes motherhood challenging in the 21st century to ALL of us, not simply those who have trouble with the nanny, and how we can overcome some of those obstacles. Jill wrote this powerful op-ed in the PD last Mother’s Day and captured why we really have nothing about which to complain:

To rant about my life as difficult, when thousands of mothers who bear the burden of these special circumstances live within miles of me, would be insensitive and insulting, to say the least.

And, because I believe it to be such a strong statement, capable of changing the world, I’d like to share her conclusion:

When beliefs about how mothers should fulfill numerous roles clash with reality, we need to correct those beliefs. We must not settle for merely educating others - through our complaints - about the pain or impossibility of role integration. Rather than cater to the unattainable and destructive goal of perfection, we need to change it. Through our actions and our words, we must model a balanced and achievable image of motherhood.

How else will our children learn to value it?
BINGO! Can we at least hope for better for the next generation of mothers and fathers?

So let’s quit pitting one segment against the other because it’s the kind of bitch-fight that, frankly, serves no one. More importantly, doing so leaves out the majority of mothers today who simply lack the choice among the options.

Let’s celebrate modern motherhood in a way that makes us all proud to say, “I’m a working mom," “I’m a stay-at-home mom,” "I'm a single mom" or "I've chosen not to be a mom" without all the societal baggage and mudslinging those statements currently evoke.

Send your ideas and thoughts to:

wendyhoke (at)
jillzimon (at)

Monday, September 19, 2005

Stormy Monday

There’s a cacophony of voices inside my head today that are causing me to lose sleep, focus and patience, and not necessarily in that order. Slept so fitfully last night and actually felt as if I were jumping out of my skin, all twitchy and itchy and restless.

So this morning I woke up with the familiar tension knot (double-knotted) in my left shoulder blade, an irritable disposition and the feeling as if I’m already behind on my week ahead. All in all, not a good way to start the week.

“Did I send this follow up…”

“Did I get this billing out…”

“Have I paid this bill…”

“Did I miss my volunteer time at school..:”

“Did I confirm speaking engagement…”

“Did the boys have homework this weekend…”

“Did I update the checkbook…”

“Have I called the orthodontist…”

“Is Tylenol PM addictive…”

“Am I losing my mind…”

“When was the last bloody time I exercised… or did anything for me?”

And so therein lies the problem. I’ve let myself come what I abhor: superwoman with a splash of martyr just to add to my self-loathing. I’m close to tears today and looking at my to-do list I’m almost incapable of even getting started. Paralyzed by the crush of things on my plate. DAMN! How did I let it get like this again?

I’m trying to take deep breaths, but every time I do I wince with the pain in my lower back. I need … to be blank. I need to empty my brain of the chaos it’s created and find my grounding again.

First step… yoga. Second step… be sure to get fresh air today. Third step… lose the caffeine for a while. Fourth step… fight the overwhelming urge to nap at 4 today. Fifth step… eat very little but very healthy natural foods. Sixth step… drink lots of water. Seventh step… pop a Tylenol PM and pray, pray for a good night’s sleep. Tomorrow is another day. Survival, baby. It’s all about survival right now.

P.S. And with this post I was able to cross the first thing off my list. "Blog" To the basement now for yoga.

Friday, September 16, 2005

Draining week

Couldn't be happier that Friday is here. This has been a draining week. Not a bad week, just draining. I'm working on a couple of nonprofit projects that are incredibly powerful. Let's just say that I've learned more about hope in the face of utter despair, how desire and motivation to be part of this world can move the speechless to find their own language, and how the will to live can overcome seemingly certain death.

When these projects are finished, I'll be sure to share them with you because the stories of the people I've spent time with this week have overwhelmed me emotionally. I've been blessed to have met some truly beautiful people. My charge now is to do their stories justice with my words. It's a tall order, but I feel as if they are speaking through me. My fingers on the keyboard are merely the instrument of their message.

In between these moments, I've been trying to stay on top of the many calls and e-mails about SPJ questions and potential work this week. There's been a flood of calls lately. Most are marketing and most are last-minute, urgent requests.

Baby watch is on
The other big news is that I'm anxiously awaiting the arrival of my new nephew. My sister, Jen, is due next week and I'm her doula. And so every time my cell rings, I jump a mile thinking it's "the call." Talked to Jen today and she's coming out of her skin with this pregnancy. I was never a good at being pregnant. Some women love being pregnant and are radiant and beautiful.

I suffered aching back and joints, round face and swollen feet. I endured sleepless nights from about six months on and could get heartburn from a glass of water. Jen's had a similar experience this time. Only now she's nervous about things like induction, circumcision and managing with two little ones. All will be well, I tell her.

Her voice reminded me of how jolted I was by the jump from one to two kids. My mom had been staying with me, but had to return to Columbus a few days after I got home from the hospital with Patrick. I can't remember why now, but Danny wasn't home at the time she was leaving. And I sat there on my couch with my two little babies bawling my eyes out. "I don't think I can handle this," I sobbed to my mom. Probably because I was so pathetic, she also was in tears.

But the next day was a Monday. Danny went off to work and somehow or another Ryan and Patrick and I figured out a routine. Some days were good, some not so good. But I remember that October (1994) as being one of the most beautifully warm and sunny months. And that certainly brightened the post-partum mood.

Seems so long ago. For now I'm going to enjoy the weekend and see how my baby's (pictured above with me) day in first grade went. Who knows when I'll be called into the delivery room.

Spam commenting
Can't stand the spam commenting, so I've instituted word verification. Sorry for the inconvenience to those live humans who actually have something to say about my blog.

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

The press and debate

“The press has grown accustomed to amplifying debate but rarely initiates it.” — Ted Gup

Time is ever so short this week and so my posts will be short little bursts in between scads of writing for money.

Today’s Freedom Forum calendar quote above is by Ted Gup, a journalism prof at Case Western Reserve University. He’s a terrifically talented journalist and will be talking to SPJ on Saturday, Oct. 8 as we launch the second round of our Sharpen Your Skills workshop. It will be held from 9:30 to noon at the Middleburg Heights branch of the Cuyahoga County Public Library. Cost is $25 and bagels and beverages are provided. Call (440) 333-5362 or e-mail Tom Moore at to register.

Feeding into Gup’s quote, I read this interesting cover story in the September/October issue of Columbia Journalism Review. It’s a look at how news reports contribute to the misinformation in the intelligent design/evolution debate. Very interesting. Though I’m not sure I fully support the authors’ conclusion that journalists need advanced education in scientific topics to cover such a story. They simply need to do a better job of understanding their topic by engaging in a little bit of research and talking to experts. I mean, we all learned about natural selection in 10th-grade biology.

Monday, September 12, 2005

Roberts' confirmation begins

It's Senate confirmation time and so I tune in to C-SPAN. Even though I have an office in my home, I am never tempted to stray from my office to watch TV — EXCEPT during major news events.

After a morning that began at 5:30 (actually my day today began yesterday when I spent the afternoon getting prepared for the busy week head), I’m taking timeout for a BLT and a little indulgence to watch the Senate Judiciary Committee members bloviate as Supreme Court Chief Justice nominee John Roberts sits and wonders how long these guys are going to give him a history lesson he doesn’t need. Can’t these guys get together and review their speeches so that we don’t have to hear the same lesson over and over?

Two themes emerge as we’re up to Sen. Joe Biden (D-Delaware):

Republicans are careful to point out that nominees should not feel forced to answer questions about future issues that may come before the court.

Democrats are quick to point out, in the wake of Hurricane Katrina, that this country does indeed need a federal government. And that he should answer questions about how he feels about fundamental issues likely to come before the Supreme Court.

Roberts’ eyes shift a lot and he looks at times as if he’s either stifling a laugh or a bowel movement. I’m not poking fun. Hell, I can’t imagine what it would take to stay focused on the windbags who are clearly grandstanding. (“As we discussed in my office…”) Hey, wait a minute, Roberts actually looks a little like W. He even occasionally gets the same vacant stare.

Okay, I hear what the Republicans are saying about limits on the questioning of nominees. For the most part, I agree. I’d like to hear generally how he feels about certain matters of law related to our constitution. But I would NOT want him to make sweeping statements on specific issues likely to come before the court without having heard all evidence. That would fly in the face of the term "impartial judge" (which lately seems to be an oxymoron anyway).

I do feel, however, that he is obligated to fully address any questions related to his past writings and rulings. Those answers, I’m hopeful, will illustrate the kind of legal mind he possesses and his philosophy toward our Bill of Rights. Ultimately, that’s what we’re investigating this week and that's what the American people deserve to hear from a public servant with a lifetime appointment.

More later ... gotta read a review book.

Friday, September 09, 2005

Real women have curves

Okay, gotta love when you get a new pair of jeans and they slip on and hug in all the right places like they were meant for you alone. That’s not a common occurrence for a woman with curves, especially given the cut of today’s jeans. But I’ve found victory, baby! And for the low, low price of $20!

Had my morning meeting cancelled, so I spent an hour at Crocker Park. Of course I spent most of that time at Barnes & Noble. Picked up what looks to be a terrific book by Paulo Coelho called, “The Zahir: A Novel of Obsession.” His book, “The Alchemist” is one of my all-time favorites. Also picked up, upon recommendation by my good pal, Robin, “The Other Boleyn Girl,” by Philippa Gregory. Could have bought so much more, but I resisted — for now.

While I was at B & N I found I book I read last year that was pretty good, but lingers in my mind because it contained one of the most beautifully haunting passages about one man’s desire for closeness. The character begins by remembering a child’s microscope set he had and he talks about the miniscule space between the glass slide containing a drop of liquid and the plastic cover. The slide and the cover never really touch because the liquid separates them. While making ravenous love with a woman he then wonders: “Is this as close as two humans get?"

His frustration and hunger and need nearly made me cry. I've never forgotten that picture or his response. It's kind of like Linda Lohman (Willy's wife) screaming, "Attention must be paid." Just stays with you.

And as I was walking out of the store, I spotted a beautiful travel book of Tuscany. And so I thumbed through daydreaming of the hills of Umbria. Some day... some day...

Thursday, September 08, 2005

How old?

As a child I could never understand how adults could hesitate in recalling their age. Seemed preposterous that you would never be able to recite it instantly. Alas, this year I was confused.

My son asked me how old I am today and I said 37, no wait, 38. Actually, it is 38. I am 38 years old today. Egads! Something about those years between 35 and 40 just seem to blur together.

I’m not afraid to say my age because I’ve always been at the lower end of the age spectrum among friends and colleagues (though I do see that trend beginning to shift a bit). The younger me was always hoping to catch up. But the present me is quite content to linger in the land of Thirtysomething for a little bit longer.

Truth is, aside from a few aches and pains (namely my right knee, which has never really been the same after the 10-miler) I don’t feel my age, whatever that’s supposed to feel like. All I know is that I have more energy, I am slimmer and I feel better than I did when I was 28. And I've been blessed with some good family genes.

I am a Virgo, the only feminine sign in the zodiac, and we’re known to be perfectionists who are routinely extraordinarily hard on ourselves and at times impatient with others. But we are also idealists, always hoping to change the world or our environment. That’s me, in a nutshell.

I share my birthday with the Blessed Virgin, actor/comedians Sid Caesar and Peter Sellers, singer Patsy Cline, composer Antonin Dvorak and perennial presidential candidate Lyndon Larouche.

Stuff happens on this day — hurricanes in Galveston and Hurricane Betsy, plane crashes, you name it. Here are a few I’ve uncovered from New York Times archives:

In 1664 the Dutch surrendered New Amsterdam to the British, who renamed it New York. (My FAVORITE American city!)

Ernest Hemingway, one of my most favorite authors, published “The Old Man and the Sea” in 1952.

I’ve never been a fan, but in 1966 The TV series ''Star Trek'' premiered on NBC.

The first International Literacy Day was first observed in 1967, focusing attention on the need to promote worldwide literacy.

On Sept. 8, 1974, President Gerald R. Ford granted an unconditional pardon to former President Richard Nixon.

In 1995, the Cleveland Indians clinched their Division in a run that would end just shy of the World Series.

In 1998, Mark McGwire of the St. Louis Cardinals broke Roger Maris' record for home runs in a single season.

And last year, while I was in New York, ''60 Minutes Wednesday'' aired a report questioning President George W. Bush's National Guard service; however, CBS News ended up apologizing for a ''mistake in judgment'' after memos featured in the report were challenged as forgeries.

Birthdays are no longer much of a big deal, but I’m off to spend the day with my mom.

From the Washington Post:
VIRGO (Aug. 23-Sept. 22). At last your head has agreed to harmonize with your heart. Much of the work you do may seem non-related to the results you'd like to get, but the correlation is stronger than appearances suggest.

TODAY'S BIRTHDAY (September 8). Enthusiasm is so high this year that you naturally attract good things and giving people. By making small improvements every week, you attain a financial or a career goal. Forgive and forget past mistakes, and your love life is revitalized as a result. Love with Scorpio and Libra people is passionate and always something to look forward to. Your lucky numbers are: 20, 41, 22, 24 and 11.

Tuesday, September 06, 2005

Let them work

It struck me over the weekend that what makes sense in New Orleans now is to put people to work. I’m talking about a massive public works project.

For those who are willing and able, it’s a good way to channel their needs into something positive and productive. Many of the displaced by Hurricane Katrina have lived on the Gulf Coast their whole lives. The government has already pledged money to rebuild the homes, businesses, churches, parks and schools.

So let them rebuild their city. Give them something to do — because if you do you also give them hope.

During the Depression, FDR put Americans to work through the Works Progress Administration. I envision something similar. Tens of thousands of able-bodied people who presently have nothing else to do except watch helplessly and try to restart their lives would stand to benefit greatly from such an opportunity.

Call me an idealist, which I’ll readily admit I am, but this would foster a tremendous sense of community among those for whom New Orleans is more than a weekend vacation or a convention destination.

Now I know skills are needed, but not at first. The first step after pumping out the contaminated water is demolition and clean up. There are many able-bodied men and women who could engage in such as effort. As the Amish (or is it the Shakers) say, many hands make light work.

The government, which has to shell out billions for the reconstruction anyway, could pay these folks a decent wage. Not only would the residents be earning a paycheck, but they also would be participating in the rebuilding of the city they love. Instead of watching helplessly from Memphis or Houston, they could turn their energies into something tangible.

In the beginning, the government could set up temporary housing outside of the contaminated areas in the form of Quonset-style barracks (which can be air conditioned for comfort). Bus them into the sections of the city and, under the leadership of experienced engineers, architects, developers, city officials and builders, put them to work.

Progress will be slow at first as people figure out the sequence of what needs to be done. But the process will enable people to develop valuable job skills — refurbishing infrastructure in the form of highways, bridges, power and water lines; building trades such as electricians, plumbers, roofers, carpenters, etc. Some may find themselves interested in safety services, traveling to Baton Rouge to take the civil service exam, perhaps getting police, fire or EMS training. Lord knows the city needs them now. And others may discover that they possess leadership skills required to lead their parish council.

As environmental conditions improve, perhaps you bring back some teachers and set up temporary schools to educate the children of New Orleans while new schools are being built. Bring teams of middle school and high school age children in to help paint classrooms, shine floors, landscape grounds and parks. Let the college students refurbish the campuses of the institutions they’ve called home.

It will take lots of money. But it’s going to take lots of money to rebuild anyway. And it will give the men and women of New Orleans, regardless of race or economic status, a chance to improve their lives while also improving their community and the economy.

This disaster and its aftermath are unprecedented in our country’s history. Our response must be nothing less than unprecedented. There will be plenty of time for pointing fingers, politicking and armchair quarterbacking the event and the response. Right now, our government needs to do something truly innovative for its own citizens. That’s the LEAST it can do in the wake of such spectacularly failed leadership.

Friday, September 02, 2005

Give them rest

Jesus, Katrina continues to leave me speechless. I’ll let others far more eloquent than I do the speaking today. Just wanted to wish you all a peaceful holiday weekend. Keep the victims of the disaster in your thoughts and prayers. This Labor Day weekend will be anything but restful and peaceful for them.

From the LA Times:
One lesson of Hurricane Katrina, though, is that preparedness and response go hand in hand, whether the disaster is natural or man-made. Washington's response to Katrina is likely to gear up notably in the days to come, but the question of why it took so long will linger longer than the floodwaters.

Tim Rutten’s Regarding Media column: Three years ago, New Orleans' leading local newspaper, the Times-Picayune, National Public Radio's signature nightly news program, "All Things Considered," and the New York Times each methodically and compellingly reported that the very existence of south Louisiana's leading city was at risk and hundreds of thousands of lives imperiled by exactly the sequence of events that occurred this week. All three news organizations also made clear that the danger was growing because of a series of public policy decisions and failure to allocate government funds to alleviate the danger…

Politics may have failed the people of New Orleans. Politicians certainly failed them. They may have failed themselves by not demanding better. But their newspaper and other important segments of the American press did not fail them.

From the New York Times:
One lasting lesson that has to be drawn from the Gulf Coast's misery is that from now on, the National Guard must be treated as America's most essential homeland security force, not as some kind of military piggy bank for the Pentagon to raid for long-term overseas missions. America clearly needs a larger active-duty Army. It just as clearly needs a homeland-based National Guard that's fully prepared and ready for any domestic emergency.

Paul Krugman writes
: Yesterday Mr. Bush made an utterly fantastic claim: that nobody expected the breach of the levees. In fact, there had been repeated warnings about exactly that risk.

So America, once famous for its can-do attitude, now has a can't-do government that makes excuses instead of doing its job. And while it makes those excuses, Americans are dying.

Mark Fischetti, contributing editor to Scientific American magazine, writes of the Coast 2050 project, a massive public works project that would have addressed the flooding concerns in New Orleans.

t's hard to say how much of this work could have been completed by today had Coast 2050 become a reality. Certainly, the delta wetlands and barrier islands would not have rebounded substantially yet. But undoubtedly progress would have been made that would have spared someone's life, someone's home, some jazz club or gumbo joint, some city district, some part of the region's unique culture that the entire country revels in. And we would have been well on our way to a long-term solution. For there is one thing we know for sure: hurricanes will howl through the Mississippi Delta again.

Coverage has certainly taken a turn. This morning on CNN, Soledad O’Brien was grilling FEMA Director Mike Brown about the delay in getting aid to those who so desperately need it. There’s really nothing he can say in defense. Last night’s cable news anchors were comparing how prepared their news teams were for the disaster and how quickly they entered the area in the aftermath, questioning why it’s taking the federal government so long.

The delay has led to a dramatic shift in the coverage, one that has turned this from a weather story to a human tragedy.
Alessandra Stanley wrote: A woman in a wheelchair, her face and body covered by a plaid blanket, dead, and left next to a wall of the New Orleans convention center like a discarded supermarket cart. There were many other appalling images from Hurricane Katrina on Thursday, but that one was a turning point: after three days of flood scenes, television shifted from recording a devastating natural disaster to exposing human failures…

The image of helplessness was one the White House worked hard to defuse, vowing to restore law and order and politely declining offers of aid from overseas as unnecessary.
(Bold is mine.)

From Newsday:
Apparently I’m not the only journalist to be at a loss for words. On an ABC News special Wednesday night, anchor Elizabeth Vargas admitted that the network had effectively exhausted "attempts to put the indescribable into words," and so, she plaintively added, "Supply your own."

That was an exaggeration because television news is never, ever at a loss for words, even if some of them - especially during this wrenching story - tend to be recycled over and over. But Vargas, nevertheless, was on to something. At some point this week, though it's hard to pinpoint precisely when or where, television news nearly seemed to hand control of one of the biggest stories in the recent history of broadcast journalism back to the viewer, as if to say, "We can't figure this horror out any better than you can. So you're on your own ... "

There’s a moving account from a Times-Picayune reporter in today’s op-eds in today’s Plain Dealer only I’m tired of searching for it on

From Photo District News:
From an interview with NY Times photographer Vincent Laforet: Because when you go down there you're going into a war zone of sorts. It'd kind of a mix of the L.A. riots and the tsunami except if anything happens to you you're completely on your own. The police cannot and will not respond. If you get hurt there's no ambulances to come get you.

And finally, from the Washington Post:
WAPO columnist E.J. Dionne had a great quote at the beginning of his column from former Secretary of Defense under Bill Clinton, Bill Cohen:"Government is the enemy until you need a friend."

Bragg gets the last word
Former NYT-er Rick Bragg writes a loving tribute to the resilience of New Orleans. What a place, where old women sit beside you on outbound planes complaining about their diabetes while eating caramel-covered popcorn a fistful at a time. "It's hard, so hard, sweet baby," they will say of their disease, then go home and slick an iron skillet with bacon grease, because what good is there in a life without hot cornbread? …

How long, before that city reforms. Some people say it never will.

But I have seen these people dance, laughing, to the edge of a grave.

I believe that, now, they will dance back from it.

Thursday, September 01, 2005

First national review in PAGES

Hot off the presses is my first national book
in Pages magazine. Can’t link to it yet because the September/October is not posted on the Web. It's just a little back-of-the-book piece though it is third of 17 such reviews. Woo Hoo! Pardon me while I squeal in delight over this national piece. It was a tough book, too: "The Equation That Couldn't Be Solved," by Mario Livio.

Although I’m giddy at my latest clip, I’m nearly speechless about the Hurricane Katrina disaster. I’ve seen the images and read the stories and as much as I would like to turn away, I can’t seem to bring myself to do so. I’m trying to imagine what it must be like for the residents of the Gulf Coast and I’m left with no words.

Our esteemed President appears to suffer a similar affliction. His lack of compassion reared its ugly head again in his speech last night. He can’t seem to control the small muscles around his mouth that would prevent him from ridiculously grinning during the country’s worst catastrophe.

The New York Times called it “one of the worst speeches of his life yesterday, especially given the level of national distress and the need for words of consolation and wisdom.”

My heart aches for the people affected and it longs to do something to help, beyond writing the obvious check. Ryan told me this morning that his teachers said six students from New Orleans will be joining the seventh grade next week at Bay Middle School. I’m glad our little community is reaching out.

Finally today … why is it so difficult to book a flight with another person? Jill and I have just spent the past 12 hours haggling with Continental Airlines in our effort to plan a flight to Vegas together in October.

After her many phone calls (because we reserved seats under her hubby’s name yesterday) and the realization that this morning the price went up another $30 each, we finally managed (with the help of a lovely woman via phone) to finalize our reservations at the price we reserved yesterday. Good thing we didn’t wait any longer. Methinks the fuel crisis due to Katrina and the Middle East will only make prices higher.