Friday Morning Open Thread

What’s up?

I’ve read a lot of incredible analysis about the criminalization of poor mothers in the United States. The inconsistencies in outcome for the parents of the 9-year-old who killed her shooting instructor with an uzi and the mom of a 9-year-old who left her daughter in the park to go to work were mind-blowing in this article.

July 28, Associated Press:

NORTH AUGUSTA, S.C. – Plenty of working parents can relate to the dilemma Debra Harrell faced when her 9-year-old daughter asked to play unsupervised in a park this summer. How do you find the time and money for child care when school is out?

Harrell’s answer to that question got her arrested. She spent 17 days in jail, temporarily lost custody of her girl, thought she lost her job, and still faces 10 years in prison if convicted of felony child neglect.

The decision of this 46-year-old single mother and McDonald’s shift manager has been picked apart since police were called when Regina was spotted alone in the park.

August 27, Associated Press:

PHOENIX (AP) — “All right, full auto,” the firing-range instructor tells a 9-year-old girl. She braces the Uzi submachine gun and opens fire at a black-silhouette target. But the recoil wrenches the fully automatic weapon upward, and the instructor is shot in the head and killed.

The death has set off a powerful debate over youngsters and guns, with many people wondering what sort of parents would let a child handle an Uzi.

….And while the tragedy in Arizona has indeed “set off a powerful debate” about kids and guns, it hasn’t brought the parents of the girl at the gun range, tourists visiting from New Jersey, anything close to the kind of sociological scrutiny that fell upon Debra Harrell, an African-American single mom trying to make ends meet with her fast-food job.

Wow. If there was any doubt that America hates poor people, read this article. The Nation had even more in-depth analysis on the over-the-top punishments doled out to poor single mothers of color.

Nightmarish stories about about the criminalizing of motherhood have been making headlines of late. There was Shanesha Taylor, arrested on child abuse charges for leaving her kids in a car to go to a job interview; Debra Harrell, locked up for child abuse for letting her 9-year-old play at a nearby park while she worked her shift at McDonald’s; Mallory Loyola, the first woman to be charged under a new Tennessee law that makes it a crime to take drugs while pregnant; and Eileen Dinino, who died serving a jail sentence because she was too poor to pay legal fees from her kids’ truancy cases. Other countries provide social programs and income supports for poor single mothers; in the United States, we arrest them.

I hate to end on that note, but glad that some media outlets are covering this important story. The New York Times once estimated that it costs, on average, $60,000 a year to incarcerate someone in New York, and $168,000 a year for someone in the city. (!) I thought of this story and compared it to how much cheaper it would be for us to simply pay for childcare for these moms or allow them to stay home with their children…and better for the kids, too.

What do you all think?

What else is in the news? What’s up with you?


Hump Day Open Thread

What’s up?

I am by no means a Kim Kardashian fan — I’ve never seen an episode of her show, and DH and I mercilessly give our niece grief for watching. But I appreciated her beautiful words — yes, hers — on motherhood and how it’s made her more aware of racism and the injustices of discrimination.

I feel a responsibility as a mother, a public figure, a human being, to do what I can to make sure that not only my child, but all children, don’t have to grow up in a world where they are judged by the color of their skin, or their gender, or their sexual orientation. I want my daughter growing up in a world where love for one another is the most important thing.

So the first step I’m taking is to stop pretending like this isn’t my issue or my problem, because it is, it’s everyone’s…because the California teenager who was harassed and killed by his classmates for being gay, the teenage blogger in Pakistan who was shot on her school bus for speaking out in favor of women’s rights, the boy in Florida who was wrongly accused of committing a crime and ultimately killed because of the color of his skin, they are all someone’s son and someone’s daughter and it is our responsibility to give them a voice and speak out for those who can’t and hopefully in the process, ensure that hate is something our children never have to see.

It’s always surprised me when people stereotype moms as “not politically active” or only interested in their children and nothing else in the world. I feel like I had a political and spiritual re-awakening after children. What do you all think?

In health news: Did you have preeclampsia during pregnancy? It is Preeclampsia Awareness Month, and MomsRising is hosting a #WellnessWed twitter chat today at 2pmET. Please join me — and RT!

What else is in the news? What’s up with you?


Friday Morning Open Thread

What’s up?

Interesting story: CVS announced it would stop selling tobacco products, and other pharmacies are expected to follow suit, according to USA Today. Very rarely do I see any smokers, and I am assuming with smoking bans, cessation programs — which CVS plans to roll out — and whatnot, it will be harder for smokers to find tobacco products. Do any of you smoke? What say you?

In political news: I appreciated this rebuttal to Republican Congresswoman Cathy McMorris Rodgers’ rebuttal to the President’s State of the Union address last week. She happens to represent a district that is largely low-income and depends on government jobs, food stamps — and gasp! — “Obamacare” to survive. Are people really voting against their self interests or is voter turnout just low? What do you think?

In somewhat related news: I was mesmerized and haunted by these images of death row inmates’ parting words. This is must-see political art. Just scroll to the bottom of the story.

Book Review: Many thanks to fellow mom blogger Grace Hwang Lynch for this excellent and thoughtful review of Amy Chua’s nauseating new book on “model minorities.”

What else is in the news? What’s up with you?


First Open Thread of 2014

What’s up?

I survived all. I threw a successful New Year party with strep throat. I started taking antibiotics the day of, napped and took it easy on the booze at night. I even managed to make coquito or Puerto Rican eggnog. Here’s the recipe.

Whew! How was your night?

Leading up to the strep diagnoses, I had fatigue and cold-like symptoms. I didn’t go to the doctor’s since I had no fever. Instead, I spent my vacation days in bed curled up with my kindle, which I suspect helped me stave off the worst of the strep.

So…what did I read? Oh, I must share.

First, I read The Lowland by Jhumpa Lahiri. It is a novel about two brothers in Calcutta who take what appears to be two different paths: one joins the marxist movement in India while the other studies at a college in Rhode Island. There are some interesting twists, including an Indian mother who abandons her 12-year-old to work as a college professor in California. If you’ve read this book, you must discuss with me. What did you think?

The second book that I am almost done with is Orange is the New Black by Piper Kerman. I saw the HBO series and was intrigued enough to download the book to see how it matched up. The book is a memoir of Kerman’s 13 months in prison. She is an upper middle class, WASP, Smith graduate who is engaged with an editor in New York City when a minor crime committed in her youth comes back to haunt her. Some aspects of the book are hilarious — like, when Kerman first lands in prison — but it is also haunting as she humanizes her prison friends. I am left feeling that prison is simply a way we deal with inconvenient people like the mentally ill, drug addicts and the poor rather than invest in education and life skills that would benefit everyone. That, and the “war on drugs” is counterproductive, actually separating families and wrecking entire communities. Have any of you read it? What did you think?

Finally, I must leave you with this BuzzFeed piece on “23 surprising facts” about Orange is the New Black. I laughed when I saw what “Crazy Eyes” actually looks like in real life.

What’s on your night table? Happy New Year’s!


Wednesday Morning Open Thread

What’s up?

Immigration reform has been on my mind. Two House Republicans so far — Jeff Denham of California and Ileana Ros-Lehtinen of Florida — have signed onto a Democrat-led bill that is both fair and tough. This is an issue near and dear to my heart as I am the daughter of an immigrant and I work as a campaign associate on this issue. For the first time this rough political year, I am going to say that I am seeing a glimpse of hope…

In the meantime, I bawled when I saw this music video by American soul singer Aloe Blacc featuring real-life DREAMers — undocumented youth brought to this country at a young age. Please do watch it, but have the tissues handy!

Finally, I just finished another compelling read: And Hell Followed Her: Crossing the Dark Side of the American Border by David Neiwert. Neiwert, a journalist, author and expert in right-wing extremism, is the senior editor of the popular political blog Crooks and Liars.

In his most recent book, he did an impressive amount of on-the-ground research and wrote an exposé on the anti-immigrant vigilante group the Minute Men. They have largely been discredited because of an internal civil war and also the death of a 9-year-old Hispanic American girl in Arizona at the hands of hit men ringed by a Minute Men activist.

The murder of 9-year-old Brisenia Flores is one that I have not read much about outside of Latino circles. I am grateful to Neiwert for covering details of her life that I had never read anywhere else, the horrendous details leading up to her death and the trial itself which was covered only by local press and the Daily Beast. Two people ended up with death penalty verdicts against them, a third with life in prison without the possibility of parole, and a fourth man is still at-large.

Neiwert is a gifted writer in that he had this tired mama staying up late and turning pages. He did a beautiful job of detailing the Flores families’ lives, that of their murderers and the town in which they lived. I’ve been telling my husband and those around me to read this book. I hope you will, too.

What’s on your night table? What else is in the news? What’s up with you?


Monday Morning Open Thread

What’s up?

I just got back from a work trip to New York that was incredibly inspiring. MomsRising held a conference on childhood obesity and nutrition that was attended by health policy experts, child advocates, bloggers and just concerned parents. Both the speakers and audience members came from diverse backgrounds and had incredible stories to share:

• First, we were greeted by the First Lady in a pre-recorded video!

• Migdalia Rivera, who publishes the Latina on a Mission blog and has a consulting firm called Stiletto Media, shared a personal story on how she helped reverse her teenaged son’s high blood pressure. She now cooks much healthier and said it has been over five years since she has fried anything in her home. “I bake or steam,” she said.

• Tanya Fields, executive director of the BLK Projek, which focuses on racial and socioeconomic disparities in food access, talked about her inspiration for starting the non-profit: as a single mom in the Bronx, she’s had to feed her children on WIC and food stamps. The good news is it is possible to eat healthy on a “food stamp budget,” she said.

Fields, by the way, brought with her two adorable children, who at first played games on my iPhone, then found our Sue in Queens who had an iPad. :)

• We viewed the incredible documentary, Soul Food Junkies. (Seriously, this film is worth renting!) We then heard from the filmmaker Byron Hurt. His personal story, in the film, is powerful.

The event was incredible, and personally, I always love visiting New York. It was the first place that embraced my dad and grandmother when they immigrated to the United States. In terms of Latino culture, it’s my roots. I had a great time watching Soul Food Junkies with a table of almost all Puerto Rican bloggers — a few I had known online and met for the first time in person!

Also, for the first time, I met our Sue in Queens and Diana aka “LadydeeLG”. We had so much fun catching up. I look forward to meeting up again!

I’ve been traveling a lot lately for work, thus my sleep is off again. I found this article in helpful on the foods that help you fall asleep — and keep you up. It’s no wonder I’ve been craving salmon! Sadly, I need to lay off the coffee and spicy foods.

What else is in the news? What’s up with you?


Monday Morning Open Thread

What’s up?

Oh my gawd, people, I am back to the homework wars. Last night, DH and I checked Ari’s homework and it was only halfway done. If we hadn’t reminded him, none of it would have been done for this morning. This was after he had been grounded for not turning in homework, after insane lecturing on our part and tears on his end, and after he had an entire week off school. Ugh!!! This homework thing is going to be the bane of our existence.

Once again, we took away the iPad and video games for a week and playdates on school nights. Every day after school this week, I will be closely monitoring to make sure that he completes it. Ay.

A group of moms in Montserrat, Spain, have gone topless for a racy calendar to raise money for their school buses, according to the TODAY Show moms blog. In case you are wondering, they have raised the money needed to keep bus service for 600 elementary school kids, which begs the question, how far would you go to fundraise for your kids’ school?

In other news: a Caucasian mom at BlogHer with an African American daughter wrote about the nuances of travel in this country — finding “friendly” places where non-white people can stay. I understand where she is coming from. I can think of two places, in which I felt uncomfortable being the only brown person that day. One of those places was in the deep south where people around me waved confederate flags and dropped the “n” word quite casually. I learned very quickly to keep my mouth shut — and never returned. It’s sad that in this day and age we still have that in this country. I applaud this mother for recognizing it and protecting her daughter.

In people who are completely off the mark: Keli Goff at the Huffington Post wrote a piece about “why bad parents oppose kid-free flights.” I liked this comment by a self-described 52-year-old gay man with no children:

Here’s the million dollar answer. People of all ages travel by plane for medical reasons. Banning children from flights could be challenged on the basis of the Americans with Disabilities Act if a child with cancer needs to fly to a cancer center for chemotherapy.

Yes, this. I would add that children are still people and it is a slippery slope to start deeming who is “too annoying” to fly. There are plenty of adults who arguably belong in this category, too. Unlike a private beach or club, air is public. Flying is just one of those things we all suck up because we have to — a funeral, an illness, visiting family, going on vacation, etc..

And that’s all I got. What else is in the news? What’s up with you?


Thursday Open Thread

From the first article I read, I have been haunted by the death of 17-year-old  Trayvon Martin at the hands of an overzealous, self-appointed “neighborhood watch captain” who deemed the teen’s very presence suspicious. So George Zimmerman stalked Trayvon, confronted him and ended up shooting him with a 9mm handgun. Trayvon had walked to a convenience store for a bag of Skittles and a can of iced tea. His only crime seemed to be Walking While Black. And Zimmerman? Hasn’t even been arrested yet.

If you haven’t yet, please read our very own Christina’s post about Trayvon. I’ve been so upset by this tragedy, this vicious, senseless act, but Christina’s post finally helped me pin down exactly what I’ve been feeling. It had me sobbing as I grappled with rage and fear and impotence. And now I think I know why Trayvon’s death hit so close to home: my son is brown. He might someday fall under the same “suspicion” that led to Trayvon’s murder. I pray for Trayvon, for his parents. I pray for all of us.

If you haven’t yet, please sign the petition urging for the prosecution of Trayvon’s murderer. Thanks to ongoing public pressure, the U.S. Department of Justice, the FBI, and the Florida Department of Law Enforcement have launched their own investigations. Last night, the Sanford City Commission gave the police chief a vote of  no confidence, adding to a widespread call to oust him. Please, make your voice heard.

What’s on your mind today?