Wednesday Morning Open Thread

What’s up?

As of last night, 11 p.m. local time/8 p.m. Cali time, the winner of last night’s GOP primary in New Hampshire was Mitt Romney (38%), followed by Ron Paul (23%) and Jon Huntsman (17%). I expect a lot of dropouts in the next few days. Here are the polls and details at our brother site Daily Kos.

Speaking of politics, when will we catch up to Jamaica? Portia Simpson Miller, Jamaica’s first female prime minister, was just sworn in for her second term. Check out her bad-ass response to homophobia on the island.

In related news, I teared up reading this personal account by a legislator and son of a gay man who has endorsed a gay marriage bill in Washington state.

MSN Health ran a fascinating study on how people who live 110 years or longer have as many disease-associated genes as people in the general population, but they may also have protective genes that help them live longer.

Liz Cerezo over at the Thoughts of a Mommy blog wrote a thoughtful and honest account about parenting a teenage boy.

The Boston Globe ran a wonderful essay about raising teenagers with autism.

BlogHer published another provocative piece, this one proposed an expiration date on marriage to prevent snarling the courts with divorce cases. She suggested having a mechanism where married couples can choose to renew their marital vows — er contract — online. What do you think?

Mother Jones magazine included a round-up of tidbits from a biography about the Obamas. I couldn’t put it down!

Finally, here is a little humor on this lovely hump day courtesy of the Huffington Post. Like this author and illustrator, I hardly drank any caffeinated or alcoholic drinks prior to becoming a mother. Now? There are days I just can’t get by without them! :)

Thanks for the tip, Hilary!

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


The “white woman from Kansas”

We’ve all heard Barack Obama’s story many times, but I’ve heard very little about his mother than the (now trite) ‘white woman from Kansas’ line.  So, I was pleased to see this biographical story in today’s NYTimes.  Maybe I”m the only one who was so unaware, but until today, I never even knew her name.

Seems Stanley Ann Dunham Soetoro was a free-spirit, a little bit of a wanderer, and a committed social reformer

“She was a very, very big thinker,” said Nancy Barry, a former president of Women’s World Banking, an international network of microfinance providers, where Ms. Soetoro worked in New York City in the early 1990s. “I think she was not at all personally ambitious, I think she cared about the core issues, and I think she was not afraid to speak truth to power.”

Independent and brave enough to leave Kansas for Hawaii, to marry men who her parents did not approve of, and to raise her two children with passion and a committed world vision.

“She gave us a very broad understanding of the world,” her daughter said. “She hated bigotry. She was very determined to be remembered for a life of service and thought that service was really the true measure of a life.”

She saw her role in the world to be helping others, including her time in Indonesia

She became a consultant for the United States Agency for International Development on setting up a village credit program, then a Ford Foundation program officer in Jakarta specializing in women’s work. Later, she was a consultant in Pakistan, then joined Indonesia’s oldest bank to work on what is described as the world’s largest sustainable microfinance program, creating services like credit and savings for the poor.

I always see Barack Obama as a man on his own – other than his wife, he seems without family.  Reading this story and “meeting” his mother and sister added another dimension in my head to this man who may be our next President.


The Sacagawea Dollar

I think it’s appropriate that here at MotherTalkers, we take a moment to appreciate the only US currency that depicts a mother and child: the Sacagawea Dollar.

The coin shows Sacagawea, a Shoshone Indian woman, and her son, Jean Baptiste. Sacagawea was 6 months pregnant when she joined the Lewis & Clark expedition, and gave birth en route. There are no portraits of her; the artist for the coin used a modern young Shoshone woman as a model.

(It astounds me to think of how many women gave birth in similar circumstances. Of course, many died.)

Sacagawea was born in Idaho, and kidnapped and taken to North Dakota at the age of 10. At age 13, she was sold to a French trapper, Charbonneau, who made her and another Shoshone girl his wives. (He is known to have had 5 Native American girls as wives during his lifetime.) When Lewis and Clark came through, interviewing trappers who could act as guides, Charbonneau got the job because 15 year old Sacagawea was included and could speak Shoshone. It formed a roundabout translation chain:

If and when the expedition met the Shoshones, Sacagawea would talk with them, then translate to Hidatsa for Charbonneau, who would translate to French. The Corps’ Francois Labiche spoke French and English, and would make the final translation so that the two English-speaking captains would understand.

The accounts of her contribution to the expedition highlight that her brother happened to be Chief of the Shoshone tribe who supplies them with horses, and mention that she translates and knows some trails. Tribes they met were inclined to assume that the expedition wasn’t a war party because it included a Shoshone woman. I find them frankly rather condescending… she’s described in most historical articles as more of an object or talisman than as the enthusiastic teenager she must have been to win Captain Clark’s clear admiration. It doesn’t get much more “working mother” than her story. I am always sorry to read that she died at age 25, but I am also grateful that Captain Clark adopted her son and daughter.

I love this coin. It is beautiful to look at and a pleasure to handle. Having a pile of them makes me feel Iike I have a bucket of gold doubloons, I’m rich! It evokes a feeling of money that no other American currency does for me.

So why hasn’t this coin become popular in general circulation? Is it because Americans love paper? Is it because it has a woman on it? Or a Shoshone? Is it because we hoarded them all in our mattresses?

I think the real answer comes from James C. Benfield, of the Coin Coalition: “The key players in the circulation of any denomination are the store managers of chain restaurants, drugstores, grocery stores and convenience stores. All coins, and $1 and $5 bills, begin circulating in the economy from the cash drawers of these establishments. If the store manager doesn’t stock $1 coins in the morning, then you won’t get them as change in the afternoon.” Certainly I have spent them, but the only place I have ever gotten them back is from USPS vending machines. I don’t want to eliminate the paper dollar, as the Coin Coalition does, but I do like these coins.

The reason I was thinking about this coin was in fact because I wanted some. DD has now had two visits from the Tooth Fairy. When I was little, we got a quarter, but it seems that there has been some inflation since then. I’ve been giving her two quarters (and I pick out  I was thinking that a shiny golden dollar under one’s pillow would be pretty exciting. Now all I have to do is figure out where I can get some for $1, not buying them mail order as collectors’ items!