Monday Morning Open Thread

What’s up?

I saw The Help on Friday with “Rolling” over at MomsRising. I loved it and will review soon. But I learned that she has a blog of her own. (How did I miss that?) You can drop a comment to her at WordyDoodles. Her name is Anita. :)

Thank you to the Coffee Party for addressing the oft-repeated ignorant comment, “only half the U.S. population pays taxes,” which was most recently espoused by Pastor Rick Warren. News flash for the “Pastor”: even if half the population doesn’t pay federal income taxes, they are paying payroll taxes, sales taxes, and other taxes that disproportionately hit the poor and working class. It’s a sad statement of our country that half the population doesn’t even earn enough to pay federal income taxes. It’s even sadder when people like “Pastor” Warren, who is supposedly on their side, attacks them for it.

This doesn’t surprise me: Apple is now the largest manufacturer of cell phones while Google’s Android is the largest smartphone operating system, according to MSNBC.com. With limited childcare and time this summer, I have found myself checking my e-mail on my iPhone a lot.  

Prudie at the Dear Prudence column advised an expectant mother not to name her baby girl “Lolita.” What do you think?

I had no idea that Padre Alberto — now Father Albert on FOX — has his own show. For Latinos, Padre Alberto was the Catholic priest who became an Episcopalian to marry the woman that he loves. Someone that we know, Laurie Puhn over at the Expecting Words blog, is going to be on his show today! It airs at different times so check out Laurie’s post for showtimes.

For those of you going to BlogHer this weekend, my panel takes place on Saturday at 3 p.m. in room 6A. Thanks!

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

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Monday Morning Open Thread

What’s up?

I just got back last night from almost a week in beautiful Lake Tahoe. Pictures are coming in the next thread!

But here are some news items that caught my eye: relationship expert Laurie Puhn over at the Expecting Words blog will be taking your questions in a live chat at 9:30 ET/6:30 PT tonight! Here are the details.  

Finally, I am proud of the fact that even though I was splashing in the sun in Tahoe, I still managed to get my work done for MomsRising. We just ran a blog carnival protesting proposed Medicaid cuts. Some commenters were pretty cold with our writers. One commenter even told one of our writers with spina bifida that “I am glad the generous tax payers of this country are affording you great healthcare. Just know that it comes from the sweat and hard work of taxpaying citizens.”

She had a great response, which I must share with you:

Hey, you know my family and I are taxpayers just like you are (I mean, I hope you are!). And I’m not whining, at least not for myself. And my father has worked HARD for over thirty years to provide good healthcare for us. So, we’re not exactly getting anything FOR FREE, ‘kay?

I can currently hold part-time jobs, but I can’t say the same to people who are confined to group or nursing homes. Who’s going to pay their stay there if they can’t take care of themselves?

Now I’m going to turn the tables on YOU and ask YOU to be grateful that you have the ability to support yourself and provide for yourself. You’re able to hold a job and support yourself. Well, good for you! I can’t wait to join the ranks. But, unlike you, I will be more than happy to pay my taxes if it goes to support those in need of healthcare, of an education, of all those basic things we take for granted but that I believe every citizen has a right to.

If you’re so blessed as to be able to provide for yourself, then perhaps it’s time to start thinking of others who are less fortunate. I know I will do just that.

Oh, and I suppose you think my charity should begin with those “poor rich people“ that you claim don’t have enough money. And you think people like ME are milking the system? Pssssht.

Good. For. Her. I can’t believe we’ve gotten to the point in this country that we are going after the low-income, disabled and elderly in our country in favor of the well-off. It really has become a race to the bottom.

How are you today? What else is in the news?

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Wednesday Morning Open Thread

What’s up?

The DREAM Act may come up for a vote this week. Here is a list of Democratic and Republican legislators whose votes are up in the air. Please call if any of them are your members of Congress.

In somewhat related news, the Pentagon released a report stating that 70 percent of U.S. service members believe repealing “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” would have little or no effect on their units, according to the Washington Post. Also in the Washington Post: in one of the few bipartisan votes during this Administration, the Senate passed a sweeping food safety bill to ensure that less Americans get sick from salmonella and other food contaminants.

Yesterday, I reviewed relationship expert Laurie Puhn’s book Fight Less, Love More. Coincidentally, she also had a column in the Huffington Post about the root of divorce. Also from Puhn’s Expecting Words blog: she wrote a response to the responses she received to a column she wrote about a hospital doing away with the nursery. She thought it was unfair for a tired mother to have to care for her baby round-the-clock while she was at the hospital. What is your take on this?

The number of adults in Texas with diabetes is expected to quadruple over the next 30 years, according to the Texas Tribune. Demographers are attributing the spike in diabetes cases to an aging population and obesity.  

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

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Review: Fight Less, Love More

My husband and I have been together 14 years, 10 of them married. I still consider him my soulmate and best friend, and enjoy his company.

If I had to point out a few things that have kept us together all these years it is that we share common goals and values, and we are good about airing our grievances — no matter the discomfort or fight that may ensue.

That said, we can always use tips whether it be stronger communication or a more lasting bond. That’s where Laurie Puhn’s Fight Less, Love More: 5-Minute Conversations to Change Your Relationship without Blowing Up or Giving In comes in.

Puhn is a family lawyer and couples mediator with a private practice in Manhattan. She also runs the Expecting Words blog, which I often link to here in my open threads. I generally think her advice is spot-on, and she really outdid herself with her book, which was both a fast read and practical one.

Citing research and her own observations with her clients — she changed their names by the way — she finger-pointed some communication pitfalls made by couples, as well 5-minute conversations that could remedy them. At first, I was incredulous that a major communication lapse that has festered into a deep wound could be healed with a five-minute conversation. But I did try some of her suggestions, and I can say that DH has reciprocated, and that has made us an even happier couple.

For example, I found that DH and I had established what Puhn referred to as a “daily weak communication” repertoire, in which we hardly said “good morning” or even a “thank you” to each other. Because we have been together for so long, we have taken each other for granted and expected the other to pay the bills, pick up the children at school or wash the dishes. This time, I made note of all my husband does around the house, and thanked him for it. “Thank you for folding the clothes,” I would say to him.  

At first, DH gave me a puzzled look as if he must have thought to himself, “Why the hell is she thanking me for this?” But then he answered with a “you welcome.” You could tell that he appreciated the validation. Soon it became contagious. Now we almost always say “good morning,” “good night”, give each other pecks and lots of “thank yous.” I made a lot of little changes like this, and I do think it’s made for an even stronger relationship.

Here are some other relationship pitfalls and 5-minute remedies that Puhn offers:

Pitfall #1 Never say “Honey, we have to talk.” Instead say, “Honey, can we have a 5-minute conversation?”

My husband tells me that while hearing “Honey we have to talk” immediately raises his blood pressure, my saying “Honey, can we have a 5-minute conversation?” actually makes him feel better because he knows that whatever issue it is that we’re confronting will be resolved in 5 minutes.


Pitfall #2 Avoid dumb arguments and own up to factual errors.

Have you ever found yourself getting agitated because your partner says you’re wrong when you’re sure you’re right? Or have you found yourself trading “It’s true” or “No, it isn’t” until you’re blue in the face? Those are all familiar set-up words for the dumb factual argument. Instead, when you are bickering about a fact like an address, a name, or a statistic, recognize this and say, “Hey we’re arguing about a fact. Let’s just find out the information instead of fighting about it.” With the help of Google, you’ll have your answer and avoid an argument over nothing.

Yes! I can’t tell you how often Google or Wikipedia has been a Godsend to our relationship. DH and I have avoided so many factual arguments because of the Internet, although I admit, I am a proud person and have a hard time apologizing when I am the one who’s wrong. :)

Pitfall #3 A good partner does not have to care about everything and anything that interests you.

I have two pieces of advice for you. First, I suggest that you pay more attention to the signs that your partner is beginning to tune you out. You know exactly what I’m talking about: those moments when he starts to fidget or look bored and you instinctively utter the infamous words “Are you listening to me?” You probably don’t want an honest answer to that question. Most likely, he feels bored to death or stressed out by your onslaught of information. Recognize this moment, and when it happens, stop talking.

Second, you need to learn how to communicate more effectively. How do you do that? One way is to stay away from frothy, detailed descriptions and repetition.

Pitfall #4 Don’t interrupt your partner.

I know this might sound a little corny–we’ve seen this method played out comically in movies and on television shows–but using an object such as a “talking rock” really can help interrupters learn to give their conversation partners a turn. In case you’re not familiar with it, in this technique no one is allowed to talk unless he or she is holding a designated object–such a rock, a pillow, or another small household object.

Pitfall #5 Don’t let jobs or children get in the way of couple time.

Couple time isn’t indulgent or selfish, it’s essential. Being able to communicate one-on-one, as adults, without interruption offers great rewards. You don’t need to schedule hours on end for “couple time,” and you don’t need to do anything out of the ordinary. You might simply watch a movie together or take a walk around the neighborhood. Use household chores and errands as opportunities for a Pitch-In Love Play. Join your mate on a trip to the grocery store, help prepare dinner, or help fold the laundry. If you view a task as an opportunity to focus on each other, the chore will become less annoying and sometimes even enjoyable.

Pitfall #6 Love means never having to say you’re sorry? Wrong. Learn to give heartfelt apologies.

As we’ve seen, certain conditions are necessary for love to survive: appreciation, respect, compassion, trust, and companionship. If any one of those conditions isn’t met, love cannot endure. That’s why the act of apologizing is essential. A perfect apology offers an acknowledgement that a line has been crossed, causing one or more of those conditions to be threatened or violated, and it provides a way for you to move back to the right side of the line together.

Pitfall #7 Don’t be a know-it-all.

Misleading or speaking as if one’s opinion is fact is unacceptable, but to make matters worse, this know-it-all communication habit is usually accompanied by an arrogant attitude: “How dare you question me?”

Puhn goes into detail — again, using her clients as examples — as to how to navigate the defensiveness caused by second-guessing a know-it-all. For example, how a wife should question a husband who won’t ask for directions, or a spouse who assumes that someone offers the cheapest services because a neighbor said so. She offers much more detail in navigating each of these pitfalls, which reads a lot like Ladies’ Home Journal’s “Can This Marriage Be Saved?” — a column I have always enjoyed.

I highly recommend this book to anyone who is interested in making their relationship stronger. While I have implemented many of these 5-minute conversations already, I wouldn’t mind my husband to read the book to see what I am up to. I will make sure to leave it on his night table.

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Friday Morning Open Thread

(Bear with me as I took this photo with my iPhone. From left to right: Kyle de Beausset, Matías (last name not listed), Lisbeth Mateo, and Yahaira Carrillo, at the “Illegal” Organizing panel.)

On my first day at Netroots Nation, I attended so many interesting panels such as the Latino Caucus — my report on it is coming up next — and the panel pictured to the right: “‘Illegal’ Organizing: Lessons from the Migrant Youth Movement.” For video of the discussion, click here.  

The four young adults pictured are brave. They have “come out” — their words — as undocumented and have been arrested for civil disobedience. They have sat in Sen. John McCain’s office, Sen. Harry Reid’s office, have stood front and center at immigration rallies and have even been detained. One of the speakers said she believes they have not been deported because it would be “bad PR” for immigration officials. When people discuss “illegals,” the image of a young person in a cap and gown, assimilated and speaking English, is not what immediately comes to mind. Yet, passage of the DREAM Act would grant a million of these youth temporary permanent residency in the only country they call home.

“We are visible and upfront,” activist Yahaira Carrillo said. “We get personal attacks, personal e-mails and personal messages on Facebook and Twitter. But (coming out) also has its benefits.”

Unlike their parents, Carrillo and her fellow panelists represent a new mentality among undocumented youth. They are not afraid of declaring themselves undocumented, signing online petitions and attending rallies.

Lisbeth Mateo said they survive through their creativity. They have started their own businesses, been hired anyway — they are educated and speak English — or depend on donations for their activism. In other words, they have the work ethic and drive of Americans.

“Some people call it naive or foolish,” Carrillo said. “But we call it fighting for our lives.”

One way to help their cause is to call your members of Congress and have them support the DREAM Act.

In non-Netroot Nation news: Laurie Puhn at the Expecting Words blog wrote about how our partner’s flaws — and our own flaws — can blow up in our faces once we have children. She offered tips on how to fix them. Also in the Expecting Words blog: Laurie just attended the Smart Marriages Conference in Orlando and learned a bunch of factoids, like, the No. 1 predictor of divorce is the habitual avoidance of conflict. (Here is the source.)

The Associated Press had an article about a controversial school board measure in Raleigh, North Carolina, that critics say will re-segregate schools. Warning: do not read the comments as they are downright scary.

A writer at Mamapedia wrote about life after foreclosure.

In celebrity gossip break (that’s what it’s become!): Mama Palin supposedly doesn’t approve of daughter Bristol and Levi Johnston’s engagement, according to Reuters.

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

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Tuesday Morning Open Thread

What’s up?

Let’s call this the relationship open thread, shall we?

I often quote Expecting Words blog’s Laurie Puhn because she is a relationship expert. She has a couple of books under her belt and a Facebook page that has some moms talking. Most recently, Puhn published these two updates, which created a healthy response:

Couples often have phases in their relationships, good years, and then not-so perfect years and back to more good years.  If your relationship is going through a rough spell, don’t give up!  Has anyone experienced the phases and survived?

Game Show time! Name “Things that Make a Couple More Likely to Fight“ 1) Broken air conditioning (I’m suffering from that right now!), 2) Lack of sleep, 3) A new baby, 4) ….. what’s your answer?

On the latter, money was a big issue that caused even temporary separations. But a couple moms did comment on kids — including their husbands acting like children — and sleep deprivation.

In the beginning of my and DH’s relationship — that would be 14 years ago! — we did have spats over money, but not enough to break us up. One of us would fret about our debt load, then we’d fight over who was spending what, and we’d end up spending more money making up over takeout. (Ay!) In recent years, however, I would say that sleep deprivation and division of labor — meaning childcare — has caused the most tension in our relationship. But we have managed to plunge through, meaning, we have fought, but then made up and talked things over after we’ve had time to stew. What about you? What are some of the things you and your partner fight about? How do you “roll with the punches” so to speak?

In dysfunctional relationship news, Time magazine covered a study showing that people who have recently experienced a breakup exhibit the same symptoms of addiction as someone on cocaine. Read on:

It also helps explain why feelings of heartbreak are so hard to get over and even harder to control. The study notes, with classic academic rigor, that the spurned students had engaged in activities such as “inappropriate phoning, writing or e-mailing, pleading for reconciliation, sobbing for hours, drinking too much and/or making dramatic entrances and exits into the rejecter’s home, place of work or social space to express anger, despair or passionate love.” Sound familiar, anyone?

At least in one sense, this pain is a good thing, according to Brown. “In a way, nature gave us this response as a protection,” she says. “It helps us keep relationships going under adverse circumstances, which is important for keeping our species going.”

Such pain is also the first step in helping people get over their exes.

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

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Did You Like Being Pregnant?

My apologies in advance to our adoptive moms, step moms, and non-parents, as I know what your answer is. But for the folks who got knocked up, did you like being pregnant?

This was an interesting question posed by Laurie Puhn at the Expecting Words blog, who is expecting her second child, by the way. Congratulations to her!

I understand her hesitation in posing the question in the first place as she made it clear that she was grateful that she was pregnant in the first place. But I agree with her that I tend to look at happy pregnant ladies as odd and enviable creatures.

A couple of bright lights: I loved shopping for new clothes. Also, the first time I felt the baby kick was exciting. But then I worried incessantly when I didn’t feel the baby kick. As for the other physical symptoms? I could have done without those.

After the initial euphoria of learning that I was pregnant — I have had two miscarriages, so yes, I was very excited to see the two stripes on my pee stick — reality set in. For both my pregnancies, especially my first, 10 weeks of my first trimester were marked by horrible waves of nausea and vomiting. I was relieved to arrive to my second trimester for so many reasons, then dreaded the last three months of pregnancy as I was so freaking tired and couldn’t sleep on my back, my favorite sleep position. A couple of times, I landed on my back in the middle of the night and almost fainted, reminding me to get back on my side.

My favorite part of pregnancy? The actual delivery. Yes, the contractions were horrible and I puked through those, but being done with being pregnant and holding the baby in my arms was the best.

What about you? Did you love or hate being pregnant? Don’t worry, we won’t judge you! :)

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Traveling Without Kids

I cracked up when I read Expecting Words blogger Laurie Puhn’s description of her first trip away from her toddler boy, Blake. This is me to a T:

Apparently, I need to take a vacation from my brain.  For the first day of my trip, I just wouldn’t stop the movie reel: what if our plane crashes?  What if Blake desperately cries for me for hours?  What if they put him in the warmer pajamas but the heat is turned too high and Blake overheats in the middle of the night?  What if they forget to read him “Goodnight Moon“ at bedtime?

What if I shouldn’t have left my baby?

Of course, Puhn had a fabulous time in Cancun. I, too, have never had any problems arise from leaving my children with family members or friends to go on a trip with my husband — despite all my incessant worrying. I think back to my childhood when my parents would put me and my sister Nidia — we were respectively 7 and 6-years-old — on a plane by ourselves to spend three months of the summer up north with our grandparents. To this day, my childhood summer vacations are some of my best memories. Also, I had an incredibly close relationship with my grandparents who I affectionately called Mamá and Papá.

Have you traveled without your kids? How old were they? How did you stop the “movie reel” of worst-case scenarios from playing in your head?

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Tuesday Open Thread

What’s up?

In celebration of Black History Month this month, check out this CNN story about a sit-in at a whites-only lunch counter 50 years ago. It still amazes me that this country had segregation only 50 years ago.

If you can stomach it, here is a depressing Newsweek story on children as indentured servants in Haiti.

Here is a game-changer in favor of abstinence-only education: At least one study conducted by the University of Pennsylvania has found that a third of 6th and 7th graders did delay having sex after taking an abstinence-only course compared to students in other sex education classes, according to the Washington Post. Officials for the Obama Administration, who have called for a scientific approach to sex education, have said abstinence-only courses like the one in this particular study could qualify for federal funds.

Laurie Puhn over at the Expecting Words blog cast a spotlight on a parenting philosophy of treating children like “little people” as opposed to babies and toddlers. In this case, a father let his almost 3-year-old daughter run around a high-end bar because she needed to figure things out on her own. Puhn viewed it as a lack of parenting while the father thought otherwise. What say you?

Starting in April of next year, fathers in Britain will be able to take 6 months — three months paid — of paternity leave, according to the Telegraph of the UK.

The taxpayers of Oregon just passed tax hikes on wealthy individuals and corporations to avoid a budget crisis in the state, according to the Los Angeles Times.

Here is an interesting article in Education World on how recess before lunch actually helps children eat more, behave better and gives teachers more instruction time. Who knew?

I, too, missed the Grammys Sunday night so here is a recap thanks to CNN.

Apparently American Idol will go on without Simon Cowell next year. Among floating names to replace him is former head of Sony Music Entertainment, Tommy Mottola, according to CNN.

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

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Fathers and Postpartum Depression

New York Times columnist Richard Friedman wrote about postpartum depression — in men.

Up to 80 percent of women experience minor sadness — the so-called baby blues — after giving birth, and about 10 percent plummet into severe postpartum depression. But it turns out that men can also have postpartum depression, and its effects can be every bit as disruptive — not just on the father but on mother and child.

We don’t know the exact prevalence of male postpartum depression; studies have used different methods and diagnostic criteria. Dr. Paul G. Ramchandani, a psychiatrist at the University of Oxford in England who did a study based on 26,000 parents, reported in The Lancet in 2005 that 4 percent of fathers had clinically significant depressive symptoms within eight weeks of the birth of their children. But one thing is clear: It isn’t something most people, including physicians, have ever heard of.

Laurie Puhn over at the Expecting Words blog chimed in on why she isn’t surprised by Friedman’s findings. Men’s worlds are every bit as turned upside down as women’s when baby comes. Yet, they are not allowed to grieve over this drastic change.

Did the father of your children experience the baby blues?

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