Happy Mother’s Peace Day

Julia Ward Howe, the founder of Mothers Peace Day
Julia Ward Howe, the founder of Mother's Peace Day. Via Wikipedia.

I bet that you probably have no idea where Mother’s Day got its start.  I always figured it was sort of like Valentine’s Day– cooked up in some secret meeting between card companies, florists, jewelers, and others looking for a holiday by which they could market and sell things.

Turns out I couldn’t have been more wrong.  Mother’s Day actually started as part of a peace movement, and at a time when our nation is fighting two wars, when so many other nations in the world are at war, when violence seems to have become a way of life, it’s important to remember the true origin of Mother’s Day.  It was not intended as a day for children to celebrate their mothers, though this is a wonderful thing which should be done every day, but rather as a day for mothers around the world to come together for the cause of peace, to work together to ensure that their children would not need to fight and kill one another.

The creator of Mother’s Day was Julia Ward Howe, the same woman who wrote the words to “The Battle Hymn of the Republic.”  She issued the following Mother’s Day Proclamation in 1870:

Arise then…women of this day!
Arise, all women who have hearts!
Whether your baptism be of water or of tears!
Say firmly:
“We will not have questions answered by irrelevant agencies,
Our husbands will not come to us, reeking with carnage,
For caresses and applause.
Our sons shall not be taken from us to unlearn
All that we have been able to teach them of charity, mercy and patience.
We, the women of one country,
Will be too tender of those of another country
To allow our sons to be trained to injure theirs.”

From the bosom of a devastated Earth a voice goes up with
Our own. It says: “Disarm! Disarm!
The sword of murder is not the balance of justice.”
Blood does not wipe out dishonor,
Nor violence indicate possession.
As men have often forsaken the plough and the anvil
At the summons of war,
Let women now leave all that may be left of home
For a great and earnest day of counsel.
Let them meet first, as women, to bewail and commemorate the dead.
Let them solemnly take counsel with each other as to the means
Whereby the great human family can live in peace…
Each bearing after his own time the sacred impress, not of Caesar,
But of God –
In the name of womanhood and humanity, I earnestly ask
That a general congress of women without limit of nationality,
May be appointed and held at someplace deemed most convenient
And the earliest period consistent with its objects,
To promote the alliance of the different nationalities,
The amicable settlement of international questions,
The great and general interests of peace.

In many ways, reflecting on peace, and what it would mean for us to realize that every person truly is somebody’s baby, is a way for me to celebrate my mothers. Yes, I have two, a mother and a stepmom, both of whom I can now say (after a little counseling and some relationship building between my mother and me) love me dearly and have made me into the woman I am today. Both are huge advocates of caring for others, of making a difference, of fighting for what you believe in. I may be an opinionated, outspoken, passionate person, but I am this way because I was raised by people who loved me enough to give me a voice, to believe that I had something to say, to have the courage to stand by my convictions. So, on Mother’s Day, I am thankful for the opportunity to be raised by two strong, loving women.  I’m sure I’ll never understand their sacrifices until I have children of my own.  I hope to be the kind of woman they’ve always known and dreamed I would be, and on Mother’s Day and every day, I continue to pray for peace.

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no photographs, please

When encountering rude, staring people, my mother used to mutter, “Take a picture, it’ll last longer!”  I think I’m having the opposite problem.  I’ve begun to notice strangers taking my picture…perhaps because it’ll last longer.

Now, maybe this is one of the hazards of living in a well-known tourist town.  People flock here to take

I think this campaign is why they are flocking here... What do you think?
I think this campaign is why they are flocking here... What do you think?

carriage tours of historic homes and gardens, to see Spanish moss hanging from gnarled live oaks, and to dine on shrimp and grits.  During the spring and summer tourist season, as I stand at my bus stop on one of downtown’s main drags after work, I am often approached by tourists.  “Does this bus go to the visitor’s center?” (yes).  “Which way to the battery?” (that way).  My personal favorite is to watch them photographing the building immediately across the street from my bus stop.  It’s a cool looking building, I’ll give them that, but as far as I know, and according to the walking tour book we bought for entertaining out of town guests, it has no real historical significance.  More than once, eager be-fanny-packed tourists toting large cameras have stopped to ask me, “What is THAT building?  Was it a school?”  I usually smile and say, “Well ma’am, I’ve only lived here a couple years, and I don’t know.  Right now it’s just an apartment building.”  I mean, I don’t want to let people down on the Southern Hospitality portion of their experience, but, WHAT DO I LOOK LIKE, A TOUR GUIDE? I’M JUST STANDING HERE, PROBABLY HOT, AND IRRITATED THAT THE EFFING BUS IS LATE FOR THE UMPTEENTH TIME.

And then, one day, as I was boarding my bus, one of the be-fanny-packed socks-with-sandals tourists snapped my picture.  AIN’T NUTHIN’ SCENIC BOUT MY SKINNY ASS GETTING ON A CITY BUS.  MOVE ALONG.  I have no idea what they’ll say about THAT photo when showing folks their photos from their lovely vacation down South.  I mean, I didn’t even tell them that I’m a real live curtsey-ing debutante or anything, so as far as they know I’m just some random girl who rides the bus.

I just basically assumed that the bus-stop photographer was an anomaly until I was on my lunch break, shuffling my lil flip flops down one of the main shopping drags immediately adjacent to my work, having made a quick run to The Body Shop for my favorite hair product (Cottonseed Curl Boost— thanks to it, I no longer blow dry).  I was passing the Louis Vuitton store and trying not to covet when a man leaned out of his carriage tour and snapped my picture again! I think I scowled at him.  Now, I’ve been on plenty of vacations in my life, and Lord knows, anyone who’s seen the number of photos I took in England alone knows I like to document my experiences.  But never have I ever snapped random photos of people on the street.  What is WITH that?  I feel sorta like my privacy has been invaded.  Who were those people who thought getting your picture taken stole a little piece of your soul?  I feel them.

Late breaking update: as I stood at the bus stop after work today, waiting for a 10-minutes-late bus, some guy hanging out the window of his car took my picture.  Pretty sure he wasn’t a tourist, just a creep.  Such weird things always happen to me, usually involving my time on the bus.

hydraphobia!

I am the mother of two rather large mutts.  Bessie, a catahoula leopard dog/labrador retriever mix, weighs in at about 75 pounds. She’s like a lab, spotted like a cow. She even has webbed toes. We joke that between the spots and her whiskers, sometimes she resembles a leopoard seal pup. Olive, a petite lab/border collie (we think) mix, weighs in at around 45 pounds and bounces and leaps like her legs are made of springs. Watching her run is like poetry in motion. Watching her jump up and down is just plain hilarious. The one thing these two crazy girls have in common? Hatred of water.

We like to sunbathe and snuggle! Water sux!
We like to sunbathe and snuggle! Water sux!

That’s right.  My two dogs, despite the fact that they supposedly have retriever running through their little puppy veins, have no interest in plunging into some body of water to retrieve dead waterfowl.  In fact, they’d rather not even wade in the shallow end.  Or walk through a puddle.  Or go out in the rain.  Or take a bath.  Or, even on the hottest of hot Southern summer days, get into the kiddie pool you lovingly provided for their refreshment.  On a rainy day, they will poke their little heads out the doggie door, and, at the sight of precipitation, sigh and refuse to go outside, no matter HOW BAD they have to pee.  And heaven forbid you try to take Bessie to the beach.  I’m sure we look like animal abusers every time we’ve tried it, because if we get too close to the waves, she basically digs her paws into the sand and refuses to go any further.  And here we are, dragging her by the leash, “It’s the beach! You are such a lucky puppygirl that you get to come to the beach! Puppies LOVE water! You even have webbed toes! Isn’t this fun?”  All the while our dog is acting like we are attempting to drag her into a WOOD CHIPPER.  We basically don’t even bother any more.  Continue reading “hydraphobia!”

come and warm yourself by the radiant heat of my legs

Having written a post yesterday involving all the ways I’m turning into my mother, I am now taking the liberty to scold myself for some teenage style-stupidity.

I should probably begin this story in the cold, sunless land where long ago, my ancestors surely lived and breathed, probably nocturnally, as their fragile fragile skin surely couldn’t have handled any exposure to ultraviolet radiation.  Over time, this fragile

The view from my seat today.
The view from my seat today.

skin was handed down through the generations, until, through some wonder of biology that this English major can’t understand, it found its way to me.  Through the years, on float trips and beach vacations, this skin has managed to ruin countless fun times by about day two.  It seems that at the very sight of sun, first, my skin thinks, ooh, this feels nice, and shows its enjoyment with cute little freckles, popping up across the bridge of my nose.  Freckles I can live with.  Freckles remind me of Lucy Liu.  Freckles remind me of Sawyer from Lost and his Southern drawl.  If this whole thing could just end with some freckles, my skin and I, we’d be just fine.

But no, after some freckles, my skin begins to realize what’s going on.  WAIT, WE’RE IN THE SUN? I HATE THE SUN! Then it’s suddenly like I’m a naked mole rat, exposed to the light of day for the very first time.  My skin starts to turn a little red, and by then it’s already too late.  The damage is done.  Even if I go inside, within an hour, it feels like every cell on my legs is individually swollen and throbbing.   As a kid, I would get so badly burned that I’d be physically sick.  Has anyone else ever had a sunburn so bad that it made you throw up?  My mom would take pity on me and knock me out with a Benadryl so I could sleep until the worst was over.

Fast forward a few years and now I’m living in a beach town after years of landlocked living.  After two summers with at least one day of every weekend spent at the beach,  slathered in waterproof SPF 55, I even got the first tan of my life.  I thought maybe my skin had adapted.  That can happen right? Maybe my skin can adapt?

Well, it didn’t.  Today was our first beach day of the year, and though sunny, it was a windy, slightly chilly day.  For some boneheaded reason, I only put sunscreen on my face.  I mean, you can’t get a sunburn if it’s not HOT, right? (Yes, even I know how stupid this sounds, as I’ve managed to get sunburned while skiing, too.)  I felt fine when we left, just a little sun on my shoulders, but after being home for an hour, the tell-tale every-cell-swollen-and-throbbing appeared right along with the redness.  At this point, I’m pretty sure I’m glowing in the dark.  If you’re chilly, you could warm yourself by the heat of my shiny red skin.  I guess on the bright side I’ve learned my lesson on the first beach day of the year… it’s all sunsceen all the time for me from here on out.

ernie bufflo is a creature of habit

I know spontaneity is supposed to be a desirable thing, but I’m realizing I’m a creature of habit with a tendency towards hermitness (hermitage? what is a word for “the condition of being like a hermit” that would fit here?). Every day I wake up and go through the same routine. The dogs wake up about 30 minutes before my alarm goes off and I stumble out of bed, open the bedroom door, and lock them out.

we can haz breffist?
we can haz breffist?

Then my alarm goes off, and, after a 15 minute snooze, I can hear them prancing outside my door. Sometimes I even see little puppy paws and tails in the gap between door and floor. Now, I make no illusions, they’re not happy to see ME. They’re happy that the person who scoops the kibble into their bowls and opens their doggie door is up to serve them. While they scarf their breakfast, I grind coffee beans. While I put the ground coffee into the coffee pot, I watch them out the window. After a quick shower, I sip coffee while listening to the previous night’s podcast of either Rachel Maddow or Keith Olbermann, getting dressed and made up and lunch packed and to-go mug of peppermint tea prepared. I even eat the same thing for breakfast almost every morning: frozen whole grain waffle with extra crunchy peanut butter.

And on non work days? There’s still a routine. I call it The Great Puppy Hair Round Up. Usually on Saturday mornings, Jon, if he isn’t at work, is up long before me and is doing some sort of work in the yard. After I’m caffeinated and caught up on my blog reading, I sweep and start loads of laundry and round up the clutter all over our house. Usually at some point we either make breakfast burritos, go out to brunch, or, in the summer, head to the farmers’ market for the best crepes in the world.

It’s Friday night, and, though I have no real plans (working on it, though), I’m more excited about my Saturday morning. I’m thinking French toast, maybe 2 cups of coffee, a little reading and then a thorough housecleaning. Maybe at some point I’ll even make cookies. Sometimes I even look at mySELF and think, how did you turn into an old fogey at age 24.5? Even more importantly, how did you turn into your MOM? What’s that quote, by Oscar Wilde or someone? About how all women become their mothers and that is their curse, but no man ever does, and that’s his?  I must say, I don’t feel cursed at all.  I never knew I could be so happy turning into a hermit (and my mother).

Edit: Now that I think about it, there are a lot of ways I’ve turned into my mom.  I stock my fridge with home made sweet tea instead of soda.  I have an herb garden.  I compost.  I’m big on my reusable lunch bag– despite the fact that I found them humiliating when I was in high school and forced to reuse the same brown bag (all the cool kids carried brown bags instead of reusable bags) every day for a week for both thrifty and environmental reasons.  I listen to NPR, despite having hated being forced to listen to “A Prarie Home Companion” on car trips.  And that’s just the tip of the iceberg….

A picture is worth 100 days

Did you know there’s an official White House Flickr page? THERE IS! I’ve been checking it out and thought I’d share some of my favorites.

One of my favorite blogs during the campaign was Yes We Can Hold Babies. Maybe they shoulda kept it up because of great material like this:

Official White House Photo by Pete Souza, via Flickr.
Official White House Photo by Pete Souza, via Flickr.

This is perhaps the most high-powered and stylish chat I’ve ever seen.  Wish I could hang out with both of them!

Seriously, this could be an outtake from Vogue.  Official White House Photo by Chuck Kennedy, via Flickr
Official White House Photo by Chuck Kennedy, via Flickr.

Seriously, that could be an outtake from Vogue.

I know this is mushy and silly and not all that intelligent, but I love that we have a First Family that clearly loves the crap outta each other.  It’s adorable that the President and First Lady can’t get enough of each other, and I hope that Jon and I are the same way, even after two kids and a decade or more.

Even the people around them cant stop smiling! Official White House Photo by Pete Souza, via Flickr.
Official White House Photo by Pete Souza, via Flickr.

And how adorable is this?

Looks like the tables are turned!  Official White House Photo by Pete Souza, via Flickr.
Official White House Photo by Pete Souza, via Flickr.

There’s about a bajillion more photos in the stream.  Check them out!

Today’s Reads

  • I have no idea how the Republican Party can misunderstand the fact that the founders set up our system such that parties would HAVE to embrace moderates in order to win majorities. And yet apparently there is debate about whether the party should be more purely conservative or more of a proverbial big tent. I’m all for them being more purely conservative in the sense that they stick to their fiscal principals and give up social conservatism, though. (And I must say, I actually agree with Lindsay Graham as he is quoted in the article- way to not embarrass me on this one, Sen. Graham!)
  • Nicholas Kristof continues to be my favorite New York Times columnist (yes, I know how pretentious it must be to even have a favorite NYT columnist), and today’s column about the appalling backlog of rape kits in this country is a great example of why I love his writing.
  • I really recommend this well-written essay by a surgeon pondering how he has become habituated to cutting humans open and wondering if those who justified torture, as well as those of us reading and seeing about it in the news, have become habituated to these atrocities. He writes,

    While our current president speaks of moving forward, and not looking back at this chapter of our history, can we afford to turn away? In doing so, we accept how we have become habituated. We risk seeing the brutality not as an atrocity but as part of who we are. We become the surgeon who might have shook when first taking the knife in hand but who now dares to cut with eyes closed.

  • Yglesias writes that we might be wrong in repeating the mantra that “torture doesn’t work.” He notes that it works just fine for what it’s intended: generally producing false confessions for show trials and propaganda under dictatorships, and little else.
  • Until I read this article, I had no idea that any educated woman would be able to bring herself to defend female genital mutilation. I still don’t agree with her, but now I have a greater appreciation for the nuance of an argument that seems to many of us extremely straightforward.
  • And, finally,Ezra Klein explains what Jon’s been saying to me the last few days as I wondered why we’re flipping out about a flu that’s way less deadly, so far, than the regular flu. Jon keeps telling me, “It’s because it is spreading so fast.”

Klein writes:

It’s true that the flu is, as of now, not especially deadly. Survival rates are quite high. That’s a very good thing. And there’s some evidence that this flu will prove mild. Possibly even more mild than a bad flu season. But it’s not the end of the story. Influenzas mutate. The question is whether it mutates out of existence or towards lethality. ‘Towards lethality’ becomes more likely if more people catch the flu and thus more mutations emerge. So being aggressive in stopping the spread of the largely non-lethal variant is important if we want to avert the development of a more lethal strain. It’s not about stopping this flu. It’s about stopping what this flu can become.

So, wash your hands, cover your mouths when you cough or sneeze, call your doctor if you’re running a fever, take this thing seriously, but don’t panic.