Monthly Archives: November 2008

Day of the Dinosaurs

Colorado is not just about snow (the lack of which in 2008 is duly noted). Colorado has some absolutely incredible dinosaur excavations, including stuff that’s still being dug up to this day. That’s something I didn’t know until we went on a day-long excursion/adventure this week.

First stop was one of the sites about half an hour from where we are living, at Dinosaur Ridge. The dino footprints have been preserved and you can walk up and see them! While the Ridge is on the side of a roadway, the road has now been blocked off (except for the little tour bus), so you can safely walk up.

Looking at Dino tracks

Looking at Dino tracksThe tracks have been coloured black and go right up the side of the cliff

The rock is shale, and the history of this part of Colorado is that it used to be a sea. After the landforms changed the sea disappeared, and the dinosaurs were preserved and fossilized within the shale. It was great stopping at this site first because we looked first-hand, and touched the shale in the mountain. The layers of the rock were really cool.
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From there we took a drive for another hour and a half to the Rocky Mountain Dinosaur Resource Center (RMDMC) at Woodland Park. It features lots of exceptionally cool stuff for adults as well as kids on the Dinosaurs they’ve found, how they preserve them, and lots of those cool skeletons. You can even see the paleontologists at work preserving the fossils! It was great because they described the shale excavation and some of their discoveries came from exactly where we had just been.
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  november-2008-043The RMDRC has interactive kid activities, free hourly tours of the centre, two movies running all the time, and full displays of how they create the casts, and preserve the remains. Everything is presented in such a great way, it kept every one of us enthralled. There was no whingeing at this one! This was a day trip well worth taking!
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Flapdoodle’s pumpkin diet

Halloween is officially over. The only candy left is the real crud that nobody will eat so I’m about to chuck it out. That’s not bad for an entire month!

The other great thing was the jack-o-lanterns. We had heaps of fun carving them with our US friends and they decorated the outside of the house with their scariness for a while. And the kids even had a jack-o-lantern competition at school which was amusing. (Though why so many parents feel they have to do the jack-o-lantern for their kid like some work of art, and then put the kid’s name on it when it was obviously done by the parent is beyond me. Some people need to get a life.) 

Anyway, back to the real story here. The jack-o-lanterns, if carved, go ‘off’ in about a week, so the kids painted and googly eyed etc two pumpkins for school. When they brought them back home we put them on the front verandah… and Flapdoodle decided it was his buffet time. 

We have been highly amused by Flapdoodle’s obsession with our pumpkins. (Yes, we are that desperate for entertainment.) Finally he has eaten both of them. And they were quite large! Luckily for him, he left the googly eyes and pipe cleaners, and he’s still running about so they didn’t kill him.

Flapdoodle, king of pumpkin one

Flapdoodle, king of pumpkin one

Attacking pumpkin two

Attacking pumpkin two

Vilification is not okay, even if it’s accepted vernacular

During my final 12 months in Australia, a disturbing language fad happened in the youth I was teaching at college. It was also demonstrated across all youth, because I saw it in my own children.

The use of the word gay to describe something negative. Anything negative. Was gay. “That’s so gay.” “He’s so gay.” “That game’s gay.”

The real meaning was that gay was a reject. It was bad. It was unacceptable.

That’s vilification. It’s a representation of bigotry.

And even though most people saying it weren’t intending to be supporting of any of those horrible, closed minded sentiments, they were still saying it. And as such, they were keeping the flame alive.

So I decided that even though it was a rampant part of the youth vernacular, I didn’t have to accept it. So I outlawed this use of it in my classroom. And it had very real effect.

I told them all. Every class. If you use that term in that way, you’re out of my classroom. And then I explained why.

It caused a little stir, but it worked. They found other ways to express themselves, and it brought to light the fact that we all have responsibility for the language we use, and even if we don’t intend to offend… we can and often do. And that’s problematic for all of us in a society.

So now I’m in the US and I’m finding the same situation exists with the word “retard”. Just throw it in wherever gay was thrown in and you get the picture.

So I’m taking the same stance. I won’t accept this. Not in my friends, my kids… even my Twitter friends. And I’m calling on you to join with me in this. Let’s stamp this vilification out. Just as it’s unacceptable to say the “N word” in the USA to refer to people, I’d love it to be the case to see it as unacceptable to use the “R word” to refer to anyone or anything at all.

Some of our community are intellectually disabled. That doesn’t make them “R word” in the sense it’s being used by the broader community – it just gives them extra challenges. If you decide to segment these people into a less important stereotype, then you will completely miss out on the fact that people with those challenges are admirable and often inspirational in the way they take on the world. Their stories will often bring you to earth with a crash. 

So will you join me? Will you consciously stamp the “r word” out of your vocabulary? Will you commit to telling those around you not to use it in your presence? Let’s join forces. No word is bigger than the people behind the vocabulary.

The massive difference between A and B

I am swimming in the B pool and I’m not happy. (Don’t try telling me getting a B is okay. It’s not.)

I have some kick-ass papers to write. I have a great brain and a wealth of experience. But I’m not getting the grades I want.

Graduate school is difficult. This week I had what I’d describe as a ‘crash and burn 24 hours’. There were lots of reasons to just go back to work. Lots. But in talking with my husband and friends I realised these ‘reasons’ were things that could be changed if I wanted to find a way to make that happen.

So I’ve made a plan to fix things. A better approach. I will be far more efficient at note-taking, writing (so that includes drafting, revising and final drafts… not just one draft), and research. I will talk to people I respect, and tie myself to my professors. I am not going to study myself to death. I am not going to be so fearful of writing the wrong thing that I leave it and end up writing it without checking. I’m going to write it anyway, and then check it up and rewrite it instead. 

All this seems obvious. And it is. Unless you’re living it.

So that’s basically it. Oh, and the capstone is the kids and I have a deal. When I do pull myself out of the B pool, we are having a family party – complete with glow sticks from Dollar Tree, disco music and junk food.

It’s time to kill Lynette, the post-feminist failure.

I was wondering which of the Desperate Housewives I am. I don’t have a gardener, we’re not rich, my kids are not dysfunctional, I’m not blonde in real estate and I’m not pretty and stupid. I guess some would say Lynette is the closest to me, because she has billions of children and was a great worker outside the home. But that couldn’t be further from the truth. 

I adore that I’m a mum of four children. Each of my kids is incredible and I’ve learned so much about myself and life’s purpose with having each othem around. I’ve been a parent for 17 and a half years now. That’s a really long time – nearly half my life. when I had my first child, I was about 10 years younger than any of the other mums in the parenting groups, and I was pretty much a fish out of water. But even though it was incredibly challenging, I did it, and did it really well.

I also worked outside the house. Because I wanted to. And that fantastic juggling act was about the most impressive thing I’ve ever done. It’s not about being a ‘superwoman’, it’s about being an individual. Someone who wants to try to do as much as possible and doesn’t want to make “choices” that the women’s movement and society says you should.

I gave birth to both my second child and my first magazine for ACP in the same year, without a nanny or cleaner or whatever. How did that work? I pitched a plan to my publisher, Nick Chan, that I would telecommute (the first ever at ACP) and guaranteed him that he would get the best editor for the job if he appointed me. Even though someone else wanted the job (who was also female, but not pregnant at the time), he gave it to me. Some would congratulate Nick for that – what a forward thinking guy he is. I find that pretty condescending and basically offensive to both Nick and me. I know Nick is an incredible professional and he appointed the person who was going to do the best job, all things considered. It was a business decision, not a ‘socially courageous’ one. He appointed me because I freaking well rock.

How did he know that?

I had put together an 8-page sample of what the magazine would look like, gathered a small team of potential staff, and done a budget. I made commitments to him about how the magazine would run and undertook my own market research with that team of potential staff. I approached it professionally.

And I followed through.

Far from the ‘easy’ road, it’s had its challenges. My kids have grown up in a variety of different caregiving arrangements over the years, but never fulltime 8-6pm every day because that’s never been what I wanted to have happen with them. I’ve paid more than I should have had to for childcare because I wanted a particular type, place, time. I have even taken time out from full-time employment a few times because I’ve wanted to take a bit of a break. But I’ve always ended up back in the workforce, in jobs I’ve loved.

I am the sort of person who looks for reasons how to make things work, not reasons why they can’t. I don’t care about social norms, about what’s ‘acceptable’. I’m not post-feminist. I’m not Lynette from Desperate Housewives. I’m not full of aching resentment and confusion about what my role is. I’m loving my life. I mix it up.

I’m sick of people wanting to do one of two things: first, make me some poster girl for women everywhere. While I appreciate you may admire my ability on some levels and I admire women too, I think it’s about taking responsibility for yourself and making things happen for you. Don’t point to me as an ‘example’. You should do whatever you want, and feel empowered to do it. If you don’t feel empowered, then get to the point where you do. It’s YOUR responsibility to find your motivation. I don’t look elsewhere for empowerment, but I do for affirmation. I find affirmation in women who are doing those little tough things that don’t get recognised. I will never forget dropping my kids at daycare at 8am, meeting up with another mum doing the same; however she was actually a shift worker who had started work at 4am, and was on a break from work. She had picked her child up from one carer to take him to the other one at 8am. She was a woman who needed to do something, adored her family and did what it took to make it work.

In both our cases it wasn’t going to last forever. It probably wasn’t going to last even 12 months. Kids grow up, jobs change. But for a period of time you sit up and say this is how it needs to be, and I’m going to make it happen. Don’t look to the spouse, the grandparents, whomever to ‘help out’. If you want it to go a certain way, then you find a way to make it happen.

Secondly, I don’t like people who look at what I do and then find either excuses as to why it is easier for me (oh you must have lots of help at home), or even evidence about why I’m not succeeding as well as I should be (oh you must be a bad mother, or you’re cutting corners). None of that is true – my kids are not only fantastic, well adjusted people, they have the benefit of seeing their mum achieve some pretty amazing stuff while they’re there to share it with me. The boys recognise that women can do anything, at any stage of their lives. And my daughter, at 17, is recognising that she can make choices that suit her in life, not some social norm.

Unlike the women’s movement of the 80s, I don’t tell my daughter she can have choices. I want to be a mum who lives her choices – just as any individual can, male or female. I want her to see that working inside the home is just as important as outside, and women can and should be empowered to feel fulfilled doing whatever it is they choose to do, in whatever mix. And that there is a balance that can be achieved, and that balance is different for everyone. And she has to be personally empowered to make a balance for herself. She doesn’t have to thank anyone other than herself for taking it on and making it happen.

Take control. Make your own way. Stop finding excuses for whatever is on the backburner. Find reasons to cook it all up now. Empower yourself and be your own inspiration. Get rid of Lynette.