Monday, September 29, 2008

Zoom, zoom

We seem to have more than our share of accidents along the streets in our neighborhood, including a big one this weekend, involving a high speed police chase,* which made the news on Sunday. In the past, I've written to my councilman about this problem, since our corner, and the two I can see from my front porch, seem to have at least one accident every couple of months. It's a small neighborhood, nestled behind the high school, and there are a few corners I can't see from my little perch, but obviously those corners are seeing a lot of accidents too. Whether I can see them or not, there are way too many accidents over here. I sound like an old fart, but whatever: people drive too quickly, and they pay no heed to the stop signs.

I've never heard back from Gino on this; maybe he doesn't have the answers. Mostly, I just wanted to document each time an accident took place, anyway, thinking maybe the city would start to look at these problem areas, and possibly remediate. Oh well. So, I'm gonna skip the letter to him this time, and just bitch here, instead. I don't have the answers, either, though I suppose I should try to find some. Today, I'm thinking maybe speed bumps — if we can find someone to install them (maybe I can, with some Kwikcrete??) — might not be such a bad option. People hate them, and for good reason, I reckon: they slow you down, which is a total drag if you're not interested in driving slowly. But we need slower driving here, even without two damn schools, in this heavily populated residential area. With some speed bumps, maybe fewer people would speed, maybe there would be fewer high speed chases. Maybe there would be fewer innocent people who are ejected from their cars, and fewer innocent car owners who peek outside to find their cars freakin' t-boned because some freakin' idiot thought it was a good idea to come speeding through here.


* I don't blame the police for what happened this weekend on Olden and Farragut: they chased because it was necessary. I wish, though, they'd chase the knuckleheads who ride around on the ATVs, too. Even if there was an unhappy ending in that situation, there would probably be fewer injuries, and not as much damage to property than what happened with this weekend's vehicle chase.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

You have monkey?

I didn't have a cat until I was in my early 30s; my parents didn't like cats, and I was a reasonably good kid, and listened to my parents, and entered adulthood with some of the same values that my parents had. So, I had no real interest in cats. I figured, some day, if I had, you know, a farm, or something, maybe it would be cool to have a couple of cats kinda doing their own cat thing in the background of my life.

Then along came Monkey — she just showed up at work one day, back in 2000; she jumped up on my desk and gave me a headbutt, and everyone in the office decided she was mine. I was renting a small condo at the time, and I had done some major wheelin' and dealin' to convince my landlord to rent to me and Lacey. He was paranoid the dog would do something to his property, and so, we drew up a specific, Lacey-centric lease*, that mandated absolutely no other animals. Period.

Of course, I took Monkey in anyway.

Unrelated to the cat (or the dog), I moved into a small garden apartment when my lease was up, and during my interview with the property manager, she asked me if I had any pets. The property manager was a stern, young Russian woman who explained to me that it was important to "show the stapler who is boss," as she pounded the top of it with all her might, to make it do its job.

"Do you have pets?" she asked, "Maybe, you know, like dog?" Her accent was thick and her eyes were tough, icy blue, so prevalent among eastern Europeans.
"Yes," I said, "I have a dog..." I was about to add that I have a cat, too, but before I could do so, she interrupted.
"What is dog's name?" she asked.
"Lacey," I said, again, ready to confess about the cat. Even back then, even with just one, the cats seemed like a dirty secret to which I must confess. But I believe in transparency, and I didn't want to attempt to keep Monkey — the criminally insane among cats — hidden anymore. I couldn't.
"How you spell 'Lacey'?" she asked.
I spelled the dog's name.
"You have other pets? Maybe another dog?"
"No," I said, "but I have a cat."
"You have cat?" she asked.
"Yes," I said, worried there might already be a problem. Monkey was out of her mind, and, at the time, I assumed all cats were that way, and maybe this apartment complex wouldn't take the risk of renting to cat people.

She aligned several sheets of paper and placed the stapler so that the staple would make a perfect 45 degree angle at the corner, and then pounded the shit out of the head of the stapler. She gave me a proud look; she didn't need my approval of her stapling method, but I think she wanted my admiration.
"You sure know how to handle that stapler," I said.
"I know," she said, beaming. "Okay-dokie, back to business," she said. "You have cat?"
"Yes," I said.
"What is cat's name?" she asked.
"Monkey," I told her.
"Monkey?" She looked confused.
"Yep, Monkey," I said.
"You have monkey?" she asked, incredulously.
"No, no," I said, with a laugh, "I have a cat named Monkey."
I didn't think we had a translation issue, but apparently we did. Or maybe it was a cultural thing: maybe Russians don't name their pets after other animals? Her English wasn't bad, but she just couldn't understand that the cat was named Monkey. And articles were optional for her, as well.
Her voice got quiet, "We don't allow monkeys," she told me. "Too unpredictable."
"Oh, no," I said again. "I don't have a monkey. I have a cat named Monkey."
"You cannot have monkey here," she said sternly, but in a low voice, to not draw attention. But I could tell she liked me, and wanted to help me to keep my monkey. "I will not put monkey on application. Keep monkey quiet, and do not tell anyone."
I didn't know what to say, so I simply said, "Thanks."
"You have dog," she said in a normal tone, and that was final.


A few years went by, and Glen and I landed in East Trenton, which is overrun, at least in our neighborhood, by stray cats. I had reached a point where I liked cats better than I used to, but had always considered myself more of dog person. But through a series of events, the cat-to-other beings ratio flew completely out of proportion here. My sister-in-law, Clair, gave me the Crazy Cat Lady action figure to acknowledge our situation.

The Crazy Cat Lady

I never really thought about how a Cat Lady becomes a Cat Lady until recently, but if asked, I would have assumed it involved some weird personality quirk, spinsterhood, a fondness for "Murder She Wrote," Carol Wright catologs, and tea. Not that there's anything wrong with those things, mind you. I may have a quirky personality, but not Cat Lady Quirky. I think.

But after living la vida gatto, I've come to the conclusion that it takes surprisingly little to become a Cat Lady. You don't need Carol Wright's products or evenings spent with Angela Landsbury. All you need is a fairly responsible, non-douchey personality. A tiny bit of extra space helps. And that's about it. I would have added a lack of allergies to that list, but I know several people who help cats who are allergic to them.

So, what happens when fairly early into your life as a Cat Lady, a ratty, chicken-bone eating, possum-lookin' dog shows up?

The Cat Lady remains

I found this a few days later.

Maybe Steve is trying to send a message?

Steve was only interested in destroying the Cat Lady, not her pets, which may say something about his personality. And the fact that I have been documenting the Cat Lady's demise, probably says something about mine.

Also, recently, I discovered LOLCats, a cat photo sharing website where users come up with captions for the "kitteh" images, mostly clever, and grammatically-incorrect (on purpose, though: it's kittehspeak) captions. A few months ago, I spent nearly a whole week looking through almost every picture, unable to do anything else — I was addicted. I sent the links to several friends and family members; some just didn't get it, but a few of them did. One of my friends did the same as I did: spent nearly a whole week, at work, looking at the cats, and like me, often came close to wetting her pants with laughter.

I subscribe to the daily LOLCat (and suggest you sign up for it, too), and am going to share a few of my recent favorites. Glen thinks I'm I complete mongo for my affection for the LOLCats, but he checked my email while I was in labor with Matthew, and came across the image, below (of the cat in the pizza box), and he completely missed one of my bigger contractions, because he was laughing too hard.

So. I guess I am a cat lady. I don't live on a farm, and the cats are certainly not doing their own thing in the background of my life, and ultimately, it's okay. At least I don't have a monkey. Yet.


* Speaking of personality quirks, maybe it's one of mine, but I hate when people say they have to give up a pet because they're moving and the landlord doesn't allow pets. I moved around a lot in my 20s and early 30s, and never had a problem finding a place that would accept Lacey. It took a tiny bit of extra work, but she was well worth it. I'm a fairly non-confrontational sort of gal, and I generally follow the rules, and don't ask for special consideration, but I am committed to my animals (even now with a baby) and am willing to at least argue on their behalf. If you are moving and need tips to convince a potential landlord to allow your pet, drop me a note.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Santiago: The Exit Interview

I was walking along East State St. earlier today, and this piece of paper blew my way.* Thought you might like it. Click to enlarge.


* That entire sentence is bull.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

"A laugh."

City Council is entertaining hiking the littering fine in the city from $50 to $100. This is certainly a good idea — a stiffer fine may help pay for officials to monitor the rampant littering problems, and who knows, maybe we'll get lucky and have enough revenue left over so that Mayor Palmer can add another lieutenant to his personal security detail!

Council President and Palmer worshipper, Paul Pintella, said the existing fine is "a laugh." It's hard to disagree, but what's even more laughable (at least on the days when I don't find the state of affairs in this city to be incredibly depressing) is that the current littering ordinance is not enforced. Oh yeah, the residency ordinance isn't enforced either, along with several other key bits of city legislation.

Before we start talking about changing our laws, maybe we should start enforcing them, and see how things go for awhile?

Friday, September 19, 2008

"Well, I never!"

We took Aunt Vicki and Matthew* to Pete's Steak House on Hudson Street last night for an early dinner, and afterward we hit the Italian People's Bakery. Vicki tried, for the first time, and with much glee, a red cream soda (at Pete's), and an elephant ear pastry (from the IPB), and on the way home, she marveled at how beautiful Trenton Central High was. The grass was freshly mown, and the sun was fixin' to go down, and truly, the school looked regal, like the monument it is.

Glen said, "There has been talk of demolishing it, or just abandoning it."

Vicki may be one of the least critical, least sarcastic people I know. She's from the midwest: Nebraska originally, Kansas currently (Mr. Clean, are these pussy states? Or is that a special distinction just for Iowa because Iowa waters down its booze?). I love east coast edginess, but it is also refreshing to spend time with someone who isn't so damn tired and angry from seeing it all, you know?

In response to Glen's news about the uncertain fate of the school, Vicki said, "Well, I never heard anything so ridiculous!"**

Sounds light. Harmless. Right? Believe me, it only sounds that way. This is stern commentary from Aunt Vicki, who will probably go back to the midwest and mention the lovely school with a doomed future to her friends, and they'll all think Trenton is run by imbeciles.

This is how word of mouth works, in the wrong way.

But I'm not even sure why I'm bothering to write this little story anyway, since most people who are reading this likely agree with Aunt Vicki anyway, and the ones who don't, are likely members of the city's administration or school board, and don't care what the residents of Trenton think, anyway. And they probably care even less about what our visitors think. Even though these visitors are leaving Trenton with the notion that the city is run by imbeciles.

The cat's out of the bag, and throughout the land! — it is run by imbeciles.


* I was a bit uneasy about this outing, Matty's first, since I may have a lower-than-average tolerance for crying babies in restaurants, so I was distressed to think I could be the mother of one, now, and conjuring up every unsavory "what if" scenario involving a screaming baby. Matthew did fuss for a few minutes upon our arrival, but Glen took him outside, where he enjoyed watching the activity on the street (well, maybe enjoy isn't the right word. He was, at least, watching it, with interest). When our food arrived, the baby was quiet throughout our meal (woohoo!), and only started crying again when we readied to leave. He loves Pete's!

By the way, Glen and Vicki ordered the fish and chips, which is very good. I ordered a mushroom cheesesteak, which is also very good. We love Pete's too!

** I also know that the state is kinda-sorta discouraging the city from renovating the school. I know the issue is complex. This doesn't change the fact that this city is run by imbeciles.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008


BUFFALO, NY—Adults in households with young people in possession of illegal firearms are urged to turn them in during the city's gun buy-back program, scheduled for September 27.
“We know that works because 15 months ago at the last buy-back, family members took guns away from young people and turned them over,” Buffalo Mayor Byron Brown said, adding that “there are too many illegal guns in the hands of youth. It does no good. They’re killing themselves and other people.”*

A gun buy-back program, targeting adults with gang members in the house, could possibly work in Trenton, except we are closing our library branches because the city would rather spend money to "protect" and chauffeur Mayor Douglas Palmer, and gas up and pimp out the rides of Palmer's cronies.

We fucking suck. So damn bad. It's frustrating: we — the citizens of Trenton — have made such great leaps in this past year: we've organized and gathered signatures; we've protested and shown up in large numbers to meetings; we've filed lawsuits against the unfair and illegal practices of our city's administration; we've engaged in intelligent commentary. Despite this, nothing has really changed, except Barry Colicelli got the boot, but rumor has it, he's been seen sniffing around city hall again lately.

It's maddening to be ignored and dismissed; it's deplorable that our elected representatives are not representing us properly; and what happens with our tax money is unacceptable. Often, I wonder why we bother, since it seems like we're wasting our time. We could move to the suburbs and pay only a little bit more in taxes. And, we wouldn't have the shame of explaining how the fuck people like Doug Palmer or Paul Pintella or Joe Santiago or Irv Bradley and freakin' Captain Sleepy get to do what they do without repercussion. These personality types do not exist in other municipalities; and if and when they pop up, they are sent packing in short order. We could move to the suburbs, and we wouldn't have to watch our Trenton neighborhoods rot away; we wouldn't have to stay inside for fear of getting jumped for as little as a submarine sandwich and a five dollar bill.

Some days, I do see why people gave up. I understand why they left. Nearly everything about this city is unacceptable, even though good solutions are so easily attainable—if it weren't for the morons on East State Street. 2010 seems so far away today, even though it really isn't. I hope the people of Trenton will be heard before that time, but if not, 2010 will come soon enough.


* Speaking of Buffalo, check out that city's website, and compare it to Trenton's. Look how much real, usable information Buffalo offers, compared to the icky ass-kissing of Mayor Palmer that is Trenton's website.

HR 1279

We've been busy with family visitors in the last week — the Canadians and the Kansans — and I haven't had much time at the computer. Aunt Vicki (you may recall her spatula trick from last fall) beamed with pride when she told me that her daughter/my cousin, Andrea, gave an impassioned speech in Washington, DC, last week. Andrea works for Cottonwood, Inc. in Lawrence, Kansas. Cottonwood is a home/service agency for people with disabilities. Words cannot adequately sum up what Andrea and her coworkers — Direct Support Professionals — do for the people who use Cottonwood's services. This is largely due to society's ignorance on DSPs, but also because DSPs are so involved with and dedicated to their clients, that their relationships are so complex. A job description is just very difficult to explain.

Even though Andrea and her coworkers, and other people like them, are taking exceptionally good care of humans — some of the most vulnerable humans — they are grossly underpaid. Andrea spoke last week to build support for H.R. 1279, the Direct Support Professionals Fairness and Security Act of 2007. Turn up the volume, and watch Andrea's speech; read about H.R. 1279, and if you are so inclined, contact your congressperson and let him/her know you support this legislation.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Thanks, Knuckleheads!

I love Cluck U Chicken, maybe as much as Mr. Clean loves White Castle. Of all the food offerings at Cluck U, I love the Little Roman, a fried chicken sandwich, slathered in a cheesy, garlic sauce the best. You'll sweat garlic for a few days after consuming this deliciousness, but so what? Garlic is good for you! I also love their Clucker Spuds, Cluck U's version of fries, except these are, I believe, batter-dipped potato wedges. And I love their Clucker Bees — I love them a lot, even though I didn't think I would. Glen and I went to the Cluck U/Purple Pizza on Olden Avenue a few months ago, while I was still pregnant, because I had a strong craving for biscuits that would not subside, and I was certain if they sold fried chicken — which they do — Cluck U ought to have biscuits as well. Unforgivably, I thought, this was not the case, and I was, at first, very disappointed. But, the order taker recommended the Clucker Bees, and told me they would not let me down. I didn't believe her, but ordered some anyway, for the express purposes of saying, "what a disappointment" after the fact. However, upon taking my first bite of Clucker Bee, it was not possible to hang on to hang on to dissatisfaction. The Clucker Bee is essentially fried dough, and it reminds me somewhat of a doughnut, just not as sweet; that is, until you dip the little Bee into honey. Which, of course, I did. And I'm really glad I did, because my life is so much better for my relationship with Cluck U's Clucker Bees with honey. Not Little Roman better, but Clucker Bees with honey better is nothing to scoff at.

I love delivery, but we seldom order in, partially because Glen prefers to go out, and well, many food places just won't deliver to these parts, though we have convinced the guys at Pete's Steak House on Hudson to deliver to us in the Wild, Wild East, for which we're eternally grateful. But mostly, the stuff that we'd like to have delivered just doesn't transport well; we are able-bodied and have a vehicle, so it's easy enough to go out most of the time.

I read the Trenton Star Ledger online today, and came across the latest story about the assault of ordinary citizens by the urchins in this city. I'm always disgusted and angry to read of the robberies and assaults, but today's story really just rubbed me more wrong than usual: apparently, two members of Trenton's Thuggery attacked a Cluck U Chicken delivery woman on the 300 block of Woodland Street, and stole her vehicle. It was found shortly later, on nearby Anderson Street, after it was used to T-bone a few parked cars.

Back in the mid-1990s, I lived on Division Street, which is pretty close to the crime mentioned above. Incidentally, back then, I was able to walk (without a chaperone or a German shepherd mix companion) to a huge assortment of Chambersburg restaurants, and order-in from many, many more. Now, most of those establishments have vanished. There's a chain of events that set the ball in motion for the demise or relocation of those restaurants, but the local knuckleheads have played a prominent role.

Now, I see my local knuckleheads eating chicken and Chinese food and pizza and cheesesteaks, all the time. And if we don't see them actually eating these goods, we are sure to clean up their trash, which is dumped on our corner, after the knuckleheads are done with their delectably greasy repast. Glen and I always use the trash cans — and the use of the trash can is one of two differences between us and them when it comes to fast food. After all, everyone loves fast food; even the knuckleheads.

In addition to use of the trash can, the other key difference between us and the knuckleheads is that it has never occurred to me to rob a delivery person, or even just steal his/her vehicle and go for a three-and-a-half block joyride before crashing into a bunch of parked cars, as incredibly fulfilling as that sounds. Delivery people, to me, are prophets who spread the word of deliciousness. As such, deserve my respect, so I find it utterly confounding and repulsive that the knuckleheads, who obviously love pizza and wings and lo mein just as much as I do, would see fit to jack the food prophets. Surely, there is a special place in hell for this sort of knucklehead, no?

It just doesn't make sense. These loser knuckleheads are making it difficult for all of us — including the loser knuckleheads — to have food delivered. The loser knuckleheads have helped create a hostile situation for restaurants and their employees, which is probably the #1 reason so many Trenton restaurants have bailed. The actions of these criminals are the responsibility of the little criminals alone. But the Douglas Palmer administration — especially with former police director Joseph Santiago at the helm of the Trenton Police Department — has allowed this environment to flourish over the years. How often do thugs loiter on the street corners, especially in Chambersburg? How many prostitutes and johns are lurking around the former restaurant district right now? How often do police simply drive by after a call is placed about a disturbance? How many shitty landlords are allowed to operate with relative impunity in this city? How many insane, irresponsible tenants are ruining the quality of life for their neighbors this moment? How many ordinances are ignored, just this second, in Trenton? How many officers — police and inspections — are on duty today?

I believe we're all responsible for our own actions, our own decisions. But we're only responsible for our own. We created governments, at least in part, because of our inability as regular people, to control other people. Governments help keep order. I can only do so much to discourage the local mongos from using the sewer or yew hedge in front of my house as a garbage can, but an effective government could do so much more. I can only do so much to protect myself from getting attacked by the local thugs, but an effective Trenton government could certainly make that easier for me. Maybe that will happen soon.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Shutting out the noise

Warning: female stuff below. And, this may not be terribly interesting to anyone but me. Sorry.

Matthew is now 17 days old, and I can't say that it's been an easy 17 days, but it hasn't been as difficult as I thought it might be. Part of this, I think, is because after losing Catherine last year, I decided with this most recent pregnancy to eat as well as I could, take my vitamins, and rest, and just forget about everything else. I had been told, during Matthew's pregnancy, that caring for a newborn is hard, and since I'm too polite or non-confrontational or know that most people don't mean to hurt others, or whatever, I'd usually just smile and offer thanks for the tidbit; but inside, my guts would be churning. I could imagine that caring for a newborn would be work, but I know firsthand, that not caring for one after fully expecting to care for one, is about the hardest, and most unimaginable thing to ever endure. And I endured it, but I have no idea how, even though I lived through it.

While I was pregnant with Catherine, I read EVERYTHING about pregnancy and childbirth and childrearing that I could get my hands on; and with this pregnancy, I blotted out all that I had learned previously, partially as a means of self-preservation, and partially because I know there are a zillion ways to successfully be pregnant, give birth, and bring up children, and that maybe too much information just doesn't help. But here we are, about to hit the three week mark with Matthew safe and sound; we saw the pediatrician for the second time Tuesday, and we have a third appointment scheduled next week, as well. I'm more than happy to do this for him, but I hear the grumblings of my logical side getting irritated by all of these appointments, which have been brought on by his weight loss.

Matthew's first weigh-in

Matthew was a very big boy when he was born, especially for me — I'm on the short side of average, and wasn't a large baby myself. He was 8 pounds, 15 ounces, and within 24 hours, he was down to 8 pounds, 4 ounces. A week later, he came in at 7 pounds, 12 ounces, which is the reason we saw the doctor again Tuesday. On Tuesday, he was back at 8 pounds, 4 ounces, which is great, but the doctor wants Matthew to be back at his birth weight by next week.

I don't think this should be too much trouble, though I suspect a small amount of bullshit at play. The way I figure, the kid was full-up of amniotic fluid at birth, which was factored into his first weigh-in. He promptly peed, pooped, and spit that stuff out; couple that with the fact that breast milk generally doesn't come in until day 3, and most breast-fed babies will lose weight. I was induced and I've heard that this can delay the milk's arrival, which seemed to be the case for me: mine came in at day 5. Also, I forgot about this until just now, but in looking at the picture above, I see that there's a blanket in the scale with him, and he's got a clamp, and an alarm on his umbilical cord knot (the hospital puts an alarm on all newborns, so if they leave the maternity ward, sirens go off), as well as a couple of ankle bands (which don't weigh much, I know). I wonder if those items added any significant weight (like an ounce or more) on his birthday? He's been weighed buck nekkid at the pediatrician's office, atop of a very flimsy piece of paper.

As evidenced by his weight loss, it's obvious that feeding him has been a learning experience, for both of us, since (go figure) he doesn't seem to follow the rules. I was given a load of literature on breast feeding, along with details about how to get the baby to latch on, and the four or five acceptable positions. But Matthew is finding his own way. Rather than the "Cradle Hold," he prefers the "Face Plant." Instead of the orderly "Football Hold," Matthew splays himself on my leg to eat. He's to the point where he knows where the food is coming from, and knows what to do: he opens wide, and prepares to latch, but in the last second, he gets a devilish look in his eye, and he'll locate one of his own fists (which I thought I had tucked out of reach), and will jam it in his mouth.

He recently started eating ravenously, too: intensely for 15 minutes, resting for 15 minutes, back on for 15 minutes, resting for 15 minutes...this goes on for hours, starting around 5:30 in the morning, until about 9 a.m.; he takes a nap for about an hour, and we're back on the feeding cycle until nearly bedtime. The plus side to this crazy schedule is that he's been sleeping very nearly through the whole night. But, it's a lot of work to be a cow — and a huge change from my life just a couple of weeks ago — but I am grateful to be getting a full night's sleep, and I am very happy he's eating. I want a chubby boy. I know this particular phase — the pediatrician calls it "cluster feeding" — won't last forever, either.

Since the kid is eating in a way that wasn't described as either correct or incorrect in the literature, yesterday I dug out one of the more comprehensive books, The Nursing Mother's Companion, by Kathleen Huggins, RN, MS, I had read during my pregnancy with Catherine. I wanted a refresher; I was hoping for some insight as to what to expect with Matthew's unique eating habits; I had hoped to find Matthew's style described, mostly, to know we aren't alone in this phase, but also maybe to find some helpful little tidbit to get us through the next little while.

Instead, the book is full of horror stories and condemnation. There are dire, dire warnings about formula-fed babies, about their impeding growth delays, and motor impairment, and obesity, and mental dullness, and emotional detachment, and, last but not least, the stench of their shit. Formula-fed babies put down some stinky tracks, if nothing else. And, oh yeah, they supposedly puke more. Breast feeding, according to the author, is the only way. However, she offers page after page of the hell ahead for women who breast feed, like traumatized nipples, and blocked milk ducts, and thrush, and lopsided boobies, and lumps, and breast abscesses, and leaking, and mastitis.

I don't know about you, but I may have a slight addiction to forensics shows on TV. I don't really think about them when they're not on, but if they are, I can't pull myself away. I always feel sullied after watching them, though. The Nursing Mother's Companion has the same qualities, and I easily consumed nearly half of the 280+ manifesto during Matthew's morning nap yesterday. He woke up, hungry as hell, and suddenly, I was hit by doubt. What if I get infected ducts or traumatized nipples? What if we pass thrush back and forth? I decided that my own health was secondary to my kid's, since, at least according to the book, formula will screw him up BAD, and if nothing else, make his shit really stinky. So, I nursed him. And can't say nursing isn't challenging — there's a learning curve, and it's not exactly smooth sailing yet, but it is easier than it was two weeks ago. And other than getting over my own ideas, and some minor discomfort, so far (knock wood), my nipples haven't fallen off.

It just seems to me that so many people just like to scare the bejesus out of pregnant women and new mothers, and I don't know why. It's not just the authors of these books, either. There are the women who ask you all about your intended birth plan, and when you mention you'd like to do it drug-free, they laugh at you, or worse, attack your ideas, making you feel stupid for not jumping on the epidural bandwagon. There are the breast feeding bullies who don't encourage, but rather, try to strong arm you into going to the La Leche League meetings, even before your baby is born, because you wonder out loud if your husband will ever be able to enjoy your boobs again. These bullies bark at you: "breasts are made for babies, not your partner, dumbass!" (I don't agree.) There are the snide comments and judgmental looks when you mention your thoughts on diapering and circumcision, and it comes from all camps: the cloth diaper people, the disposable diaper people; the pro-circumcision folks, and the anti-circumcision folks. And, dear God, there is SO much debate over pacifiers, too.

What happened to Catherine, interestingly, is barely mentioned in any of the books I have on pregnancy and childbirth. After her death, I went back through all of those books, to see what was written about cord accidents, placenta problems, low fluid, and infant death; it was precious little. What happened to us was rare, but not THAT rare — full-term stillbirth occurs once in about 1,000 births. I can't help but wonder if it's far more common than mastitis and lopsided boobies or ear infections caused by pacifiers? Maybe, maybe not. Even so, her death has made it reasonably easy for me to shut off the noise of the scare tactics and bullies. It's a huge responsibility to care for a little baby, and I do have some questions, but mostly, I trust my instincts with Matthew. We're keeping open minds, because we know THE most important thing is a live, healthy, baby. Philosophy is secondary. I'm thankful we live in an era where we can feed him with formula, if the need arises. I'm glad I can choose between cloth or disposable diapers, and appreciate that these days, circumcision is optional. Two weeks ago, the only pacifiers to come into our home were traveling in the mouth of my little niece, Emma. Now, we have a small arsenal, standing by, if for some reason, we decide to use one, which we might. Or might not.

If I'm lucky, I might have another 15 minutes before Matthew wakes up from his morning nap. I'm going to put the Nursing Mother's Companion, along with all of the other books I have on pregnancy and childbirth, in a box for the thrift store. We'll be fine without them.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

A green opportunity for Trenton

...but act now before it becomes another missed opportunity!

I stumbled across details of a green-style urban competition that would work so well for Trenton: a group called Urban Re:Vision is encouraging people to reimagine the way urban spaces are designed, in an attempt to find real-world solutions that make city life healthier — one block at a time.

The goal is to effectively transform one city block in a way that's better for the environment, and brings communities together, by saving energy, overhauling transportation systems, and reusing existing structures. Some ideas put out so far include: public transportation that works on demand, via cell phones, rather than using established routes; walls and fences are replaced by shared gardens or community child care centers; abandoned warehouses would become local food stands; playgrounds would be modified so that when kids play on the equipment, that energy is stored to turn on lights at night.

Most of the entrants so far are students. Re:Vision hopes to continue to attract entries from students, that is, people who do not have design, environmental, or urban planning experience — they just want great ideas. What a great opportunity for our local students and regular citizens, as well as the future of our city. The September 15th deadline, though, is fast-approaching, but it's not too late. Winners will be announced on October 1.

I spent the last few days trying to turn this into a tirade about Doug Palmer, because of all of the missed opportunities happening here; and because of all the hot air that flies out of his mouth about how green Trenton is because of his efforts. But I'll leave it at that, because I just want to get the word out about this contest. I'm really hoping someone will pick up the ball on this one. I'd love to get involved, but with a two-week-old baby, I know I might not be the best person for this job.

Here are some basic details:
Deadline is September 15th (might make a great first project for the local school kids)
Entries must be submitted in pdf, jpg, tif, or gif format and no larger than 5mb per file. Each entry must include an approx. 100-200 word essay (in English) describing your entry, including the following: general ideas and concepts of the design; sustainable and energy efficient aspects of the design; design intentions, and strategies for involving the community; and reasons that the design can be used in various cities. More information is available here.
Awards include three $2,000 cash prizes for the top finalists.

Trenton is in rough shape: our administration is self-serving, and we may have slightly more criminals than the average municipality, and many other folks are just scraping by, that this contest may seem pointless. But we have so many great people here, and we have a long, rich history of innovation, and we have the raw potential, and we don't need Mayor Palmer's blessing to enter this contest. Timing is tight, but doable. It's a great opportunity for Trenton.