SMOKING KILLS AGAIN

On September 5, my cousin, Korin, died of lung cancer at the age of 57.  Far too early.  Her father died at the same age of emphysema .  They were both heavy smokers.  She leaves two grown sons, both great guys, her mother, two sisters and two brothers.

My parents and my sister both smoked.  They stopped when my uncle, my mother’s brother, died.  Unfortunately, my father and sister started again many years later, and I think it contributed to ther deaths as well, my father at 67 and my sister at 60.

DO YOU REALLY THINK SMOKING IS COOL?
IT’S NOT!

If you read this blog regularly, you know that I often have issues with the mayor of New York City, Michael Bloomberg, but one of the things I support is his work to ban smoking in most public spaces,including restaurants, theaters and, most recently, city owned parks and beaches.

We ban narcotics without question because they are addictive and can often lead to death.  Yet smoking which not only endangers the smoker, but harms anyone who is in the same space as the smoker is allowed.

Inhaling hot smoke is poisonous.  It leads to lung diseases such as cancer and COPD.  It causes heart and artery diseases and can often lead to kidney failure.  There is nothing good about smoking.  It is not cool.

Tobacco manufacturers load their products with nicotine, a highly addictive substance.  Some believe it is nearly as addictive as heroin or cocaine.  Yet, because the tobacco industry is politically strong, contributing huge donations to politicians of every persuasion, and because tobacco sales generate huge tax revenues, our legislatures do not do anything to take this  poison off the market.  The fact that the cost in lives and public health far exceed the combination of  those tax revenues and donations seems to have little, if any, effect on these supposed legislative  leaders.  Some argue that if tobacco is banned, it will just become an underground product like hard drugs and marijuana.  Perhaps that is true.  However, if that happens, at least the smokers will have to indulge in their disgusting habit under cover and not blow their noxious fumes in the faces of others.  At least it will protect me and others from having to breathe in their smoke when we are sitting in outdoor cafes or just simply taking a walk in the street.

WHY START SMOKING WHEN YOU KNOW IT WILL KILL YOU?

In my generation, teens often took up smoking.  We did not know of its dangers because the  research was just starting.  We probably should have figured it out by just seeing how most people who indulged had a smokers’ cough, something that shouldn’t have developed from doing something healthy.  Tobacco companies back then often advertised their product as having beneficial effects, and they got away with their lies.  Many of my generation thought it was cool to walk around with a cigarette hanging out of their mouths, thinking and acting like this made them cool.  I didn’t.

Today, however, everyone knows that cigarettes kill.  There is no reason that anyone should start smoking.  There is no reason that this poison should be allowed to remain on the market.  It kills.  It killed my cousin and my uncle.  It must be banned.  It’s too late for my cousin, but it’s not too late for my kids, your kids and all of our grandchildren.

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A BOY IS A BOY IS A BOY IS A . . .

A rose is a rose is a rose (Gertrude Stein).  A boy is a boy is a boy, except when he is not, except when he is a ‘pink’ boy.  Today’s New York Times Magazine article “Boy/Girl” raises the question of why it’s OK for girls to wear pants and Converse sneakers (even if they’re not pink) and, yet, wrong for boys to wear dresses.  Pink shirts for men are in.  Earrings and long hair are not shockers.

In fact, men have worn long wigs and ruffled shirts in different periods of Western Civilization.  And if you look at different cultures, even in 2012, men wear caftans and other items of dress that could be considered feminine.

I think there is a spectrum of gender identification somewhat influenced by culture (“Real men don’t eat quiche.” Now they make it) and definitely by hormones.

As a woman who was required to read Betty Friedan’s “Feminine Mystique,” the summer before her college freshman year, I have always been a feminist.  For me, that meant I wanted to have choices based on my interests, my talents and my ability to work hard.  I wanted the same opportunities and the same pay for exercising those opportunities that men received.  I wanted control over my body and my life choices.

I wanted choices for my children too.  My first born, a son, came home to a room decorated in primary colors, red, yellow and blue figures of toys on squares of white.  When he was a toddler he played with a grocery cart, dishes, a doll – “Joey” and grandma’s handmade Raggedy Ann.  He also had blocks, cars and trucks.  When his sister came along 3 years later, a stroller, Cabbage Patch Dolls and a fancier tea set were added.  Sara played with trucks, blocks, her brother’s friends and was in a play group with 2 other boys.

They grew up seeing their father vacuum and do his own laundry.  I went back to work full time when Sara was 3, but I had a very busy schedule as a community and political activist before that.

My son was definitely a boy, now a man, and my daughter was definitely a girl, now a woman.  It was hormones.

A story is told of Nick, a 10 year old who has 36 Barbies. (I wouldn’t let any child, boy or girl have 36 Barbies) who likes to design gowns for them and himself, and has had no play dates since a friend stopped by unexpectedly and saw his collection.

Why do we look at Nick as a she/boy rather than, perhaps, a future famous designer?  Why do interests have to be gender specific?

If we can’t let children be true to their core- even if that core is sometimes in a middle space- we will all lose.  As a parent and as an educator of children with over 30 years of experience, I know that children are unique.  It is our job to love them and teach them and to make sure that they feel loved and that they learn.  Most importantly, they need to love themselves whether they are girls wearing auto mechanic’s overalls or boys wearing pink dresses

At 37 years of age, Marissa Mayer is the youngest person ever to be appointed  CEO of a Fortune 500 company.  But the news media is not focusing on that fact.  No, they are almost solely interested in the fact that she is going to give birth to a boy in October.

Granted that she will have to take some time off to give birth – how will this affect her work and life any more than it would a man’s.  Yes, if she is breast feeding, she will have to make time to nurse the baby or pump.  Have you ever counted how much time men spend in the bathroom?  I bet it equals out.

NEW YAHOO CEO
MARISSA MEYER

Watching so called “experts” and commentators on TV so worried about how she will be able to work at home on her maternity leave, you’d think they didn’t know that baby’s sleep a lot.

She is a CEO of a major Fortune 500 company at 37.  She knows how to manage, and she is not a poor single mother with very few resources.  She doesn’t have to clean, cook or shop.  She can afford a full time person to help with the baby.    The baby has a father (venture capitalist or not) who, except for breast feeding can do half or more of whatever she has to do.

Can we finally get over the sexism? ( America is the only Western country without paid maternity leave.)  I’d rather know (and so would a lot of other women) how she got to be a major player in a very male world.

HOW “BRAVE” IS YOUR DAUGHTER?

Second animated story with a fierce red head. (Is read hair the thing now?)  A teenage sword fighting, arrow slinging feudal princess is having trouble accepting the traditional princess role.

The Queen is portrayed as a woman who, while she does the expected crewel work, knows how to handle her brave strong dunce of a husband and insists her daughter, Merida, conform.   Merida seeks the help of a witch to change her mother with unpredictable consequences.

  A longer discussion than one might have expected ensued after watching this high end cartoon.  How strong is the need for teenagers to rebel against their parents to grow into their own person?   What message did “BRAVE” send to our daughters?  If you try to be too different, bad things can happen?

Caution – the 8 year old girls sitting behind us was scared by some of the scary bear scenes.  Every parent knows their child, but I’d be cautious about  bringing children below the age of 7.

Please tell me about what you think the movie is portraying about the role of girls and leave a comment.

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KID’S ON THE LOOSE – SELFISH MOM!

As an educator for 30 years, I can’t believe the selfishness of current parents of young children. Yes, I said selfishness. Babble.com recently reported on a mother who likes to shop, but she is talking on the cell phone and enjoying looking at cute kids’ clothes, while her 4 year old runs and climbs around store by herself. The child ends up standing on a table, and all her mother can do is say, ” Maybe you should get down.” She endangered her child’s safety and maybe that of another child or adult in the store if something fell (could be you or your kid).

She set a poor role model for other parents’ kids who will also want to run and climb around the store. She is also a bad role model for the parents, and she’s not the only one.

Another mom let her 5 year old go to the bathroom alone while she was in line at Costco. She said she could see the bathroom door, but she also had a 2 year old with her. When she got to the cashier, her attention was divided even further. The child could have been kidnapped or worse. Yet this mom could not take the time to tell her daughter to wait until she could stand by the bathroom door.

Asking your child if they are insane is not the right approach either. A four year old needs to have limits set before they go anyplace ( for their own development and safety and the peace of others sharing their space.)

1. Go over the appropriate rules before you get to the destination. At the playground – no throwing no hitting. When I call your name you come to me. I will give you a 10 minute and then a 5minute warning when we have to leave. At 5 minutes start gathering your toys and brush the sand off. Come to me. This is not negotiable. At 3 minutes if the child hasn’t started to get themselves ready you go over and help them. You both are leaving at the end of the 5 minutes. I say to my 6 year old 7 lb. Maltese “I’m the boss.” She gets it. Your children should know it too.

2. If your child gives you a problem, the conversation goes like this: ” Since you didn’t do what I said, next time we come here, I will have to give you a 15 minute warning and you will lose some playtime, because I need to leave at a certain time. If you listen quickly, next time you can earn the time back.

3. Follow through. Never say anything you won’t do. You need to coach your child to make good choices.
As far as Shopper mom, she is insane if in this age of child abductions, she let her child get out of her sight. I hope she taught her daughter to scream as she is being carried off, “this is not my mom. Call 911. Help me.” If a mother is going to be that irresponsible when shopping, at least her children should be taught how to react in an emergency.

NO, IT’S NOT MY THYROID

I was born with cellulite and fat thighs. My mom gave me small Philadelphia Cream Cheese packages when I sat in the grocery cart. Better than cookies, she thought. Now, at the heaviest I have ever been, I need to deal with disappointing results of my annual physical. My thyroid is normal (I was hoping that was the cause), and for the first time in my life, my cholesterol is high (only 9 points, but, still, it used to be at the very low end of normal.)

These facts are not good for a woman who could live on cheese , bread and wine. How do those French women do it? Oh yes, I’ve only smoked a total of 3 cigarettes in my life, and that was 2 puffs at a time of 7 cigarettes.

I am now fascinated with all the buzz about food and French child rearing practices and absolutely aghast at what we are doing here in New York City in America. Forty percent of New York City public school students are overweight or obese. Two percent of children have low food security, “vitamin deficiencies, a day with no food, a loss of weight, a month of being hungry. (www.ers.usda.gov/amberwaves/juneo7/feature/struggling.htm#box3)

As an assistant principal, and before that a teacher, when a child was having difficulty in the morning. I asked two questions – “Are you hungry?” and “Did someone bother you on the way to school?” Many times I brought a child down to the cafeteria or used my own private “breakfast stash.”

I am amazed and angry that the City’s Health Department has suspended increasing the number of public schools (now 381 of 1,750) that serve free breakfast in the classroom. Why have they suspended it? Their research shows that 20% might be eating two breakfasts, one at home and one in class, and thus adding 90 units to their daily calorie intake.

What about the other 80% who don’t eat breakfast, who are then hungry and don’t concentrate or act out. (Let the City Health Department be accountable for the test scores of that 80%, not the teachers.)

A better solution is not to offer fried foods 6 or more times out of 22 monthly school lunches, to serve fruit and low calorie dry cereal and yogurt for breakfast. Restore gym to the school schedule and provide playground exercise equipment during the lunch recess.

I think Mr. Bloomberg should be required to post the calorie count of every item served in schools as he requires multi-location restaurants to do. After all, he is the CEO of 1.750 school “restaurants.”

Bringing Up Bebe? OOH LA LA!

American mothers are schedule geeks. Schedules are on phones, computer calendars, paper calendars hanging in the kitchen with each child’s activity in a different color and sometimes in small journals as well. It’s chess, ballet, soccer, piano, school play and, of course, birthday parties.

What upsets me most is that the “experts”-doctors, psychologists, columnists, editors- tell us that we really need to schedule a “date” night and a “sex play date” with our husbands also. “Light a candle”, make it “romantic” they advise. If my cell phone has to beep to remind me that it’s sex time and I’m worried that we will fall asleep without blowing out the candle, how passionate is this going to be?

I remember when being near each other was being in the center of a magnetic field. So powerful that lips closed on each other with positive/negative attraction even on a public street. When the scent of each of us rose above the smell of litter, dog poop, and the roasted nut and hot dog stands.

How do French men do it? According to Pamela Druckerman they don’t assume responsibility for an equal amount of housekeeping and child rearing duties even when la mere works full time.  Is it the 6 months paid maternity leave or the ready available and inexpensive childcare available even on weekends? Or is it the beauty of the language even though you speak it too and hear it every day. Maybe French men have not forgotten how to look at a woman in particular or women in general, or both. Je ne sais pas.

But one shouldn’t have to wait for a “cialis moment”. By that time, even if it’s husband # 2, the schedule may be completely filled.