Two Candidates, One Blogger: A Michigan Homecoming

I don’t know how else to write this, so I’m just going to be blunt.

It can be very depressing to hang out in metro-Detroit.

I’ve been back “home” visiting family for 48 hours now, and the stories of lay-offs and foreclosure and moves out-of-state are overwhelming.

In all honesty, downtown looks terrible. The suburbs are littered with for-sale signs.

My family and friends continue to keep on, keeping on.

At a family gathering on Sunday, the typical occurred.

We ate and the kids ran around.

The adults sitting around the patio talked about what the ‘Big 3’ needs to do, my Aunt got animated discussing how she doesn’t like Senator Obama (she doesn’t ‘trust him’), another Uncle told a racist joke (no one laughed this time), and I very quietly listened.

While I attempted to be stealth and ninja like listening…my blackberry gave out a huge DING DING DING, and all eyes fell on me.

They know what I do at BlogHer, and had been careful choosing their words around me all day.

With a half dozen pairs of eyes on me, I looked down, and read aloud: “Sen Obama to Unveil His ‘New Energy for America‘ Plan in Speech Monday. From Lansing. ”

Everyone got quiet.

We ate desert and talked gradually picked up again.

Cynicism and cautious optimism abound.

“Lansing …from Michigan. Could be risky. Could be brilliant,” said one uncle.

“He should do it here, they need it most here,” said my Mom.

“I don’t care what he says, I just don’t like him,” said an aunt.

So it was with great interest my mother, my aunt, and I watched the Senator speak from Lansing this morning.

As the Senator discussed his very detailed New Energy for America plan, touted by Climate Progress as “…easily the best energy plan ever put forward by a nominee of either party…” republicans were emailing me to let me know they were handing out tire gauges to mock Obama’s reminders that keeping your tires properly inflated saves gas.

They were mocking a gas saving tip while sending this to my inbox:

“Today, I’m asking for your help in putting Senator Obama’s “tire gauge” energy policy to the test. With an immediate donation of $25 or more, we will send you an “Obama Energy Plan” tire pressure gauge. Will simply inflating your tires reduce the financial burden of high gas prices on your wallet?

It’s clear Senator Obama has no plan to address the energy challenges we face as a nation. He has said no to offshore drilling, no to expanding domestic drilling and no to nuclear energy. He has no plan to reduce our dependence on foreign oil.”- Rick Davis Campaign Manager, John McCain 2008.

I read this aloud to my Mom.

She threw her hands in the air, entirely disgusted. She was watching Senator Obama give detailed information, point-by-point, on a plan that not just reduces our dependence on foreign oil but rids of us reliance on Middle East oil on 10 years.

“Why do they do that?”

My Mom asked, still shaking her head over the McCain Campaign email.

For the record NASCAR and the US Department of Energy agree with Senator Obama on the whole tire gauge thing, and the GOP is trying to make a joke of this:

Sugar writes, “Oh gosh I know the Ozoids are writhing even as I write this! lmao I tell you, the McCain camp is making this fun for me again because it is such a joy to see an opponent who doesn’t have the constraints that Hillary did, giving it to Obama raw. Hillary couldn’t ream him like she should have because of that party unity bullshit, but the McCain camp doesn’t have anything to lose…but the election…and they are going all out to ensure that they don’t. I’m loving it. “

But if they’d like to know how their “joke” played with Michigan voters….jokes on them. I’ve got several here either not getting it or disgusted with the gimmick.

They don’t want campaign gimmicks. They want jobs.

The tit-for-tat over who misspoke where over what isn’t playing well with this crowd. Not unless those jokes can pay their mortgage.

Meanwhile, my Aunt (undecided who she is supporting) is listening closer than I thought she would.

I can tell.

My Mom let’s out a ‘WOW’ at Obama saying his plan will create five million new green jobs. My Aunt raised an eyebrow and says “well that’s good.”

TankWoman writes, “I switched to CNN, and was pleasantly surprised by Obama’s plan. Okay, I take that back, I was more than pleasantly surprised, I was excited and inspired by the ideas that Obama spoke about this morning in the birthplace of the auto industry. And though I know that this speech was tailor made for Michigan, and designed to strengthen his poll numbers, I believe that this energy plan is the only way forward for our nation, and that if Obama is serious and dedicated to these issues, we may have a solution not only to climate change, but to the ailing economy.

The things that we need to do to stall the oncoming danger of climate change, are the very things that Obama outlined in his speech. We must invest heavily in alternative energy, if we don’t come up with the capital to take the risk out of these start-up industries, they will fail. We need investment tax credits for solar energy, and wind power, without them, there are major solar projects that will move to Europe, and the wind farms will not get built here, but move to Germany. Our auto industry is near bankruptcy, Ford and GM have reported the lowest sales in nearly 30 years.”

She’s right.

I’m here.

I’m seeing the factories empty and the friends and family members collecting unemployment. It’s been happening for a long time now, and there needs to be a real solution in bringing back not just this state’s economy, but the nation’s.

Tomorrow Senator McCain comes to town to tour a Nuclear Plant. Fermi 2, to be exact.

The same plant I see every time I visit my hometown. I’ll be watching and listening closely to compare the Senator from Arizona’s ideas to the Senator from Illinois.

And after spending the day with my family excited about Obama’s ambitious plan to provide real solutions to the people of Michigan-

Senator McCain had better show up with more than a tire gauge.

Cross posted at


I sat on a back deck today, while my kids ran around outside and inside and downstairs and in the basement with their cousins and extended cousins.

There was a ‘show’ put on for the adults. There were kid power struggles. There were naps and tears and spills.

There were all the things I had growing up with cousins across the street and down the road.

I watched my two preschoolers interact in the hierarchy of family. The eldest cousin trying to boss the younger cousins, the smallest playing as the ‘baby’ in the ‘pretend family’ they acted out. I watched the boys segregate from the girls and the inclusion and exclusion of all of them at any given time.

I watched my daughter be bossed and then stand up for herself. I watched my son play and laugh with everyone not caring of the politics. I watched as the parents of these cousins sat and drank and laughed and lazily checked in on the kids every so often to make sure no one was lighting anything on fire.

A houseful of adults and these children were, within reason, left to play free of hovering mothers and fathers.

Then, somewhere in between seeing my daughter lead the all-kid band with a ‘LADIES AND GENTLEMAN I WILL NOW SING ABCs’, her rag-tag, caped, fireman hatted, backward princess dress wearing rockers behind her, and my son declaring he wanted to live by his cousins forever, I become profoundly sad.

Sad in a way I have not felt for a very long time.

This does not happen at home.

There are no frequent get-togethers with family and children.

This does not happen in California.

There are no cousins close. There are no family members with kids nearby.

This has not happened in their lives, until now.

To me, you grow up playing with your cousins. Second cousins. Family that is scattered in ages but usually just young enough or just old enough to play ‘with’ you.  That is just how you grow up.

It’s not just the ‘playdates’ or ‘park meetups’ or occasional ‘neighbor kid’ that comes to play.

These are constant, chaotic, companions that grow up with you. You always see them at birthdays. You always see them at Christmas. You always see them every other Sunday.

You always see them. Period.

This is going to sound very stupid, but I think the entire ‘midwest’ ‘kids playing in the basement while the adults had a few beers on the back porch’ thing…that really got me.

My kids do not have that. This is the first time in their lives they have experienced cousins.

Broke my heart.

Especially when my son and his second cousin are identical in age and looks and even ears. After a night out parents came home to find the boys in opposite rooms with mom and dad nearly taking home the wrong 5-year old.

Especially when my daughter, upon meeting her cousin from Germany, said ‘Mama she looks like ME!’ And then watching her find the courage to tell her eldest cousin she did NOT want her hair long but short so she could ‘look like Hala, ’cause I AM HALA.’

Especially when I realized despite being anxious to check in on the election and get to a tv in time for a hockey game, it was amazingly nice to let the kids run wild in a basement while I sat and chatted on the back deck.

I miss that.

Even if I now sit on the deck instead of roller skate around the pole downstairs.

I miss that.

A lot.

When it comes down to it

..I’m totally traditional. Shhhhhhhhhhhh don’t tell anyone, it will totally ruin my street cred.

I’m sitting here after having feasted this Christmas, wine in hand, reflecting on what a total, traditional, happy homemaker I am.

Every year we have kielbasa from Detroit because that is just what you do on Christmas Eve.

I actually buy “Santa” paper just like my mother did before me, so all the Santa gifts have their own distinct Santa face.

We open stockings first, until adults are alive and the coffee is at least dripping.

After the chaos, left-over kielbasa and eggs for breakfast.

(mentally noting it’s always about the food)

None of these may seems like really big deals, but to me…they are HUGE. I can’t decide if that is WEIRD or completely against my nature. I mean, I’m the one who left my hometown. I was always weird. I was always the one who never fit in and always wanted OUT.

Yet I’m the one who gave both my children family names and continue traditions that have been practiced since I was born.

I don’t get it.

I mean, I spend a lot of time fighting against conforming. Well, I do and I don’t. It’s just that I was lucky. I had a warm and fuzzy and happy childhood and I want my kids to have the same.

I was never an angsty non-conformist. I was a happy non-conformist. I always did things differently and I was lucky to have parents that told me “that’s great!” In fact, I distinctly remember trying to come up with one single word to describe me for my Confirmation in 8th grade and my Dad telling me to write “Independent.”

So when I find myself screaming and yelling about politics or parenting or anything in between, it feels very natural. When I find myself DEMANDING we ship kielbasa from Detroit to Los Angeles, regardless of cost, I scratch my head a bit.

Of course this is just one part of my life. There are many other parts that would probably melt your brain they are so very NON traditional. Yet the constants…the things that never change, are as traditional as they come.

I’m embracing it, that’s for sure. As I get older I’m taking more and more pleasure in sharing those warm fuzzies with my own children. With settling into this life with a sprinkle of my mother and her mother and my grandmother’s ways in my kitchen and my home and my mind.

Maybe that’s how we all do it…take the good and rant against the bad. This Christmas I’m thankful the good I keep is in my home and in my heart. The bad I scream and yell and fight about almost always is on tv or in a newspaper or somewhere ‘else’ out there in the big wide world.

“Independent” still fits though, even if I’m currently freezing kielbasa and doing dishes.

…and for her latest trick

Baby Jesus (the girl, by the way) can now balance on a head and FLY through the air during a game of catch. Beats being face down in a bowl of milk. I think.

Dear 8lb 6oz Baby Jesus,

A few years ago my brother-in-law and sister-in-law gave us a nativity scene for Christmas. It was made in Poland (I’m Polish) and it’s very nice. I store it right next to the Bible we also got as a gift. Because anyone who knows this royal family knows we would just love nativity scenes and bibles as gifts….cough cough.
The past few years at Christmas I’ve actually unpacked the stuffed nativity (they are like stuffed dolls) because the kids have found them fun to play with, and we’ve had family over who may or may not notice we may or may not be displaying said nativity that was thoughtfully picked out.

Princess Peanut likes the donkey, the lamb, and of course the Baby Jesus. She hasn’t ever played with Joseph or Mary or the angel. Don’t ask me where the wise men are…apparently they were not present at this particular birth or the Polish nuns who sewed them got tired.

Lately we’ve been playing with the donkey, the lamb, and a puppy dog . They talk. They go on little trips to other rooms together. They pretend to eat fake food. All well and good.

Enter Baby Jesus.

Suddenly the donkey and lamb have been labeled “bad sisters go away!” and the puppy and Jesus have formed a bond. The Baby Jesus gets to walk the puppy (using one of my headbands) and Jesus tells the dog “you’re such a good puppy” and so on and so forth.

Somewhere along the lines puppy stayed in the other room and only Baby Jesus (with or without his manger, depending on her mood) has been clutched in her tiny hands. Baby Jesus had breakfast with us this morning. Baby Jesus came to the mall. Baby Jesus is the new Elmo that must be carried at all times.

Of course Baby Jesus also needs to eat, and since Mom is catching up on a million things around here what with the recent illnesses and all, a cup or two of milk might remain on the table longer than need be.

Enter Princess Peanut feeding Baby Jesus milk while Mom wasn’t paying attention.

I heard something about “here you go baby” but wasn’t really listening.

About 20 minutes later I found Baby Jesus floating face down in a bowl of milk on my kitchen table.

“Honey, let’s not feed the baby your milk, ok?”

“But Mama...she was hungry.”

Cue brother-

“That’s a BOY, not a girl!”

“No it’s not! It’s a girl!”

“No, it’s a boy!”

So now I’ve got a Baby Jesus floating face down in milk and two kids having the argument I like to reserve to really piss off some right-wing fanatics.

I fished Baby Jesus out of the milk, and at the kids’ request he was towel dried and bundled much like they are after a bath.

My youngest then put him in his manger, hooked my headband back around the neck of her puppy dog, and proceeded on a walk around the house.

“Do you feel better after your bath my little girl? I’m so glad…here puppy, let’s have some peanut butter…”

We’re so going to hell.

CastleGate 2007

*not to be confused with the Turkey Riot of 2004 or the Teacup Riots of 2005


I’ll swear more, for real, in a few paragraphs, but first let’s travel back several weeks to this family’s brush with the Southern California wildfires.

We evacuated. We hung out with Nana and Gramps. We came home.

Somewhere in between hanging out and coming home, we made our way through Orlando International Airport.

Orlando International Airport has TWO Disney Stores. Not one, but TWO. One in Terminal A and one in Terminal B. I’ll give OIA two. I mean, Mickey lives in that there city…I’ll give them TWO.

Anyway, on our way back to Los Angeles (which was no longer ON FIRE) I hastily stopped in Terminal A’s Disney store to buy a few small things to occupy my children on the very long flight home. A nice Princess set. Maybe some Mickey coloring books. A few Goofy cookies. You get the idea.

Princess Peanut Punk as Fuck entered said Disney store and IMMEDIATELY flipped out over this:

Mind you, in real life, this box is rather large. About as BIG as she is. There is no way I’m getting this on the plane and certainly no way I’m forking out $80 for plane ride distractions. Cue Princess Peanut meltdown. Of EPIC proportions.

I try and explain this won’t fit on the plane. I try and explain she’s NOT getting this toy. Maybe Santa can bring it? Maybe Christmas is coming and this can be on her “list?”

There is no getting through to her. At all. She’s on the floor screaming and we have to get through security like NOW.

Always thinking, I ask a nice saleswoman if they have a smaller castle. Maybe a picture of one. Maybe some little trinket. She calmly (which was pretty good considering the screaming child on my leg) says there is another Disney store in Terminal B, and they have a castle bank.

A bank. That might work.

So with both kids, and two carry ons, we run to Terminal B. Go ahead and stop and imagine what that looks like. No no, don’t stop to see the fishies…come on…we have to go…no, hold my hand….I see the big Mickey, yes…but we need to get down this hallway…

We make it to Terminal B’s store and low and behold Princess Peanut thinks the castle bank is SHIT and won’t even look at it. Now I’m thinking it’s time to get ugly. It’s time to just grab a random coloring book and the screaming toddler and the 4.5year old and the two carry-ons and run back to Terminal A and through security and onto our soon-t0-be departing plane.

Instead my daughter, aka Sybil, decides she really likes this Little Mermaid backpack/doll set and happily skips to the check out. Happily skips to Terminal A. Happily skips through security and onto the plane.

Let’s catch up to present day, shall we? Our little peanut watches her Disney movies until we can ALL recite each line. And as many of you know, they all begin with a very nice animation of Cinderella’s castle. And each time, our little girl proclaims ” MY castle! MY castle!”

Yes, HER castle. Not Cinderella’s. Hers.

If asked about HER castle, she’ll tell you Santa is bringing it. It’s #2 on her Santa list (right after a HORSE) and she just knows it will come. Just knows.

Now Princess Peanut’s Nana, being the NANA she is (that’s capital N-A-N-A) says she will find said castle and get it for our darling. Turns out houseboy (my brother) and his girlfriend have a connection at Disneyland who can get said castle at a discount.

Said connection checks out the situation in Anaheim. Guess what? They only sell SLEEPING BEAUTY’S castle there. And they are ONLY selling these castles at the PARKS THEMSELVES (or ebay) and it’s Cinderella’s in Orlando and Sleeping Beauty in Anaheim.


Now, I really can’t ask my Mom to pay $115 on ebay for a play castle. I’m still hoping we don’t have to pay admission to the park in ORLANDO (um, hi, mom, can you drive to Disney World for me?) but we’ll see. Of course I’m calling the airport store in the morning to figure out how the fuck THEY got them and if they can SHIP one.

Bottom line here…Santa is trying to deliver. Maybe Santa should just go ahead with some doll or coloring book and not get caught up in making sure we get the Castle. Maybe the castle isn’t meant to be. Maybe the castle is a lesson for Princess to learn.

Or maybe I need to get on the phone and online.

What say you? Castle? Or No castle?

There’s So Much That We Share That Its Time We’re Aware…

…it’s a small world after all.

Now, once you’re done cursing me for sticking that song in your head…last night something amazing happened, and it hit me how big this whole “web 2.0, social media, blah blah blah” stuff is.

My Sister-in-law had a baby. On the surface, not such an earth shattering thing. I mean, yes a miracle and all that, but not exactly unheard of in this day and age. The thing is, she’s in Germany. Her husband, my brother-in-law, is stationed in Iraq. My father-in-law and mother-in-law were en route from West Virginia to Germany and my family and I are in California.

I might need a diagram for that.

Somewhere around lunchtime the West Virginia contingent landed in Germany and somewhere around dinnertime they were off to the hospital. Somewhere around desert time my phone rang and a baby had been born. Relatives needed to be alerted and a father needed to be found in Iraq. Mind you I was online with a Canadian and on the phone with a Bostonian.

So emails were sent, calls were made, skypes were attempted, and twitters were pushed out into the universe because I was too excited to remember what the time difference was in Iraq or, apparently, how to google.

By bedtime, I was congratulating Dad the soldier via webcam and getting a tour of his room in the Middle East.

I had spoken to people all over the globe over one tiny little girl.

I wasn’t doing business. I wasn’t blogginig. I wasn’t connecting with old friends or reading techie news. I was simply celebrating life.

So I’m done with talk of ‘what is web 2.0?’ and ‘what is social media?’

It’s life.

The end.

Holiday Card Envy Part III

It’s not like I care…but…my daughter has an entirely chapped face and my son has a big bump and scratch under his eye.

Yes, ladies and gentlemen, it’s Holiday Card Time! Remember last year? And the year before?

This year is no exception. I’m not sure how to stop the licking of the lips so much that it appears the 2-year old suction cupped a red plate around her face, or how to wrap the boy in foam so he doesn’t maim himself.

Doesn’t matter. Cards are ordered and once again they are far from perfect. Our lives are far from perfect. Our home is far from perfect. They are kids. Kids are messy. Hell, I am messy. Our lives are messy. Messier than usual, and that’s saying something.

Now I need to figure out how to sign them. The Royal Family? Count, Princess, Queen, Kaiser, & um…hmmmm. Maybe I’ll just say “Happy Holidays, these are the messy kids we created” and leave it at that. I mean, I can only take up so many lines on the one page card. I don’t think “Happy Holidays (non denominational seems safe) these are the kids as they are this year. Sorry, but I wasn’t there to comb their hair when this was taken, because I was off working, but I think their Dad did a good job…oh, and speaking of him…yeah, lots going on there…oh and me? Yeah, lots going on their too. But as you can see our kids are happy and healthy and totally messy so enjoy the photo and Happy Holidays.”