These People

24 04 2013

In no particular order:

Paul Simon

Lyle Lovett

Amy Tan

Ani DiFranco

Jane Goodall

David Sedaris

Jon Stewart

Malcolm Gladwell

Helen Keller

Diane Rehm

Who you got?

(and if WordPress still refuses to allow you to comment but you want to participate – email me semiferalmama@yahoo.com)





A Year of Giving Randomly

19 08 2011

In the past our charitable giving was usually driven by which non-profit animal shelter I was currently working for – go figure.  I gave monthly through automatic withdrawal programs.  It was all very organized and could be planned for in our budget. (Ha, ha, ha – yeah, our budget, that thing we write down on paper every couple years and usually promptly forget.)

In addition to those monthly gifts to animal organizations which I knew beyond a shadow of a doubt were doing good work, we sometimes gave to those young, optimistic, do-gooders going door-to-door, pitching an organization and trying to change the world.  Specific causes ranged from the  environment to equal rights. In general, however, I turned down way more requests for donations than I honored.

So many not-for-profits are run poorly.  So many split-hairs when they give you their statistics.  I don’t think they usually lie, but they have professional staff who spend 100% of their time making sure you want to give to them and 0% of their time ensuring the donations actually provide a service to someone, somewhere.

On the other hand, I am no longer intimately involved with any particular not-for-profit.  Not  spending 60 hours a week working for a specific not-for-profit agency allows me to be more balanced.  My circle of friends grew and my personal interests blossomed.  Now that I am less myopic, I want our giving to reflect our lives. But I still have two toddlers.  I do not have the time to research the many amazing groups that are doing amazing work.  More importantly, I don’t have the knowledge to recognize the charities that under perform. Keeping that in mind, I had decided to use the judgement of my friends as the single biggest factor in choosing what causes I will support.  If a friend asks me to give that would be reason enough to make a gift.

But before my plan got underway, it was tested.  Right now many of my friends are part of an amazing effort to raise money for the famine effected areas in Africa.  Unfortunately, they are raising money for an organization I distrust.    My theory of how I was going to implement my “randomness” has been challenged.  After thinking it through some more, I decided to stick with my original idea.  In almost all cases my gifts will be small.  My experiment is about being one of many, allowing social media to influence my giving along with traditional fundraising activities.  Despite the imperfections of my plan,  my 44th year of life will also be my Year Of Giving Randomly.

Like Danny Wallace in his memoir “Yes Man”, I am going to just say yes.  I hope to make a charitable gift every time I am asked by a “friend.”  I will not give to any cause that directly conflicts with my values.  And, in fact, if I am asked to give to a cause that I find immoral, I will probably make a small gift to a charity that is working on the other side of that specific issue.  Other than that caveat, I plan to give (even if I am slightly unsure about the charity, as long as I believe in the cause.)

And I plan to buy.  I will be buying t-shirts and headbands and any other schlock that your favorite charity is selling which I can convince myself we need.  Additionally, I hope to purchase any and all gifts I give this year in a similar manner. (I hope my family likes t-shirts with pictures of Africa on them.)

And I plan to run (really, really slowly).  I am going to try to enter at least one running event every month starting in September.  If I can work the timing out, many of those runs should be supporting a charity.

I hope by saying yes, even if my gift is small, it will give the asker confidence to approach another potential donor (maybe even one who has some real wealth to share).

I hope that my small gifts will inspire me to learn more about a particular organization, a particular problem, a particular solution.

Look out Girl Scouts, High School Band Members and Salvation Army Bell Ringers, I am headed your way.  I will be easy to spot wearing a charity t-shirt, a different not-for-profit baseball cap, carrying an umbrella supporting one cause and a book-bag supporting another.





What You Can’t See On The Internet

17 08 2011

I did it.

A week ago last Sunday I had my first blog-friend date.

My kids were tired and hungry, but Meg and Sam were gracious anyway.

I managed to get together with Meg and Sam from Vicarious Cuteness.  We tried to make this happen last winter but illness prevented it.

I have a whole bunch of things I planned to talk to Meg about.  She has been in the Ethiopian adoptive community longer than I, and I know she has some wisdom I wanted to get my hands on.  Not to mention she seems to have some wonderful, vegetarian, low-fat recipes I want to hear more about.  But, alas, those topics never came up because I could not stop talking about her hair.

Fuzzy picture, but I am trying to let you all see why I was so distracted.

Seriously, the woman has inexplicably, perfect hair.  Both my sister (the yuppie republican who disagrees with me about everything) and I just kept gushing to Meg about her hair.  Of course my sister was not around when I was doing my gushing or she might not have done her own gushing.  But really, it was a nasty, muggy, mid-western morning.  The woman even did some jumping on a trampoline.  And when all was said and done, her hair was perfect.

I will say, walking around with Sam, who also sports some spectacular hair, probably puts pressure on Meg.  But, damn, she has some seriously nice hair.  (She is also funny and full of joy.)  If you have the opportunity to get together with her, do it.  But if you plan to take pictures, you may want to visit your stylist first.

Little Dude trying to teach Sam how to be naughty at an Ethiopian restaurant.





Goal List: Books

6 07 2011

Yesterday was my birthday.  I spent the vast majority of my waking hours in the minivan with five children, one dog, and my husband.  Somehow it was a pretty good day.

I suppose I will have to re-post my goal list and look at how many I achieved since technically yesterday was the deadline.

My favorite goal turned out to be “Read 43 Books.”  I didn’t quite get to 43, but I read lots of great books.  I learned lots.  I was entertained.  I was moved.  I laughed.

I would love to talk about these books with you. (Some of the conversations might be short “um, don’t really remember much about it” but others would be interesting, fascinating, I could learn from you, we could learn from the author.

  1. Comfort Food by Kate Jacobs (light fiction)
  2. Hypocrite in a Pouffy White Dress by Susan Jane Gilman (humor)
  3. I Love Everybody by Laurie Notaro (humor)
  4. I See You Everywhere by Julia Glass (fiction)
  5. Baby, We Were Meant For Each Other by Scott Simon (adoption)
  6. Held at a Distance by Rebecca Haile (memoire Ethiopia)
  7. Committed by Elizabeth Gilbert (memoire follow-up to Eat, Pray, Love)
  8. Talk Before Sleep by Elizabeth Berg (fiction/literature one of my favorite authors)
  9. The Nanny Diaries by McLaughlin and Kraus (light fiction – entertaining)
  10. I’ll Mature When I’m Dead by Dave Barry (humor)
  11. Happiest Toddler on the Block byKatz (90%) (parenting)
  12. An Hour Before Daylight by Jimmy Carter (autobiography – race)
  13. 1-2-3 Magic by Dr. Thomas Phelan (parenting)
  14. Sh*t My Father Says by Justin Halpern (humor – so, so, so funny)
  15. This Is a Soul The Mission of Rick Hodes by Marilyn Berger (biography, Ethiopia, AMAZING)
  16. Open an autobiography by Andre Agassi (autobiography interesting to read along with Tiger Mother and The Opposite of Fate)
  17. Say You’re One of Them by Wem Akpan (short stories based in Africa – very, very intense)
  18. I Feel Bad About My Neck by Nora Ephron (middle-aged humor)
  19. Coffee Will Make You Black by April Sinclair (fiction, race)
  20. Three Cups of Tea by Greg Mortenson and David Oliver Relin (memoir, possibly not accurate, interesting)
  21. How to Raise Your Spirited Child by Mary Sheedy Kurchinka (parenting)
  22. Early Bird, a memoir of premature retirement by Rodney Rothman (humor)
  23. A Long Walk To Water (Salva Dut) by Linda Sue Park (Juvenile, Lost Boys of the Sudan)
  24. Maggie’s American Dream by James P. Comer, M.D. (autobiography, race)
  25. Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother by Amy Chua (memoir, parenting, race, humor)
  26. Mamalita – an adoption memoir by Jessica O’Dwyer (adoption)
  27. What Now  Blog (adoption of teen from foster care)
  28. Are You My Guru? by Wendy Shanker (memoir from person I grew up near)
  29. Message From An Unknown Chinese Mother by Xinran (adoption, chinese culture)
  30. The Opposite of Fate by Amy Tan (memoir, AMAZING, race, culture, fiction, spirituality)
  31. Why My Third Husband Will Be A Dog by Lisa Scottoline (middle-age humor, surprisingly good)
  32. Exodus From Hunger by David Beckmann (social issues from Christian perspective, basically a really long brochure for his not-for-profits – learned a lot)
  33. The Help by Kathryn Stockett (fiction, race)
  34. The Chimps of Fauna Sanctuary by Andrew Westoll (animal welfare)
  35. No Biking in the House Without a Helmet by Melissa Faye Greene (memoir, adoption, Ethiopia, humor)
  36. Walk To Beautiful – Documentary about Fistula Hospital in Ethiopia
  37. God Grew Tired of Us – Documentary about the Lost Boys of the Sudan

Happy Reading.





Oh, Right, The Goal List

5 06 2011

This is a blog about parenting and specifically about parenting one adopted and one bio child.  It is blog about parenting transracially.  It is a blog about parenting two toddlers while moving to the middle of the country where you have no support system.  This is a blog about ME.

And I kicked it off by making a list of goals.  A HUGE list of things I wanted to achieve before my 44th birthday.  You may have seen a picture of me on this blog from time-to-time and so you are thinking, “Hey, she has a good 10 years before her 44th birthday.”    Thank you, and be sure to make an appointment to visit an ophthalmologist soon.  The truth is, I have exactly one month.  One month from today I will be 44.  I will no longer be able to deny middle-age.  And I will reflect back on my ridiculously long list of goals and think, “Good thing I wasn’t getting graded on THAT.”

The problem with my goal list is I got hung up on the number 43.   I wanted 43 goals.  And I wanted most of the goals to relate to the number 43.  So, now, because I am an adult and can make my own rules, especially if I stick within my theme, I am declaring, my real goal is to complete 43% of my 43 goals.

I think I can do it.

To cure insomnia read more about my goals go here, here, and here.





Goal List Update – Reading, Etc… (But Mostly Reading)

23 04 2011

I started this blog when I realized that next year I would be IN.MY.MID.40’s.  No denying you are middle-age when you are in your mid-40’s.  For the record, 43 is EARLY 40’s and therefore NOT middle-age.

Like many people I started with a list – a list of 43 goals I hoped to reach or tasks I wanted to complete before my next birthday (July 5th).  I have blogged about the goals a number of times, but in general find them to be too boring for even me (and I usually find myself VERY interesting.)  Still, if you want to read a little about them go here, and here, and here.

If I had to give a general update I would say I am ignoring all goals that have to do with health and fitness and loving relationships.  I am achieving the goals that have to do with blogging.  I have succeeded as some of the house-wife goals, (couponing, organizing, recycling grocery bags).

The goal that I spend the most time on and that is probably the most interesting is my desire to read 43 books.  I am more than half-way done (26 books completed) but I am running low on time.  On February 9, I published a list of the first 15 books I read.  You can find it here.  Since that time I have read the following:

Open an autobiography by Andre Agassi  I always had a crush on him.  And enjoyed this book.  It actually goes hand-in-hand with Tiger Mother.

Say You’re One of Them by Wem Akpan  Blogged about this incredibly intense book of short-stories based in Africa here and here

I Feel Bad About My Neck by Nora Ephron Humor

What Now this is actually a blog you can find HERE.  When I found this blog (thanks, Claudia) I wanted to go back to the first post and read it in order.  It has been a long time since I have done that with a blog.  I was conflicted because I knew that would cut into my “goal reading” time.  So I decided to give myself one book credit.  This woman is a great writer on a very interesting journey.  I would recommend her to anyone.  Unfortunately she JUST got diagnosed with cancer.  Crazy sad, crazy scary.  And no matter what, crazy good writing.

Coffee Will Make You Black by April Sinclair  Blogged about this here.

Three Cups of Tea by Greg Mortenson and David Oliver Relin  Inspirational and yet currently under scrutiny for accuracy.

How to Raise Your Spirited Child by Mary Sheedy Kurchinka  Blogged about this parenting book here.

Early Bird, a memoir of premature retirement by Rodney Rothman Humor

A Long Walk To Water (Salva Dut) by Linda Sue Park Salva Dut is one of the “leaders” of the Lost Boys.  Now he runs a not-for-profit water charity.  Technically written for juvenile readers (age 9 and older), it caught my eye displayed on the end-cap of a shelf at our library.  After reading “Say You Are One of Them,” I thought, awesome, a book about Africa that won’t be so intense I can’t function.  And it was an amazing book.  You should read it.  So should the teens and pre-teens you know.

Maggie’s American Dream by James P. Comer, M.D.  Part of my “self-study” in African American literature.  First published in 1988, it should be easy to find a nice used copy.  Prepare to want to send your black children to a “traditionally” black University.

Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother by Amy Chua  How come I only heard this book was about a terrible Mom and not that it was also really funny?  An interesting companion book to Andre’ Agassi’s Open.  This would be fun to discuss in a book club.

Mamalita – an adoption memoir by Jessica O’Dwyer  Finished this today.  Not a smart book to read when in the throes of an adoption traumaversary.  But, WOW, has this been discussed by lots of people in the triad and I am just late to the party??  Coffeemom discusses it here.  She is SO smart.  I would love to discuss this more… like how this mother seems willing to step across pretty clear ethical lines if that will get her child home.  And how I felt more compassion for her than revulsion and judgment – although I THOUGHT I should be feeling more judgment.  Please, if you have read this book – let’s discuss it.  If not, could you read it?  Soon?  And THEN we could discuss it.

Anybody still reading this post?  If so, you are probably a bibliophile in which case I would love to have suggestions.  I need to read 16 more books by July 5th.   I like many types of literature, but right now I am favoring memoirs, biographies, autobiographies, anything to do with adoption, Africa, Ethiopia, parenting and humor… but don’t limit yourself.

Oh, and if at all possible, I need fast reads (that will also make me feel smart and fascinating at a cocktail party – should I ever be invited to one.)





Shhh, Can’t You Tell I Am Trying To Read?

9 02 2011

I LOVE to read.  I love to read more than almost anything – except my children.  And if my children would allow me to read more, I would love them even more.

Lots of times I choose to watch tv instead of reading.  Why?  Because watching tv is relaxing.  TV turns my brain off.  Reading turns my brain on.

Reading is engaging.  Reading is all consuming.  When I was little and my family went on vacations, my sister would hide my books from me to force me to play with her.  If the protagonist in a book is miserable, and I have to stop reading for something inconvenient like, going to work, or talking to my family, you can bet that I am going to be in a bad mood and probably not even recognize why.  If all is right in the protagonist’s world, then all is right in my world, even if things are actually woefully wrong.  The scary thing is I didn’t really recognize  this literature-induced, emotional rollercoaster until some time in my 30’s (my apologies to all former room-mates, boyfriends and family members.)

Guess what? I like this rollercoaster.  However, you can imagine, that I am not necessarily the best mother when I am really engaged in a book, especially a difficult, depressing book.   That fact, along with our practice of co-sleeping with Little Dude (oh how I miss reading in bed) has impeded my ability to read at the rate I prefer.  However, goal #10 on THE LIST is “Read 43 books – picture books don’t count”.  I started slow and now have lots of ground to make-up before my birthday in early July.

Here is my list to date:

  1. Comfort Food Kate Jacobs
  2. Hypocrite in a Pouffy White Dress Susan Jane Gilman
  3. I Love Everybody Laurie Notaro
  4. I See You Everywhere Julia Glass
  5. Baby, We Were Meant For Each Other Scott Simon
  6. Held at a Distance Rebecca Haile
  7. Committed Elizabeth Gilbert
  8. Talk Before Sleep Elizabeth Berg
  9. The Nanny Diaries McLaughlin and Kraus
  10. I’ll Mature When I’m Dead Dave Barry
  11. Happiest Toddler on the Block Katz (90%)
  12. An Hour Before Daylight Jimmy Carter
  13. 1-2-3 Magic Dr. Thomas Phelan
  14. Sh*t My Dad Says Justin Halpern
  15. This Is a Soul, The Mission of Rick Hodes Marilyn Berger

Currently reading:

Black Faces in White Places by Randal Pinkett and Jeffrey Robinson

Open by Andre Agassi

Say You’re One of Them by Uwem Akpa

Long May You Run by Chris Cooper

Some of these books are total fluff (Comfort Food).  Some are old favorites (Talk Before Sleep).  Some are much needed discipline advice (Happiest Toddler, 1-2-3).

Some are fluff with a purpose… The Nanny Diaries.  As I see it this book has two purposes.  First, it makes you feel like a good parent, because no matter how bad of a parent you are, you are a better parent than the parents in this book.  Second, it makes you happy to be middle-class, because clearly rich people are really messed up.  And, it is a quick read.

Some of these books are humor, fast reads that made me laugh out loud (I’ll Mature When I am Dead, Shi*t My Dad Says).  This genre is appealing to me more and more because I can get lots of books read and because, well, umm, I guess I sometimes try to be funny.

And some of these books are life-changing.

If This is a Soul doesn’t make you want to be a better person you are either already a REALLY amazing person, or you are soul-less.  This is a Soul makes me want to buy a bigger house.  What?  Because then I can host children from Ethiopia pre and post surgery.  This Is A Soul makes you think about God, coincidences, the Universe, how and why things work the way they do.  This Is A Soul makes you look into your own soul.  Oh, and it is also a fast read.  Amazing.

Actually took this picture for another post I drafted about reading... two months ago. Maybe I should read a "how to overcome procrastination" book.

Meta-blog Epilogue

I know the formatting on this post is hideous.  I know I need to pick a new style sheet or dump wordpress.  I am however proud of the fact that I am willing to send this post out as ugly as it is.  It means I have taken another step forward in my life-long battle against perfectionism.  And, I have books to read so I really do not have time to mess with my blog.