Monthly Archives: December 2012

Altruism: The Hard Truth About Helping

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I have some advanced version of a nasty cold: bronchitis at best (pneumonia at worst) so I have been in bed mostly. Thinking.

Have you all read this post from Justine? Newtown and the holidays have made me think a lot about work that can be done to help others. I’ve been attached to various causes my whole life (helping animals when I was young: I worked at the local Humane Society as a pre-teen) and I’ve helped with various charities over the years, sitting on the board of one for a while, and working full-time for a non-profit. I’ve worked on political campaigns and for politicians as an intern for a political consultant throughout college. He worked mostly for the underdog. (And frequently lost.)

A lot of my pursuits were fruitless. Maybe (MAYBE) a few more animals were adopted because of my efforts. (Mostly to my own family! We had a zoo growing up basically.)

When the kids were born, I didn’t have much time to devote to altruism anymore: we gave money as a family where we could on a pretty limited budget. The community we live in is heavy on volunteering for things that are in my mind, not essential. They are mostly raising money and volunteering to promote even more services for children that are already pretty privileged. That’s how I feel, but the truth is I don’t have the time to volunteer for these causes even if I wanted to. My husband works crazy hours, so I hold down this fort alone without help. Faces of ALI has done some educational work, it seems, so there’s that.

There are other ways to do good. You can live a life true to your beliefs as a vegan or vegetarian. (Something I’ve tried but it turns out I can’t be a vegetarian for various health reasons that would bore you but mostly have to do with extreme anemia and an intolerance for a lot of vegetables and iron medication.) You can live a life as a self-sustaining homesteader, like Soulemama. (If you go over there, I warn you: you might be there for hours. She’s a fantastic blogger/photographer.)

I live a life of trying to “do the best I can.” I compost, I recycle, I grow some of my own food. I really limit the amount of landfill we produce. I buy local and organic when I can. I try to smile and say hi to people. I tip heavily. I try to foster community here at this site. I try to comment on blogs of others when they are struggling and when they are rejoicing. I stand up to bullies when I need to. I try to raise my kids to be kind, responsible children who question things that are unfair.

Then something like Newtown happens and I feel like there’s NOTHING I can do that will matter.

I watched “It’s a Wonderful Life” this year, as I do every Christmas Eve. Each time I view it there’s a different issue that speaks to me and this year it was George’s spectacular burnout from doing too much for the good of Bedford Falls. I found an AV Club article called “It’s a Wonderful Life Shows the Unending Cost of Being Good” which discusses this topic in detail.

From the article about the famous ending where George Bailey’s friends and family raise the debt he owes:

“The money won’t last. It’ll cover the debt, and the Baileys will go right back to being broke. At best, George will just stay out of jail. The memory of his reverie will fade in time, as all memories must, eroded by the passage of life itself. There will always be Mr. Potter, there to take advantage of every moment of goodness and perceive it as a weakness, just as George Bailey will always stare out the window at the snow-capped roofs of Bedford Falls and wonder what’s out there beyond the world he can see. He’ll never fix the banister, and the house will always be drafty, and Mary will always love him. He will be good, because he must be good. And maybe that will be enough.”

This explanation speaks to me.

In the end, I keep coming back to Justine’s theory. I like the idea of altruism partnered with action.

What do you think? What altruistic acts to you perform? Do you think they make a difference?

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Filed under Family, Fear, Parenting After IF

Food: Italian Style

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First of all, thank you all SO much for your incredible feedback. I really appreciate you sharing what subject matter you like (and don’t), and honestly, I was so touched that many of you said you liked my voice regardless of the subject matter. Feedback received: and I will continue my Faces of ALI project for sure.

So, onto another random tangent then? 😉 This time, FOOD. Specifically, the food of Italy. Why is it SO GOOD there? Is it possible to replicate it here?

I am very lucky because Darcy has some rock star foodie friends. I’m not allowed to tell you who they are (Chinese walls and all that) but I AM allowed to share their fantastic recommendations for your next trip to Rome. Or, your virtual trip.

We got a lot of advice on Roman food before we left. The necessities to try (antipasti, spaghetti carbonara, gelato, cream puffs and the unique pizza made with potatoes) and most hilariously from one of Darcy’s contacts: tourist trap places to AVOID. When I was napping off jet lag, Darcy got some gelato and it was subpar. I said: “Did you go to that place x told us not to go, Blue Ice?” Sure enough, he had.

Our first meal was near the Trevi Fountain (tourist trap central) at Ristorante La Tavernetta 48, but it was off the beaten track: we followed pretty oil lamps down a tiny lane to find it. I ordered homemade gnocchi, a favorite of mine, but the best part of the meal was the appetizers. Zucchini flowers stuffed with mozzarella and delicately pan fried:

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And anchovies. These tasted NOTHING like anchovies I’ve ever had before. They didn’t taste fishy or salty or smell bad: they were light and flavorful, almost like small rainbow trouts. They were served with greens and fresh herbs and olive oil, and were delish.

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There was a local bakery near our hotel (Hotel Eden) and we ate there every morning. I don’t remember the name of the place, but we began to befriend the locals we saw there: the same people were there every day. I don’t drink coffee so instead indulged in hot chocolate which tasted different: lighter, frothier, more delicate. LOVED. And we ate different pastries each day. Roman pastries were not particularly sweet. (Which I liked: I don’t like my sweets TOO sweet, YMMV). My favorite was the cream puff: light crunchy puff pastry encased a light, lemony cream made of ricotta. YUM.

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For my birthday lunch we went to Pipero Al Rex, a restaurant that had just that week received a Michelin star. Oh, it was heavenly. I ordered their famous Pasta Carbonara and it was the best dish, hands down, I had in Italy. Pasta Carbonara is one of those deceptively simple things: spaghetti, egg, bacon, lemon and pepper: but again, the quality and preparation of those simple ingredients was such that a sublime meal was created. The pasta in particular was al dente and just tasted different (and better) than any other spaghetti I’ve ever had.

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For my birthday dinner, we ate at the exquisite restaurant on the top of our hotel, which was called La Terrazza dell’Eden. It was FANCY and the view overlooked the Vatican and other beautiful sites. We ordered Lobster and pasta and it was delicious and sophisticated. We drank champagne and felt rather fabulous.

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After touring the Forum and doing a ton of walking the next day, we went to a cheap take-out place (almost a bakery) famous for its potato pizza (yes, really!) called Forno Campo de Fiori. The potato pizza was delicious and we ate siting on a fountain in the middle of the flower market. We dashed in and out of Forno a few times to get “just one more slice”…

We left Rome for Naples the following day. Naples is a tough town: as we were taking a cab to our hotel, in the middle of the day, I noticed a young couple arguing intensely on the street. Suddenly, the woman hauled off and SLAPPED the guy across the face! In front of tons of strangers! He walked away but soon returned, gesticulating madly, trying to apologize, it seemed. He must have really done something to piss her off.

Naples is pretty much acknowledged to be the best place in the world for pizza, and Darcy’s food connections all agreed: the best pizza in Naples was served at Pizzeria Starita. We had to take a cab up winding, narrow, medieval streets: the steepest I’ve ever seen, and I’ve lived in San Francisco. Finally we arrived at a tiny restaurant that was very crowded. We were lucky enough to score a table, and readers: the pizza was perfection. The best I’ve ever had: simultaneously liquidy and crispy. I kept it simple and ordered the Margharita.

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Amazing.

After touring Pompeii, we moved on to Positano, possibly the most beautiful town I’ve ever visited. Perched on a stark cliff, the hotels and homes are architechtural feats of engineering and also charming and picturesque.

Sometimes when you travel you wander into a cliche: such was the scene when we went to the restaurant Mediteraneo. Darcy captured the cinematic moment perfectly in this short clip. That music is NOT ADDED IN: it was actually PLAYING at the time! It was like some romantic comedy come to life.

Cliched or not, the pasta was delicious here: Darcy ordered this homemade seafood pasta dish after seeing it be delivered to two locals and I ate spaghetti with tomatoes and eggplant.

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And so…I am now very hungry and wish there was a way to recreate that spaghetti! Do you have any Italian dishes that are your favorites? What are they? And please direct me to any good recipes you know of for authentic delicious meals 🙂

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Filed under cooking?!?, My Favorite Things

Demand A Plan

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This PSA is incredibly powerful.

If you agree, please share.

Thank you.

http://smartgunlaws.org/demand-a-plan/

(Via Esperanza, whose dedicated and talented partner works for the organization that produced this.)

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What On Earth To Say?

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If you read me regularly, you’ll know this blog has been fragmented since this summer. As fragmented as the cheap kaleidoscope lens I bought my son, which was quickly broken, then lost, as most of the twins’ toys are.

The truth is, I have no idea what to write anymore. How to write. Do I craft short, escapist posts of happiness and photos or long heart-wrenching missives pouring my heart out? I’ve had some middling success with this blog in the way I hoped: as an advocacy tool, an educational mechanism. The truth is, in some ways, my wounds of 2006-2010 (two losses and infertility) have healed. The truth is, those wounds will never really fully heal. The bell has been rung, I’m forever changed by the experiences. The truth is: I’ll face worse, because I won’t live forever and this world is destined to delight and depress people and all we can hope is that perhaps we experience more delight, but that’s not a given. The truth is I’d like to write about things other than infertility, too. The truth is, I don’t know that anyone wants to hear about those other things. And, fair enough. I started off writing for myself, but along the way, I began to write for others. Those I knew. Those I didn’t know. Those I wanted to reach. Those who needed to hear stories of others, ordinary but extraordinary tales of loss and love and resilience and brokenness.

I know that some of you have been bewildered by my meanderings (Fashion? REALLY?) and probably hurt by posts about my kids, something I refrained from doing before. I understand: my audience is a mix of different people, some in the trenches, some living childfree not by choice, some parenting, some having nothing to do with infertility.

I don’t know why I feel “better”, but it’s a fragile state I don’t take for granted. In fact, if there’s one phrase that defines 2012 for me, it’s gratitude. I feel lucky. Sometimes grouchy, sometimes angry, but always grateful. Just grateful for my husband and my beautiful twins. That gratitude was always there, under the surface, but it got lost along the way as I grieved for my children who would never be, for the star-crossed road it seems I alone was dealt amongst my charmed friends and acquaintances. But of course I was not alone. Because I had YOU.

And dear, dear readers: this brings me to my question. What would YOU like me to write?

– Would you like me to finish Faces of ALI? (I had at least two more profiles planned.) Do they matter?
– Do you want me to create a separate blog for all things fashion and lifestyle? Because the truth is the other thing that has made me happy in 2012 is rediscovering the superficial side of myself that was submerged for many years. I rediscovered my old love for everything sartorial: mostly this passion was reignited by my daughter, who has taken her interest in clothes to a new level by sewing and crafting.

A friend’s father once told her that she was two sides of the same knife, one that makes shallow cuts and one that delves deep. He’s Romanian and old world and survived the Holocaust as a young child, and I think there is great wisdom in aspiring to this. For me, I think the key for surviving this world (for the time I am given) is to be both: both perfunctory and possibly profound.

I really appreciate and look forward to your comments as always. I know I have not always pleased you, you have not always agreed with me, and I am sure that some of my posts made your eyes roll into the back of your head as you clicked out of my blog 😉 But please know: I have deeply valued your time and your comments over the last two years.

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Filed under Parenting After IF, personal style, What Say You?, writing

Newtown and What We Can Do to Change Things

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“They had their entire lives ahead of them — birthdays, graduations, weddings, kids of their own.”

President Obama

All of us are shocked and stunned by the events that occurred yesterday in Newtown, a lovely New England hamlet straight out of a Norman Rockwell painting. The young children who were massacred, the principal and school psychologist who bravely confronted the killer and never came back, the teacher who apparently hid her students in cabinets and closets then told the gunman they were in the gym. (He killed her.)

It’s unfathomable.

Unlike Hurricane Sandy, where so many generous souls of our good country came together to help a region ravaged by storm (as Americans always do in a tragedy) a lot of folks on Twitter have asked what we can do to help, what we can do to try to ensure such a thing never happens again.

There are a few things.

We joke about lawyers, but a few of this country’s most talented legal minds chose not to work for high-paying glorious positions but work tirelessly and without the lawyer salary to stand up to the NRA, playing modern-day Davids to quite possibly one of the biggest Goliaths this country knows. The NRA is probably America’s most powerful lobbying group, if not in reality then in the minds of legislators who fear it.

Here’s a few things to know about the influence and power of the NRA:

From NPR:

“I believe the NRA has as much sway on Capitol Hill as any lobbying group in the country,” says Mike Castle, a former Republican congressman from Delaware. “They’ve done a very effective job of convincing people that, whether it’s true or not … they have the power to completely limit their futures in elected office if they don’t cooperate.”

From Businessweek:

The NRA raised $227 million dollars to spend in 2010 on its agenda.

From Towelroad:

(The NRA) has opposed every gun control measure at the state and federal level. It has challenged several of them in court, winning a few spectacular cases at the conservative Supreme Court. It has overturned several of them on election day, and threatened elected lawmakers with harsh payback if they vote against them.

Do Americans agree with the NRA agenda?

No. No, we don’t.

Here’s what the majority of Americans believe about gun control:

86 percent support requiring all gun buyers to pass a criminal background check, no matter where they purchase the weapon or from whom they buy it. (January 2011 American ViewPoint/Momentum Analysis poll)
63 percent favor a ban on high capacity magazines or clips. (January 2011 CBS News poll)
69 percent support “limiting the number of guns a person could purchase in a given time frame.” (April 2012 Ipsos/Reuters poll)
66 percent support requiring gun owners to register their firearms as part of a national gun registry. (January 2011 American ViewPoint/Momentum Analysis poll)
88 percent support banning those on the terrorist watch list from purchasing guns. (January 2011 American ViewPoint/Momentum Analysis poll)

These are majority positions. Yet, there seems to be a NRA stranglehold on Congress, a misrepresentation of Americans’ views.

Do you want smart gun laws, like the ones above?

Here’s what you can do to take action:

Sign this White House petition to try to introduce the issue of gun control legislature in Congress.

Call the White House and tell President Obama that we need smart gun laws signed into law, and that the majority of Americans agree. 202-456-1414.

Volunteer or support in any way the Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence, who attempts with funds much less significant than the NRA to try to enact smart gun laws in Congress, and on the state and local level. They have incredible databases of studies on gun control studies that might convince even the most gun rights advocate that control is a good thing.

Thank you for listening.

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Filed under What Say You?