Thursday, May 31, 2012

The Kitty Situation

Thanks to everyone for your help on the kitty adoption situation. I think Bob & Bing are currently the most famous cats on the Internet.

It appears that Bob has been adopted from the shelter, which is good, but it also means the cats were separated and I'm a little sad, but better separate than dead.

Now we need to find Bing a home. Keep working on it people and keep praying.
Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Bob and Bing Emergency!!

Bob and Bing have been sent to the kill shelter. I am heartbroken to tell you this news, but my biological father is a sick, depraved person and he is using this to punish his children and mostly me for posting about the cats on here, I think.

If you are in the Philly area, the cats are at the Montgomery County SPCA. Here's a link. Please adopt them fast.
Wednesday, May 23, 2012

In Which I Revolutionize the Diet Industry

Right now I have at least, and I mean at least, ten friends who are trying all sorts of elaborate elimination diets for a variety of conditions, most of which are self-diagnosed or non-existent. I just visited with yet another friend this morning who told me that next week, on June 1st, that's it she's quitting gluten, dairy and eggs. A few weeks ago another friend, who was hypothyroid, started the same diet to supposedly cure her thyroid and remarked how miraculous it was and how much better she felt and then not five minutes later she said she had just started taking thyroid medicine and I was like, really? So you think the diet made you feel better and not the actual medicine for your disorder, which you started at the same time? Imagine that.

All of this not eating is beginning to get on my nerves. Of course people have actual food allergies, many of which can be fatal and must be taken seriously, but I believe the majority of people don't. Most people I think are simply stressed out by the pressures of life in modern society and/ or have poor eating habits and people want a magic bullet cure for what ails them. There are a few conditions where not eating something is a quick fix, but most of our problems are a lot more complicated than that. It would be nice if it were that easy. Quit eating x and feel miraculously better. But it's not. I'm sorry to have to tell you this but not eating gluten, unless you have actual diagnosed celiac disease, isn't going to fix your problems. Going without a certain food group isn't going to find you love or fulfillment. It won't get you more sleep or make you sexier or make you partner more romantic. It won't make your kids behave and it won't fill the holes of childhood wounds. It won't make your grief go away.


Getting better from anything requires more not less. We need to add nourishment to our minds, bodies and souls, not take more things away from ourselves.


Lately, it's become nearly impossible to plan a dinner party because of all the things people won't eat. This one won't eat dairy, another no gluten, then someone else is a vegetarian while yet another person won't eat eggs or vegetables in the nightshade family.


I was considering this last night while trying to plan a social event and I had a revelation about eating that could revolutionize the diet industry forever. I could make a million dollars off of this idea, but I'm going to give it to you for free.


The problem is that we need to eat more things instead of fewer. We don't have enough variety in our diets.


How many of you eat the same breakfast pretty much every day? I'm guilty.

You might think you eat a variety of foods but try keeping a food diary for a few weeks and I'll bet you'll find a lot of repeats and not as much variety as you thought. You're probably eating a lot of the same foods over and over. You are probably in a dietary rut.

Eating too much or too little of anything is unhealthy. When you limit your diet, you're limiting the nutrients your body receives. You need more. You need to eat a lot of different things from many different food groups every single day. You need color and texture, different flavors. Try more foods. Experiment with strange new tastes and food from other traditions. Get out of your rut. Stop denying yourself. Nurture your palate. Nourish your body. Stop taking things away from yourself. See how many different fruits and vegetables and grains you can eat in one day. If you eat meat, try many different sources of protein over the course of a week. See if you can discover some new things you love.


Food is here to give you energy and sustain you. Stop fearing it. As long as you aren't eating a bunch of processed garbage and as long as you don't have a diagnosed by an actual medical doctor food allergy or food related disease, give yourself permission to eat more variety and have fun with it. I promise you, you will feel better for it and your body and soul will thank you.


A couple years ago I went gluten free for over a year and it sucked. I had autoimmune issues and thyroid disease and my stomach was a mess and I desperately wished that eliminating gluten would fix it. Did it? No. I'm sorry. The stomach medicine and remedies I took helped more than anything. I still have autoimmune disease (gluten free, my antibodies actually went up, not down) and my thyroid will never be ok and a lack of bread isn't going to fix it as much as I'd like it to. 


So how about we stop all this food phobia and orthorexic neurosis? Why don't we put an end to ridiculous diet fads and face the truth that they aren't a magic bullet cure for anything?


Let's add more variety, spice, flavors, whole foods, real foods and nourishing foods to our diets instead. Let's eliminate fear from our diets instead of food groups. Let's try new things and expand, rather than limit the things we can and like to eat. We'd be much healthier all around if we did.

Hope for Bob and Bing


I think we may have found someone to foster Bob and Bing temporarily! I'm not certain yet and we're still looking for a forever home for these two sweetie pies, so if you or someone you know in Southern Pennsylvania, Southern New Jersey or Delaware want a pair of beautiful kitties, let me know immediately. Look how cute they are.
 
Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Kitties Need a Home!

My biological father is an asshole. We have established that, yet the things he does never cease to amaze me anew. I continue to be surprised about how deep his idiocy and cruelty go. He is an evil man. Plain and simple. My biological father is a rotten human being.

I suppose it shouldn't shock me that a man who would abandon his own child without a second thought would have no problem abandoning his pets either.

Last year, after the death of his second wife, he quickly met and remarried another woman who is apparently as big of an asshole as he is and as his late wife was too. Assholes find each other and really, the only woman who'd be attracted to him would have to be equally as vile and crazy because a sweet, normal healthy woman would run screaming. It appears that his new wife is manipulative, petty, controlling and bitchy. He likes them that way naturally. Sadly, Wife 3 doesn't like cats. I have few nice things to say about Wife 2, but at least she was a cat person.

My five half siblings grew up with a pair of sweet grey and white tuxedo cats, Bob and Bing, that they loved and bonded with. They have memories with these cats and they are adorable kitties - all cuddly, plush and friendly.

I bet you know what's coming. The new wife doesn't like the cats. He's getting rid of them. Not only that, he wants to have them put down.

Yesterday he decided that he'd had enough of the cats and that he didn't want to pay for their food anymore so he was going to take them to be euthanized. The kids freaked out, of course, and begged for a stay of execution if they could find a home for their beloved pets. They have a week or Bob and Bing are going to a kill shelter, which is I guess better than going to the vet to be murdered, because at least there's a shred of hope, but still. It's horrible. It's hateful and cruel.

Pets are a lifelong commitment. They are members of the family. You can't just decided you don't want them or that they are inconvenient and what this man is doing is cruel to the cats and to his children who love the cats.

The kids are desperate to find a loving home for the cats and I want to help them.

Bob and Bing are brother and sister. They are 8 years old and in perfect health. They'd make a wonderful addition and can be split up, but preferably not.

I am begging you to help me find these innocent kitties a home. 

If you are in the Philadelphia, Delaware, New Jersey area, please, please consider taking these cats. Please post this on Twitter, facebook or on your blogs so that we can reach as many people as possible. We can't let this horrible man win. We have to beat him and show him that he can't let these kitties die and that their lives matter and we have to do it so my five half siblings hearts won't break.

If you or anyone you know are interested in taking Bob and Bing please email me immediately at widelawns@gmail.com. We only have one week to save these cats.
Thursday, May 17, 2012

Nasty Assed Recipes - Cole Slaw?? Dear God

I just accidentally found a nasty-assed recipe that needs to be shared. I am deeply horrified by this one.

Cole Slaw is a favorite in my family. We eat it with almost everything and my mom makes it really good - homemade. I also love it how my mother-in-law makes it with Maries Cole Slaw dressing which is kind of sweet and tart and has celery seeds in it. It's good and easy and you can add all kinds of good things to it like Craisins, apples, nuts or whatever you like.

It's pretty hard to make a nasty-assed cole slaw. You'd think anyway. My grandmother succeeded in making hers disgusting by adding green peppers and yellow hot dog mustard but I happen to hate both of those things. If you enjoy them, then you probably wouldn't find her slaw as gross as I do.

But Jesus Lord in Heaven Above, condensed soup??? In cole slaw? My very soul aches at the thought of such a thing.

Now, I've embraced the time suck that is Pinterest in recent months. You can follow me if are so inclined. I have a board, with my sister, for nasty assed recipes because Pinterest is a hot bed of them, let me tell you. A hot bed. A snake pit of gross food. There's plenty of good stuff on there too, but you can really go whole hog on the nasty assery. I had no idea the things one could do with raw cake mix powder and I had no clue how much people love food the color of Windex. I found the cole slaw with the soup in it through Pinterest. I was looking for a casserole, found a pin, clicked on the Campbell's Soup site and then started browsing their soup addled concoctions, where I realized that there are people who work for these processed food companies whose entire jobs consist of coming up with nasty-assed recipes featuring their products. Can you even imagine? 

Someone got paid to come up with a cole slaw recipe, called mysteriously "Shortcut Coleslaw" that is bound with, gulp, a whole can of condensed, non-cooked, cream of celery soup. I might hurl just thinking about it, and actually, it has hot dog mustard in it too along with mayo, sugar and vinegar, so I just don't get what is a short cut about this because isn't cole slaw cabbage with mayo, sugar and vinegar anyway? Where exactly is the short cut coming from here and why is the soup even necessary? Wouldn't that be an extra, un-needed ingredient? Help me to understand.


Here, go see for yourself. Shortcut Coleslaw.
Tuesday, May 15, 2012

How to Get Your Kids to Like Reading

We aren't going to have any posts about books I'm reading this week because the two latest have been very disappointing and I only write about books I like and want to share, but as a passionate reader, I still wanted to write about reading. This post was inspired by and is for a friend of mine who has two daughters who aren't really all that into reading. Earlier in the week she asked for advice on what her daughters might like and how to get them to enjoy books and it occurred to me that this is a problem many people have with their kids and with which I can offer some ideas for assistance.

The majority of my students hated reading and would complain endlessly when I assigned anything that made them open a book. A small minority enjoyed reading but they wanted to read things that they liked and felt ashamed of their choices because they weren't literary enough or because they didn't think that I, as their teacher, would approve. Most of my students had a hard time writing and wrote very poorly and I believe this is directly related to their dislike and therefore lack of reading.

Reading makes one familiar with and comfortable with language and how it works. Understanding the structure of your own language, which most of my students didn't, is necessary to write and to communicate effectively. In our society, which is text based (and no I'm no talking about text messages), to be successful, a person must communicate well in writing. An inability to write will hinder your chances at leading even a moderately successful life.


But all that aside, reading is fun and reading is entertainment. Reading exercises our imagination. Whereas TV watching, a wonderful thing in and of itself, is passive in that we sit there and absorb it, reading is active because we have to hear the words and form our own pictures in our minds. People who can't do that are crippled by their lack of imagination and trust me, imagination will get you farther in all aspects of your life than memorizing a bunch of facts.


So get reading and get your kids reading too. Here are some tips that have worked for me as a teacher in getting my writing students to enjoy and see the importance of reading. Many I have adjusted to suit a parent child relationship.

1. Read with them - If your kids are reluctant to read, make reading a family activity; a fun time where they are getting attention and engagement from you. We teachers call this scaffolding, but essentially, you have to understand that parents are the bridges to help their children get over the river when it comes to learning.


2. Go to the library a lot - The library is fun! Some of my best childhood memories involve library visits. Go to story times, make friends with the children's librarians and talk to them about what to read next. Give your kids lots of time and freedom to explore the library and look at books with them. Help them find things that interest them.


3. Magazines - Most people discount magazines and think they are not serious enough reading. Why? Reading is reading. There are plenty of good magazines for kids on topics that will interest them and with shorter articles and lots of pictures, magazines can be a valuable tool in getting kids interested in reading.


4. Don't just stick to fiction - Some kids might like reference books or cookbooks or books about nature. I liked cookbooks as a kid and I liked encyclopedias. Celebrate whatever kind of book your kid is into.


5. Books with pictures are great! - Again, don't discount pictures and say books with pictures are dumb or for babies. As an adult, I still love pictures and there are many serious literary graphic novels.


6. The Internet can count as reading too. Obviously not all of it, but there are plenty of great things to read on the Internet and for some kids, the computer may seem more fun than a book at first. Of course, use good sense and monitor what your kids are reading. Duh.

7. Don't criticize your child's choices about what to read. - This was one of the biggest problems I found with my students. Adults or teachers had criticized their interests and their choices and they felt like the books they wanted to read weren't good enough. I think Twilight is about the stupidest book ever written, but I never told my students that because so many of them, who wouldn't ordinarily have been big readers, loved the series. Instead, I praised them for being passionate about a book and I researched a bunch more young adult vampire series for them so that when they finished Twilight they'd have something else to be into and all the books I found were stupid, trashy and commercial and nothing I'd ever read, but who cares because these books ignited something in these students and kept them on a path of reading. If your kids want to read something, obviously within reason here, don't knock them down and make them feel dumb.


8. Don't try to impose your interests on them. Period. Ever. They have their own destinies to follow and are autonomous human beings, not lumps of clay. If you like business and your kid likes art or vice versa, accept it and find your kid books about the subjects they are into.

9. Let them see you reading and enjoying it too. Model the behavior you desire in your children. Don't be a hypocrite. Don't make your kids read Jane Austen while you sit on your butt watching Jerseylicious.

10. Show interest in their books. Plan activities around their current books. Do crafts, recipes or anything that relates to what they're reading. Look up the settings of their books on the Internet and find pictures. Use every opportunity to connect with your kids about what they're reading. Expand the lessons in the books to outside the books. Take field trips. Supplement their reading with any related activities. You can even look up lesson plans related to the books they're reading and try some of the activities. This can be a lot of fun and will help your kids make the most of their reading and will help them remember what they've read.

11. Remember fairy tales. Yes, even for boys. I'm talking classic Grimm here, fables, myths from all cultures, Bible stories. All of it. These are all short, morally based and really serve to light up the imagination. I could get into how the archetypes in these types of stories work on the subconscious minds of kids, but I don't want to get all Rudolf Steiner about this and scare you off. Just trust me. They're good for your kids.


12. Short stories are good too! Don't think your kids need to be reading Anna Karenina. Short pieces are fine and easier to process for beginning or reluctant readers.

13. Remember that you are their bridge to help them read. I said that earlier, but it's important so I'm repeating it. Talk to your kids about what they're reading. Read some of their books so you can discuss them. Ask your kids what they liked or didn't like about the books or stories or articles they read and don't offer too many of your own opinions. Sometimes, even if we don't mean to, adults can invalidate a child's opinions by offering their own and kids will often perceive that if we have a different opinion than they do, that we are condemning or criticizing their opinions.


14. Many kids associate reading with school and think it's work. Show them that reading is recreational and fun and relaxing.

15. Show your kids that there is something written about every topic imaginable, so surely there is something that is going to interest them. This proved particularly enlightening to many, many of my students who for some reason, hadn't realized this obvious fact.

16. Encourage imaginative play related to what they're reading if possible. Act out stories, make plays, play pretend and dress up.


17. They're never too old to be read to. I regularly read aloud to my college students and they all loved it. My husband and I read to each other. Reading out loud to your family is a wonderful thing, regardless of age. It's not just for babies and can be a beautiful way to continue to bond with older kids and even teens.

18. Never make your children read aloud unless they ask to. Reading aloud can be stressful and can make it impossible for some kids to picture the story in their head. They can have anxiety about reading properly and this can really turn them off to all reading. You're the adult. You read to them. If you are a teacher or a homeschooler NEVER make kids do round robin reading out loud. Terrible, evil practice.

19. Be ok with it if your child may not be as passionate a reader as you wish. Some people are more cut out for other types of learning experiences and celebrate that if none of these tips work. Maybe your kid will be a scientist or a math person instead and that's fine too.


20. If all else fails, please have your child evaluated for vision problems and learning disabilities. I can't tell you how many adults end up in my classes whose learning problems were overlooked and dismissed and the difficulty this causes them as adults with poor communication skills. Learning differently or at a different pace doesn't make you or your child a failure or stupid or weak. It just means they need to be taught differently and when they are, miracles can happen. I've seen it.
Sunday, May 13, 2012

Happy Mother's Day!

I have a very hard time associating Mother's Day with myself for some reason. I think it feels like it's a day for women much older than me - women who wear pink flowered shifts and orchid corsages and go to church. It still feels like a day for my grandmothers and my mom, although my mom would never wear a pink dress or go to church.

Thank God.

Lately I've been thinking a lot about what my mother did right. Usually, as adults, we think about all the things our parents did wrong and we blame them for all of the messes we've gotten ourselves into, and yes, they are probably partly to blame, along with the genetics we share, but since I became a mother myself I have been able to see my own mother as an actual person. People, especially mothers, are complex creatures. Every single mother on this planet has messed up and made mistakes. Every mother has regrets and every mother has done something to permanently fuck up her kids in some way. It's inescapable.

But most mothers, except for the very worst, which are a minority, have triumphed as well. Mothers have successes amid their errors. Lots of them. Most of our mothers have done a lot of things right.

My mother faced some serious hardships during my childhood and she was very, very young but somehow she managed to make more good decisions than bad. She may have gotten some of the small things wrong, but what really counts is that she got the big things right.

Today I want to celebrate what my mom got right.

Education is the most important thing. Period
My mom always tells me how when she was growing up she never thought college was an option for her. No one ever encouraged her to do anything except get married and depend on a man for the rest of her life and as we all know, that usually doesn't work out in this day and age. Because no one ever told her she had other options, she assumed she wasn't smart, except she was really smart! It just took her a long time to find that out. One of the smartest things she did for me was to tell me that I was intelligent and capable and that I needed to go to school and she sacrificed tremendously for me to have a good education. Even when I screwed up repeatedly, my mother never ever gave up on me and on telling me I needed to go to college and finally, she broke me down and I went. I am forever grateful because college is where I found myself and my true passions in life.

She talked openly about sex.
My mom never hid anything from me. She never minced words or taught me that sex was dirty or something to be ashamed of. She talked explicitly about our bodies and how they work and how to be responsible and respectful of them. I know so many people whose parents screwed them up royally for life because they couldn't deal with talking about sex to their children and because they themselves had issues with sexuality. Speaking candidly about sex with kids of the right age is essential to their lifelong well being and my mom understood this and because she did, my first experiences were positive and responsible and gave me confidence rather than scarring me and making me terrified of intimacy.

My mother scared the living shit out of me about substance abuse.
She may have done too good of a job on this one because to this day, I've never been drunk and while I briefly experimented with a couple of drugs as a teenager, she caught me every single time and used the experiences as opportunities to scare me some more. I honestly think that not a day went by that my mother didn't talk to me about the dangers of substance abuse and she discussed it with the same openness as she did sex. She never glossed over the fact that several family members were alcoholics. She showed me, and I mean really graphically took me and showed me, what addiction can do. She described the deaths and destruction of people she had known and from a very young age I understood that addiction is an illness that you inherit but that you can choose to get sick or to be well. If you don't touch the stuff, the drugs, the drinks, you'll stay well. I chose not to get sick and my mother gets all the credit. 

Women Cannot Depend on Men
This sounds cynical, but it isn't meant to. What my mother meant was not that men aren't dependable, but that to be in a truly healthy fulfilling relationship, a woman must have her own independence. Some men leave, many cheat and where are you left when that happens if you can't take care of yourself? Even if you're in the happiest relationship in the world, tragedy can still strike. What if your husband dies or is disabled? You must be strong enough to take over and take care of yourself and your family. If nothing happens and if you are so fortunate to have a great man who is healthy, loves you to pieces and stays alive, you still need to be independent for your own confidence and happiness.

Be elegant
Always be a little more dressed up than everyone else. Red lipstick always looks good. Take a little extra time to fix yourself up. It's not about attracting men. It's about feeling good and standing out in a crowd. It's about being the most beautiful woman in the room because you love yourself and how you look and setting that example for all the women around you. 

Happy Mother's Day and thank you to my mother and all the mothers out there.

In the comments I'd love if you all shared some of what your mothers did right for you.
Friday, May 04, 2012

Ill Communication

I don't remember how The Beastie Boys came up in the middle of a grammar lesson in my Intro to Comp class, but we were discussing rap lyrics and I brought them up. When I teach I like to incorporate a lot of different pop culture references, you know, things my students can relate to, so they stay interested and engaged and feel like they can relate. I did ok with that most of the time, but every once in a while I'd bring up something that I had thought was cool and hip only to learn that nope, it wasn't at all and I was just another adult pretending I was down with the eighteen year olds. I almost died when someone wrote on Rate My Professor that I tried to act young, because, wait, I thought I was, wasn't I and wasn't I just acting like myself? And I had to face the sad fact that while I saw myself as young and cool and entirely with it, that my students saw me as old, nerdy and kind of pathetic. I may as well have said "gnarly."

But when I brought up the Beastie Boys, twenty-six blank faces stared at me in confused silence until one kid came out with it.

"Miss," he said, "WHO are the Beastie whatevers?"

He was a thuggish Hispanic kid and of all the students in this class I figured he would surely know who they were. He was obsessed with Jay-Z and was from New York. He loved rap.

"Yeah Miss, are they like a Christian group or something?" another girl asked.

Stunned. I was stunned. I had to sit down to process that my students, who were born the year I graduated high school, did not know who the Beastie Boys were. And while I was at it, a girl just asked me if they were a Christian group. Seriously? What the f kind of a Christian group would call themselves anything with the word "beast" in it for God's sakes? Of all the stupid questions my students had asked me that was definitely in the top five, but I didn't tell her that.

"Umm, Jewish," I said, "They're rappers."

Hilarity. The whole class laughed. Jewish rappers, hahahahaha.

"No really Miss," said another kid, "Jewish rappers?"

"Only the greatest rappers who have ever lived," I said.

The class looked at me like I was on crack.

"You listen to Jewish rappers Miss?" The Hispanic thug kid asked with a look of absolute disgust.

Often when I taught I was reminded that my students didn't realize I was an actual human being, and if they did have some inkling that I was, they had no clue that I was a person who liked music and who swore and engaged in any sort of debauchery. They believed me to be a virginal, religious prude who did nothing but read Victorian novels and attend church services while wearing many layers of modest clothing.

I will never forget when I had to tell them I was pregnant to explain my constant puking and why I had to wear a wrist band and why I couldn't teach a class without sipping a Jamba Juice smoothie. After  I made the announcement I could literally see every single one of them thinking "OH MY GOD SHE HAD SEX" and then wondering if there was any other possible way I could have gotten pregnant because there was no way Miss Fedden could have ever done something like have sex because no one over twenty-five does that and teachers never do it because teachers are robots of chastity.

When you go to school to become a teacher they're always telling you about finding teachable moments. Well, this was one of them.

I dropped everything, fired up my classroom computer, pulled down the movie screen and we spent the rest of the period watching Beastie Boys videos and discussing them. Homework - listen to all of Paul's Boutique and write a response to it.

Many people would say, really Victoria? Really? Shouldn't you have taught your students about pronoun antecedent disagreement? Wouldn't your time have been better spent drilling into their heads for the seventy-ninth time that the period goes outside of the parentheses?

To this I say no. I am a teacher and I owed those kids a good education and on that day they got it.

RIP MCA.

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