Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Global Warming Wednesday: Polar Opposites

Last week, before his Sunday sermon, Jerry Falwell sent an email, publishing it simultaneously at World Net Daily. I reproduce its contents below (I encourage you to read it here instead of going to the site, since it appears to be a radical right site—and why would we give them more hits?):

This Sunday, Feb. 25, I will preach a very unusual sermon. My topic: global warming.

This may seem a strange, possibly even unnecessary, subject to some. But I believe the church must quickly get serious about denouncing the accelerating effort to promote the alleged catastrophic human-caused global warming.

This is especially true since some members of the evangelical community have recently aligned themselves with radical voices within the global warming movement. I see this as unnecessary and, worse, dangerous.

Now, I'm certainly not a scientist. But if one looks past the superficial reporting of the mainstream media and examines the many alternative scientific views on global warming, it is apparent that the earth frequently experiences warming and cooling trends. It appears to me – and I have been intently studying this subject – that we are now in a warming trend.

But many world scientists are preaching sermons that adamantly insist man is the cause of recent warming trends. They urge that America sign on to the Kyoto Treaty, which would compel America to self-impose exorbitant policies for cutting back on carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions.

The treaty, which many are urging America to sign, would immediately cost America an estimated $325 billion, according to Yale University's William Nordhaus and Joseph Boyer. That's a lot of money to spend on halting an unproven theory.

Meanwhile, Russia, India, China and Third World nations will not be required to sign on the dotted line.

Jack Langer, journalist and book editor for Regnery Publishing, recently wrote, "The real motives behind the entire global warming hysteria are equally opaque. It surely isn't science – Timothy Ball, the first Canadian Ph.D. in climatology, recently called global warming 'the greatest deception in the history of science.' Plenty of scientific research bears this out, from Bjorn Lomborg's 'The Skeptical Environmentalist' to the newly released 'Unstoppable Global Warming Every 1,500 Years' by physicist Fred Singer and economist Dennis Avery."

The problem is global warming has become a trendy issue of limousine liberals and Hollywood elitists, and the media are promoting it as virtual, if not substantive, fact.

Never mind that in November, for the second consecutive month, temperatures across the continental U.S. were cooler than average, according to scientists at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's National Climatic Data Center. We wouldn't want facts like that to get in the way of a global warming political movement, would we!

The media frequently note that the Union of Concerned Scientists is leading the charge to confront the out-of-control global warming advance. These scientists were recently described by writer Dennis Byrne as the "inexhaustibly liberal and self-appointed guardians of scientific purity [who] try to corrupt science for its own ends."

But in today's media, the Union is depicted as heroes of a just cause, tellers of truth in a war against evil American companies who want to destroy the world.

National Review Editor Rich Lowry recently reported: "Shock tactics inevitably mean simplifying in an area of unimaginable complexity. No one knows how to create a reliable model of the planet's climate, and inconvenient anomalies muddy the story line of the warming zealots. From 1940 to 1975, the global temperature fell even as CO2 emissions rose. Since 2001, global temperatures have only gone up a statistically insignificant 0.03 degrees Celsius. And in recent years, the oceans have actually gotten cooler."

In other words, there's no need to panic.

Further, there's no need for the church of Jesus Christ to be wasting its time gullibly falling for all of this global warming hocus-pocus. We need to give our total focus to the business of reaching this world with the Gospel of Jesus Christ and stop running down meaningless rabbit trails that get our focus off of our heavenly purpose.

If you can stomach reading through all of it, you’ll notice that one of his main reasons for urging his followers not to succumb to the “hysteria” is that most of the proponents of environmental action are liberals, particularly “limousine liberals and Hollywood elitists.” And he tries to pass off the current warming as just part of the usual “warming and cooling trends”—never mind that the most recent studies show that recent increases have been much larger than can be accounted for by natural variations.

I would like to think that most people know better than to listen to this man. He is, after all, the one who blamed 9/11 on “the pagans, and the abortionists, and the feminists, and the gays and the lesbians who are actively trying to make that an alternative lifestyle, the ACLU, People For the American Way, all of them who have tried to secularize America.” He also suggested that Tinky Winky from the Teletubbies was a tool of the homosexual agenda—though he left accusations of an affair between SpongeBob and Patrick to James Dobson. I really want to believe that, but I know that he must have a fairly strong following since he’s obviously getting his money from somewhere.


On the other hand, there’s Al Gore.

I really wish I had a permanent record of my political opinions from 1992. Yes, I ended up as a Clinton supporter, but my greatest enthusiasm for that ticket was for Al Gore. Already a proponent of environmental conservation, a wonderful ally to the gay community (he and Tipper both), he was the strength in the ticket for me.

I missed the former Vice President’s visit to campus last week since it was scheduled for when I was out of town. Not that I could have gotten tickets anyway since they sold out rock-concert fast. But I did catch one of his appearances at the Oscars: when he and Leo explained the organizers’ efforts towards greening the ceremony. They also mentioned that on the site was a list of actions anyone can try in an effort to reduce one’s ecological footprint.

(Of course, a “think tank” from Tennessee then reported that Gore’s Nashville home is an energy hog. It does appear likely that his house uses much more energy than the average Nashville home, but the group’s assertions that they got this information from the utility company are highly suspect, so the exact numbers can’t be trusted. Gore’s response does not deny his energy usage, but he points out that he invests in alternative energy to offset his carbon emissions. But the two sides of that will have to wait for another post.)

There is, of course, lots of talk about and encouragement for Gore to run for president again. And should he run, I would vote for him in a heartbeat, no hesitation. But there’s another part of me that wonders if he might not find what he’s doing now more fulfilling and if he might not be able to make a bigger difference on the environmental front without the restraints of political office.

Here’s hoping that an Al Gore beats a Jerry Falwell—and that we can get a few more of the former.

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Lez go to the Oscars

Although we’re not the Oscar party types, Trillian and I tend to tune in to at least part of each ceremony. This year, we made a point of it though, since we’re such big fans of Ellen Degeneres. We stayed up to the very end—with an hour out in the middle to watch Battlestar Galactica. (Hey, we’re Ellen fans, but we’re even bigger sci-fi nerds.) Ellen was very much as I would have expected, employing her usual gentle, self-effacing humor.

But what I wasn’t quite expecting was the lesbian-fest that the entire ceremony was. This started to become apparent as the celebrities were shown arriving. There was Portia de Rossi, Ellen’s girlfriend, walking the carpet alone since her date was otherwise occupied. Later shots during the ceremony showed her sitting next to Ellen’s mom (Betty Degeneres, an amazing ally to the community). Then came Jodie Foster. OK, she’s technically not out, but it’s not exactly a secret that she has a female partner. And she was looking very buff—Trillian informs me it’s for an action film she just did. Finally we had Melissa Etheridge (who looks great after beating breast cancer) and Tammy Lynn Michaels (who just had twins in mid-October!!). For pix and a little more, check out AfterEllen.

Melissa Etheridge provided the lesbian highlight of the evening. When her name was announced for “Best Song,” she got up, gave Tammy Lynn a kiss on the lips and then started her acceptance speech by thanking “my incredible wife Tammy and our four children.” Apparently she and Tammy had discussed the kiss, in the event of a win, before the Oscars. And although she didn’t necessarily want to make a statement, she went with the kiss because, “because that’s what you do, you kiss your loved one when you win an Oscar, that’s what I grew up believing.” I was so happy to see the genuine—and really quite ordinary—display of love. So straightforward. So true.

Not that I expect any of this to change the world, but maybe a little step towards convincing people we’re not so scary.

Sunday, February 25, 2007

Contrasting comments

Between the travel time this weekend and wanting to put some thought into yesterday's post, I didn't get around to responding to comments on my post about telling our parents about the new grandbaby. There were two in particular that begged a response (one of them literally). So, voila, a post for a Sunday night.

Lisa b wrote:
Sadly it sounds like our moms are similar. Why is it so difficult to express delight at your news? Its fantastic news. Why must the conversation immediately veer to the struggles ahead and the concerns about your degree as if you are not perfectly capable of accomplishing all that is ahead of you. Sorry maybe I am projecting some of my feelings onto you but I just wish that your joy could be celebrated rather than your abilities questioned.

I have a number of posts percolating about my mother and our relationship. Not that I'm even close to figuring her out, but it does sound like a similar situation. I think one of the problems my mom has is that she has long identified with me much more closely than my other sisters. As a result, she tends to view my life and the decisions I make through her own perspective--even though I long ago veered quite dramatically away from her own path. I suspect the academic concerns can be traced to the fact that she started, but never finished, two different master's programs. Being a mother had something to do with that, perhaps she would say everything, but that would again be an inability to get past her own experience. (Reread my post "A boy or a girl" and you may understand where I was coming from even more.)

I also left out the part of our conversation where she talked about not being a very good grandmother to Scooter. Silence on my end--no matter how much I try to play the "good daughter" role, there was no way I could just play that off.

Now the more fun one. Bub and Pie asked:
This post has reminded me to ask - what's your policy on finding out the sex? i.e. Are you going to find out, and, more importantly, are you going to tell US right away???
With Scooter, our thought process went as follows: So much about raising a child is a surprise and out of our control, let's take away this one unknown if we can. By the time we were scheduled for the 20-week sonogram, finding out the gender was almost necessary. We had taken to calling my bump a "he" and were using our chosen name regularly. I can trace this back to a dream I had in which I was with a little boy with sandy-brown hair and a hint of my nose; I woke up feeling like I had met my baby. Trillian had a similar dream soon after, adding the detail of green eyes. We wanted to find out the gender just so we wouldn't spend another 4+ months insisting on "he" and then suddenly have to switch all of our expectations--and a bit because we wanted to continue to believe in our dreams.

Our opinion hasn't changed, so we'll be finding out the gender this time too. And we will probably tell people right away again. We did with Scooter, and even though I wasn't crazy about the immediate gender stereotyping, I can't imagine keeping it to myself.

And for what it's worth... I had a dream the other night that I held a little girl with very tight, dark brown curls and the same facial features as my son. This is much earlier than in my other pregnancy, but now I find myself thinking "girl." Trillian thinks so too. So here it is in print; we'll see how this plays out.

Saturday, February 24, 2007

Putting on my thinking cap

It’s both an award and a meme: the Thinking Blogger Awards. Cinnamon Gurl over at Write About Here listed me as one of five blogs that make her think. And so now it’s my turn to do the same. Of course, this has already started trickling through the blogs on my Bloglines, meaning that some of the blogs that immediately come to mind have already been tagged. Nonetheless, before I list my five, I want to also point out which other blogs I might have mentioned:

Now back when I was going through a period of angst, feeling like I wasn’t making enough of a difference in the world, Mad and Jen were putting together a wedding of minds, a celebration of our concerns for social justice. I sheepishly made a contribution to the wedding party, mostly a lamentation of how overwhelmed I was by everything that needed doing. But once that was out of my system and I had a chance to read other people’s posts, I was reminded that I wouldn’t be able to solve all of the world’s problems at once—nor should I expect to—but that, as long as I was doing something, I could make a difference. Global Warming Wednesdays is a small step towards that.

Now, let me get on with my 5. I don’t know that all of them read me regularly, so I may be killing the chain, but these are truly thought-provoking writers:

  1. Sunshine Scribe. Sandra is amusing, intelligent, and active in her community. She is also unafraid to mention the humiliating moments, but for the introspection and reflection, not just for the laughs. Sometimes she perfectly captures an experience I’ve had, sometimes she gives me an entirely new perspective.
  2. Her Bad Mother. HBM can write on philosophy or popular culture—and how they relate to her experience of motherhood. Even when I don’t agree with everything she says, I come away from a post with grand ideas swirling in my head.
  3. Crazy Mumma. I found out about her blog when I met her at a Toronto mommy bloggers gathering. I don’t know that I would have found her on my own, but her writing keeps me coming back. What I find compelling is the combination of her candor and her artist’s perspective.
  4. Mombian. In many ways, Mombian serves as a clearinghouse of recent gay and lesbian news. I especially appreciate her weekly political roundups, as she often catches stories I wouldn’t find on my own. But I also find that the mix of her posts is an important reminder to me that being a lesbian mother is as much about books and toys as navigating the political climate.
  5. Art-Sweet. She writes both at her own blog and for She and her partner are in the process of adopting a gorgeous little boy from Guatemala. This is all interesting and well-written in its own right, but also serves as a reminder to me of the different paths to family—and how we worry about the same things. It also reminds me to be thankful for the relative ease and luck I’ve experienced in becoming a parent.
Go have a look and get your mental exercise!

Thursday, February 22, 2007

A study in contrasts

Ever since we got our two pink lines, Trillian has been dying to tell her parents. Once I decided that there was no way we’d be able to wait until the end of the first trimester, I suggested we at least wait until our visit; “How much fun would it be,” I tentatively asked, “to tell them in person?” Begrudgingly Trillian agreed. She figured out exactly how she wanted to tell them. To keep things even, I would call my mom once we got to my in-laws’ house.

Conversation #1

Our flight was a little early and we found Grandma and Grandpa having some coffee next to where they usually wait for us. Between Trillian getting our bag and my going to the bathroom (again!), Trillian didn’t get her opportunity immediately. But once we got out to the car and put our bags in the trunk, she took her moment. “Oh, and Mom, Mouse should probably sit up front. In her condition she can get sick pretty easily.”

There was a pause. Grandma looked at each of us. “What are you hiding?” she started. When I nodded, she squealed. More hugs all around. I told them how far along I am and when I’m due. Once we were in the car, more excited questions—how was I feeling? when could we find out if it’s a girl or a boy? how long had we known?

Since then, the topic has come up repeatedly. My mother-in-law has already announced that she’ll be starting some knitting in gender-neutral colors.

Conversation #2

Later that evening, I called my mom. It required finding the email with her new cell phone number and involved one of those odd phone moments—as I was leaving her a voicemail, her phone cut out and then she turned out to be calling me back right then. The basics of our conversation:

Me (once we figured out what had happened): Well, I have some news... I’m pregnant!

Her: (pause)

Me: It’s still very early. I’m only about 5 ½ weeks along and am due mid-October.

Her: Oh... I was just thinking the other day that the two of you had talked about having another.

Me: We’ve actually been trying for a few months. We wanted spacing of 4 to 5 years and Scooter will be just over 4 ½, so that’s just about right.

Her: Now, is it yours... I mean... you’d talked about maybe using Trillian’s...

Me: No, we went the same way as last time. Using Trillian’s egg would have been complicated and more risky. We were also able to use the same donor.

Her: That’s great. I mean, biology isn’t everything, but it’s great that they’ll be full siblings and look alike and share traits.

Me: (long pause) Well, we were happy with the results the first time, so we figured we’d go the same route this time.

A little later in the conversation:

Her: So will you be able to stay with your studies?

Me: Well, after this semester, I’ll have only one more course to take and that will be next Spring. In the meantime, I’ll be working on my department’s equivalent of quals. [Switch subject to school and talk about that for a while.]

To balance that conversation, I then called one of my sisters. She enthusiastically congratulated me many times and jokingly asked if this was planned. She happily reminded me that there will be plenty of hand-me-downs if we have a girl. And congratulated me again.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Global Warming Wednesday: Mouse the Vampire Slayer

OK, so I’m not planning on running around in the dark with a few of my best friends, chasing the undead. Instead I’ll be seeking out the suckers that are hiding in my own home. The electricity suckers.

“Vampire” is a term used for appliances and electronics that continue to draw electricity even when switched “off.” This is, in more technical terms, “standby power.” Anything that has a clock display is definitely using standby power. But if it has an external power supply or a remote, it is also never truly off. Still not sure if that small appliance is a vampire? Check out this handy gadget that I found over at the Grinning Planet. The worst offenders tend to be entertainment equipment, some appliances (especially microwaves), and chargers. Beyond the obvious waste of electricity, and therefore increased emissions, such items are also draining your wallet—at about the rate of $200 (US) a year.

The most direct way to remedy the problem is to unplug the offender in question. Now if you’re like me, going around and physically plugging and unplugging various electronics is impractical. Not all of our outlets are easily accessible, and then there’s the additional challenge in a household with small children of making sure unused outlets are properly covered. Luckily power strips can fill that gap.

So here’s what I’ll be doing once we get home:

  • Complete an assessment of which appliances are our worst offenders. I’ve thought through this a bit, but expect to find a bit more once I take a closer look.
  • Determine which ones can realistically be fully turned off. Off the top of my head, I can see that it’s unrealistic to fully unplug our microwave when it’s not in use since it’s a built-in. Similarly, I will be leaving our one clock-radio plugged in for the time being. The cordless phones will also be left on since we need them to be functional in case of emergency. On the other hand, we can begin to switch off our TV/cable/DVD player/game system area (which is already on a power strip) when we’re done with it each night. Yes, we will lose the time on the DVD player and our cable will need to reset itself every time it is turned back on, but these are not hardships for us—no Tivo or programmed recording that will be interrupted. Similarly, our laptops and cell phone chargers can be set up with a power strip that gets switched off before bedtime. Even when these items need charging, they are usually fully charged by then.
  • Reorganize our use of outlets to make the above more efficient. This means relocating our chargers closer to something else that will be on a power strip. Fewer switches to flip = more likely to follow through.
  • Think about an item’s standby power usage when making future purchases. Check for items that use less than one watt of power in standby. For those appliances included in Energy Star’s ratings, make that a priority. I want an alternative for the clock-radio, especially since I rely on my sportswatch for my morning alarm, but I find the easy-to-read time helpful for keeping track of Scooter’s wakings and don’t think a battery-operated version would necessarily be much better in terms of waste.

Now for some more linky love. As has become my habit, I began with Lighter Footstep and Tree Hugger. Unplugging vampire appliances is #4 on Lighter Footstep’s “Ten First Steps” list. Tree Hugger’s post dates back to Halloween and includes an amusing video (with some scary facts). And for more facts, take a look at the Standby Power Home Page.

As more and more appliances rely on some sort of inner-computer, there is the potential for standby power to increase significantly. But if more people pay attention to the problem and take steps to cut down on their household’s use, if industries are made to pay attention and are encouraged, by consumers or governments, to make their products more efficient, we might actually be able to cut the current drain by nearly three-quarters! Talk about a stake through the heart!

Saturday, February 17, 2007

Mommy time

Trillian and I had our late Valentine/early Aniversary dinner tonight. We had the babysitter come a little early and then headed out to a nearby French bistro after getting her settled in with Scooter (he loves playing with her so much that there was not a single note of concern in his voice as we headed out). We braved the cold and walked the 10 minutes there, arriving around 5:15.

Trillian and I enjoyed a pleasant, three-course meal: soup, entree, and dessert. We didn't rush any course and talked for a while between dessert and getting the check. And when we left? 6:45. One and a half hours. Not exactly a long time by our old standards, yet it felt we had been there for much longer than that. But I suppose, since our standard restaurant meal tops out at 30 to 45 minutes, two to three times that is downright leisurely.

We were so stuffed that we couldn't imagine drawing our time out any longer at the coffee shop near our building, so we headed home and relieved the babysitter much earlier than anticipated. Scooter was playing in the bath and, once he was in his pajamas, requested that the babysitter read his bedtime story.

It may not have been much of a night-on-the-town, but it was just what I needed.

(Of course, Trillian is now saying I scared Scooter to sleep. Before taking the babysitter home, I reminded him that we're going to see Grandma and Grandpa tomorrow, adding that we couldn't go until after we'd slept. He was out cold before I made it out the door. Not going to take any chances on that!)

Friday, February 16, 2007

Something to work with

Scooter had his speech-language assessment today. And while it hasn't made me think, "This will just go away on its own," I am now of the "we can handle this" mindset. Oh, and of the "the other kids in his classroom are freakishly vocal" conviction. Scooter's numbers range from just below low-average to spot-on average. And this is mostly using incomplete raw scores, because he simply refused to do the last few questions on at least 2 of the 4 sets. So at least he gave a demonstration the stubborn streak we mentioned, the trait that keeps us from figuring out sometimes whether he doesn't understand or simply chooses not to respond.

Interestingly, the first focus of his speech therapy will be on his pitch and pronunciation. He has a tendency to pitch his voice very high, even more so when excited. And apparently he makes most of his vowel sounds with his jaw in the "e" position. This doesn't seem to be a result of any muscular weakness, though he may have developed a bit of a "lazy" jaw from habit. It will be interesting to see if he becomes a more confident and able speaker once his pronunciation improves.

So over at the Nest household, we'll be modelling clear speech and encouraging Scooter to use his "big boy voice."


Headed to the States this weekend to spend some time with the in-laws again. The laptop will be making the journey with me, but travel could cut into my online presence. I'm excited because temperatures will be above freezing (not anywhere close to beach-warm, but noticeably above freezing) and we should get an extra hour of sunshine a day!

Thursday, February 15, 2007

A day of appointments

Tomorrow is my doctor's appointment at the campus health clinic so that I can get a blood test and get more definitive information on where I can go for the rest of my prenatal care. Yet it's not even the most anticipated part of the day.

Just after I made that appointment, we got a call from the Toronto Preschool Speech & Language Services--the people I had contacted about getting Scooter and his speech development assessed. At the time, back in December, they had told me we were looking at an 8-10 month wait. Magically, there was an opening a week Friday. I have no idea how we managed to be high enough up on the list to merit a call for a cancellation spot, but we weren't going to question it. It requires a little juggling--I'll take Scooter and Trillian to the appointment, stay for the first 30-45 minutes, and then head back to campus. They'll take public transit home, and we'll all regroup at home to compare notes.

Before dinner, Trillian and I went over the parent questionnaire, answering the questions as best as we could. It's hard to remain neutral and not play either the optimist, whitewashing any concerns, or the pessimist, convinced that the questionnaire can't begin to capture all that is wrong. After a section dealing with his social interactions (he prefers to play alone or with adults, doesn't like other kids determining the activity), we then got the question "Is there any additional information that you feel would be helpful to us?" Our first couple responses continued our previous answers--prefers being home with us, slow to warm up to new experiences. And then we realized that there are other things that might help them--the fact that he started learning the alphabet and numbers at 18 months and his phenomenal memory, for starters.

I am hopeful that Scooter's appointment tomorrow will give us a sense of where we're headed, a sense that we're close to an answer. I think one of my biggest fears is that this process will lead to a label that will become his identity, that people won't see the boy behind it. I also worry that the goal of any treatment might involve trying to stamp out some of what makes him such a special boy. I would never deny his imperfections (though Trillian might say I downplay those that most closely match my own), but I also recognize that the flip side of his meltdowns and tears, the side that I treasure and want to preserve, is his sensitivity.

So that's the next goal I'm setting for myself: figuring out how to help my son overcome whatever language challenges he has while defending him from any potential spirit squashing.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Global Warming Wednesday: Valentine's edition

I have to admit that Valentine’s Day is not the biggest day in our household. Our primary reason is that our anniversary is not far off, and that is ultimately more important to us. It could also do with Trillian’s major (and my minor) aversion to pink. But the over-commercialization of the holiday doesn’t help either. I could pick any number of things to rant about—the insistent gendering that plays on stereotypes and relies on stock phrases like “A diamond is a girl’s best friend,” the crass consumerism that suggests love can be measured in dollars spent, and the suggestion that the holiday cannot be complete without this year’s brand new cuddling teddy bears. OK, I’m going to calm down a little now.

This is not to say I’m against buying thoughtful presents for loved ones. I even feel the need to brag that Trillian has been absolutely wonderful this month, bringing out some small treat for me every few days. The dark-chocolate-covered candied ginger has been particularly welcome.* I also realize that it’s a little late to give you a gift idea; you’ve probably already taken care of the day’s gifts or are hurriedly creating a “This coupon good for...” Nonetheless, I’ve been seeing a lot of gift ideas from both Treehugger and Lighter Footstep, so I thought I’d share them here. No reason not to think about next year or adapt them to other gift-giving occasions.

Both sites deal with traditional Valentine’s gifts and suggest ways of making sure the versions you pick are more eco-friendly. Some that I am filing away for later:
  • Buy organic flowers. Pesticide use is a problem in the industry, particularly with flowers from South America. Workers are exposed to incredibly unsafe chemicals at incredibly unsafe levels. To take this a step further, consider purchasing organic flowers that also have a carbon offset for the distance they’re shipped.
  • Buy fair trade chocolate. Lighter Footstep points readers to Green & Black’s chocolate. And I would like to put in a plug for our current favorite hot cocoa: Cocoa Camino. And if you’re in Toronto, you might want to check out ChocoSol. It’s not organic like the other two, but looks like an amazing program to help Mexican farmers.
  • For a fellow environmental enthusiast, buy a TerraPass. Based on information about your car and your driving habits, you can purchase one of four levels of carbon offsets to cover your emissions for a year. There are also options for flying and the home.

And then Treehugger brings up one area that I hadn’t even connected with my environmental side: How to Green Your Sex Life. Keep scrolling for an amazingly long list of related articles and links.

More than gifts, however, this time of year makes me think about relationships in general. And, given the focus of my Wednesday posts, how to go about making environmentally related changes that will have some effect on everyone in my household.

I am very lucky in that Trillian and I see eye-to-eye on most things, even though we don’t always reach our shared conclusion in the same way. Trillian is very scientific in her approach to most things; while not without emotion, she prefers to focus on the facts. As much as I would like to think I base my decisions scientifically, I follow my emotions more. Sure, I can quote facts and provide a well-reasoned argument to support my stance, but it’s my gut feeling that pushes me to seek out those facts.

One of the reasons I decided to pick one new action each month was that I wanted to set realistic goals for myself. But another was that I didn’t want to commit the rest of my family to major changes. So far Trillian has been completely on board—changing a few light bulbs was no big deal and when I discussed my February action with her, she knew exactly what I was talking about and agreed with my solution (but more on that next week). Yet there are some changes that won’t necessarily work for all of us. In terms of our meat consumption, Trillian has taken the initiative in finding good sources of local, organic meat for us, but when I try to decrease my own intake, that is an individual pursuit and requires some menu juggling. After so many years together, we know how to find compromise on such particulars pretty quickly and when to follow along with the other’s passion. I feel lucky to have her supporting me on this side of the computer screen.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

On marriage

It’s Freedom to Marry Week, Valentine’s Day is tomorrow, and my double anniversary* is coming up. I could run through a list of the reasons why this issue is so important to me, but I will point you towards Freedom to Marry’s pages that present arguments for allowing same-sex marriage and a short list of the rights and responsibilities that are unavailable or difficult to obtain for families headed by a same-sex couple. I suspect that for many of my readers, there is no need to attempt convincing.

So instead, I wanted to reminisce a little about the role that the idea of ‘marriage’ has played in our relationship. Humor me while I wax nostalgic.

When I first came out (mumble, mumble) years ago, I generally accepted that I would not ever get married and that I and any partner I might have would need to define our commitment for ourselves. Once Trillian and I were together long enough to be talking seriously about our future, we found that we were in agreement. Even as we settled in for the long-term, we also made a vow that we would not have a commitment ceremony or anything similar unless it created legal recognition of our relationship. Part of our reasoning was that we and our friends and family already recognized that we had created a life together, making a ceremony-for-the-sake-of-ceremony unnecessary. Our other reason was a little more practical—we both are of the small celebration mindset, and we knew that it would be impossible to keep things small if Trillian’s mother had any say. At the time, we both felt confident we would never have a need to revisit the issue.

When we bought a house, we looked in a geographic area that straddled a few different jurisdictions. Due to differences in laws towards gays and lesbians, we eliminated a large number of neighborhoods we liked because it would be harder to protect our relationship there. Our house was in an area where we had more government recognition of our relationship (not a lot, but not invisibility) and where we could pursue a second-parent adoption once we had children. My job had domestic partner benefits, and Trillian was listed in the faculty directory on the spouse line with my information.

As part of the second-parent adoption process, we had to complete a significant amount of estate planning and so ended up with many of the documents that aim to insure that same-sex partners have legal rights and responsibilities approaching those of a married couple. It was not particularly fun to sit down and think about the various death scenarios our lawyer gave us, but it means we have a document that spells out our wishes so that we don’t have to rely on the court’s interpretation of our (non-)relationship.

During all of this, same-sex marriage began to look like less and less of an impossibility. Hawaii had been a bit of a dead-end in 1999. But then had come Vermont. And while civil unions were not exactly marriage, there was a sense that it would come. But Trillian and I continued to hold it. It still was not marriage. And it would have no legal standing outside the state of Vermont.

And the more that a legally-recognized marriage became a possibility, the more it was debated and analyzed, the more I began to realize just how much I wanted it. The immediate reason was the inherent protection it would give to any children we had, but there was an undeniably sentimental aspect to it as well. When Massachusetts began to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples in 2004, Trillian and I began to plan and push at the strict limits of our old vow. Although it would not necessarily transfer to where we lived at the time, we would eventually move to Massachusetts. So why not go ahead and get the paper? But before we could plan our trip, the attorney general announced that marriage licenses should not be issued to out-of-state couples. We held off.

When we decided to move to Canada after the horrific rhetoric of W’s second presidential campaign, our marriage plans shifted north too. I applied only to those schools with programs in my field that were located in provinces that already allowed same-sex marriage—the irony being that it was extended countrywide the summer before I started classes. Taking an extended weekend that included our anniversary, we visited Toronto and my first choice program; we also eloped. Having told none of our friends or family members, we had friends-of-friends as our two witnesses at our short, non-religious ceremony in City Hall. Since all of the adults in the room had a role to play, Scooter ran around the room.

Although I have finally become comfortable calling Trillian my ‘wife’ instead of ‘partner,’ I remain aware of the ambiguity of our status. In Canada, we are recognized as legally married, no limitations or qualifications; ironically, the status does not seem to be much different than if we simply claimed the common-law status to which we’d be entitled. In the United States, however, we are married only in the state of Massachusetts. Everywhere else, we go back to needing our powers-of-attorney and other documents, something I find I resent more than I did before. Our commitment is no less solid in such places, yet I am aware that our status changes simply by crossing an invisible line.

I am hopeful that those lines will continue to be erased and look forward to the day when I can check off the ‘married’ box without hesitating to think about my present jurisdiction.

*Trillian and I celebrate a double anniversary during the month of February. More than a decade ago (and increasing faster than I can quite believe), we began our relationship. Two years ago, on the same day, we were married in Canada.

Sunday, February 11, 2007

So tired

I am tired, oh so tired. And apparently I look it. My friend asked me all day long if I was feeling OK. "No, really," she would repeat, "are you OK?" "Just tired," I responded, "not sleeping well."

With my first pregnancy, the first 8 weeks coincided with my summer break. Even when I went back to school, it was a couple of weeks of sports, meetings, and then half days of classes. So by the time things were back into full swing, I was past the worst exhaustion of the first semester.

This time, I'm just far enough into a new semester to have the work piling up. Without any of the energy to complete it.

As the three of us ran a couple errands this morning, I asked Trillian about her recollection of the three trimesters of my first pregnancy, just to make sure I was remembering correctly. And here's what we came up with:
  • My first trimester was by far the most difficult. Although I avoided morning sickness, the exhaustion was unnerving. I would sleep late, pull myself out of bed slowly as Trillian headed to work, accomplish very little, lay down for a nap around 3, wake up when Trillian got home, and go back to bed early. My sleep was frequently interrupted by trips to the bathroom.
  • My second trimester was the easiest. I got the burst of energy many books talk about. I began to show, got to share the news with more people, and felt the baby move. Some back pain, but this was an exacerbation of trouble I already had as opposed to something new.
  • My third trimester was not bad either. I didn't have to worry about trouble with breathing--a definite advantage of my height. I was a little slower getting around and would happily let students carry my bag when they made the offer. After week 37, I was ready, ready, ready for Scooter to arrive, but not nearly as uncomfortable as I'd heard was usually the case.
Now I remember all this? That productivity and the first trimester are mutually exclusive for me? Not that there will be any point in the next calendar year that I would have the leisure of exhaustion. Of course, isn't this the way with pregnancy? It's not until you've committed that you realize what extras are part of the deal.

At least I should get past this exhaustion before I hit my Spring exam period. But in the meantime, it's going to be a struggle to stare at the many, many pages I'm expected to read and actually remember!

*Yawn* Off to the primary sources.

Thursday, February 08, 2007

Moving on to the next big decision

I've got another post up at Mommy Blogs Toronto. And it's quite timely--a plea for advice, particularly from those in the Toronto area, on birthing options. Go on over and have a read. I talk a bit about my previous experience (mostly good).

A few things I left out from that post, dealing with my insurance situation:
  • Technically, the insurance I have as an international student provides coverage equivalent to OHIP.
  • However, few hospitals will automatically provide services without requiring upfront payment and leaving me to navigate the paperwork for reimbursement.
  • So for the downtown area, I'm limited to Toronto General, Toronto Western, and St. Michael's.*
  • I will be going to a campus doctor next Friday to confirm the pregnancy and get a referral.
A few elaborations on my experience and expectations:
  • I had seriously considered using a midwife and birthing center for my first pregnancy, but decided not to because there is some history of difficult births in my family (even though I was convinced it wouldn't affect me).
  • I went into the birth not wanting to use any drugs or intervention. I ended up with pitocin, an epidural, and a forceps birth after my contractions failed to become regular and my progress stalled out.
  • I came very close to having a C-section. If I hadn't been at 10 cm at my last check (a couple hours after getting the epidural), they would have started prepping me.
  • I somewhat expect that I will broadly follow the same pattern: fairly regular pregnancy, all numbers good, difficult delivery. I'm headed into this thinking a C-section is about a 50% probability.
Since, as far as I understand, a midwife would be able to handle a straightforward pregnancy with an obstetrician taking over if I needed intervention, I'm leaning towards the midwife.

Thoughts? Advice? Stories about the hospitals listed above? Those of you outside of Toronto are welcome to weigh in about the broader issues.

*Toronto General is where I took Trillian when she had pneumonia. To say we were not impressed is a gross understatement. But we've only experienced the emergency ward. Similarly, Toronto Western seems OK (though parking is awful), but we've only been to internal medicine.

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Global Warming Wednesday: Pulling our heads out of the sand

Almost as soon as I hit “publish” on my (mostly) upbeat post last week came the report from a panel of scientists saying that global warming is now “unequivocal” and that it is “very likely” that human activity is the driving factor behind this. (Read more here—sorry, registration required, but you’ve probably seen it in whatever media source you use.) In scientific terms, “very likely” indicates a statistical certainty of 90 to 99%. Six years ago, the conclusion was that human factors “likely” (66 to 90%) were increasing global temperatures.

At this point, further temperature increases appear inevitable, even if we can stop current increases in greenhouse gas emissions. Even midrange estimates for the next century show a continuing increase. The US, at 5% of world population and 25% of emissions, can do a lot to bring usage into alignment with population, but even that won’t lead to a global decrease.

On top of that are suggestions that much of the recent talk of positive action is just that—feel-good talk. It’s enough to trigger my panic response. If the changes are inevitable, if the global discussion will need to include how humans can adapt to this new world, why even try? Excuse me while I scream and then bury my head in the sand.

But I started this column, in part because I wanted to move past a particularly paralyzing panic and figure out how an individual can make some difference.

Now I know that one household will not tip the balance, but I believe, I have to believe, that if enough individuals decide to make simple changes in their energy-consumption patterns, to shift their priorities the change will be noticeable.

Ever the realist, I also know that it will take more than individuals’ efforts. In particular, we need businesses not only to talk about the changes they’ll make, but actually to follow through. And it needs to be not just a handful of companies. This needs to be about more than money—or it needs to become apparent to the worst offenders that not improving will affect their bottom line worse than paying out to make the changes.

Which brings me to the governments. Again, too much talk, not enough action. Particularly the US. The European Union has been more proactive and Canada has also made a greater effort although there’s still more to be done. Incentives are all well and good. Caps on emissions are even better—but not if we’re just going to let companies trade the leftover from their quotas to bigger polluters. If businesses won’t do it of their own accord, the government must find a way to make it happen. Cars can be engineered to get much better mileage (but oil companies don’t want that); alternative sources of energy can be refined and made more efficient and cost-effective (again not a popular goal in many circles).

So, um, as I mentioned last week, I have again wandered away from my intended topic of the week. Next week, a special Valentine’s Day post. After that, I’ll get back on track and talk about my project for February.

I leave you with a positive link, which in fact gives several links to sites with more suggestions for action.

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Spilling the beans

I was originally going to bury this in the comments over on my post from Sunday, but then I decided that would be a little unfair. Mad Hatter and Lisa b both commented on how lucky I was in my lack of morning sickness when I was pregnant with Scooter. Before you get too jealous, however, let me explain the impetus for that post:
  • I was awakened very early Saturday morning by a wave of nausea. Not a run-to-the-bathroom kind of wave, but a distinct queasiness, nonetheless.
  • This nausea continued throughout the day. Not constant, just rising to the surface from time-to-time.
  • Yes, I was pretty sure I was pregnant by this time, but wasn't willing to commit.
  • The pregnancy test I took on Sunday morning was inconclusive. I was pretty sure I saw a very faint line, but couldn't say for certain until outside the 10-minute limit the manufacturer gives for an accurate reading.
  • More nausea.
By this point, I was pretty sure I was pregnant, but trying very hard not to get myself sold on the idea.

I retook the test this morning. And there was definitely a second line. Very faint, but there. The nausea continues. Still not overwhelming, but not pleasant.

I am now waffling about when I'll start telling people. I even debated talking about it here; since I personally know some of the Toronto-area bloggers, it feels a little odd to pass that information along to all of you before my family. But I needed to tell someone.

With my last pregnancy, Trillian and I told our parents and siblings almost immediately. And then we put a moratorium on telling when I had a scare. My HCG levels were not rising as quickly (doubling every 2-3 days) as expected. Trillian and I spent a few days combing the internet, trying to figure out what it meant. All of the examples we seemed to find, however, showed the HCG levels stalling out or falling instead of rising at 40% as opposed to 66-100%. The doctor moved up my 1st ultrasound from my 8th week to my 7th, but that still left several days for us to worry.

The weekend before my ultrasound, we went to visit my grandmother who was in a rehabilitation center, recovering from some medical problems. We had been planning to spread the good news, but decided to hold back, pending our results. But over a lunch with my favorite aunt, I ended up telling her about our source of anxiety--which is when she told us, "In my day, we didn't get nearly as much information about our pregnancies. And that was probably a good thing."

The next week, we headed to the obstetrician's office with our fingers crossed. And suddenly there was our tiny little peanut, heart beating away, measuring just right. That calmed me down. That and finding out that, in fact, 20% of otherwise normal pregnancies demonstrate lower HCG levels.

So the big debate now is whether we go ahead and tell people or try to hold off for 8-12 weeks, the course of action we know to be prudent. So what did other people do?

Monday, February 05, 2007


Since our DVD player/recorder went on the fritz, we've been using our PlayStation2* to play DVDs for Scooter. This serves the purpose of giving us some time to decide what specific new model we want to buy without pushing us to choose something impulsively--because going without a DVD player is simply not an option. The biggest downside is that our PS2 is an old enough model that it doesn't have an infrared sensor, so we can't use a wireless remote on it. On the other hand, Scooter has been enjoying the fact that he has figured out some of the controls (push the X, highlighted item is started).

So Trillian decided to introduce him to the game aspect of our PS2. We don't have that many games, but apparently we have two Simpsons games--I remember Road Rage, but not Hit and Run. She decided on Road Rage and set it to the "Sunday Drive" setting. After choosing a character, you can drive around a section of Springfield; if you so desire, you can pick up passengers and ferry them around.

At first, Scooter sat on Trillian's lap as she drove Homer around (badly). Scooter cracked up as she crashed into trees, light poles, and other cars. Then he took a turn, driving with less purpose, mostly going directly forward and backward with great enthusiasm. On occasion, he'd make the car turn in dizzingly tight and fast circles.

Of course, we realized once the game was on that maybe we hadn't made the wisest choice. Nothing major--OK, so I'm totally dismissing the fantasy violence--but Homer has a few phrases that are generally not approved for three-year-olds. Things along the line of "Ow, my ass."

So after our play session last night, Trillian put the Simpsons games away and got out Harry Potter (rated E for Everybody), saying we'd head him that way the next time he played. But tonight? "Wanna play yellow Homer**," he says and immediately opens up the media storage, going straight for the game.

Oh well, it's not like he hasn't heard those words at home before (yes, I'm looking at you, Trillian). If he decides to use them elsewhere, that's my story, and I'm sticking to it.

* Yes, we have a gaming system. It's not quite so frat-ish as it sounds. Trillian's parents got it for us many Christmases ago, mostly because they were getting one for her brother.
** This is what he calls the Simpsons.

Sunday, February 04, 2007

My infinite wisdom

I have come to realize that something about being pregnant before has made me a little cocky about a second pregnancy. As I skim back through my old pregnancy books, I find myself making little mental notes: "I don't have to worry about that," "that won't happen to me." Not exactly scientific observations, given the sample size of 1.

Want some specifics?
  • Implantation bleeding. "I never have that." Never's a bit of a sweeping statement. If I head into this pregnancy without implantation bleeding, then I'll be in a better position to say never (since we only plan on having the two kids).
  • Spotting in general. "No worries." Slightly better authority here since that applies to the entire 9 months of my first pregnancy, but still no guarantee for this go around.
  • Morning sickness. "I've read that it affects young women, first pregnancies, and mothers carrying multiples most often; therefore, I won't even think about it." Yes, I'm one of those few women who did not suffer from morning sickness. In my first pregnancy, at the youngest I was ever going to be. Now, I also had HCG levels that did rise as quickly as desired and there seems to be a correlation between the increasing hormone and nausea. So actually, I might manage to avoid the anxiety I had early in the last pregnancy if I find myself puking.
Of course, there are also the things that I imagine will be just as bad as last time. Exhaustion--I was lucky enough to still be on summer break for my first 8 weeks; Trillian came home to me napping almost every afternoon. Weight gain--50 pounds last time. Heartburn--Tums were my friend.

I am also beginning to realize that my general experience of this pregnancy will be very different from my first one. I was very aware during my first pregnancy of every step and spent a lot of time revelling in it. But I just don't have the time now. With an almost-4-year-old and a demanding course and teaching load, there is not as much time to sit and enjoy. Or even just sit.

Speaking of which, off to some primary source reading...

Friday, February 02, 2007

Baby brain

Something about long Fridays make for scattered posting. I'd had every intention of writing a (slightly) academic post about my antagonistic relationship with theory in my discipline.

But instead, I find myself obsessing about this pregnancy (or not) thing. I know I said I wasn't going to talk about it for a while. And I'm not going to detail particulars right now--the physical symptoms that I may or may not be exhibiting, the number of days until I can test early, the number of days until I can test more definitively. But I will talk a little bit about what I'm feeling.

After taking my two month break, I approached the process with two distinct minds. On the one hand, it felt like I hadn't stopped and that I'd been thinking about trying to get pregnant forever--which is a little true since my mind didn't necessarily take the whole two months off. On the other, it felt like I was starting all over again--which, again, was not a good thing, since I mentally write off the first try or two of the process, so I suddenly saw several more months of the waiting and testing and waiting some more staring me in the face.

As I've mentioned before (you all keeping up with this?--I'm too lazy to link tonight), I tweaked my timing on this cycle, going for the insemination a little earlier (about a day) than is strictly called for. I tried to tell myself that I could blame that when I didn't get pregnant. Everything I told myself has revolved around it not taking this cycle. I am trying so hard not to be invested in this cycle.

But the truth is that I really am. More than I wanted, more than I realized. Every little twinge and internal shift, "I must be pregnant." It flits across my mind before I can stop thinking it and I believe it.*

So, at least in part, I think this post is admitting that I will probably share more than I originally planned. I doubt I'll make it 12 weeks before spilling the beans here. I may not make it more than a few days.

And while I don't intend for this to become a pregnancy-focused blog, I can't promise it won't be a frequent topic. Just look at how often it comes up when I'm not going to write about it.

*Of course, there is the flip side, the other feeling I fear won't leave me. Right after the above thought, I suddenly say, "Stop! Wait! I'm not ready!" I remember feeling this when I first got pregnant with Scooter and numerous times through the pregnancy--that one too was also ultra-planned. Do we ever feel ready?

Thursday, February 01, 2007

Shame cookie

One of the frustrations of balancing school and parenting is that each semester brings a new schedule. We're only a couple weeks into the new semester, so our morning routine has been inconsistent again. This is exacerbated by the fact that Trillian's had a run of migraines that have messed with her sleep cycle; I've had a few bad nights myself. And so Wednesday morning, I left the alarm off and let Scooter decide when we'd get moving.

Sure enough, he padded into our room at about 7:30, smiling, toy in tow. I got up, settled him in at his train table, and told him I was going to take my shower. This is generally not a problem, and he can wake Trillian up if he needs something.

When I came out of the bathroom, only partially dressed, he had a cookie. I did a quick survey and realized that Trillian was still in bed. (And no, cookies are not a normal breakfast food, but it has happened before.) I decided to ask anyway: "Did Mommy get that for you or did you get it for yourself." I eyed the box that was up on the counter, far up and back. "For myself," came his response. I smiled despite myself, mussed his hair, and said, "Oh, OK. You can finish that up."

Back to the bathroom to finish up, get the rest of my clothes on. Come back out. The cookie he's eating looks bigger than it did before. "Did you get another cookie?" I ask (and count the cookies in the box--yes, there's one fewer). "Scooter, you're supposed to ask before you have a cookie."

He puts the cookie back down on the table. And I realize his eyes are looking red. "Oh, sweetie. I'm not angry. I just don't want you to take a cookie again without asking. But you can finish this one." I hand it back to him. He reluctantly takes it and then throws it down. No cookie, no way.

Now I recognize how ridiculous parts of this are from the outside: I didn't bother to correct him with the first cookie, probably even encouraged him with the smile, and then I got on him about the second cookie, but still wanted him to finish it. All sorts of inconsistent messages.

But really, this is about something else. I wrote a couple months ago that, even though I had initially wanted a girl, I was thankful I had a boy first because it kept me from over-identifying with him. Yet as I also noted in that post, the irony is that he exhibits so many of my personality quirks. Most of the time, Trillian says, "He is so your son," and we laugh. But then there's a morning like this, and I'm reminded that he gets the bad with the good.

Those eyes, reddening as the tears threatened. I knew the shame he was feeling, the desire to disassociate from what made him feel that way. I remember feeling like that far too often, way out of proportion to the act, over stupid stuff. And I know that I can't protect Scooter from ever feeling that way--it's going to happen, that's the way we're programmed.

But I'd like to spare him as many of those moments as I can.

(Of course, when he got home from school, he promptly finished the cookie off.)