Friday, July 16, 2010

Push-ups and playthings

Took my daughters shopping this afternoon and passed a sign at Victoria's Secret that made me pause:

FREE mini-dog plush with purchase of our new Push-Up bra!

It seems to me that if you're old enough to wear a push-up bra, you ought to have outgrown the "stuffed animal" phase. No?

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Toddlers & Tiaras: Oh, the humanity

Toddlers & Tiaras on TLC. Train wreck television at its finest.

Every show seems to follow the three-mom formula: you've got the fat unattractive mom who lives vicariously through her skinny (for now) little princess, the former pagent contestant mom who doesn't know any other way of life than glitz and flippers, and the control-freak mom who needs to win at all costs because that's the only thing in life that matters.

The girls get spray tanned, coiffed, and painted up with makeup before taking the stage to do a grinding dance routine that would make Beyonce feel self-conscious, then wait anxiously to find out if they've won a glittery crown and a title that makes no sense whatsoever (Mini-Grand Supreme, Ultimate Grand Supreme, Supreme Latte Mocha Frappucino...hard to keep them all straight).

The hardest part to watch is how these working-class families spend tens of thousands of dollars a month on entry fees, facials, false teeth, hair pieces, weaves, fake tans, and glitzy dresses. The dads usually seem like sweet, amiable folk who aren't quite sure how they got to this point but heck, they're just along for the ride. Gotta spend your money on somethin', I guess. Ack.

And yet, I watch.

Friday, July 9, 2010

Sweet 16

Exactly 16 years ago today, I became a mom for the first time.


Happy Birthday, Christina!

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Charity, done right

In these difficult economic times, non-profit organizations are suffering a sharp decline in donations. Less disposable income means that most people are forced to cut back on their charitable giving, getting more selective about which organizations they can support.

If you find yourself needing to whittle down your list of donation recipients, there are some criteria to keep in mind that may help you decide.

* Where does the money go?
This is the #1 consideration for me when I donate. There are so many deserving charities out there, but not all organizations are run as smoothly and efficiently as they should be. The charity you choose should have a proven track record, up-to-date filings with the IRS, and the infrastructure in place to receive and distribute funds in an equitable way. For example, charities staffed by volunteers will have much lower operating costs as those with salaried employees, ensuring that the maximum amount of your donation goes where it's needed most: the those in need.

* How is the money managed and distributed?
Another priority is to look closely at how the money is dispensed, and by whom. A legitimate charity ought to have an infrastructure in place with checks and balances so that the funds they collect are distributed fairly and equitably. Look for an organization that holds public meetings, has a consistent slate of elected officers, and a Board of Trustees that votes on how money is awarded.

* Always get a receipt!
This would seem like a no-brainer, but make sure you ask the charity if you can obtain a receipt with a copy of their Federal Tax I.D. number (indicating their 501 c 3 status) for tax purposes. If they balk at the idea of giving you one--run! is a great website where you can do a search on a charity and see how it ranks in terms of efficiency. Check it out so that when you do give, you can give wisely.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

A new challenge

This above all: to thine own self be true.

One of my favorite quotes.

I've been taking some time off-line to pursue a new career path, and it has left me very little time for recreational writing. While the work I've been doing has been interesting and rewarding, there's been a component of self-expression missing that I am itching to return to.

I've discovered that even when your plate is full to overflowing, it's still possible for there to be a void. That empty spot is the one where my "writing just for the sake of it" used to be. The time has come to fill it again.

So, I've decided to challenge myself this year. I'm going to write something every day for the next 365 days. It won't be easy--I have a full-time job, kids to raise, and some trips coming up with no internet access--but I'm going to give it a shot and see it where it takes me. I have a friend who is doing a similar challenge with his photography, taking a "Photo a Day" and posting it on Facebook. Some days, the photos are just pleasant, some days, they're absolutely brilliant. I'm sure he finds it a grind sometimes, but there have been those moments when he captures something truly unique and unexpected. Those are the ones that keep you going.

Day 1. So far so good.

cartoon by John Jonick, The New Yorker