March 2007

Over 1000 clicks on my blog since I started it about a month ago. Yippee!  I think 90% of them are the same half dozen people.  But that’s cool.  We know we rock, right?

Anywho, I am comfortable being a teeny, tiny plankton in the sea of intertubes.  No nasty attention (so far), thank goodness.  Just some short conversations with nice people. I hope to have more.


So mr. jolt is watching soccer, specifically, U.S. v. Guatemala, on ESPN tonight.  Busily reading blogs, I look up at the sound of strong, martial music.  A commercial, promoting U.S. Soccer that, to paraphrase (I will try to update tomorrow if I can find a transcript of the commercial) says something to the effect of:

11 men, facing challenges they never have before (dah dum dah dum dah dum – picture of soccer game) struggling, fighting to triumph (dah dum dah dum dah dum – picture of American flag in close-up in the background)  their courage is an inspiration, etc., etc.

Look, I like sports well enough and enjoy soccer and I enjoy watching athletes at the top of their game the same way I enjoy other people performing at the top of their game.  BUT, this is a sport, it is a game, it is entertainment (at least in this country, I know in others it can be far more).  Star athletes are not heroes.  I’m not saying I don’t admire someone succeeding in the face of adversity or overcoming something, etc., but playing soccer ( or any other sport) is not saving lives, it is not finding a cure for disease, it is not stopping a bully or an abuser.  A sports person is not a hero by virture of their speed or ability with a ball.

And, sorry, putting a picture of the flag in the background, with hyperbole of the like that you would think that the soccer players had single-handedly rescued a dozen kids from a burning building just ticks me off.   I find crass commercialization of the flag an offense in a way that burning a flag in political protest would never ever be.

This morning one of my bosses came in and told me he really enjoyed reading a memo I had left for him.  This news was the highlight of my day.  Not just because it’s nice when your boss likes your work, but because I had fun writing that memo and it was nice that he had fun reading it.  The memo was an internal one, which gave me more freedom to let the words roll out in a way that could not be done in a memo for external use (although it is still possible that my other boss will have me revise it to tone it down because you never know where things will go).

But, it was a creative memo, or rather a factual memo, but written in a more flowing style than I usually employ.  But the facts cried out for a turn of phrase, so I went with it.  And it made me realize that one of the reasons that I am enjoying this new blogging thing is that I am looser stylistically here (thank goodness) than I am in most of the memos, contracts (there is absolutely no room for flair when drafting a contract, probably why it is the dullest part of my job), and briefs I write for work.

Many of the factual scenarios underlying legal work can be uninteresting, at least to those not intimately involved with the issues in the case.  (For those involved, the most byzantine elements of civil forfeiture law or apparent authority and agency can be fascinating).  But often, even when the facts are dramatic, the drama, humor, or what-have-you are completely drained in most writing done in the legal field.  The flair is seen in the courtroom, in the dramatic closing statement, or the tricky cross-examination.

One of the things I have struggled with is infusing more creativity into my life.  I used to write poetry, back in the dark days of my youth.  I used to write short stories, a long, long time ago.  I put all of that away, somehow, and I’ve been trying to pull it back out.  Before I started this blog I had been working on outlining and drafting a novel for over a year.  It was utterly awful.  I was bored writing it and anyone would have been bored reading it.

So, the fun I had with this memo made me think that rather than compartmentalizing my writing – trying to be creative or expressive at night, in my spare moments, I should spend more time infusing some dash into my daily work.  Heck, if I can make a factual summary lively, I ought to eventually be able to make a novel sing, right? 

Because I am still struggling with my post of “B is for ___”.  Enjoy!

So the NYT posts a piece today titled “Poor Behavior is Linked to Time in Daycare.”   I already knew what it was going to say.  Parents Mothers who put their kids in daycare are dooming their children to a horrible life, etc., etc.

For example,

A much-anticipated report from the largest and longest-running study of American child care has found that keeping a preschooler in a day care center for a year or more increased the likelihood that the child would become disruptive in class — and that the effect persisted through the sixth grade.

Disruptive kids, all due to those horrible parents moms who stick their kids in daycare.  To be fair, the article does in fact refer to parents, not just moms, deciding to put their kids in daycare, although it refers back to the daycare wars of the 80s:

The debate reached a high pitch in the late 1980s, during the so-called day care wars, when social scientists questioned whether it was better for mothers to work or stay home. Day care workers and their clients, mostly working parents, argued that it was the quality of the care that mattered, not the setting. But the new report affirms similar results from several smaller studies in the past decade suggesting that setting does matter.

What’s interesting to me is that the press release relating to the study states that the study, which was started in 1991, began looking at childcare in general, defined as follows:

Child care was defined as care by anyone other than the child’s mother that was regularly scheduled for at least 10 hours per week. This included care by fathers, grandparents and other relatives. 

Emphasis mine.  Now the part of the study looking at daycare did distinguish between “center based care” and other forms of childcare, but the structure of the study is curious.  I guess what moms do isn’t childcare, its just being a mom?

But what the press release and the article both mention is that parenting quality was a far more significant factor than the type, quality or duration of daycare.   So why is that fact buried several paragraphs in?  To me, a working parent, I read that as yes, perhaps daycare* has some potential issues, but that as long as I can focus on being a good parent, I can probably overcome that, but that’s not the message of the headline on either the press release or the article.

And worse, you know that this study is going to start off another round of guilty attacks on mothers who work outside the home.  I can’t seem to find the underlying study online, and my statistics knowledge is shaky enough that I don’t think I could do it justice – I’m hoping someone more skilled than I in the femisphere will find the holes.

But what if there aren’t holes, what then?  Again, the likely result will be to guilt the mothers as opposed to looking at the lack of support for working parents: the lack of flex time, the lack of part-time, all that stuff that would help parents who do want to work outside the home still manage to spend more time with their kids.

On the plus side, the study also found that center-based care gave kids a larger vocabulary.  I guess when they’re being disruptive they’re using SAT words?

UPDATE: Echidne has more.

*In the interest of full disclosure, my kids are not in fact in daycare, but they are in pre-school 15-25 hours a week.  The rest of the time they have a sitter. (This is partly why I updated an earlier post that discussed daycare (by deleting my statements about it), because I felt I didn’t have enough info to comment in the way I did).

So this lawyerly group to which I belong here in Middle Nowhere, not the local bar association, but similar, has this big bash every two or three years.  This is my first year in the group, but one of the group’s gala years.  They announced the upcoming gala about six months ago, began soliciting contributions, etc., etc.    Once I became aware that there would be a band, I started getting enthused.  Because, while I’m a pretty good lawyer, a decent mother, and competent enough at various other life tasks, one thing I know I’m damn good at is shaking my thang on the dance floor.

If the music is good and the dance floor has enough people for flow, but not so many I’m getting stepped on, I can go dance and be wholly within myself and outside myself at the same time.  If someone wants to dance with me, fine, but it’s totally not necessary.  I can get on a total body high that lasts for as long as the music does.  And look good while doing it (or so I’ve been told).

Sadly, once one has left school and the various dance related events there, and if clubbing is not an option (the clubs around here seem a leetle scary and little too young and meat-markety), all you’ve got is weddings.  And by your mid-30s, the weddings are fewer and no one seems to be throwing dance parties at their houses (keeps the kids up).  So, I was really looking forward to dancing last night.  I even had the best ever ‘dancing while dressy’ outfit ever.

See, I don’t like dancing in dresses – either I’m tripping over a hem, or if I’m shaking it down, all you see is this bell shape swaying that can’t quite keep up with the music.  So my outfit was black flowy pants, slit up to the lower thigh, with rhinestones running down the side.  Throw on a matching top with rhinestones at the waist and neck, and bam, I look good and I can move even better (if I do say so myself).

So there I was, at the party, having a good time,  there were people in the group that mr. jolt had taught that he could catch up with and the people I knew in the organization.  The band, which seemed pretty good at the start, played jazz for a few hours during cocktails and dinner.  Then they moved some tables out of the way, so the band could crank it up.

That is when mr. jolt realized that they had no bassist.  The keyboardist was filling in that sound, but couldn’t quite pull it off.  Combined with the fact that they did not play one damn thing past 1981, it made for an evening of ‘okay’, when I’d really been hoping for an evening of ‘get down’. 

Requests were futile-they either didn’t know it or claimed to have already played it-the liars.   And, hey, there is a ton of pre-1982 stuff that’s good, but most of it requires some bass to hold the funk ya know?  I mean, Superfreak and Play that Funky Music just are not the same without a good downbeat.

Ugh.  A classic case of way too high expectations on my part.  If I’d gone to the party expecting a dreary time, I probably would have had a blast.  As it was, I spent the last half of the evening moving without grooving.

Months ago, my bookgroup read the memoir by Anne Patchett, Truth & Beauty.  One of the women in the group asked whether it was possible to make really close friends after being married and/or having kids.  I immediately blurted out “No.” And felt really sad as I said it.

I think it is much harder to find friends and make good friends as you get older.  Not impossible, but just not as easy.  People are very invested in their lives and just don’t have as much room or flexibility.  Kids and marriage/partnership can make meeting people easier simply because you’ve got other people bringing new people into your life.  But at the same time, while you may get to know more people, becoming close friends with them can be tricky, I think.  There are fewer of those intensely bonding moments one has in one’s twenties.  Or maybe it’s just me.

We moved away from a phenomenal group of friends in the city and surrounding area when we moved to where we live now.  Several overlapping circles of people, most of whom we had known ten or more years.  A bunch of us had kids around the same time which made it easy to continue our hanging out, just in a different forum and with less alcohol.  We still see most of them when we go back to the city or get together in other places.  I know them and they know me.

Anyway, when we moved here it took forever to feel like I was making connections with people.  Many of the people we’ve gotten to know are also originally from somewhere else, partly because in an academic environment where mr. jolt works you get a lot of transplants.  And initially, that’s all we knew because it was summertime (no pre-school) and it took me six months to find a job.

And, I’ve found, that the people who have lived here or nearby all their lives can be very insular.  Not unfriendly, but not inclusive.  For example, in my old job in the city we always snagged a new hire to show them where to grab lunch, chat them up, etc.   In my new job, nada, nothing, zip.  I think a month went by before someone suggested going to lunch, despite mega-hints I dropped (“So, where’s a good place to get lunch here?”).  I can understand being treated a bit like I was on probation (is she cool? can she be trusted?), but I was still surprised by the utter lack of hospitality. 

Amongst the other ex-pats I hang out with outside of work, we’ve decided that it’s just that people who have grown up around here have absolutely no concept of what it’s like to move somewhere and know nobody.  No family, zip.  For many, the only time they’ve left the area is to go to college 2-3 hours away.  Which is fine.  I think staying local can be good for family, etc., but goodness.   I knew people that grew up in NYC and never really went anywhere else who were still a lot more welcoming.  Perhaps because they were always meeting new people. 

Anyway, my sad little story of woe is not the point of this post, which is to say, once I felt comfortable enough and familiar enough to simply suggest going to lunch, etc.,  I thought it was funny the way there’s this sharing process, the slow unraveling of stories, with everyone being on their best behavior of sorts, trying to figure out if you liked one another enough to have them over to your house for dinner (mr. jolt likes to do dinner parties, as do I because you can have more lengthy conversations than can happen when you are hosting a bash & feel compelled to dash about making sure everyone is having a good time).

And then, occasionally, you find people you invite over to dinner and you’re not really sure if the evening will work, but you find yourself sharing all sorts of stories immediately, you click with them and chat away for hours.   It’s “friendship at first sight.”  We’ve been here almost three years and only in the last few months have I felt like I’ve had some community, people I could trust, people that in a crisis, I could call on.  It is an enormous comfort.

Some of that community has come from my bookgroup – which I started myself after hinting around about bookgroups to various people.  This lovely woman, C, was one of the very few people who met me for lunch on a regular basis, even before I started work (we were ‘set up’ by her former boss with whom I’d done an informational interview.  I still owe him a huge thank you for the introduction).  She and I always ended up talking about books so I finally asked if she’d like to start a bookgroup.  She was thrilled and had always wanted to be in one.  I asked 2-3 women I knew through mr. jolt’s work and overnight we had 8-10 people.  It took a bit, but now I treasure the non-book talk as much as the book talk.

If meeting other parents on the playground or folks at work and trying to decide whether you want to try and get to know them is like blind dating in that you don’t really know what you’re getting into, doing a bookgroup is like going to a series of parties where you can subtly check everyone out before getting together “on the side.”

I think there were several other semi-profound things I had to say, but I’m getting tired.  I’d love to hear your thoughts on making friends at different stages of life.

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