Jul 15 2013
Potty-training makes you do weird things. I tote oversized handbags around town, filled with spare changes of clothes and super-absorbent camping towels. I keep in the car a portable self-sealing potty which can contain waste should we need to make an emergency roadside stop. (We’ve never used it, but just in case…) I’ve attached a watch-like timer to our backpack so that the little guy is reminded by a song to visit a restroom every 90 minutes. My husband and I have rewarded our son with stickers, silly noises, and painting his toenails.
One of the most awkward choices of this parenting adventure involved a major compromise of my values–a visit to Walmart. For years, Walmart has been a place where we only purchase things we cannot find elsewhere. I avoid Walmart due to its poor treatment of female employees, active discouragement of unions and collective worker protections, and the deleterious effects its business model has on the economies of rural and small-town areas. As a Jew, fair and respectful treatment of workers is a weighty, holy obligation. The Torah mandates prompt payment for labor performed. Employers cannot expect employees to defer their own basic needs in order to acquire work. Our courts must mete out justice to the rich and poor even-handedly. Read the rest of this entry →
May 21 2013
In the field of social work we use fancy phrases like “caregiver fatigue,” “compassion fatigue,” “secondary traumatic stress,” and “vicarious traumatization.”
They all mean somewhat different things, but they’re all pointing to the same phenomenon: the ways in which doctors, EMTS, social workers, nurses, and increasingly, teachers–anyone who tends to the wounded and traumatized on a regular basis–can, and do, get exhausted and burnt out. They may become depressed or angry, they may turn to alcohol or drugs to manage difficult feelings, and they may have a hard time with sleep, focus, and ability to attend to daily tasks, among other things. Read the rest of this entry →
Sep 11 2012
Via Flickr/Sander Lamme
“The flag is at half-mast today,” I tell my boys, pointing to the flagpole in front of the school this morning. “Do you know what that means?”
“That someone died?” my second grader asks, hoping he’s correct.
I explain that it was far more than one someone–that today is September 11th, the 11th anniversary of thousands of people being murdered by terrorists. I am trying to walk the fine line between scaring the crap out of the kids and letting them know that today is a day whose horror resonates and rings like a bell in a clear blue sky. They are just little children, after all. They weren’t even an idea when this all happened. To them, September 11th feels like history. To me, it feels like yesterday.
The flag is at half-mast. It isn’t enough. Read the rest of this entry →
Mar 21 2012
Have you ever been bullied on the Internet? Thanks to a discussion about the horrible murders in Toulouse, I have.
I’m a journalist and writer, and my work often attracts comments online. Those comments are not always nice and fuzzy. But Facebook feels somehow more intimate, though, than comments after an article. I’d always thought that “friending” someone meant a sort of tacit agreement to have discourse in a way that could be acrimonious, but would always be mutually respectful. After all, according to Pirkei Avot (Ethics of our Fathers)–”Your friend’s dignity should be as precious to you as your own.”
I was very, very wrong. Read the rest of this entry →
Mar 19 2012
The father and children who were killed this morning.
Back when I was in elementary school, the words “school” and “shooting” did not go together. One did not flip on the car radio and hear a brief mention of a school shooting, where children were killed by a gunman who was either a random shooter or one of their disenfranchised peers. And if one did hear it, one certainly would not shake one’s head, flick off the radio, and then go about one’s business without thinking about it. But that is our new modern way of life.
I was in the carpool line for elementary school, of all places, when I heard the latest news. And by “heard,” of course, I mean “heard” in the 21st century sense. I was bored waiting for my turn to finally turn onto my street, and checked my smartphone email. I read the “Breaking news” subject line and my stomach sank: “Four reported dead in shooting at French Jewish school.” Read the rest of this entry →