Family

It’s Only Rock and Roll

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Had an interesting discussion last night with my brother about the packaging and personality of music — the lost art of album covers and lyric inserts.

My brother is in the music biz. Along with partner, Chuck Leavell — The Rolling Stone’s legendary keyboardist — he’s created irocku, a website that provides online rock music lessons.

We talked about how we’ve wholeheartedly embraced digital music, but cannot remember the words to current songs. Could it be age, or that we don’t watch music videos? We agreed that it was most likely because we read album covers and inserts.

We looked at music differently.

The covers of The Beatles White Album and James Taylor’s Sweet Baby James, are indelibly inked in my music memory. The late 1960’s and early ’70’s were chaotic, full of friction and heady introspection. All the coming of age stuff — that moment in time when life changes forever.

This excellent video critiques the intersection of culture, music, art — and its changes:

What’s your most memorable album cover?

Life Before Air Conditioning

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I’ve run the Mothership” around here for years, and have lived through a litany of complaints from my kids about the rising heat and the need for air conditioning.

“Why don’t we put in a pool like Rebecca’s family?” Not.
“It’s too hot to go out, we’ll just watch TV all day.” 
Not.
“We can’t sleep upstairs, the walls are melting. We’re sleeping downstairs on the couch.” 
OK.

And like all parents, I pull the generational “before you were born” -thing with my kids:

“When we were young, we ran through the sprinkler…A little sweat didn’t kill us…Have you ever heard of a fan?” 

Then came my final stand, “Do you know Americans use twice as much energy air-conditioning our homes than we did 20 years ago…and more than the rest of the world’s nations combined?” 

Although I live in what is considered to be a cooler Northeast climate, the rising temperature in my neck of the woods has left me sweltering.

I threw eco-caution to the wind and started my own whiny campaign to bring air conditioning into my home. Come hell or high water, and both seemed to be happening, I needed cool air to think straight. I tried rationalizing my case to my ultra-conservationist husband.

Me: “Do you know how much extra laundry I’m doing cleaning sweat-soaked sheets, tee-shirts and towels? Running the dryer day and night will kill the environment. An air conditioner could help!”

Husband: “You’re exaggerating, my dear. And the electricity generated to power air conditioning carries a larger environmental consequence. In burning fossil fuels such as coal and gas to supply electricity to homes and workplaces, power plants discharge clouds of soot and other pollutants into the atmosphere. Among these are mercury and carbon dioxide. Did you know air conditioner use in the U.S. results in an average of about 100 million tons of CO2 emissions from power plants every year ? Also, you emailed me this blog post, 10 Design Tips To Help You Live Without (Or Use Less) Air Conditioning

Me: “Pleeeze, don’t throw posts back at me, I’m a blogger. Bloggers can make anything sound sexy. I can’t work. My keyboard is damp…sticky. I’m sure the Apple manual clearly states, moisture on the keyboard will not be covered under warranty.”

Husband: “Air conditioning is a twisted way to stay cool. If you want to stop warming the planet why would you want artificial cooling? There’s nothing natural about that.”

At this point, guilt got the better of me and I gave up, realizing it was just too damn hot to bicker.

Then it happened. After hours of pushing a hand mower (4 acres of grass and no riding mower…of course) in the latest brutal heat wave, my sweet husband’s defensive brain fried, and he ran to the hardware store and bought one of those portable air conditioners.

Kidding aside, in the age of climate change, can we possibly put air conditioners into the deep freeze? Probably not. My family held out as long as we could, but bucking a culture that is not making the connection that what we’re sending up into our atmosphere is reigning down on us in the form of hot and hazardous weather, is a daunting prospect. But if we adjust our ethos, and take serious measures to power our homes (and air conditioners), using clean renewable energy – wind and solar, and stand with President Obama’s ambitious climate action plan to stop global warming, we have a fighting chance.

Will our leaders compromise and put an end to the warming trend? Or will our kids have to sweat it out hugging air conditioners instead of trees?

Ode To Dog

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“Mom, you have no idea what the dogs are thinking.” Like most pet owners, I often regard our dogs as if they are my children. Maybe it’s an empty nest thing, but my son reminds me not to anthropomorphize my pooches by trivializing them.

Of course, dogs can experience emotions such as love, disgust, elation and guilt. The “caught in the act” photo of Darwin, our 7 yr. old lab, is testament to that. This poem probably sums it up best.

Ode to the Dog 

And he asks me
with both eyes:
Why is it daytime?
Why does night always fall?

Why does spring bring
Nothing
In its basket
For wandering dogs
But useless flowers,
Flowers and more flowers?
This is how the dog
Asks questions
And I do not reply.

~ Pablo Neruda

Photo: Jen Kiaba

Are The Kids Alright?

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The senseless act of violence against innocent people in Boston this week, once again leaves us mourning the loss of lives, worrying about the injured, and asking hard questions – Why? Who? What will happen next?

I jump every time the phone rings. Both my kids live in the Boston area. One has been in lock down twice this week…phone lines down…afraid to go outside. And like so many, I’m finding the heartbreaking stories and images of the bombings at the Boston Marathon difficult to view and comprehend. Yet, who can look away?

What about the children? How do we explain such unimaginable tragedy to children? How do they process an event that in our wildest dreams we could not even imagine happening? How do we help kids cope?

“It’s very difficult. The first thing you do is check in with your own emotions. Because you can guarantee whatever you’re feeling, your kids are feeling as well.” ~ Dr. Janet Taylor, community psychiatrist, Clinical Instructor of Psychiatry at Harlem Hospital

One of the most valuable lessons I learned as a teacher after 9/11 was that children develop a deep sense of empathy when they are given the tools to cope with difficult circumstances.

There may not be one prescribed road map to reassure children that they are safe, but here are 5 wonderful resources leading the way:

1. National Association of School Psychologists: A National Tragedy: Helping Children Cope

2. American Psychological Association: Helping Your Kids Manage Stress In The Aftermath

3. Boston Mamas: Five Certainties Following The Boston Marathon Bombings

4. Parents: Boston Marathon Explosions: Be In Control of What Your Child Will Hear and See

5. Boston.com: After the Boston Marathon Explosions, What Parents Should Do

Our kids live in a difficult world right now. While they may not experience physical injuries, emotional wounds can run deep. Let’s take this horrific tragedy and encourage our kids to deepen their feelings of empathy…and please give your kids a hug.

Concert Honors Children

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We can feel the spirit of the blowing wind
A mighty source of power in our lives
Offering another way to fill our needs
Nature’s gift can help us carry on.” ~ Raffi

Did Raffi’s playful music spin the soundtrack of your family’s early life? The larger significance in Raffi’s lyrics ring remarkably relevant today — like this nudge towards exploring the power of clean, powerful wind energy.

Raffi is still making music for families and advocating for a “child-honouring approach to healing communities and restoring ecosystems.” 

On April 28th, grab a kid or grandkid and check out Raffi’s concert in New York City. The concert is presented in association with Moms Clean Air Force and all proceeds benefit the Centre For Child-Honouring.