Family

Bury Guns Not Kids.

Newtown_postre3

I grew up in a family of creatives.

Really.

Here’s how the news of the horrific killings in Newtown, CT. made the email rounds through my family:

I sent my last post to my brother Howard, an engineer, entrepreneur businessman, founder of iRocku and a dad.

He forwarded an idea to my first cousin Allen, an advertising executive and CEO, father, grandfather and the creator of the “See Something, Say Something” campaign.

Howard’s idea was to create a ‘war against guns.’

The next day, Allen’s email included this poster (above) and this note: “Howard, Your ‘Gun War.’ The first shot. I hope it’s heard round the world.”

Then my son composed and played the music on this video.

Let’s keep this message in our hearts this holiday season.

Really.

Poster: Korey Kay and Partners

Keeping Our Babies Safe

I vividly remember the day my son was born, almost 24 years ago. A fleeting, but frightening thought seeped into my hopes and dreams for my beautiful baby boy—“How will I keep you safe from going to war?” The Vietnam War, with images of killing fields and the gruesome draft was the reality of my younger years.

Our generation of parents has been lucky, killer drafts have not touched our babies.

But guns have.

When my son was 16, one Sunday afternoon we went to the local mall to buy him jeans at the Gap. At the time, he had just gotten his learner’s permit, so I reluctantly handed over the keys and off we went for the 20-minute drive to the mall.

He carefully guided the car into a spot near the entrance to the mall where he didn’t have to negotiate too many rows of parked cars. Easy in, easy out.

Once in the mall, as we approached the doors to the Gap we heard someone yell “shooter” – people started running frantically — all in one direction — away from the sharp sound of gunshots. I made a snap decision to get the hell out of the mall. In a protective gesture, my son grabbed my hand and we ran through the mall as the stores locked down. I noticed there were holes in the new cars that lined the main aisle of the mall — bullet holes. Once we made it out to the parking lot, I almost lost it when I saw parents with babies and children hiding under parked cars. My son handed me the keys and I sped home.

While we made it home safely, nothing was easy about the following days and nights. Bullets may have spared our flesh, but they grazed our psyches, leaving us raw and feeling profoundly unsafe.

Officials stated the 24 year-old shooter had “a “lurid fascination” with the 1999 Columbine shootings.” Friends said he was “dangerously disturbed…the gun was purchased at a local gun show.”

Many of us are summoning up our experiences as parents, teachers, children and even gun owners, as we try to make sense of the most horrific and senseless killing of beautiful innocent children.

My heart has now moved from ache to anger as I read article after article addressing what Nicholas Kristof prescribes here: “The fundamental reason kids are dying in massacres like this one is not that we have lunatics or criminals — all countries have them — but that we suffer from a political failure to regulate guns.”

Politics is a messy business. It’s easy to turn away from the ugly noise that has overcome our political system. It’s easy to let someone else fight the insidious battles over power and money. But this is our fight as mothers…fathers…parents…and citizens.

We must demand that our children are safe from gun violence.

Do you want your children asking their babies, “How will I keep you safe at school, at the mall, in the playground, in the movie theatre, on your college campus,…in our home?”

Painting: Vasudeo S. Gaitonde

Sandy’s Wake Leaves A Clear Choice

Long Beach, NY Boardwalk, October 30, 2012

For as long as I can recall, hurricanes were a thrilling nuisance. I grew up about 20 minutes from the Atlantic Ocean and 20 minutes from the Long Island Sound…smack dab in the middle of Long Island. I longed to live closer to my cousins because they could touch the ocean from their Long Beach home. Hurricanes were a rare visitor, but they happened. In fact, when hurricane winds blew, my father’s brother and family would march into our house to brave out the storm. Sometimes the cousins would stay for hours…sometimes days.

When those hurricanes thrust their last mighty blow, my dad and uncle would pile the kids into the station wagon to appraise the damages. I remember the anticipatory excitement of driving through sandy salt water to get to their house at the end of the block. Would we find the dock perched ten feet up on the grass? Would windows be smashed? Would the outdoor furniture be dangling off the deck in a tangle of boat line? We found all these things, but what made the most impression was what lurked beyond personal property damage. It was what the hurricane left behind…dead seagulls, shore birds, fish that couldn’t find their way back sea, and relocated plants and flowers. As we sifted through the wreckage, the thrill quickly dissipated and gave way to sadness for our beautiful natural upended world. I remember in the aftermath, my dad would say we must always be wary of nature, but the one good thing about a hurricane is that once it’s over, it’s over…we didn’t have to worry about the next one for a long, long time.

Not the case anymore. The east coast has a new reality…freaky Frankenstorms and Superstorms. Why? Because we have hotter than normal sea surface temperatures in the Atlantic Ocean. This means heavier rainfall and stronger winds. This means higher sea levels and increased coastal flooding. This means increased storm surges. This means the warning signs of global warming have breached the planet’s levee and they can’t be ignored any longer.

Here’s what Gov. Andrew Cuomo said while Hurricane Sandy hammered NYC a few days ago:

I don’t think anyone can sit back anymore and say, ‘I’m shocked at that weather pattern’…There is no weather pattern that will shock me anymore… Climate change is a reality…Given the frequency of these extreme weather situations we have had — and I believe it is an increased frequency — for us to sit here today and say this is a once-in-a-generation, and it’s not going to happen again, I think would be short sighted. New York must anticipate more of these extreme weather type situations in the future…We have to start thinking about how do we redesign this system…This is a new orientation for us…Anyone who says there’s not a dramatic change in weather patterns I think is denying reality.”

Wow, this is a BIG, BIG deal! Until recently, most politicians (including the two running for President) were careful to sidestep climate change. But even in their tip-toe avoidance of attributing any single weather event to climate change, where they stand are telling in these statements:

“I’m not in this race to slow the rise of the oceans or to heal the planet.” ~ Gov. Mitt Romney

“And yes, my plan will continue to reduce the carbon pollution that is heating our planet – because climate change is not a hoax. More droughts and floods and wildfires are not a joke. They’re a threat to our children’s future. And in this election, you can do something about it.” ~ Pres. Barack Obama

Sandy has come and gone. My cousins are still unable to make their way from Brooklyn back to their oceanfront home to see if the house succumbed to Sandy’s roar. But in this hurricane’s wake, a clear choice has blown through the broken windows, boardwalks, airports, subways, power lines and our presidential election. As Gov. Cuomo says, we need to redesign the system. And to those who say we can’t afford renewable energy, I say, we clearly can’t afford more Sandys:

“The lost cost to the economy with much of New York and New Jersey unable to get to work was between $10 billion and $30 billion.”

The energy commitments our next president makes will affect the Frankenstorms and Superstorms my children and their children will suffer. Our next president must take global warming seriously and do something about it. Politicians in climate denial are upending nothing less than our children’s future and they will not get my vote. How about yours?

Photo via Facebook’s Official Hurricane Sandy page.

Only Fools Dye Their Young

Sometimes I think I might get arrested for loitering in the grocery aisle. I read every single food label. I’m a food marketer’s nightmare because I can sniff out misleading and meaningless food lingo in a heartbeat. Why? Because I’ve been reading labels incessantly since my daughter was young.

It’s Not Nice To Dye Our Young

It started with an innocent breakfast cereal that made grandiose claims of being “All Natural Berry, Berry Goodness,” “Kid Approved” and “Contains Healthy Antioxidants.” After ingesting bowlfuls of her new favorite cereal, my daughter started to display frightening symptoms. First, she developed a headache. So we gave her Children’s Tylenol. The headache got better. Then she broke out in hives. We gave her Children’s Benadryl. Very quickly after taking the antihistamine, she complained that her throat was feeling weird, like she couldn’t swallow. We rushed her to an allergist, who confirmed what we had already figured out. My daughter was allergic to Blue Dye #2…a common food dye that was an ingredient in the cereal and the two over-the-counter children medicines.

Of course, we learned to avoid food dyes like the plague…reading labels like one would read an FBI file. Everything from lip balm to ice cream became suspect. Who knew?

It’s Not Nice To Fool The Bees

French apiarist Andre Frieh holds a sample of normal honey (right) besides a blue colored one (left) Ribeauville, France, October 5, 2012.

I was reminded of this parental chapter (nightmare) when I recently read that beekeepers were discovering blue honey in their hives. Apparently, bees were harvesting M&Ms manufacturing waste from a plant that processed the industrial runoff from a Mars candy factory.

“The plant operator said it regretted the situation and had put in place a procedure to stop it happening again…The company, which deals with waste from a Mars chocolate factory, said it would clean out the containers, store all incoming waste in airtight containers and process it promptly.” ~ BBC

We’re not innocent bees, we’re conscious consumers who should not be duped by honey-coated claims. Although labels are supposed to say exactly what’s in their product, the food aisle is teeming with misinformation. As parents, we like to fix things like this. How can we fix marketers who aim to make money by poisoning our kids? We can’t.

But don’t be a fool…Real food doesn’t come with labels.

The World Is My Oyster

Painting ©2012 Nadine Robbins

“As I ate the oysters with their strong taste of the sea and their faint metallic taste that the cold white wine washed away, leaving only the sea taste and the succulent texture, and as I drank their cold liquid from each shell and washed it down with the crisp taste of the wine, I lost the empty feeling and began to be happy and to make plans.” ~ Ernest Hemingway, ‘A Moveable Feast’

What is it about oysters that people either love or hate? It’s a slippery slope, and oysters slide right into one of those polarizing food categories, kind of like cilantro. I happen to love fresh, briny, sweet oysters. But my daughter…not so much. These sea-dwellers don’t float her boat.

Nevertheless, a few weeks ago, while I was vacationing on Martha’s Vineyard with my family; my daughter and her partner (in business and life) were in the midst of branding their client, Honeysuckle Oyster Farm. To inspire the design process, early one morning, they set out by boat to go oyster farming. Their research is this photo story:

The seafarers returned with a full bag of oysters. As it turned out, my daughter sampled a raw oyster on the boat and she was still not enamored with the texture and taste. So my recipe resourceful husband decided to make oysters more palatable for her and grill them over an open fire (with a few clams). Here’s his recipe:

Wood-Fired Grilled Oysters 

  1. Scrub oysters clean. If available, use oak or hickory wood.
  2. The fire is hot when you can’t hold your hand above the grate for a few seconds.
  3. Place the deep cupped half of the oyster shell facing the fire (flatter part facing up).
  4. In 2-3 minutes the oysters will open. Immediately, take the oysters off the grill before the liquid dries up.
  5. Can be served with a simple Rose Mignonette sauce.

The beauty of this dish is that it is like inhaling the sea…and while my daughter may not have “lost that empty feeling” towards eating oysters, she was inspired to “make plans” and brand Honeysuckle Oyster Farm.

Photos (except the grilled oysters): Ben Scott for Bluerock Design
Painting: Nadine Robbins