|Ranked-choice voting to choose Oakland’s mayor debuted in 2010. I was initially sold because this method eliminates the need for run-off elections, and in theory opens the field to a more diverse slate of candidates. Second elections often have low voter turn-out and cost a bundle. But when none of my choices landed in the top three in 2010 I doubted the method. Voters choose up to three candidates in order of preference. If a candidate receives more than 50% of the vote, he or she is elected. But if there’s no majority, then an elimination process begins. The candidate who received the fewest first-ranked votes is eliminated. Next, each vote cast for that candidate is transferred to the voter’s next-ranked choice. This continues until one candidate receives a majority. The math is tough to follow. [Read More...]|
|I am a white, middle class, English speaking woman raised by traditional Christian parents. The only times I have felt like I didn’t fit in were when I travelled to foreign countries, and when I was pregnant and couldn’t drink at a wedding where everyone else was blasted. For the last two weeks of this October, however, I felt like an outsider.Did I develop a disgusting boil? Or have a minor stroke that altered my speech? Did I come to a new realization about my sexuality or political affiliation? No, it is something I have always known about myself, but in the last weeks I was forced to hide my true feelings, out of fear that my view of the subject would not be tolerated by the supposedly liberal Bay Area community. No, I am not Republican or homophobe: The truth is, I’ve always found baseball dull and I had absolutely no interest in the Giants World Series drama. [Read More...]|
|Thank you Ian. Your fishnets, platform heels and pearls made me feel like a teenager again. I needed an escape from my sugar coated Halloweens of the last seven years. My children have just recently graduated from fluffy animal costumes into Transformers and Princesses. These days I am adding sparkles to costumes and trying to figure out how to explain the difference between taking candy from strangers every other day and taking candy from strangers on Halloween. They are adorable and I like kiddy Halloween, but I miss the days where Halloween was mine to enjoy.
I happen to like the dark and twisty side of the day. I spent my high school days watching horror movies, reading Stephen King, and watching the Rocky Horror Picture Show. I am a fan of ghost stories, I read about vampires (yes, even the teenage love story ones). I am enrolled in a class about writing paranormal fiction so that I can create my own creepy characters. I like my Halloween to be spooky! [Read More...]
|My husband and I are political junkies—or at least we were until we had to stop following the news to preserve our mental health. Still, we consider voting a duty, not a privilege. So when our eldest daughter turned 18 in 2006, I wrapped her birthday presents in voter registration forms.
Even then, back in the days when hope was ascendant and our fervor less dampened, voting was complicated. For Emma’s first election, we sat down together at the dining room table piled high with Voter Guides, newspaper clippings and endorsements, and a small forest’s worth of glossy political ads. The lesson commenced.
“It’s pretty impossible to be well informed about all the issues and candidates,” I instructed. “So one strategy is to follow the recommendations of people you trust. Or compare all the editorial endorsements of various newspapers and average them out.” [Read More...]
|“Love you,” Áine would say whenever it was time to part ways, either at gymnastics class when our daughters finished practicing or after one of our impromptu dinners at her house or mine. The words were always accompanied by a hug.
The first time Áine (pronounced On ya) said the words was after my family spent a wonderful afternoon at her mother’s farm, shooting bows and arrows, the four kids eating Mac n’ Cheese and then getting so wet playing that we had to borrow some of Arabella’s clothes, Áine’s daughter.Not an overly emotional person with new acquaintances, I thought it was a bit unusual that day, as we were leaving, when Áine yelled from the porch with a wave, “Love you guys!” I quickly learned that to her friends, it was her usual parting phrase, and she meant it. [Read More...]
|Book Review by Janine Kovac:
Ready For Air: A Journey through Premature Motherhood by Kate Hopper
The memoir Ready For Air: A Journey through Premature Motherhood, by Minneapolis-based author and writing teacher Kate Hopper, sat on my bedside for weeks before I had the courage to open it. Truthfully, I was afraid of what I’d read. My three-month NICU stay with my micro-preemie twins was harrowing enough and I didn’t want to read something that would provoke my own painful and scary NICU memories. The mere thought of it made my stomach twist.
But my curiosity got the better of me. I knew Kate Hopper through her online writing class Motherhood and Words and through her book Use Your Words: A Writing Guide for Mothers. She had exercises with titles such as “Writing the Hard Stuff” and “What Shapes Us: Reflection and Place.” I wanted to know—how did someone who designed those lessons apply them to her own writing? [Read More...]
|My son Nick had an appointment last week to take his senior high school photos. He’s been driving for nearly a year, and seldom needs or wants my company or advice, so I figured he’d get himself to the portrait studio. Until he texted me at my office the day before, in the late afternoon – You’re coming with me tomorrow, right? No – I responded, slightly annoyed at the interruption – I have to work. I think parents are supposed to come, he texted. A bell went off. Are you nervous? Senior pictures are no longer a couple of poses in a cap and gown – they’ve morphed into modelling sessions with different outfits and various fake backgrounds.
A little – Nick answered.
I looked at my calendar – two back to back meetings at the appointment time. I swung into mom mode – cancelling one and rescheduling the other. Dang, my son wanted me to go with him. I couldn’t remember my last invitation from him. [Read More...]
|Phone home. ET instinctively knew how to relieve stress. Now research confirms that if you reach out and touch someone, preferably Mom, you’ll feel better. According to a recent study, girls aged 7-12 who spoke on the phone with their mothers when upset showed decreases in cortisol, the stress hormone, and increases in oxytocin, the chemical that promotes well-being. Researchers speculate that the benefits also apply to older daughters.But what about the mothers?
In a survey of friends whose children have left for college, nine out of ten mothers considered ditching their phones to protect themselves from the stress induced by incessant calls. The tenth mother has a son. She would gladly accept a collect call from jail just to hear from him.
When my laconic daughter, Emma, went away to college, I initially welcomed her frequent calls. Homesickness made her more communicative. [Read More...]
|A few years ago, while my 10 year-old-son spent two weeks away at a summer camp in the Sierras, I wrote a log of my feelings and activities:
| When our girls were little there was a picture book their grandma sent them called Earth Is Good. It was a simple celebration of nature, with drawings of an ebullient child playing outdoors and text that ran along the lines of, “Butterflies are good. The sky is good. Trees are good.” And every page ended with the line, “Earth is good.”
I once army-crawled through our upstairs hallway holding a videocamera, back in the pre-smartphone days, so I could surreptitiously film the scene of my oldest daughter, then about two and a half, sitting on the floor in her bedroom reading the book to an audience of her stuffed animals. In the clip, she is wearing a big hat from her dress-up bin that obscures both face and shoulders, and she recites the words, dramatically though phonetically, she’d heard so many times: “Urfiss Good.”Urfiss Good. When everything else seems to be spiraling out of control, that’s a simple truth to remind yourself: Earth is good.
This little affirmation is something I say to myself once in a while, when things in the news chronicle a world backsliding into chaos, the idle speed set to “rage.” When the Gaza fighting seems as senseless as it does unsolvable; when a civilian airline is blown out of the sky by Russian separatists who have been overserved, weapons-wise; when yet another brown-skinned boy is killed by police. At a time when humor seems like the only possible antidote, one of the world’s comedic greats succumbs to depression and we lose even that comfort. [Read More...]