Tuesday, 1 October 2013

Sunday Surf (on a Tuesday)

When I read great blog posts I usually share them on facebook, but this is a nice way to share them all together with a bit more room for commentary. Not all of these posts are from this week by the way; I have been so busy that I am pretty far behind with my reading.

Sunday Surf with Authentic Parenting and Hobo MamaI'm joining Authentic Parenting and Hobo Mama for Sunday Surf. Share your best reading of the week, and link up your post at either blog!
For more great reading, visit Hobo Mama or Authentic Parenting for the latest Sunday Surf and linky.
Happy Surfing!

Wise Words (Tim Minchin's Occasional Address at UWA)

Don't seek happiness. Happiness is like an orgasm. If you think about it too much it goes away. Keep busy and aim to make someone else happy and you might find you get some as a side effect.We didn't evolve to be constantly content. 

Adoption and Parenting

We had some discussion about whether or not we would have a biological child before adopting. From a health point of view, it would be better for my body to have a pregnancy before I'm thirty. On the other hand, I am so so glad we didn't. We could not give Tiger what he needs with other children in the picture, especially younger children.
I am not here to judge those who have faced very hard choices, because I know what it feels like to try to get your child to sleep for two and a half hours, while she screamed and cried and raged, every night for I-don't-even-remember-how-long, and I know that none of the pre-adoption training mentioned that possibility. I know what it feels like to be unable to do anything else for an entire day because the one thing my child needed was to be strapped on my back and taken for a very long walk outside, or else she would scream her lungs out. I honestly cannot imagine what  it would have been like to manage that if she had not been an only child at first, and had I not been able to be home with her. I know I speak from a position of privilege. But I think that privilege was something that Zinashi needed and benefitted from, and there was no way to know before we brought her home with us if she would need more intense help or not. We need to be preparing families for the possibility that their child, regardless of age at the time of adoption, might end up having some very big needs.

I share this humble as a now-reformed Judey McJudgerson. All parents I have glared at in disgust in the past: I apologise. Sincerely. And also that snarky article I once published in a local magazine about people pushing their older kids in strollers because they were too impatient to wait for the kids to walk at their own pace? Yeah, sorry about that too.
Dear Lady Judging Me At The Playground,

You seem to be reading a lot into the very tiny slice of my life that you see. You see me vacantly tapping on my phone, and are apparently filled with sadness for my children, whose lives you assume are slipping away without me noticing. (I wonder what your own kids are doing that you're missing while you sit in judgment of me?) You see my daughter twirling in the sunlight. You see my son smiling and cooing. You see me not noticing.

Would it be okay if I filled you in on some things you didn't see?

You didn't see this morning, when I greeted my waking daughter with a smile and a kiss. You didn't see when I painstakingly helped her pour her cereal and milk, then help her wipe up the spills. You didn't see me cut up her fruit. You didn't see me dance like a ballerina while doing so. You didn't see me smiling and baby talking to my son while I changed the nastiest diaper you could imagine. You didn't see me grit my teeth when he bit my breast, testing out the new teeth on the way, then sing a silly song about how we don't bite Mama.

You didn't see me do all that before I'd had even a drop of coffee.
I want to write more about this when I can. I was prepared for some feelings of loss... the loss of the lifestyle we had been enjoying and loss of some of the ideals and plans I had about family life that would necessarily be unattainable when we decided to adopt an older child. I was not prepared for what has been the biggest source of grief though, and that is the loss of the dream of the kind of parent I would be. Put simply, I guess, I thought I'd be better at it. It's hard to accept "doing the best I can" when what I want to be doing is "the very best that can be done".
But one thing that doesn’t get talked about very often is how an adoptive parent should respond when they find themselves grieving. Because…no matter how happy the adoptive parents may be or how much they love their new addition…when a new child enters the family oftentimes a part of their old life is “lost” for the adoptive family as well. Suddenly the home that made sense and ran like a well-oiled machine is thrown into chaos and confusion by things like a grieving child, orphanage behaviors, attachment struggles, processing disorders, medical needs, night terrors, or other children in the home regressing due to the addition of a new sibling. If an older child joins the family, then things like language barriers and cultural differences come into play. It can feel like the magic trick where a magician quickly pulls the tablecloth away…only you’re left wondering how and when the pieces will fall into place again.
I wrote about this case before (see this post), and I am devastated that this family has been broken apart. The idea that fathers have no automatic custodial rights is abhorrent.
As a feminist, I should make clear that I believe in the true definition of feminism … “the doctrine advocating social, political, and all other rights of women equal to those of men.” But this assumes that men have rights. 
In the case of Baby Veronica, her father did not have the rights that her birth mother did. He was misled. Birth fathers should have equal rights and protections, especially in the welfare of their children.
If a birth mother decides she cannot parent her child, and the birth father wants to raise his child, he should be given the opportunity to do so. No other adult should be given that right unless both birth parents have relinquished it.
Dusten Brown has proven that he loves his daughter. He has provided for her, cared for her, cuddled her and nurtured her for almost two years. 
Baby Veronica knows he loves her, and she wants to stay with him. Her right in all this is paramount. She deserves the love of her birth father, the man she will never forget.
Lets [sic] look at incentives Stern (and others) may have for wanting to avoid confronting the realities of the procedure.
Like most circumcised men, Stern probably does not want it to be true that his circumcision means that he is missing out sexually. Or that as he ages, he will likely notice diminishing sensitivity in his glans. Or that profit incentives played a role in the push to remove his erogenous tissue; or that other people altered his sexuality in a permanent way when he was still too young to do anything about it.
But the facts are what they are.
Over 50% of penile nerve endings are removed during a circumcision, including one-hundred percent of the Meissner’s Corpuscles, the unique fine touch nerve receptors found only in fingertips and on the ridged band of the penis.
Mucous membrane exposed to the air for decades does callus.
Many physicians earn sizable compensation for performing circumcisions.
And it is true that your circumcision means that someone surgically altered your body in a permanent way without first having obtained your consent.
Wouldn’t it be nice to be able to believe that all of these sacrifices were not in vain, that they bought you some greater good? It would, but we can’t just believe things because they are appealing. We can’t in good conscience marinate in denial when that means asking future generations to pay the price by allowing a harmful practice to continue to play out on their flesh.

 Society, Politics, and Japan

This is particularly interesting for me since I wrote my first honours thesis on the politics around history textbook censorship in Japan. 
According to a recent story in the Japan Times the city’s Board of Ed has recalled a junior high school textbook due to its “descriptions of the mass lynching of Koreans following the 1923 Great Kanto Earthquake.” 

During the aftermath of that massive temblor, fear mixed with old hatreds to create a tornado of violence that swept up Yokohama’s small ethnic Korean community in a path of death and destruction. In his book, Yokohama Burning, Joshua Hammer writes that army commanders whipped up rumors about Korean well poisonings.” The lies added more fuel to the fire as vigilantes roamed the streets, hunting for human prey.
This one isn't a blog post, but it leads into one. Bear with me.
Not http://www.huffingtonpost.com/wait-but-why/generation-y-unhappy_b_3930620.html
To get to the bottom of why, we need to define what makes someone happy or unhappy in the first place. It comes down to a simple formula:

It's pretty straightforward -- when the reality of someone's life is better than they had expected, they're happy. When reality turns out to be worse than the expectations, they're unhappy.
Paul Harvey, a University of New Hampshire professor and GYPSY expert, has researched this, finding that Gen Y has "unrealistic expectations and a strong resistance toward accepting negative feedback," and "an inflated view of oneself." He says that "a great source of frustration for people with a strong sense of entitlement is unmet expectations. They often feel entitled to a level of respect and rewards that aren't in line with their actual ability and effort levels, and so they might not get the level of respect and rewards they are expecting."
For those hiring members of Gen Y, Harvey suggests asking the interview question, "Do you feel you are generally superior to your coworkers/classmates/etc., and if so, why?" He says that "if the candidate answers yes to the first part but struggles with the 'why,' there may be an entitlement issue. This is because entitlement perceptions are often based on an unfounded sense of superiority and deservingness. They've been led to believe, perhaps through overzealous self-esteem building exercises in their youth, that they are somehow special but often lack any real justification for this belief."
There's a lot I like about this article, but there's a lot it glosses over too. After-all, every generation  this century has bemoaned the terrible failings of the next. It isn't a new story. The following blog post gives a very nice reply:

I graduated in 2008. Remember 2008? Oh, right. The housing market collapsed. Global stock markets plummeted. The Great Recession happened. I had $25,000 of student loan debt and a liberal arts degree in English and Theatre.
In other words: Oh, Hey, Real World. I’m Katherine. I’m HERE! What’s that, you say? We’re all kinda fucked? Oh. Okay. Neat.
And, furthermore
I exist in a world in which I don’t understand what a 401K is all about.
Social Security will not likely exist by the time I will need it.
I will never have a pension.
I’ve never even filed for unemployment. Because as a freelancer, I’m never in one place long enough to qualify.
This is not unique to my job description.
This is unique to my generation.
I live in a world in which the teachers in the city of Philadelphia are on strike because their budget issues are so rampantly unresolved that they are returning to work without contracts, paper, or desks. I live in a world where we’re slashing budgets so that the kids of the next generation won’t know a childhood with art or music classes.
I’m a woman in a generation fighting insane battles for reproductive rights that we didn’t even know until recently that we needed to be fighting, because we had simply assumed that we had already won them.
I live in a world in which we have a black president and yet we say hateful racist shit on Twitter when an Indian-American woman takes the Miss America crown. I live in a world in which we give a fuck about Miley Cyrus.
I live in a world in which we perpetuate the unpaid intern system.
I live in a world in which, since 1979, the average American worker has seen a 75% increase in productivity, and yet wages remain flat.
I live in a world where the top 1% of earners have seen their income quadruple since that exact same year.
I live in a world that simply seems too crazy for me to handle some days. I live in a world that sometimes makes me simply want to hide under the covers and not come out until it’s fixed.
And here’s what’s super fucked up:
I live in a world in which I still believe there is hope for the future.
Speaking of the future...
Akira Tokyo Olympics
Let’s hope Third World War doesn’t break out and that Akira doesn’t destroy the stadium.
Short version: Japan's justice system is badly badly broken. I encourage you to read the long version though, it's interesting and takes a slightly different approach to a lot of other similar articles.

This is the rather unpleasant skeleton in the closet that the police would rather keep hidden. A bygone era of intensive, frequent protest in which mistakes were made on both sides. Scapegoats and quick fixes were found, and then people were quick to move on. Injustices and false convictions happen in every justice system in the world. However, the Japanese state has a lot to lose and will only backtrack and grant retrials through firmly gritted teeth. It took mild-mannered bus driver Toshikazu Sugaya over seventeen years to win his freedom in the Ashikaga murder case of 1990. Years of campaigning to get DNA evidence re-examined were only begrudgingly acknowledged, since the prosecutors knew that then the truth might come out — that Sugaya’s “confession” had been bullied out of him. He had been an easy target: divorced and a bit of a loner. Hours of interrogation and physical abuse, and the police had their confession. It was not until 2010 that the flawed DNA evidence was accepted as proof of innocence, in spite of the fact that Sugaya’s stories of his apparent multiple crimes — made, he said, in order to assuage the duress from the police — did not concur with the witness accounts, and that he had failed to identify the sites where other purported murder victims’ bodies had been found.
Although there have been some vocal scandals recently and a few very belated victories such as the Sugaya case, the situation remains essentially unchanged. For one, Hosei University, long a site for radical student activism in Japan, has recently been suffering under the fist of the police, who would arrive and pick out the activists they had already pre-planned to arrest. Campaigners say that over 100 have been unlawfully arrested in the last few years.
In the country of the blind, the one-eyed man is king. In the country of no crime, the police and judiciary rule supreme. Heaven help you if you get arrested.

 Travel and Adventure

We all have friends we live vicariously through, right? I am currently living out an eighteen-year-old-me fantasy through the travels of an ex-JET friend. You can read the background to his current adventures at
We set out with torn out pages from a Rand-McNally map of the USA (pre-smart phone days!), tents and sleeping bags on our bicycles, as well as big packs of Clif bars and 2-3 changes of clothes.  Around an hour before sunset each night, we'd start eying homes for nice yards.  We'd knock on their doors and ask if we could set up a tent, that we'd be out in the morning.  Every night after setting up our tents we'd sip on some homemade whisky from a mason jar we'd received in Kentucky and plan the next day.
Five years later I want to have that feeling again.

Milan Kundera has this amazing book called "The Unbearable Lightness of Being."  The main gist is that we feel free and light in certain points in our lives .. free from the gravity of our decisions... but this lightness is unbearable.  We have a need for something heavy, something dark to anchor us to the world.  That is why lightness is unbearable. 
and some more at
A: So, what are you studying?
B: French language.
A: Oh, that's cool. (Awkward pause, look around the room, shuffles feet) Uh,what are you going to do with that?

I am pretty sure that dialogue is repeated approximately every 18 seconds on every American campus. It's trite. Anyhow, three years out of college I found an appropriate response to this commonplace: “I am going to travel the world, learn a ton of languages, drink my weight in local beers and eat amazing food, meet beautiful people and make lifelong friends. Et toi?” 
Plans for after college.  Makin' ya proud mom!
I've had a few friends and relatives ask me about how I am doing it, how I am financing the trip, other practical details. I was working on a farm in Poland and talking with my friend Craig from England (Hi Craig!) as we cleaned the goat stalls. He said a lot of his friends back home had this real wonder about how he was able to travel, have these experiences. He gets the vibe from them that it is this unattainable opportunity, this secret skill that he has.

Well, we both agreed that it was baloney!
The low down on international schools from a veteran traveling mum
The Australian School

Your friends will be called Cheryl and Angela. You will drive badly because you are on the wrong side of the road. You will need a big enough back seat for the esky and the keg of beer. When you drop your child off at school you'll hear someone yell out  "Hey, bloody sit still while I tie your shoelaces back up will ya?" There is no embassy, you will create your own informal embassy in the tuck shop which now has a bar. It's highly possible a few bottles of champagne will make their way to the PTA coffee morning and the participants will need to catch the bus home with the kids at the end of the day. The school is littered with pictures of Opera Houses, Kangaroos and Aboriginal art. All fundraising will involve a keg of beer and a sausage sizzle.
A lot to think about re the orphanage business in Nepal and tourist volunteerism
The central force behind all profitability is supply and demand, and child exploitation isn’t an exception.
Nobody would buy an “I Heart Nepal” T-shirt knowingly produced by an exploited child, and likewise, neither should we buy the “product” of begging children.
This sounds, and feels, inhuman. We want to do the right thing, we want to help the orphanages. We feel good when we fundraise from friends and family, when we connect with children and use our wealth to improve their lives. We want to soothe our conscience by putting money into the hand of a begging child.
This feeling of doing the right thing, however, through the force of a dark human ingenuity, is precisely the illusion that child begging rings are selling.
When we hand 500 rupees to a child with a sick baby in her arms, these guys profit, and then reinvest. They recruit more kids, and earn more profit.

And Now For Something Completely Different

Love My Neighbor Totoro and Death Metal, but unsure how to enjoy both at once? This age old dilemma has finally been solved!
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