It happened. The dreaded moment when I heard a self-depreciating put down come out of my daughter’s mouth about her physical appearance.
My Daughter: holding her hands behind her back and in front of her stomach, measuring her waist with her hands:”Mom- I need to be skinner, I’m too fat”
Devastation. I’ve tried to be so careful! I never make critical statements about my or anyone’s body, especially in front of my daughter. I don’t diet, I just try to eat healthy and exercise but not to control my weight, just as a general life style. I never use the word fat in reference to people and we don’t even own a scale in our house! We talk about eating healthy to be strong never dieting to be skinny. Despite my devastation, I was ready for it. Years of feminist training had me prepped for this day. “You are beautiful because you are you” “There is no one way you should look” “Every body is different and beautiful” “Being healthy and strong is beautiful” “Barbie isn’t real!” (I knew I shouldn’t let her get those damn Monster High Dolls).
Me: “Why do you say that honey?” (keeping a calm voice even though inside my head I’m screaming NOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!!!!)
My daughter: “Well, you know when we were at Grandma’s and Grandma said Poppy and Willow (miniature donkeys) don’t get to eat any hay right now because they are getting too fat?”
My Daughter: “Well…. Poppy and I are the same size and if Grandma thinks Poppy is fat than I must be fat too.”
Me: Stumped. In a slightly bewildered and stuttering voice “Huh?”
My Daughter: “Poppy and I are almost the same age and the same size and if Poppy is fat than I must be fat too.”
Me: Still stumped. WTF????? Gloria Steinem did not prepare me for body image issues in relation to a donkey.
Me: “Honey, Poppy is a donkey who weighs 130 pounds. She is an animal, you are a human.”
My daughter: looking at me dubiously, “uh huh”
Me: “and… uh… uh”, (looking at my husband for help, screw feminism he better jump in here, I’m dying).
My Husband: “Giggle. Giggle”
Me: “Sweetheart, you are just as you should be, you are strong and healthy and exactly the right size.”
My Daughter: “What about Poppy?”
Me: “Uh, well Poppy has a small fame and it’s bad on her back to have too much weight so Grandma just wants her and Willow to be healthy and strong”.
My Daughter: “Hmmm. Ok.”
Me: Hesitant smile, slightly manic, over compensating laugh escaping: “Ok, well if you ever want to ask me a question about that again, you know you can right?”
My daughter: “About what?”
Me: “Good talk”
Here is a beautiful song about not having to try so hard. Maybe I’ll add this to my tool kit for the next time we have a chat about body image. And hopefully next time, I will be better prepared.
And here is a great article that explains why Colbie Caillat wrote that song:http://www.elle.com/news/beauty-makeup/colbie-caillat-try-video-makeup-transformation
I know Mother’s Day is a loaded day for many. Not everyone rejoices in the day. I fully recognize that it can be breathtakingly difficult for those who have lost their moms (I have too many dear friends who are grieving the loss of their moms), or moms who have lost children (from miscarriages to children who have died), friends who are healing from toxic maternal upbringings and those who desperately want to be mothers but haven’t had the chance or ability to fulfill that dream. There are also those woman who have lost their partners and feel the one-sided emptiness of a Mother’s Day without the other half to celebrate it with and for you. I want to recognize and send love to all my friends and family who fall into those buckets, there are many of us.
As a mom, I love Mother’s Day. For me, I bypass the ridiculous kitchen and cleaning products that get marketed ad nauseam (my husband knows that to buy a cleaning tool or kitchen appliance for me for any holiday is sure fire way to ignite some ire in our house). I also don’t buy into the pedestal of motherhood. Like I do with most holidays, I have co-opted it and made it into something that works for me and our family. It’s just a day of recognition (I’m not going to lie, I like gifts, just not ones that imply you want me to clean or cook for you, we will have a problem if you give me one of those), gratitude (mostly on my part at being able to be a mom), and love. I also make no claim to being “the world’s best mom” as so many of the cards proclaim. I am the mom I am. I’ve had my fair share of parental fails. But I am also full of overwhelming love for my daughter, so much that it can stop me dead in my tracks and continue to catch in my throat when I think about it. I am thankful to be her mother. I am also thankful to still have my mother in my life. I love my mom very much. It hasn’t always been easy with my mom, as with so many mother/daughters, it’s complicated. But I am at a place in my life where I strive to love and accept her for who she is, perhaps with the hope that my daughter will also continue to love and accept me for who I am, faults and fabulousness combined.
So I just want to send a quick post, to my friends and family, honoring the heavy, devastating, and beautiful day that is Mother’s Day.
image credit: Mike Licht, NotionsCapital.com
My daughter has taken to creating her own iPhone, iPad, computer, kindle and out of paper (even though she has access to the real ones-the family iPad and an old iPhone we gave her) and carrying these paper creations around with her, even out to dinner. She is particularly fond her paper iPhone. This is a new phenomena for her. It’s not the same as the cute days of toddler imitation when she carried around her toy phone and said “hello!!!” at the top of her lungs for hours. No this is a bit more advanced and embarrassing. The embarrassment is not because of her imaginary play (which I love), or that she created her own versions despite having access to the real ones (also love that). The issue is more how eerily close her play is to my real phone conversations.
Most of my phone conversations on my iPhone are work calls. I tend to text my friends and family (that is a whole separate commentary we will save for another day). Usually I try to remove myself from others when taking a work call but sometimes it can’t be helped, like when I get a call in the car on our way home from school. Just this past week this has happened a bit more than usual. I try to be as discreet as possible and keep it vague but sometimes I get lost in the conversation and forget little ears are listening. As a result, she is creating her own “work calls” and they consist of one-sided conversations like:
“look we need to call that guy back and tell him today, not tomorrow, today and definitely not May 5th” and “I don’t have any time to today, I’m back to back”, and with heavy a sigh-“let me check my calendar”. Or the one that made me flinch “seriously? that is ridiculous, how did he figure that one out, all by himself?”. Och. Now, in my defense the sarcasm is usually not directed at the people I’m talking to, it’s used more as a levitation device in tense situations. While these conversations make me and my husband laugh it is starting to get a little uncomfortable, especially when I realize exactly what she is picking up from my calls, not the content necessarily but the tone.
I could throw my husband under the bus and say she gets it from both of us, but his work calls are usually so tech laden it’s like he is speaking another language so I don’t think she is getting most of it from him. And Grant avoids meetings like the plague, so I know he has never uttered the phrase “I’m back to back all day”. Although, she does seem to mostly play games on her paper iPad, which is exactly what her dad does on his. The worst one, and both Grant and I are guilty of this, is when she brought her “iPhone” out to dinner last night and pulled it out when we sat down and said “I just need to send a quick text”. Sheepishly I had to explain it is not polite to text at dinner (while putting my phone back in my purse). Ugh. This mirror she keeps holding up is making me squirm. Anyways, I have to go, I have a work call coming in…
I’m on a parenting high right now. It has little to do with anything I have done and so much to do with my girl. My husband and I recently attended our parent teacher conference and while nothing magically or earth-shattering was revealed (other than she keeps everyone laughing with funny stories of our household’s latest high-jinks-like M&M breakfasts or 2 am breaking and entering-Facebook friends you know what I’m talking about). What I realized is the simple and powerful truth that my daughter is happy. Academically she is “right where she needs to be” the wise teacher told me, she is doing great. Emotionally and socially she is “very happy” and is “really good at getting along with others not matter how different” she is “adaptable but not at the expense of her own beliefs and opinions” Goldmine, right?! I was so elated I floated out of the room. As a parent of an only child it is one of my darkest and deepest fears that she becomes so self-absorbed she can’t see beyond herself. So far, so good. And honestly, I have to give much of the credit to my daughter. Thanks to an environment that allows her to thrive, she is coming into her own. I walked out of that conference so grateful for the fact that day by day I am learning to get out of the way and let her grow into her own potential. The more my husband and I gently guide but leave the reins up to my daughter the more she amazes us with her ability to define who she is and what she wants for herself. I know there will be days it seems this all falls apart and it won’t always be roses and sunshine but for the moment I am counting my blessings. Right now I am extremely grateful for the wonderful (and sadly, rare in this country) gifts of a good school with an amazing community, good teachers, and a child that is simply and wonderfully happy.
I am a huge fan of Gloria Steinem. When I was first introduced to the feminist movement in a real and substantial way it was in college and my first reaction was anger. I refused to acknowledge that I was at a disadvantage simply because of my gender. Even though I already had a wealth of personal experiences telling me different from being laughed at on a baseball field at age 7 because I was the only girl (and believe me I had the best arm out of all those boys, they wished they could throw like this girl) to being humiliated and objectified by men on a regular basis as a child and teen by just walking down the street. Then there was (and still is) the many media images that subscribed power to women based on their sexuality and body, rarely on talent and wit. But at 18 I resisted feminism, I didn’t want to be a victim, or limited, little did I know at the time that this anger I was waking up to was the first wave of enlightenment. As Glo herself says:“The truth will set you free, but first it will piss you off.”
When I was 18 there were definitely role models of women blazing their own undomesticated trail to be seen. I naively believed I could write my own destiny no matter what. And by that time, feminism was a dirty word, the backlash was in full force and to equate oneself with a feminist was to sign up to be labeled a “femanatzi” which is a disgusting belittlement of the horrors Nazis perpetrated and a shameful debasement of a movement that sought, at its source, to give equal opportunities for women and men, a humanist movement. So at 18 I was weary of becoming a feminist but the more I read and learned the more I realized that was exactly what I was, a feminist. I wanted equality for all women (not just white women) and I wanted choices, choices for my own body, for my career, for what I imagined my own future family would look like. I became empowered, and not the angry feminist the media (and haters who are afraid of the movement) would have us believe. No, I became a very liberated and happy feminist, someone who saw endless possibilities for how the world could be different not just for myself (and for my future daughter) but for the men around me who were also trapped in a limited and broken definition of masculinity. I haven’t stopped proudly proclaiming my feminism since then and because of pioneers like Gloria Steinem, feminism is something I infuse in all aspects of my life, from the personal to the professional to the political. I hope to pass it on to my daughter and show her it’s still a movement worth fighting for.
In honor of Glo’s 80th Birthday I’ve rounded up some of my favorite quotes of hers and images courtesy of Huffington Post. At the end of these quotes and photos there is a short clip (just a few minutes) of a PBS documentary that is very much worth watching.
Never lose sight of your dreams:
“Without leaps of imagination, or dreaming, we lose the excitement of possibilities. Dreaming, after all, is a form of planning.”
Don’t be afraid to use some muscle:
“Power can be taken, but not given. The process of the taking is empowerment in itself.”
Everything you read isn’t always true:
“Most women’s magazines simply try to mold women into bigger and better consumers.”
Don’t take everything at face value:
“The first problem for all of us, men and women, is not to learn, but to unlearn.”
Feminism really is for everyone:
“A feminist is anyone who recognizes the equality and full humanity of women and men.”
The women’s movement is not the only one we need to support:
“This is no simple reform. It really is a revolution. Sex and race because they are easy and visible differences have been the primary ways of organizing human beings into superior and inferior groups and into the cheap labor on which this system still depends. We are talking about a society in which there will be no roles other than those chosen or those earned. We are really talking about humanism.”
We cannot achieve full equality until men are given the same opportunities as women in all areas of life:
“Women are not going to be equal outside the home until men are equal in it.”
Here’s the video:
It’s been a very long time since I posted. I could give you host of reasons why but instead of doing that, I will apologize for my sabbatical and jump right back in. Thanks to all of you who hung on and to my friends who have gently nudged me back into the swing of things.
I would like to start by sharing why I am a firm believer in averages, specifically the mean average when it comes to parenting.
I just picked my daughter up from school and in the midst of her lovely post-pickup chatter she stopped dead in her tracks and says “Mom did you know you only gave me one mint green m&m for breakfast”.
“What?” “No.” “Oh, yes, I believe you are right.” “Holy Crap! I’m so sorry!” I said
“That’s ok. I told my teacher you didn’t give me any breakfast other than a mint green m&m and she let me eat my apples early” says my daughter
“Oh God.” I said, and not under breath either.
In my defense we were a little off kilter this am. I packed a lunch then unpacked it when my daughter begged to get hot lunch today. But even with hot lunch I needed to pack fresh fruit because her school lunches are one step up from prison lunches and the only fruit they seem to serve on her favorite lunch days are canned syrup laden pears. So she insists on bringing her own fresh fruit but it has to be in a disposable bag so the strawberries I put in the P.C. reusable container that normally goes in her lunch bag was not going to work because she would have to bring the one container back to her backpack… ya da ya da, anyway you get the picture. We were a bit crazed so in the all the lunch shuffling I forgot that she actually needed breakfast too. But I did manage to share one of the “mint green” m&ms I picked up and popped in my mouth as I ran out the door. P.S. I didn’t even get to take a shower, it was baby powder for the bangs and extra deodorant day for me so we all suffered this morning.
But before you judge let me tell you how incredibly awesome I was yesterday. For St. Patrick’s Day, the mischievous elf from the Emerald Isle came and wreaked havoc on our house; upending toy baskets, drawing on mirrors and windows, spray painting the dog, decorating the house in green from top to bottom. Then there was the amazing green snacks and lunch. Everything in my daughter’s lunch was green from the food colored sandwich cut into shamrock shapes, to the veggie booty snack to the kiwi and chocolate treat. I ruled yesterday. She was jumping for joy when I saw her after I got off work, and said “this was the best day ever!” Today, not so much. Today I am expecting to get an email from my daughter’s teacher reminding me to feed my child before bringing her to school.
So I am going to just average out the week in terms of parenting. One awesome, ruling the earth, mother of the year day, and another not meeting your child’s basic needs, totally suspect parenting skills sort of day lands me squarely in the middle, perfectly average, right?
This also brings me to report on a wonderful book I’m reading now, Overwhelmed: Work, Love, and Play When No One Has Time by Brigid Schulte
This book is truly rocking my world. Never I have I read a book that more closely captures my experience as a working mother, from the challenges of balancing it all to the impacts that the stress of attempting to do it all can have on heart, mind and body and not to mention one’s identity and sense of self. The best part? It doesn’t pit stay at home moms against working moms or working dads against working moms. I think it captures the strains and struggles we all share in trying to pull it off not matter who we are or what type of work we are doing. This book is a very thoughtful emotional, cultural and social exploration. And it goes beyond just pointing out the problems. Schulte explores new social constructs of the “ideal worker” and “perfect parent” and gives those of us looking for a better way, a glimmer of hope that things can be different. I truly believe everyone would enjoy this book; working moms, stay at home moms, single women, and yes, even men! It’s that good.
I am completely stealing this post from Jeff O’Neal simply because I want to remember some of these books. Get the last of your summer reads in (or stack them up for the cozy fall to come).
The 10 Most Talked About Books of 2013… So Far
A few weeks ago, we rounded up our favorite books of 2013 so far, but these aren’t necessarily the books that have been the most discussed.
So here’s a quick rundown of the ten new books that, from my vantage point, have gotten the most buzz as we head toward the back half of 2013. This isn’t a scientific effort; there’s really no data to be had. Well, maybe there is, but Amazon/Google keep it in an underground locker with the Kindle sales data and the secret SEO tricks.
In alphabetical order:
1. All That Is by James Salter
The first new novel in thirty years from a living literary legend? And it’s damn good? I’ve been thrilled to see a bunch of new passengers aboard the James Salter train this year. This is kind of an old-school, mid-century novel, and if it is the last Salter we get, man what an endcap on a dazzling career. If you haven’t read Salter before, this is a good example of what he does best: the sentences, kid, the sentences.
2. Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
If All That Is represents the twilight of Salter’s literary era, Americanah represents the literary world we live in today. A funny, complicated, and resonant novel, it captures something that feels true about America as it is right this moment. Adichie reminds us that the most vital, difficult, and American stories have been, and still are, the stories of race and immigration, of being new in a country that for centuries has thought of itself as the New World. It’s the kind of work that feels important, while being a joy to read. I’d say watch for it in award season, but even that feels sort of small compared to what this novel does.
3. The Cuckoo’s Calling by Robert Galbraith (aka J.K. Rowling)
A new J.K. Rowling novel would have been enough. But a new J.K. Rowling that is already out and published under a pseudonym with sudden, shocking reveal? Buzz gold. Rowling’s little experiment in anonymity turned into a larger scale experiment about literary celebrity. The book was positively, but not widely, reviewed and apparently only sold about 1500 copies before the big reveal. That number is likely to change…by several orders of magnitude. Fascinating stuff.
4. Inferno by Dan Brown
It’s a new Dan Brown novel. It’s almost exactly what you’d expect. A little less church-stuff, a little more literary stuff. If you like Dan Brown, you are going to like Inferno. It’s silly and implausible, but it’s also fun. Don’t ask why a criminal mastermind would leave a modified artistic masterwork behind filled with clues literally only one man in the world could figure out. Don’t question the sci-fi level technical and biological engineering that is supposed to exist in this world. Just sit back and let Robert Langdon tell you about murals and hidden passageways and recite entire passages from Dante on demand. And as only Dan Brown can do, Inferno unleashed the seething literary snobbery of those who find him and his success unbearable (which is almost as fun as the book).
5. Lean In by Sheryl Sandberg
The mid-year award for the book that started the most online flame wars goes to Lean In. Heck, I’ve even added the phrase “having it all” to my list of things never to talk to anyone about, ever. I’d say something more about what Sandberg has to say about women and work, but I am just going to let the 2342345 other articles, essays, and response posts do the heavy lifting. Sandberg’s arguments in Lean In were probably enough on their own to get tongues a-wagging, but her position as COO of Facebook, the social network everybody loves to hate, made the book seem somehow a book of the moment even beyond its actual content.
6. A Memory of Light by Robert Jordan and Brandon Sanderson
The end of the epic fantasy Wheel of Time series left legions of fans with a lump in their throat. We’re not going to get too many 14-part cycles like this in our lifetimes; it makesThe Lord of the Rings seem positively laconic. Adherents seem to have been satisfied with this finale, and we got a little extra bonus chatter about the publisher’s decision to withhold the ebook release to capitalize on those hardcover prices that eager readers couldn’t help but pay. A cheesy move for sure, but Jordan’s accomplishment here is impervious to practical concerns.
7. Tampa by Alissa Nutting
A twenty-something junior high teacher chronicles her seduction of one of her male students. And it’s well done (at least that’s what I hear. Maybe 10 years ago I would have read this, but I am old and soft and have kids and just….not for me). Anyway, a bunch of Book Riot folks have read this and found it compelling, unshakeable, and can’t stop talking about it, though I dearly wish they would.
8. The Tenth of December by George Saunders
You’d be forgiven if you only loved The Tenth of December for it’s endless inventiveness and searing satirical edge. But I think what makes Saunders special, and The Tenth of December the greatest of Saunders’ work, is its approachability and, how else to say this, heart. To my mind, there’s a hint of David Foster Wallace in Saunders’ dizzying capacity for the absurd that is counterbalanced with unmistakable infatuation with the world. The Tenth of December came out just eight days into 2013, but I agree with a piece in The New York Times that said it is likely to be the best book published this year. So great is Saunders and this book that Gawker, in a way that only Gawker can do, made a stink about how good Saunders is.
9. The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman
By most accounts, The Ocean at the End of the Lane is very good, but it is the outpouring of love for Gaiman, and his ceaseless, heartfelt communication with his hundreds of thousands of rabid fans that has made this the book nerd must-read of the year. Gaiman is arguably the most-loved living writer, and it’s easy to see why.
10. Vampires in the Lemon Grove by Karen Russell
Do you know one of those people that can play piano, guitar, has a great singing voice, and oh yeah can also write great music? This is what Karen Russell is like, but with short stories. She can do anything. For example, an “annual krill ceremony” sounds both boring and stupid, but she turns it into a memorable little tale. Sick of vampires? Okay then, she says, I will write a vampire story unlike anything you’ve ever read. Vampires in the Lemon Groveis like a box of really awesome artisanal chocolates in that even the flavors that aren’t your favorite make you say, “damn, that is really something.”
Honorable Mentions: The 5th Wave by Rick Yancey, Life After Life by Kate Atkinson,And the Mountains Echoed by Khaled Hosseini, The Flamethrowers by Rachel Kushner,NOS4A2 by Joe Hill, The Woman Upstairs by Claire Messud.
This post may not be for everyone. I promise to get back to my more varied and random posts soon. Summer has been very fun and full so I’ve neglected my blog. I apologize. But in the mean time here’s a little Sunday news snack for you.
It’s no secret I am a fan of President Obama. I believe his one of the most intelligent and balanced President’s we have ever had. He is not perfect but he is damn good. My opinion is based on what I’ve read (I avoid news commentators and t.v. news like the plague and like to get my news from the newspapers and statements as close to the source as possible) and this is just one more article that supports my assertion.
Austerity cuts are thoughtless and destructive, and if we have any hope at growing the economy we need to focus on growth. Economic growth is formula that includes investing in technology and job growth as well thoughtful and directed taxation. I often wonder how and why Americans forget that during our Country’s greatest times of prosperity we have had government funded intervention jobs programs (read more about that here: F.D.R. New Deal) that literally helped pull many poor out of poverty and gave jobs and chances to families and thus created a working middle class.
Then with Clinton, our highest years of growth and prosperity balanced by taxation. Those Clinton years of growth and prosperity were than completely wiped out by eight years of war and tax cuts and unregulated industry and business. As a result we plunged into a severe recession and our middle class is threatened with extinction.
We have spent the last seven years slowly climbing out of that recession why would we repeat history and go back to thoughtless austerity cuts? I’m not an economist but I do know that if we ignore the fight going on in Washington D.C. over the budget than we consent to throwing our Country’s future in the hands of others. I am once again borrowing my favorite Green Dot saying Not everyone has to do everything, but everyone should do something. I would hope we all take the time to educate ourselves and read and critically analyze what is being proposed by our elected officials and talk amongst ourselves. If we truly value the unique social and economic fabric of America then we have to pay attention and get motivated to act.
Obama Says Income Gap is Fraying the U.S. Social Fabric
By Jackie Calmes and Michael D. Shear
Published: July 27, 2013
GALESBURG, Ill. — In a week when he tried to focus attention on the struggles of the middle class, President Obama said in an interview that he was worried that years of widening income inequality and the lingering effects of the financial crisis had frayed the country’s social fabric and undermined Americans’ belief in opportunity.
Stephen Crowley/The New York Times
“If the economy is growing, everybody feels invested,” President Obama said in an interview last week in Galesburg, Ill. “Everybody feels as if we’re rolling in the same direction.”
Upward mobility, Mr. Obama said in a 40-minute interview with The New York Times, “was part and parcel of who we were as Americans.”
“And that’s what’s been eroding over the last 20, 30 years, well before the financial crisis,” he added.
“If we don’t do anything, then growth will be slower than it should be. Unemployment will not go down as fast as it should. Income inequality will continue to rise,” he said. “That’s not a future that we should accept.”
A few days after the acquittal in the Trayvon Martin case prompted him to speak about being a black man in America, Mr. Obama said the country’s struggle over race would not be eased until the political process in Washington began addressing the fear of many people that financial stability is unattainable.
“Racial tensions won’t get better; they may get worse, because people will feel as if they’ve got to compete with some other group to get scraps from a shrinking pot,” Mr. Obama said. “If the economy is growing, everybody feels invested. Everybody feels as if we’re rolling in the same direction.”
Mr. Obama, who this fall will choose a new chairman of the Federal Reserve to share economic stewardship, expressed confidence that the trends could be reversed with the right policies.
The economy is “far stronger” than four years ago, he said, yet many people who write to him still do not feel secure about their future, even as their current situation recovers.
“That’s what people sense,” he said. “That’s why people are anxious. That’s why people are frustrated.”
During much of the interview, Mr. Obama was philosophical about historical and economic forces that he said were tearing at communities across the country. He noted at one point that he has in the Oval Office a framed copy of the original program from the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom 50 years ago, when the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. gave his ” I Have A Dream” speech.
He uses it, he said, to remind people “that was a march for jobs and justice; that there was a massive economic component to that. When you think about the coalition that brought about civil rights, it wasn’t just folks who believed in racial equality. It was people who believed in working folks having a fair shot.”
For decades after, Mr. Obama said, in places like Galesburg people “who wanted to find a job — they could go get a job.”
“They could go get it at the Maytag plant,” he said. “They could go get it with the railroad. It might be hard work, it might be tough work, but they could buy a house with it.”
Without a shift in Washington to encourage growth over “damaging” austerity, he added, not only would the middle class shrink, but in turn, contentious issues like trade, climate change and immigration could become harder to address.
Striking a feisty note at times, he vowed not to be cowed by his Republican adversaries in Congress and said he was willing to stretch the limits of his powers to change the direction of the debate in Washington.
“I will seize any opportunity I can find to work with Congress to strengthen the middle class, improve their prospects, improve their security,” Mr. Obama said. But he added, “I’m not just going to sit back if the only message from some of these folks is no on everything, and sit around and twiddle my thumbs for the next 1,200 days.”
Addressing for the first time one of his most anticipated decisions, Mr. Obama said he had narrowed his choice to succeed Ben S. Bernanke as chairman of the Federal Reserve to “some extraordinary candidates.” With current fiscal policy measurably slowing the recovery, many in business and finance have looked to the Fed to continue its expansionary monetary policies to offset the drag.
Mr. Obama said he wanted someone who would not just work abstractly to keep inflation in check and ensure stability in the markets. “The idea is to promote those things in service of the lives of ordinary Americans getting better,” he said. “I want a Fed chairman that can step back and look at that objectively and say, Let’s make sure that we’re growing the economy.”
The leading Fed candidates are believed to be Lawrence H. Summers, Mr. Obama’s former White House economic adviser and President Bill Clinton’s Treasury secretary, and Janet Yellen, the current Fed vice chairwoman and another former Clinton official. The president said he would announce his choice “over the next several months.”
More clearly than he did in three speeches on the economy last week — the next is scheduled for Tuesday in Chattanooga, Tenn. — Mr. Obama in the interview called for an end to the emphasis on budget austerity that Republicans ushered in when they captured control of the House in November 2010.
The priority, he said, should be spending for infrastructure, education, clean energy, science, research and other domestic initiatives of the sort he twice campaigned on.
“I want to make sure that all of us in Washington are investing as much time, as much energy, as much debate on how we grow the economy and grow the middle class as we’ve spent over the last two to three years arguing about how we reduce the deficits,” Mr. Obama said. He called for a shift “away from what I think has been a damaging framework in Washington.”
The president did not say what his legislative strategy would be. Even as he spoke, House Republicans were pushing measures in the opposite direction: to continue into the fiscal year that starts Oct. 1 the indiscriminate across-the-board spending reductions — known as sequestration — that Mr. Obama opposes, and to cut his priorities deeper still.
Republicans are also threatening to block an increase in the government’s borrowing limit — an action that must be taken by perhaps November to avoid financial crisis — unless Congress withholds money for his health care law.
Mr. Obama all but dared Republicans to challenge his executive actions, including his decision three weeks ago to delay until 2015 the health care law’s mandate that large employers provide insurance or pay fines. Republicans and some legal scholars questioned whether he had the legal authority to unilaterally change the law.
The delay in the employer mandate, which mostly affects large businesses that already insure workers but are worried about federal reporting requirements, was “the kind of routine modifications or tweaks to a large program that’s starting off that in normal times in a normal political atmosphere would draw a yawn from everybody,” Mr. Obama said.
“If Congress thinks that what I’ve done is inappropriate or wrong in some fashion, they’re free to make that case,” he said. “But there’s not an action that I take that you don’t have some folks in Congress who say that I’m usurping my authority. Some of those folks think I usurp my authority by having the gall to win the presidency.”
The president’s latest campaign for his agenda began as national polls last week showed a dip in his public support. The declines were even greater for Congress and Republicans in particular, in their already record-low ratings.
Mr. Obama said he would push ahead with a series of speeches that lay out his agenda ahead of the fights this fall with Congress. “If once a week I’m not talking about jobs, the economy, and the middle class,” he said, “then all matter of distraction fills the void.”
Superbugs Invade American Supermarkets
Antibiotic-resistant bacteria are now common in the meat aisles of American supermarkets. These so-called superbugs can trigger foodborne illness and infections that are hard to treat.
An analysis by the Environmental Working Group has determined that government tests of raw supermarket meat published last February 5 detected antibiotic-resistant bacteria in:
These little-noticed tests, the most recent in a series conducted by the National Antimicrobial Resistance Monitoring System, a joint project of the federal Food and Drug Administration, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and U.S. Department of Agriculture, found that supermarket meat samples collected in 2011 harbored significant amounts of the superbug versions of salmonella andCampylobacter, which together cause 3.6 million cases of food poisoning a year.
Moreover, the researchers found that some 53 percent of raw chicken samples collected in 2011 were tainted with an antibiotic-resistant form of Escherichia coli, or E. coli, a microbe that normally inhabits feces. Certain strains of E. coli can cause diarrhea, urinary tract infections and pneumonia. The extent of antibiotic-resistant E. coli on chicken is alarming because bacteria readily share antibiotic-resistance genes.
Not surprisingly, superbugs spawned by antibiotic misuse — and now pervasive in the meat Americans buy — have become a direct source of foodborne illness. Even more ominously, antibiotic misuse threatens to make important antibiotics ineffective in treating human disease. In the past, people who became ill because of contact with harmful microbes on raw meat usually recovered quickly when treated with antibiotics. But today, the chances are increasing that a person can suffer serious illness, complications or death because of a bacterial infection that doctors must struggle to control.
The proliferation of antibiotic-resistant bacteria poses special dangers to young children, pregnant women, the elderly and people with weakened immune systems.
Among the most worrisome recent developments:
- The federal tests published in February determined that 9 percent of raw chicken samples and 10 percent of raw ground turkey sampled from retail supermarkets in 2011 were tainted with a superbug version of salmonella bacteria. Antibiotic resistance in salmonella is growing fast: of all salmonella microbes found on raw chicken sampled in 2011, 74 percent were antibiotic-resistant, compared to less than 50 percent in 2002. These microbes, frequently found on chicken and turkey and occasionally on beef and pork, commonly cause diarrhea and in extreme cases can lead to arthritis.
- In the same federal tests, a superbug version of the Campylobacter jejuni microbe was detected on 26 percent of raw chicken pieces. Raw turkey samples contained numerically fewer of these microbes, but 100 percent of those examined were antibiotic-resistant. The Campylobacter jejuni pathogen is a common cause of diarrhea and in severe cases can trigger an autoimmune disease that results in paralysis and requires intensive care treatment.
- In 2006 FDA scientists found superbug versions of a particularly troublesome strain of E. coli, responsible for more than 6 million infections a year in the U.S., on 16 percent of ground turkey and 13 percent of chicken. Fully 84 percent of the E. coli bacteria identified in these tests were resistant to antibiotics.
- In its own tests of raw pork, published last January, Consumer Reports magazine found that 63 percent contained a superbug version of Yersinia enterocolitica, a microbe that can cause long-lasting bouts of diarrhea.
- In 2011 tests, researchers at Northern Arizona University and the Translational Genomics Research Institute found that 74 percent of store-bought raw turkey samples were tainted withStaphylococcus aureus bacteria resistant to at least one antibiotic. Of these staph bacteria, 79 percent were resistant to three or more types of antibiotics. Staph can cause skin infections in exposed cuts or produce toxins that cause foodborne illness.
A significant contributor to the looming superbug crisis, according to scientists and health experts, isunnecessary antibiotic usage by factory farms that produce most of the 8.9 billion animals raised for food in the U.S. every year. Industrial livestock producers routinely dose their animals with pharmaceuticals, mostly administered with limited veterinary oversight and frequently without prescriptions, to encourage faster growth or prevent infection in crowded, stressful and often unsanitary living conditions.
Overuse of antibiotics in people, often for colds and other viral illnesses, has contributed to antibiotic resistance, too, but responsible doctors generally take care not to prescribe them unnecessarily.
Pharmaceutical makers have powerful financial incentives to encourage abuse of antibiotics in livestock operations. In 2011, they sold nearly 30 million pounds of antibiotics for use on domestic food-producing animals, up 22 percent over 2005 sales by weight, according to reports complied by the FDA and the Animal Health Institute, an industry group. Today, pharmaceuticals sold for use on food-producing animals amount to nearly 80 percent of the American antibiotics market, according to the Pew Campaign on Human Health and Industrial Farming. Pew calculates that the market for antibiotics for treatment of people has been flat for some years, hovering at around 7.7 million pounds annually.
As the superbug problem has exploded into a full-fledged global health crisis, medical authorities worldwide are sounding increasingly urgent alarms.
The federal government’s Interagency Task Force on Antimicrobial Resistance warned last year that “drug choices for the treatment of … infections are becoming increasingly limited and expensive, and, in some cases, nonexistent.”
Also last year, Dr. Margaret Chan, director general of the World Health Organization, said that if important antibiotics become useless, “things as common as strep throat or a child’s scratched knee could once again kill.”
Slowing the spread of antibiotic resistance will require concerted efforts, not only by doctors, patients and veterinarians but also livestock producers and big agribusinesses.
Antibiotics, the lifesaving drugs that treat bacterial infections, came into widespread use after World War II, laying the groundwork for modern medicine.
Along the way, livestock producers discovered that giving antibiotics to healthy pigs and chickens made them gain weight faster. Yet now scientists know that feeding antibiotics to healthy animals over time, especially in low doses, kills weak bacteria, allowing strains that can withstand the drugs to evolve and become dominant.
Bacteria that develop resistance to one antibiotic can often tolerate another, or several others. They can pass this trait not only to their offspring but to other microbes of different species.
Industrial-scale animal production is an ideal climate for breeding superbugs. It offers an environment in which bacteria can develop antibiotic resistance and spread it via human workers, animals, water, soil and air. Superbugs can travel on meat to stores – and into kitchens, where food safety missteps can make people sick.
Superbugs in meat
EWG’s research has determined that the risk of bringing a superbug into a kitchen varies by type of meat and how it was raised. Some types of meats are more contaminated than others. The overall picture is disturbing.
In the most recent round of federal tests, scientists used Enterococcus bacteria, normally found in human and animal intestines, as a gauge. For one thing, their presence can indicate contact with fecal matter. For another, Enterococcus bacteria easily develop and transmit antibiotic resistance. Counting the number of antibiotic-resistant Enterococcus on a particular meat sample can signal that other microbes on the meat are also likely antibiotic-resistant.
The scientists determined that startlingly high percentages of store-bought meat samples were contaminated with antibiotic-resistant forms of Enterococcus faecalis.
Enterococcus faecalis and the related species Enterococcus faecium are the third leading cause of infections in intensive care units of American hospitals.
Fully 87 percent of store-bought meat collected by federal scientists in the most recent round of tests was contaminated with both normal and antibiotic-resistant Enterococcus bacteria, evidence that most of this meat likely came in contact with fecal matter at some point. To be safe, consumers should treat all meat as if it may be contaminated, mainly by cooking thoroughly and using safe shopping and kitchen practices (see EWG’s downloadable Tips to Avoiding Superbugs in Meat).
Super Salmonella on the rise
Salmonella bacteria are often found on chicken and turkey that have been contaminated with animal feces. People can also encounter these microbes through cross-contamination – for instance, when salad greens are sliced on a cutting board that has been used to chop raw meat — or by touching infected birds or reptiles. Infants have been known to contract salmonella by touching raw meat in a shopping cart. Salmonella-caused illnesses kill 400 people a year and cause 23,000 hospitalizations. They can lead to chronic arthritis.
The rise of antibiotic-resistant salmonella has heightened the risks that people will succumb to severe infection, hospitalization and death. In less than a decade, the proportion of antibiotic-resistant salmonella bacteria found on raw chicken has dramatically increased – from 48 percent in 2002 samples to 74 percent in 2011 samples.
About 20 percent of the salmonella microbes detected on chicken samples collected in 2002 were resistant to at least three drugs. By 2011, that number had risen to 45 percent. The proportion of antibiotic-resistant germs among all salmonella found on raw turkey rose from 62 percent in 2002 to 78 percent in 2011.
Super Campylobacter on the rise
Campylobacter is one of the most common causes of diarrheal illness in the U.S. As well, it can trigger Guillain-Barre syndrome, an autoimmune disease that usually requires intensive care treatment and can lead to paralysis. Campylobacter germs cause 2.4 million foodborne illnesses and 124 deaths a year. The CDC reports that the rate of Campylobacter infections per 100,000 population increased by 14 percent between 2006-2008 and 2011.
The most recent round of federal meat tests found that 26 percent of raw chicken pieces contained an antibiotic-resistant form of Campylobacter. Of all the Campylobacter microbes found on the raw chicken samples, 58 percent were resistant to at least one antibiotic, and 14 percent were resistant to several antibiotics. Most alarmingly, all Campylobacter found on turkey were resistant to at least one antibiotic.
For more than 40 years, scientists and health experts have known that dangerous microbes were developing the ability to defeat valuable drugs. As far back as 1970 the FDA concluded that dosing livestock with unnecessary antibiotics spurred development of superbugs. Last year, the agencyrecommended that important antibiotics in farm animals “should be limited to those uses that are considered necessary for assuring animal health.” It said that dosing animals with drugs solely to promote growth was “an injudicious use of these important drugs.”
Nevertheless, the FDA’s efforts to curb antibiotic abuse consist of only voluntary guidance documents – not regulations that carry the force of law. EWG takes the position that the FDA must take more aggressive steps to prevent superbugs from proliferating and livestock producers from squandering the effectiveness of vital medicines.
Big agribusinesses must take responsibility for their actions by exercising the same restraint shown by good doctors and patients: use antibiotics only by prescription for treatment or control of disease.
EWG recommends that consumers assume that all meat is contaminated with disease-causing bacteria. They can avoid superbugs in meat by eating less factory-farmed meat, by buying meat raised without antibiotics and by following other simple tips in EWG’s downloadable Tips to Avoiding Superbugs in Meat.
For more information on the health and environmental consequences of various meats, seeewg.org/meateatersguide.
Make your voice heard! Click here to find out how you can help preserve the effectiveness of antibiotics.
This guide was developed by EWG’s Dawn Undurraga, nutritionist, Johanna Congleton, senior scientist, and Renee Sharp, director of research. Content was reviewed by Kari Hamerschlag, senior analyst, Brett Lorenzen, Mississippi River project coordinator, and Andrew Hug, analyst. It was edited by Elaine Shannon, editor-in-chief and publisher and Nils Bruzelius, executive editor and vice president for publications, and designed by EWG web designers Aman Anderson and Taylan “Ty” Yaniz. The authors thank Katie Clark and Lisa Frack for their assistance.
Thanks to those who reviewed and provided valuable feedback:
- Andrew Gunther, program director, Animal Welfare Approved
- Gail Hansen, senior officer, The Pew Charitable Trusts
- Avinash Kar, attorney, Natural Resources Defense Council
- Aaron Kornbluth, senior associate, The Pew Charitable Trusts
- Lance Price, Ph.D, director, Center for Food Microbiology and Environmental Health, Translational Genomics Research Institute
- Laura Rogers, project director, The Pew Charitable Trusts
I am so thrilled it’s spring. My morning runs are filled with green scents and slightly warmer weather. Even in the spring rain, the salt water mixed with the spring blooms is one of my favorite smell as I run along the Sound. I’m like a lizard whenever the sun comes out, slowing down and absorbing as much as I can even though I’m provoking the same reptile texture, I can’t help it, I lean in toward the warmth every chance I get. I am looking forward to summer BBQs, ocean trips and more time with family and friends. Work, while currently frantic bordering on manic, is almost at that ebb that flows into the slower- paced summer months.
I haven’t posted in so long I have too many thoughts bottlenecking to get out. So I will start with a good read. Earlier this year I found myself in a serious reading rut. I couldn’t get into any one book. I joined a book club but unfortunately my schedule prevented me from taking advantage of the recent get-together. Fortunately for me, my friend Amanda started passing her good reads my way.
The most recent hand-off I read while travelling was The Yard by Alex Grecian. This novel picks up right where Jack The Ripper left off. Victorian London has lost it’s confidence in the Police, the newly formed Scotland Yard has been demoralized and scorned for it’s inability to catch the Ripper. A new spat of grisly crimes reveals the ugly underbelly of ‘modern civilization’. The advent of forensic pathology plays a central role in this murder mystery that kept me turning pages on the plane. At one point I was so immersed in the book I didn’t even notice the flight attendant trying to refill my wine (that is telling you something). It was a fun page turner with some historical and periodic flair, perfect for travelling or beach vacations. But be warned it was slightly graphic with regards to the murders and forensic pathology but not enough to get in the way or take over.
Next on my kindle is Broken Pieces by Rachel Thompson. I’m really excited about this one. I don’t know much about other than what I stumbled upon on Amazon:
- Winner, Honorable Mention, 2013 San Francisco Book Festival Awards (NonFiction)
- Nominee, 2013 Global eBook Awards, (Nonfiction/Women’s Studies)
- Nominee, 2013 eFestival of Books (Nonfiction, Women’s Studies, Poetry)
This is a book about rising above; about becoming more than you can possibly believe you ever will be at those terribly low points of your life. It is about surviving, thriving and living and I recommend it more than any other book I have read.
The book is written as a series of fragmentary essays. Thompson is a wonderful stylist, and the whole book is written in a very lyrical and poignant prose. This is not a book for leisure reading, but a powerful testament to the resilience and the indomitable nature of human spirit.
I’m really excited to dive into this one, I will let you know how it turns out…. or if you’ve read it, I’d love to hear what you think.