On Mississippi and the Murder of a Pregnant Woman

I read this article on CNN this morning and I’m left pondering something about Mississippi’s law regarding murdering a pregnant woman and being charged for two murders.

If the murder victim was not yet visibly pregnant and the killer had no idea the woman was pregnant, does that still count as taking two lives in terms of murder?

CNN visitors: Please read the comments before jumping to conclusions about how I personally feel regarding this case and issue. Also, please make sure you understand what it is I’m asking.

Breathe Locally

This post was going to be about organic food and locavores both of which are growing trends here in America. Just last week, Michelle Obama planted an organic vegetable garden on the White House lawn – the first garden at the White House since the FDR administration.

It seems that people are starting to care more about what they eat, where it comes from and who is potentially harmed (or helped) in the process. I like that. I like that more people are curious about and buying locally grown foods. I like the idea of waiting until something is in season before adding it to a shopping cart. I especially like the idea of cutting down on the pollution involved in shipping and producing many of the foods we buy and consume today.

Union Square Green Market

At home, my family tries to buy food grown, produced, caught, and slaughtered locally. I know what some of you might be thinking – how the hell does one do that while living in New York City? I thought that at first, as well. After all – I’m from Pennsylvania. Growing up, our milk was delivered by a local farmer before the sun came up. Our eggs could have rolled themselves over to our house. We got nearly everything locally. (The exception was Tang, which was made on the moon, by astronauts, and mostly of rocket fuel).

In my mind, the term “local” used to mean “in my neighborhood”. That’s not an option for the majority of New Yorkers, as so much of our food travels thousands of miles before it hits our bodegas and grocery stores, our restaurants and street meat stands. Our food is trucked in, shipped in by boat, train or plane and tends to leave behind it a long, dark carbon footprint.

For New Yorkers, “local” is a relative term and has come to mean “within a hundred-mile radius.” Since we have more farmer’s markets than you can shake a stick at, getting to some of those local foods is really easy.

I was excited to cover this topic as my first March Of Dimes Moms post, especially since they wrote an article recently on whether or not organic is better for your baby. Their conclusion seems to be that it’s not necessarily better. But how about trying to buy foods grown locally? I couldn’t wait to tackle this topic! But Monday came along and it had different plans. I was steered onto a much different road. You see, my son was diagnosed with asthma on Monday and that’s all I can think about right now.

Here’s how the last few days unfolded.

My son kept us up all night Sunday. He woke up every hour. His belly was tight. We thought he might have gas and constipation on top of the usual congestive rattle we’d come to know. On Monday morning, I began to realize that things were much worse than I had thought. At 3 PM he was hit with a high fever. I called the doctor. By 4 PM we were in the waiting room.

And by 5 PM we were armed with a ProNeb Ultra II, some albuterol, a more powerful round of antibiotics than he’s yet been given, and a new worry.

At that point, my husband and I did what parents do with an Internet connection: we started researching. I was looking for ways to blame myself. That’s what mothers do, right? And at first glance, my research told me that I was right. I was to blame for this—we were to blame for this. After all we live in a very polluted area. The rates of asthma in children living in North Brooklyn are on the rise.

“Ever look at dirty truck exhaust? The dirty, smoky part of that stream of exhaust is made of particle pollution. More new evidence shows that the particle pollution—like that coming from the exhaust smoke—can lead to shorter lives, heart disease, lung cancer and asthma attacks and can interfere with the growth and work of the lungs.”  (American Lung Association: State Of The Air)

Fact: Emory spent the first year and a half of his life living right next to the BQE (The Brooklyn/Queens Expressway). We were so close to it, the trucks used to shake our apartment. We knew all along we were inhaling harmful toxins, but we chose to stay there. We were in a lease and rent was affordable and we thought we were leaving the area at any moment.

Actual view from the back window of our apartment.

We used to clean an alarming amount of dark black soot from our windowsills. And it didn’t take long to build up. A few days would go by and a black film would lazily blanket every surface in our home. We used to joke about how our lungs must look. We were nervous.

Signs of Asthma include:

• wheezing
• rapid breathing
• labored breathing
• gasping
• difficulty breathing when exercising
• chest tightness

Generally speaking, a child must first be vulnerable to airway inflammation. Everyone is vulnerable, to some degree – and often to any number of irritants. Next, the child needs an antagonist or trigger. Triggers can range from a common cold, a sinus infection, or bronchitis, all the way to secondhand smoke, smoking, cleaning agents and air pollutants. Triggers can also be as simple as getting too much exercise or experiencing too much stress, or the absurdly cold air of a NYC March day.

When I started digging in a bit further, I realized that this isn’t specific to Brooklyn. Emory probably would been diagnosed with asthma no matter where we lived especially since almost every place we’ve ever discussed living is also on the highly polluted area list. And that’s not because our list is really short. It’s that the master list is really long. Even the small, idyllic town we’ve  been pining over for years has some of the worst statistics when it comes to the two types of air pollution at the root of the problem.

Dare to dream.

In Brooklyn, the biggest asthmatic culprit is exhaust from vehicles. This is why you’ll also find Los Angeles, Chicago, Atlanta, The DC Metro, and a great deal of the Northeastern corridor on that list. Pretty much every city or town near a major trucking route is seeing a rise in asthma, cancer and other related illnesses. And most large, polluting vehicles (as we used to watch from our bed) are used to transfer goods – like food – into our cities.

The New England Journal of Medicine reports:

“Mortality rates were most strongly associated with cigarette smoking. After adjusting for smoking and other risk factors, we observed statistically significant and robust associations between air pollution and mortality. The adjusted mortality-rate ratio for the most polluted of the cities as compared with the least polluted was 1.26 (95 percent confidence interval, 1.08 to 1.47). Air pollution was positively associated with death from lung cancer and cardiopulmonary disease but not with death from other causes considered together. Mortality was most strongly associated with air pollution with fine particulates, including sulfates.”

The simple truth is that asthma rates are on the rise, as is infant mortality and in many cases we have air pollution to blame for that. And we need to do something about it. And I don’t mean we need to come up with more medicine to throw at the problem. (Though, I am really grateful for our new nebulizer.) I think we need a more preventative approach.

So, while buying organic and/or locally grown foods may cost you a bit more monetarily,  I think that cost might be worth it when it comes to the greater good. Change won’t happen overnight, but it can happen if we just put our minds to it.

A funny thing happened as I was writing this post, I ended up within a hundred mile radius to the original topic.

Japanese Design A Virtual Rape Game

This one goes out to all the mommy bloggers out there looking for something to get riled up about. Let me to introduce you to the Japanese video game called Rapeplay where the main goal is to gang rape virtual women and then force them to have abortions. As a mother, no, as a human being I find this deplorable. While I’m not usually one for censorship, when the freedom of speech is used to excuse someone from moral bankruptcy then all bets are off.

Someone hand me the Motrin.

Get Mad About This.

(I put this up. I took it down. I put it up again. I took it down again. I am putting it up again, with a few additions. If I get attacked, so be it. I’m ready for it. I think.)

There are several bloggers upset about a post over at Mom Logic written by a guest blogger named “Gina”. (I have chosen not to link to the post in question because I feel that by doing so I’d be perpetuating their obvious quest for traffic. If you wish to find it, by all means knock on Google’s door.) She equates miscarriages with abortions and basically states that if you’re prochoice, you shouldn’t start whining whenever you have a miscarriage. She wrote something like, “Sure, it’s a baby when you want it, a fetus when you don’t.”

Now, I could state how I feel about what she wrote. It may even come as a surprise to some people. But I’m choosing to not add any more fuel to that fire because it’s a waste of time and energy and precisely what Mom Logic wants.

So, instead of ranting about “Gina” and what she wrote, I’m going to rant about something I read over the weekend that had me in tears.

Did you get wind of the story out of Florida? The one where an abortion doctor is having his license revoked (justifiably so) because of a live birth abortion? No? Yes? Maybe? Well, here it is. (CNN article).

According to the suit, Williams, then 18, discovered while being treated for a fall that she was 23 weeks pregnant. She went to a clinic to get an abortion on the morning of July 20, 2006, after receiving medication and instructions the previous day.

For those of you who don’t want to read the whole sordid (highly disturbing) story, let me break it down for you:

1). 18-year-old girl gets pregnant.

2). Girl doesn’t realize it for 23-weeks.

3). Girl finds out. Schedules an abortion.

4). Abortion goes horribly, horribly wrong.

5). Girl (awake) gives birth to living, breathing creature.

6). Staff freaks out. Screams.

7). Baby (fetus) gasps for air for 5 minutes.

8). Fetus (baby) is put in biohazard bag and disposed of.

9). Girl sues everyone in the name of her dead baby daughter.

Williams filed the suit individually and “as personal representative of the estate of Shanice Denise Osbourne, deceased,” the suit said.

It was her choice to have sex. It was her choice to have an abortion. And now it’s her choice to sue the doctor and his clinic in the name of her baby daughter—the same fetus she chose to abort.

And now it’s my choice to judge her for her choice, specifically that last one.

Sure, it’s a fetus when you don’t want it, and a baby when you see some dollar signs. Because that’s precisely the message she seems to be sending.

So, I write this to all of you who fall on the pro-choice side of the Internet: Get mad about this not about what some woman named “Gina” wrote on a Web site whose advertisers are currently thanking for the spike traffic.

Get mad about this.

Isn’t it possible that this story could very well become the pro-life movement’s dream come true? Couldn’t we have a real life Citizen Ruth on our hands? What if someone gets a hold of this woman and turns her into the poster child for just how ugly abortion really is? Even if you don’t think so—even if you don’t think it’s a life until that baby is born and breathing on its own—many, many people disagree with you.

A few months ago, Sarah Palin was shown on TV in front of a live turkey slaughter and people completely freaked out. But isn’t that the way it is? And if you’re a poultry eater (like myself), shouldn’t you be able to watch that without uttering one word of disgust? Dare I suggest that what we saw take place on that video was actually less gruesome than what goes on at many other slaughter houses across the country?

Couldn’t it be said then that what happened to this woman during her abortion is precisely why pro-lifers wish to put an end to it? Could this story open up a HUGE floodgate into the gritty truth behind abortion, at least when it comes to the pro-life message?

I ask a lot of questions here, and I think that you should as well. If you’re pro-choice, then try and see how this might look to an opponent. That’s all I’m asking. It’s probably pretty clear to you that an abortion isn’t supposed to go this way, but how is it supposed to go? I reckon that to a pro-life person—a person who believes a baby is a baby the moment its conceived—this is precisely what an abortion looks like and that this story exposes the brutal truth.

What I’m suggesting is this: no matter what side of your bread you butter, there should be at least one facet to this story that deserves your anger and attention. There must be something you would like to change about it.

So, don’t get mad at “Gina” or Mom Logic for chumming at a little traffic, get mad about this.

Voting As A Primary Caregiver.

Here in New York we weren’t allowed to hit the polls early. I’m anticipating long lines tomorrow. I’m wondering how other stay-at-home-moms are doing it (or have done it). Do you have a story to tell? Ideas? Suggestions? I have to bring Em with me. And while I’m hoping he behaves himself as long as we’re in line, I can’t promise anything.

Perhaps Election Day should become a national holiday, so that whomever goes to work for a living can stay home while the primary caregiver gets out to vote. While employers face charges if they don’t give their employees time off to vote, babies don’t have to follow the law.

If they can’t give the nation the day off, maybe they should have a “Fast Track” option for those of us with toddlers who really don’t enjoy being confined to a stroller for very long. Not that I’m looking for special treatment or anything. ;]

Edited to add: Early voting could go nationwide. Maybe in four years, this won’t be an issue for SAHMs and Dads after all.

Designated Driver.

Many people have suggested that the turnout for this year’s election among college aged students will be huge. I am not trying to dispute that. That’s not the point of this post. But I do think that what some of the skeptics are saying is indeed very possible. The best way to illustrate this is to share a personal story.

In 1996 I was a graphic design student at Penn State University. It was November of an election year. Bill Clinton and Al Gore were running against Bob Dole and Jack Kemp. I arrived at the studio on Monday morning. Monday came and went and then election day arrived and I was still working. I hadn’t showered or slept since Sunday night. I ate whatever my classmates were having delivered. Lanny was beating us up again with tight deadlines and impossible projects. I did not plan for days ahead. I definitely didn’t plan for weeks. And in theory I cared about my future, and the future of my country, but when it actually came down to voting, I was willing to put that aside. I had a project due Wednesday morning and as the hours slipped by, it became clear to me that I might not meet the deadline. I was tired, scared and most of all exhausted.

I was in the computer lab when the phone rang. It evening. A classmate opened the door, “Michele, phone’s for you. I think it’s your mother.”

I am one in a family of five. I have one younger brother and one older brother and two parents. We all get along amazingly well—all of us. I adore each and every one of them. I could write wonderful things all of them, but to most it will just come off as some biased and affectionate attribution. Just know that they’re incredible people.

They’re also Republican. (With the exception of my younger brother who is a registered Independent but he generally leans toward the Republican side of the ticket come election time.)

I am the lone Democrat in my family. I always have been.

“Did you vote?” She asked.

“No.” I grunted back. “Been too busy. Haven’t seen outside since yesterday morning.”

“You have to vote. It’s no excuse.”

“I don’t have time. I just don’t.” I was fighting back tears. I was so tired. The LAST thing I wanted to do was go and waste precious minutes—minutes I needed to finish the project—voting.

“You make time. This is important.”

“I can’t walk all the way down there. I have a project due in the morning. I am going to be up all night. Walking down there and then waiting in line and then walking back will take too long. And someone told me that it’s raining.” I whined.

“I am going to come pick you and drive you there and wait and you will vote and then I will drop you back off. No excuses. You have to vote.”

My Republican mother was insisting that her Democrat of a daughter vote.

“FINE!” I grunted.

“I’ll be outside in 20 minutes.” She hung up the phone.

My mother drove fives miles in the rain to pick me up and take me to vote. And I simply must illustrate to you how simply absurd this was.

Exhibit A:

The Visual Arts Building is represented by the blue square. The voting station I was to report to is in red.

Yes, you’re assuming right. It’s a very short distance. It’s a quick walk. I do that each and every day now toting a baby and sometimes five bags of groceries. But then I found it impossible to justify taking a few precious minutes out of my busy class schedule to get my ass down there and vote.

My laziness to this day astounds me. What on earth was I thinking? Or not thinking? Is any project that important? Any professor? How could anything be more important than voting? And I feel so silly that my mother came to pick me up. Believe me, I am well aware of how irresponsible I was. But I was in college and my days were filled with small and immediate deadlines. And at the time my president was my design professor.

While I think every college student has every intention of voting this Tuesday, I also think it’s naive to think that they will do so. College students may have their heads and hearts in the right place most of the time, but I think it’s easy to say one thing and then lose track of that time or decide it’s not as important as the immediate project at hand. I am not suggesting that all college students do this, but I can’t imagine that I am alone with my experience, as shameful as it may be.

In my case, I was lucky to be living near my parents when I was in college. Because if it hadn’t been for my mother, I never would have made it down there to vote. I had EVERY intention on doing so, I really did, but I just know I never would have made it happen. I know it to be true but I am not proud of that truth.

My mother waited in the car and I cast my vote. The rain continued to fall as I walked back to the car. It felt really great to be outside. I cleared my head for the long night I had ahead of me.

“Thanks.” I mumbled. I really meant it.

“You’re welcome.”

We sat in silence for a minute, listening to the sound of the wipers push water to and from.

“You do realize I voted for Clinton, right?”

“Yup. I kind of guessed.”

“Had you not done this, he would have had one less vote.”

“Yup.” She answered.

“That’s kind of funny, mom.”

“I know.”

Whether you’re a Republican (like every other member of my family) or a liberal leaning freak like myself, please get out and vote this year. Don’t say you don’t have time or that you don’t care. Don’t be a loser like me. And since my mother did such a smashing job at getting Clinton elected by insisting that I vote for him in 1996, I think I owe a ride to my fellow Americans, particularly those who are in college.

Do you need a ride this Tuesday? I will come pick you up—Republican or Democrat—I don’t care who you’re voting for. But you have to vote.

Invest In Happy Memories.

Greg Mankiw breaks down tax on investments.

In a nutshell, unless you’re the type of person who makes it now and spends it now, both candidates’ tax plans suck for you. That’s not to say that this is entirely their fault or that it’s something they have control over. This is a fault of how our system is set up.

If you have a second, read this.

(Thanks to Missy for the link.)

Francisco DeFlaviis – The Lone Juror.

Joseph Petcka, the man arrested for beating a 7-pound cat to death, had his day in court recently. The jury came back hung: 11 to 1. After five days of deliberations eleven people were in favor of convicting Petcka of aggravated animal cruelty. A lone juror by the name of Francisco DeFlaviis did not believe that Joseph Petcka killed the cat on purpose.

Joseph Petcka weighed 205 pounds at the time. He and his girlfriend had just had a fight. The cat, Norman, weighed 7 pounds. Norman was declawed.

Petcka said he kicked the cat to death in self defense.

I could go on about how I feel regarding animal cruelty in this country. I could go on about how unbelievably angry his actions and this mistrial makes me. But I won’t. Instead of stating the obvious, instead of ranting without resolve, I’m hoping that something positive might come out of this.

Please don’t forget to donate to the ASPCA. Help them put an end to animal cruelty. Help them spread the word that beating an animal to death will not be tolerated in this country.

CNN Outside Lehman Brothers Headquarters.

Forgive me for the horrible quality of this video. I don’t have the fancy equipment needed to do this. Plus, our TV died last week, so we’re using the 70-dollar tube we purchased from a Radio Shack in San Francisco. But it’s clear enough that I think you’ll get the point.

The United States woke up with a wicked financial hangover today. But I’m happy to see that at least these two guys are enjoying themselves. The nipple slurping is particularly unsettling.

Alternate Side Parking and the Social Contract

I mentioned some time last week in the comments section that I was having some issues trying to live here and be a mother at the same time. I’m having difficulty with things like grocery shopping, alternate side parking, and just getting around in general.

One of the hardest problems I have had to deal with is alternate side parking. For those unfamiliar with the concept, every other day (for an hour and a half) you have to move your car from one side of the street to the other. Let’s say it’s Thursday right before 1 PM. The street cleaner has come and gone and now everyone from the Tuesday/Friday side has to move their car from that side to the other side to avoid a ticket the following day.

What you get is this: at around 12:45 PM at least five people get in their cars, move them, and sit there until 1 PM. That way, they are guaranteed a spot the following day and don’t have to drive around forever (or park somewhere dodgy, like I usually do) later on.

That’s all fine. I get that mentality. If I had the time and never used my car except to move it from one side of the street to the other, I’d probably do that too. My biggest problem, however, is in regard to our neighbors. The house directly next door is home to an extended family. They purchased the entire three-story home (which is split into three apartments) and three families (from the same family) live there. It seems they have about 5 cars total, but three are there all the time.

And these people drive me crazy. They simply refuse to follow any sort of social contract when it comes to alternate side parking. They don’t take up one spot per car. Instead, they take up anywhere from four to six car lengths. And one of their cars is a monstrous SUV.

Below is a picture taken an hour ago. Behind the tree on the far left, you can make out a little bit of the SUV. That car is owned by the older guy and he lives on the second floor. His car talks. It says things like, “PROTECTED BY VIPER! STAND BACK!” which is REALLY awesome when you have a baby napping. The car in the middle is owned by the guy living on the third floor. The car in the back is owned by guy who I think is the younger brother of the guy on the third floor. He lives on the first floor.

The amount of room in front of the SUV is double the space of what you see behind it. I can’t get a shot of that from here, but here’s an illustration:

And, no, this isn’t the fault of any other car on the street. These guys know exactly what they’re doing. They do it almost every day. Granted, they have no control over how close the car behind the last guy parks in relation to their own, which is why when the red car pulled in late last night after a rarity occurred and someone left, I snickered.

I can’t tell you how angry it makes me. I’m embarrassed by how angry it makes me. I’m embarrassed I don’t have the guts to say something to them about it.

This morning, as we left to see Tobyjoe off to the subway, I decided it was time to write a note. I put it on the SUV, (delicately of course as IT’S VIPER PROTECTED!) On our way back home, I removed the note from the car because it seemed too passive aggressive and pathetic. Plus, I know it’s not going to change anything.

And so…

I’m embarrassed I wrote this. But I simply don’t know what else to do. Yes, I could ask them to stop, but they won’t (and I’m too much of a coward anyway). They do this because they don’t want anyone scratching their precious hunks of metal (they never drive). (Edited to add: I learned from a comment that it’s for another reason entirely. I feel so stupid!)

I’ve watched my mother’s once mint condition, hand-me-down get keyed, scraped, dented, and smashed in only a year’s time. But I don’t do crap like this. Having your car’s bumper destroyed is one of the things you silently agree to when you live here with a car.

I’m not proud of myself for feeling this much rage over something so mundane and simple. I try and do the whole “Embrace it and let it go” thing—you know, breath in, breath out.

But I can’t let it go. It never stops pissing me off. So, I wore patchouli today in hopes of conjuring up some residual hippie vibes leftover from college. Someone’s gotta give and it simply has to be me.