Thanksgiving

It's Thanksgiving today in the US, so I thought we could all share things we're thankful for. I'll start:

  • I'm extremely thankful that I have my health and my two sons.
  • I'm thankful that the worst of the divorce is over, and now we're just waiting for the final decree from the court system.
  • I'm thankful that I live in a time and place in which I could get a divorce, and not be walking through life merely surviving as so many women have (had) to.
  • I'm thankful that I'm safe, and will be able to pay my rent and food next month, and have some left over to buy coffee and popcorn.
  • I'm thankful for all of you! And I wish you all enough sleep and enough money to pay your rent/mortgages, and safety, physically and emotionally.
  • I'm thankful that as you read this I'm probably eating a cupcake with my brother and his amazing fiancee who I can't wait to be sisters with.
  • I'm thankful that my mom and dad (and two grandmothers!) are alive and mostly healthy and are getting to know my sons.
  • I'm thankful that we're all still here. This year has been a doozy, both personally and on a world scale.

Now you.

Happy Birthday to Ask Moxie!

Three years ago was my first Ask Moxie post ever!

As some of you may recall, it kind of started as a joke. I used to leave advice on other people's blogs (mostly along the lines of "you're doing a good job–ignore the dogma") so some of my friends and readers said I should start an advice blog. So I did, thinking it would be kind of fun and funny.

And it was. And then it got kind of serious, and I started to get emails from people needing real help. At the same time, writing Ask Moxie was the only thing that made me feel like a worthwhile person (when I was in a crushing marriage). It let me know I was worth something.

So I thank you all for reading and commenting. For needing me and for giving to me. There are a lot of you out there now, and I'm working on a way for us all to connect more in 2009.

This is what I want you all to know on Ask Moxie's birthday:

You are doing a really good job. Both at parenting, and at being who you're supposed to be. Even if you don't feel like much right now, that's just the externals: sleep deprivation, drudgery, survival, making decisions you never thought you'd have to make. If now feels like a super-crappy time, it's probably because you didn't notice yourself spinning the chrysalis. You're inside now, working on stuff, and soon you'll come out and stretch your wings.

Those of us who are starting to come out the other side aren't forgetting what it's like, and we'll be here to help you.

Have a great year, everyone!

Diagnose my malady, please

Please consider doing one of the Service Projects for this year if you missed yesterday's post!

So last night I started feeling an ache in my left pinky. And first it felt like my anxiety ache, but I did a full system check and had nothing to be anxious about (I was at book club drinking wine and talking about a fun project for a friend that I'll let you guys in one in a few weeks when I'm doing it). I did a little yoga breathing and forgot about it for about ten minutes, but then noticed the pain was still there and getting worse.

This morning, the pain is still there. Let me describe it, and then you can tell me what's wrong with me.

It feels like pain in the bone, but also in the soft tissue and skin of my pinky. It starts right about from the last knuckle (the one at the end of my finger) and extends about two inches down into my hand on that side. My other fingers are fine. It's a sharp, constant ache, not hot, but kind of round and smooth, if that makes any sense. When I've touched that finger with cold water it's like having a nerve drilled.

I should also mention that the night before I got chicken pox when I was 12 I got a backache that then spread to my entire body and felt exactly the same –skin pain and sensitivity to touch and cold. I went to sleep and woke up the next morning covered in pox. Since then, every 9-15 months I get an all-over body ache and sensitivity that goes away the next morning. This feels like that, only way more painful and concentrated in my left pinky.

So what's wrong with me? Knowing my history of carrying emotional stuff in my body part of me wonders if this is fear of the future. Another part of me thinks I'm just getting arthritis like all the women in my family have (it's the Scandinavian heritage, I think).

Do you think this is something I can cure by eating a ton of turkey and green bean casserole on Thursday?

Service Projects for December 2008: Operation Holiday Card and Earth Birth

(Scroll down for today's Q&A.)

It seemed like a daunting task to pick service projects for us to do, until I read what hedra said–we get a holiday season every year. So I'm just picking two for this year, and will pick different ones next year.

If you do not want to participate in either of these projects, please don't feel bad. Just pick something else to support. These are the two projects that struck my fancy this year.

Operation Holiday Card
Operation Holiday Card collects holiday cards to send to American servicepeople at military bases in the Middle East. The cards can be purchased or homemade (please no glitter!) and you should write on the back if the card is for Christmas, Hanukkah, or a general Seasons Greetings card. Since you send the cards to the collection point in the US and the cards are all forwarded together in bunches, people from all over the world can send cards if they'd like to.

Cards must be received by December 3! So this is a project for today or tomorrow, to be in the mail by Wednesday. Send cards to:

Operation Holiday Card
226 Albany Ave
Shreveport, LA 71105

For more information on the project, go to the website.

Earth Birth
From the description on their Facebook group:
"Earth Birth Global Women's Health Collective is a project run by midwives and health care professionals to help mothers in war and trauma affected areas give birth safely and peacefully.

Our pilot program is based in Gulu, Uganda. We are setting up small on site birthing centers in Internally Displaced Person's camps where women can come for comprehensive services, counseling, education and care. We have linked with community organizations and hospitals in these areas to help "child mothers" gain access to jobs, school and childcare so that they can mother with every possible opportunity. Our goals include community sustainability, lowered maternal and infant mortality rates, lowered HIV/AIDS transmission rates from mother to child, access to supplies and local medicine, access to trauma therapy and counseling, the experience of a 'positive' birth to facilitate empowerment and mother/child bonding and the ability to articulate one's story.

The war in Northern Uganda has largely been reproductive. Women have been raped as tools of war and are now giving birth to babies which have historically been abducted as soldiers for the war. Often these women have a hard time bonding with or knowing how to care for their children with limited resources and trauma counseling. The ability to articulate one's story is an integral theme of the Earth Birth project. Women have always told stories as a form of information transmission and ownership of events. To have safe spaces for the sharing of taboo and traumatic events allows for understanding and processing of events in context, ownership of experience and networking among women- all of which are integral to a healthy women's movement and improved practice of motherhood. Our spaces function as a community centers for story circles, workshops in active listening and sharing.

Traditional birth attendants live throughout the IDP camps, most of them victims of war and mothers themselves.The TBA's are currently unemployed and do not have formal training. Our international group of midwives work with the TBAs to develop practices that are community centered, culturally competent and sustainable. These women are the cornerstone of the birthing center sites. The TBA's are offered professional development, training, counseling and jobs."

Earth Birth needs donations of money, and ridiculously small amounts make a huge difference: $10 buys a box of gloves, $50 funds the training of a Traditional Birth Attendant, $300 buys a midwife pack of supplies, and $3500 can supply an entire site.

Reading all this just made me start sobbing. Imagining being raped, and then having no help giving birth, no hope for my future, for the baby, for anything. And then thinking about how elemental and simple and yet deep birth assistance is, and how I can help give these women as good a birth as possible under the circumstances.

Please give, any amount you can: http://www.givemeaning.com/project/zangua

The project is also looking for donations of maternity clothes and baby supplies, but they need to be shipped to Uganda. It's super-expensive for those of us in the US and canada to ship to Uganda, so we should donate to local groups. But if you live near Uganda and have items to donate, send them to:

Earth Birth
C/O St. Monica's Girls Centre
P.O Box 669

Gulu, Uganda

The clothing line LOVEMORE (organic onesies and baby clothes) is also donating 15% of all profits to Earth Birth.

I just donated to Earth Birth, and will be getting cards tomorrow to have my kids sign with me and send to Operation Holiday Card.

Q&A: One side is tastier than the other

Look up for info about the service projects we're doing for December 2008.

Lisa writes:

"So this must be an odd question because I can't seem to find much ofanything about it anywhere online. The problem I'm having is that my
daughter (15mo.) is pretty much refusing to eat from my left breast.
The right one is fine and dandy, but she'll only nibble on the left
then back away and shake her head no. And I think the issue is that the
two taste different. Maybe this is gross to some people but I tasted a
drop from each breast and the right one is sweet as expected but the
left was kind of sour or salty. I couldn't tell exactly from the little
dribble on my finger but it was definitely different, and not in a good
way.

Do you know why this might be happening or what to do about it? I'm
stumped. I'm not pregnant (no chance), I started my period 2 months ago
and the timing kinda fits but not exactly, I don't think I've changed
anything in my diet, and I haven't been taking anything new other than
fish oil… and the timing might fit but why would it only affect one
breast? Any ideas Moxie?"

Yeah, I have no idea, but I do know this preference for one side over the other is not odd or unusual at all. It happened for awhile with my older son, and each of my boys showed a strong preference for one side over the other for periods of time.

(My first son liked my left breast better than my right for awhile, and I was convinced it was because I'm overwhelmingly right-handed, so maybe the right side tasted more gamey or something, like the difference between light meat and dark meat. Ah, sleep deprivation…)

I don't think there really is anything to be done about it, except to file it in the "Bodies Are Strange" file. At this age you don't need to be worried about your production, so you'll adjust and your right breast will produce what she needs. The biggest problem will be that your right breast might be larger than your left one until you wean. But since almost everyone is a little mismatched anyway…

Does anyone know why this happens, or have any stories, or remember where my original post was about this? I know I've written on this exact question before, but just couldn't find it.

Annual Gift Guide 2008: Gifts to Give Back

See also Gifts You Buy and Gifts You Make.

As always, I'm going to urge everyone to support the Heifer Fund. Heifer is the most ingeniously-designed charity ever: Families in developing countries apply to the program, and are given a starter animal that is native to their area (unless the local stock has been depleted from in-breeding, in which case they get one of that animal but better stock) and training in best practices to care for that animal. Then they promise to give back the first offspring of that animal to another family in the community. That animal and any offspring after the first they use to feed their children and sell to make some extra income.

It helps families improve their lives without taking them out of their local cultures, allows them to help other members of their communities, and creates a network of animal husbandry experts in the same area who can work with each other.

When you donate to Heifer, you get to pick what you want to donate (the money technically goes into the general fund for one of the areas, but you donate enough for the cost of one animal or group) from a list of things like a cow, flocks of chicks, hives of bees, etc. It's an awesome gift, because it truly does become way more than the money you spend, and enables families to stay together, and at the same time the recipient in your life can imagine the animals. Check out the entire catalog here.

What else do you guys give to? Local groups? Other international groups? Are you doing any giving that doesn't involve money? Making things to donate?

Would you guys like to do some kind of service project here? I've been thinking about something like sending cards to US troops in Iraq, but wonder if that would bug readers who aren't American.

Annual Gift Guide 2008: Gifts You Make

See also Gifts You Buy and Gifts You Give Back.

Now you all really must step in for this post. I knit, but I don't feel like I have enough time to knit much of anything for anyone. And I bake, but probably won't do much baking this season. And those are pretty much the extent of my handmade skills.

So: What are you guys making for other people?

What are you going to help your kids make for other people?

Do you know of any knitting patterns that I could do in under 10 hours that would make nice gifts? (Bearing in mind that I need to do 3 baby sweaters before the end of the year also.)

What do you wish someone would make for you?

Annual Gift Guide 2008: Gifts You Buy

Since we always end up dividing the gift suggestions into three categories anyway, I'm putting up three separate posts: Gifts You Buy, Gifts You Make, and Gifts To Give Back.

This is not a comprehensive list of everything out there that is worth buying! It's just the stuff I'm particularly interested in right now. If I were Oprah I'd be able to get you all free samples, but I'm not, so I'll just describe the things in as wordy and conversational a manner as possible…

MoxieWear

I finally have my Cafe Press store up and running! It's sortof a random assortment of items, from baby shirts for tension
increasers or releasers to bumper stickers with the MXM logo so you can
identify other Moxie readers in traffic. Come take a look.

Books

I love books. They're just a really solid gift. The kind of gift that says "I like you. I take you seriously. I want you to be able to take a little break and lose yourself in a book."

For my dad I'm going to buy Ammon Shea's new book Reading the OED: One Man, One Year, 21,730 Pages. I'm hoping that's what my dad gives me, too. (Word nerds don't fall far from the tree.) The book is for anyone who likes words or dictionaries or geekitude or people doing absolutely ridiculous tasks. It's kind of like SuperSize Me, Into Thin Air, and the dictionary all rolled into one. Mark Peters did a funny interview with Ammon Shea about the book here. (Do you guys read Mark Peters' word columns on Good? He cracks me up, and not just because he's my friend and a fellow descriptivist. This one made me laugh. This one made me think. This one made me come up with a blindingly brilliant insight about language and double standards–feel free to comment on my typo-ridden comment there. Also, my photo there shows my current glasses.) I'm sort of ridiculously excited to read a book about reading a dictionary.

My shameful secret: I don't read much fiction anymore. I was a Comp Lit major in college, and read a book in English and one in Spanish each week. Those days are far gone, and now the only reading I do is nonfiction and the occasional review book (and probably a third of the books for my book club). So most of the fiction I buy is for other people.

My mom's been reading all the No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency books, and I didn't know there were more series by the same author (Alexander McCall Smith)! I think it's going to be a 44 Scotland Street kind of Christmas for her. 

And that's what I know about books. X-treme wordnerdism and fiction for grandmothers. So I really really need suggestions from you guys in the comments of books in other categories. Please?

Computers for kids

The XO is back on sale again. There are still the same philosophical issues with it as before, but if you regretted not giving one, or buying one to give and one to share, now's your chance. $199 to donate one to a kid in a developing country, or $399 to get one for you and one to donate.

Handmade but not by you

You guys know about Etsy.com, right? Crafty people sell their crafts there, and you buy them. I've gotten some amazing things on Etsy, including a gorgeous painting that makes me happy every time I look at it.

If you have an Etsy store, put a brief description of what you make and put your Etsy link in the comments.

Kid Stuff

In all honesty, I just kind of don't have it in me anymore for all the different kinds of developmental toys and whatnot. I've requested a Wii for the boys from my relatives (they're all going in together) so that the boys have something 1) they can play together 2) that's relatively active 3) that can be done indoors when the weather is bad (that's January-April in NYC).

I'm all conflicted about Legos. I mean, LEGOS! They're the best toy ever. But LEGOS! They're all over the floor, digging into my bare feet and making so much noise when the cats play hockey with them at 3 am. If I do give in to more Legos, I'll probably get this set to make sure they have a full range of pieces.

Also, my kids are currently Uno-crazy up at their dad's place, so I'm going to have to get a deck to play at mine.

I know you all must have favorite toys for kids, so please list them in the comments!

Magazines

We're still in love with Sports Illustrated for Kids around here, and if I had a girl I'd be all over New Moon. My guilty pleasure is Entertainment Weekly.

I know we talk about it every so often, but what magazines give you and your kids and partners pleasure?

Skin Care

If you really want to spoil someone you love (or yourself), consider getting a skin care system from Daybreak Lavender Farms. They grow most of their botanicals themselves on their farm in Ohio, and everything's all-natural and gentle to your skin. The systems are expensive but last forever, and are completely worth it: I developed horrible skin problems from all the stress of the last few years, and tried almost everything (including Proactiv) and the only thing that keeps my skin clear is the Daybreak Zit-Zap System (it works through my whole cycle, too!). It took a full six weeks, but now my skin is clear and moisturized and happy. I've heard of similar miracles in treating rosacea with their Calmez Vous System. Again, they're pricey, but they work, are good for your skin over the long run, and last for months. Plus, the people are very nice and ship super-quickly.

Self-Sufficiency

The best $8 I spent this whole year was on a tool kit at Ikea. I can't believe I never had one of my own before. I find I use it once a week, at least. Consider giving a tool kit with hammer, screwdrivers, and pliers to everyone you know, and one for yourself.

Delicious Self-Sufficiency

Give a person some ice cream, and she'll eat it for a day. Give a person an ice cream maker, and she'll eat ice cream for the rest of her life. I've been using this ice cream mak
er
for years, and love it. My favorite recipe: PiƱa Colada Sorbet: 1 can crushed pineapple, 1 can coconut milk (not coconut cream), sugar to taste, shredded coconut, vanilla extract, dark rum (optional). Blend together the pineapple, coconut milk, and sugar. (Add in a little cream or milk if you'd like.) Stir in the coconut. Refrigerate for a few hours until it's very cold. Turn in ice cream maker. If using rum, add it in once the sorbet is mostly turned.

If you're a popcorn fan, you need the Whirley-Pop. It's an old-fashioned pan you put on top of the stove, but the lid has a handle you crank that prevents the popped kernels from burning on the bottom of the pan. You can pop almost every kernel without burning anything. And it's fun for kids.

Massages

Probably everyone you know is stressed. And probably everyone you know would love a massage. You could get a gift certificate from a local massage therapist for someone you love, who would then love you much more, and in a more relaxed manner. Or, if you have a massage school near you, get two or three massages at the student clinic for the price of one from a graduated professional.

Gift Card Alert

Someone recently warned me that there are retailers that will be selling gift cards this season but then closing stores after January 1, so the cards will be worthless in 2009. I was sent a list, but have no way of verifying it of knowing the source. So if anyone has a reliable source for lists of gift cards that will expire at the end of December, can you link it? Thanks!

Your Suggestions

Is there anything you're just completely in love with? post it in the comments. If you put in the leading http string, it'll link it automatically.