The Working Mom by Kay Luna

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Manopause and too much pop

Friday, April 20th, 2012

If you tuned in to Mix 96 this morning during my weekly visit with Ron and Amy, you heard us talking about “manopause.”

That’s what a story in Parenting magazine jokingly calls the hormonal change that happens with men become fathers. A recent long-term study shows that when a father brings home a baby, his testosterone levels drop.

Those levels continue to decrease the more time he spends with the newborn, the story says.

So, it’s not just moms who go through biological changes when they enter parenthood. It happens to dads, too. Who knew?! I must have been too sleep-deprived to notice.

Photo credit: AP

And speaking of noticing … How could someone drink two or more GALLONS of soda-pop every day and not think, “Yikes, this might be too much.”

Sadly, it’s too late for a 30-year-old mom of eight children in New Zealand, where authorities are trying to determine if her Cola addiction played a role in her death. Natasha Harris died of a heart attack, but she also suffered from low potassium, which investigators believe could have been caused by her excessive pop-drinking and overall poor nutrition.

And she smoked 30 cigarettes per day, too, according to her partner, who is quoted in the story.

A major soft drink company issued a statement in response to her death, saying even water can be deadly in excessive amounts.

Something to think about …

Hope you have a safe and happy Friday, a great weekend and an even better next week. I’ll be out of the office, frolicking around with my family. See you when I return.

A boy and his cardboard arcade

Wednesday, April 11th, 2012

If you have even one sentimental bone in your body, I promise, you need to watch this video.

It’s about a 9-year-old boy named Caine, who created his own cardboard arcade in the front of his dad’s auto shop business, and the surprise he gets one day.

I cried a little bit at the end, just to warn you. But the tears were the good kind: tears of joy.

How are you today?

`Miss Representation’ is amazing

Tuesday, April 10th, 2012

My house is quiet. It’s almost 10 p.m., and my 5-year-old is sleeping in the next room.

But I’m awake.

I’m thinking about her as I sit here at my sewing table, which I’m using as a computer desk right now, in the dim lamp light. I’m thinking about how she views herself as a girl, and how she views other girls.

I’m worrying about her future.

Earlier this evening, I watched the documentary “Miss Representation,” sponsored by the Junior League of the Quad-Cities. The film focuses on the way media portrays women, and how that message is impacting our culture, and it was shown tonight to a packed audience of mostly women and teenaged girls (and a few men) at the Putnam Museum in Davenport.

The film shows women and girls, men and boys, talking about the sexualization of women and how it hurts all of us, deeply. And this happens so often, it’s scary. The message is sent through movies, music videos, reality TV shows, TV newscasts with scantily-clad female “reporters” … and it’s sent in our own homes, with our own criticisms of ourselves as women and of the women around us.

We give away our power.

And we hurt boys, too. We expect them to never cry, never show weakness, and we send that message so often that we cause many to become what one man in the film calls “emotionally constipated.”

I can’t tell you every detail of the film, and I wouldn’t, even if I could. Because I want you to see it for yourself. Bring a friend. And talk about it afterward.

Then, talk about it some more.

The big question is, “What can we do to change this?”

Before I sat down to write this, I scanned Facebook to see what some of my friends had to say about it. I knew they had been to the event, too.

This post from Erin Lounsberry (used here with her permission) nails it:

“I just watched the powerful film “Miss Representation” and my brain is percolating right now about ways we ALL can change the conversation so that women finally feel like being strong, smart, and accomplished equates with value in our society. One post-film suggestion was to compliment a woman each day without commenting on her appearance. So while I love my Facebook friends’ sassy style, I’m sure you’ll be OK with my calling you out instead for amazing abilities like coordinating a golf tournament to raise funds to help vets with PTSD, writing novels, playing complex characters onstage, teaching little girls how to do an axel, caring about the environment, running your own business or designing an amazing logo, among others. Who’s with me?”

I’m with her.

I’m also thinking a lot about the importance of mentoring other women. Help each other. Support each other.

Someone in the film also says, as you walk by the mirror and feel like sighing with frustration about what you see, remember that a young woman, a little girl - maybe your own – could hear you. Do you want that girl to think her appearance is that important? Aren’t there other more important things about you than that?

Don’t you want to remember that for yourself? Don’t you want that little girl to believe it?

You know, my little daughter was at the museum with me tonight. She sat next to me in the darkness of the theater, wearing headphones, completely immersed in a mini-DVD player showing “Shrek” on her lap.

But as I watched that documentary, I couldn’t help but glance over at her little face silhouetted by the light from the big screen … and worry.

What messages about what it means to be female in this world am I exposing her to? What am I teaching her through the way I view myself and other women?

And beyond my roles as mother, daughter, sister and wife, how am I helping other women in my community? Am I making sure I’m a positive force for women as a female newspaper reporter, blogger and teacher?

How can I make this world a better place?

Yeah, right now, my house is quiet. But my mind is screaming.

Is yours? Were you at the show, too, or have you seen it already? What did you think?

Women versus women

Tuesday, April 10th, 2012

Why are women so brutal with ourselves, and each other?

It’s a question tackled all over the place lately, including in “Miss Representation,” a popular documentary the Junior League of the Quad-Cities will host at 6:30 p.m. today (April 10) at the Putnam Museum in Davenport.

I’m excited to finally see this film, since I’ve been hearing rave reviews for several months. 

Meanwhile, I stumbled across a post titled ”My Beautiful Cushy Tushy” on Motherlode, a parenting blog at the New York Times. The writer says her 4-year-old daughter told her that her bottom was “cushy” and meant it as a sincere compliment.

She wondered why she didn’t allow herself to view her aging, inperfect, but strong, body the same way.

Then, I saw actress Ashley Judd’s beautifully-written essay about the way the media picks apart her appearance, and why it’s wrong on so many levels.

Why do we allow this to happen? What are we teaching the next generation of girls … and boys?

What do you think?

P.S. I hope to see some of you tonight at the Putnam. Please be sure to say hi!

Eggs-actly enough

Monday, April 9th, 2012

This was a weekend full of Easter egg-stravangas. Heavy on the “egg.”

We spent three days boiling eggs, coloring eggs, deviling eggs, filling (plastic) eggs, hunting eggs, eating eggs, smelling eggs …

I’m not going to lie. I’m on egg overload right about now.

But, oh, what fun we had in the process!

Babycakes announced on Friday night that this was going to be “the best Easter weekend EVER,” because she was going to get to spend so much time with her family.

Not to mention the chocolate. She didn’t say this, but I’m adding it, because the girl does love some chocolate and we all know she wholeheartedly celebrates any holiday that includes the possibility of receiving and eating chocolate.

By the way, she was right. We did have a wonderful time with our family.

How was your weekend?

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Did you happen to see the cover story in Parade magazine this Sunday? If not, go check it out. The story features the courageous Stephanie Nielson, who blogs at www.nieniedialogues.com and just wrote a book about surviving a fiery plane crash and the aftermath. It’s a beautiful story of hope and strength.

I expect to lurk around her blog a lot in the future. You, too?

The real you

Friday, April 6th, 2012

Ladies, how long have you gone without shaving?

What about not wearing makeup?

I don’t know what my record is, but I do know the stats for my blogger friend, Amy Burch Denney: 60 days without shaving. She also went several days without makeup.

It was all part of a challenge to embrace the beauty, strength and uniqueness we carry inside — instead of focusing on what message we’re sending on the outside.

She is doing some other pretty neat things, too. She’s going to Africa!

Check her out. She might inspire you.

Her blog is at faithandfamilyinspirations.blogspot.com.

What’s new with you?

Sharing Fiona’s story

Monday, March 26th, 2012

Photo from lacrossetribune.com

When a story popped up on my Facebook feed about Paxton and Dee King’s 9-month-old daughter, Fiona, I couldn’t look away.

The story in Wisconsin’s LaCrosse Tribune explains how the couple will watch their baby girl slowly fade away.

“The baby will stop giggling. Her arms and legs will stop moving.

And then Fiona will die, probably before she turns 2.”

Little Fiona has a rare genetic disease, called GM1 gangliosidosis, which already is shutting down her body. There is no cure.

The disease means she can’t break down fat lipids in her cells. As the lipids accumulate, they kill the organs, the story explains.

“The first signs usually show up in the liver, and then Fiona’s nervous system will begin to fade,” the story says.

“It’s two years of watching your child die slowly,” Paxton said.

“It’s devastating,” Dee said.

After reading this, and looking at the photos of the family posted online with the story, I felt compelled to post a link on my “Working Mom” Facebook page, too.

A few hours later, I got a Facebook message from the baby’s father, thanking me for sharing Fiona’s story — and telling me about his connection to the Quad-Cities.

He visits Davenport every couple of weeks for his job with the parent company of Texpar Energy, which he says is “a heavy fuel oil and asphalt storage facility along ther iver on the Buffalo/Davenport border.”

He likes to read the Quad-City Times when he can, too, he said.

Sometimes, we make it easier in our minds to hear such sad stories like Fiona’s, imagining they’re happening to faraway people in faraway places.

But this one is happening to the baby daughter of Paxton King, and he’s right here with us.

What can we do to comfort him?

Honor his wish, which he wrote about in his Facebook message:

“I’d love for Fiona’s story to spread.”

Learning new ways to cover education

Tuesday, March 20th, 2012

Something magical happens when you put a bunch of reporters from all over the country into the same room and ask, “How do you do your jobs?”

It’s even more special when all of those reporters cover the same topic.

The recent weekend I spent with about 25 other education reporters at the National Education Writer’s Association workshop on data-assisted reporting in Denver, Colorado, was sort of like reconnecting with my college-aged self –minus the massive amounts of pizza and ramen noodles.

The event helped me remembered the excitement and passion I felt about journalism back then, when I was just starting out and looking forward to all the new stories and possibilities. I’ve never lost that enthusiasm, but this event helped ramped it up again!

The view from the "tower" inside East High School in Denver.

All of us who went to the workshop cover schools for newspapers or radio, so we traded story ideas and shared information about how we do things in our newsrooms and communities. We learned a lot from each other. Thank you, EWA, for giving us this opportunity.

On a side note, I had never visited Colorado before. Downtown Denver is gorgeous and incredibly clean. The people were tremendously polite everywhere we went, even the kids at an inner-city high school we visited.

They were sort of a real-life case study about how schools are using data to drive their programming and curriculum. This is a hot topic in education nowadays.I came home with new information about Excel spreadsheets, education data and great story ideas.

Also, I learned our Quad-City Times education team won two awards — a first-place for series and a second-place for a sample of our education coverage over the past year — in the Education Writer’s Association annual journalism contest!

Awesome.

Me with the cast of "American Idiot" in Denver

Another bit of awesomeness: I ended up running into the cast from the Broadway musical “American Idiot,” which is based on the music of the band, Green Day. They were staying in the same hotel we were in downtown Denver. I freaked out with happiness when I recognized them from the show, which I saw in Chicago with several friends about a month ago. Squeeeeee!!!!

What have you been doing lately?

My little researcher

Tuesday, March 20th, 2012

My 5-year-old daughter loves birds. She especially loves peacocks, with their regal blue-and-green feathers, and has declared she wants to know as much as possible about them.

Photo by Quad-City Times photographer Jeff Cook

She asked several times throughout the winter when the zoo would open again, so she could interview – yes, she said “interview” – a zookeeper about peacocks and possibly other birds.

As a reporter, I was thrilled, and of course I fully support and encourage her inquisitiveness. And don’t you love that she wanted to go straight to the expert to ask questions?! LOVE, I say.

Bursting with pride, I assured her that we would, indeed, seek out a zookeeper in the spring, but that didn’t suffice. She kept talking about it, probably to make sure, a) I took her seriously and,  b) I wouldn’t forget.

She talked about peacocks so often at preschool that one of her teachers spent extra time with her at the computer, helping her research facts and download photos of peacocks and put them into a special “book” for her. I thought that was so nice that I wrote a handwritten thank-you card to the teacher, and I hope she showed her bosses.

Then, as soon as the zoo opened again recently, I told Babycakes we would finally get her questions answered.

But I told her she would have to ask the questions herself.

Her request: That I would take notes for her, since she doesn’t know how to write yet. Good point, Miss Babycakes.

I said yes.

So, she planned her wardrobe the night before to look “professional.” Again, her description. She picked a nice dress, tights and a pink-sequined purse. She’s got fashion-sense, that girl.

When we packed some snacks and headed to the zoo the next day, and she was so excited. And the minute we got there, she was on the lookout for bird experts.

Luckily, we happened upon a couple of zoo employees who were giving some kind of treatments to birds in an enclosure and got their attention. I explained that my daughter was interested in learning more about peacocks and wondered if they could help.  One stepped forward, and I held my breath, waiting to see how my girl would react.

She was quiet for a second, gathering her thoughts. Or maybe trying not to chicken out. I’m not sure.

But I got her started with the first question I knew she wanted to ask, which was, “How do they comb their feathers?”

After that, she was on a roll. She had quite the conversation with this zoo employee about peacock feather colors, what peacocks eat and how she’s noticed a lot of people wear dresses and hair apparel made of peacock feathers.

By the time this was over, I wanted to squeal thanks to everyone I could see.  I just felt so grateful to this young woman who had taken the time to help my daughter fulfill one of her goals. I was so proud of Babycakes for her determination to make this happen. And honestly, I was a little proud of myself for making sure she was able to get it done, too.

Afterward, she said to me, “Can you believe it? I wasn’t even scared!”

As parents, we are our kids’ first and most important teachers. How do you encourage your kids to learn new things outside of their classrooms?

Be a hot mama: Spice up your relationship

Friday, February 17th, 2012

When I heard the Women’s Connection was going to host an event about “Hot Monogamy,” I laughed … and then signed up.

The speaker, Dr. Pat Love — yes, that’s her real name – promised to talk about how we can rekindle the sizzle that sometimes fizzles with time.  

As a service to all of you, I figured I would make the sacrifice to attend this event, so I could bring back some tips to help you spice up your relationships (oh, uh, yes, of course, it was only with you in mind, just to help all of you, I say, as I clear my throat uncomfortably… Suddenly, I hear crickets chirping).

I learned a lot. 

First, Dr. Love says if couples want to keep the passion alive, there are some things you need to understand about your partner and yourself.

She explained that some people are wired with what she calls “sexy bodies,” and others are wired with “sexy brains.”

The ones with the “sexy bodies” are the people with strong sex drives, who she joked that “if their hearts are beating,” they’re probably in the mood.

The ones with the “sexy brains” have to feel an emotional connection and experience low-stress levels before they are in the mood.

In the infatuation period of a relationship, everyone seems to be walking around in these sexy bodies, she said. So, when things seem to change in a relationship, partners start to feel resentful, if they don’t understand what’s going on.

“We often equate sexual desire with love,” she said. “But sexual desire is a separate drive.”

However, that intimacy is important in a relationship, and often people get divorced because they lose that emotional connection.

She said even if you were born as a “sexy brain” person, “how you play that hand is up to you.”

Dr. Love stressed the importance of communication, a healthy body image and creating ways to feel connected outside of bed.

She said couples should make a point of seeking out “skin on skin” touch (especially on the face, which she said is full of nerve-endings and very sensitive) to release the hormone called oxytocin, which promotes bonding, protectiveness and monogamy.

“You’ll be amazed on what that will do for that bond, for that connection,” she said.

Dr. Love also suggests couples find a passion they can share together, like a special hobby, activity or interest. That also strengthens intimacy and connection, she said.

At one point, she held up a smart phone and said technology is one of the biggest threats to marriages now. Through social media, people sometimes get caught up in flirtatious situations – or worse — with others, and lose sight of their own relationships.

You can learn more about this, check out her books, follow her blog and even watch her speak in a video online at www.patlove.com.

So, what do you think? How do you stay connected with your partner?