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Archive for June, 2012

The Mom Vivant / The Busy Trap by Tim Kreider of the NYT

If you live in America in the 21st century you’ve probably had to listen to a lot of people tell you how busy they are. It’s become the default response when you ask anyone how they’re doing: “Busy!” “So busy.” “Crazy busy.” It is, pretty obviously, a boast disguised as a complaint. And the stock response is a kind of congratulation: “That’s a good problem to have,” or “Better than the opposite.”

It’s not as if any of us wants to live like this; it’s something we collectively force one another to do.

Notice it isn’t generally people pulling back-to-back shifts in the I.C.U. or commuting by bus to three minimum-wage jobs  who tell you how busy they are; what those people are is not busy but tired. Exhausted. Dead on their feet. It’s almost always people whose lamented busyness is purely self-imposed: work and obligations they’ve taken on voluntarily, classes and activities they’ve “encouraged” their kids to participate in. They’re busy because of their own ambition or drive or anxiety, because they’re addicted to busyness and dread what they might have to face in its absence.

Almost everyone I know is busy. They feel anxious and guilty when they aren’t either working or doing something to promote their work. They schedule in time with friends the way students with 4.0 G.P.A.’s  make sure to sign up for community service because it looks good on their college applications. I recently wrote a friend to ask if he wanted to do something this week, and he answered that he didn’t have a lot of time but if something was going on to let him know and maybe he could ditch work for a few hours. I wanted to clarify that my question had not been a preliminary heads-up to some future invitation; this was the invitation. But his busyness was like some vast churning noise through which he was shouting out at me, and I gave up trying to shout back over it.

Even children are busy now, scheduled down to the half-hour with classes and extracurricular activities. They come home at the end of the day as tired as grown-ups. I was a member of the latchkey generation and had three hours of totally unstructured, largely unsupervised time every afternoon, time I used to do everything from surfing the World Book Encyclopedia to making animated films to getting together with friends in the woods to chuck dirt clods directly into one another’s eyes, all of which provided me with important skills and insights that remain valuable to this day. Those free hours became the model for how I wanted to live the rest of my life.

The present hysteria is not a necessary or inevitable condition of life; it’s something we’ve chosen, if only by our acquiescence to it. Not long ago I  Skyped with a friend who was driven out of the city by high rent and now has an artist’s residency in a small town in the south of France. She described herself as happy and relaxed for the first time in years. She still gets her work done, but it doesn’t consume her entire day and brain. She says it feels like college — she has a big circle of friends who all go out to the cafe together every night. She has a boyfriend again. (She once ruefully summarized dating in New York: “Everyone’s too busy and everyone thinks they can do better.”) What she had mistakenly assumed was her personality — driven, cranky, anxious and sad — turned out to be a deformative effect of her environment. It’s not as if any of us wants to live like this, any more than any one person wants to be part of a traffic jam or stadium trampling or the hierarchy of cruelty in high school — it’s something we collectively force one another to do.

Our frantic days are really just a hedge against emptiness.

Busyness serves as a kind of existential reassurance, a hedge against emptiness; obviously your life cannot possibly be silly or trivial or meaningless if you are so busy, completely booked, in demand every hour of the day. I once knew a woman who interned at a magazine where she wasn’t allowed to take lunch hours out, lest she be urgently needed for some reason. This was an entertainment magazine whose raison d’être was obviated when “menu” buttons appeared on remotes, so it’s hard to see this pretense of indispensability as anything other than a form of institutional self-delusion. More and more people in this country no longer make or do anything tangible; if your job wasn’t performed by a cat or a boa constrictor in a Richard Scarry book I’m not sure I believe it’s necessary. I can’t help but wonder whether all this histrionic exhaustion isn’t a way of covering up the fact that most of what we do doesn’t matter.

I am not busy. I am the laziest ambitious person I know. Like most writers, I feel like a reprobate who does not deserve to live on any day that I do not write, but I also feel that four or five hours is enough to earn my stay on the planet for one more day. On the best ordinary days of my life, I write in the morning, go for a long bike ride and run errands in the afternoon, and in the evening I see friends, read or watch a movie. This, it seems to me, is a sane and pleasant pace for a day. And if you call me up and ask whether I won’t maybe blow off work and check out the new American Wing at the Met or ogle girls in Central Park or just drink chilled pink minty cocktails all day long, I will say, what time?

But just in the last few months, I’ve insidiously started, because of professional obligations, to become busy. For the first time I was able to tell people, with a straight face, that I was “too busy” to do this or that thing they wanted me to do. I could see why people enjoy this complaint; it makes you feel important, sought-after and put-upon. Except that I hate actually being busy. Every morning my in-box was full of e-mails asking me to do things I did not want to do or presenting me with problems that I now had to solve. It got more and more intolerable until finally I fled town to the Undisclosed Location from which I’m writing this.

Here I am largely unmolested by obligations. There is no TV. To check e-mail I have to drive to the library. I go a week at a time without seeing anyone I know. I’ve remembered about buttercups, stink bugs and the stars. I read. And I’m finally getting some real writing done for the first time in months. It’s hard to find anything to say about life without immersing yourself in the world, but it’s also just about impossible to figure out what it might be, or how best to say it, without getting the hell out of it again.

More From Anxiety

Read previous contributions to this series.

Idleness is not just a vacation, an indulgence or a vice; it is as indispensable to the brain as vitamin D is to the body, and deprived of it we suffer a mental affliction as disfiguring as rickets. The space and quiet that idleness provides is a necessary condition for standing back from life and seeing it whole, for making unexpected connections and waiting for the wild summer lightning strikes of inspiration — it is, paradoxically, necessary to getting any work done. “Idle dreaming is often of the essence of what we do,” wrote Thomas Pynchon in his essay on sloth. Archimedes’ “Eureka” in the bath, Newton’s apple, Jekyll & Hyde and the benzene ring: history is full of stories of inspirations that come in idle moments and dreams. It almost makes you wonder whether loafers, goldbricks and no-accounts aren’t responsible for more of the world’s great ideas, inventions and masterpieces than the hardworking.

“The goal of the future is full unemployment, so we can play. That’s why we have to destroy the present politico-economic system.” This may sound like the pronouncement of some bong-smoking anarchist, but it was actually Arthur C. Clarke, who found time between scuba diving and pinball games to write “Childhood’s End” and think up communications satellites. My old colleague Ted Rall recently wrote a column proposing that we divorce income from work and give each citizen a guaranteed paycheck, which sounds like the kind of lunatic notion that’ll be considered a basic human right in about a century, like abolition, universal suffrage and eight-hour workdays. The Puritans turned work into a virtue, evidently forgetting that God invented it as a punishment.

Perhaps the world would soon slide to ruin if everyone behaved as I do. But I would suggest that an ideal human life lies somewhere between my own defiant indolence and the rest of the world’s endless frenetic hustle. My role is just to be a bad influence, the kid standing outside the classroom window making faces at you at your desk, urging you to just this once make some excuse and get out of there, come outside and play. My own resolute idleness has mostly been a luxury rather than a virtue, but I did make a conscious decision, a long time ago, to choose time over money, since I’ve always understood that the best investment of my limited time on earth was to spend it with people I love. I suppose it’s possible I’ll lie on my deathbed regretting that I didn’t work harder and say everything I had to say, but I think what I’ll really wish is that I could have one more beer with Chris, another long talk with Megan, one last good hard laugh with Boyd. Life is too short to be busy.


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Stocks plunge on news of healthcare ruling

So, how do we feel when it comes to Obamacare

So, how do we feel when it comes to Obamacare

Today’s ruling that the United States Supreme Court will not question the “wisdom” of Obamacare is interesting and surprising. I think the best soundbite I have heard as I watch the coverage unfold is,”If the economy were better, I would feel better about it.” Exactly. With unemployment high, we’ve just decided to tax people who may not have a job to begin with. I’m not sure how I feel about the provision that would allow children up to 26 years old to stay on their parents’ insurance policies. But we do need to acknowledge that under Obama, more 26 year olds can’t find work than ever before. That begs the question as to whether we are fixing the actual problem or not. Apparently, the ruling came down to the court’s decision that the individual mandate is, in effect, a tax. The Supreme Court justices have upheld all aspects of the law based on the fact that the Federal Government has the right to tax Americans. Not to treat this matter lightly, but did the Supreme Court just levy a tax? And when did that become legal? Isn’t Congress charged with levying taxes? While we moderate Republicans applaud the fact that insurance companies can no longer deny coverage to those with pre-existing conditions and that 30 million uninsured Americans will now have access to health insurance, the fact is uber-Democrats like Jerry Brown balked at parts of Obamacare because the money just isn’t there.  The President is promising subsidies for individuals who can’t afford to buy their own insurance and grants to states for their expanded Medicaid programs. Now more than ever we need to ask ourselves, “With a 15 trillion dollar deficit, can he afford to do that?”

There will be no change unless Congress acts on Mitt Romney’s promise, that if elected, he will introduce legislation to repeal Obamacare. We’re still watching the coverage but my initial reaction is that it is a well-intentioned, highly flawed program that we can’t afford. It is true that more people have insurance in Massachusetts as a result of the changes Romney instituted when he was Governor of that state but it is also true that Massachusetts could afford the changes then and the federal government today can’t.  If you haven’t purchased insurance by 2014, you will be taxed for not getting into the system.  The tax for not carrying insurance will start at a couple of hundred dollars but will rise incrementally to thousands. Companies with 50 employees or less will be taxed $2000.00 per employee if they don’t provide them with health insurance.

The Court did have the sense to strike down the portion of Obamacare that would have forced states to forfeit all of their Medicaid funding if they couldn’t afford to expand their Medicaid rolls. I know recent polls have shown Obama leading in three key swing states but I predict this is going to galvanize Republicans the way they were energized around the mid-term elections in 2010. Don’t forget a majority of Americans, even those who supported healthcare reform, were opposed to the individual mandate. We cannot feel good about ourselves as a country until we make sure those at the bottom of our system have access. We’re not sure what that dance is going to look like between the I.R.S. and the states over these taxes and grants, we’re concerned that Medicare was working for most Seniors and should have been left alone and we hope it isn’t true that Obamacare is going to cost 1 million jobs, as the Congressional Budget Office has stated.

Cook, Eat, Share

Is that the best name for a foodie website? Cook, eat, share? This is a recipe for a summer salad made from corn and orzo that came from

This is a recipe my mom has been making for years. Light, fresh, and delicious. It’s a great summer side salad for a picnic, BBQ, or just to go alongside some grilled chicken or shrimp.


  • 5 cups Corn, fresh or frozen thawed
  • 16 oz Orzo
  • 1 cup Greek black olives, pitted & halved (black olives work here too)
  • 2 Red Pepper, chopped
  • ½ cup Fresh Basil, coarsely chopped
  • ½ cup Fresh Parsley, coarsely chopped
  • ¼ cup Olive Oil
  • ¼ cup White Wine Vinegar
  • Salt, to taste
  • Pepper, to taste


  1. Cook and drain orzo according to package directions.
  2. Add all other ingredients.
  3. Serve cold or at room temperature.

Civics for Kids

All this talk about the economy has me thinking about what young people can do to earn an extra buck. In fact, right now I am employing a teenage girl from the neighborhood. I’m out of town and need someone to walk the dogs and feed the cat. I’m going to post two links to talk to kids about. If they’re earning some pocket money, it might be a nice segue into a discussion on the unemployment rate. The first link is jobs many of us probably did as teenagers: I worked as a cashier at a local concession stand, my cousin had a newspaper delivery route, my little brother pumped gas. The second link is about jobs that actually pay and can potentially pay big. I don’t advocate the jobs it talks about but I do think it’s interesting that tech savvy teens have started their own businesses when they were still in high school. Could serve as inspiration if nothing else!

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What happens if Obamacare is struck down /

Bus taunting victim fundraising goes viral  /

Doctors remove tumor from fetus 

Boring? Anything but.

Matt Taibbi writes in his latest Rolling Stone post that 2012 is the most boring Election year ever. I would argue it’s one of the most important election years ever. We have an electorate that identifies as 20% Independent and polls that show the Presidential candidates are neck and neck. The constitutionality of Obamacare hangs in the balance and could be determined by the Supreme Court in the very same year that its chief architect is up for re-election. The unemployment rate is still high, the economic recovery sluggish and Americans want solutions. They’re tired of politics as usual. Who they blame isn’t entirely clear. I would say this is actually a very exciting year. The Taibbi article is representative of the kind of mentality that can crop up in the press that than gets “reported” as news. Talk about inconsistencies. Matt Taibbi writes,“I don’t know any campaign journalist out there who thinks that Romney has a legitimate chance to win. I’m not making a value judgment about either candidate.”  (Umm, Mr. Taibbi, that sounds like a value judgement.)

CNN talked with Taibbi on the “boring” election, what’s ahead for the candidates and why he thinks 2012 is feeling a lot like 2004. Here’s an edited version:

Q: What do you think about polling that shows President Obama and Mitt Romney are neck and neck?

TAIBBI: “You know, I saw that poll. I don’t believe it. I don’t know any campaign journalist out there who thinks that Romney has a legitimate chance to win. I’m not making a value judgment about either candidate.”

“I just think that in the press, there’s this general feeling that this election is a foregone conclusion. You have a relatively popular incumbent, the economy is not doing terribly, and traditionally, the candidate who has a major fundraising advantage almost always wins, and Obama has raised a lot more money than Romney has.”

Q: But didn’t you hear James Carville the other day? He said that many people feel similar to what you described and that’s dangerous because he thinks Democrats could lose.

TAIBBI: “Yes, that’s possible. But one of the things we have to remember [is] I think we all in the media get caught up in this. There are very few political taboos in American journalism. But there are a lot of commercial taboos, and one of the big ones is you can never say that something is a foregone conclusion. It’s our job in the media to try to drum up interest in this. We have to sell advertisers and we have to get viewers and ratings.”

“So we can’t just come out and say that this thing is over six months before it happens. So there’s a strong incentive by all the pundits, including people like me, to come out and say “Well, this could happen, that could happen.” Romney has a legitimate chance – it’s just a subconscious poll that works in all of us in the media that drives us to make those kinds of comments, I think.”

“[But] it’s still the presidential election, it’s the most powerful office in the world. There’s always going to be some kind of drama about it. And there’s quite a lot at stake and I’m sure we’ll come up with something that will make it interesting before the end.”



Keeping it Real

From Maressa Brown/The Stir/

As a tween, there was almost nothing I loved more than magazines. I read all the usual early ’90s suspects … Sassy (then JANE), YM, and of course, Seventeen. I caught hell from classmates for bringing Seventeen onto the playground as a fifth grader. Even if I secretly thought I was leagues beyond my peers, I was also sadly ahead when it comes to something most young women grapple with at some point: Being totally inundated with false images of beauty that can strip away at your body image and self-esteem.

Times have changed since then, but the magazines haven’t. And fierce teens of 2012 are fighting back. A blogger for SPARK, a girl-fueled activist movement protesting the sexualization of girls, Julia Bluhm, has started a petition that asks Seventeen‘s Editor-in-Chief Ann Shoket to publish one spread each month of unaltered pictures. How hard could that be?

Julia writes, “I want to see regular girls that look like me in a magazine that’s supposed to be for me.” And her colleagues over at SPARK agree. Fellow SPARK blogger Izzy Labbe agrees. Labbe writes that it isn’t too much to ask for “a magazine that is supposed to be a leader in the teen world of beauty, inspiration and fashion.” They’re just asking for a focus on real girls who already ARE beautiful — genuinely.

Bluhm spoke with us exclusively about why she started her petition:

I want girls to be able to look at PhotoShopped pictures and be able to say, “You’re fake, and I’m not!” and celebrate their own true beauty, instead of being sad because they don’t fit the narrow mold of beauty that the media creates.

So awesome! She’s totally got her head on straight, and to know that she’s invested in opening fellow teens’ eyes and bolstering their self-image is truly inspiring. Thankfully, there’s proof she’s already making quite the impression and isn’t alone in her belief system. Check out some of these other bold beliefs from a couple of her SPARK teammates

Maya Brown, 17:

[Girls] see the women in ads as beautiful, and they want to look like them. They learn that in order to be beautiful and attractive, they must look a certain way. Not only is it damaging to have these images out there, but the girls who see them can never actually achieve this high standard of beauty.

Carina Cruz, 16:

‘These women aren’t real’ is what I have always been told as a struggling overweight preteen wishing to be like the girl on the front cover. … This is exactly what I have been telling myself for the past few years and what I will continue to tell my peers, who are struggling with the same issues.

Major props to these bold young women! I know they are already well on their way to being a positive influence on their peers. But with our help, they could also re-model (literally, ha) the future of Seventeen magazine — which would be a major victory for our daughters.

How awesome are these girls? Will you sign the petition?

The Mom Vivant / Summer Fun-tasy!

You know how Americans flocked to the movies during the Great Depression? Well, how about Moms flocking to celebrity gossip rags during a Summer when the economy is still limping along? I thought it would be fun to reprint an article from People on what celebrities are doing this Summer. Ryan Sutter from The Bachelorette is hiking the 500 mile Colorado trail while Trista is going to bring the kids home to visit family in St. Louis. Trust me, these are not people I think about day in and day out but it is kind of fun to vicariously experience that trek in the mountains!  Here’s more –

Grab your flip flops and sunscreen, it’s time for some fun in the sun!

With summer upon us, we asked a few of our favorite celebrity moms about their fun family plans. Laila Ali and her kids will hit the beach, Shannon Miller is gearing up for the Summer Olympic Games in London and Kimora Lee Simmons and her three kids have poolside plans. Read on…

Former boxer Laila Ali and husband, NFL star Curtis Conway, are parents to two kids: son C.J. who turns 4 in August, and 1-year-old daughter Sydney. The Dancing with the Stars alum opened up to Celebrity Baby Scoop about their upcoming summer plans.

I plan to do a lot of swimming and I want to enroll my son in official swimming lessons and get Sydney in the water,” Laila said. “I want to do a lot of outdoor activities, like take them to the beach. We haven’t really done that, because I wanted to wait until my son was old enough. You have to be careful with the kids and sand; I don’t want that situation where my daughter gets sand in her eyes. I want to take my son to the beach and do a lot of swimming, and maybe get him on the back of a bike. A lot of outdoor activities.”

Kimora Lee Simmons is accustomed to life in the fab lane! The model-entrepreneur is mom to daughters Ming Lee, 12, and Aoki Lee, nearly 10, with ex-husband Russell Simmons. The reality TV star is also mom to son Kenzo, 3, with husband, actor and model Djimon Hounsou. The mom-of-three opened up to Celebrity Baby Scoop about their upcoming summer plans.

This summer, everyone is working,” Kimora said. “I’m launching Shinto Clinical all over the world, Djimon is on-set filming, the girls have summer activities, Kenzo has a little camp he’s going to – but i know we’ll have fun. I honestly wouldn’t mind spending more time around the pool. Maybe grill out…that sounds fab to me!”

$#*! My Dad Says star and Jenny Brand Ambassador Nicole Sullivan and her husband, actor Jason Packham, are proud parents to sons Dash, 5, and Beckett, 2 1/2. The actress opened up to Celebrity Baby Scoop about their summer plans.

We went camping with my older son’s preschool class this past weekend,” Nicole said. “Imagine 50 kids under 6. Oooof! We are also going to Connecticut to visit my cousins and their kids. We do it every year and it’s always so fun. We get to say things like, ‘Kids go outside and play.’ “

Considered one of the greatest gymnasts in U.S. history, Shannon Miller holds 7 Olympic and 9 World Championship medals. Now mom to 2-year-old son Rocco with husband John Falconetti, the 35-year-old athlete opened up to Celebrity Baby Scoop about heading to the 2012 Summer Olympic Games in London, England.

Yes, I’ll be in London as an analyst for major outlet,” Shannon said. “I’m so excited for Team USA! Jordyn Wieber is the current world champion moving into the Olympics so she will certainly be one to watch. Gabby Douglas has surprised many this year. Aly Raisman and McKayla Maroney are names that continue to be in the mix for one of the top spots on the team. Of course we have quite a few from the 2008 Olympic Team making comebacks including Nastia Liukin and Bridget Sloan. With only a five person team this year it will be all about staying healthy and being consistent.”

Once the queen of reality TV, Bachelorette star Trista Sutter is now enjoying a quieter life in Colorado with husband Ryan Sutter and their beautiful children Max, nearly 5, and Blakesley, 3. The mom-of-two opened up to Celebrity Baby Scoop about their upcoming summer plans.

I just finished organizing the kids summer camp schedules (it’s a lot of work), so they are set, and Ryan and I are going to just roll with the punches,” Trista said. “He has talked about doing a 500 mile hike (The Colorado Trail) and if so, then I plan on taking the kids back home to St. Louis for visits with family and friends. Otherwise, we are going to enjoy our favorite season in Vail.”

Kristi Yamaguchi is an Olympic ice skating champion and the first woman to win Dancing with the Stars. She and her husband, former hockey player Bret Hedican, are parents to daughters Keara, 8, and Emma, 6. Kristi opened up to Celebrity Baby Scoop about their upcoming summer plans.

I’m looking forward to a vacation in Hawaii with the family and working on projects with my Always Dream Foundation, which supports children’s literacy,” Kristi said. “In fact, Tom’s of Maine is making a donation to it as part of this story hour event.”

Photos: Trium/Kimora Lee Simmons/Trista Sutter/Claire Deliman

No cook meal for a hot summer night

From Real



  1. In a medium bowl, combine the chickpeas, raisins, roasted peppers, parsley, scallions, oil, ½ teaspoon salt, and ¼ teaspoon                                 pepper.                             
  2. Serve with the cheese, ham, olives, and bread.