Thursday, March 22, 2012

Kids and Electronics aka Why I'm a Bad Parent

The hubs and I have decided to get his 9 year old daughter a phone, to give to her when she comes out this summer. I understand that this may be a controversial topic, however this was not a decision that was made lightly, or rashly. The reasons for it are too personal for the interwebs, but for this particular situation we feel like it is the best choice for our family.

Not my stepdaughter. Also source.

I *may* work for a large wireless carrier, and I may have had a line of service that was collecting dust which helped the decision making process. I may also have been able to procure the device for free during the St. Patty's holiday sale, and it's not going to cost me anything extra each month. I am also painfully aware that every other customer service call that my company receives starts with "My kid went over their allowance, and now my bill is $10,000..." so as soon as I got the phone, I started downloading games (fun and educational ones) and then started to put it on complete and total lock down.


She can only call specific numbers that are currently programmed into her phone. If she attempts to add a new contact, or call a number not currently listed, she's going to get an error message. If anyone tries to call her from a phone number not on her special dial list, they won't be able to get through. This also goes for text messages - sent and received. Yes, I am a genius.

Her phone will actually stop working if she approaches her allowance threshold - voice, data, or text - and will not reset until the next bill cycle, so she physically can't go over her usage.

The phone is also set up so that she can't text or call even her special people during certain times of day - examples of where this would be important would be during school hours, after she's supposed to be asleep, etc.

She can play the games that I've downloaded for her, but she can't download any new games, songs, movies (even free ones) unless I temporarily unlock her phone for her - which I can do remotely, since she's generally in FL and I'm generally not.

Lock, meet Key. *evil laugh* Source

Here's where the 'I'm a Bad Parent thing' starts.
The final step was to add usage controls to the content she could see on the internet. The options were for ages 7+, 13+ or 17+. I started with the 7+, and tested it, and then the unbelievable happened.

The phone couldn't access Google.

Google is my best (imaginary) friend, people.

This was inexcusable! How would she be able to answer the thousands of inane questions that go through a child's mind on a daily basis? She actually used google last summer to teach me a math problem I was struggling with at work. I swear, she looked up "How to do weighted averages in English" - kids are brilliant. This usage control was going to take that away?! The horror. I couldn't fathom locking it down. I couldn't take that potential knowledge from her.

So I moved up to 13+, and I tried again. She could get into Google, but she couldn't get into Wiki.

Wiki is my back-up (imaginary) best friend.

So then I went to 17+, but she still couldn't access Wiki. So then I gave up. I removed the content usage control.

*YAY Internet freedom!* Source

So here's where I want to ask you for your opinion. Do you think you should lock up knowledge to protect your children from accessing websites that could have foul content, or do you let them learn to enjoy learning, and teach them when they have questions about foul content?

All comments are welcome, but try to be respectful of the fact that people have different opinions.

Friday, March 9, 2012

My Personal Feelings on Kony 2012

A little secret for you all - If I was independantly wealthy, I would become an active advocate for The Girl Effect. Since I'm not, I do what I can. I would not classify myself as a rabid feminist. I wear skirts. Even when I run. I love sparkles and pink. I don't think women should be exactly the same as men - we're not. But I do think girls should be given the opportunity to be educated. I do think girls can help their communities and economies with their own skills. And I do NOT think that girls should be raped and hacked up with machetes as a tool of warfare, and psychological domination. I know I'm not the only one who feels this way.

My interest in the Girl Effect leads to a variety of subjects, and non-profits that I support. I was first introduced to Women for Women International in 2007, when I signed up for a local race "Run for Congo Women" (and yes, it annoys me that it's not grammatically correct). WfW focuses on helping women in war torn regions receive an education - learning to read and write, but also technical skills - developing a skill, learning to run a business, understanding legal rights.

I have a passion for Kiva, where letting someone in the world borrow $25 can help them with their business - which they pay back, and you can give to someone else to help with their business. I've helped 89 inidividuals and groups of women to improve their businesses in 45 countries. I loan to Christian women, and Muslim women. I loan to women in the US and Uganda. Their repayments go to new loans, so they are really helping each other. I LOVE that.

In addition to WfW and Kiva, I support Refuge Point. My SIL was one of the first people to come to the US after the Refugee Act was passed. She works for Refuge Point, who provide protection, health and community service to refugees and refugee camps in war torn regions of Africa.

Which brings us to Joseph Kony. Kony is a bad guy. He is the leader of the LRA, and has spent 27 years stealing children, turning them into soldiers, forcing them to rape and kill people, and has torn up several countries in Africa in his attempts at domination. The #Kony2012 campaign has one aim - to capture Kony, and have him stand trial for crimes against humanity.

The Kony 2012 campaign by Invisible Children is easy. All it's asking for is that you be a voice. You don't have to donate, though you can. You don't have to contact your senators, though you can. All that is asked is that you watch a video, and share it. Your job is to create chatter - and if you're reading this blog, you can create chatter.

Non-profit work is hard. It's often not as successful as people hope. If you want to see the good, bad, and ugly of grassroots work, I heartily recommend that you read Half the Sky, by Nick Kristof and Sheryl Wu Dunn. It shows how hard it is to do a good thing, even when you want to. There's been some backlash that this is too easy. That it won't really accomplish anything. People like to poke holes. They like to feel superior. They like to say that a situation is too complex, that something is too simple. That it can't work.

But sometimes, to conquer an enormously complex issue, you need to start small - otherwise the task is daunting and paralyzing. Kony 2012 is as small and as granular as this specific issue can get. Catch one man. It won't solve everything. But if it works, it can show that Humanity outranks Politics. It shows us that together we can do a lot more than we can divided. And it creates a beginning - a roadmap - that we can use to get better, and deeper, over time.

I believe in positive thought. I believe that we are all connected. I believe that if people push a positive idea, it can overtake a negative one. Some people call it collective consciousness. Some people call it group prayer. Some people call it hope.

My Dad told me when I was a kid that if I did something, I could assume that other people would do it too, but if I didn't do something, I had to assume that no one else would either. I'm choosing to do something. I'm spreading the message. Watch the video. Make a choice. Make Kony famous.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

I'm still alive people, and I have a new obsession...

This post is about my experiences at Crossfit Infernal in Chandler, AZ. They are not aware that I'm posting this, and my opinions are completely my own. If you're interested, you can check them out at, or on twitter at @CFInfernal

OK, so about a month ago, I told you all that I was going to try Crossfit. Then I didn't post anything for a month, so I'm sure you thought I died attempting to do a hand stand push up, or something equally heroic.

Hint: I can't do this
Well I didn't die (yet). However, I absolutely love it, even though it still terrifies me, so I'm going to tell you why. (Did you hear @autamday just groan, because she's heard me talk about nothing else for the last month? 'Cause I did. I heard her groan.)

My first day at "the box" (which I'll admit always sounds a littly dirty)
  • I was immediately greeted by Will, in a very open and friendly way. He made eye contact, he didn't look at me and scoff. By the way, this is Will:
Will Howard
In case you thought that open friendly eye contact meant a lack of intimidation
  • He took me through a starter work out to get a handle on my (lack of) fitness. This included 500m row (cake), 400m run (I'm still slow at 400 m), 40 squats (surprisingly ok!), 30 situps (I was hoping for death about 15 in), 20 push ups (girly ones allowed, still stunk), and 10 pull ups (or as I like to call them, jumping up and down on a box while holding onto a bar)
  • He was very encouraging and nice. His coaching was constructive and positive. He made me feel like I did a good job.
  • I stayed for the real workout, which J attended. About 4 minutes into it J was trying to be supportive, and I wanted to die of humiliation. We left mad at each other, and determined (again) that we cannot work out together. We also determined that this was completely my fault - which it honestly is.
Day 2:
  • Where I met Greg, one of the owners. He was possibly even nicer, and very welcoming. He told me to do "only" 75 wall balls, rather than 150, and let me do every 3rd monster truck tire flip, instead of every other one.
Greg Santilli
This is Greg. Totally not intimidating, right?
  • My notes for this class said "I feel proud!"
Day 3: Greg again
  • The workout was 30 handstand pushups, 40 pull ups, 50 kb swings, 60 situps (remember when I wanted to die at 15?), 70 burpees
  • Eileen: So... I can't do any of those things
  • Greg: Give it a try. We'll scale if you need to
  • Eileen: *dies*
  • Eileen actually completed something along the lines of this workout in 22:15, which was approximately 12 minutes slower than her husband. She knows this, because the box has a white board where everyone's daily results are listed. This validated that they should not work out together, ever.
  • My notes for this workout said "My knees were down on the pushup, even with the blue band (the heaviest assister) pull ups are still impossible, kb swings were at 18lbs, sit ups meh. Burpees had horrible form, I don't even know how people can do these. This was really tough - but I will get better."
  • Coach Greg made sure to tell me after class that I had done a really good job.
  • Note: the next day, I was trying to make myself eggs, and I couldn't press the spray on the spray can down. True story.
Each class has gotten better, and I've been more and more confident that I can survive the class. I even attended a class with J last Monday morning, and I was not super self-conscious, and consequently we decided that maybe we can occassionally work out together. Yay!

Overall What I Love:
  • I love the coaches. They are all bad asses, but they ensure that the environment is positive, supportive, and community based. There's no egos in this place. I could see making friends here.
  • I love that scaling is a part of learning. No one looks down on me for modifying a workout to my abilities. The coaches do make sure that I'm challenging myself, but will never ask me to do something I can't physically do.
  • I love that it exposes your weaknesses, even the most unusual. For example, I am totally incapable of jumping with both feet at the same time. No, I swear, it's true. I cannot jump on a box with both feet. I can't jump rope with both feet. I can't frog jump with both feet. I can't jump through a tire with both feet. I always lead with one foot. Who knew that it was even possible to have that problem?! Still, now that I know this, I can work on it.
  • I love that every day I need to have a pep talk with myself, and listen to inspirational music on my way, and read off my tools for being mentally tough to get in the door, but I've gone every time, and I feel like a rockstar when I leave.
  • I love that they post the WOD's for the week, so I can youtube school myself on things like "What is a turkish get up?" and "What does AMRAP mean?"
  • Related - there's a website that has amazing amounts of detail for the maven in me.
  • I love that Bonnie (another coach) yells at my hubs, and he loves it. I also loved her face the first time I did a clean and jerk, and was so excited/amazed that I immediately dropped the bar and bear hugged her. I don't think enthusiastic hugging happens that much here.
Bonnie Atilano
She can also maybe lift more than he can...
Updated Pysical Goals for 2012:
  • Complete a marathon
  • Run a sub-29:24 5K, achieve 2600 pts in the Summer Series
  • Stay under 150 lbs
  • Do an unassisted pull up
  • Switch to real pushups, yo.
  • Beat the box monster at 20" - it's totally mental. I need to stop thinking and just DO it.
  • Rx a workout (do it as actually prescribed) - which will not be happening this week.
I feel great challenging myself at something I'm not good at. Every day that I attend class is a victory, and I feel proud no matter how much I blew up the workout!

Monday, March 5, 2012

11 Random Questions

Several weeks ago, I was tagged by the beautiful and talented Gina at This is Not Your Blog, and asked to answer several questions. Generally, these questions are a bit lame, but hers were Phenominally Difficult, and it's taken me quite some time to digest, and answer honestly. So, without further ado...

1. What was the greatest live music experience you've ever had?
My initial thought was the Incubus 4/20/02 concert, in So Cal - a home show, the kickoff to a new tour for Morning View, on a date important to some of their audience members (I've never smoked, but I get that it's a special day). It was awesome. They even played Certain Shade of Green, which is one of my favorites, and which they NEVER play live. Also, it was a great road trip with my girl @autamday.

But then I started thinking about it, and i realized that the greatest live music experiences that I had were when I was PLAYING the music.

(note: For those new to my life, I grew up in a very talented musical family. My brother is a world class drummer, and my father was concert master of the Boston Symphony Orchestra as a teenager. I was never as talented, but I worked harder so that I could 'hang with the fam. I played piano from 5-9, then quit over a disagreement with my piano teacher, who thought Jazz was lame. I started playing alto sax at 11, and quit when I was 18 because I did not want to access the parts of my soul that were grieving over some family stuff. I regret it.)

[Even more random note: I felt like Voldemort when I just said I regret it, but I actually do regret it, just in case it sounded cold and heartless to you too.]

So, I searched through the memory banks, and declared the most awesome live music experience as the Las Vegas band trip, when Jazz played Channel One Suite, the crowd went wild, and we felt like rock stars.

2. What was your worst date ever?
Guess who only went on one official date her whole life? To her husband? The worst part was that it started raining (people in AZ can hear the doom coming) and my wind shield wiper fell right off the car. These things happen when they only get used once every 600 days or so...

3. If money is no object, what would your dream vacation be?
I've already done my dream vacation. I scraped my pennies together until I could spend the better part of a month touring China. It. was. awesome. Everything I've wanted to see since I was 4 years old. My second dream vacation would be spending several weeks in one of those houses in the water in Fiji. Kind of of Isle of Esme style, minus the whole throwing up and being attacked by my fetus part. Destroying bedroom furniture optional. :)
4. Would you rather live in a crowded city or small town?
I would rather live within my budget in a small town (hello, Gilbert, AZ), but if money were no object, my dream place to live would be Cambridge, MA (part of Boston, so big city). Second up would be Solana Beach, CA (in between Cardiff and Del Mar/Torrey Pines) on the beach.

5. Would you be willing to murder one innocent person if you knew it would guarantee an end to all world hunger?
Man here's where the tough ones started. I've been thinking about this for weeks. My answer is - Yes, because innocent people die from hunger every day. According to the World Food Program, 925 million people do not have enough to eat, and undernutrition contributes to five million deaths of children under five each year in developing countries - that's 13,698 children under 5 each day. So yes, I would murder one innocent person to save 925 million people from going hungry.
Wouldn't you?

6. When did you last cry in front of somebody (who is not your partner)?
I cried my eyes out when I finished the PF Chang's Marathon in January - for all to see.

7. Would you be willing to endure night terrors- every night- for the rest of your life if you were given vast personal wealth to use however you wish in exchange?
I have night terrors already, so where's my money b*? Honestly, I hate having night terrors so much that I tell myself every night before bed "Deep, dreamless, restful sleep" and I'm generally able to turn them off. If I forget though... bad night ahead. First night terror was when I was 4, the statue of Mary in my Aunt Mariellen's dining room turned into the Quik bunny, who chased me around the house with a knife until he had sliced off every appendage I had and went in for the final thrust (you can imagine the impact on my religious feelings) The nightmare I have most often is a plane crashing on me. Always happens on a very sunny day when I'm very happy and with family. It's slowly falling out of the sky, generally on fire, and I can't tell which way it's going to fall, so I keep running this way and that until it crashed on me. You're welcome for these visuals.

(note: I was going to put a picture of a plane crashing here, but when I googled it, my heart started racing. So... no picture.)
 8. If you could choose the manner of your death- but not the timing- what would you choose?
A way that would allow me to tell my family that I love them, but not prolong the agony for them (or me.) I can't get any more specific than that because I'm afraid I would test fate. Yes, I am superstitious, even though I'm not religious.

9. Would you rather switch back to black and white TV with only five channels, or no internet?
I would rather have no TV. I don't really watch it, and although I'd miss the Biggest Loser, and the Olympics, I could watch those on the INTERNET. Take my TV now, can we cure world hunger with that?

10. If you could use a voodoo doll to hurt somebody, would you do it?
So, funny story. I may or may not have used voo doo dolls for people in the workplace. There was this one guy, Gregg, who drove me insane with his obtuseness, so I had a voo doo doll for him. I'd just pin him in the legs, no big deal. It was cathartic. Then one day I was talking to a coworker in NJ, who was telling me that she was waiting for Gregg because they carpooled, and I said "GREGG?! Gregg ******? Uh, I wouldn't sit within 10 ft of that guy, he drives me crazy!" and then she mentioned that since they were engaged to be married, it made sense to carpool.
*Insert foot here*
So, I sent them his voo doo doll for their wedding.

I'm shocked by how many voo doo pics have pins in the eyes, not cool people. Also:

11. What if the voodoo doll was only able to annoy them tremendously (for example: causes pervasive itching of genitals while in public, causes slight ringing in ears at nighttime, etc), would you do it?
I absolutely LOVE this idea. My favorite local bookstore - Changing Hands - has voo doo doll notepads, which I'll admit I've been eyeing for quite some time, but now I HAVE to get them. This is the Best Idea Ever!