Sunday, April 23, 2006

Ahhhhhhhhhh, Spring!!

Ahh, spring! I can open my windows, listen to the birds sing and hear children playing outside. Feel the breeze blowing and hear the leaves rustle in the trees. Oops, I almost got to that point, except that, coming down the street is some jerk with subwoofers rattling the bolts off the frame of his car and a bass rumbling so loud that our canary has just vibrated off his perch. I can no longer hear my husband, and he’s sitting next to me. Ahh, spring! Mind you, I love music. That is, music defined by the dictionary as “the art of producing significant arrangements of sounds, usually with reference to rhythm, pitch and tone color, especially if pleasing to the ear.” I think that means songs excluding heavy breathing and phrases that begin with, “Oh baby.” And it means excluding that 4-letter word beginning with the letter “F” and phrases about rotten women, telling how “real men” put them in their place. I don’t want to preach and sound like somebody’s mother (even though I am somebody’s mother), but come on! Yes, everyone has a right to listen to music. However, that doesn’t mean that when you’re in your yard, I have to listen to your music – when your yard is half a block from mine. And it doesn’t mean that when you’re driving up the street, I have to listen to your radio. Don’t even tell me “if it’s too loud, you’re too old.” I’m 48. I grew up in the 60’s and 70’s and I had those battles with my parents about turning down the record-player and the radio. So anyhow, when you’re driving and those speakers are blaring, how the heck do you hear anything else? And do you care that by the time you’re in your mid-30’s you probably won’t be able to hear anything? I read about a visiting assistant professor from Tulane University in New Orleans who founded an organization called Noise Free America ( What a concept! We’re bombarded by noise during our every waking hour. Do you realize that from the moment we awaken, we’re virtually assaulted by noise? We get up to an alarm or clock-radio, we turn on the stereo or TV and our day starts. We drive to work or commute on public transportation. We work in noisy environments. Then we go home to our after-work chaos. Most of us live in suburban areas and don’t even realize what a truly quiet night is. The problem with all of this noise is that if we try to tell someone we’re bothered, whether by a loud stereo or an obnoxious cell phone conversation, we’re seen as the aggressor. Yes, my neighbor’s noise may bother me, but might their reaction bother me more? What a pity we’ve lost the sense of community we once had. And how sad that we’ve lost our manners. What happened to a sincere, “Oh, I’m sorry I was bothering you?” Instead, we hear, “Get lost, *^&%.” Maybe, instead of Noise Free America, we should start an organization called “Bring Back Courteous Americans.” For a while a few years ago, we were all very nice to each other. As a sign of normalcy returning, we seem to be getting back to our old selves. What a shame.

Friday, April 14, 2006

Babies, Babies, Everywhere...

While browsing the Internet recently, I came across an item which has caused some discussion among a group of women I talk with. Katie Holmes, the once wholesome and now glassy-eyed object of Tom Cruise’s uber-affection, is due to give birth soon. Unless you’ve been living under a rock, there’s a good chance that you know this. Or you know someone who knows this. There’s consternation among the Holmes clan, since Mr. Cruise is insistent upon Katie having a “silent birth” as recommended by the tenets of his belief in Scientology. I’m not out to knock Scientology, and I don’t write for South Park. For all I know, there ARE aliens out to get us. Far be it from me to be arrogant enough to believe WE are the only intelligent life form out there. Unlike Mr. Cruise, however, I have had children, and I have had labor. Ok, it’s not like it’s portrayed on some cheesy TV shows. You don’t HAVE to bellow your lungs out in order to give birth. But you also have to remember that you’re attempting to push a pot roast through a Cheerio. And that’s not easy work. Another thing you have to remember is that women generally like telling their birthing stories. My mom’s was pretty succinct when we chatted about how I was born. “They knocked me out. I woke up. You were here.” Oh, ok. My sister is still a little perturbed that both of my labors were under 3 hours. Suffice to say that hers were NOT. And we still refer to my youngest brother as “The Gas Pain” because my mom was due any day and was a little uncomfortable, telling my dad, “it’s just gas.” Forty-five minutes after that statement, The Gas Pain was born. For my first son, I was at the attorney’s office where I was working, sitting at my typewriter (this was pre-PC days, folks) and typing my, “I would like to start my maternity leave tomorrow” note. My water broke. My maternity leave started right then, and 2 and a quarter hours later, he was here. After calling my mom to tell her that he was born on the same day as their anniversary and the birth date of The Gas Pain, she said I was full of horse puckies…until she heard him squalling in the background. For the second one, I almost didn’t make it to the hospital. My labor coach’s teen daughter was chatting on the phone with her boyfriend. Yep, THAT was pre-cell phone. And that birth took one hour and 10 minutes. My mother asked me why I had a child so close to Christmas and I asked her if she had pre-planned to have me three weeks AFTER Christmas. See? It’s like guys telling a fish story, only women usually have the proof – the kid – that theirs WAS an ordeal. I do believe that it’s best to remain calm at birth, no matter which side of the table you are on. I do believe excessive noise is not necessarily good – they have epidurals now and they can fix it. However, I have yet to run into anyone in recent times who has had a totally “silent” birth, at least while they were conscious. I believe that birthing is a special miracle. It’s the occasion of a new life coming into this world. No matter how you do it, I think the most important thing is that it should be private and safe. I think that, sometimes we focus on celebrities just to get our minds off the natural disasters, the wars, the genocide and all that other stuff in the news. Birthing stories are fun to share when you’re with a group of girlfriends. And they make great additions to the family history. Playing them out in the tabloid press and on the ‘Net just seems to be a little over the top, even for the over-the-top times in which we now live.