Saturday, May 31, 2008

Those 27 People

Just a brief update to say I was very interested to hear the DNC committee proceedings today. I was impressed at how the speakers presented such cogent, clear, and reasoned positions -- and I was struck at how difficult the situation is and how people were really trying to do the right thing. So many competing interests to balance.

I'm not sure how I feel about the result. I think it was appropriate to seat delegates from both Michigan and Florida, and the half-vote thing seems right, given that that was the penalty originally stated in the rules. I'm still pretty troubled about the allocation aspect of the decision regarding Michigan, because it means that 27 people decided to give an arbitrary number of delegates to someone who wasn't even on the ballot, and in so doing they took delegates away from the specifically designated "uncommitted category" which is supposed to mean "uncommitted."

I don't get the basis for giving the pledged delegates only half-votes and giving the superdelegates whole votes (that feels a bit like giving preference to the party insiders over the citizen voters) but I missed chunks of the hearing and maybe someone had some rationale for that.

So, it'll be interesting to see where it goes from here. I can appreciate why Clinton might appeal further -- the allocation of delegates does seem arbitrary and sets a very troubling precedent of ignoring actual votes to pick some number to benefit one candidate over the other. So aside from the political ramifications in this race, I can see how it could be important to address the principle that was derailed in that aspect of the vote.

But we'll see. It's definitely a fascinating inside look at party politics.

And I'm really gonna try to get back to more fun stuff. Fabric! Quilts! Art! Food! Books! Friends!

Friday, May 30, 2008

What's Fair is Fair ... but what's Fair?

I’ve heard so much emotionally-laden argument about the delegate counts for Michigan and Florida, with a lot of strong, negative language and inflammatory allegations being thrown around. And once again, the issue that trips me up as I listen to all of this is not who did what when, but whether the scrutiny and moral judgment applied to one candidate is also applied to the other. It’s the fairness thing that bugs me. It seems a sort of hypocrisy to criticize one candidate for doing something, while simply refusing to consider whether the other candidate did it too.

Maybe I’m just fed up with a vocal number of Obama supporters who, in their avid support of their candidate, do a whole lot of Clinton-bashing. I’ll say it again: I think Obama is a FINE candidate. Impressive. Smart. Capable. But isn’t it ironic that the very people who tout how Obama is not involved in dirty politics and doesn’t engage in nasty personal attacks are the ones making the meanest, most personal negative attacks against Clinton? That’s the sort of hypocrisy (on the supporters’ part, not Obama’s) that gets my ire up pretty fast.

So with all the talk about now bad it would be if Clinton were "allowed" to "change the rules in the middle of the game," I did some research about what the rules were in the first place. And I came across some interesting things. Make of them what you will.

I read the DNC rules on the selection of delegates. ( Wanna read them? They’re here.) There were some specific rules that seem to apply here.

First, there’s rule 13, "Fair Reflection of Presidential Preferences." The rule states: "Delegates shall be allocated in a fashion that fairly reflects the expressed presidential preference or uncommitted status of the primary voters or, if there is no binding primary, the convention or caucus participants."

"Shall" means that the rule is mandatory, and that the DNC must allocate delegates in a way that fairly reflects what the voters expressed. So, if the DNC were to decide to seat any of the Michigan delegates, how can it award any delegates to Obama without violating this rule? Obama withdrew his name from the ballot, so there was no "expressed presidential preference" in his favor. If Obama and/or his supporters end up with him getting any delegates for Michigan, isn’t that a way of changing Rule 13 in the middle of the race? And isn’t that what Obama people castigate Clinton about?

Second, there are the rules about what happens if a state sets its primary date outside of the timeline approved by the DNC, as Michigan and Florida did, and what that means for the democratic candidates.

Rule 20(C)(1)(b) says: "Any presidential candidate who campaigns in a state where the state party is in violation of the timing provision of these rules ... may not receive pledged delegates or delegate votes from that state." The famous "pledge" that people talk about turned this DNC rule into a promise from the individual candidates.

But in January, 2008 (prior to the Florida primary), Obama ran campaign ads in Florida via national cable networks (CNN and MSNBC) contrary to the terms of the pledge. When Obama was charged with violating the pledge, his campaign manager replied that the advertising was a "national buy" and the networks could not eliminate Florida from the national cable advertising. Other candidates (such as Clinton, Edwards, and Richardson) had chosen to buy local advertising for other areas which would not run in Florida, and had refrained from national advertising which might run in Florida to avoid violating the pledge and the DNC rule. Obama’s campaign manager also stated that they had received "permission" to run the ads in Florida from the chair of the South Carolina democratic party. However, the pledge itself makes no provision for any one state or individual to permit deviation from the terms of the pledge, nor does it provide for any exceptions other than fundraising. And, of course, one person in South Carolina can’t waive DNC rule 20.

So if Obama is given any delegates from Florida, or if he and/or his supporters argue that he should get any delegates from Florida, wouldn’t that allow a violation of the pledge, and Rule 20, and result from a change of the rule in the middle of the game?

But if the DNC sticks with the rules as they are, two whole states’ worth of democratic voters will be ignored. And to me, that is simply an intolerable option. I hate the thought in our democracy, especially after the 2000 election fiasco, we’ll end up with a result where people came out and voted and their votes will be meaningless. That just seems hugely wrong to me, regardless of who those votes favor.

So any compromise will involve changing some rule or another. From my perspective, if there are going to be any rule changes or creative interpretations, I’d favor the ones that give voice to people who cast actual votes that we can count. I’m extremely uncomfortable with making up figures out of thin air or reaching some artificial apportionment that doesn’t reflect what voters actually did. Isn't the actual vote count the only actual number we have? Isn't it a strange and dangerous precedent for our democratic system to disregard an actual vote count in favor of some theoretical, imagined number, no matter how "fair" the imagined number might seem to the unelected DNC committee members?

This situation is so complicated. The rules say what they say, and the candidates made their strategic choices for their own political reasons. That's fine -- it's a competition, after all, and they're both in the race to promote their own interests. But I can’t stand how lopsided the discussion seems sometimes. Clinton and Obama are both smart, strategic politicians. They wouldn’t be where they are if they weren’t. They’ve made the decisions that they thought would best benefit them at the time. But when we sort how to address this very difficult mess, let’s just apply the same rules to both competitors.

And while I’m on the subject, one more thought: It feels wrong to me that a political party, and not our elected representatives in state government, gets to decide whose votes count and whose don’t. And in challenging the awkward situation that now exists, I have more respect for a candidate who bucks the party view in favor of sticking up for people, than I do for one who complies with the party line but disregards voters’ voices.

So what’s fair? It’s not an easy answer, is it?

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Feel like a good book?

I've had the lucky event of reading some really good novels lately (I love it when I stumble onto some unusual and good books) so I thought I'd share some of the ones that I especially enjoyed.
There's No Place Like Here by Cecelia Ahern

This was charming and unusual and poignant. Here's Amazon's summary:
"Sandy Shortt, an obsessive-compulsive Missing Persons investigator ... suddenly finds herself in the mystical land of the missing, desperate to return to the people and places from whom she has spent her life escaping. ... Ahern asks readers to step outside the boundaries of reality, and enter a world where missing people (and possessions) from all over the globe congregate to start anew. When Sandy goes on an early morning jog and strays too far into the forest, she too finds herself "Here," the aptly named home of the missing. In addition to finding her lost socks, diaries, and stuffed animals, she also finds many of the people she has searched for throughout her career." I loved this book. And it really makes you think about your own "lost things" differently.
The Age of Dreaming by Nina Revoyr

This was another unusual find, and an atypical story well-told. It's narrated by an elderly Japanese man looking back on his days as an actor in 1920's Hollywood silent films. Here's how Publisher's Weekly describes this novel:
"Prompted by a journalist's visit in 1964, 42 years after he left the screen for good, Jun revisits his youth in Japan, his discovery at L.A.'s Little Tokyo Theater, his rise to stardom and the scandalous events that led to his abrupt retreat from public life. Mixing real people with fictional characters like principled Japanese actress Hanako Minatoya, troubled starlet Elizabeth Banks (not the one in Seabiscuit), ingĂ©nue Nora Minton Niles and dashing director Ashley Bennett Tyler, Revoyr creates a vibrant portrait of a time when the film studio was a place of serious work. As Jun reveals the secrets he has kept for decades, he uncovers new twists in his own history and comes to terms with other painful experiences he has repressed, namely his loneliness and the effects of the anti-Japanese racism he mistakenly believed he could overcome by being as agreeable—and American—as possible."

This glimpse of LA and the silent movie world was fascinating, as was the style of narration.
Definitely an unusual story and an enjoyable book.

Dedication by Emma McLaughlin and Nicola Kraus

This is an earlier novel by the authors of The Nanny Diaries. It's light chick lit, but fun and fast reading. It's about a woman who is haunted by the need for closure after her high school love became a rock star and has based all of his hit songs on aspects of their relationship. When he returns to their home town, she's determined to tell him off, for once and for all. It's funny and maddeningly familiar (to anyone whose had a seemingly great guy act like a big jerk) and fun reading.
Missing Witness by Gordon Campbell
I love a good legal mystery, especially when the trial details are reasonably accurate. And this was a fun surprise. Here's Booklists's summary:
"Sixty-four-year-old lawyer Campbell sent the manuscript of this novel, unsolicited, to Morrow, the publisher bought it within a week. That will come as no surprise to readers of this suspenseful legal thriller, which has drawn comparisons to the early work of Scott Turow. Campbell brings to it a deep love of the law and a great feel for his Phoenix setting. That's where recent law-school grad Douglas McKenzie takes his first job, passing up an offer from a blue-chip firm for a chance to work with legendary defense attorney Dan Morgan. The hard-drinking, chain-smoking ex-marine asks Doug to help him with a huge murder case when he learns Doug has a family connection to the defendants. A rich cattleman's son has been shot, and the murderer is either his glamorous wife or his emotionally disturbed 12-year-old daughter. The many finely detailed courtroom scenes crackle with tension as the driven Morgan, frequently hung over and so nervous that he sweats through his suit, makes his arguments with passionate conviction. A page-turner that is also a fascinating primer on the law."
I'm off to the library now for a new stack!

Sorry about the weird spacing-- I don't know why I can't get Blogger to do paragraphs this morning!

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Loaded Up

Well, who'd have thought? Quilting content!
I've been wanting to quilt this simple top I pieced to give to my mother in law, who gave me some beautiful batik fabric she bought in Bali years and years ago. So, today I finally got it onto the Hinterberg frame. But it was one of those processes where one thing led to another....
I've not done enough on the frame to be really confident about the process of putting the quilt on. So, I remembered I'd bought a video to help me through the process, called "I've got a Longarm and I'm Not Afraid to Use it!" And watching that showed me that I had to make an adjustment in the frame itself, so I did that....
Then, all ready to go, I started in sewing...and shredded thread and broke 3 needles. AARRGH. After various adjustments, I got it all going smoothly. Phew.
So is this frame thing faster? So far, not for me. But maybe it will be one of these days.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

I Love Jeffrey Toobin

I've always loved Jeffrey Toobin, legal writer in New Yorker and CNN analyst. But I was proud to be a fan of his last night, when I saw this during CNN's coverage of the Kentucky and Oregon primary results:

And as for that Alex Castellanos guy? Would be be back on CNN as a commentator if he said it was okay to call Obama the "N" word?

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

A Deafening Silence

I feel like I've been shouting into a void of sorts as I've repeatedly gotten upset at the sexist, hate-filled language used when well-respected, mainstream media types talk about Hillary Clinton. I've SO appreciated the comments and emails I've gotten in response to my rants here, and I'm glad to know that many of you feel the way I do about how harmful to all women this sort of talk is.
So I was especially gratified to read a well-written piece from May 15, 2008 in the Washington Post by Marie Cocco about this very issue. She said it better than I ever could:

Misogyny I Won't Miss
By Marie Cocco

As the Democratic nomination contest slouches toward a close, it's time to take stock of what I will not miss.

I will not miss seeing advertisements for T-shirts that bear the slogan "Bros before Hos." The shirts depict Barack Obama (the Bro) and Hillary Clinton (the Ho) and are widely sold on the Internet.

I will not miss walking past airport concessions selling the Hillary Nutcracker, a device in which a pantsuit-clad Clinton doll opens her legs to reveal stainless-steel thighs that, well, bust nuts. I won't miss television and newspaper stories that make light of the novelty item.

I won't miss episodes like the one in which liberal radio personality Randi Rhodes called Clinton a "big [expletive] whore" and said the same about former vice presidential nominee Geraldine Ferraro. Rhodes was appearing at an event sponsored by a San Francisco radio station, before an audience of appreciative Obama supporters -- one of whom had promoted the evening on the presumptive Democratic nominee's official campaign Web site.

I won't miss Citizens United Not Timid (no acronym, please), an anti-Clinton group founded by Republican guru Roger Stone.

Political discourse will at last be free of jokes like this one, told last week by magician Penn Jillette on MSNBC: "Obama did great in February, and that's because that was Black History Month. And now Hillary's doing much better 'cause it's White Bitch Month, right?" Co-hosts Joe Scarborough and Mika Brzezinski rebuked Jillette.

I won't miss political commentators (including National Public Radio political editor Ken Rudin and Andrew Sullivan, the columnist and blogger) who compare Clinton to the Glenn Close character in the movie "Fatal Attraction." In the iconic 1987 film, Close played an independent New York woman who has an affair with a married man played by Michael Douglas. When the liaison ends, the jilted woman becomes a deranged, knife-wielding stalker who terrorizes the man's blissful suburban family. Message: Psychopathic home-wrecker, begone.

The airwaves will at last be free of comments that liken Clinton to a "she-devil" (Chris Matthews on MSNBC, who helpfully supplied an on-screen mock-up of Clinton sprouting horns). Or those who offer that she's "looking like everyone's first wife standing outside a probate court" (Mike Barnicle, also on MSNBC).

But perhaps it is not wives who are so very problematic. Maybe it's mothers. Because, after all, Clinton is more like "a scolding mother, talking down to a child" (Jack Cafferty on CNN).

When all other images fail, there is one other I will not miss. That is, the down-to-the-basics, simplest one: "White women are a problem, that's -- you know, we all live with that" (William Kristol of Fox News).

I won't miss reading another treatise by a man or woman, of the left or right, who says that sexism has had not even a teeny-weeny bit of influence on the course of the Democratic campaign. To hint that sexism might possibly have had a minimal role is to play that risible "gender card."

Most of all, I will not miss the silence.

I will not miss the deafening, depressing silence of Democratic National Committee Chairman Howard Dean or other leading Democrats, who to my knowledge (with the exception of Sen. Barbara Mikulski of Maryland) haven't publicly uttered a word of outrage at the unrelenting, sex-based hate that has been hurled at a former first lady and two-term senator from New York. Among those holding their tongues are hundreds of Democrats for whom Clinton has campaigned and raised millions of dollars. Don Imus endured more public ire from the political class when he insulted the Rutgers University women's basketball team.

Would the silence prevail if Obama's likeness were put on a tap-dancing doll that was sold at airports? Would the media figures who dole out precious face time to these politicians be such pals if they'd compared Obama with a character in a blaxploitation film? And how would crude references to Obama's sex organs play?

There are many reasons Clinton is losing the nomination contest, some having to do with her strategic mistakes, others with the groundswell for "change." But for all Clinton's political blemishes, the darker stain that has been exposed is the hatred of women that is accepted as a part of our culture.

Marie Cocco is syndicated by the Washington Post Writers Group. Her e-mail address is

A meme, in pictures

I have snatched this fun idea from my Flickr friend, Amy. And here's how you can play:
a. Type your answer to each of the questions below into Flickr Search.
b. Using only the first page, pick an image.
c. Copy and paste the html into your blog or Flickr stream, or use the Mosaic Maker at to make a mosaic.

The Questions:

1. What is your first name? Diane
2. What is your favorite food? Chocolate
3. What high school did you go to? Los Altos
4. What is your favorite color? Red
5. Who is your celebrity crush? George Clooney
6. Favorite drink? Fizzy water
7. Dream vacation? Scotland
8. Favorite dessert? Brownie sundae
9. What you want to be when you grow up? Contented
10. What do you love most in life? Family
11. One Word to describe you. Inquisitive
12. Favorite Music? All sorts!
If you give this a try, post a link in a comment so I'll know to go look!

Monday, May 19, 2008

An Instant Lesson on Composition

I've been having fun with, a site where you can upload your photographs and see photos from others. It's an amazing site, really, and you can find pictures of pretty much anything there.

But as I've been cruising around the flickr groups I've realized what a great lesson it is on composition.

In Flickr, you can post your photos and they're collected on your own "photostream." (You can see mine here.) And if you want, you can also put a photo in a group "pool." There are scads of groups on Flickr, organized by subject or by color or by theme or just by general excellence. You like roses? There are pools of photos with just rose pictures. Groups for just dog pictures or animal pictures and yes, even insect pictures, abound. You name it, there's a group for it. Rusty things. Architectural details. Ordinary household things. Red things. One of my favorite groups is Shutter Sisters, all photos by women.

When you click on a group, you see the group's photo pool. The shot here is a screen shot of a group I like called "Super Shots," and it shows the photos that were most recently added in thumbnail form. (If you're actually on the flickr site, it's bigger and easier to see the individual photos, just so you know.) If you're in Flickr, you can click on any photo to see it in full size. (And then you can go from there to the photographer's photostream to see his/her other pictures. And then you can see what groups she belongs to... and basically you've managed to spend a whole heck of a lot of time at the computer seeing cool stuff. But I digress.)

So here's the thing about seeing a group photo pool: some photos just jump out at you and make you want to see them in full size, while others just don't attract attention. And it's interesting to think about what that is. When you view a pool of photos this way, suddenly composition and contrast and color and lines and forms. It makes you realize how strong composition will show up even in a little thumbnail and announce a good picture.

If you're feeling like thinking about composition, go check out flickr and see what compositions grab you.

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Jumping for Joy

One of the great things about being a parent is seeing your child find a passion. Caroline's been riding for a number of years now, and it's great to see her loving it so much.

Look at her concentrating on her approach to the jump... (Tuey is wearing a mesh mask to protect his eyes from bothersome flies -- he's not doing this blindfolded.)

And she's over!

Luckily, I have a few more years before I have to worry about this sort of thing, which was going on in the next ring:

A thoughtful discussion of race, gender, and politics

I've always liked Bill Moyers, and if I'm cruising the tv to find something to watch before bedtime, I'll check out "Bill Moyers Journal" on PBS to see who he's talking to.

Last night, I found him interviewing two UC Berkeley law professors, Christopher Edley and Maria Echaveste who also happen to be husband and wife. Edley is a senior advisor to the Obama campaign, and Echaveste advises Hillary Clinton. So the discussion focused on their views of the candidates and how race and gender issues are playing out in this campaign.

It was an amazing, common sense and informative discussion of the candidates -- I was so impressed at both of these people, and the calm, humorous and down to earth way in which they talked about how race and gender have affected people's views of the candidates.

It's well worth the 30 minutes to listen to this interview, which you can watch here or download from Itunes.

Friday, May 16, 2008

Book Review: Masters: Art Quilts

I don't know why, but I've been in a creative slump lately. The thought of working with fabric just hasn't interested me. But today I knew I was going to be someplace where I'd be sitting and waiting for an hour or more, so on my way out of the house I grabbed a book I just received: Masters: Art Quilts: Major Works by Leading Artists.... and wow. Am I glad I did.

The book is curated by Martha Sielman, head of SAQA, the Studio Art Quilt Associates. And it's a lovely look at art quilts by 40 different quilt artists. I really, really like a lot of things about this book, but one of the best things is that each artist gets an 8 page spread, so you see an assortment of pieces that really gives you a sense of his or her work. The book is mainly photographs -- Martha Sielman introduces each artist with a brief commentary, and then there are a few quotes from the artist his/herself... And then the quilts speak for themselves.

Another of the things I really like about this book is that the quilt artists include artists from other countries whose work isn't as familiar as some others. I was delighted to be introduced to artists I'd not known about, like Eszter Bornemisza, Kyoung Ae Cho, Jette Clover, and Jeanette Gilks. There are, of course, other masters whose work was more familiar to me, including Jane Burch Cochran, Noriko Endo, Caryl Bryer Fallert, Inge Mardal & Steen Hougs, and Velda Newman.

This isn't a how-to book at all. It's simply a collection of selected works by very talented artists who are pushing the art quilt forward and upward. But it's a great overview of the breadth and depth of relatively current art quilting, and it's chock full of inspiration.

My 90 minutes in the waiting room flew by and I didn't make it halfway through the book. But boy, are my fingers itching to get to some fabric and get to work!

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Animal Paradise

I have written before about the ranch nearby where we go several times a week to care for two gorgeous horses whose owner can no longer ride them. We were there yesterday, grooming and getting lots of horse affection.

This, of course, is Caroline's dream place come to life. But wait -- can it get any better???

Thanks to the heartless people who abandon unneutered animals down by the river nearby, various feral cats have made their way to the ranch where there are lots of cozy hiding places and abundant food. And now that spring is here, they are having kittens. This is Caroline holding a kitty who opened its eyes probably just a day or two ago.

And rest assured that the Ranch Ladies (the owners of the place) are handling this responsibly. As they locate feral cats on the property, they catch them, have them neutered and given appropriate shots, and then work with Forgotten Felines, an organization that rescues feral cats, assesses them for domestication, and finds home for them.

So, as they find kittens around the ranch, they try to get them used to people so they can be adoptable all that much more easily. That means that Caroline can poke around the place to look for kitties and play with them to her heart's content.

Oh, look! There's one now!

When you've not been around tiny kittens in a while, it's easy to forget how small and funny they are.

Pretty cute, huh?

This guy totally cracked me up -- he's constantly surprised by the existence of his back legs and tries to chase them and bite them.

The black cat looking on is his adoptive mama. She's a spayed female who actually lives here, and she's taken some of the feral kitties on as her own babies.

Ranch Lady's hand rubbing this guy's tummy gives you an idea of how tiny he is.

"Is that the paparazzi?! AACCCKK!"

Monday, May 12, 2008

A Mum for Mum's Day

I have had a very lovely Mother's day, and I hope that all you who are mothers and/or have mothers did too!

In the morning, I was able to sit and sip my coffee while lounging on the living room couch in a pool of sunshine, one of my favorite sunday morning things to do.

I saw my mom and dad and brother and sister for a nice afternoon visit. I was reminded how nice it is to have my entire original nuclear family within two hours of where I live, and how wonderfully nice it is that we all really, really like each other.

Roger and Caroline made me a lovely dinner -- grilled marinated tri-tip, sweet potato fries, steamed asparagus, my favorite red wine (Rusina Zin) and not surprisingly, chocolate cake for dessert.

Caroline made me an elaborate collage with pictures of trees, flowers, wolves, and lots of beautiful colors. I'm so delighted to see how she enjoys her art-making and is proud to share it with others.

And Roger added a lovely bouquet of flowers, knowing I enjoy them AND that now I also have the added pleasure of photographing them to see what secrets they reveal when I shoot them up close.

All in all, a wonderful day. How lucky I am to have such a great family!

Yesterday was all about the mom luxuries. Today the mom duties return full force... but I am determined to get back to my routine of getting in a bit of sewing time most days, and blogging about it as well. I have in mind a cruise through some of the using photographs in quilts books I have, to see if I get any ideas for merging my newfound love of photography with my ongoing passion for fabric...

Sunday, May 04, 2008

One of these things is not like the others...

A childless friend of mine recently said to me, exasperation in her voice, "Don't people KNOW that raising kids is going to be hard?" She'd been frustrated by the complaining of a single-mother friend of hers, who tends to go on at length with some bitterness about how she can't do the things she wants to do because she has a small child.

Of course, I replied, people know intellectually that raising a child isn't easy. But knowing that intellectually is a vastly different matter than facing the day-to-day rearing of an individual with her own personality and ideas and opinions -- hard enough when you have a partner, probably harder when you're doing it alone. When I talk to my mom-friends, we always agree: the things that can be the most challenging are the unexpected things, decisions or issues you just didn't see coming.

I have been thinking a lot about this conversation with my friend lately, because over the past several weeks I have been immersed in sorting through the difficult business of advocating for our daughter. Figuring out what your child needs can be a very tricky business, I find. When she tells you about a problem she's having, or about something that she finds really, really hard, what is in her best interest? Sometimes just listening seems to be in order, and the venting is what is needed. Do you encourage her to keep trying, on the theory that conquering the difficulty will help her feel good about herself? Or will that make her feel that you're not appreciating the difficulty and seriousness of the situation? Do you suggest different ways of handling the problem, to offer new strategies? Or does that suggest that she's not handling it well or will she take it as sounding critical of her choices? Do you intervene? When do you decide that what she's talking about really *is* something a 12-year old girl shouldn't have to handle on her own? How do you make sure she feels listened to, supported, valued, empowered, and defended or protected if it comes to that?

Sorting out which strategy to use when is tricky, I tell you.

And lately, I have been grappling with another layer to the whole business: how to cope with the adults (like teachers and school staff and principals) who view YOU as a problem because you're standing in front of them advocating to get what your child needs. Some people are great, of course, and dedicated, and empathetic, and sensitive to the fact that not every kid is the same and some are pretty darned different from the rest of the pack. But some kids are pretty sensitive, and some adults are not.

I'm talking in generalities here, because I've been addressing this stuff in regard to a host of different issues. But one example crystalized the issue for me. During a recent overnight class field trip, one of the girls in her class (we'll call her Ann) had her birthday. And at dinner that night, some of her friends assembled a cake for her by putting a bunch of individual cafeteria-cake-squares onto a plate. We were in a big cafeteria, and as we started to sing Happy Birthday to Ann, the kids from all over the room -- not just the ones in our class -- gathered around to sing and watch. And just as the singing ended, two of Ann's friends reached over and shoved her face down into the cake.

There was much laughing and excited shrieking from the onlooking kids. And Ann came up, frosting everywhere on her face and hair, looking hugely embarrassed but smiling faintly, as if trying to see the joke and be a good sport about it.

Me, I gasped in horror. At 12, among a big crowd of peers, I'd have been mortified and humiliated if that had been done to me. The mom sitting next to me looked similarly aghast.

The teacher, sitting to my right, smiled affectionately at the group. "Ann is smiling," she said, "So I'm not going to worry about it."

Frankly, her reaction horrified me even more. It seemed pretty clear to me that the situation called for some immediate discipline -- at least the forceful message that those sorts of pranks are inappropriate and hurtful. I said, "I thought that was a really mean thing to do to someone they call their friend." But still, the teacher smiled, and again said that since Ann didn't "seem upset," she didn't think there was a problem.

So here's the thing: my daughter has been telling me about how this teacher just "doesn't deal with stuff." So when she, or any other kid, feels that they have a problem, they don't talk to the teacher because she doesn't do anything about it. That's my child's perception, anyway, and from what I'm learning from other parents, she's not the only one who feels that way. There are kids in that class who spend each day worrying about what's going to happen -- what other kids might do to anyone else -- and even though nothing happens on any given day, they're stressing out about it because as far as they can tell, the limits are pretty darned loose.

Now, my daughter isn't the sort of kid to let stuff roll off of her. She can fret and worry and get a pretty good stomach ache going over things. And, after seeing various episodes on our school field trip, I have a whole new understanding of why she's reacting the way she is. Just because she feels differently -- or is the only one who reacts differently outwardly -- doesn't mean there's not a problem with the classroom dynamic.

Anyway. Tomorrow I'm scheduled for a talk with the school principal, and I'm guessing (from past discussions) that she'll listen, and suggest that my daughter is unusually sensitive but that everything is under control, and I'll feel a bit patronized and not really heard, so I'll have to express my concerns a bit more emphatically to make myself understood.

It's just not simple, figuring out what is going on and knowing how to do what your child needs you to do. But you do the best you can, and that's all we parents can do.