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Writing From The Heart – Guest Post by Rebecca Laffar-Smith

December 27, 2007 | Guest blogger,Guest post,Words

Wow! It sure is a trip to be connecting with readers across the web in realms I tread with caution. I’m Rebecca Laffar-Smith from over at The Writer’s Round-About and when Becky asked if I’d help out by writing a guest post I thought it was a great idea. She’s off exploring the world and all her readers have an opportunity to hear from so many different voices while she’s away.

You should read the email she left us all with. A lengthy list of topics we could wander into along with free reign to do whatever we wanted instead. Becky, you’re a very brave person. I’m not particularly brave so I’m going to stick with a topic I know well.

Writing From The Heart

You don’t have to be a professional writer to experience the joy and wonder of written expression. Writing often feels like an enforced part of our daily lives. We rarely make time to write for ourselves. Do you keep a journal? Write about your dreams? List your ideas? Or is your writing limited to shopping lists, work reports and financial statements?

Taking up a pen and notebook is a simple way to create inspiration in your life. Write down what you are thankful for or what you’ve accomplished today. Reignite your life by exploring who you really are. By committing your thoughts to paper you create a record you can reflect on in years to come.

One advantage of writing only for yourself is that you don’t have to write well. The most important key to developing writing skills is to dig deep into your heart. We all begin with the basic understanding of sentence structure and composition. Developing the skills of a professional writer is not something those who write for themselves have to do. So long as you can read your own writing you can write in any way you like, about anything you like. Explore the topics that interest you and weave yourself with the language and words that fire your emotions.

You do not have to fear censorship or ridicule. What you write in your personal journal is for your eyes only. There is an amazing freedom when we permit ourselves to commit the significance of our thoughts to paper and the privacy to hold these words close to our hearts.

Explore your mind and emotions. Discover your inner being and the wealth of your subconscious intelligence. All it takes is a few minutes a day to open yourself to new ideas and a form of relaxation that gives your creative voice the freedom to sing its own song.

Write from your heart today and visit The Writer’s Round-About if you’d like to read more about writing.

Posted by Rebecca Laffar-Smith @ 2:06 am | 7 Comments  

Where should I begin…

December 26, 2007 | Blogging,Dad2twins,Daddy bloggers,Guest blogger,Guest post,Norway

Hello to the world through Becky’s blog. I’m Lance from Dad2twins.com. As with many of the guest bloggers that Becky bestowed with the high honor and privilege to be a stand in blogger, I have never actually met Becky in person. If, and when I meet her someday, I will make sure I bring a nice bottle of good Irish Whiskey or maybe even a few pints of Guinness with me so we can have long discussions about almost anything. I have been an admirer of Becky and her blog for sometime. Becky and I have had great conversations through email and blog entries and mutual comments on each other’s blogs for over a year. I do hope, before I finish my blog life, I know I will stay in touch with Becky because I have already decided she will be my editor when I finish writing a couple of the books I have started and threaten to finish in my lifetime.

Becky and I have something else in common. Norway. The Norwegian blood runs strong through my my family. I am of Norwegian decent. My people come from near the Arctic Circle. We are from Lesjaskog Norway. We even have some Sami in our family. As Becky spends Christmas among my people I am reminded of our heritage and how we still have a Norwegian breakfast every Christmas morning in our household. We have Rulepulse for breakfast along with Lefse. I won’t link to those, you have to discover those treats on your own. After that longwinded introduction, I don’t even think I will write about the actual topic I was going to write about. The Christmas meals sit heavy in my stomach and I am ready to sleep the next few days away. Our twins will not let that happen so I continue to dream of the lazy days after Christmas.

As I leave you, I invite you to discover this speech for yourself and the history behind it. It will give you some history into the name of Becky’s blog and how the term came about.I hope everyone had a wonderful Christmas. I thank the two Jews for giving the Christians a break on Christmas day. I hope you all have a wonderful boxing day? Oh, and I wish Becky safe travels and I thanks for letting me sit in.

Come visit me if you get a chance.

Posted by Lance @ 12:48 am | 2 Comments  

Oy To The World, the Chinese Is Come, Let Jews Receive Their Food!

December 25, 2007 | Books,Family,Friends,Guest blogger,Guest post,Middle East,Movies,My neighborhood,Opinion,Research,Stuff,Weird things,Working Mother

Aviva and Devra are in da house!  Merry Christmas Ya’ll!   Maybe you aren’t expecting a holiday greeting from the Two Jew Crew, but when Becky asked if we would guest blog, we requested Christmas. Why? Because we know You People our Christian mishpuka should be able to spend time with their families, so we shall work today so you don’t have to!  (So when Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur roll around return the fave. K?)

Jews and Chinese Food.  Add Christmas to the mix and you get a Holy Trinity  representing a Trifecta of Treyf. Why is this night different from any other night? Why on this night do Jews eat at Shun Lee instead of at home?  From Christmas Eve to Christmas Day Jews are making their Kung Pao pilgrimages.  Even Working Mother Magazine  Jews can’t tell you where this longstanding holiday observance originated, we only know it’s tradition. It’s how we roll.   Everyone should  know more about Jewish holiday observances beyond, “They tried to annihilate us. We survived. Let’s Eat!”  If Becky where here, she would no doubt be calling out the people striving to be our nation’s leader to tell us why Jews eat Chinese food On Christmas. 

 Hillary should know.  Fred Thompson may have the secret.  Is Barack is just one consonant away from unlocking the mystery?  Oh hell. Move over politics! Let’s dish…

Believe it or not, the combination of Jews and Chinese food is an ancient custom – OK, not biblical ancient nor is it an Ancient Chinese Secret, but it does appear to go back to the late 1800’s – no putzing around!

In lower Manhattan, immigrant Jews opened delicatessens for other Jews,Italians ran restaurants for other Italians, and Germans had many places serving primarily Germans. But Chinese restaurants welcomed everyone. As a result, even in the 1890s both Jews and Italians usually felt more at home in Chinese restaurants than they did in each other’s eateries.” (Originally published; “New York Jews and Chinese Food: The Social Construction of an Ethnic Pattern” by Gaye Tuchman and Harry G. Levine) 

Fast forward a few hundred years and it is still generally true.  Chinese food does not include dairy products. The fear of mixing a little dairy with your meat isn’t an issue. (You say, “Pork!” We say, “Kosher house, not Kosher stomach.”)  Look, Chinese food  became a status symbol for our people during The Depression – immigrant Jews who ate out at Chinese restaurants identified themselves and others as being chic and sophisticated-why should we want to change that practice?  Is it so terrible? Who does it hurt? Don’t you want your mother to be happy? 

Nowadays, you can find many eateries willing to open their doors to make a buck on Christmas, and you can find quite a few folks  who would rather buy a meal instead of cook one.  However, it wasn’t so long ago, Chinese restaurants were about the only option for eating out on Christmas day.  Another bonus to Chinese food on Christmas is the holiday repast is available before or after the matinee. Just because Christmas is not a Jewish holiday, does this mean no Jewish observance? Feh. Whatever your observance, we wish you Good Fortune and a very Merry Christmas!

Posted by Devra and Aviva @ 8:43 pm | 1 Comment  

Are your friends Republicans?

December 23, 2007 | 2008 campaign,Friends,Guest blogger,Politics

Hi, everyone. I’m Margaret, and I’ve actually never met Becky. We are e-friends, known only by listserv, email, and blog. We share interests in having a family and having a life as well. I admire her from afar, particularly now that she’s in Norway.

I’ve just started dipping a toe into political activism, and I’m puzzled by some of the things I’m learning. I thought I’d bat them around here and see what you think.

A few months ago, John Edwards did something I liked, can’t remember what it was, but I donated an embarrassingly tiny amount of money to his campaign. Naturally I have been bombarded with e-mail ever since. Now, I like Edwards, but I’m not sure if he’d be a good president. It seems to me he has little experience in Washington and none as an administrator of a big organization. But I do like many of the positions he’s taken. Also, as a blue-collar kid, I’m a real sucker for that whole “my daddy was a mill worker” shtick. And I’ve noticed a pattern: he announces a plan or stakes out a position, and later Hillary and Obama announce theirs, which are slightly to the right of  Edwards’s. It looks to me like he’s providing cover to the frontrunners and pulling the whole field somewhat to the left, and for me that’s reason enough to be thankful that he’s in the race. (Note: Becky has not endorsed a candidate, and what I say here is my opinion only.)

So I responded to one of those e-mails and got on a conference call with Edwards  supporters in New Jersey and found myself volunteering to collect signatures to get Edwards on the ballot for the primary here in February. Now, I’m not shy, and as a student, I registered voters in housing projects in the Bronx (which would scare my mother half to death, so I’ve never told her about this, even now, after 30 years). So I know this isn’t hard to do. Problem is, I live in a comfortable suburb, in one of those towns people move to for the schools, and this area is overwhelmingly Republican. I needed to find registered Democrats to sign these petitions. But I figured that among my family and friends there are quite a few who share my politics, so it would be easy to find Democrats. Was I wrong! Wrong, wrong, wrong!

I was right about my family; the people I thought were Democrats actually were. But none of my friends, and I mean NONE, are Democrats. Most are independents, and a couple are Republicans so they can vote in the Republican primary in local races. Since around here the Republicans dominate, local elections are basically determined by who wins the primary. (In New Jersey, only party members can vote in primaries. I know it’s different in other states.)

I am spooked by this, by the fact that my friends are not Democrats. Maybe I am completely naïve (a distinct possibility), and not that the Democrats are perfect (Lord knows they are not!) but I despise and fear so many Republicans (Dick Cheney! Newt!) that I cannot imagine either being a Republican or remaining aloof and being an independent. There are a few Republicans among my family, but I just figure that Rush has infiltrated their brains, so I consider them the political equivalent of pod people.

So here are some questions I’d like to throw out to all of you. Do you belong to a political party? How did you decide? Do you know if your friends have made the same decision? Do you feel as strongly about this as I do? Is this making sense to you, or do you think I am a total wacko? (It’s okay, you can tell me, I can take it.)

Posted by Margaret @ 12:57 am | 5 Comments  

Paternity Leave Heaven

December 22, 2007 | Benefits,Family,Guest blogger,Guest post,Parenting

Hi there, I’m AdventureDad and you might know me from my site or The Blogfathers.  Becky has graciously asked me to do a guest post and during her Norwegian adventure.  Poor Becky, she’s over in Norway freezing her butt off  and seeing absolutely no sunshine for  a few weeks while people like me ruin her blog. I’m actually not  far away from Becky since I live in Sweden, Norway’s neighbor, since a few years back.

The Scandinavian countries are known for many things but since I’ve travelled around the world quite a bit, and lived in U.S. for 15 years,  I think priority on families and children really stand out.  Something I’m very grateful for since I have two young children. The greatest example in Sweden is the  very generous maternity/paternity leave that all parents have a right to.  I’m just going back to work after six months of paid paternity leave which some people find completely normal while others can hardly believe it.

Reactions to a father staying home for six months with his children vary but can generally be divided into three  groups.  The Swedes think it’s great and simply ask how long I’m staying home.  The Americans are shocked and impressed, especially that fathers have the same possibilities, at our long paid leave and ask lots of good questions.  And finally the South Americans, especially fathers, who are too shocked or uninterested to ask anything at all.  The Latin fathers simply can’t believe why any father would voluntarily stay at home with his children, a job clearly meant for women only.

If you’re a father and wonder if it’s a nice vacation to stay home with two kids I can quickly tell you it’s not.  I have the most stressful Wall Street job imaginable but being at home with my children is twice as tough. It’s a real challenge.

How come so few countries  pay parents so they can give their infants, and of course also the family, a good start in life?  I don’t know but having seen the difference I’m convinced parental leave is one of the best investments ever for a society.  I’m sure problems later in life, like disease, crime, finances, and family stuff, become far less of an issue since parents get a relaxed start and have time to build a very close relationship with their kids (and spouse).  Not having to worry about finances, health care, or work does make an incredibly difference.  While many say Sweden offers so many family benefits because of our social democratic system I’m sure it’s actually a clever plan which in the long run drastically decreases the expenses for the government.   It’s a win-win situation for everyone.

For every child the Swedes are allowed to stay home 480 working days. Mother and father can split the time any way they want. The compensation is roughly 90% of your salary up to a cap which is equal to an average salary.  Some companies, like my employer, even make up the difference for higher salaries so the compensation will be 90% regardless if one is making $25k or $300k a year.

While it would be easy to rip other countries, like the U.S., for  virtually nonexistent benefits I think a better idea would be for those  countries to learn from other systems which work well.  For many who have experienced the different approaches to parenthood it’s obvious that the extra expense paid early on yields an amazing payback down the line.  The question is, how do we change the system to make it easier to combine children, family, and work?

For me personally, paternity leave has been fantastic and I really wish more fathers had this possibility.  It’s great for the children and stepping into the “traditional motherhood role”  is more educational than you can imagine. I stayed home 5 months with our now 4-year old son and 6 months with our now 16-month old daughter.  I can clearly notice my relationship being very different from fathers who have not spend 24/7 with their kids for an extended amount of time.  Although that is very nice now when my kids are young I expect to see the greatest benefits in 10-15 years.  Those teenage years are apparently not always easy but a great bond with my kids will hopefully help.

Posted by AdventureDad @ 12:07 pm | 1 Comment  

Attack of the long-winded book review!

December 19, 2007 | Books,Guest blogger,Guest post,Journalism

schlosser_nation.jpgHello! My name is Théa, and I will be your guest blogger today. Becky did me the tremendous honor of asking me to guest post here at Deep Muck Big Rake, which prompted me to perform an awkward happy dance in our living room. I say “awkward” because my living room is presently full of empty boxes and piles of stuff waiting to be sorted and stored in those boxes.

My husband and I are the sort of fools who consent to move to a new apartment one week after Christmas.

Becky compiled a list of topics to get us guest bloggers thinking, and, while all of them were interesting and several of them downright intriguing, I opted to go with what I know: books. For you, I will review a book that has been out for several years and has already been made into a movie (that I haven’t seen). I give you a book you’ve heard about, discussed and possibly even read, one whose statistics are horrifying when taken out of context and even more horrifying when given in context, but whose statistics demand to be quoted, one way or the other.

I present to you, dear faithful readers of Deep Muck Big Rake, a review of Eric Schlosser’s Fast Food Nation.

When Fast Food Nation was first released, I was in my first year of college. Friends who had recently turned vegetarian lobbed passages from Schlosser at me in misguided attempts to scandalize me into quitting meat completely; several of my classes featured excerpts from Nation on the recommended reading list; in one nonfiction writing workshop, we examined the opening paragraph to chapter 6, “On the Range,” stripped it down to its bare bones and used Schlosser’s sentence structure and scene-building techniques to write opening paragraphs of our own.

Perhaps it was the sudden abundance of Fast Food Nation quotes at a point in my life when I was immersed in books of all shapes and persuasions that allowed me to think that I had, somehow, read the book in its entirety. Whatever my reasoning, five years passed before I caught on to the fact that I was boasting (as I often am) half-formed opinions based on half-earned knowledge. I finally picked up a copy of my own and dug in.

What I presumed to be a rant against the American diet turned out to be a study of the vast damage done by the fast food industry to nearly every aspect of American culture. From what I had read, I assumed that Schlosser’s book focused primarily on the effects of the fast food industry on the American diet, but I was startled to learn that Schlosser aims for a much higher mark: in illustrating not merely how fast food companies have changed our diet but also our lifestyle, Schlosser examines the roll of fast food in today’s car culture, marketing strategies, food production industries, corporations and attitude toward the rest of the world.

Schlosser is thorough in his research and approach, if not entirely unbiased. At points it became clear to me how the reader ought to feel about the information presented and certain people, when interviewed, were painted in shades that seem intended to sway the reader’s opinion. These brief moments where Schlosser’s opinions broke through made me slightly wary, but otherwise I couldn’t complain – the man puts up a solid argument and closes with a few chapters that sound (considering the context) downright optimistic.

If corporations can do this much damage in less than a century, Schlosser theorizes, surely we – the consumers, the ones with the true power – can go a long way in another, better direction, can’t we?

But of course, he says it better than I do. You really ought to hear it from him.

Posted by Thea @ 9:47 am | 3 Comments  

I’m #1 (or first if you prefer that)

December 18, 2007 | Guest blogger

Hi. My name is Sarah, Goon Squad Sarah. You may know me from here or here or here or… whatever. You probably either know me already or could care less about my over exposure on the interweb.

Anyway, I have been selected (randomly or otherwise, I have no idea how she did it) as Becky’s first guest blogger while she freezes her butt off in Scandinavia.

Right. So the guest post. I wasn’t exactly sure what to write about. I could tell you about how yesterday was my birthday and it was also Becky’s birthday and how we share a birthday with Bob Guccione of Hustler magazine fame.

(Heh. You are welcome for all of the hits you will get for people searching for Bob, or Hustler.)

I could delve into my Political Science background and the fact that I live outside of Washington D.C. seeing as how this is a pretty political blog, but then I realized I would have to admit what a slacker I have been in actually following current events.

I could tell you about how Becky and I met while we were both still pregnant with twins.

I could talk about how Becky and I got into a drunken argument about insurance companies and universal health care last time she came to visit me.

But instead of any of those relevant things, I will tell you my very favorite joke:

A penguin is driving through the desert when his car breaks down. He gets his car towed and the mechanic says it is going to take him about an hour to get the car fixed so the penguin goes next door to get some ice cream.

Penguins love ice cream.

The penguin orders a double scoop of vanilla in a bowl. It is delicious ice cream but the penguin makes a terrible mess trying to eat it.

(Penguins don’t have thumbs. They can’t use spoons.)

Then penguin goes back to the mechanic to see what is going on with his car.

“Well,” says the mechanic, “It looks like you blew a seal.”

“Nah,” says the penguin, “It’s just ice cream.”


For more inane ramblings, feel free to come over and visit my place.

Posted by Sarah @ 4:15 pm | 9 Comments  

Pull up a chair and set a spell

December 17, 2007 | Guest blogger,Traveling,Vacation,Weather


I’m going out of town for a while.

As long as the weather doesn’t delay or cancel everything or — worse — kick our butts to a hotel we can’t afford near the airport or — even worse — force us to sleep on the plastic chairs at the airport and lick goldfish-cracker crumbs from the bottom of plastic bags for breakfast, lunch and dinner … we should be good.

A wonderful group of guest-bloggers will keep the blogfires burning while I’m away.

Stay tuned … see you next year!

Posted by Becky @ 2:38 pm | 1 Comment  


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