Monday, February 28, 2011

Center of the world

The place I call home has been the center of the political world lately it seems (if you don't count the Middle East). Madison, Wisconsin, is filled with union supporters and tea party activists passionately voicing their opinions.

In last Fall's election, Republicans took control of the governorship and the State House and State Assembly. In an effort to repair Wisconsin's huge budget shortfall, Governor Scott Walker announced deep cuts for state workers and the end of almost all collective bargaining rights for public unions. Salary negotiations would be the only area still allowed.

Wisconsin has a rich tradition of workers' rights, and this decision is not sitting well with thousands of teachers, firefighters, police officers, and public health nurses. (One note: Walker's proposal exempts public safety workers, though most are still throwing their support behind teachers' unions and other state workers.)

Now things are really getting interesting as 14 Democratic State Senators are hiding out in Illinois to stop the bill from passing. Protesters are sleeping inside the capitol rotunda, and it apparently is kind of rank in there. School was cancelled for four days but is now back in session.

The Assembly did quickly pass the bill during a lull in debate in the middle of the night, causing an uproar and shouts of "Shame!" from surprised Democrats. So much for the civil political discourse supposedly in place after the shooting of Democratic Representative Gabby Giffords in Tucson, Arizona.

I think the days of fat public pensions and free health care are a thing of the past. It's not justified for public employees to have a much cushier deal than the rest of us. But I think public employees realize that and are not asking for more than their fair share. In fact, they agreed to the steep cuts that Walker proposed, as long as they could keep their collective bargaining rights, and Walker flat-out refused. It makes one suspect there must be more than the current budget motivating this bill.

Wisconsin led the way for workers' rights that we now take for granted. Abolishing those rights puts workers at risk of mistreatment by their government. And there has been no good explanation why collective bargaining rights must be slashed even if public unions agree to salary and benefit cuts.

Democrats don't have every solid footing, and Republicans clearly have the upper hand. The Dems can't stay out of the state forever. I hope that the GOP will see it fit to give a little and reach some sort of compromise rather than acting like toddlers that insist on getting their own way.

One thing is certain, we live in interesting times, and if nothing else, it is enjoyable to have a front seat to political discourse.


Friday, February 18, 2011

Hands off

An awkward-looking contraption has changed my life. I breastfed my first two babies for a year each and am determined to do the same with Lena. That means breast-pumping two to three times a day, so that I can have the bottles ready for the nanny to take the next morning.

It's not as easy task. Every three or four hours, you must find a private place to collect your milk. Go much longer and you feel like you are going to burst and you inevitably start leaking. Once in the morning and once in the afternoon, I shut my office door with a sign prominently displayed warning visitors "Do Not Enter!" I close my shades and do my business. If I am training, I either score the one mother's room or stake out a spot in the private bathroom.

Pumping used to involve checking out of my day for 15 minutes or so, holding on to the bottles and watching the seconds tick by. Often if I was at my desk, I would try to wedge the bottles against the side of the desk so I could free up at least one hand for typing. It did not go well.

That is until I found this amazing contraption. The video is a little freaky and quite unrealistic, but I must say, I love this thing. It takes a bit of maneuvering, but once I get everything strapped into place, my hands are free, and I am pumping away.

I even typed part of this while pumping! And you didn't even know it!

It is a wonderful thing. I can kill two birds with one stone, and I end up pumping a lot longer. Plus, as you can see in the video, it is highly attractive.


Sunday, February 13, 2011

I need a wet nurse

I remember secretly liking when I got sick when I was younger. It meant a day on the couch watching TV with my mom taking care of me. I had no worries and plenty of time to rest and recover. It got a bit less enjoyable when I hit high school and college and sickness meant missed class and more work. Then when I was a single, working woman sick days were kind of enjoyable again. I was back on the couch, no one to take care of me, but plenty of daytime TV and laziness.

All that is out the window as a working mom. Last week I got horribly sick with some sort of respiratory thing. By a bad twist of fate, it was also the day we were socked with a huge blizzard. I croaked my way through a step aerobics class and went to work Monday with a raspy voice. I opted to skip class that night, but worried about what I would miss.

The next day, it hurt to move and my fever climbed to 103.3! I was alternately sweaty and then freezing. I was coughing and my head hurt. I felt dizzy if I even sat up in bed. Thankfully T took the kids to the nanny. What do stay-at-home moms do? I can't imagine. I did need to still pump milk though. You just can't go the whole day without doing it. Not only would that be monstrously painful, Lena wouldn't have any food for the next day. It took monumental effort to get all the pieces of my pump and prop myself up against pillows for 15 minutes several times that day. But I did it.

When the kids returned home Tuesday night, T fed them dinner, and I nursed Lena and she lay next to me on the bed. How was I possibly going to avoid her getting sick? (She did end up getting sick the next week, but thankfully it passed quickly.) I thought about going to the doctor, but by this time offices were closed due to the blizzard.

The next day, I stayed home again and managed to take a shower. After lunch, my fever had broken, and I felt like a new woman. The list of work tasks I had awaiting me were weighing heavily on my mind, so I plugged in my computer and worked a half day from home. By Thursday, I was back at work and back in class trying to stifle my coughs.

Life doesn't slow down when you are sick unfortunately. It just becomes more complicated. I am glad I have a husband and childcare, so at least I can check out for a bit. Now T is sick as the germs make the way through our house. I can't wait until this sick season is over, the ibuprofen is put back on the shelf, and the sounds of coughing fade.