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Steve Gilliard, 1964-2007

It is with tremendous sadness that we must convey the news that Steve Gilliard, editor and publisher of The News Blog, passed away June 2, 2007. He was 42.

To those who have come to trust The News Blog and its insightful, brash and unapologetic editorial tone, we have Steve to thank from the bottom of our hearts. Steve helped lead many discussions that mattered to all of us, and he tackled subjects and interest categories where others feared to tread.

Please keep Steve's friends and family in your thoughts and prayers.

Steve meant so much to us.

We will miss him terribly.

photo by lindsay beyerstein


me and your mom and that other speaker of the house

It's our day again. Me, I got an omelette and a DVD of Bringing Up Baby and an outrageously over-hand decorated album someone clearly made for a wedding which ended up being sold for less than a dollar at a garage sale mom took the kid to (love to hear that story) full of pictures of our wedding and my parents' that I hadn't gotten around to missing yet. We're ordering in from the sketchy-looking local restaurant which, as it turns out, makes marvellous shanghai-style food, mostly because it fills me with joy to order "Edamame w/Bean Curd Skin & Perservered Vegetable" and it's Mother's day so we'll never, ever get a table (although our favorite red sauce italian restaurant will always seat us without a reservation because we go when it's not a holiday but they don't, to my knowledge, have perservered vegetables).

On average, you folks are projected to spend $139.14 each on us this year, but it wasn't always a Hallmark holiday
In the United States, Mother's Day was originally suggested by poet and social activist Julia Ward Howe. In 1870, after witnessing the carnage of the American Civil War and the start of the Franco-Prussian War, she wrote the original Mother's Day Proclamation calling upon the women of the world to unite for peace. This "Mother's Day Proclamation" would plant the seed for what would eventually become a national holiday.

After writing the proclamation, Howe had it translated into many languages and spent the next two years of her life distributing it and speaking to women leaders all over the world. In her book Reminiscences, Howe wrote, "Why do not the mothers of mankind interfere in these matters to prevent the waste of that human life of which they alone bear and know the cost?" She devoted much of the next two years to this cause, and began holding annual "Mother's Day" gatherings in Boston, Massachusetts and elsewhere.

Which is where Anna Jarvis came in
First came Anna Reeves Jarvis who organized "Mothers' Work Days" in West Virginia in 1858. Jarvis was a teacher and church member who wanted to help improve sanitation for her Appalachian town and those surrounding it.

When the Civil War came, Mothers' Work Days became a time to work for better sanitary conditions for the Confederate and Union soldiers. More soldiers were dying from disease and infection than from battle wounds.

Under Jarvis' direction, women provided medicine for the indigent, hired women to work for families in which the mothers were ill and inspected kitchens for unsanitary practices.

Other efforts concerning mothers involved political and social efforts outside the home. But those, mainly centered on peace movements, never really caught fire. They were overshadowed beginning on May 9, 1905, when Anna Reeves Jarvis died. Her then-41-year-old daughter, also named Anna, swore beside her mother's grave that she would eventually have a day dedicated to honoring her mother's work, and the efforts of others like her, to improve the lives of others.
An awful lot of change in this world has happened because someone's mom or a whole bunch of someones' moms said Excuse me, you want to do what with my child? and decided to do something about it. We're good at making things happen. Being a mom, if you treat it as a serious job and work at being good at it, makes you a much sharper cookie
Although entrenched popular culture often casts motherhood as frantic lunacy, researchers at the University of Edinburgh and other academic institutions have found proof that motherhood actually makes a woman smarter.

Maternal challenges increase brain cells and mental skills. Magnetic resonance imaging scans of mothers' brains have revealed that mothering itself increases emotional intelligence, sensory powers, motivation, attention, memory and problem solving, among other things.

"Motherhood may knock us off our feet for a time, only to set us back up, often stronger than before," says Katherine Ellison, author of the 2005 book "The Mommy Brain: How Motherhood Makes Us Stronger."
and let me tell you, the skills I learned as class mom for a roomful of four year olds and herding kindergardeners away from angry geese, when combined with The Look, That Voice and the silent threat of a Growthful Talk has added immeasurably to my strategic arsenal at work. My basic assumption is that if nobody's bleeding or running a six degree temperature, everybody's breathing and you get to make unsupervised visits to the bathroom, it's a shabby sort of crisis. Perspective is a beautiful thing, and there's nothing like, say, thirty six hours of unmedicated labor or sitting in a bathtub full of cold water with the window open in mid-winter with an infant burning up on your tummy to give you a great big pile of perspective on, say, deadlines.

Of course, I am but a mere lowly end user. It turns out, though, that someone with a much more influential job feels the same way
Mother's Day this Sunday is historic here because it's the first time a top congressional leader has been one of the honorees. As speaker of the House, Pelosi is also the first woman ever to come so close to the presidency, second in the constitutional line of succession. But Pelosi wants no one to forget that she started out in more traditional women's work.

"I've always taken great pride in the fact that I was a mom, that this was my life's experience and that it brought something to the table," says the California Democrat, who raised five children before entering electoral politics. "Mother's Day is probably one of the most patriotic days in America, because we're saying to moms that we respect what you have done for your children, we respect what you're doing for the country."

Pelosi's emphasis on her maternal qualities is a politically savvy move, softening her image at a time when she's leading her party in a constitutional showdown with President Bush. But it's also culturally significant.

The speaker, 67, is of a generation in which many professional women found it prudent to downplay their family commitments. At the pinnacle of her power, Pelosi has showcased hers. She took her oath of office surrounded by her six grandchildren, and, on the spur of the moment, she invited other members' children and grandchildren on hand for Congress' opening ceremonies to join her on the rostrum. "Somebody like me, as speaker of the house, has a responsibility to the younger generation of women to say: Don't think of this as a minus," Pelosi says. "This is a plus, being a mother, having an experience of raising a family."


"When my children were small, I barely had time to wash my face," says Pelosi, whose currently elegant mien and attire have generated — to her chagrin — as much ink as her policy positions. She volunteered for the Democratic Party and became California party chair but didn't make her first run for office until her youngest child, Alexandra, was a senior in high school.

Pelosi says her children gave her the scheduling discipline it takes to be a successful politician. Meeting their demands taught her to budget her time: "I was raising them, but they were forging me."

The comments on that story, by the way, are absolute proof that there are people who will use absolutely anything as an excuse to try and start a flame war (for those of you who have never visited a Usenet parenting forum and still needed proof)

We're not all good at it, this mothering thing, but for a job you don't need credentials to get (and that some people didn't even apply for) an amazing number of us, well, belly up and do a lot of the work of holding up the sky.

So to Steve's mom and Jen's mom and your mom and my husband's and mine, thank you for doing just a little bit more than you thought you could and not telling us about all the ways you had our backs so we felt a little safer and like we had a chance against the world.

Also I am turning into you. No, it is not funny and a nice mother would not be laughing. More and more, though, I think I understand.

Happy Mother's Day.

on the blog tip, some thoughts on Mother's Day from Shakesville and If I Ran the Zoo and digby, and my all-time favorite blogpost on motherhood from Roy. Enjoy.