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Milwaukee's Daily Magazine for Thursday, Oct. 23, 2014

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MomsRising.org is blowing my mind

A few months ago, I wrote an article for OMC about the Web site MomsRising.org, started by the women who founded MoveOn.org. Since then, they have sent me regular e-mails with staggering statistics that have really made me stop and think. I've never been an overtly political person, but this site has changed my outlook. I feel moved to do something more than nod, raise a fist in solidarity and continue on my merry way.

For instance, according to MomsRising, "Non-mothers earn 10 percent less than their male counterparts; but mothers earn 27 percent less; and single mothers earn between 44 percent and 34 percent less."

I can understand how this happens. Even though everyone has a mother -- and every human at one point in their childhood was sick and needed their mom's care -- we moms still feel guilty for missed work to care for our children.

MomsRising.org also addressed the "Mommy Wars" issue, which basically states that the media pits moms against each other to distract from oppressive issues. I see this all the time: stay-at-home vs. working moms; vaccinating moms vs. non-vaccinating moms; breastfeeding moms vs. non-breastfeeding moms; etc. Instead of rallying together, we are concentrating on these minor differences, not only because the media encourages us to, but because we so deeply question our ability to parent successfully that the only way we can feel okay about our method is to criticize someone else's.

Meanwhile, the pay scale tips further away from us.

Here's more of what MomsRising has to say about this issue:

"It's time to move beyond the false rhetoric of the Mommy Wars and to report on real issues ... simplistic "us vs. them" rhetoric does not reflect our experiences, nor does it reflect the pressing needs that we mothers in America do have. The Mommy Wars promote ill will where we should be fostering connections. The truth is there are no sides.

It's time for the media to focus on the real problems that average Americans face eve…Read more...

Samson: In retrospect, was this gorilla happy?

I took my kids to the zoo yesterday, and I was blown away. I hadn't been there in a long time, and most of my zoo memories, I realized, are from school field trips. But this visit, I was really impressed with the new cat house (plate of glass or no plate of glass, it's thrilling to be so close to a tiger!), the dinosaur special exhibit (really only because I have two dino-loving preschoolers) and the primate house.

But the primate house got me thinking about Samson, the lowland gorilla-turned-icon who lived in the Milwaukee County Zoo during the 70s. (He died of a heart attack on Nov. 21, 1981.) Most people who grew up in Milwaukee love Samson -- probably out of nostalgia.

 

But yesterday, I started thinking about Samson's depressing living environment -- especially compared to the posh, modern primate "apartments" -- and I wondered if he was happy at our zoo.

Thinking back, he really didn't seem very content. I remember him running and throwing all 650 pounds of himself against the glass, causing spectators to shriek with horror at the sound, and the thought of him actually crashing through. Was he really trying to break out, or was he just earning his keep and providing us with a show?

I also remember him, shall we say, "shocking the monkey" in the corner of his linoleum-floored space, and while doing it, staring right into the crowd with an intense, almost angry, look on his face.

Was his behavior a reminder that -- back then anyway -- animals in captivity were often miserable? Perhaps. But the good news is that the primates I saw yesterday seemed generally very happy. One monkey even smiled at me, flashing his gnarly-but-cute teeth.

My love-hate relationship with Wal-Mart

I just got back from Wal-Mart, and I’m once again asking myself why I shop there.

The main reason, I guess, is proximity. I live two minutes from the East Capitol Drive location. The second reason is because they have incredibly cheap prices on diapers. Consequently, as the mother of two toddlers who expel excessive amounts of apple juice, I find myself in the place about once a week.

My father told me Wal-Mart actually loses money on diapers. They purposely under price them to lure in people like myself who intend to buy a simple pack of nappies but find themselves with a cart-full of incidentals instead. (Today it was a new Brita pitcher; two half-priced plastic wineglasses for the patio and a couple of Hello Kitty toothbrushes for the boys.)

I have tried to educate myself on the evils of Wal-Mart to curb my shopping trips there. I rented the Wal-Mart movie, “The High Cost of Low Prices,” and indeed I was abhorred by much of the content. But I still find myself aimlessly strolling the airconditioned aisles of crap in a perplexing state of consumer's peace.

(Side note: Anyone noticed how some of the Wal-Marts now have floorplans identical to Target’s? Women’s clothing on the left when you walk in; baby stuff in the middle, men’s against the back wall, etc.)

I have taught my kids to refer to Wal-Mart as the “evil empire” and they do. Seriously, they ask, “Are we going shopping at the Outpost or the evil empire?” It’s funny, in a way, but I recognize that by shopping there -- and also condemning it -- I am passing on my annoying love-hate relationship with Wal-Mart to my kids.

(On the one hand, I do understand the spirit of capitalism, and I know it's arguable that Wal-Mart is good for America in certain ways. But overall,  I guess I'm still bitter about the loss of unique places like the Oriental Drugstore and other long-gone mom-and-pop shops that were trampled by chain stores.)

At one point, I was so disgusted with my …Read more...

The Original Pancake House: Super slapjacks; craptacular coffee

So, I ate breakfast at the Original Pancake House on Downer Avenue, in the old Coffee Trader space. It is awesome to see how many more people the place brings to the area -- we literally had to wait outside for our table because the waiting area was too packed.

The food was really good. Not good for you -- everything was so rich and buttery -- but really tasty and well prepared. (I had the spinach crepes.) An acquaintance mentioned on the way out that she readily "Hoover-ed" her entire meal.

My beef, however, is with the coffee. They serve Superior Coffee -- which tastes watery and average. I know OPH is a franchise, but it seems like a place that is clearly trying to be IHOP's hipper, more sophisticated cousin wouldn't stoop to old school restaurant coffee. Especially in a town with incredible roasters like Alterra and Anodyne.

It's actually ironic to me considering that the Original Pancake House is inside the old Coffee Trader space. Seems almost sacreligious to serve such so-so coffee there.