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Francine Graff, MH Columnist


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Batgate or how my mother fought the Big Boy

“The Governor really went after you,” I said to my mom as she got off the plane from New Jersey to Los Angeles. She sort of looked at me quizzically and said “I guess that’s why I have 30 messages on my voice mail."

I glanced at the Google alert on my phone while stopping my children from going up the down escalator in the Continental terminal. The article read: In a news conference about pension policy Thursday, the New Jersey governor demanded the press go after one of his Democratic critics, state Sen. Loretta Weinberg. Or, as [Governor] Christie put it: "Can you guys please take the bat out on her for once?" 

What? Even on the fifth read it still said, 'Can you guys please take the bat out on her for once?'

The controversy began when my mother, a New Jersey State Senator, answered a question from a reporter about Governor Christie having a double standard in regards to pension reform. The thin skinned Governor does not take well to criticism and strikes hard at anyone who dares to speak ill of him. If either of my children behaved in such a mean manner they would lose the dollars they get for their Wednesday ice cream treats. 

I don’t know if Governor Chris Christie is so mean because he has two first names (why would his parents do that to him?), or because he has unresolved issues with his mother (because she gave him two first names). If he said the same thing on the school yard as he did in a press conference, he would’ve been picked up by the seat of his pants and sent straight to the principal’s office.

While listening to the conversation and procrastinating with her homework, my seven year old daughter wrote an open letter to the Governor asking him to "stop bulieg Eevribati!"(Stop bullying everybody). After my mother posted the letter on her Facebook page, the crowd went wild.

Democrats, women’s groups and Christie haters took the opportunity to pounce on his very poor choice of words. Thanks to the 'Big Boy' as George Bush used to call Governor Christie, my mother spent her first day in Los Angeles being interviewed on several news shows including The Ed Show on MSNBC. Click on the enclosed link to check it out.

Over the past years, much bigger men then 'Big Boy' have tried to take my mother down. Trust me, it won’t happen. She has been my mom for the last 47 years. I know first hand, he will not get the last word.

My mother is an amazing politician, smart as a whip. She began as an activist during the 1960’s. Her political leanings are left of the left. They always have been and always will be. Whether you love her views or disagree with them, no tough talking playground bully governor will change them.

In this era of hating blaming scamming and misunderstanding politicians, (coupled with short tempered desperate reality television fame seeking Americans, who proudly proclaim…”I don’t vote”), it is more important then ever to be civilized.

For my mom, she views herself as "giving a voice to those who most need one." This is a calling that comes deep in her core. Her short chubby stature and her thick skin give her the ability to not take things personally. I believe this is her key to success. Although I don’t always see eye to eye with her politically or personally, she fights tirelessly. In a weird I-can-treat-you-like-one-of-the-boys-way, it was kind of a compliment that the governor thought she should be “batted around”. He knows as well as I do that she can take it. 

As politicans go, I would say my mother is probably a C+ celebrity. Maybe even a B-. She has campaigned with Presidents (present and former), Senators, and big time Union Leaders. Regardless of my celebrity grading, she, like many celebrities, maintains both a public and private persona. What the Big Boy Bully didn't get to see, and the true inspiration for Shayna's letter, was how upset she was by Governor Christie's comment after his bat remark.

My mother, along with the rest of our family, lost her life savings in the Bernard Madoff scandal. Losing her life savings was one of the reasons that my mother, at age 75, finally began collecting her pension. She could have started collecting it 15 years prior to that. Governor-two-first-names, in his press conference rant, accused my mother of "hiding behind Bernie Madoff".  

My mother has been a role model for many women over her long and distinguished career. To me she has been just a mom. One of those detached housewives of the 1960's who discovered work as an escape from the exhausting grind of childrearing.

My take on motherhood came equipped with a military helicopter protecting my two little targets from anything taking aim to harm them. My mother has always had the ability to quiet the hovercraft from within me. She also taught me to let go and laugh at life's curve balls, including when our family got thrown a foul ball by Mr. Madoff. She showed the rest of us that we were not to be victims and that this financial tragedy would not "define the rest of our lives." Put that in your "to be collected pension" Mr. Governor and smoke it.

My mother starts packing her bags after a two week respite from politics. In Los Angeles her main duties are folding laundry and heading to Target. My daughter starts to cry. She doesn't want Grandma to leave. My mom, always torn sits down next to Shayna and tells her she is going back to NJ to make sure the Governor doesn't bully anyone else. 

Back in NJ, my mom and I comment back and forth on her Facebook page. One of her colleagues sees this and writes:

"how folks forget that in the midst of public bantering...there are children of these officials who witness the back and forth and hurt inside." To Francine, your Mom is so loved and respected here on the East Coast. We love her and appreciate her service to the people."

I am struck when someone understands the sacrifice that families make when their loved one (especially a mom) leads a political life. Like another sibling, politics takes a lot of attention.

For Governor Christie's inappropriate behavior at the press conference, I look to Supernanny Jo Frost. A 48 minute time out (for a 48 year old man). He will need to apologize for his bad behavior. So far he has defiantly refused. Although there is buzz about his presidential run, it looks like he will be sitting in his time out chair far past the 2012 elections. My mother might add to the punishment by making him write “I will act mature and treat people with respect” one hundred times. 





TMI or just plain fun?

Despite mommy blogging being big business, pundits have criticized mommy websites for projectile vomiting every thought, feeling and worry about their children.  This might include how to handle a child not sleeping through the night due to projectile vomiting.  Fifty years ago no one would talk about these things in public let alone “blog” about it.

The truth is women have been doing this for ages…before it was called “blogging” it was called writing in a diary.  From cave drawings to hidden journals women have been spewing their thoughts since the beginning of time. 

I know blogging is different because there is an audience out there watching.  None the less it is an anonymous audience.  If you are very good at pretending it can feel just like writing in a diary. 

I wondered what it would be like if the Internet and blogging had been around during other times.  The most obvious and entertaining era for me would’ve been in the 1950’s.  I am the first to admit that I idealize those impeccable, nearly perfect stay at home moms.  Mildly detached from their children, there were no discussions of “crying it out” attachment parenting or organic vs. sprayed.  Babies were put in their own cribs and in their own rooms from day one.  They were fed formula (nursing was for low class women) and left in their playpens for long afternoons to entertain themselves.  I imagined that a blog would go something like this…

 Time for me, Time for you

April, 1958

By Phillis Renee Lloyd - My 1950's name

Check this link out for fab fun fifties names)

“I woke up with a terrible headache today and knew if I could just slug down two aspirin with a vodka chaser I’d feel much better. 

Those days are over for me now that I’m a mom though.  Well at least the vodka part. I should at least wait until noon.  So it’s settled. If anyone wants to join me later today, my backyard…noon…Easy Cheese…Ritz Crackers. 

In the meantime my girdle, new lipstick and a nice hair comb will have to do.

In other news, I’m really working on losing those last few pounds since little Susie was born.  I try to reach for a ciggie every time I think of eating.  That definitely helps.

I caught Richard Jr. playing with Susie’s dolls again.  I just hope Dick didn’t see him last night when he got home from work.  He is so hard on the poor kid already.  Do other mom’s worry about such things? 

Today I want my readers to comment on letting their sons play with their toys that aren’t…well it normal?  I’m so grateful to have a group of ladies to connect to.  Off to make those Martini’s.

Reading other mom’s blogs help us to fill in those much needed gaps, answer questions that we are too embarrassed to ask, and make us feel better about our own lame parenting styles.

At times we have to remember that we are blogging to an audience rather then just to a diary.  Sometimes there is just too much information spewing from the finger tips of a desperate and ill equipped mom.  I remember reading a blog from a mom who boasted about home schooling her four young children and how she had another one on the way.  She actually admitted that she kept her children in front of the television most of the day and that she was kind of addicted to reading and posting on the internet. 

Thankfully and narcissistically, this helped me to feel infinitely better about my own parenting.  I pictured a once beautiful (in a mid western kind of way) bulging at the middle-woman and her four dirty faced children.  They were fighting and hitting each other with fisher price toys while stepping on crushed cheerios and dried string cheese.    Their cries were drowned out from noise coming from a blaring television. 

As I write this, I look over at my son and daughter nearing the end of a two week spring break/furlough day’s endless vacation.  Take away the bulge in the middle, make the Midwestern woman a former Jersey girl, and shrink the number of kids from two to four and…ok well let’s just say that Lego’s are a lot easier to clean up then smashed cheerios.

Please join me as my illustrious and glamorous friend Christine Fugate, takes a temporary holiday from Mothering Heights.  She has offered me the opportunity to attempt to fill her much more stylish shoes.

While this is a tall order I will do my best.  My plan is to analyze, criticize, and judge motherhood with as much sarcasm, humor and self doubt as I can muster up.

I am a Jersey girl, albeit before the advent of Jersey Shore.  So you can take the girl out of New Jersey but you can’t take Snookie out of the girl.

Although I always claim that I was raised by wolves the truth is that while my mother was out changing the world through politics, my father was the stay at home mom.  My mother taught me everything I know about tenacity, picketing and never having a dull moment.

Stay tuned for next weeks column as we follow her, State Senator Loretta Weinberg, as she defends herself against New Jersey Govenor Chris Christie as he calls for the press to "take at bat to her".



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