The art of being Californian, it seems, is to cultivate a loose-limbed insouciance while secretly working away like a frantic ant.

--Richard Fortey The Earth: An Intimate History

Tuesday, December 30, 2008


So, about this time last year, I decided to boycott the rampant consumerism that--ah, ahem--consumes our country. I vowed to go an entire year without buying anything new.

To celebrate that decision, I immediately went and bought something new.

Starting January 1st, I indeed stopped purchasing anything new except for the few items I determined that if I needed to buy them, I would have to get them new (used underwear? yuck). This exercise in self control proved to be a very good thing in many respects. Gifts now took a lot of thought. Bad days were managed without shopping therapy. Wardrobe got very very creative.

I am now so much more a better person. I've given all of the excess money I've saved from not spending to Angelina Joli to help orphans.

Honestly, it's really that my growth as a quality human being has skyrocketed as I learned how to make people like me enough to buy me the new things I can't purchase myself.

However, I have a confession to make:

I did buy somethings new.

A few confessions in a list:

1. I have not saved any money for a few reasons.
a) I quit my job and am now making negative money because of school bills and working as a lab rat for free.
b) I have way upped my spending on dinners out and wine in.
c) I have also started being "artistic," and supplies cost a lot of money.

2. I have bought the following (gasp!) new:
a) an ice cream maker
b) two black dresses
c) other miscellaneous clothes

Now my defense for the second part of my list.

a) IboughttheicecreammakerformycookingclubbecauseIwassupposedtomakedessertandIjusthadtohadtomakeicecream.

The ice cream maker didn't work right. I had to borrow one from a lady in my club. The ice cream did kick ass.

b) The dresses are the most amazing things you've ever seen. I mean it. If you wore these dresses, they would change your life. Literally. Change it.

Is that enough to justify breaking my anti-consumerism oath? You bet it is. But beyond that, I did get both of them for the price of one.

A little flashback . . .

Picture this, San Francisco the summer of 2008. The summer of love with my son's other mommy. We are doing various amazing activities like making ourselves temporary locals at the bar by our hotel (thus facilitating a possible love connection between 2nd mommy and a certain chef), leaving a bag of vomit outside of other hotel room's door (okay, that was just me), having picnics in Golden Gate Park, and shopping at ubershishi boutiques. During one of the latter events, I found the first dress.

It was true love.

The dress was ballerina cut, sheer with an amazing plunging back. It is really the only dress you'd ever need or want.

But it was too big.

I couldn't justify my buying a new dress that also didn't fit as much as I loved it. So I let it go.

But it didn't let me go.

For three months, this dress haunted me until I broke and contacted
Mixie, the clothing company. They didn't respond.

Okay, don't need dress. Stay strong to my needs-only mantra.

But then, after three weeks, they contacted me, giving name to the dress of my dreams: Sophia.

Oh Sophia, you haunt me. You consume my being. Please cover my bare skin with yours. Change my life.

With a tiny bit of discussion, the company sent me not one dress but two in different sizes for the price of one. In full capitalist mode, I had schemes of selling the dress in the size I didn't want for serious cash.

Then Sophia arrived. As I pulled her out of the packaging, her shimmering black form promised nights of amazing passion and beauty. Until I put her on.

Sophia was not the dress of my dreams. She was a different dress. A more sheer dress with an alluring scoop in the back. I fell in love again, but it wasn't like the first time. It lacked some of the intensity of my first love. It must be true: you never love like you do your first. . . but it can still be good as long as your first love is also requited in a menage a trois.

So I contacted the company again, and they sent me the other dress. On the condition I sent back one of the Sophias. So much for my money-making scheme. But I now have both amazing, life-changing dresses for the price of the Sophia. There is a god.

c) The ice cream maker and dresses were amateur hour of consuming. They were quirky, one time things. I didn't fully pop my no-buying cherry until this last week when the airlines lost my luggage.

These expenditures seem the easiest to justify: the airlines lost my luggage. I needed some clothes to wear that weren't a size too small and weren't used underwear.

I needed a multitude of stylish and colorful clothes. Needed.

So I went to the one place that could fill that need and offered heat on a snowy day: the mall. Oh yes, at the mall, I unleashed an inner demon I could not imagine. This voracious beast shopped and shopped and shopped. Until hours later, she tossed her exhausted credit card aside and draped herself over a piping hot Starbucks Americano.

With a chain coffee in my hand and brightly color bags around me, I sighed. What had I become?

Did I need all of the clothes and name-brand caffeine I purchased? With the exception of the underwear, decidedly no. Did the airlines finally find my luggage after seven days? Yes (oh Southwest lost baggage ladies, I love you). Did I still keep all of my new clothes (and drink my overpriced coffee)? Oh hells yes.

But I will not feel (too) guilty. This last year has done amazing things for me. I managed to go 10 months without buying anything new. That's a baby. I gestated a new anti-consumerism me. And while I did break my oath before its time, I have gone through some surprising changes.

I used to be a person with a running tally of what I wanted. If you asked me at any given moment, I could have easily come up with at least 20 items I desired without a pause. Things were how I showed love to myself and others. Yet after this year, I find that my list is . . . well. . . non existent. As I sit here now, I can't think of one thing to buy that I actually want. Yes, new clothes are nice, but I am suddenly ambivalent about them. As I am about new cds or new books. Surprisingly, the used stuff is just as good. And waiting for things to become "used" is kind of exciting. The delayed gratification kind of allows you to find out if you truly want something. Most of the time, I don't. Most of the time I don't think any of us do.

This year, I learned that I really like to make things and give them as gifts. I made a cookbook for the women in my family. All artsy and shit. And it turned out really good. I started working with oil paints. And I like that. I am now dabbling in photography (with a camera I got for Christmas last year and never used). And yes, still cooking. That never changes.

It's amazing what you can do when you are forced to actually work at it.

So, while 2009 won't be the year of anti-consumerism. I'm hoping to bring some of 2008's simplicity into it.

Unless, of course, I meet another black dress.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Merry Christmas

No more complaints.

Only Christmas Cheer.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Christmas Rant #5

Christmas dinner cooking is in full swing right now and still no sign of my bag (go to hell, bag). We do the traditional foods for Christmas Eve and Day dinners (though, by "traditional" I may be falling into some solipsistic cliche): ham and turkey as the main courses. Ham for Christmas Eve and turkey for Christmas day. The fact that I do not like ham (green or otherwise) nor turkey, doesn't seem to effect the main course choices.

Luckily, my job is not to cook the meat. I cook the sides. And while I am constrained to a rigorous list of acceptable holiday sides (read: cranberries, mashed potatoes, gravy, sweet potatoes, stuffing, and a green vegetable), I am given some leeway to make then as I see fit.

Now, I am in no way a vegetarian; however, I usually choose a non-meat choice. I just don't like meat on a regular basis all that much. That said, I don't think there is inherently anything unhealthy about a diet that includes meat. Nor do I think that there is anything inherently healthy about a diet that eliminates meat. Which leads me to my final rant:

Vegetarian and vegan eating labels are not automatically healthier than any other eating habit.

I have a lot of friends who are vegan or vegetarian, and while most of them are very laid back about this eating choice, some assume a healthier-than-thou attitude ("oh, you eat meat? [judging silence] Oh").

Give it up. The label you give to your eating habits does not make you a better person. Labels do not make you anything but a labeler.

As far as eating goes, it is way more healthy to be conscious about where you get what you put in your mouth (actually, that goes for a lot of things . . .) than what you are eliminating from your diet. This fact is one of my larger soapboxes. I once sat next to a crazy trolley lady who ignored my pointed attempts at avoiding a conversation (ipod in, Bible (yes, Bible) open) and told me I looked like a vegetarian.

I didn't know vegetarians had a look to them, but apparently, part of that look screams "please talk to me even though I am purposefully ignoring you." I tried the polite "oh, uh huh" attempt to minimize the conversation, but she just wouldn't stop. So finally, I pulled out my soapbox and let her have it. I was en fuego. I quoted Marian Nestle, Michael Pollan (read his recent In Defense of Food), Eric Schlosser. I railed about how we choose food--something we freaking put in our bodies--based on how cheap it is rather than the quality--we do this with virtually no other commodity by the way. I lamented the fact that people don't cook anymore and many children have no idea that food does not magically come prepackaged in 100 calorie bags.

Mouth agape, she listened for most of our trolley ride until she found a pause long enough to changed the subject to quasars and how we are being monitored via them by aliens. My stop arrived; I had no comment.

It does fascinate me that the eating labels do stir up such contention. I recently read a book that had an essay about a lapsed vegan then lapsed vegetarian (she eats fish). The author was so quick to defend her choices (albeit in a humorous way) that it bespoke of a deeper set of concerns than just the fact she decided she'd like to add cheese and fish to her diet. She admitted that vegetarians and omnivores alike often criticized her for "half-assing" her lifestyle.


How does eating mainly vegetables with some cheese and fish equal a half-assed lifestyle?

I'm confused.

But this emotional response to vegan and vegetarian eating practices is not limited to that essay. At times I'll cut animal products out of my diet for . . . er . . . dieting purposes. It's a fast, easy way for me to cut calories without feeling deprived. Technically, I go vegan. But I avoid that label since whenever I mention it, I am greeted with shock (rather than awe). There's a lot of baggage associated with that label that I am unwilling to tote.

One of my friends in particular suddenly gets uberdefensive if I even so much as hint at the V-word. She immediately will launch into how healthy her omnivore diet is, how she rarely eats meat, how it's about quality. I completely agree and have a hard time understanding why she feels my eating choices are an attack on hers.

Perhaps I don't feel the same emotional response to vegan/vegetarian eating habit versus omnivore eating habits (I am purposefully avoiding the label "carnivore" since virtually no human being is an actual carnivore) because I lived so long in Northern California where we hunted (gasp), raised our own livestock for milk and meat (gasp gasp), and had a garden and orchard. I grew up close enough to the source of where food actually comes from that I don't harbor (usually false) romantic ideas about what it means to eat or not eat meat. I understand the issue is much deeper than that.

Or perhaps, I don't because I just like food. I. Like. Food. Plain and simple. I have two categories for eating habits: good and bad.

Good equals eating good food. Food that is quality, flavorful, and healthy.

Bad equals bad food. Food that is poor, bland, and unhealthy.

That's it. No labels. No anxiety. Just good eating.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Christmas Rant #4

Still no sign of my bag. I hope it's feeling lonely. I hope it's cold; though, since it has all my winter clothes in it, it probably isn't too cold. Damn.

Today I spent the day doing last minute Christmas shopping with my mom. If something is going to make you want to slit your wrists in a public place, six hours of shopping two days before Christmas will do it. I may or may not have thrown a serious fit in the middle of a department store before resigning myself to the fact I wasn't going to be able to go home before my mom (who had the car) wanted to go. This could be a rant all in itself, but really, it's my own fault I was out there. I could have refused to shop before leaving the house instead of waiting until 4 hours in and having a meltdown.

While we were out shopping, we took a very nice but all-to-short break at a wine and cheese shop. There, a woman brought her very cute and very young son. They proceeded to sit at the table next to us. Where this cute, young child began to howl because mommy wasn't giving him the cookie that she had tauntingly placed directly in his line of sight.

I hate parents who have absolutely no idea of restaurant etiquette. Why must we be subjected to your yowling offspring simply because you've heard it so often you are able to tune it out?

Now I am in no way saying that people shouldn't bring kids to restaurants. How are kids (and parents, I suppose) supposed to learn how to properly behave in public situations? I have been taking my son out to dinner since he was 2 weeks old. And in no way am I saying that parents should be limited to eating out at "kid friendly" restaurants. Those places suck. The only people who eat there are people with children so unruly that they can't be brought to a normal eating establishment, and the food is so bad because the staff assumes you will be so overwhelmed by the screams of tiny people that you won't notice the food is horrible. Or maybe the staff assumes that since parents eat so many cold, overcooked meals because of child drama, they won't notice the swill placed before them at exorbitant prices. My son has always eaten at "nice" places. Place where mommy can have a glass of wine, good food, and a pleasurable dining experience.

Is my son some sort of freakishly amazing and good child? Well, yes he is. But he has also been highly trained.

Here is what you do when you bring a child to a restaurant and he or she begins to screech like a not-so-cute owl: remove the child from the restaurant.

No one there is paying money to listen to that. Even those who have children and either a) didn't bring them or b) have finely trained them to stay quiet will not understand why you are subjecting them to this cacophony of sound. The childless people won't have any clue about why anyone (including you) can tolerate such aural abuse. And those who have kids have either paid good money not to have to listen to them while they are eating or can't figure out why you aren't sucking it up and being an adult about the whole screaming kid thing.

Remove the child. Ignoring it won't make the noise stop. It also won't make people pity your difficult situation and thus tolerate your obnoxious brat. People don't pity. They judge.

And really, it's not the other diner's problem. It's not even your kid's problem. It's yours. You are the rude one.

Yes, I know having a child can suck the very will to live out of you.
Yes, I know that sometimes all you look forward the whole day is the one moment of adult time at a nice restaurant.
Yes, I know that sometimes you can get so tired that you really just don't have the strength or nerve to deal with one. more. thing.

However, (and having experienced all of the above it does break my heart to say this) that's not other people's problem.

We are parents. We chose to breed (okay, some of us didn't actually choose the breeding, but most of us chose the sex that led to the breeding). We chose to keep and raise our babies. It is our thankless and shitty job to deal with it no matter how horrible and soul-draining it can be.

Part of my son's training included leaving a entire meal and (gasp) glass of wine to take him home when he was just plain done. Part of this training including adults eating in shifts while the one adult sat in the car with the non compliant child. My son had to learn how to act like a civilized human in a dining situation. He had to learn that howling and yowling were the exact opposite actions of a civilized human.

I know that tiny people are uncontrollable. Which makes dining with them particularly challenging. I am not asking anyone to control their child (that is impossible). I am just asking you to remove the uncontrolled child from an inappropriate situation. That, we, as parents, have the power to do.

Also, parents need to be smart. Don't put a piece of sugary goodness in front of a young child and then inform him that he can't have it until he eats an (at the moment because the kitchen is still making it) invisible piece of food that won't taste half as good. Kids are no fools. They know that cookies are better than any proper "food." If your tiny person is hungry, come prepared. Bring snacks. Don't expect him to wait for the ordering process, drinks, appetizers, etc . . .

Further, little kids know exactly what that saccharine tone of voice ("now, Timmy, Mommy can't give you the cookie until you eat your mashed grey food") means: absolutely nothing. That voice has absolutely no weight behind it. That voice is not for the child. It is strictly for the benefit of those adults sitting nearby to justify your inability to act as a parent. We are supposed to infer from your tone that you are a progressive parent who explains everything to little Timmy as if he were a reasoning being (He's a toddler. He's not). Also, we are supposed to understand your situation; somehow, be okay with the fact that you are not taking your barn owl child out of the restaurant because he still needs to eat his grey mush.

We don't understand. We don't care.

Kill the voice. Remove the child.

Or if you must eat, go to one of those "kid friendly" restaurants where your kid's yelps will be lost in the sea of noise.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Christmas Rant #3 (or Santa really hates me (possibly because I use military acronyms))

So, I've arrived in Reno to visit my parents for Christmas.

[Small side rant: why does everyone say that I am going home for Christmas? Reno is not my home. My parents moved here well after I moved out. San Diego is my home. Reno just happens to be a location where my family is meeting this year. Home is not automatically where my parents are. As Murakami says, home is where I make it.]

Apparently, with all of my flippant requests and trash talk, I've really pissed Santa off because out of the four bags we checked today, the only one that didn't make it here was the one with all of my clothes in it. Leading into short rant #3:

Why can't airlines seem to keep track of the luggage that we pay for them to take care of?

They have computers and bar codes and such. How hard is it to scan a bag in and then scan it out? It must be extremely hard because my bag has effectively drop off the grid.

Normally, I would be stoked at my bag's choice to live a life outside of the Man's ability to monitor it (I once tried to start a movement with my pregnant friends for all of us to have our babies in a field and never register for social security so that we could start an off-the-grid generation revolution. It didn't pan out. . . And now my son is fully vaccinated). However, when my bag chooses to become MIA during Christmas, when full of presents and my underwear, I have to cry foul.

Further, we can't file any type of claim until 5 days after it has been missing. In 5 days, my bag will be in Tahiti, getting blitzed on sex on the beach or whatever, showing my tattered bras to tourists for laughs.

I am fully going to be in Meet the Parents mode this week, complete with speedo and stoner jacket. I have nothing but the clothes I have on and my little brother's old snowboarding jacket. Normal girls could share their mom's clothes; however, my mom is way too tall and too skinny to be able to share anything of hers (or am I too abnormally short and fat?).

This isn't the first time an airline has lost my luggage. It has happened once before when I went to Italy. Imprudently, I decided the best way to handle that situation was to get incredibly drunk and puke all over myself (and my only clothes) and the cab I was riding in (that stunt only cost 180 euros). This time around, I am handling the loss more maturely: I am only half-way through a bottle of Rosenblum zin and nowhere close to vomiting.

I am in enough of a relaxed state to start wondering why my luggage got "lost" (actually, I have no idea why I just put those quotation marks around lost. I am not being sarcastic. I don't think my luggage was stolen. It is way way too ugly for that). We have a postal system that manages to keep track of millions of letters and packages a day around the US, yet a single airline at a single airport, servicing maybe 100,000 people at the most couldn't make sure my bag made it to Reno? Granted, it was raining in San Diego. That does freak people out a bit, but enough to lose my bag? It wasn't tiny. It was my huge, green, apartment-size bag I used to travel to Guam and Japan with (it didn't go AWOL then). It could host me and a few of my friends inside of it for a little dance party and still zip shut. It's not like it can sit in a corner and be missed. And if it can make it over the Pacific multiple times, surely it can make it over the Sierras.


So I will be reporting to you now for the next week commando and in dirty clothes. Because there is no way in hell I am going to brave clothes shopping two days before Christmas.

Ollie would be proud.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Christmas Rant #2 (the one with the gratuitous hyphens and asides)

Okay, rant two. Deep breath . . .

Childless (and usually unmarried) women who treat stay-at-home moms as second-class citizens (wow, that was a lot of hyphens).

As the one person who actually reads my blog, you know full well I am a) a mom and b) have a job. There is one single, solitary reason I am not a stay-at-home mom: I couldn't cut it; it was too hard.

Let me say that one more time, slowly for those of you who think staying at home is all mojitos and bon bons:


Yes, too hard to stay at home. Too hard to cater to the needs of a tiny person 24/7.

You see, at my job, I get to hang out with grown-ups who don't expect me to wipe their asses, make their food, and basically be their one-woman entertainment. I don't have to intellectually stimulate my colleagues to bolster their (hopefully) growing vocabulary. And I can not talk to them if I feel like it. In fact, I can take an hour break to go to the gym or have a beer. No one calls CPS on me or cries incessantly when I leave their sight. And no one ever follows me to the bathroom and bangs and sobs at the door until I come back out. Further, when my colleagues have to go to the bathroom, I don't have to drop everything to make sure they don't wet the floor or crap their pants. My colleagues don't require me to put them into a five-point harness everytime I go somewhere with them in the car. And I don't have to deal with undoing and redoing said harness to run what should have been a 15-minute stop at the grocery store and turned into 45 minutes of hell. I don't have to carry my colleagues when they are tired. I don't pick up their messes. I don't have to watch my language.

What I get to do is tell jokes that are intelligently laughed at (if there is such a thing. Hey, it sounds good). I get to discuss philosophy and politics (okay, okay, those who know me (and don't read this blog) know I don't ever talk about politics. ever.). I can listen to non-Raffi music. I get to watch funny videos on youtube and share them with my colleagues. I get to talk about frustrations in my research and have someone actually listen and offer more than senseless gibberish. I get time to myself everyday.

In other words, everyday, no matter how frustrated I get with my research, I get a break from the relentless day of a mother and spouse. (Quick disclaimer: I have life ridiculously easy and fully acknowledge that fact. I have a kid who is seriously amazing. Some women are not so lucky.)

And that is the exact word that describes what being a mother is like: relentless. Yes, fulfilling falls in there sometimes, joy, love, oh amazing-being-that-sprang-from-my-loins, etc . . . but really, unless a woman is either insane or lying her big-fat-mom-ass off, kids relentlessly suck the very life out of you.

Those hater childless women (and in no way am I implying that they are barren. I am just saying they don't have kids . . . yet. I wish a dozen kids on each of these women. A baker's dozen.) do women everywhere a disservice with their scorn. Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Ann Crittenden has written an amazing book on this very issue, The Price of Motherhood (she was inspired to write this book when someone asked her if she "used" to be Ann Crittenden after she paused her amazing career to raise a child). I recommend that every woman in Western culture read it. It is dense and hard, but this book nicely lays out the prejudice this society has for women who take the time to raise full-time our most valuable asset.

And those she-haters perpetuate this prejudiced system. They contribute to the inequality shown to many talented, educated, and successful women because these she-haters don't have the capability to see that in a few years, they may very well be in the same place (or maybe they are jealous, but that's a whole other blog). They don't see that when women question the worth of other women (who are performing a valuable service) that we are undermining what has taken hundreds of years to achieve: the ability to participate and be valued in a man's world.

Raising kids, running a household, is much much more than making sandwiches and watching Oprah (and I am not saying that no stay-at-home women don't do either of these activities; however, I know far more college and post-college educated women as well as women who have left lucrative careers to raise children and partner with a spouse's difficult job that work very very hard at what they do than I know slacker moms). These she-haters need to borrow a child for 24 hours to realize exactly how difficult it can be. I guarantee they will crumble after 15 minutes.

With spouses and kids there are no breaks. You don't get to leave them at the office and have a blow-out weekend. You don't get two-week's vacation a year. Kids don't care if you are hung over. Hell, they don't care if you have an important research meeting when they choose to sport a 103F fever.

So the next time you she-haters while tending to only your single, solitary needs get to leave work after an albeit hard day, party all night to make up for said day, and sleep it off until whenever, think of those who haven't had a good adult conversation in months or years, aren't able to leave the house without paying exorbitant amounts of money for a sitter, and will wake up at 530am whether they want to or not. These women are the true heroines of our sex.

So don't hate. Celebrate.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Christmas Rant #1

So, I am sitting in my lab that is full of young, good-looking boys (my boss makes sure we keep beautiful people here--and that in no way violates any equal opportunity clauses) and listening to a few of them discuss their extreme weekends of bear blasting and hump catting, powered by PowerThirst. As they brag about the cuts and scrapes and bruises and hematomas and broken things, revealing the applicable body parts, they have triggered a rant deep within the core of my being.

I hate people who purposefully inflict pain on themselves and then act as if their injuries make them ubercool or edgy.

Being in pain is not cool. Injuring your body on purpose does not make you a special, tough person.

I know that pain and injury do not make you a fascinating person because I've lived with chronic pain for ten years. This pain is limiting. This pain is always present. This pain prevents me from doing many things I like to do. This pain is the exact opposite of cool.

Many people are surprised when they hear about my injury. Usually, it comes up when someone notices my limp and accuses me of having one drink too many. I try to minimize how much conversation my injury gets even then because, frankly, hurting just isn't that interesting. I've seen the other person's eyes glaze over more times than I can count as I relate the sordid tale of my accident. No one cares about your pain.

Now people who brag about their self-inflicted pain do so to really just have an excuse to talk about themselves. They want to let others know just how much they are hurting, just how they received said pain, in order to relate just how amazing they are that they continue to live their Clark-Kent lives despite deep-tissue hematoma or whatever. They make a point of shoving their pain in other's faces because pain is an option for them. They can choose to not hurt by just stopping whatever it is that they do to makes them hurt.

And that's the thing: they choose. Pain isn't a reality for them; it's a way of alleviating boredom. It's a way to make them feel as if they are better than all the other people out their who aren't sporting broken noses.

Give me a break.

Validate yourself some other way. Or, better yet, continue to do your extreme sport, continue to get hurt, but don't say a word about it. That way when your massive bruising or hot-pink cast or chipped tooth is noticed, you can say, "Oh that, I was [insert activity here]. It's no big deal." Then you may actually be interesting. Griping about something you are choosing to do is not worth the words and time and life you are wasting on it.

People in chronic pain actually do live Clark-Kent lives. They have no choice. They can either curl up and check out from the world or continue to function. They choose not to be in pain, but not to whine about it. They continue their day-to-day activities, pursue things that make them happy, and don't mention a word about the pain. They may seem normal (read: pain-free). They may seem boring. They may seem even impervious to pain. That's because they live with it as a constant presence. They know that talking about it doesn't make a whole lot of sense. They know how to suck. it. up. and actually do things that make them legitimately interesting people through their own merits not because they happen to have a life-affecting injury (I am not necessarily talking about myself. I am in no way claiming to be a legitimately interesting person).

Their alter-egos to the mild-mannered public lives they live may spend most nights without sleep because the pain is so great. They may secretly eat Ibuprofen as if it were candy. They may even spend gratuitous amounts of money on massages or other treatments. They may cry or moan when others aren't around because they've been forced into a pain-cave of despair. Yet however present this reality is to those who are living it, they know full well that no one cares to hear about it. And they keep their mouths shut.

Like dead people, those in chronic pain are everywhere. They work their jobs; they go to concerts; they run marathons; they pursue their life. All without mentioning exactly how hard it may be to be forced live like those boys in my lab who spend their weekends beating themselves up for a cheap thrill and a bit of adoration.

Get over yourself; you aren't the first person in history to be in pain. You certainly won't be the last.

Live life. Don't whine about it.

Friday, December 19, 2008

The Five (5) Rants of Christmas

Will be forthcoming . . . stay tuned.

(oh please, Santa, let me come up with five)

Friday, December 12, 2008

Ebony and Ivory

Isn't it nice in today's world to see a Mac and PC living in harmony together.

Albeit from opposite sides of the table.

Saturday, December 6, 2008


Scooter: check.

Helmet: check.

Tail: check.

Letter to Santa in right pocket: check check.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

The Love Between a Mother and Son

So, last night I put my son to bed. We snuggled on the couch watching Cheetah vs Leopard on Animal Planet. Then we brushed our teeth and moved to his bed to snuggle and read a few stories.

Rather than have me read a book, he asked me to tell him a story. So I made up a story about a cheetah and leopard that were fighting about who got to eat his stomach and bellybutton (long story). Then our cat, Ebers, stepped in and saved my son (I did not add that the reason Ebers was so anxious to save him from the predators was that she's planning to eat his face some night when I forget to feed her . . . )

After that touching story, my son asked me to sing him a song. I started singing a sweet lullaby. He snuggled even furthing into my shoulder and I couldn't help but think that this exact moment is what makes parenting worthwhile.

I was almost done with the song when he sweetly interupted me: "Mommy?"

"What, Baby?"

"Mommy, remember that time you were wearing that dress and your boob fell out?"

The little creep was thinking about my boobs the whole time.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008


Coffee and toothpaste . . .

My favorite way to start the day.

All that is missing is a phone call from the one I love most. Or just his arms wrapped around me.

I'm not picky.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Right Now . . .

I hate my undergrad.

He's sitting over there, looking obtuse on purpose. Not doing work. Ignoring my tirade about the importance of keeping lab notes in a lab notebook. Not doing work Losing research results and wasting money and time. Lab money. My time.

Did I mention not doing work?

While I am busting my ass (yes, I was actually working before I posted this. And will return to work in 5 . . . 4 . . . 3 . . . 2 . . . 1).

Saturday, November 22, 2008

White Out

The world disappeared last night while I was sleeping. Outside my window in an impenetrable wall of white. It's cold. Disconcerting. Yet it makes me feel loved.

My friend once told me that the marine layer was the wrapping around the gift of the bay given just to me. And that I would have to slowly unwrap it as the day progressed. Now whenever I see a white-out outside my window, I get a little burst of joy.

Like this morning.

Because I get to watch the bay unwrap itself from the marine layer's shroud of gauze and tulle, revealing a gift just for me.

Thank you, friend.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

I Don't Care What You Think or Say

My son is the cutest kid. Ever.

I know some of you delusional parents or people with kids in your family are going to try to disagree with me.





My son is the cutest--as well as the most amazing child--that has ever lived. And he eats his vegetables!

I'm sorry for your loss. But I must speak the truth.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Sky Blue Sky

Mammoth's ties to my trailor trash roots . . . .

Here are the top reasons I love Mammoth at this time of year (in no particular order, of course):

1. The play of sunlight between the trees. You can be walking in and out of the shade into dappled sun into full sun, and throughout, the sun's rays will move and shift like a living thing in and out of view.

2. You can walk literally on the side of the road. And as large trucks zoom past, you have to move to the scrub off the pavement.

3. The dichotomy of cold shade and warm sun.

4. The surprising and always breath-taking vistas of the mountain, valleys, lakes, bathed in warm warm sun or cool moonlight.

5. The always-presence of the snow-covered mountain. It looms large over the still bare town and valley like a protective lover or menacing ex.

6. You can actually see the stars at night.

7. And of course, the blue-enough sky.

Love you Mammoth. But still can't wait to go home.

Saturday, November 15, 2008


After two weeks sans husband and child, I am once again not-single and not-not-a-mother. The last two weeks have been a bit surreal. I haven't lived without one or another of those boys in 6 years. It takes a little adjustment.

And adjust I did. . . .

However, during this time, I have learned a few things about myself.

Here are the top five:

1. I do not like sleeping alone.

2. A pillow is no substitute for the warmth of the right body.

3. I really really like sex.

4. Waking up to the right person in the middle of the night is more-than-nice.

5. Morning kissing before brushing teeth is not only okay, but can be freaking amazing.

And It Feels Like I'm a Long Way From Home

I am a Southern California girl. I have strict living boundaries. I like warm. I like sunshine. I have strict boundaries. I like warm.

Did I mention that I like warm?

Did I mention I have strict boundaries?

Yet somehow I left my beloved San Diego on a weekend where we were promising to have 80 degree, flawless weather and journeyed to the far (okay, okay, not-so-far) north: Mammoth.

I must be crazy. Or just a mom, since I am going to get my son who has been with my mother for the past two weeks.

Oh, another thing about traveling to the not-so-far north: I hate road trips. I hate sitting still. I hate monotony. The movement of the car puts me instantly asleep, and then I wake up with nasty aches from being in a weird, awkward position. I fondly remember the days in our family '65 Impala, lying stretched out in the back . . . not a care in the world.
Stupid seatbelts.

Anyway, to kill the ridiculous hours it takes to get to Mammoth from San Diego (this time issue is totally the fault of the driver . . . if I were driving, we would be there in at least one hour less than it took to get here today. However, if I were driving, I would have also fallen asleep and wrecked the car), I took a few photos.

Consider the following a travel journal of sorts (whose format I have shamelessly plagiarized from those more talented than I):

Do I have enough to read? Will I be able to stay hydrated?

AHHH. This position hurts after an hour too!

Note the accumulation of bug splatters. . .

What kind of scary-assed pets do they have here? I am way way way out of my boundaries.

Notice my correct grammar. . . .

I must be one of the few people who come to Mammoth regularly and don't actually visit the mountain itself. My mom's best friend owns a chalet here and most of my childhood has been spent visiting this amazing area of eastern California (and yes, I did look at a map today and noticed that Mammoth is, indeed, not part of Yosemite. Are you happy?). Though I have few memories of snowboarding or mountain biking on the mountain, the memories I do have are full of friends, family, Thanksgivings, fireworks, festivals, and love. . .
Did I mention love?

Mammoth is a lot like home, but still far far way. It is missing an essential element.

On a side note: my son did not greet me with joyous abandon. Rather, he exclaimed, "Mommy! Oh . . . no. I don't want to go home. I'm going back with Nani."

Ah, the unconditional love of a child. Why did I leave my boundaries again?

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Death of Cells . . . Man

I killed today.

Look at how unsuspecting these little guys are. . . .

Oh, little cells. Can you sense your imminent death?



It was as if millions of voices suddenly cried out in terror and were suddenly silenced.

Destroying the evidence.

Monday, November 10, 2008





Does nothing work?

Friday, November 7, 2008

A Stay of Execution

My hand wavered over my cells. I held bleach bottle held poised--a single drop forming on its yellow squeeze tip. . .

Could I do it?

With a heavy heart, I decided I should give them one last look before destroying over a year of effort.

Lo and behold! The cells are at the perfect growth for another experiment.

Did I decide to allow my cells four more days of life while I stuck yet another viral element inside of them? I did indeed.

Live little cells. Live a little longer . . . I'm just not ready to say goodbye yet.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

A Great Loss

Today I am in deep mourning.

No, not because of the presidential election. That was amazing. Though I did find out the results at the Madonna concert, so I might be confusing my elation for the election outcomes with my utter ecstasy at seeing an utterly freaking awesome show (did I say "utter" twice? And am I now flashing back to my first job?).

I am mourning instead the loss of hundreds of millions of human cells . . . and a year and a half's worth of research.

Flashback to earlier last month: I am working frantically on infecting cells with Hepatitis C (Yes!!! I made a virus! I. Made. It. Don't piss me off. I have a lot of it now) and then tweaking around to see if any factors change. Nothing works.

Nothing works.

Nothing works.

Nothing works.

Wait! Something is hopeful (this is how science is, I'm learning: most of the time you either get a "you suck" result or a result that is inconclusive before going back to the default "you suck"). I need to repeat the experiement. . . . .

. . . three weeks go by . . . .

. . . something is hopeful again!

maybei'llhavesomethingtoproposeonDecemberfirstwhenmy graduatecommitteemeetstojudgemyprogress!

Then, three days ago, while out with some girlfriends--without a care in the world, I might add--I get a text from my match who coincidently works in my lab so I never had to sign up for eharmony to find him.

"I have just confirmed that we have a mycoplasma contamination in tissue culture."

What's a "mycoplasma"? you might very well ask. Or what the hell is tissue culture? These are fair questions. However, the answer to these questions really just aren't that interesting unless you absolutely love geeking out to science.

Let me translate that text into plain English:

"All of the cells we experiment on are contaminated with teeny, tiny bacteria. It will cost hundreds if not thousands of dollars to clean this mess up. We are only choosing to save the most important cells. Yours aren't those cells. This weekend, you will need to throw away all of your research including frozen virus that took nine months to make and start all over from scratch."

Hmmmm, that's a bit longer than the original text, but isn't that the way with translations (unless of course you are Bill Murray in Lost in Translation).

As I type this, I realize the full ramifications of this news has yet to sink in (thank you Madonna--I mean--Obama--for giving me hope). But in all honesty, I'm pretty much back to where I started a year ago.

Oh, except for experience. Like Ella Fitzgerald and Louis Armstrong say, "they can't take that away from me." However, experience isn't going to get me fresh data by December first. And if a gun were held to my head, I might forgo the experience in favor of kick-ass, uncontaminated results.

So today and tomorrow, I start the goodbye process to all of my tiny, contaminated cells. As I pour bleach on each plate, imagining the chorus of tiny screams erupting from the media, I may or may not shed a tear or two. Possibly.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

I Think Stephen King Wrote a Book About This . . .

So as of late, I haven't been sleeping. And not the kind of not sleeping a kid gets on Christmas Eve or the kind where you only have four hours of sleep yet somehow awaken rested, but the kind those in the know call Insomnia. I capitalized this word on purpose. Because this isn't the insomnia someone talks about casually in the coffee shop the next morning: "oh my god, I had the worse sleep last night." No this is the Insomnia that wracks your whole body, saps your spirit, and takes your mind. This is the Insomnia that leaves you unable to even lift a coffee cup let alone make it to a coffee shop to chat about it.

This is the kind of Insomnia that will make you murder for sleep or kill yourself for rest albeit however final or maybe just go crazy.

In the past three weeks of my Insomnia, I have spent many hours analyzing its forms. The following are the four manifestations of my own personal hell.

1. there's the regular oh-my-gosh-I've-just-woken-up-at-2am-and-am-totally-
freaking-four-hours. At first, this one isn't so bad because you are at least alert and your body and mind are on the same page. A night of this one is regular insomnia, and you can joke about it the next day to your friends while describing all of the productive things you did while you couldn't sleep like chopping vegetables or cleaning the house or balancing your checkbook.

A week of this is draining. After this time, your mind and body might start to suffer irreparable differences of opinion. Your mind might wake up while your body begs for sleep. Or you body might crave the physical challenge of a marathon while your mind weighs you down like a boulder.

Three weeks is crippling. Combine this form of sleeplessness with any of the below, and it is deathly.

2. there's the lack of sleep brought about from chronic pain. This form wakes you up and while your body and mind might be exhausted, the pain continues to grab at you and pull you back from sleep. No matter how hard you strive to go away from reality, you just can't escape.

3. there's the ambient noise keeps you awake. This really isn't insomnia unless there is an incremental addition of sleepless nights. In my case, the noise culprit is a train. Now I am no noise sissy. I have lived within 500 yards of a major airport and freeway and train tracks for four years. I don't shut my windows. Ever. And I usually sleep completely fine. Fantastically wonderfully fine, actually. I have slept through traffic accidents, early and late flights, and stopped trains.

However, they have apparently invented a super slow train that is able to crawl past my house at an imperceptible rate of ten feet every 45 minutes while constantly blowing its horn. How can it do this? Why does it do this? And why must it do this at 2:30 in the morning? Every morning?

4. there's the sick kid. Again, in and of itself, this is not necessarily insomnia. However, this is a cumulative or combinative form of sleeplessness that contributes to Insomnia. Somehow children know when you are at your weakest and most vulnerable (it's a gift really), and always choose that time to come down with a fever that leaves them screaming, whimpering, or crying every 20 minutes or so. This time interval is precisely calculated to let you fall just into sleep before jerking you back out, thus creating even more physical and psychological stress to the act of staying awake.

For the past three weeks, I've experienced these four forms singly or in concert. It has left me weepy, cranky, unable to formulate any rational thought, and unprepared to deal with any aspect of life.

Right now, I would kill for four solid hours of repose. Right now, I would contemplate killing myself if I could be sure of the possibility of an afterlife with sleep. Right now, I can feel my sanity, slowly eroding away.

As Sir Philip Sydney puts it:
Come sleep, oh sleep, the certain knot of peace,
The baiting place of wit, the balm of woe,
The poor man's wealth, the prisoner's release,
Th'indifferent judge between the high and low;
With shield of proof shield me from out the prease
Of those fierce darts, Despair at me doth throw:
Oh make in me those civil wars to cease;
I will good tribute pay if thou do so:
Take thou of me smooth pillows, sweetest bed,
A chamber deaf to noise and blind to light;
A rosy garland, and a weary head;
And if these things, as being thine by right,
Move not thy heavy Grace, thou shalt in me
Livelier than elsewhere Stella's image see.

Saturday, August 30, 2008

Let the Drummer Kick That

This is officially the year of concerts for me. Usually, I average maybe two bigger shows a year with a smattering of smaller venues for good measure. However, this year, I have been burning the concert candle at both ends.

And while I love love love hearing live music, going to this many shows has also called my attention to the not so nice side of concert going.

So here is my list of nine things I hate about going to concerts. I thought of doing ten, but I couldn't come up with a tenth one without stretching. If you have one, feel free to submit it.

In no particular order:

1. Bad sound. I hate this. Come on, these guys are supposed to be professionals. They supposedly rehearse and get paid serious money to perform for us; shouldn't they have the sound thing down? Chris Cornell's show at San Diego's House of Blues was a perfect example of the sound guy (or girl) just not getting it right. Chris Cornell has a very distinctive voice. It is a crime to have it swallowed by the instruments.

2. Creepy uberfan. This is the guy with the Prince Valiant haircut and tee shirt from another show that he wore in a calculated move to appear concert savvy yet also appear as if he is not trying too hard ("What? Oh this shirt with the stage directions for a relatively unknown but cool band? I just grabbed the first thing in my closet. I go to so many shows, you know, it's hard to keep track."). This is the same fan who gives awkward thumbs up to the band at odd times during the show and who cannot forget for one second he is surrounded by other people who will never get this music like he does. This is the same fan who writes messages on paper that say "It's all for the true Music" and who later will go home and masturbate while listening to the illegal cd he just recorded from the show, clutching a photograph of the lead singer in his sweaty left paw.

3. Rubbing bare skin on a stranger's sweaty bare skin. I don't think I need to go into this further.

4. The guy sporting the man tank who hasn't showered in a few days and insists on raising his white-power tattooed arms, treating all who surround him to a wave of BO.

5. Band members who think that they are the reason the crowd payed $60 to stand crammed like sardines in a can for three hours. Now I'm not talking about members of an actual band (like the Red Hot Chili Peppers or something like that) but band members who were hired just for this tour: no one knows them, no one ever will. They will always play back up for another bigger name or substitute for a guitarist that has overdosed on heroin the night before. We don't care about them, and they are quickly forgotten. They need to get over themselves.

6. And speaking of band members, why do some of them feel the need to take off their shirts mid show? Yes, I know it's hot. I'm packed in a steamy meat locker listening to you; I don't take my shirt off. There are some things we need to protect others from encountering. In my case, it's my mom gut and saggy parts. In scrawny, scraggly guitarist's and drummer's cases, it's tiny puckered baby nipples and the five strands of chest hair trying to cover them.

7. Expensive food and beverages. I will die of dehydration before I will purchase a $5 12-ounce bottle of water. I will (gasp!!) drink tap water.

8. Throwing "souvenirs" into the crowd. Now I could hate this one because I have never ever in all of the shows I've been to in my life actually caught anything thrown into the crowd. So you can discount this peeve as sheer bitterness. I'm still going to rant. What is this? Mardi Gras? Do we really need more people taking off their shirts and scrabbling for picks or drumsticks or sweat-soaked towels? Do we really need to feed the egos of the back-up band member who thinks he's the shit because some woman is screaming for his pick? Trust me, it's not his pick she specifically wants. For women like that, any pick will do. Of course, this is coming from the woman who has never had a pick . . .

9. Okay, so this is my top hated thing: people who seem unable to make a real memory of the show, so they rely on their blackberry or phone to make a digital one for them. These are the people who never actually look at the musicians, preferring to gaze through the small digital screen of their chosen electronic recording device. I'd bet that if technology allowed, they'd listen to the show through headphones (though that might fix the sound). These are the people who don't go to shows for the music but to say that they've been. These are the show name droppers you hear in the bathroom: "Oh, I had VIP seats for the Radiohead show last night because I know the owner of the House of Blues" and "Today is my fourth concert in five days." AHHHH!

Now that I've gotten the peeves out of the way, you might be asking yourself why I even go to live shows if I am such a curmudgeon. Why don't I stay in my temperature controlled, sealed room where I can listened to cds that have perfectly monitored sound and not have to deal with a single member of the human race?

That is a good question.

And while finding the perfect song or mix on your stereo to compliment your day can be one of life's more exquisite pleasures, there is no substitute for live music.

Live music has an energy unmatched by any stereo system. Think about it, we pay serious money to go listen to someone sing to us. Sing. As in what some of us do regularly on a daily basis (like you don't sing in the shower). What is it about that? That singing, that composition of instruments? It's ecstasy: ex stasis. Through live music, we are transported out of ourselves into something, somewhere else. Not necessarily better, but different--and unmatched. That's why those nine peeves listed above are so jangling: they mar the movement to ecstasy.

Music fills us and moves us like nothing else. From the very physical movement of the bass line permeating our pulses to the intangible movement of lyrics and moment. A cd or record (or I guess, cassette tape) can do some of this, but it comes nowhere close to experiencing music live.

Live music can bring you to tears in the midst of a crowd of strangers. And, get this, no one will judge. They will understand the power that is present.

Live music can make you so full of joy that you actually glow.

Live music can transform the most scrawny, rodent-faced man or the most rotund, drugged out girl into the sexiest thing alive. Because they can offer something so few of us can: music that matters. Music that transports. Music that lives.

Sunday, March 2, 2008

In Search of Sunrise

Or more accurately, sunlight. I have a continual quest on sunny days to find a clean, well-sun-lighted place to enjoy the warmth and general sense of well-being that only the sun can provide--along with a tasty beverage and possibly a small bit to eat. In San Diego, we have a lot of sunny days. This seems like a very easy task.

However, it seems that the bar/coffee shops/restaurant owners of San Diego have concocted a conspiracy (I'll call it THE PLAN here for simplicity's sake) to situate their establishments in such a way that direct sunlight never actually reaches their outdoor patios. Whether it is a northeast facing deck or ridiculous awnings, these potentially pleasant places of respite are perpetually in the shade. In my extremely researched and objective estimation, at least 95% of places with outdoor seating in San Diego are participating in THE PLAN.

There are a few notable exceptions to THE PLAN (all of which I cannot list). Two of the consistently good sun spots are British pubs: Shakespeare's in Mission Hills and The Princess Pub in Little Italy (Two other notables: Red's coffee shop in Point Loma has a back patio that faces an unseemly parking lot yet gets beautiful sun. And for a more pleasant coffee shop view to accompany your sun, try Cafe Carpe Diem in Banker's Hill). Perhaps it is the fact that these are British establishments that explain why their owners do not conform to THE PLAN. Britain does seem to get significantly less sun than we do in Southern California, so maybe the owners of these pubs realize the vital aspect that direct sunlight fulfills in our lives. Like preventing rickets or suicide.

Seriously, in this day and age of either the extreme of leatherneck tanning or of vampire-fear-of-sun, the benefits and simple pleasures of that golden orb go largely unnoticed. Our good friend gets vilified as the accomplice of the shallow or source of cancer-causing mutations. But there is nothing like the wrapping of warmth and glowing sense of well-being one can attain while sipping an appropriate beverage, book in hand, basking in those golden rays. It's pure joy.

Feeling the sun after an eon of storm clouds and marine layer is like giving blood to an anemic. Suddenly, you have energy, zest for life. Things taste better, look better, feel better, sound better, smell better when swathed in sunlight.

Yet throughout San Diego are fine places of mastication, imbibition, and comraderie that deny us this simple pleasure. Are they hoping that their participation in THE PLAN will cause us to spend more money there because we have to drink more to feel happy? Are they in cahoots with clothing stores that are trying to clear their overstock of winter sweaters? Are they just sadists that get some sort of twisted pleasure from creating wild and delightful hopes at the sight of outdoor seating on a gorgeous day only to dash them when we are exposed to the extreme chill of a shaded dining area?

Whatever the cause, this tyranny of THE PLAN must. stop. now. We must fight for our right to sunlight. Just twenty years ago, 40% of San Diego had sun. Now we are down to a mere 5%. We must fight to preserve those places that serve as altars to the sun sprites. It is no coincidence that the vicious rumor is flying around that the Princess has been bought by a condo company and will be replaced by a tall building with plenty of shaded area; this bastion of the combination of chilled beer and glorious sun is bucking THE PLAN. Of course there are consequences.

People of San Diego--people around the world!--fight back. Seize the day. Seize the sun. Make a note of those places that allow sun to support the growth of your mind, body, and soul. Go to these places. Drink. Eat. Read. Talk. Bask.

Seize the warmth of pure unadulterated joy.

Sunday, January 6, 2008

Quote Archive

Lost really has two disparate meanings. Losing things is about the familiar falling away, getting lost is about the unfamiliar appearing. There are objects and people that disappear from your sight or knowledge or possession; you lose a bracelet, a friend, the key. You still know where you are. Everything is familiar except that there is one item less, one missing element. Or you get lost, in which case the world becomes larger than your knowledge of it. Either way there is a loss of control. Imagine yourself streaming through time shedding gloves, umbrellas, wrenches, books, friends, homes, names. This is what the view looks like if you take a rear-facing seat on the train. Looking forward you constantly acquire moments of arrival, moments of realization, moments of discovery. The wind blows your hair back and you are greeted by what you have never seen before. The material falls away in an onrushing experience. It peels off like skin from a molting snake. Of course to forget the past is to lose the sense of loss that is also memory of an absent richness and a set of clues to navigate the present by; the art is not one of forgetting but letting go. And when everything else is gone, you can be rich in loss. (Solnit A Field Guide to Getting Lost 22-23)

The real marriage of true minds is for any two people to possess a sense of humor or irony pitched in exactly the same key, so that their joint glances at any subject cross like interarching searchlights.----Edith Wharton

When love and duty are one, grace is with you.

In a world of disorder and disaster and fraud, sometimes only beauty can be trusted [...] To devote yourself to the creation and enjoyment of beauty, then, can be a serious business--not always necessarily a means of escaping reality, but sometimes a means of holding on to the real when everything else is flaking away into . . . rhetoric and plot.--Elizabeth Gilbert

Love loves the smell of wine, of cooking. --Turiddu, Cavalleria Rusticana by Pietro Mascagni

Only One More Year Left To Wear Those Glasses With the 00 as the Eyeholes

Another year has begun. And no matter how much I say that I won't do a resolution (or resolutions), I find that I always make an internal list of things I'd like to do, do differently, or do better in the coming year.

The biggest "do differently" came from an NPR article in November of last year. I learned about a group of people in San Francisco who decided to say no to consumerism, calling this decision The Compact. Essentially, they've decided to buy nothing new for a certain time period (for some it was six months, for others a year, for still others it is ongoing).

I didn't get to hear the entire article because (oddly enough) I was busy selling some books and clothes back to a second-hand store, but what I heard really got my attention. This partial article plus my son's response to a broken toy earlier that week ("It's okay, Mommy. We can just buy a new one") motivated me to do a mini-compact of my own for the year of '08.

As soon as I decided this (in November), I went on a major spending spree.

I panicked. A whole year without buying anything new?!! What about gifts for others? What about gift cards from people to me? What if I see those brown boots I want? What about all of those cute skirts that will come out in the spring? What about new music? What about new books? My mind was spinning because once I decided to cut out all of the mindless things I buy on a--if not day to day--weekly basis, I realized just how much I participate in this consumer culture.

Part of this participation comes from the fact that everyone is bombarded by ads for goods almost every second of the day. I don't even watch TV (honestly, I don't. I only watch movies), but I am well aware of the new iPod or new clothing line at that high end department store or new album released by that hot new band. We seem to soak up the need to buy stuff from the very air.

Part of this participation comes from the fact that gift-giving and -receiving is the primary way my family expresses love. We all love love love to get and give gifts. I am a kick-ass gift giver because that is how I tell people I care for them. I am a kick-ass stuff-buyer because that is how I tell myself I care for me. In fact, when my girlfriends all tried to stop giving each other gifts at birthdays, I refused to participate in their madness--oh I gave gifts. I gave great gifts. And when my birthday came around you can bet I received gifts too (thank you, my good friends, for loving me my way).

So giving up buying is not only about giving up shopping, it is also a bit like giving up my best way of saying "I love you." (I am not super proud of the previous statement, but it is the truth.) I would have to essentially learn a whole new way of showing that I care for others and myself.

But when I decided all of this, it was still November. . .

So I am not proud to admit I did a bit of stock-piling in my last month of consumerism. This Christmas, everyone in my family got a kick-ass gift. In the last few days after Christmas, I took every gift card I received and shopped my heart out. I bought cds, books, clothes, etc . . . to a ridiculous extent. I even pre-ordered a cd that won't be released until later this month and toyed with the idea of pre-ordering a book that is going to be released until this summer.

However, I don't really think my purchases are going to be "new" for much longer. I've already listened and pretty much memorized all of my new cds. I've read about half of the books I've bought. And I've worn all of my new clothes. It's only a week into my compact and my items that brought me such joy in their newness are no longer new. Already, seven days seems like a long time to not have made any purchases. The maw of the consumer beast is starting to gape.

I think this year might be hard. Not just because I won't be able to shop, but because I am going to have to seriously examine how I used to spend my money and time as well as what truly has priority in my life. Where is my treasure? Where is my heart? As one friend has half-jokingly claimed: I am a cavern of want. The question is: do I put worthwhile things into that cavern? Perhaps if I change my priorities, I could be sated.

We shall see.

So the following are my mini-compact rules (and a lot of this, I got off of the original Compact blog). The biggest thing will be to use common sense about any purchase:

1. Nothing new unless it is food, beverages, underwear, necessities (like soap, deodorant, medical supplies, etc . . .).
*A notable exception I am making to the above is original art.*
2. Experiences can be bought (e.g. plays, trips, dining out, museum tickets) but must not be too excessive. Also, subscriptions to magazines and museum/zoo passes can be renewed
3. I can buy things used, but I am going to try to avoid buying anything. Honestly, I don't need anything. This avoidance to buy anything will include downloaded music (gulp).
4. Some caveats: My son can have new clothes if he needs them. My husband can have new running shoes. I can have school supplies if I need them (like pens and texts) but I have to look for used first. Anything my lab buys for me for my research, I can have new (It would be really hard to do biology research with, say, used pipette tips).

People have asked what I'll do if my computer crashes or my car fails or my house burns down. Those things would indeed stink, but all of that stuff can be replaced without buying into the consumer trap. Besides, those things most likely won't happen (they didn't this year), so it is sort of pointless to worry about them until they come up. Again common sense.

A year is a long time, but as I sit on my couch, typing on my Vaio, listening to Trance Party Volume 1 on my iTunes, drinking Witch Creek Barbera out of my Crate and Barrel red wine glasses, facing my 19-inch TV and Kenwood stereo topped with piles of books, cds, and movies, in clothing that is sassy and has no holes, I think I can do this. I have been blessed with wonderful friends and family, a good career, and lots and lots of STUFF. A year with nothing new in the stuff department isn't surmountable.

Wow. This blog has come a long way from what I envisioned it to be when I started a year and a half ago. I am still doing the CSA but it isn't that hard anymore. The only thing I have moldering in my fridge is lettuce (still can't figure that one out but at least I compost), but I have learned to cook and handle a variety of produce. I even like chard now (to an extent).

I am still cooking vegetables every night (that never seems to change), but it doesn't seem to be the challenge it once was. Here's the fried rice I cribbed from Veg Times after coming home from a New Year's trip to Mammoth and finding "nothing" in my fridge:

1 c. dried rice, cooked

sesame oil
peanut oil
onion, diced
garlic, minced
ginger, minced

bok choy, stems chopped, leaves chopped, separated
carrots, chopped and blanched
dried shitake mushrooms, soak in hot water for 30 minutes, chop, save liquid for something else

beet greens, chopped
frozen and shelled edamame, rinsed in hot water

soy sauce
spicy chile and garlic sauce

Saute the onion, garlic, and ginger until soft. Add the bok choy stems and carrots. Saute a few minutes more. Add the mushrooms. When everything looks done, add the greens and the edamame. Saute for a minute. Add the rice, a splash of soy sauce, and a tiny bit of the garlic sauce. Saute until everything is uniform in color and a little brown from the pan. Top with sliced, roasted almonds.

Yummy New Year. . . .