--Richard Fortey The Earth: An Intimate History
Tuesday, December 30, 2008
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.
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
Wednesday, December 24, 2008
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?
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
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
[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
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
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
Friday, December 12, 2008
Saturday, December 6, 2008
Tuesday, December 2, 2008
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?"
"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.