31 August 2007

Me First! Me First! Me First!!

Have you heard about the controversy swirling around the 2008 primaries? No, not the silly number of candidates that we're supposed to choose among. Not either the crazy right-wingers who are running. No, I'm talking about the movement among many states to move their primary election up so that they are before the 'traditional' first states, Iowa and New Hampshire.

This is a ridiculous bid for more attention from the candidates for every single state that's doing it. Michigan, Florida, and South Carolina, I'm talking to YOU. Do you honestly truly think that if your state is first that you'll somehow end up with more money or more pork-barrel projects? All that this scrambling around is doing is fostering bad feeling among the states, counter-productive, to say the least. Infighting among the parties, be they Dems or no, doesn't help either side's agenda.

Our system of a primary election and then a 'big' election, roughly six months or so apart isn't ideal, however it really isn't all that different from many other nation's "runoff" elections, held when there is no clear majority winner.

The problem that I have with the entire system is that it takes one hell of a lot of money to get elected in the first place; and since folks like Michael Bloomberg, New York City mayor and billionaire, are rare, folks who want to run need a sizable bankroll. You don't get that kind of money in this particular system without promising something in return to your financial backers. Political favors, ambassador appointments, what have you. Unless you can finance your entire campaign all by your lonesome self.

Each state that tries to move their primary forward so that they're "FIRST!" is (perhaps unintentionally) only adding to this money problem. If the first primary is held in January, which is where Michigan has now moved theirs, that pushes election season back into the preceding year even more than it already is. Which forces candidates to raise more money, sooner, and faster. It is a vicious cycle. Which will only perpetuate itself until only the wealthiest can be our elected leaders.

Is that government of, for, and by the people?

30 August 2007

And I pay attention to this stuff.

Without a sense of humor, I doubt that I'd be able to survive. Even when the joke's on me, as long as there's some laughter, that's a good thing. I was doing some surfing, and I'm amused at myself yet again.

When I'm stumped for a blog post, or if I haven't seen/heard any news on a particular day, I'll head to my personalized version of Google, which pulls various wire stories that I've told it I want to see. Among the links to NPR and the New York Times, the BBC and CNN, are two gadgets with celebrity news. As if I don't get enough from the nearly-daily gander I take at sites like Perez and the Superficial.

Looking at Google yesterday, I was surprised to see a quote from Ashton Kutcher, who asserts that men are 'merely accessories.' This reversal of the roles from the stereotypical ornamental female is rare, so of course I clicked the link. I discovered, thanks to People.com, that Kutcher has written an essay which appears in this month's Harpar's Bazaar.

He rates the importance of men as somewhere less than shoes and somewhat more than handbags. Now this is the guy who brought us MTV's Punk'd, so I can't help but wonder if he's having a laugh with this piece. Without having read it in its entirety, I couldn't be sure.

As I sat and wondered about this, I realized how absurd it is that we all pay attention to this kind of stuff. I've often defended myself from critics of my celebrity news-watching with this; MY life seems a lot less fucked up, frankly, when I read about the antics of Brit-Brit, La Lohan, and Paris. After all, *I* haven't shaved my head or flashed anyone lately. Not to mention the fact that I've never been arrested, ever, for anything.

This celebrity news-watching is a completely separate thing from my fangirl silliness, because you don't see J & J in the tabloids, now, do ya? Nope. I wish that more pictures of them were published (of course) and that the mainstream media paid more attention to the show, but mostly I think that if they want their private lives to stay private, then they're pretty smart to stay out of the gossip rags. Besides, I freely admit how completely ridiculous my fangirly-ness is.

Anyway, I read Kutcher's essay and it is howlingly funny. Intentional or not, it doesn't much matter. Who'da thunk it, he's a good writer. Anytime I laugh out loud at the screen more than once whilst reading something, the writer is managing to hold my attention and is doing a good job, in my ever-so-humble.

29 August 2007


The stories swirling about in the news media regarding Senator Larry Craig have me thinking about the gross lack of tolerance here in America for the homosexual community. It makes me ill, realizing yet all over again how "land of the free, home of the brave" seems to apply to only a privileged few.

What the hell do you care if someone is gay, straight, bi? Why on earth would it matter? Does it affect whether they're a good person or not? Does it change the fact that they're human? Nope. Sure doesn't. It isn't any of your business what goes on in someone else's bedroom. Ever.

I understand curiosity; I have more than a generous dose of it myself and asking respectful questions has rarely gotten me into trouble. I'm also a gossip queen out there in the real world and have had more than my share of giggling conversations about other people's sex lives, but I'm not interested in being angry at someone because they're gay. That's exhausting, frankly, and a waste of time.

NPR has a story about an Idaho paper that had been investigating Senator Craig's sexuality. Here's why I must be crazy; I don't understand why that should be newsworthy. I understand completely that it is newsworthy due to the salaciousness of the news and the basic marketing rule that "sex sells." But much like Bill Clinton's extramarital affairs, I just don't think it is our business.

Am I so far out of the mainstream? Or should we finally simply live and let live and focus on real issues instead of someone's orientation?

28 August 2007

In Time

"Don't worry you will find the answer

if you let it go

Give yourself some time to falter

But don't forgo

know that you're loved no matter what

And everything will come around

in time."

~Sarah McLachlan, "Perfect Girl" on the album Afterglow

When my mother was pregnant with me, back in the dark ages, the doctors told her that the baby was due on December 13, which incidentally is an important holiday in Sweden and it was my maternal grandmother's birthday as well. Now according to a friend of mine who has kids, calculating a due date is a notoriously inexact science. I wouldn't know, not having ever been pregnant. Anyway, back in the dark ages when I was born, they didn't induce deliveries like they do today if you go a week or so over your due date. A debate for another day, because I'm drifting off track. I made my appearance nearly two weeks later, born about 10 days "late". A beginning that I've spent the rest of my life living up to.

DH hates to be late. I'm nearly never on time. I joke that as I was born late, there isn't much chance of me ever being on time. I try; but time slips past me.

This summer, as I have enjoyed not having any major responsibilities, I'm astonished at the speed by which the days disappear. Each night, I promise myself that I'll get into bed at a 'reasonable hour' and each night I'm climbing into bed at a time much later than I intended. Which starts quite the cycle; since I do not have to be up to be anywhere, and I don't ever sleep through the night uninterrupted, I'll wake around 3 and again around 5 and when DH gets up and gets ready for work around 6:30. Each time, yes, I could get up. But I don't.

Most days, when I stay up past midnight, it is all I can do to get moving by 8 AM. Which means that by the time I make myself some breakfast, get dressed and head to the gym, it is nearly 10. I work out for nearly two hours and then come home, shower, change, and start whatever I'm going to do on a particular day and the next time I look at the clock, it is 1:30 or 2. DH gets home from work at 3.30, and plans for dinner and the remainder of the evening begin then. He still has to get up and go to work, so between 9 and 10PM, he's heading to bed, and I'm surfing, IM-ing, talking to friends in the fandom world and writing the book. And I look at the clock and it will be nearly midnight. Again.

You'd think that I'd be getting bored with this routine; after all, until I was bogged down with the depression this past winter, unless I had about 30,000 things to do, I was bored. This little bit of serenity has been nice, but yes, I am bored. I was talking with a friend who lives out of town about a month or so ago, and he remarked that even though he couldn't see me, he could tell that I was more relaxed than I'd ever been in the entire time he's known me. (About 20 years, give or take a minute.) Which was remarkably insightful for him. So obviously, this break has been good for me.

When I was working for the olde evile bank and working in the big bad city, my father would nag me to take some time out to exercise. I was working about 45 hours a week and spending nearly 3 hours a day in the car commuting back and forth. Plus I was newly married and had a bevy of friends still living in town.

"When am I supposed to do that?" I would ask him. "I just don't have time."

"Lucille, everyone has the same amount of time. Twenty-four hours in a day. Make time." He would reply tersely.

I began making time last October, getting out of bed at about 5 am every day and getting to the gym before they opened their doors at 5.30 every morning, then rushing home, getting ready for work, working a full day, basically running around like a chicken with my head cut off. Now I wonder when I had time to work, because the days just disappear. Up in smoke.

I am making progress towards my goal of heading back to school. I hope that when it does finally happen that I am able to just be in school and not work, a luxury I didn't have during my undergrad days. I imagine that the days will fly by when that time comes as well. In the meantime, until I am accepted into a program, I need to find some gainful employment, cause I'm feeling like a leech these days.

Listening to: iTunes random shuffle. Everything finally integrated on one machine!! Yay!

"Rain in Baltimore" Counting Crows
"Bad" U2
"Dodo" Dave Matthews
"Wake-up call" Maroon 5
"Lay Down" O.A.R.
"Langsamt farval" Lisa Nilsson
"I would die 4 u" Prince

27 August 2007

This comes as a surprise to no one.

There's a Jimmy Buffet song that I'm fond of which is about partying on an Olympic scale. The chorus is about the 'last man standing' at a party. I am actually a lot less of a partier than I make myself out to be, but the song is fun. I'm reminded of the song when I think about President Idiot these days; he's just about the last man standing in his administration, isn't he?

Poor Georgie-Porgie-Pudding-and-Pie! First Rummy, then Carl Rove stepped down, Al Gonzales is headed back to Texas...

Alberto Gonzales resigned today. The beleaguered AG has been the subject of much controversy in recent months, between his inability to recall the events leading up to the firing of 9 US Attorneys and the wiretaps without warrants that are apparently OK with the Idiot Administration.

I disliked John Ashcroft lots and lots and lots, so I didn't have much bad to say when Gonzales was appointed AG. But the warrant-less wiretap program really rubbed me the wrong way and the firing of the US Attorneys was the icing on the cake.

A friend's blog had a remark a few weeks ago about a lame-ass ignorant overgrown frat-brat talking about the American flag being the symbol of freedom worldwide. Under this administration, however, I think the flag has become less and less of a symbol of freedom and more and more a symbol of the blatant disregard for the Constitution that the Idiot Administration shows at every single opportunity. Gonzales has become the face of that, simply by being the head of the DOJ.

President Idiot's speechifying today adds insult to injury. Here's a quote:
"It's sad that we live in a time when a talented and honorable person like Alberto Gonzales is impeded from doing important work because his good name was dragged through the mud for political reasons." And then there's this, the President referring to Gonzales as "a man of integrity, decency and principle." Really? Integrity? I wonder what planet President Idiot lives on, because on the planet where I live, his actions have not been those of a man with integrity.

Again, I say thank goodness that W's not eligible for a third term.

26 August 2007

New Hardware

There's a new computer in the Arin household. Finally. In the entire time that DH and I have been together, we have used old computers, cobbled together from bits and pieces of computers that he's fixed. We've never had a brand-spanking-new one.

It runs on Windows Vista, which I am not sold on. There are a few things about Vista that I really don't like. A sidebar that you can't delete. Weird noises, which is why I have the speakers muted. Way, way, waaaaayy too many icons in the taskbar. It isn't a problem, just highly distracting. But the fact that you can't change the clock's format to 24 hour time, that really annoys me.

I went through and deleted a bunch of junk that came pre-installed on the computer, like 316 megs of arcade games. The graphics processor isn't really designed for gaming, so I'm confused about why it came with so many games pre-installed, but then when it comes to being a geek, I'm really minor-league.


It is fast, and it will burn CDs and DVDs and is compatible with iTunes, so finally I've got everything on 1 and only 1 computer. Thank heavens.

25 August 2007

I got your grammar police right here!

Bad grammar bothers me. Always has. I have my parents, the grammar gestapo, to thank for this. Not that I'm complaining, really. I'm articulate thanks to them. I do appreciate that. The problem is that I want to correct everyone and everything when I see grammar errors.

Case in point?

Driving along a major road on my area, I saw the following sign:

"Summer Deals: Get them while their hot!"

Let's forget the punctuation error for a second, and instead focus on the homophone. Their. Which is the plural of he/she/it. What they meant to say was they're, the contraction of they are. This isn't rocket science. If you're not sure of your grammar, for chrissakes, ask someone else.

The English teacher I had from 5th grade to 7th grade had a rule, called "The Three English-Speaking People Rule." The rule required us to have at least 3 people who were English speakers read the compositions we turned in to her. She specified English speakers because we were little smart-asses who would tell her, "But I *did* have three people read it. They just weren't native speakers." Thinking back, if I were her, I might have shot us just for being brats. But then I'm not a patient woman. She was.

Regardless, I have instituted that rule every place I've ever worked, because people have terrible grammar. Abysmal grammar. Even a lawyer I worked for once upon a time was a habitual fragment-writer. I had to work with the typing pool on a nearly daily basis to "translate" what he had dictated for them.

I'm trying to hold myself back from calling the store with the grammatical error on the sign and telling them precisely what it should say, because that's a really obnoxious thing to do. On the other hand, there's the fact that unless someone tells them, I doubt that they'll ever know.

Then there's the punctuation error. Ahh, don't get me started.

24 August 2007


Spiders. Heights. Drowning. All things that terrify me. Fears that are not so far out of the ordinary, I share them with many others. And then there's this one; I'm terrified of the dentist. Not the actual dentist, the human being, all of them that I've seen over the years have been perfectly lovely people. It is the scraping of my teeth, the noise of the dentist drill, ugh.

I had a dentist appointment today, and the hygienist used a tool on my teeth that I've never seen before. Called a Cavitron, it was not among my favorite experiences at the dentist's office. It uses a high pressure jet of water to blast away plaque that has calcified. Yeah, that's fine, but add to it a metal hook that the hygienist also uses to scrape the teeth on top of that. The hygienist was very nice, and felt bad for me, but it wasn't about her. It is about trying to forget the way it felt when she slipped with the tool from the line of plaque to the back of my lower front tooth and I flinched. It didn't hurt; but it is worse than fingernails down a chalkboard and I can still feel it. It will take a couple of days for the sensation to fade.

As much as I hate having my teeth cleaned, I do like the end result. Human memory being what it is, by the time six months has gone by, I'll have forgotten today's trauma and will be glad to head there again. My dentist has retired and sold his practice to a younger doctor, who is nearly as easy on the eyes as my GP. I've been going to see the old dentist since I was 9 years old and had a high degree of comfort with him. But the fact that the new guy is adorable more than makes up for the loss of comfort.

23 August 2007


There's a commercial running on television these days for a popular multi-vitamin which touts its reformulation. As most commercials are, this one is annoying. Relevant, today, though because I'm thinking about the changes, reformulation if you will, of myself.

I've been doing Yoga weekly since October of 2006. At first, I could barely do half the poses and I'd wake up a day or so later hurting in places I didn't even think had muscles. (Silly me, there isn't much of the human body that does not have muscular structure.) It has gotten easier over the intervening months, but there are still some things that I simply can not do.

One of those things is a balancing pose that I don't know the name of. The first time I saw my Saturday morning Yoga instructor do it, I laughed. As IF! I thought. No way I could do THAT! We defeat ourselves sometimes, don't we? If you think you can't, you're probably right. My instructor continued to do the pose weekly for a few months, and after several weeks, she came to me as the class was holding the pose and asked me quietly why I couldn't do it.

"I'm afraid," I responded honestly. "I think I'm going to fall headfirst into the concrete floor."

"You won't," she encouraged gently. "Give it a shot."

So I did, but I was too heavy, then, to support myself. You get into this particular pose by standing with your legs about 2 feet wider than hip distance apart, feet parallel. Bend at the waist, and place your hands on the floor. Bend your knees. Squat down until your knees are resting against your elbows. Lean forward, and balance your weight on your hands, with the legs still against the elbows, feet off of the floor. All your weight is in your hands, and the pressure of the entire body rests in the wrists. Ouch, right? Eyah.

Eventually, she stopped doing it as part of the routine on Saturday mornings, and I forgot about it. Then I started taking the Core Yoga class that my gym offers during the day on Thursdays, which when I'm employed I could never do. The instructor for this class is less flexible than my Saturday teacher, but she's stronger. Core Yoga means that the poses focus on the core of the body, the abs, the glutes, the chest, the back. So there's a whole lot of Plank pose, Downward Dog, poses that are tough. We hold them for longer than in the Intermediate Yoga class. I leave there drenched and usually shaking.

Today, I didn't even realize where she was heading when she began giving instruction to get into this pose, so I simply followed her directions and at the very last second I realized where this was going. Nothing ventured, nothing gained, I thought. And I DID IT!!! It was all I could do not to yell, "Look! LOOK!! I'm doing it!!" (very not kosher in a quiet Yoga class) I was not able to hold the pose as long as the instructor did, but as we say in Swedish, skit samma. That's akin to saying 'it's all good,' just not very polite.

I've been discouraged by the exercise program because the weight loss has stalled. In this age of instant gratification, we all expect results overnight. I'm no different, I think that after nearly a year of working out six days a week I ought to be about 50 pounds lighter, not 30-some. My brother-in-law lost 90 pounds in a year. How come I haven't? Grrr, it frustrates the hell out of me. I've permanently altered my eating habits. I'm eating more healthy than I have in my entire adult life. I drink tons of water every day. And I have not lost any weight at all since about June. URGH!

I'm so much stronger than I was this time last year. My asthma is so much less bothersome. My flexibility is astonishing; if I could show you the bendy, twisty things I can do, you'd be jaw-on-the-ground amazed. That's all great, but what I want is to be a size 4. Yes, yes, I know that's unrealistic and stupid, but it is the truth.

I am not able to see the results when I look in the mirror, because we are all our own worst critics. Very recently I've noticed some changes to my waistline, it had become more nipped-in, for lack of a better term, I've got more of that curvy shape. This is due to the sit ups I do every day, 100 facing forward, 100 lying on my left side and 100 lying on my right side. I can tell that the oblique crunches are making a difference. A slow difference, VERY slow, but at least I can finally see it.

Now if I could just get some magic elves to alter the clothes that I want to keep from falling off of me, that would be great. Where's that damn gnome? You know, the one who drinks the last beer, eats the last cookie, drinks the protein shakes I make for myself, makes a mess and then disappears? Put that petite batard to work doing some sewing. Don't look at me like that; I know one lives in your house too.

Listening to: Sarah McLachlan, "Trust" from the Touch album. Woot for strong women!

22 August 2007

Triple H's

Hazy, Hot, and Humid. When the weather forecast calls for these conditions, I know I'm in for a miserable day, no matter what I have planned. I despise the heat. With a passion. Add 100% humidity to it, and grey, overcast skies....well, that's just a recipe for fleeing Oh-hia-ia, if you ask me, and running north. Far north. To someplace where a 'warm' day is about 68 degrees Fahrenheit.

It isn't just one factor, though, all three need to come together for maximum miserableness. Hot, OK, I can deal with 90 degree temperatures. Humid, meh, I don't like humidity, but on its own at 50 degrees, I can deal. Hazy, as long as I can still breathe, that's OK. But the triumvirate of the three....ugh.

If you have air conditioning, you walk outside into the heat, and your clothes are instantly soaked. The air is thick, and trying to breathe it in with my asthma is difficult. My allergies are out of control, the sneezing, watery and itchy eyes, runny nose. If you don't have air, then the only way to escape the misery is to a) head someplace where there IS air, like a mall or b) seek water, be it a pool, lake, river, whatever, someplace where you can soak in the cool water to help cool your body temperature.

At our old apartment, which did not have air, I remember trying to sleep in weather like this. It was misery. We had a ceiling fan, but it didn't help much. You'd start to sweat the moment you stepped out of the shower, and it just didn't stop all day. Most people huddle into their homes in the winter, trying to keep warm under blankets and turning the heat up, wishing for warmer weather. Me, I'm dreaming of crisp fall days, and the first snowfall.

21 August 2007

We Fortunate Few

"I love my job," Dave Matthews said to the crowd at the concert I went to last night, "and I want to thank y'all for letting me have it."

The whole band seems to have such a good time doing what they do on stage. Boyd Tinsley plays violin for the band and is the consummate musician, as far as I am I concerned. He danced across the stage, playing opposite his band-mates, urging them to play off his riffs, smiling so wide the whole time. Dave does the same thing, and they laugh, dance with each other, having a nightly party with their closest friends and 30,000 people who pay to watch them have a great time.

What must it feel like to perform music that you wrote in front of 30,000 people and hear the crowd screaming every word of every song, so excited to see YOU on stage? Humbling, and intoxicating, I imagine. And then the next night, another, different group of 30,000 people is thrilled to see you. Amazing.

Love what you do. Do what you love. Wise words, I'm sure that you've heard them as many times as I have. I did, once upon a time. When I first went to work in the non-profit world, I loved that job with all of my heart and soul, putting more of myself into it that I have any previous job. I felt incredibly lucky to be doing something I loved so much. It was very fulfilling.

But the only constant in any of our lives is change, and I knew that job wouldn't be forever. Sure enough, it wasn't. By the end of it, when things were winding down, I no longer loved it, and it is/was part of the problem that was causing some of the depression.

As I said at the beginning of my time of unemployment, this was the first time in my life that I didn't have a plan. It has been terrifying, and fun too. Getting up whenever I feel like it. Spending as much time as I want at the gym. Baking. Cooking. Writing, too, a little bit. Not knowing where I'm going to get my next paycheck when the benefits that I do have run out. Being 32 and not knowing what the hell to do with my life. Being so depressed that some days I can't get out of bed. Fun, and terrifying.

But finally, at long last, I have a plan.

I can't believe that I couldn't think of this for myself, I'm having a lot of smack-myself-on-the-head "DUH" moments, but that's OK. None of us walks the road of life alone, and I have a friend to thank for pointing me in this direction. She knows who she is. And I think she knows how grateful I am for her insights. Or she does now. ;-)

I am going to go back to school. My plan is to get Master's degrees in both business and women's studies, and then work in advocacy for women's rights. Doing what exactly, I'm not sure, but either working on the front lines of the abortion debate, lobbying for better health care for women, working to make life better for women. See? A no-brainer. Idealistic, yep, that too. But if you can turn your passion into your career, lucky, lucky, lucky you.

20 August 2007

Further proof, as if I needed it, of Ohio's Red-Stated-ness.

Many, many, many thanks to Twisty at I Blame the Patriarchy for bringing this horrible bit of news to my attention.

I usually spend a lot of time listening to NPR, reading news websites, checking up on NOW and NARAL, but since I've lost my job and it has been summer and I've been fighting the terrible demons of depression, I haven't been plugged in to the news. So it is with stomach-churning disgust that I tell you about a new Ohio law that is a blow to any woman with a brain, pro-choice or not, this has got to be one of the worst bits of ick I've heard in a while.

Ohio legislators, in their divine wisdom, have decided that "there oughta be a law" that requires, REQUIRES, mind you, a woman to GET WRITTEN PERMISSION FROM THE POTENTIAL FATHER OF HER UNBORN CHILD BEFORE SHE CAN GET AN ABORTION.

I know what you're thinking. "Oh, no, Lucy, you must have misunderstood. The state of Ohio could not be so stupid to think that a woman does not have the right to do with her own body what she chooses without the permission (permission? are you fucking kidding me?) of her 'owner,' oops, I meant her partner."

And unfortunately, I've got to say that yes, dear reader, that is exactly what the state of Ohio thinks. Read the legislation for yourself. And just in case you think you might slide under the radar and get a male friend to sign something for you, that becomes a misdemeanor under the new law. Do it twice, and it is a felony.

As Twisty rightly points out, this is a part of the 'men's right's' movement. I have a lot to say about that, but it boils down to this.... Ha. And: What-the-fuck-ever. As if men need someone to fight for their rights. Fellas, you run the world and by and large control what goes on over the entire planet. Gimme a break. Mostly, until you can give birth, you don't get a choice or much of a say in the matter. Sorry, but them's the breaks, boyos.

Permission. Wow. We've just taken about 45,000 steps backwards in women's rights. Thanks so much to the legislators who are supporting this bill for making 2007 seem more like 1307. If you are one of my Ohio readers, PLEASE, PLEASE take a second to send your local rep an e-mail urging them to not vote for this piece of crap legislation.

I could go on and on about how it seems more and more like we're living in a totalitarian state, or about how the last time I checked, until someone other than me is paying my bills, they don't have the right to boss me around, or about what incredible bullshit this is, but you've heard it all before.

Until women everywhere stand up and say "NO!" to this type of misguided legislating, it is going to continue. Make your voice heard.

19 August 2007

Red State

I was chatting online with a few fellow fangirls a few days ago and we were talking about obnoxious t-shirts I bought from Cafe Press, one of which says, "Don't fear feminists. We just want our turn on top." I think that the shirt is hilarious. I needed new t-shirts for the gym, my old ones are too large, so I wear it there. I picked up a few other shirts as well, each of them more obnoxious than that one. I told my friends about all of them.

One of them blatantly declares that I am pro-gay rights, and yes, I *do* wear it to the gym as well. Did I mention that my gym is a YMCA? A Young Men's Christian Association? So I'm waiting for someone to say something to me about the t-shirts, especially the gay rights one. Or waiting for the Y to just toss me, for the shirt alone.

One friend said, "Is Ohio really that red? Or is it just where you live?"

I responded, "Are you KIDDING me? We passed a defense of marriage act. Homophobic misogynistic bullshit."

Another friend chimed in, "Uh-oh. Lucy's getting fired up. Quick, someone change the subject."

They know me too well.

But I do get fired up about gay rights. What makes you so special, Mr. and Mrs. Straight America, that you can deny the rights of someone who isn't straight?

My parents live in a resort-style community. Gated, on a lake, in the summertime it is just about "party central." The 'rents have a fire pit, which becomes a gathering place on fair summer evenings. People from around the development carry their coolers from home and settle around the fire, and talk about everything from politics to how the wake boarding was on the lake that day.

A few nights ago, I listened as a few of my parent's neighbors talked about a man who is looking to buy in the development. (The community is "gossip central" too.) Turns out that the man might be gay and you should have heard the derogatory horrible things several 30-something guys were saying. So terrible that even potty-mouthed me won't relay the conversation to you, I find it that offensive.

I will tell you to your face if you are offending me, no problem. Have done it about a million times before. DH was sitting next to me as this horrible bit of stunning bigotry was taking place, and he put his hand on my shoulder and didn't say a word, but he didn't have to. I knew what he was thinking. "God, don't start!"

So I didn't. I did open my mouth to say a few things, but most of them were under my breath and I know that if they heard me, they weren't paying any heed to me. There was quite a lot of liquor there, so yet again I learned the lesson of In Vino, Veritas.

18 August 2007


DH and I went to see a movie on Friday night. (Stardust, if you're interested; I loved it, he did not, more pop culture later this weekend on MySpace.) As we waited for the previews to start, we listened to the in-theater radio station, and I turned to him and said, "Should have brought the ear plugs from your work kit." He works in heavy industry and always has a pair or two in the car of dB reducing earplugs.

The radio station was so loud that I could feel more of my hearing deteriorating even before the opening credits even started. Then when the previews came on, it got louder, and when the movie FINALLY came on, nearly 15 minutes late (seriously, don't get me started) it got louder still.


My ears are still ringing.

I think about this usually only during summer concert season and then forget about it the rest of the year, but wow, do we live in a loud world. I have a significant hearing loss. I don't need any help in losing more hearing, thankyouverymuch. When I go to concerts, I wear earplugs. Decibel reducing earplugs. Yep, looks weird. Nope, don't care. I started doing it about 4 years ago, and guess what. Even with earplugs that reduce noise by as many as 30 decibels, you can still hear the music just fine.

And I'm not at all kidding about starting to wear them in movie theaters, either. Do they need to be blasting us out of our seats when showing movies? I mean, really. I would have still enjoyed the flick at half the volume.

I feel like the curmudgeonly aunt, complaining about the neighbor's loud bass, but truth is that I'm headed for hearing aids if I don't stem the hearing loss. I'm probably headed for hearing aids regardless, my mother wears them and her dad did too. But I'd like to avoid needing them before 55.

You'd think I'd quit using the iPod, or at least limit the volume on it, this being the case. Nope. Can't work out without my music, and don't want to listen to the conversations of people around me, so up, up, up goes the volume. And down, down, down goes my ability to hear. Good thing I already know a bunch of sign language.

15 August 2007

I have an owie.

Several of them, really. This is what happens when you push yourself too far, too fast in the gym. My DAILY workout routine goes something like this:

35-45 minutes of cardio, lately a mix of elliptical and treadmill time, as I am trying to run without pain.

4 weight machines, 4 days a week. I work major muscle groups one at a time, so each day that I lift is either legs, shoulders/back, and biceps/triceps.

300 sit-ups. Every day is abs day.

20 minutes of stretching, which includes running through the entire sequence of Sun Salutation A (yoga poses) twice.

I do this six days a week. Add to it Pilates classes on Tuesday and Thursday evenings, Core Yoga on Thursday mornings and Intermediate Yoga early on Saturday mornings.

I'm not going to whine at all about how the weight loss has slowed, even while I've ramped things up, adding the Core Yoga class only recently and increasing the weights on every machine that I use, as well as increasing my lean protein intake. Nope. Not going to whine at all.

Yesterday was a legs day. I'm trying hard to develop all the muscles in my legs so that the shin splints leave me the hell alone and I can run like I want to. I spent 25 minutes on the elliptical, 10 minutes on the treadmill plus a 5 minute cool-down, ran on the treadmill for about 7 of those minutes and then moved on to the adductor and abductor machines. The other two machines I wanted to use, the Glute/Ham machine and one that I don't know the name of and call "that swingy thing" were both occupied, so I went off to do sit-ups and when I came back, they were STILL being used by other people so I did 45 squats with a weight bar instead. All told, I was at the gym about two hours.

Later in the day, I returned for Pilates, and the instructor had us use the Pilates ring, a torture device of medieval proportions. And what did we use the ring to work? Our legs. I left the gym knowing that I'd had a good workout, but not hurting. I knew that would be later.

Sure enough, getting out of bed this morning was a slow process. My legs hurt. Especially those adductors. My abs hurt. My lower back aches a bit. Ow.

I've also had trouble getting out of bed this week because the depression is relapsing a bit. I'm still faithfully taking the meds every day, and yes, it is much, much better, but I have days that aren't so good, where I want to be in tears at the slightest provocation. Stupid things, like my reading glasses are missing. Or I broke a glass in the kitchen, an 'everyday' glass, not something special, and I was nearly hysterical over it. W.T.F. is that? (Seriously, dude.)

Yesterday I got up, got dressed for the gym and then sat on the couch for nearly two hours watching something on Sci-Fi. Because I just couldn't get moving. Today, after getting out of bed the first time and hurting so much, I went back to bed and pulled the covers up and slept for another two hours, deciding that this week, Wednesday will be my 'off' day from the gym instead of Sunday, because I hurt and I think all I'd be able to do at the gym is a slow walk on the treadmill. If I can't go all out, why bother?

The silver lining, perhaps, is that I'm able to write more and work on the book when I'm in such a state. I'm very worried that I need to be semi-unbalanced in order to write. Before I was getting treatment for the depression, I was writing prolifically, the novel was speeding along. When I got better, then I wasn't as interested in writing. Which depressed me. What a cycle.

Thank goodness I've got an appointment today to get my hair trimmed. The short style I'm wearing requires frequent upkeep. Who doesn't feel better after getting their hair done and being fussed over a little bit?

P.S. Fangirl nonsense about Supernatural Origins #4 will post later today over on MySpace.

14 August 2007


While I'm off, I've been able to do more things in the kitchen than I ever have; making dinner nearly every night instead of heading to a restaurant. I love to cook. I love to bake. I hate to clean the kitchen. Today's Tuesday Brain Dump is all about last night's dinner.

Yesterday I indulged in both the baking and the cooking, along with my strong desire to experiment and tamper with recipes that I've been wanting to try for years.

Chicken Paprikas is something that I last had in Budapest, Hungary about 15 years ago. I loved it, and have wondered for years if I would be able to duplicate it. The recipes I've seen over the years aren't difficult or particularly time-consuming, so I'm not sure why I've never tried to make it before.

My go-to guides for things I'm not sure about in the kitchen are the Better Homes & Gardens Cookbook and The Joy of Cooking. I'm enough of a geek to actually read cookbooks, just like you might read a novel. Joy lends itself well to that. BHG not so much. But I read both recipes, along with another recipe on the back of the Kaluski noodles that I picked up to go along with the dish. The commonality to all of them is the chicken, the paprika and onion.

DH hates onion, or claims to, anyway. His favorite thing to eat is the lasagne that I make from scratch, and the very first thing that goes in the pot? Onion. I mostly disregard his opinion in this matter, therefore.

In order to disguise the onion, however, I need to be creative. All of the recipes called for thinly sliced sweet onion. Instead, I chopped it fine and then dumped it in the food processor until it was nearly paste. One of the huge Emperor's New Cloves garlic cloves that I got at Trader Joe's was added to the paste. I love those garlic cloves, but they're tough to chop, so after a rough chop into the food processor it went.

I have some hot Hungarian paprika in my pantry. The recipes for the Paprikas all call for between a tablespoon and a quarter cup of paprika. After having made and tasted the finished product, however, I strongly advise that you don't use all hot paprika, rather a mix of hot and sweet would be the way to go. My version was far too spicy, and I love hot food. I had to add a can of tinned tomatoes and a can of tomato paste to cool it down enough to eat. An addition that I'll continue to use, I liked it.

Chicken Paprikas
1 Emperor's New garlic clove OR 3 cloves regular garlic, chopped fine
1 large onion, chopped fine
2 to 2-1/2 pounds chicken pieces, skinned. Bones are OK. I used two breasts, a bit of a thigh, and a drumstick with the thigh still attached.
1 teaspoon olive oil
1 teaspoon hot paprika
2 teaspoons sweet paprika
1-1/2 cups chicken stock
1/2 cup dry white wine
1 can diced tomatoes
1 can tomato paste
1 cup fat free sour cream
3 cups hot cooked noodles

Heat the olive oil in a large heavy skillet and add chicken pieces, browning on all sides. Remove chicken from skillet and add onion, garlic, and paprika and cook until onion is translucent. If you grind them up as I did, about 10 minutes at a medium temperature is fine. Season the chicken pieces with salt and pepper and return to the skillet, turning to coat with onion/paprika/garlic mixture. Add chicken stock and wine, bring to a boil. Add tomatoes and tomato paste. Reduce heat and cover, allowing to cook until chicken is throughly cooked, about a half hour.

Remove chicken, chopping and removing the bones. Return chicken to skillet, add sour cream and stir well. Mix in noodles and serve immediately with crusty bread. Yummy. And not even bad for you.

I also made a pound cake yesterday, rich and wonderful, with a whipped chocolate ganache filling. Very yummy. But I need to avoid spending my days baking, especially baking with chocolate, because then? I want to eat it. Not a bad thing until I can't make myself stop.

I'm off to the gym to work that off.

13 August 2007

Mysteriet Mig

A Mystery To Me

Why does the scale say the same number as it has for nearly two months, but my wedding ring is so loose that I now have to remove it before I shower or swim or wash my hands because as soon as my hands get wet, it slips off? I think that I weighed about 15 pounds less when I got married than I do right now. It wasn't this loose on my wedding day.

How can just two people accumulate 5 loads of laundry in 2 days? Both grown-ups, I could easily see how two kids could accumulate that much, but DH and I? I don't get it.

Why can I ignore a plethora of unhealthy eating options and eat what is good for me until there's chocolate in the offering?

Where the hell is the summer going? Already it is the middle of August. WTF, people?

How do spiders get into my library? The doors are closed, and I know the little bastards aren't hitching ride on me, I'd freak the heck out. So where do they come from?

Good questions, all. Too bad I have no answers.

Two other quick unrelated things:

1. I think my writer's block has eased. I know it is probably tempting Fate to say anything, but I managed to write a page or so last night. Yay!

2. Bumper Sticker Wisdom; saw a bumper sticker over the weekend that said...."trust Snape"
Bwahahahahaha! Love it.

12 August 2007

Thumbing their noses at the Vatican (and I'm downright gleeful!)

I took a small road trip yesterday to visit a friend and had some time alone in the car. On Saturdays, my local NPR affiliate plays a whole bunch of interesting programs, among them Car Talk, Wait, Wait, Don't Tell Me, and Weekend America. I don't get to listen to all of them, usually, but that does not mean that I don't enjoy them.

Weekend America had a story about a movement in the Catholic Church to ordain women. I'm thrilled to my fingertips about this. The fact that the Church does not recognize the ordinations matters little to me.

Change within the Catholic Church could be best categorized as having a glacial pace, so I'm unsurprised that the Vatican excommunicated the first women to be ordained. For heaven's sake, the Church only admitted in 1992 that maybe they ought not to have excommunicated Galileo in 1633. "Glacial" is perhaps too kind a word for the pace of change.

Pope John Paul II had plenty to say about female ordination in letters dated 1988 and 1995. Through all that woman-hating waffle (should you bother to read it, as I did) the basic message is: "Hey, ladies. We hear you. Be patient. Be faithful. Listen to the priests and bishops. Be a nun if you want to serve. Obedience to cannon law is paramount. Barefoot and pregnant is the best condition for you."

Here's a couple of direct quotes from the 1988 letter, offensive in the extreme: We must now focus our meditation on virginity and motherhood as two particular dimensions of the fulfillment of the female personality." How's THAT for a gem? Add it to this piece of nonsense: "In the name of liberation from male "domination", women must not appropriate to themselves male characteristics contrary to their own feminine "originality". There is a well-founded fear that if they take this path, women will not "reach fulfilment", but instead will deform and lose what constitutes their essential richness."

The bold emphasis is mine, of course.

Being a feminist, you see, is inherently evil in the eyes of the Church. Women should be wives, fulfilling their 'duty' to be fruitful and multiply, or they should be nuns. It is that whole virgin/whore debate all over again; either you are a virgin, pure, holy, obedient, or you're a whore, plain and simple. What a load of sanctimonious bullshit.

I'm sure that Pope Pious XII will have plenty to say on this issue as well, since women continue to defy Vatican prescriptions for their behavior. Especially since Pious is even more conservative, more of a right-wing nut job than his predecessor was.

By not behaving, being disobedient, the women who have been ordained are taking their place in history as feminists, ground-breakers, and leaders.

I had a conversation with my father about this whole issue; he himself was excommunicated for marrying my mother, a Protestant. The fact that Mum converted to Catholicism and raised the sibs and I Catholic has no bearing whatsoever on Dad's excommunication. And yes, this happened in America in the 1960s, amazing enough in itself. So he's got his own axe to grind with the Church, but by and large he and I disagree about almost the whole religion issue. He still believes in much of his childhood teachings, whereas I do not.

"Why would the Church's stance on this surprise you?" He asked me, in all seriousness.

"Well," I said, "Because I was raised as a red-blooded American woman, who believes that she's got the same rights as any man...remember 'we hold these truths to be self-evident?' and the whole feminist stance I have?"

"But the Church has never played by the same rules as the government," he reminded me, "and the chances of the Church changing anytime soon are slim and none."

This issue for me is more about equality than religion, in the end. So perhaps he's right. But I refuse to accept that just because we don't have penises that we can't be priests.

11 August 2007

Still my favorite summertime show

It is never officially summer to me unless there's been a Dave Matthews Band concert. I've gone to see them every single summer since around 1995. See, there ARE things that I'm a fangirl about other than Supernatural and Jensen. Really.

I love the band, and it started with the first show I went to. I liked their music before then, but a live show with DMB is an experience not to be missed. The energy at the shows is amazing. The band's musicianship is fantastic. It is clear that they love what they do.

Usually I go with a friend from college, and it is about the only time the whole year that we actually see one another. In more recent years, friends from high school have met up at the shows, and DH tags along from time to time.

Last night DH and I took a road trip and saw the the show in Pittsburgh. The complete set list is posted on the band's website and can be seen here, so I'm only going to talk about a couple of the songs they played.

When I was writing yesterday about albums that I like every track on the album, I didn't list a Dave Matthews Band CD because there are, believe it or not, Dave tracks that I don't like. Only a couple, the vast majority of them I love. I'd be hard pressed to choose one and only one Dave Matthews Band song that is my favorite. But among them would be "Die Trying," "One Sweet World," and "Grey Street."

They opened with "Seek Up" and then immediately went into "Die Trying." The first time I heard "Die Trying" was at a live show a few years ago. The song has a very heavy bass line, solid drumming, a distinctive guitar hook. The next day, I looked up the set list and realized that the song was from the new album at the time, Stand Up. The song is on my iPod's list of top 25 most played tracks. I haven't seen them do the song live since that summer of 2005, so I was thrilled to see it performed again.

Higher up in the list of most played songs, though, is "Grey Street." The song is about a suicide attempt, following the theme of death that many Dave Matthews songs have. Dave himself seems a bit preoccupied with the idea of death and dying, his solo album was full of songs that made reference to death-related things. "Gravedigger," and "Save Me" being the prime examples of that theme. "Grey Street" resonates with me. Not necessarily because of the suicidal theme, although I do like the lyrics a great deal. I never get tired of watching the band perform the song.

Dave sang "Sister" with Carter, Butch, and guest trumpet player Rashawn on backing vocals and no instrumentation other than his own guitar. The song brought me to tears. I've seen it done live before (hardly a surprise, since at my own count I've been to more than 20 shows) but last night it was particularly poignant. He introduced the song by saying, "Me and my sister were kinda tight, growing up. We're still kinda tight."

My love of the band is shared by both of my sisters; I took my youngest sister to her first live show when she was 14, it was of course DMB. The band opened with "Don't Drink the Water" that night, and I'll never forget her gripping my arm (squeezing so hard that she nearly broke it) and shrieking as the band took the state.

The year I got married, the Dave show was a few weeks before my wedding. It was at Three Rivers Stadium, which has since been demolished. The three of us went together, had 9th row seats on the stadium floor. That night the band played "Long Black Veil" and their version of Jimi Hendrix's "Watchtower," a fan favorite.

The three of us have been to other shows together. So it is only natural that I should think of them at the shows. I sent a text message to both of them last night which said, "@ DMB show tonight. Wish you were here. <3 you." I miss them both so terribly much.

DH and I left before the show was over, trying to avoid the insanity of 30,000 of our closest friends leaving at the same time. I was ready to head home, but unfortunately we missed the band playing "Watchtower" as part of the encore. That's OK, I have tickets to another show in a few weeks, another chance to see it again. I'm hoping that they play "One Sweet World" as well.

Sister, I hear you laugh
My heart fills full up
Keep me please
Sister, when you cry
I feel your tears
Running down my face
Sister, sister, you keep me

10 August 2007

Thinking music

Over the last few days I've been obsessively listening to Maroon 5's "Songs about Jane" which I purchased on iTunes several months ago. There isn't a bad song on that album.

That got me to thinking about other albums that I liked the whole thing, where there isn't a bad song in the bunch. There just aren't that many; Los Lonely Boys 2004 self-titled album was another one. Dave Matthews Band's Everyday, Incubus's Light Grenades...just a few I can call to mind quickly. Considering that I own probably somewhere on the order of 300 CDs, that's kind of a sad state of affairs, isn't it?

I discovered the other day that I have purchased more than 100 songs from iTunes since January, when I got the iPod. Perhaps I have a music addiction in addition to my internet addiction. Ach, there's no perhaps about it. I am addicted to music. Even before the iPod, I had music surrounding me all the time. The iPod has only exacerbated the "problem." I have it on all the time, often even when I'm running errands.

But I could stop anytime, really. Riiight.

09 August 2007


I want to complain about the government today. This is hardly something new for me, but the several disjointed stories that bred this morning's discontent cover a wide array of issues.

First, on NPR's website, I noticed a story about xeriscaping, and when I clicked on the link it took me to Ketzel Levine's blog. Levine hosts an NPR program called "Talking Plants," and I consider her an expert in matters gardening. The city of Tempe, Arizona, took exception to one couple's dry and dead lawn. Now, let's think a minute. Tempe, Arizona is in the middle of a desert, right? Does grass, green, verdant, golf-course grass grow in the desert? No? Why, then, would you waste an extreme amount of water to grow a green lawn?

It would seem to me that the City of Tempe passed regs about having nice yards to avoid people having six junker cars on their front lawns up on cinderblocks. Not to bitch at people who don't want to waste water. It irks me that government gets involved in cases like this. What's next, the city fathers telling you what color you can paint your front door? Yeesh.

Next I saw a bit on Headline News about President Idiot. He was treated for Lyme disease in 2006; this information was only released today. This administration has never met a delaying tactic, a manner of stonewalling the free press that they didn't like. See my "Backwards Bush" counter over there in the sidebar? Thank whatever you hold holy that he's NOT eligible for a third term, I might lose my mind. Some more.

Then there's the fella who is an American citizen but was "mistakenly" deported to Mexico. Fan-tas-tique job there. I've said before that the Department of Homeland Security just smacks too much of Nazi Germany for my tastes. What's next, a department of the Fatherland? We needed another large governmental agency? Riiiiiight. Seems to me that all they do is stir up unnecessary hysteria. What's the terror alert level today? Who the hell cares?

Finally, in the roundup of all the news that's fit to make you ill is the FEMA trailers that some Katrina victims are still living in. The folks still stuck in them are suicidal and extraordinarily depressed. Gee, I wonder why.

Add to all of this the fact that it is 94 bazillion degrees outside (yes, that's a real number, it IS 94 bazillion!) overcast, cloudy and muggy enough to take your breath away, and it isn't any surprise that I'm feeling a bit malcontent today.

Probably because I've been at home for most of this summer, it seems to me that I can't remember a nicer summer, weather-wise, in recent history. I attribute that mostly to the fact that I'm noticing more since I have more free time. Until about a week ago, it was sunny, warm but not too hot, and dry. Perfect for lying by the pool and reading Harry Potter. But in the last week, the humidity has shot through the roof and it has rained every day. We desperately needed the rain, but I sure could do without the gloomy skies that are usually more typical of say, November, here in Ohio.

08 August 2007

Ripples in a pond

When you toss a stone into a body of water, ripples of water spread out, touching things that your small stone never did. The big evil bank that I used to work for talked about "spheres of influence" when pushing us to sell bank services to clients. A program that one of my sisters has worked for has a slogan about everything being connected.

Likewise, in the blogosphere, there are many bloggers who have encouraged me, motivated me, whose writing has touched my own even though I've never met them.

One of those bloggers is Abby Lee, Girl With a One Track Mind. An anonymous blogger like me, although her subject matter is a far more interesting than mine will ever be. More entertaining, too. Or at least she was anonymous until a year ago, August 6, 2006, when Abby was outed by the British newspaper, The Sunday Times. What happened next is the stuff of an anon-blogger's nightmares. She lost her job, and suddenly every single person in the UK knew her real name and where she lived.

Since she blogs about her sexual exploits, and is a woman and unashamed of herself, she has spent a lot of the past year dealing with the male establishment verbally beating her up for her liberal views. Abby's brand of feminism is fearless and inspiring. A man writing the same blog would have been venerated, the subject of much "attaboy" back-slapping encouragement. That makes me incredibly sad.

Her writing, combined with one or two others, (notably Dooce and Abbypants) has encouraged me to be more open in my own blogging, given me the courage to write frankly about my battle with major depressive disorder.

When I started Well Behaved Women, it was a cry in the wilderness of the reddest of the red states, a way to protest the Idiot (Bush) Administration, a place where I could freely worry about the state of women's rights in America and talk about the tenuous thread that a woman's right to choose hangs by. It was rare in the beginning that I would talk about my own personal life. Politics, more politics, with a dose of politics tossed in was what I was writing about.

Somewhere along the way, that focus changed, and I began mentioning things in my life from time to time. And then in the last six months, it has been my life with a bit of politics on the side. I get more responses/comments, more hits on the blog when I'm writing about my own life, when I'm being deeply personal and baring things that I wouldn't talk about with a roomful of strangers than I do when I'm ranting about something stupid that President Idiot has done or said, or the Supreme Court further restricting civil rights. Writing about the depression, or trying to analyze something that has happened to me generates more interest than the government trying to look at your library records.

I'm going to refrain from commenting much on how that apathy also makes me sad, and how incredibly strange I think it is that random strangers are interested in the goings-on of a lunatic 30-something Ohioan, and get back to my point.

Without ground breakers like Dooce and Abby Lee, I wouldn't be here in the corner detailing my struggle to stay out of a ward. The ripples that spread out from blogs like theirs reach worldwide. Ideas sparked by a post written halfway around the world fill me with wonder at technology and the incredible age that we're living in. Unless I'm incredibly lucky, I will probably never meet Abby Lee. She has changed my life for the better, and while I'm deeply sorry for the pain that she's been through in the past year, her amazing writing has made me aspire to be a better writer. I am supremely grateful for that. So thanks, Abby. I feel privileged to have witnessed your journey, and can't wait to see what you do next.

07 August 2007

That Ugly Jacket.

I mentioned in my anniversary post that the story of how I like the Rotary jacket better these days than I did at 16 was a story for another day. Why not a Tuesday Brain Dump day, then?

Visa, America's Freedom Fabric, was a horrible polyester blend, manufactured by Dacron. I don't remember who did the TV commercials about the stuff, but I can still remember whoever she was, a blonde woman, saying the slogan triumphantly. The jacket was a navy blue sport coat, a man's jacket. Cut for male shoulders and not updated since at least 1970, it was hideous. At 16, I weighed about 98 pounds and was about 5'2", and this thing looked ridiculous on me. It had a badge sewn into the left lapel with Rotary's Youth Exchange symbol, a blue stylized planet earth with two couples coming from either side of the globe and arrows pointing to the opposite continents. Around that, in circular fashion, are the words Ohio Erie Youth Exchange, and a blue border, which does not match the jacket's navy color surrounds the whole thing.

We were supposed to wear these fashion tragedies whenever traveling during the year that we were exchanges. For identification purposes, ostensibly, but what I and many other exchanges figured out very quickly was that border officials tended to wave by anyone with a Rotary jacket on, ignoring any little rules that we might be breaking. Such as being way over the limit for duty free alcohol. That was then; I'm doubtful that would work today.

Kids are eligible to be Rotary Youth Exchange Students (RYES) from ages 15 to 19. Average age is 17. Being rebellious little berks, we didn't care much for the jackets and only deigned to wear them, at first, when someone was watching. After we figured out that they worked to our benefit, we were more slightly inclined to pull them on. But that didn't mean we liked them any better.

Our home Rotary districts gave each of us badges or pins to give away with our home state or home district name on them, and we traded them with one another. Within hours of leaving Pittsburgh, en route to the greater New York metro area, I had the lapels of the jacket covered with pins. By the time the plane landed in Sweden, a contest of sorts had emerged. The object of the game was to cover as much of the Freedom Fabric as possible with pins, badges, and patches. There never was a clear winner, though, because most American exchange students flew over on the same flight from Newark, New Jersey, to Stockholm, Sweden, but we all went home a year later at different dates and times.

But I did a good job of covering the navy fabric. The back of the jacket has not an inch to spare, is covered with patches from many of the countries that I visited. Some of them were given to me; the one I treasure the most was a gift from a friend of my host family. When I ran out of room on the back, I started sewing patches down the arms. The right arm has the triumvirate of Sweden, Norway, and Denmark badges, while the left has several badges related to Sweden's 20 provinces. The front is covered with pins, mostly, but the two front pockets have badges sewn into them, both of which say things about Sweden. The pocket flaps have names of cities sewn into them.

Every single item on that jacket has a story behind it. Every pin, every patch, even one or two things that are superglued to it, there's a memory. My favorite pins are related to Rotary's 4 major rules for exchange students, called the 4 No D's by the kids.

1. No Drinking
2. No Driving
3. No Dating
4. No Drugs

I'm not confirming or denying that I broke any one of these rules. They're good rules, but widely disregarded by most of us. Anyway. I have a wine bottle and half-empty glass to symbolize the booze; a big 50's style car to symbolize the driving; a pin that says something about preventing the spread of HIV/AIDS by distributing condoms for the no dating rule and a small item that symbolizes drug use to me, the state seal of California. That isn't a recognizable drug symbol, but the biggest stoner I've ever met was another exchange student from California.

But there are funny stories about even the most mundane of things. A pin with a rose on it, purchased on the day that most of the rest of the world celebrates Labor Day, 1 May, is the symbol of the socialists and represents all that I thought was good about the way the Swedish government operated. A blue hand with the words "Ror inte min kompis" (Don't touch my friend) reminds me of a public awareness campaign about tolerance. There is even a funny pin that snottily says in Swedish "What do you mean boring? I'm invited because I look good!"

The jacket hangs in a closet today, not forgotten, but it does not fit anymore. It is still ugly. I wouldn't wear it for giggles, ever. I've toyed with the idea of cutting the badges free and sewing them on to a jean jacket that I would wear, but it seems a travesty to cut it into pieces. The patches that were ironed on would have to be cut off and that would mean that the jacket would be destroyed. And I just can't bring myself to do that.

Heaven help me should I ever be badgered into being on the television show "What Not To Wear," because they would try to make me toss it, and that, even more than cutting it apart, I could never do.
81%How Addicted to Blogging Are You?

05 August 2007

Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act

I wouldn't believe the name of this piece of legislation (Adobe required) had I not read it on NOW's website. Just sounds like something a comedian would come up with.

Regardless, turns out that even the Democratically controlled Congress can barely get it right; this legislation passed 225-199, meaning that nearly 200 Congressional Representatives voted AGAINST a woman's right to fair pay. Un-fucking-believable, really.

Ohio voted against it, with 7 yea and 11 nay votes, but I'm pleased and surprised that the rep from my district voted for it. You can check who voted which way from your state here.

Equal pay for equal work has been one of feminism's biggest historical battles. The Equal Rights Amendment has yet to be passed. Women, on average, make about 21% less than men in the same job. If we're all equal under the Constitution, seems to me that when it comes to pay scales, to paraphrase George Orwell, some are more equal than others.

04 August 2007

The Required Anniversary Post

August 4, 1991. I was 16, and I'd never spent more than about 10 days away from my family. I boarded a plane in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, nervous, excited, scared beyond belief, ecstatic, and yet also sad at leaving my family behind. I was headed for Stockholm, Sweden, Arlanda International Airport, and I didn't speak a word of Swedish.

More than 24 hours later, I was walking through customs in Sweden in my ugly Rotary jacket, made of VISA, America's Freedom Fabric! That thing was fugly then and is fugly now. I like it better now than I did then, but that's a story for another day. I had strained to see out of the windows of the plane, as we landed, anxious for a first glimpse of this new country. We flew on a huge jet, 3 seats next to the windows, 5 seats across the middle and 3 seats next to the other windows. I swear to god, that plane held 500 people, it took for-fucking-ever to deplane and there were hordes of people in the customs lines.

I was exhausted, and scanned the crowd for my host family, people I'd talked to on the phone and seen pictures of, but had never met. Sadly, I don't remember much of that initial meeting. Smiles, hugs, and hellos were exchanged, and we walked what seemed to be 600 miles to the car, but other than that I don't remember the first few minutes with them. They changed my life, have been hugely influential in many decisions that I've made, and I'm still close with them, but I don't really remember meeting them.

It seems as if I've known them a lifetime now. And in some ways, I have. This year marks 16 years since I left America and 15 since I returned. That is a lifetime. In that year I spent in Sweden, I lived more than some people manage in their entire lives. Went more places, had more adventures, made some of the most amazing friendships, had a whole bunch of "firsts," (first time I got intoxicated, first language other than English I learned, first time driving a stick-shift car, and many others) life experiences that I wouldn't trade for all the money in the world.

When I talk about being an exchange student, I often make it sound as if it was the perfect experience, as if it wasn't hard at all, was a constant party. I was very good at recruiting potential exchange students when I was doing lots of that in my 20s because I had such a positive experience.

It wasn't a constant party.

I worked hard to attempt to keep up in school, and worked very hard to learn the language.

I'm fairly certain that to some readers, that will seem fantastic, in the sense of fantasy, because when I tell stories from that year, many involve parties and very silly teen exploits.

But it was life changing entirely due to the family that I lived with. They made me feel as if I was a member of their family; in fact, when I was back to visit in 2003, they referred to me as 'the third daughter,' a title that I was both touched and proud to claim.

I spent untold hours sitting in the kitchen of their home with my host mother, who was my first teacher in the Swedish language. "This is a pot. A spoon. Garlic. Potato. Bread. Flour." Those were among my first lessons. The majority of Swedish that I know I learned from her. She is an amazing and wonderful woman, who I am extremely grateful to.

One host-sister was all of 12 the year I lived with them; she's 27 now. We spent quite a bit of time without the host parents, we were latch-key kids because both host parents worked until around 5 pm five days a week. I have never forgotten her joyous laugh, her gentle voice.

The other sister was here in America while I was in Sweden, so we didn't get to know one another so well in the early 90s. But we've made up for that in the years since, every time we've been together we realize anew that not only do we dearly love some of the same people, but we truly love one another too. She is one of those people that never seems to stop laughing, and never runs out of energy.

And of course in this recitation of my Swedish family, I can hardly leave out Papa. He didn't speak English when I got to Sweden, so if I wanted to talk to him, I had to learn one of the 3 other languages that he spoke. We managed just fine with smiles and charades until I learned Swedish. He is a strong, silent type.

The funny thing about my Swedish family is that they are quite a lot like my American family. Pictures of my host mother from the 60s show her wearing the same hairstyle as my mother did. My parents kept notes about trips scribbled in the atlas that remained in the car in those days before GPS units; my host parents did the same. Notes such as gas milage, restaurants they liked, drive times. The only difference is that the Swedish family's map was of Europe and the American family's was of North America. There are hundreds of small similarities like that, which as we all discovered each one, we were first surprised and then amused and finally, at then end, nearly prosaic about these Twilight Zone moments.

What that taught me, more than anything else, is that people all over the world are more alike than we are different. That we all love our families. That life is pretty similar even thought the vantage point might change.

I miss the Swedish family, think about them nearly every day. The impact that they had on shaping the adult that I am today is impossible to quantify. I'm left with inadequate words to express my gratitude. "Thanks" does not even begin to cover it.

Tusen, Tusen tack till alla som jag fick kanner igen i Sverige i 1991/1992. Jag behalla er alla kar i mina tanker.

02 August 2007

Depression in China

Yesterday, while in the car, I heard just a few minutes of the The Beeb's program called World Update, and I caught a very interesting story on China and mental health. Unfortunately, the Beeb's website does not work the same way as NPR's and I can't find a link to that particular story.

They talked about China's growing problems with depression; an estimated quarter of a million people in China commit suicide each year, according to the report. And with few mental health professionals in China, many in rural areas are left to cope for themselves with the disease.

I cannot imagine having to struggle through this on my own, without the assistance of both my shrink and my family doctor, as well as a family who not only accepts mental health issues in a fairly matter-of-fact manner, but does not mind me sharing my story with the whole wide wired world.

They interviewed several Chinese who are struggling with depression, as well as a radio host who has a program in Beijing called "Talk about your problems," which is apparently a first of its kind in China. A part of me, while listening to these people talk about their life-and-death struggles was thinking, "What whiners. Get a grip, people." And I share their struggles. What must we all sound like to those who have never known the darkening of everything in your life, the inertia that paralyzes you, the feeling of being walled off from the rest of the world?