Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Another Book

Yesterday I read a highly recommended teen fiction book: Hold Still by Nina LaCour.  What is it with the suicide books lately?  I read Thirteen Reasons Why last fall, then a buttload of non-fiction to keep myself focused on reality, and I'm back to yet another teen suicide book.  I think it's a topic I want to know more about, a topic I need to understand more. 

Why do I feel compelled to understand more?  I wish I understood the decision tree and thinking behind it.  I would hope that if I could see the signs, I would approach the person rather than not say anything, which almost implies tacit approval.

A lot of it also goes back to my consistent hope/wish to work with teens when I was an adult. Other people may dislike teens for their apathy, misdirected anger, and general angst.  When I see a teen, I see so much opportunity.  They are craving understanding, empathy, and acceptance.  For some reason, very few of them get to the point where they are secure in themselves and obtain what they're looking for.  But I tend to get through to them.  I don't know how or why.  I just think it's part of my calling somehow.  A way I can make things right in myself and a way I can (maybe) help others.  Still figuring out the best way to go about it.  

Even though both books have the same theme of suicide, the two books go about telling each story in different ways.  TRW is much more plot-driven, and HS is character-driven.  TRW is logical, HS is illogical to a certain point.  TRW focuses on the person who committed suicide. HS concentrated on the best friend.  HS is a harder read because the best friend reacts strongly by pushing everyone away and then it shows her journey back to being okay. TRW focused on motives, HS didn't really involve any motives other than depression.    

So many thoughts, but all for now.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Techno and Enya

When I was dating one guy in college, he presented a shelf of CDs to me and said that I should pick out what I wanted to listen to.  I listlessly looked at the selection because none of it caught my attention.  It was a lot of heavy metal and techno.  So I picked what I thought was the most innocuous of the whole pile: Enya. 

First of all, who likes the techno genre?  Sure, you may like a few songs, but who really has the endurance to listen to techno for long stretches of time unless you're at a club?  I didn't know anyone who lists techno as one of their top two music genres until I met him.  The fast, persistent beat that gives me heart palpitations, the increase in blood pressure, the 12 Advil you have to swallow to make the migraine go away.  I dislike techno with a passion. 

He and I had many fundamental disagreements.  One such disagreement was that he claimed that I didn't dislike techno, and I was pretending to hate it when I really liked it.  No matter how many times I told him that I really, really disliked techno, he was adamant that I was making it up just to spite him.  After all, he claimed that I liked rap, rap had a beat, therefore I also should like techno.  It was weird logic that I never grasped.  Rap does have a beat, but it's slower.  The voices are melodic.  Rap is soothing if you don't have it on too loud.  Rap/hip hop is fundamentally different from techno despite having a beat.  And doesn't pretty much ALL music have a beat? 

I feel like a complete traitor when I admit that I do like one techno song.  It came out in the late 90s/early 00s, well after he was out of my life.  It's cheesy, awful, gives me heart palpitations...but I still like it in small doses.

And then there's Enya.  At the time I selected Enya out of his pile of CDs, I thought that it would be the best choice.  He had quite a bit of techno and heavy metal.  I don't like heavy metal for almost the same reasons I don't like techno.  My friends seemed to all be Metallica fans, so I had absorbed a little bit by association.   Still, didn't really want to listen to heavy metal.  Enya's peaceful-ish, melodic, an obvious superior choice when you're trying to get to sleep. 

He very much overplayed the Enya.  Enya All. Day. Long. All. Night. Long.  I could not escape Enya.  And whenever any song by her, but particularly ones from the CD he had, play on the radio I change the station as fast as possible.  If I'm in a store and hear it over the intercom, I hum anything else to drown out poor Enya.  I'm sure she's a nice girl, and she evidently has a nice voice.  It's not personal.  It was just a huge overdose of her. 

I'm sure this is a pretty song, but I cannot stand it. Visceral reaction that tells me to shut it off as soon as possible:

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Gluten and Dairy-Free, Day 1 aka I survived

It's Day 1 (Sunday) of going gluten-free and dairy-free.  Miraculously, I have not killed anyone yet.  It will probably be Day 2 and Day 3 where I want to rob anyone with any morsel of chocolate or bread on them.  Or I could be working through my overdose yesterday at Vegfest.  Lots of food was to be had.  Toward the end of the 500 sample tables, I told my friend: "My stomach is at capacity."  It was likely beyond capacity at that point.

Best food at Vegfest: chocolate honey, organic fruit snacks (they were heavenly!), organic chocolate

Worst food at Vegfest: spinach juice.  It tasted like someone put spinach in a blender on high with a few trickles of water.

Jury's still out on the rice cheese.  It's good to know that I can eat cheese if I go dairy-free.  Rice cheese isn't exactly cheese though.  They even admit it's not cheese because they spell it "cheeze."

I read a book for book club yesterday and today.  It also included a grammar lesson.  Did you know that if you're referring to a person who is anorexic, the noun form of the word is 'anoretic.'  Google's telling me that's not spelled properly.  Hmmmph.  Anyway, the memoir of an anoretic talked about how she lived on 100-300 calories a day.  She didn't really 'live' well on 100-300 calories a day because she weighed 52 pounds at her lowest.  I should have read this book two years ago when my 14 pound child lived on 300-400 calories a day.  It would have made me feel a whole lot better.  Not that we should use the plight of an anoretic to feel better about our own situation, but at the time it would have given me a little perspective.

From memory, here's what I ate today:
2 cups strawberries
2 oranges
1 cup grapes
3 red potatoes with salsa
1 cup peas
1-2 servings rice crackers
6 oz tilapia
2 servings corn tortilla chips (basically just masa, oil, salt)

I'm not going to be counting calories or focusing on exercise in April.  I'm really going to be focusing on the new way of eating.  Sure, if I have time and the energy, I will definitely exercise.  However, the goal is to get into a new food rhythm that eliminates both gluten and dairy.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Saturday Randoms

I'm off to Vegfest today (this is being written Friday night).  It's a Seattle vegetarian festival, and it's pretty darn awesome.  The only tiny problem is that even rock hard stomachs like mine feel a little queasy after the combination of hemp juice, spinach burgers, pomegranate juice, soy ice cream, veggie dogs, etc.

I was going to start the gluten-free, dairy-free, high fructose corn syrup-free, soy-free "thang" on April 1st, but what they hey...I'll start Sunday. The main impetus is that I have felt like complete crap for the past few months.  Cold turkey is going to be HARD, so I think I'm going to allow myself 2 servings of gluten and 2 servings of dairy a week.  That's the equivalent of 2 slices of bread and 2 ounces of cheese a week.  In the grand scheme of things, that's not much.  The hard part is that chocolate has dairy in it.  No chocolate.  I have a foreboding feeling about all this, like I'm a crack addict who has to give up crack. Perhaps the Betty Ford clinic will take me. 

I went to the library today looking for some good teen books.  I have to say that if you're not interested in vampire books, you're SOL in the teen fiction section.  This vampire craze is freaking insane!  Everyone is writing vampire books.

So where have the Sweet Valley High books gone to die?  I remember there used to be whole SHELVES of those books, and they cannot be found anywhere now.  The only reason I was looking for them today was that I read an article (somewhere) that they are revising the SVH books for the new generation.  You know, adding cell phones and making Jessica and Elizabeth skinnier.

For those of you who aren't SVH fans (yes, I read at least 50 of those dang books when I was a kid...), the books were extremely formulaic.  Within the first 5 pages, the twins were described as having perfect size 6 figures.  Apparently size 6 is too fat nowadays to be considered "perfect," so Jessica and Elizabeth are going on a diet.  They're probably perfect size 0s now or something.  Anyway, I wanted to see what the remakes of these books were like.  That was all.  However, both libraries I went to didn't have the old or new SVH books.  They just had tons of vampire books.  So, again, where did the SVH books go to die?  There had to have been MILLIONS of those books printed over the past 25 years.  Where are they? Landfills, probably.

My next random thought of the day is that I really don't like animals in grocery stores.  Yes, I know there are people who need service animals.  Service animals can be recognized because they are usually well-behaved and calmly alert.  Dressed up poodles who are yapping while in the cart are obviously NOT service animals.  And the dog is sitting in the same spot where I'd put my food....yuck.  I'm sorry, animals in grocery stores - unless they are service animals - are unsanitary.  What if the animals have fleas and then hang around produce? Can't people leave Fluffy at home for half an hour while they get their food?

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Need better viewing habits

My awful viewing habits are continuing.  Let's see...

I watched a few episodes of Dexter.  I'm really not sure who the target audience is.  Sure, I like gore to some degree, mysteries, sociopath psychology.  But the way he tortures his victims, it even turns my stomach.  I guess it's like how I can't take Saw and all its sequels.  I suppose I do have some limits.  Anyway, who is the target demographic - people who like Saw?  I guess there's a contingent.  It's not completely awful, but I'd rather not watch it.

Without even reading the description, I then watched The Babysitters.  It was labeled a drama.  Okey doke.  Well, it was rather sordid.  This high school girl becomes all Heidi Fleiss and pimping herself and her high school friends out under the guise of "babysitting" to earn money for college.  Of course, bad things ensue.  The girl seems straight-laced, and it didn't quite explain the transition (if there even is one) of good girl becoming a madame.  Again, not having read the description, I was like...ummm, this is weird.

Then while I was watching that movie, one of the guys seemed familiar.  I had seen him in something, what was it??  IMDB wasn't all that helpful, and I did some more searching.  Turns out he was one of the bad guys in Last House on the Left (2009 version).  For what it's worth, Last House on the Left is disturbing too.  This guy picks some interesting movies to be in, or maybe most actors would stay away from such risky ventures, so that gives him more opportunities for such roles. 

After my recent viewing history, I think I need a few episodes of The Waltons or The Brady Bunch.  Something just a bit more wholesome.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011


Way back in 2001 or 2002 I made an odd pact with my husband.  I said that I didn't want to teach our child(ren) how to drive.  I really don't like driving.  I like it on my terms, which would be a sports car and a lot of open road when I'm in the mood.  The thing is, the mood doesn't hit me that often.  When we drive somewhere together, he always drives.  It's not that we're stuck in stereotypical male and female roles.  It's really that I don't like to drive, and it takes way more mental energy for me than it does for him. If I were rich, hiring a chauffeur would be high up on my list.  Think of all the napping I could get done while I was being driven around everywhere!

So if I got out of teaching our child(ren) how to drive, then I had to pick up the slack somewhere else.  In exchange, I said I'd take over potty training our child(ren).


I was trying to go into this whole potty training with no pressure.  (Yeah, like I do that well.)

The series of potty training milestones goes something like this:

2 years, 0 months: Bought frog potty
2 years, 0 months - 2 years, 7 months: Ask Julia every few days if she wants to sit on it.  She says no.
2 years, 7 months (January 8th): She says she wants to wear pull-ups like Izzy.  I say if she sits on the potty and pees, she'll get a pull-up.  There may or may not have been a dot of pee.  Or it could have been spit or a drop of sweat.

Starting January 8th, we told her that if she sat on the potty and peed, she'd get to wear a pull-up.  If we were lucky, we could get her to sit on the potty once a day.  No magic ever happened, and frankly it was pulling teeth to get her to sit on the potty once a day.  At school they asked her to sit on the potty, and she very rarely said yes.  We think she slipped on the seat one time, and that really freaked her out, so there was two weeks or so when she wouldn't even go into the bathroom at school.

I think there amounted to two instances where there was a dot of pee in the frog potty.  So she got a pull-up twice in two months.

Then on March 11th, she said the words we have been waiting to hear, "I have to go potty!"

Both my husband and I race into Operation Potty mode.  "Do you want to sit on the potty?"

And miraculously she gets up from where she was sitting and nods.  I run to the bathroom and get the frog potty, bring it into the bedroom while my husband gets her pants down.  We're just amazed that she's willing to sit on the potty.  But even more miraculous...

(tinkle tinkle tinkle)  Success!

We didn't keep track that first weekend, but I think she went potty 6-7 times.  Then the next week at school I was so thrilled and telling them about her success, but they didn't have much luck repeating the success.  By the end of the week, they got her to sit on the toilet with her diaper off. Considering that she wouldn't even go into the bathroom a few weeks prior, I guess that's a big step in her school potty training progress.

Starting last Friday after work, she accumulated 13 potty stickers over the weekend.  So, yep, she's doing pretty darn well considering we're only on Day 12-13 of active potty training.  But again there's been no potty success at school.  There's got to be a reason why she won't go at school.  I've asked her.  I think she's channeling her future teenager self when she responds, "Because..." and then walks away.  I follow her, "Because why?"

"Because!" Followed by a sigh.

She doesn't at all take after me, does she?

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Today's Confession

I have always been good at partitioning out people.  I admit that I've never been good at mixing my friends.  I like certain people for very different reasons, and when they get together, they are often flummoxed by each other because they are SO different from each other.  It's just easier to see scary movies with Friend A, go on a tour with Friend B, and ensure Friend A and Friend B don't meet each other because they will hate each other. I suppose my husband is exempt because he can see what I like in each person.  That's why I like him.  He knows that his only competition is Will Smith because Will Smith is pretty darn near perfect.  Will Smith can sing, and he's sitting on a pile of money, so Will might edge my husband out in some ways.  But I bet my husband is more perceptive than Will.  It's probably a toss-up when all is said and done, but Will's with Jada and I'm with my husband. 

Anyway, in addition to my friends, I also partition out my celebrity crushes.  No one can hold a candle to Will as a complete package.  However, there are some categories that Will doesn't win.

Most notably the category of The Celebrity I Want To Get High With.  For the record, I haven't been high in 15 years.  Almost to the day. Even though I have been completely straight and narrow(ish) for the past 15 years, I still have this category because, well, I'm weird.  Seth Rogen has been the holder of this notable honor in my book for a few years.  If I were to get high, I couldn't have imagined anyone better than him to get high with.  Tonight poor Seth has gone down a rung to Number Two.  First place now goes to Kevin Smith.  I have such a Celebrity I Want To Get High With crush on Kevin.  He's so awesome in an indescribable way.  I have loved his Q&A sessions, his movies, and his essence in a Celebrity I Want To Get High With kind of way.

Other categories:

Who I'd Like To Talk With for a Day - Alan Greenspan

Goth Guy - Robert Smith (The Cure)

Hottest and Most Interesting Rapper - Tupac

Who I'd Like to Eat a Meal With - John Goodman (before he got skinny)

Hottest Guy with No Morals: Eddie Cibrian

Monday, March 21, 2011


Have you seen Californication?  I'm not a David Duchovny fan.  I get the same sort of vibe from him that I get from Richard Gere.  Have you seen interviews with either of them?  They're both kind of odd in real life.

Anyway, I watched Season 1 of Californication this weekend, and I really enjoyed it.  Surprise, surprise, since I'm not a fan of him.  Maybe because it's just so darn seedy that I liked it.  Wait, that can't be all!  Sex and the City is plenty seedy, and I could not stand that show.  Obviously I have at least one other requirement. There has to be something else that I like.  Maybe it's the brooding and detached air he has about him. I like brooding and detached.

If you haven't seen the show, then I will tell you that there's a lot of sex.  I'm not quite sure how realistic it is that multiple, random women literally throw themselves at him every day.  Each episode represents about a day, and I've watched twelve episodes, so in the span of twelve days he's been with about 20 women.  Like he goes to buy a car, and he ends up test driving both the car and the saleswoman.  Sure, Alex Rodriguez or Justin Timberlake could get that kind of action, but could a washed up writer really get that kind of action???  Am I so out of touch with reality these days that I just don't think it happens that often to most guys (sans JT and AR)?  

It is a complete double standard because women do get more offers.  Logistically it just happens more often, particularly if you're hanging out places where the alcohol is flowing or are in a coed dorm.  But still...

Thursday, March 17, 2011

My daughter is odd

I haven't done a kid post in a while.  For the most part, frustrations about being a parent are easing.  I don't know who started this whole "complain about your kid as a 2 year old" thing, but I disagree.  I think having a toddler is freaking fantastic, especially when you compare it to having a colicky infant who didn't eat or sleep for a year.  Sure, we're sluggish around this potty training thing.  But on the whole, I love having a toddler.  Why?

She's starting to develop word play.  She was standing on the rocks in our yard, swaying back and forth.  "Look, I'm rocking on rocks!"

She will take nasty tasting medicine because she understands that it will make her feel better.  

She's cautious.  This kid isn't destructive.  I don't get it, but I'll take it.

She's thorough.  One big mistake was to buy clearance valentines for next year while she was with me.  She has been obsessed with getting us to let her open them.  She wants to give her friends yet more valentines.  Well, we told her if she peed on the potty that she could open them.  And guess what?  Yep!  Pee!  She took those valentines to school, tore all 32 valentines on the perforated lines, put a sticker (or 2 or 5) on each valentine, signed her name, and did a repeat valentine's day in March at school.   

She will tell you if anything you do is "wrong."  Everything has its place.  Not that I at all understand where she got that from...

We don't have pillowcases anymore.  Apparently pillowcases are perfect stand-ins for mats.  She will take off pillowcases (ours), and place the "mats" down.  We are forbidden from acquiring the pillowcases back while she's awake.  By the time she's asleep, we're too tired and pillowcase-less we are.

The hair, oh, the hair.  I have straight hair.  Along the lines of being perfectly cool with being an only child, I was also perfectly cool with having straight hair (except in the mid-80s when perms were "in").  It's easy to take care of straight hair.  Sure, it's frustrating to have any attempts at curling it to literally fall flat, but there are worse things in the world.  I have no idea how I got a little girl with Shirley Temple ringlets crossed with a white girl Afro crossed with Albert Einstein.  She has so MUCH hair.  Some of it does ringlets, but the other contingent just stands on end.  Add in some cowlicks and frizz, and I have no idea what to do with it.  Had she been a boy, there would be two words: buzz cut.

The ominous skeleton drawings.  In her cubby today there was a curious pile of about 30 drawings.  (Cue spooky music)  It is almost as if she was drawing a whole herd of skeletons, which is kind of creepy.  Or maybe a lot creepy.   She says they're bugs.  I think the bugs might be a cover for her starting to practice voodoo.

There were a LOT more than this, but I think you get the idea.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Wanting to feel something

Frustrated and unfocused.  Why?  I have no idea.  It feels like I'm going through all the motions but not really there or even present.  Do you remember that game that girls used to play on the playground?  I was trying to explain it to my husband.  It was this sadistic game where you gave your forearm to another girl who would pinch and scratch it up to make interesting patterns in red marks as the skin got irritated.  Was I the only masochist in the world who signed up for it?  For some reason, I remember that I donated my arms consistently to the sadistic girls on the playground.  I was happy to donate my arm for the arm-pinching cause. . . maybe I was happy just to feel something, even if it was pain.  I was never into self-afflicted pain though.  It had to be done to me, and boys never really understood the girl arm-pinching thing that happened under the guise of...heck if I knew what it was under the guise of.  All of this to say that some days I wonder where there's a sadistic girl when you need a good arm pinch.  If you go up to a 300 pound guy and tell him to pinch your arm, it will be the most pathetic pinch you will ever get.  Ask a fourth grade girl on the playground, and she will likely draw blood.

This Japan tragedy is so awful.  It feels like I've just been there.  No, I haven't physically been, but my husband and I just completed a video game set in Japan.  We stayed at a ryokan, made bento boxes, rode the train around the city, played rentograms, did origami, and learned a bit about Japanese history.  It was awesome.  Back in business school, I loved learning about Japanese culture.  In many ways, I fit right in.  I try to have a great work ethic.  I also do a lot of non-verbal communication like the Japanese.  I nod my head if I understand you and can see where you're coming from.  People (Americans) think that means I agree with them.  Not necessarily.  My nodding just means I understand your point.  Whether I agree with you or not is a completely different story.  The only thing that kind of turns me off from Japan culturally is their food.  I like rice, I like teriyaki, I like a bit of fish, but that's about it.  If I lived there, I'd just be eating produce, rice, and fish.  That kind of would work because I'd lose a ton o' weight.  Anyway, the tragedy in Japan is so, so sad.  It would be sad if it happened anywhere, but I suppose I feel more of a connection to Japan than, say, Honduras.

I've been feeling incredibly tired.  It's actually been 5 years or longer that I've felt this way.  Two years ago I went to the doctor and got that full blood panel done, and I'm so vitamin deficient.  The sentiment back then is that with all of my gluten and dairy intolerances my body can't absorb the vitamins that I actually do eat.   Although I haven't been 100% consistent, I have cut down on gluten and dairy quite a bit.  I exercise at least 5 days a week. And I still feel like crap, always exhausted, and always feel like I need an infusion of something to get me going again.  In the back, and sometimes the side, of my mind, I think something could be really, really wrong with me.  This would be a time when I wish I could switch bodies with someone else just to see if everyone copes with the endless exhaustion and feeling like crap, or maybe it is really just me. 

Then I visit the doctor in my head.  It's easier to go to the doctor in my head than in person because there is no waiting and copays in my head. 

Doctor: "Lose 10 pounds and you'll feel better."
Me: "But I exercise and try to stay under 1,500 calories a day."
Doctor: "Do a better job of it." 

Then I visit the naturopath in my head.

Naturopath: "You cannot eat a speck of gluten or dairy for 6 months to clean out your system.  You need to take a multivitamin.  You need to eat protein with each meal. You need to take extra vitamin D. You need to take fish oil. When you do all that for 6 months consistently, we'll retake your bloodwork."
Me: "No ice cream or pizza or cookies for 6 months?  And how much protein can a girl really eat without wanting to vomit, especially since I can't count cheese as a protein?"
Naturopath: "Pick ice cream over your health and well-being and you'll have to deal with the consequences."

See, I just saved myself $40 in copays.  And I'm back to the same dilemma I've had for two years.  Will cutting out gluten and dairy in their entirety really affect my well-being that much?  Or should I side with the medical doctor who says that losing 10 pounds is going to change my freaking life?  For what it's worth, the medical doctor also says I need to eat more protein and take a ton of vitamin supplements just like the naturopath.


Saturday, March 12, 2011

Social Media Frustration

I try not to be paranoid, but I hate when I have evidence that I should be paranoid.

What is up with Facebook privacy settings? 

Scenario: Friend, who has the setting that only friends can see his profile, posts a link.  I comment on the link.  And then my freaking father-in-law comments after me, and he is not friends with my other friend, and my friend is set up as "friends only" can see his wall and pics and stuff.  WHY could my father-in-law see my comment on someone else's stuff and the link someone else posted?  My husband can see the link/my comment too if he digs around on my wall although he can't see my friend's profile or wall.  I've gone through each setting, and I don't see a way to suppress it.  Sure, I know that if they are mutual friends and I comment on something, mutual friends can and will see.  But how can my other friends see comments I make to their non-friends?  That's frightening.

In the autumn I went on a delete binge.   Something similar happened, and I got nervous and maybe slightly paranoid.  I over-deleted, but it's kind of lame to de-friend people and then friend them back.  That's happened to me a few times, and on the receiving end it's kinda like...ummm, is this some kind of mind game?  That's what I want to say, but usually I just accept them because maybe they think I forgot we used to be friends.

As long as I'm complaining about Facebook, let me add an honest to goodness almost exact (sorry, some bleeping will occur) FB status of a friend today:

Socially Inappropriate Friend "I'm a good manager and f$%& this job and f$%& the $%&holes that I work for."

However, she said the real words.  Otherwise, exact quote. 

More and more I think I need two separate accounts.  See, the problem is:

Personally I am liberal, and I work with very liberal people.  Most of the people I know personally are liberal, or they are at least accepting enough to not start bashing people who have a different viewpoint (or they at least do it respectfully).  My husband's family is hard core Republican who will personally assault people who don't agree with them. It comes down to people who I can be myself around vs. people I can't be myself around.  Then I thought I should cleverly assign people to groups and be able to pick the group that can see particular things.

But if hard core Republican father-in-law can see my work friends' links and my comments to them, then making two groups won't solve the problem.

And by the way, I had limited the access he and others had to my stuff...until he figured it out.

If I made a second profile, then the second profile will come up under the "People You May Know" tool for the people I don't want to be friends with.  Though there's got to be a way to not advertise your profile.  But still...I would worry that Profile 2 would come up as a friend suggestion for the people I don't want to be friends with.

Argh!!!   So I end up having to delete people I didn't want to delete months ago, and I don't feel like I can comment on anything because it's safe to assume that anyone can see anything.  

____________ is signing off for the night in complete frustration with social media.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Economic Musing

Have you heard that the government is thinking about phasing out Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae?  The sentiment is that things got out of control with all the subprime lending, and these agencies ended up focusing on the greed of the few and screwed the many.

Stuff like this gives me a lot of cognitive dissonance.  I'm such a proponent for social services as a safety net for citizens (Medicare, Social Security, unemployment insurance, temporary food/energy assistance to the poor), but at the same time I think government should know its place and not be so freaking involved in the money supply, interest rates, and trying to mitigate (and/or create) the screwy stuff that happened in the past few years - which ends up screwing things up even more for the long-term. 

Way back when I met my husband, he gave me some speech about being a fiscal conservative who supported social programs, or something like that.  He can probably remember his speech better than I can.  His whole long speech amounted to that he's a moderate Democrat.  The longer I think about this stuff, the more I realize that he's right about the whole fiscal conservative with support for social programs.  Ultimately, the government has really screwed shidizzle up.  As much as I want to blame the father/son duo, the roots of it all go back further than that.  HW did screw it up a whole lot on his own, in conjunction with his advisors. I still stand by that, but I'm not saying we can completely put the nation's economic ills just on his shoulders.

I think what really nailed the coffin in it for me is when they lowered the Social Security tax this year by 2% of income.  So you give a tax cut (hence, less revenue) for a sorely underfunded program that is a safety net to so many elderly and disabled citizens?  In what world does that make sense?  I know all the dollars are green in the aggregate, but it's an awful message to send. 

Back to the whole Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae phase out, what in the heck is going to happen to lending?  Banks are already uptight as heck, and interest rates are going to soar once they are the only ones in town.  Not that I necessarily think that's a bad thing (because I do think the government has interfered too much), but until things are at a new equilibrium, house prices are going to dive, dive, dive.

Need to look at www.lendingclub.com more...or start the Bank of Beth. I was so intrigued by Lending Club.  What the heck, private people can lend money to other people at rates that aren't as high as credit card companies/banks.  I'm kind of interested in it in a purely nosy way.  If you invest money as an individual lender, with this service you can pick and choose which loans to fund based on many, many criteria of your personal choosing.  In addition, the website gives each of the borrowers a rating, which corresponds to the risk/return associated with that person.  I can give $ to Chuck in Dallas who is wanting to buy a car or Sandy in Florida who wants to open up a business.  Absolutely weird!  I'm still trying to wrap my head around this.  Of course I've been trying to really understand how all this works, but there's only so much you can learn without signing up first.  And I'm certainly not transferring money to this endeavor without understanding infinitely more than I do now.  Still, it's definitely an interesting concept.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Things Parents Shouldn't Do for Their Kids

Sometimes I get random people's questions directed to me while I am at work.  It's not all that often that I get these calls, and most of the time they are non-irritating, interesting, thought-provoking questions that I can easily answer.

Last week I got a call that was non-irritating, interesting, and thought-provoking.  This person was wondering how much new people in the profession earned, how much they could earn up to, if there were regional differences, etc.  Again, all appropriate and interesting questions.  My issue was that these questions were from someone's FATHER.

His story was that his daughter was a junior in college, and she was so busy studying that he wanted to find out some things for her about her chosen profession.

Dude, she's not SO immersed in studying that she couldn't call me if she was curious.  Your "helping" her is not helping her.  It makes you look completely overinvolved and takes the power away from your daughter.  Will you also write your daughter's resume for her?  Cover letter? Will you accompany her on job interviews? At what point will you get your nose out of your daughter's business and let her figure out things for herself?

Please slap me if I ever do stuff like that for my daughter.  At times like these, I have to be almost grateful that my mother was the exact opposite.  She was a little too underinvolved in my life - not there much, when she was there physically she wasn't emotionally there.  On the bright side, I can be incredibly resourceful and capable of figuring out things myself.  As I've been told by many, I'm a little too self-reliant and independent.  I suppose the bright side is that I never had to be completely embarrassed when my mom called a random person about job opportunities for me.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

The odds are like meeting Mr. Right in a brothel

We like to do things around the house.  As much as we've learned how to do things over the years, there are some things that 1) we are not qualified to do or 2) we don't want to risk our lives or the house's structural integrity while we do it.

For instance, we don't do roofing.  Have you seen my house?  The roof has a frightening pitch to it, and in the back it's 3+ stories high.  I don't want to die by falling off my roof, neither does my husband.  Let's just pay someone to replace the roof.

It should be a relatively easy concept.  It is made even easier when the homeowner's association gives us a list of about 6 different types of roofs that we can get.  That's it.  We can pick the color (within reason), but ultimately there's a very short list of options.

We ask around, and it appears there is one roofing company that "works" the neighborhood.  It's the neighborhood roof prostitute, drumming up business through word of mouth and putting out their signs when they do a roof.  I check them out with the state, and they are 1) active (not suspended or expired), 2) the Department of Labor isn't out to get them for violations, 3) no one has successfully gotten a judgment/lawsuit out of them for shoddy workmanship and 4) the Better Business Bureau likes them.  They also seemed okay in person.  However, the estimate came in a little higher than I would have liked.  I mean, I knew it was going to be a nasty amount (like the amount for a nice new car and not a Kia kind of new car).  I just didn't think it was going to be in BMW territory.  I thought it would be prudent to get another estimate or two.  They always tell you to get 3 estimates. This is a lot of money and, after all, the roof of a house is a big deal. 

I mess around on the Department of Labor website to get other potential roofing companies.  I mess around on the internet trying to get other potential roofing companies.  As I learned in the old house, you must must must check businesses out in multiple ways to make sure everything is copacetic.  Just like you would a potential life partner.  Plus not everyone can install the few roofs that we can choose from.

Good thing that I haven't been dating after the evolution of the Internet.  See, here's what I would do if I met a man nowadays via a method where I didn't know already know all his details:

1 - Facebook: are there any, uh, "interesting" pictures there?  Like ones where he's in full uniform and pointing a gun to the camera or doing naked poses in the mirror or licking things off naked women?

2 - Driving record - any DUIs? suspended license? habit of running red lights?

3 - County record - garnished for child support lately (personal huge red flag, deadbeat dads are not attractive)? house in foreclosure (financial irresponsibility=additional red flag)? what kind of mortgage balance does he have?

4 - County record, part II - been married? still married? divorce official? (Obviously that's #1 in priority, but I thought that would be a given.  However, nothing is truly a given when dealing with some people.)

After all above checks out and he doesn't say anything to contradict the info (i.e., says he's never been married and has a marriage license filed) and if he's awesome in person, then I might consider him worthy of dating.  Yes, I am judgmental about who I will date.  It's my prerogative, as Bobby Brown would say. I don't want to have a relationship with anyone who is teetering on the edge of keeping it together.  I'm not that tolerant. 

And so there's a similar investigation on businesses/contractors that I do.

1. Properly licensed, bonded, insured?  Do you want to know how MANY contractors can't fulfill this?  Do you know how many have suspended licenses?  It's a crazy high number.  As I have made a complaint to the Department of Labor with no follow-up from them, I know it's hard to get the DOL to suspend a contractor.  There have to be lots of complaints about the same business. Take suspended licenses you see seriously. 

2. Presuming that the contractor is licensed, bonded and insured, how long have they been in business?  Preferably 5 years or more.  If it's less than a year, they may have been suspended previously and this is a new sham until discovered.

3. Is the Department of Labor after them for fines/warrants/unsafe working practices?

4. Are there any judgments against them (lawsuits they lost)? 

5. Does the contractor show up on time, answer questions professionally, seem knowledgeable?  This is the person you'll be working with.  If you already have doubts or conflict, perhaps he isn't the best contractor for the job.

6. Does the contractor follow through with the next steps (typically providing an estimate plus some more information) within the agreed-upon timeline? 

After much hunting, I found another roofing company that met Criteria 1-4.  Last Friday he came over to give an estimate.  He impressed me with Criterion 5.  I got so jazzed - it was like meeting Mr. Right!  I called my husband after the contractor left and told him how excited I was about how it went.  All that was missing was Criterion 6, which he said he would send me Friday night, and we'd be ready to rock and roll.  I was so jazzed.  And then I check my e-mail compulsively just like I had an awesome first date with an online match who checked through all my above dating criteria and who said he would contact me that night.  And of course...nothing.  My hopes get so high and become dashed by the end of the evening.  Then I start rationalizing, "Well, maybe he got busy....maybe he'll contact me tomorrow."  Yeah right.  More rationalizing.  "Maybe he got in a car accident."  So here it is now, and I still have yet to hear from him.

This is why I'd be a sucky dater.  Rational me would assume he doesn't like me, and oh well, his tough.  Buh bye.  BUT...I'm a desperate online dater, not completely rational, and I have no freaking other prospects....errrrr...roofing contractors except for the BMW one.  This potential other roofing contractor was the only one who made it through my "what may look elaborate but really isn't" criteria, and I don't want to settle for anyone sucky. Maybe he just got busy. Maybe he lost my contact info.  Maybe I should "remind" him that I still exist and haven't heard from him.

I'm still in rationalizing mode, if you can't tell.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

And finally one or more pictures

So I'm late on Day 10 of the blog project.  Sorry, I had plans to take a current picture.  Instead I just decided to unearth ones I had already taken.  Since I'm kinda cheating on the first one, I'll try to make it up to you.

My favorite one as a kid.  I seem happy-ish.  Though the polo with rainbows (?) on it certainly isn't the coolest thing in the world, remember that it was the mid 1980s.  And what's up with the short shorts?  I'm cheating because I'm so darn young.

So let's bring it forward.

And then...now-ish (6 months ago).  Napping or trying to, what I do best. 

Monday, March 7, 2011

Part 2 of 2

For my junior year in high school, I went to the local community college.  One of the high school graduation requirements that I still had to fulfill at the community college was 2 years of PE.  I took PE in 9th grade and got a C from Mr. Wood.  Needless to say, I wasn't thrilled about the prospect of another year of GPA-dropping PE at the community college.  I heard that if you were in school sports, you would get the PE credit even if it was only 1 semester.  Score!

My friend and I tried out for cheerleading for the community college basketball season.  She had ambitions of being a cheerleader, and I had ambitions of getting that stupid PE credit I needed in the easiest way possible.  My friend didn't end up getting onto the squad.  I did.  I'm flexible, I can clap, I can do a perfect cartwheel (even now!), and I like hip hop.  If you add in that back then I had really long blond hair, I could maybe even pull off marginally fitting in with the stereotypical look. 

I was bummed that my friend didn't make it because I didn't know the rest of the girls.  They seemed superficially nice enough, I guess.  Lots of talk about the basketball players, hair products, clothes.  And even more basketball player talk.  Listening to all of these girls talk, it sounded like a lot of drama about who was dating whom, who had short-term relationships with whom, who was the old girlfriend/new girlfriend of each basketball player.  I didn't even know who the basketball players were.  Community college is a lot different than high school.  People come and go so much more, there's not a lot of common hallways, or much opportunity to meet people aside from classes.  I was dating a non-basketball player anyway and had no real interest in getting to know any of these guys in question. 

One of the cheerleaders took me under her wing.  I think she was the troublemaker of the group, the one who had "short-term relationships" with several of the basketball players while they were dating the other girls.  Since I had absolutely no history with her and the other girls weren't all that nice to her, she latched onto me.  She was one of those that had no ability to censor herself, and the tales she told about all these guys would shock most people.  At least she shocked my 16-year old self.

Very early on into this cheerleading gig, we had the first party of the season with the basketball players.  It was at a basketball player's house, lots of beer, loud music, and we're all supposed to show up.  I don't think it was just the players and the cheerleaders because that would only be 16 or so people, and there were more like 30 people there.  I guess some other popular people were invited.  Community college basketball groupies??

The girl who latched onto me wanted us to get ready together.  I don't really "get" why girls get ready together for events, but whatever...this was the new, cool, popular me who was trying to fit in, so I went along with it.  I go to her house (so of course I was already "ready"), and we're doing our hair (which for me is just brushing my hair because I'm fancy like that) and she says she almost forgot something.

She gets out a stack of purple paper and starts writing her name on it over and over again with what looks like her phone number.  Her name had an "i" in it, and she put hearts above the "i" in her name.  So I ask, "What are you doing?"

She tells me that she's making her info ahead of time to pass out to guys that she thinks are cute at the party.  It was one of those moments where I do the nose and forehead simultaneous scrunched up thing that I do - when I'm so amazed by someone that I can't even hide it.  She tells me I need to do the same thing.  More scrunched up-ness by me.  "But I already have a boyfriend."  Her genius response: "But these are BASKETBALL PLAYERS."

I wanted to say: "If they were REAL basketball players, they'd be at UW or, you know, a school that's known for, you know, basketball.  This is community college."  I refrained though.

We go to the party.  I think she's cool because she has a car.  I just turned 16 and didn't even take my driving test yet.  As you might expect, at the party there's a keg and late teen/early 20s tall guys running around and acting like idiots.  Let's not forget the small clusters of girls who are trying to look nonchalant as they pretend to talk to each other while they spy on their chosen guy guzzle beer directly from the keg or nitpick the clothes of another girl.  I just want to go home and read a book, talk to my boyfriend, wash my hair, watch paint dry - the options of what I'd prefer to do are actually endless. 

More mingling between the genders happens as the night goes on.  Personally I think it took so long because the guys had to get drunk enough to have the courage to say anything to the girls.  For some crazy reason, I got a lot of traffic, as in lots of guys came over to me and introduced themselves and tried to make conversation.  I think it was because I was the novelty.  They already knew all the other girls. 

In junior high and high school, I never hung out with the jocks.  I'm a nerd.  I calculate worthless crap in my head and talk about marginal utility in everyday conversation.  They don't speak nerd, and I don't speak jock.  Sure, I can appreciate an attractive guy, but I find mental agility and things like goals/dreams/contemplations more satisfying.  If a guy is a real dolt, what in the heck are we going to talk about?  Subwoofers and rims?  Basketball magazines?  That's not to say a guy can't be athletic AND smart.  I'm not that judgmental. But trust me, I talked to almost every guy at that party, and there were no Kurt Vonneguts or Alan Greenspans there.  I know how to find them in a crowd, even if they're dressed in black leather and have blue hair.  Or in this case, wearing baggy jeans and beer t-shirt with a baseball cap on backwards.   

As I learned that night, the conversations with these basketball players weren't all that extensive.  They go something like, "Can I get you a beer?  Sure you don't want more beer? Did you see Austin Powers yet?  Want to go upstairs and see my CDs?"  No, no, no, and no.  He hits a wall in the conversation items, and he walks away to the next victim. 

After the third or fourth conversation that went something like that, I decided to find my ride.  Ha!  I can't find her anywhere, so she must be looking at a basketball player's "CD collection."  It's too far to walk, all the other girls seem very cozy with their drunkenness and not at all ready to leave, so I just sit there and watch the basketball players do idiotic games involving beer.  Believe it or not, it's easier to watch that than the drunk girls falling all over the guys.

HOURS later my ride finally comes downstairs.  At this point, I'm pissed.  A PE credit is not worth all this crap.  Do these girls have absolutely no self-respect?  And do any of these guys have IQs that are in the 3 digits?  I cannot spend 15 hours a week doing this for the next few months. 

My ride with an "i" in her name is finally ready to go home.  Being that I'm already pissed off, I of course ask about the purple slips of paper that she was going to pass out to the cute guys.  I don't know how many she took to the party, maybe 5-7.  She says that she passed them all out. 

And that's when I burned my bridge.  Beyond pissed, I went for the jugular although I will say that I phrased it appropriately (I focused on the behavior, not the person).  I will not repeat it because, well, it was mean.  She was actually a nice girl who was sincerely troubled with few positive role models in her life.  I was angry about the whole situation, which I of course got myself into, and took it out on her.  That was wrong.  On the other hand, she was doing some very stupid, dangerous stuff.  It's not like anyone else she knew was going to try to give her a wake-up call.  

I said plenty of Hail Marys over what I said.  I even apologized to her right after that, probably blamed it on the alcohol (although I don't think I was that tipsy).  Still, you know when you rock someone to the core and say something that they'll always remember.  Hence, why I try, try, try to only think things instead of say them after that moment.

Needless to say, I turned in my pom poms to the coach that Monday and said I just wasn't cut out to be a cheerleader.  That is true; I'm way too apathetic.  I eventually fulfilled the PE requirement by taking Weight Training and Step Aerobics.  Compared to the cheerleading gig, they were easy peasy.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Part 1 of 2

I was all set to do a post, and then, well, I got rambling on a side story.  So now I'm doing a 2-part post instead of one horribly rambling post.  It's my blog and I can do what I want, right?  :)  I still remember that I owe you a picture.

In school I was never the popular kid.  Along with the desire to never be the popular kid in the first place, I was also too nerdy, too antisocial, and too apathetic to ever be popular. Without the desire or the means, I really had no hope.  I'm sure a small part of me wanted to be popular, but popularity involves a lot of politics, even on the playground.  Seriously, politics is a lot of work -- I did mention the apathetic thing, right??? I did want to be liked though.  I think I was liked by enough of the key people to avoid a lot of the mean-spiritedness that kids have toward the unpopular kids.  I blended in just enough to marginally get by. 

As an adult, I intellectually know that the whole popular/unpopular thing doesn't matter anymore.  People are just people, and most people have a core group of friends.  And that core group of friends probably involves people who used to be popular, semi-popular, and maybe unpopular.  We're not in high school, and we're above that now.

The irrational, former-unpopular me can ascertain pretty quickly how popular people were in high school after just meeting them once or twice.  And what's funny is that as an adult, I associate with people who were the "cool" and "popular" kids back in junior high and high school.  Somehow I can fake that I was popular just enough to be accepted by people who wouldn't have given me the time of day way back when.  At least that's my perception, which may not be accurate.  One alternate theory is that I carry myself with more confidence than I did as a teenager, and people may generalize that I have always been as confident.  I dunno.  Maybe they just don't care. 

I live now approximately in the same area I went to high school.  However, I was only in high school for sophomore year (freshman year was in junior high back at the time) and then I went to community college. I vaguely recognize some people when I'm out and about in the city now.  If they are approximately my age, then I presume they went to my high school while I was there for sophomore year.  There were about 1,300 kids at the high school, which of course was too big to know everyone.

Just like in any high school, there were those people who everyone knew (of); you knew their names even if they weren't in your grade or they weren't in any of your classes.  You probably knew who they were dating, you may even know what classes they were in and what locker they had.  They were the legends. They were THAT popular, or THAT notorious, or THAT attractive.  Sometimes all 3. Regardless of how big the school was, everyone - even the janitor - knew who they were.   

There was one girl who was a senior when I was a sophomore. She was so over the top that she was one of those that everyone knew of.  She was a cheerleader, loud, vivacious, laughed (really loudly) all the time, and she was prone to acts like cartwheeling down the hall or squealing so loud and so suddenly that she gave people pseudo heart attacks.  I don't think she was amped up on any drugs, she was just one of those people who was high on life.  And the apathetic crowd that I most closely associated with was the type to exchange eye rolls as she bounded down the hall loudly and at warp speed.  At the same time, you had to secretly admire her endless enthusiasm. 

As you might expect, I of course ran into her a few years ago and now run in the quasi same social circle as her.  As soon as I saw her, I remembered her because, let's face it, it's hard to forget someone like that.  Of course she didn't recognize me.  But why would she?  I was in a lower class than her, and I was the proverbial wallflower. 

The funny part of all of this is that one of the first things she said once she realized that we went to the same high school at around the same time was that she used to be a cheerleader (yes, I know) AND she ended up marrying the CAPTAIN OF THE SWIM TEAM.  Yes, she seriously referred to her husband as the captain of the swim team (remember, he was the captain of the high school swim team back in 1993).  I almost wanted to ask if he's still the captain of the swim team on the 20 year high school graduation plan, but I refrained. 

The petty part of me wanted to say that I was a college cheerleader, and I married the son of a diplomat, but again I refrained (aren't you proud?).

The former-unpopular, wallflower part of me who was in awe of talking to someone who used to be such a legend just nodded and said, "Good for you."  Because really, that's all she's looking for...some affirmation that she's wonderful because she snagged the captain of the 1993 high school swim team.

And here's where I wanted to cut to my own experiences as a cheerleader, but I'll make that for my next post.

Friday, March 4, 2011

11 down, 70 to go

Today is my wedding anniversary.  11 years.  Sheesh, I've been married for a long time, considering I didn't
even want to get married when I was a teenager.  After we got engaged, we debated a Sept 1999 or March 2000 wedding date.  I like March, and I like even numbers.  The only thing that nags me about not going with the Sept 1999 wedding date is not being able to say that we got married in the last millennium and that our marriage has spanned 3 decades (90s, 00s, 10s).  

Eleven years.  We met in the summer of 1996, so that makes it close to 15 years of knowing each other.  Gosh, I'm old.  I've known my husband nearly half of my life.   

I still remember the moment we met.  I was in a friend's dorm room, and my soon-to-be husband was patrolling the dorm.  I even remember what I was wearing on that hot July night. I remember what he was wearing too--the police station-issued uniform that I would eventually don for 2 years as well.  According to my husband, he knew there was something about me immediately.  He intrigued me as well, but he had a girlfriend so I tried to put him out of my mind. 

Was it love at first sight?  No.  It was like at first sight though.  And we developed a friendship.  Once we started working together, things evolved...and 15 years later I can hear him snoring next to me over my blasting iPod.

When we got married, we said we had to stay married for at least 81 years.  70 more years of craziness and happiness to go.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

The Power of Saying No

Like most people, I am not fond of being told no.  As I have a huge fear of rejection, I do try to make appropriate, rational requests with plenty of notice so as to minimize the chance of being told no.   I still have to deal with the ramifications with being told no because some people have the audacity (!) to tell me no once in a while.  And most of the time I deal with it okay.  I might be aggravated for a few days, but life goes on, right?

While I may or may not have a high bitchy level on this blog, I do tend to be less bitchy in person.  I do try to be a relatively decent person.  I don't always achieve it.  I haven't some, ummm, moments.  Maybe more than some.  At my core I am a people pleaser.  I want to do the right thing (though I may not always do the right thing). I will go out of my way to help people in a tangible way (listen to them, give them retirement planning or financial advice, etc.).  I want to say "yes" to any request if at all possible. My work is in a service area with a multitude of "clients," and I try to complete things in a timely fashion and in a pleasant way.  Even with guys, I was always worried about hurting his feelings, so I went out on semi-dates with guys I wasn't very interested in because I didn't know how to say no without feeling like I was rejecting them.  With time and experience I'm getting better at extricating myself from situations where toxic people find my weak spot and exploit it.

I know this person who does NOT deal with no well.  I don't think this person has ever been told a "no" that stays a "no."  Because when the person is told no, the person will wear down the person who said no by constantly being in their face.  I've seen it many, many times.  And I know what everyone's reaction is to this (because it's mine too): I will do whatever it takes to SHUT YOU UP and get you out of my face.  The person knows this strategy works, and of course what results is the person always gets what the person wants by whining/complaining/interrogating/being a pain in the ass.

After dealing with this person for years, I vacillate between doing whatever will shut the person up all the way to being adamant on my "no" just to be the one person who will stand up for themselves when confronting the person.  Of course it takes a huge amount of emotional energy to make such a statement because the person then instantly goes into whine/complain/interrogate mode.  I then just want the person out of my sight, and the only way for that to happen is to acquiesce.  It is my natural mode because I want minimal conflict. I want to just say "yes," and I want the person to shut up.

But occasionally I just have to make a point and not give in.  Of course while it's happening, I completely understand I'm doing something idiotic on some stupid principle such as making the person learn how to deal with being told no.  Is it my place?  No.  After all, if the person hasn't learned it by now, it's unlikely the person will ever learn.  It's not like it's my kid, so it's not even a teachable moment.  It's really just me being bitchy and taking a stand to take a stand.  But I gotta say that it feels good to take that stand.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

The Repeatable Song

Have you noticed that there are some songs that you like but aren't all that worthy of the repeat function?  They are good and all, but the song would be wearing out its welcome if you repeated it. 

On the other hand, there are some songs that may not be your favorites, but they are extremely repeatable. 

I was reintroduced to an oldie but goodie that I've been listening to on repeat lately.  I think I like it because it has The Cure undertones.  It's certainly not my favorite song; however, I've been listening to it hundreds of times. I was going to post the link to Youtube, but after watching the video, ehhhh...it's one of those songs that's better without any visuals to accompany it.  Or maybe visuals that aren't so dated. 

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Random Thought

Random thought of the day: It's good to be a girl because it is socially acceptable to apply fruit punch lip gloss in public.  I don't think boys can do that.  I mean, they CAN, but it might look a little weird if it was the fruit punch version.  I think the most a guy can get away with is cherry chapstick.  For anything more elaborate, he would have to apply it in private. 

See, it's awesome to be a girl! (Today anyway)