Saturday, November 28, 2015

This and that

Sometimes it feels like Blogspot is a time machine back to 2008-2010. It seemed like so many people were doing blogs back then, and one day it all just stopped. I guess Facebook replaced it with status updates? It's like a ghost town here. As I look through my blog subscriptions, I wonder what all these people have been doing since their last post in 2010. That's almost 6 years! There are actually very few of my blog subscriptions that I'm friends with on Facebook. More on Myspace, but Myspace is more desolate than Blogspot. So I guess I'll never find out. Is Melanie still with CJ? Did Una publish a new book? Did she have another child?

I've done four NaNoWriMos so far. I started my 2015 NaNo back in August, but I only got about 20,000 words prior to November, and I have written zilch during November. I'd like to complete it, not because it's terrific but because I feel compelled to complete things. Even if it's not a worthwhile thing that I've left undone, I want to cross it off my list. I can crank out 50,000 words--particularly if quality isn't a factor.

I need to get going on a Blogger project, if only so I'd write on a consistent basis.

The in-laws are coming for Christmas. While they're here, my husband and I are going on a short trip by ourselves. I'm really looking forward to that. We got a room with a fireplace overlooking the river. 

Saturday, October 31, 2015

Path not taken

Most of the guys I dated back in high school and college started out as my friend, usually for months but some for years. By the time we started dating, I usually knew them really well, knew their parents, and the transition to dating was almost seamless.

There was one guy where that didn't happen. We met on one of the first days when I went off to college. We met each other in the hallway, and I was taken by his attractiveness and the way he interacted with the world. We started dating within a few days of meeting, and it was a tumultuous relationship. Back then I would have said that we argued quite a lot. I honestly am not that argumentative of a person, but for some reason he was good at irritating me in a way that compelled me to be sassier than I ordinarily am.

He was 4 years older than me (21 to my 17), and at the time he wanted to get married. I didn't want to get married for a whole slew of reasons, but namely because I was 17. He said I was "immature," which has always stayed with me because never since has anyone else ever called me that.

We broke up. He met a pregnant girl with another child, and they quickly got married.

Throughout the years, I've often thought about him. Not that I missed him or our fights, but he was a distinct path I passed up. I never thought I made an incorrect decision in not marrying him, let me be clear. But I wondered what that alternate universe would have looked like. Would I be happy? Would we have had children? What would a day in that life look like?

Back in college we never talked about important things, like politics. Despite that, I think our different views and philosophies came out because we disagreed on just about everything. Even though we both had idealistic parts to us, we were idealistic in very different ways. We disagreed on the definition of "fairness." We had different views on what a relationship should be and our roles in it.  

 A few years ago he friended me on Facebook. I was astounded and rather apprehensive of it. But through being his friend, I got a glimpse of what that path would have been like. I saw what he was proud of in terms of his family and possessions, I learned about his job, I saw what he valued, I saw the memes he shared.
And frankly most of it is very scary. He is a conservative nutjob. He hates Obama, loves the NRA, spanks his children, enjoys Nascar, and basically would fit in well in a Southern state where he can drink Budweiser and then practice shooting the cans with his shotgun that he carries around in his 1970s battered pickup truck. He's gained a lot of weight. He lives in a mobile home. He is a licensed nursing assistant.

He sticks out like a sore thumb in my news feed. I mutter responses to his posts (because it seems better than typing out a response and starting a Facebook argument). But mostly…I am so happy that I didn't go down that path with him. It probably wouldn't have lasted long anyway.
Aside from the relief that I immensely feel now (thank you, Facebook!), I feel like when I think of him, I can think of those months we were together and remember the good times. As frustrating as much of it was, we had fun spontaneous trips, romantic walks in the snow, and we both had incredible zeal for ice cream.

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Long Hiatus

It feels good to be back after a long hiatus--mostly caused by the weirdest work assignment I've ever been given. If I told you what I normally do and then what I did for September, you'd go, "Huh?"

So did I. I said on numerous occasions, "It makes absolutely NO sense for me to be doing this."

After the longest blogging hiatus I've ever had on here and being back for a couple of weeks now...oh, and my in-laws were at my house for two weeks. They'll be back in December for a week at Christmas, and then they'll be back in May. While I don't mind that they're coming for Christmas, they add a lot of pressure in terms of them liking to put on a show...elaborate feast, decorations, gifts, the whole bit. My husband and I are more minimalist. And I also feel a little shortchanged about my vacation since I get that week off, and now they'll be here. So instead of lounging around and reading, I'm going to be doing more cooking, cleaning, decorating, and other crap than I want to do around the holidays.

Yes, I'm a lazy Christmas person. I am the gift giver who gives gift cards to family. For friends I'll make their favorite cookies. I love honing in on your favorite cookie. If I may add another Christmas sin, I only send Christmas cards to people who send me Christmas cards.

I came back from my September experience 3 pounds heavier (eating out for every meal for a month) and feeling behind in my normal work, my personal life and other things I'm doing.

I feel New Years Resolution-y because I need to become more focused.

That is another post.

In the meantime, I'm back.

Monday, August 10, 2015

Fitbit Charge HR Review

I've had a Fitbit Charge HR for almost two weeks now. I really like it!

I was initially interested in a fitness tracker back in early 2014 (or was it 2013?). My husband got me a BodyBug for Valentine's Day, which required a separate monthly subscription after the free three-month trial. I liked that it kept track of my heart rate, but it was quite visible. You put it around your upper arm, and it was quite lumpy under clothes and even more obvious when wearing tank tops. I did the three-month trial, liked it, but didn't continue because I'm apparently more vain than I think I am...and cheap. The $7/month fee seemed a bit steep.

I had been eyeing the Fitbit for a while, but it seemed like an overpriced pedometer. When the Charge HR came out, I was a bit more intrigued because it kept track of your heart rate (much like the BodyBug), but it was easier to wear. And these days it seems like at least a third of people my age wear some fitness tracker.

So I bought one in a moment of weakness almost two weeks ago. It's pretty awesome, especially the social media aspect of it. You can easily find friends if you link it up to Facebook, and then you get invited to challenges. If you have any competitive spirit, you get sucked into doing your best on challenges.

Since my frame of reference is the BodyBug, I'll do a little comparison to that. I think the BodyBug was better at tracking sleep. I get a bit of funkiness in the Fitbit Charge HR sleep reporting that the BodyBug didn't seem to have. As mentioned previously, the Fitbit Charge HR is less obtrusive, and it has the social media element that the BodyBug didn't have.

Now let me go over a few features of the Fitbit Charge HR and my general sense after only wearing it for 2 weeks:


If I read in bed before falling asleep, it usually counts it as sleep even though it's not. If you take a nap for less than an hour, it doesn't recognize it as such. The false readings may cancel each other out in some people, but I think overall it slightly overestimates the amount of sleep you're getting. This is the one area where the BodyBug was superior.

Heart Rate Monitor

I've seen several reviews that say the Fitbit's heart rate monitor isn't the best, particularly if you're doing high intensity interval training. My personal fitness regiment doesn't include that type of training, so I can't speak to it. I do a lot of walking, some jogging, and weights. The weights are for toning, and I know there's not much "exercise" as it's traditionally defined while doing it.

Because the Fitbit is mainly a pedometer, it encourages activities like walking and running. If you do activities that you can't do with the Fitbit (like swimming) or the Fitbit doesn't give you credit for (heavy weights), then you might want a different tracker.

If you choose to record specific workouts, then you get good data on your heart rate during the workout, provided that it includes walking/running/climbing. If you don't choose to record the workout, then you can't get data on your workout as a whole. However, you can look at what your heart rate is while you are doing the workout.

I find it's helpful to use the "check your heart rate" feature to see approximately what your heart rate is based on your exertion level. If I feel like I'm really pushing it, then it makes me feel good if my heart rate is over 150.


Pedometer Function

Every 2,360 steps for me seems to equate to a mile in distance traveled.

Calories In/ Calories Out

I told the Fitbit that I wanted a goal of losing a pound per week (500 calorie deficit per day). I love the concept that it takes into account the food I log as well as the exercise I've done throughout the day. I find it's easier to cut yourself off from food using the Fitbit. Oops, out of calories, you either have to get off your butt or put down the cookie.

I've only gone over calories once since I've had it. Every other day I have created that 500 calorie deficit.

However...I have a problem with understanding/interpreting the Fitbit during the middle of the day.

So it's around noon right now. I've eaten 501 calories so far today. But it says I have 714 calories left to eat, which doesn't make sense because that implies I have a 1,215 calorie/day limit. Not true! I have a 1,600/day limit + can eat anything I burn over 2,100 calories/day. By the end of the day, it makes sense, but in the middle of the day I have problems understanding the "calories left" field. It seems extremely low.


I am so glad I bought the Fitbit Charge HR! A small part of me is skeptical about the calories burned field because it seems kind of high, and it's fairly easy to get a 500 day/calorie deficit. I'll have to come back and see if it affects my long-term weight. I have lost 2 pounds in the 2 weeks, but it's really hard to determine if that is solely because of the Fitbit or due to any other reason.

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Facebook Types

There a few Facebook types that annoy me. Not specific people, but broad areas of people. What types annoy you?

Several years ago I did a Facebook cleaning and got it down to a very small number of people. It's grown again, and before I do something rash and wipe out 3/4 of my friends list like I did last time, I'm going to attempt a cathartic list of annoyances. There are at least a few people (or 20+) in each of these groups. Again, not singling anyone out and in no particular order.

Bible quoters - Do they expect people to read a quote, have an epiphany, and ask them how to get closer to God?

Pyramid schemers - No, I don't want to go to your "party" and buy the useless crap you're hawking. I don't want to see your daily or even more frequent posts about how your chosen pyramid scheme has changed your life.

Political posts - I'm liberal, but I don't like seeing posts from either extreme. I'm not going to change anyone's mind politically; they're not going to change mine. I don't even find the ones that are intended to be funny as anything other than propaganda.

Selfies/pictures of your child 2+ times per day (only exception is before/after pics like hair cuts and other transformations) on a regular basis - I know, your child has done 12 cute things between breakfast and lunch. Put them in the baby book instead. As for selfies, print them out and line your bedroom with them instead. You'll soon have your dream of looking at yourself as much as you want. I think 2 selfies/kid pics per WEEK is a reasonable number, outside of a batch upload.

Perpetual pity party people - Crap happens to everyone, but when "woe is me" outnumber interesting observations/polls/neutral/happy posts, I wish I could send some Prozac virtually.

GoFundMes - Actually these are specific posts and not people, but they are annoying nonetheless. Yes, there is legitimate need out there. As a liberal, I think the government should play an active role in objectively determining need based on a rubric and re-distributing wealth. It's not a perfect system, but sorting through hundreds of sob stories is emotionally wearing, not productive, and makes me think of all of these questions that I'd like answered before I even consider giving money. For example, if someone is collecting money for legal fees to get custody of their kids, I want to know how custody was lost originally, the facts in that case, what has changed, is the person worthy of having custody, what's the other side of the story, etc.

Friday, July 17, 2015


I hope I'm not alone in that I sometimes wish I could hit the "redo" button in life. I say something stupid, I do something stupid, there's a litany of mistakes I make. Most of these are relatively minor things that occur throughout the course of a day.


One big thing I wish I could redo is my upbringing. Hit reset, plunk myself down as a baby into a very different environment (two-parent, stable home with traditional parents where mom makes me cookies and dad has a decent job and gives me a parent speech once in a while). I wonder if I'd be in a different place now and perhaps feel differently about my place in the world.


Both of my parents didn't talk much. My mom and dad divorced when I was very young. As I've stated before, he never got his act together; holding down a job and paying his car payment was too tough for him even though he lived at home rent-free. His parents spoiled him and weren't communicative; that's how he ended up like that. His origin story was easy to determine, especially since I experienced my dad's parents first-hand and my uncle was happy to fill in any gaps on how my dad was the "favorite child."


My mom's more complicated. My grandmother died before I was born, and my grandfather died when I was 5. He was great, as I remember. My mom has a lot of defenses built up. She will not admit to being wrong, and she becomes defensive at the slightest comment. She's over-the-top rigid about everything. For example, laundry. She folds her dirty clothes. She washes clothes on a specific day of the week at a specific time. If you call her and ask her to do something at laundry time, she won't go because it's laundry time, even though she hasn't started the laundry, and she has a washer and dryer in her home. She doesn't talk about feelings. She's extremely critical, and I always feel judged around her. And she's rather negative…about everything.


She's also not very generous--with compliments, time, money, the whole bit. If there's a way I could only pick one of the qualities I could unlearn from her, it would be this. She gives crappy, cheap gifts off the clearance rack most of the time. When I was young, I learned to have no expectations of gifts from her because it would be whatever was on the 80% off rack at Target. If someone calls her and asks to do something, she will make inane excuses like doing laundry she hasn't started yet. Or do that exaggerated sigh like you're putting her out. If you have a conversation with her, she will inevitably cut you down as well as many other people. When I was younger, she didn't want to pay for me to have a yearbook or even give me money for friends' birthday gifts before I could earn my own money. She gives 10% tips or less at restaurants even if the service is good. She only gets her hair cut when there are those $6 haircut deals at Great Clips, and then she gives a $1 tip off the $6 hair cut. That's my mom.


Full disclosure: She's giving most of her significant assets away to charity when she dies. THAT is generous, but I feel that there's something said for living a generous life and not just leaving a generous legacy.


I don't feel that I was particularly generous growing up mainly because my only model for such behavior was my mom. Compared to most "normal" people, I feel behind on the generous curve. I see my mother's ways and know that they are way too stingy. I think I've moved myself from where she raised me to a "better" place. I am frugal in many areas, but in others I try to be more "normal." I tip 18-25% at restaurants (rarely over 25% though). I may get the $6 hair cut deal, but depending on how much time they spend with me, I'll tip anywhere from $4-10 on it because I'm still saving money in aggregate, and they're getting a tip more commensurate with how much the hair cut would actually be. If people ask for help/have a question, I try to get back to them ASAP.  I try to be more deliberate about complimenting people, but I could probably be a whole lot better. I buy my daughter the school yearbook.


My mom's a big literal and figurative scorekeeper about life. I did this one favor for you, and now you owe me. And I'd say she gets resentful very easily if she thinks she's done more for you than you have for her. She taught me the scorecard, not explicitly but in her words and actions. And I now have that stupid scorecard in my head. I intellectually know it's meaningless and doesn't matter, but I can't get it out of my head. Scorekeeping isn't generous. It's not something I can just will to go away either.


So I work on the concept. My husband is very generous. My friends are generous. I have numerous examples of how I WANT to be. But 18 years of ingrained stinginess is difficult to eliminate. I just take the chisel and start picking away at it.


And then my mom will call and muck it all up. Seriously. She focuses on the "I'm being taken advantage of" element of everything.


She calls me. This was late last week, my most recent interaction with her. After very little in the way of formalities, she starts.

Mom: "I'm going to Anaheim for a conference in October. There are a lot of hotels we can stay at. Which one are you staying next month at Disneyland?"

Me: "Red Lion."

Mom: "Let me see. That one's $149 a night. Is that more or less than you're paying?"

Me: "I don't know." (I don't because I booked it on Expedia, and each night was a different price, long story but I did two different reservations.) "I think mine was a little bit less though."

Mom: "These conferences don't get good rates. I think they take advantage of so many people coming at the same time. I was thinking I could get a better rate if I booked it myself. But they told us not to do that…" Rant continues for a few more minutes as I glaze over.


We went on a mini vacation a couple months ago. I say where we're going, and her first statement is: "That's expensive." Actually, she says that about everything.


I need to quote more conversations with my mother. EVERYTHING she says revolves around money and things being too expensive. The implication seems to be that I should be like her and buy food from the dented can store, never do anything that costs money, never buy anything, and basically count my nickels daily like Ebeneezer Scrooge. Needless to say, it's not that enjoyable to hang out with her, and why I frequently think about that "redo" button on being raised by a more generous person/family.

Wednesday, July 8, 2015


I form attachments to useless items--worn, sad items that have absolutely no market value. But I'm not a hoarder, I swear, so it's an interesting contradiction. I still have my feather pillow from childhood, one that I can frankly pick out by smell alone because it's a really old feather pillow that you can't wash, but I still use it every day. In other words, it has an interesting fragrance. Other things I've actually parted with, either throwing away or giving away. Some of which I've regretted disposing of, and others weren't even mine in the first place.


I just read a fun book that was a collection of short excerpts with a picture of a piece of clothing and then the reason why that piece of clothing is so special to its owner. The sentimental part of me loves this kind of book that shows how people can be attached by memories to a piece of clothing.


So I wanted to do something like that. Unfortunately, I don't have pictures because I don't own them anymore…or never owned them.


Purple velcro sneakers - As a little kid (circa ages 6-7), I loved these sneakers. It was probably just because they were velcro and a cool shade of purple. I wore them with everything. I kept insisting I fit into them even after it was logistically impossible for my feet to fit into them. I literally cried when my mom threw them away. I think those shoes were my first love.


My first boyfriend's brown leather jacket - He always wore that leather jacket unless it was 90 degrees or warmer. I loved everything about it. It had an identifiable smell. My boyfriend smoked, but tried to hide it under waves of cologne, so it had a vaguely smoky, cologne-y, sweaty, intoxicating smell. I think my boyfriend loved all its storage space because he had just about everything in it, and consequently it had the weight of one of those lead coats they put on you at the dentist office to protect you from the X-rays. I always wondered what he carried around in that jacket, so I'd just watch--captivated--when he searched it. If I ever observed him rooting through his pockets for something, I'd see stray pieces of paper, a tiny memo book, pens, a utility knife, chapstick, things that he seemed much too old to be carrying (rocks he liked), and things he seemed too young to be carrying. His jacket was a study of him, complicated, jumbled, so close to me yet so out of reach. The collar of the jacket was slightly darker from his skin and body oils. It was so inextricably linked to him in my mind, and I wished I had it as a reminder of him.


His jacket also reminds me of kissing. We kissed so much while he was wearing that jacket. He liked to kiss, and it didn't matter where we were. We were on the bus for over an hour a day, we waited for the bus for a chunk of time, we had lunch together. We were one of those obnoxious PDA couples that spent over half their time in public kissing. It's still this odd automatic response that if I see a guy in a brown leather jacket, I feel an urge to kiss him, which could be a rather odd scene if I ever let myself go on automatic pilot.


Navy hoodie - I still own this hoodie, so I could supply a picture. I bought this in the late 90s toward the end of college after my five-year flannel shirt phase died down. The advantage of the flannel phase was that it covered my chest. Once I gave up the flannels, I was left with small shirts, relatively speaking, and I felt uncomfortable. So I went to Target, back when Target had the Honors brand, and bought this hoodie. I usually run hot, which meant I tried to get the thinnest hoodie because the purpose was to mainly disguise myself. I wore it…a lot…and now it's seriously stretched out from almost 20 years of wear. It's so stretched out that I have to zip it up most of the way; otherwise, it just falls off my shoulders. It's seen me through college classes, dating a few guys, it was what I'd wear after getting home from my first job, I wore it hiking, I wore it during my pregnancy (let's be honest, that's probably what stretched it out). It symbolizes the everyday-ness of life. I wasn't wearing it when anything "special" happened to me--after all, it's simply a hoodie and not appropriate for special occasions. Even so, it's experienced so much of my everyday life that I feel so very attached to it.



Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Podcast Reviews

Forgive my posting slump. I've been hunkered down in this occasional mode I get in, featuring weak social media presence, going to work and listening to podcasts with my headphones on while I work if I don't have a meeting, coming home and spending time with my little family, and reading. I think my social interaction was maxed out a few weeks ago. We threw my daughter two separate sleepover parties on two separate weekends. I know I need to get out of my unwilling-to-do-anything-that's-beyond-the-bare-minimum mode. This (upping my social media presence) is a little step in that direction.

On the bright side, I've been listening to more podcasts beyond just the four I used to listen to. I think most are pretty darn interesting. I should do a review of the ones I like and the ones I don't like all that much.

This American Life - This is the most popular podcast in the nation with 1 million downloads per week. By now I've listened to approximately 10 episodes. My original intent was to go back all the way to the 1995 archive when I started college and go through their 20 years of work. (Their initial schedule was very sporadic, so they actually have a do-able amount of episodes--about 500 hours of broadcasts in their archive over 20 years.) The themes they do are hit-or-miss, and sometimes even if the theme is good, the episode is lame. I am only in 1996-97 though. I suppose I don't "get it" because it's produced more like a variety show with dramatic readings, songs, and pieces that only vaguely relate to the theme. It's more of an "old-timey" radio throwback than educational, at least to me.

Mystery Show - This one is #2 in the nation after TAL, at least recently, and is a spin-off of TAL like Serial, which soared to fame and was many people's first dabble in podcasts. (As a side note, I wasn't that impressed by Serial since, in my opinion, there are other good true crime podcasts that actually have a resolution.) Mystery Show is a new podcast with only 5 episodes so far. What caught my eye was that as a new podcast it was so popular. I checked out the 5 episodes. Each podcast episode is a case, like Encyclopedia Brown back from my childhood, that she comes up with or one of her friends gives her. For example, she saw a vanity plate that said ILUV911 a few years ago and wants to know what it means. So she enlists her friends, her Twitter connections, and her detective skills to get to the bottom of these everyday mysteries. My example is representative of the cases, so the excitement factor is rather low, but it is a cute background discussion to listen to if you're working. I don't think it's worthy of being #2 in the nation, but it is a spinoff of TAL & TAL has a huge following.

WTF with Marc Maron - I find him an acerbic comedian and not laugh-out-loud funny like Sarah Silverman, but he interviews cool people (Obama) and is a fine interviewer. If it's someone I want to learn more about, I will tune in.

In Bed With Joan - RIP Joan Rivers. I really enjoyed this one where she interviewed comedians and entertainers. I really connected with her self-deprecating style and the way she would ask very personal questions. "Who did you hate working with on set?" A few would dodge the question, but most would actually answer! So sad there won't ever be more episodes of this one.

Nerdist - Chris Hardwick is a really good interviewer, and I enjoy his interviews with famous people, even the ones I don't know who the person is.

Freakonomics - I enjoy the intellectual, conversational take on real-life plights.

Sane Show - This is a health podcast that looks at the science research of diet and exercise. Bailor is a very passionate advocate of eating and exercising smarter, and, while his guests sometimes have different approaches, there is a solid theme throughout the episodes.

How Did This Get Made - This is a podcast about crappy movies. Each week is a different crappy movie. In looking through all of the episodes, I had only seen two of the movies they had reviewed out of 100 or so, so I downloaded those specific episodes. I enjoyed the podcast episodes I listened to although I noted that the three people tended to talk over one another. Their voices are easy enough to keep straight, but it can be a cacophony sometimes.

And then there are my old stand-bys:

Gilmore Guys -  Two twenty-something guys watch each episode of Gilmore Girls and comment. Kevin is especially passionate and opinionated about the show, and both are easy on the ears.

Best of Friends - I really don't know why I listen to this one. I don't really like the show Friends, and I'm not enamored by the production value of this podcast. But there is a strange chemistry among them: a lesbian from the South, a single straight guy trying to make it in Hollywood, and a married narcissist.

Savage Lovecast - I've listened to Dan Savage for decades. Sometimes he can be hard to take, and I don't listen to each episode. Rather, I go on small binges with him.

Kevin Smith podcasts - I actually listen to a lot of these. They can be repetitive and full of pot-induced tangents, but for some reason I really connect with his style and find his voice enchanting.

So that's what I've been up to. I've been listening. A lot.

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Take Down the Pyramid Scheme

Tis the season for your FB friends to hawk crap you don't need and invite you into pyramid schemes.

I think I last lamented this a couple of years ago. Now we've got a fresh new crop of women (rarely men, let's be honest) with dollar signs in their eyes. If they only sell 2,500 units of overpriced crap, they can score a car ... or a lifetime supply of whatever crap they're hawking.

I'm not opposed to the entrepreneurial spirit. What I'm opposed to are companies who start pyramid scheme models and the tactics they use to reel in the suckers. Usually the victims are stay-at-home moms who fall for the spiel about how much money they will rake in throwing parties (who doesn't want to go to a party?!) at other people's houses.  They end up blowing a tremendous amount of money on start-up kits, rarely if ever break even, and annoy all their friends on Facebook with their constant sales pitches. From my perspective, I hate the constant emails, seeing all of their posts promoting the products, and the barrage of evites to "parties."

I feel like I gave a comprehensive list last time of the various pyramid schemes people are hawking ... without the names of the schemes attached. There have been some new ones, or at least new to me, in the past couple of years.

3D mascara
Nail products (who knew?)
Some stupid weight loss patch with vitamin supplements
Noxious oils
Gourmet chocolate (M&Ms are more my speed anyway)
Fancy schmancy skin products (all the cool moms at the school use it!)
Expensive costume jewelry (why???)

Then add the mainstay pyramid schemes of candles, makeup, body wraps, baskets, etc.

My philosophy is to not give pyramid schemes any money so they have a lower chance of survival. Heartless? Yes. Take down the pyramid scheme!

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

My view on parenting

For most of my life, I've been "eh" about most things. Of course, I have my personal political views (left), but I try not to talk about them outside of my husband and work--both of which think the same way I do. I don't find it a productive use of time to talk about them elsewhere. But for the most part, I'm not opinionated on most things. To each his or her own. Now if a friend is about to do something stupid, I might say something ("Have you thought about looking at it this way?"). If someone asks my advice, I might give advice.

I find it interesting that one area where I definitely have opinions is parenting. I have rather deep, passionate opinions on how to raise my child. I recognize that my way might not be the "right" way, and all parents are trying to raise happy, successful children. There are many paths to take to get there; I realize that.

My parents were lackluster in certain areas (aren't all parents?), but my mother was superlative in others. She raised me to be very resourceful and completely independent (not sure that was by design) with a strong work ethic. I follow through on the commitments I make with rare exception, and I try to be very reliable. Upon entering the work world, I realized how rare these qualities are in a world where people drop out at the last minute, miss deadlines, are unorganized to the point of not reading important emails, etc. My motto of "show up prepared," which I thought was a given for everyone, isn't universally practiced. And I think a huge part of where I am today is because I show up prepared, far more than any skills I have. While I probably don't need to raise my daughter to be as independent as I am, I think it's important to instill a strong work ethic and reliability for the dividends it will pay in her life. So I am a bit…overzealous when it comes to that.

I don't believe in monetary/"thing" rewards. I try to instill that the psychological feeling of success is better than getting money or "things" for accomplishments. For instance, she has weekly spelling words at school. Some parents give their kids money or toys if they got all their words right, especially back in the beginning of the year. I thought to myself that it would be a difficult weekly reward to maintain, and wasn't the goal for her to enjoy learning for the sake of learning instead of for the reward? So I'm the parent who says "good job" and that's it.

The new thing seems to be surprising your kids with a vacation (perhaps to that huge moneymaker that starts with a "D") and missing school. Parents are renting billboards (I kid you not) to announce the surprise to their kids. To each his or her own, I say.

With a bit of trepidation, we're going to that "D" place in August. She has started asking about it since so many of her friends have gone, and I do think she's old enough to really enjoy it. Why crowded August? Because I do not want to show her by my actions that missing school is acceptable to me. Sure, if her grandparent was on his or her deathbed or something like that, of course I'd make an exception because I do want to role model that people are more important than school. And as for announcement? We told her earlier this week that we're going in August. I'm looking forward to the anticipation she'll experience in the coming months, and we'll look at the park map and plan what order we'll see things in. She'll be part of the process. She's put the date on her calendar, and we're telling her that we'll be staying with family for part of it, and we're staying on the property for some of it. This is how I approach the whole thing, which is far different from how most other parents approach it. And that's okay.  

Friday, April 17, 2015

On Marriage

Now that my friend is married and has driven off into the sunset (or Oregon), I have slightly recovered from the whole bridesmaid experience and have had some time to reflect on marriage.

I didn't want to get married when I was little. I envisioned a life of work, a few girlfriends and dating. Perpetual dating -- with a new guy every few months. And then I got married when I just turned 22, go figure.

Marriage is one of those common words that we use for something so universally different. My marriage with my husband is completely different than it would be with anyone else. His marriage with me is different than it would be with anyone else. "Marriage" sounds like it's in this exclusive club, which it isn't. I think "marriage" can be synonymous for any long-term relationship.

I didn't have any words of advice for the bride. I've been married for 15 years, and I couldn't come up with anything. How can I give her words of advice when she's in a unique relationship? Although hers is more complicated because he has two children from a prior marriage. There are things she will have to navigate that are legitimately more difficult. I'm not sure she has really wrapped her head around the concept that she's a stepmother to these kids, and that will truly be a learning experience. Parenthood is complicated enough without being dropped in the middle of it when the kids are already in grade school.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Thoughts Soon

Slammed at work. Wedding prep has been taking up the rest of my time.

Hope to get caught up on work and will be back soon.

Sunday, March 29, 2015

Monday, March 23, 2015

Greetings from Yakima

I'm in Yakima right now for work. Sitting in a hotel that actually is right on the river. Last night my room was so hot that I opened the sliding glass door and heard the rush of the river all night long. Tonight it's rather cold, and i closed the  sliding glass door. The adjoining room's tv drowns out the river noises tonight.

My time here has been rather intense. A quiet 3 hour drive over here, though, which was nice. I have taken a couple of walks by myself. When so many people ordinarily want things from me, I find it nice to have time to myself, even if it's merely sneaking away to take a walk. There's not nearly enough alone time anymore.  I know at some point I will crave the companionship I am right now forced to have, but right now at this point in my life I am exhausted by everyone's neediness.

I can't wait for this dang wedding to be over. Every dang week it's something. I can't wait to finally cross it off in its entirety. This weekend is the bachelorette party. Guess who has to make the erotic cake? I'm dreading the actual party because drunk women going to male  strip shows in the city just isn't my thing. I'm such a curmudgeon. Buff guys with baby oil don't do anything for me. I am truly attracted to a guy's intelligence and thoughts, and I don't understand how you can have a substantive conversation at a noisy bar. Yes, I'm a curmudgeon.

Intellectually I know that I will miss these experiences when I'm older. When I have more time than things to do, I'll reminisce over these times when I wish I could replicate myself. For now, though, I'm tired and feel like I don't do justice to any of the things I'm responsible for. I see every request, whether it be a party, a work invitation or even an email as One. More. Thing.

I was hoping to use this work event as a pseudo vacation. Looks like it's not working. :/

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Anniversary and Weddings

Today is my 15th wedding anniversary. It seems strange to me that it's been that long. I can remember it like it was yesterday. In a blink of an eye 15 years have passed. I also have that same feeling about graduating high school (20 years this year...gulp) and college (if I use my second graduation, 17 years). Maybe it's because I've worked in the same place for the last 15 years (and lived in only two houses) that it's felt like I've been stuck in time. But I haven't. Time has moved on, actually quite expediently.

What's interesting is that my good friend is getting married in 6 weeks. Being a bridesmaid I'm going through all that wedding "stuff" all over again. I don't miss it. I didn't enjoy wedding preparations the first go around, and experiencing it this time again (even if it's vicariously) isn't all that exciting either. The other weddings I've been a part of have been very low-key.

Here are some of the bridesmaid duties:
Dress selection
Dress fittings
Organizing Shower 1
Shower 1
Organizing Shower 2
Shower 2
Accompanying bride on wedding chores
Bachelorette party (I'm really, really dreading that in a few weeks--guess who gets to make a dirty cake?)
Rehearsal dinner
The 18 hour ordeal that is the wedding - prep, calming bride, trying not to trip in the long dress/high heels combo, pictures, ceremony, reception
I'm probably supposed to come up with a speech.

This is what I learned from my wedding: Elope.

This is what I am re-learning from this experience: Elope.

Just elope.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

The S Word

When I was younger, I knew someone who committed suicide. I actually dated him, but it happened a little over a year after we stopped dating. There were signs while we were dating. A lot of signs although I didn't know that at the time. As soon as I found these signs, I was uncomfortable because I knew something was wrong and didn't know if my loyalties should be to keep his secrets or to get him help by telling someone. I confided to a friend of mine, but she misconstrued the whole thing as I was in danger. I wasn't ever in danger; he was purely a threat to himself. A few times I lingered around his mom, hoping she would ask about him so that I could casually mention what was going on in such a way that it wouldn't be me ratting him out but would raise her alert. Toward the end of our relationship, things were so messy (his drug use, his cutting, his gun, his new group of friends, my intolerance for all of his behaviors) that I basically walked out. We were young. He was 19, I was 16. I wanted someone who knew his place in the world as well as had all of his good qualities, and I didn't have the energy to put into a relationship that was such a struggle. I still carry a lot of guilt about him, particularly at that point. After our relationship was over, I could have told his mom what I knew, which I know wasn't everything but it was a good chunk. I would have been seen as the bitter ex-girlfriend by him even if I said the truth. At that point, I just wanted him to get help because he needed more than I could give. I didn't ever say anything beyond that one time I said too much to that one friend. I never broached my concerns with his mom.

I approach the subject of suicide with that past experience of regret and guilt. Fortunately, no one close to me has committed suicide since. One of my husband's family members committed suicide a year or so ago. It was the son of a cousin he hadn't seen in 20 years, and I don't think he'd ever met the boy. And the whole thing was kept hush hush, don't talk about it. So we didn't.

In October one of my friends on Facebook lost her son to suicide. I actually haven't ever met her; she's the sister of one of my friends, and she lives several states away. She has never acknowledged that he died by suicide--just that her son died suddenly. Being one who takes comfort in facts/things that can be verified, I sleuthed around to try to understand the general context of what happened so I can understand. Maybe I don't need to understand why a senseless death occurred, but something in me feels compelled to learn and at least try to understand. Maybe what happened so long ago (almost 20 years now) is catching up with me.

What I have pieced together: C was a senior in high school. He went shopping with his mom for a tux on a Sunday in October to wear to Homecoming the next week. C was a wrestler and on the football team. On Tuesday morning he was found dead. A tape produced by a pastor the next day addressed the recent suicide in that town. C's profile picture on Facebook when he died was him holding a rifle. On C's Facebook timeline a few posts said they were confused about why he did it. Even when I search right now, his obituary reads "passed away unexpectedly."

That is all I know. And I know there were commemorative tattoos, candlelight vigils, gifts given to the family, sadness. But as for the circumstances (his mental health, how it happened, why it happened), there has been so very little revealed.

Being a mother myself now, the guilt his mother is going through has to be tremendous. I'm presuming here, but I would think that the mother constantly reflects to that day she took her son to the mall to get a tux. She had him to herself for a couple of hours only a few days before he did it. He had to know he was going to do it by then. Yet he went through the motions of getting the tux with his mom. What did they talk about that day? Was she in "mom" mode where she's trying to get ready for her work week, checking things off her errand list, and not really paying attention to what was going on? Or was she intensely talking with him? Did she have any gut feeling that her son was in a bad place? For all I know, he could have been seeking some sort of professional help for several years.

There's so much I don't know. I want to be a good mother to my daughter and friend to others. I don't want to be in a situation where someone I care about makes such a drastic, permanent decision without me trying to help in some way. I feel like understanding more will help me help others. Hearing others share their stories would be so helpful. It's such a taboo subject, and I have a lot to learn.

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Spelling Bee

I screwed up. I screw up all the time, but I especially hate when I make a regrettable, possibly long-lasting parent decision.


As a way of background, I was more academic than athletic when I was a kid.  This can be attributed to: 1) I’m not a natural athlete except for being a little bit more limber than the average person, 2) my mom wasn’t supportive of athletics, and 3) I moved a lot when I was younger so I couldn’t participate because I didn’t have transportation and I didn’t have consistent coaching.


I found my niche though. I liked to read and play video games.  I liked to spend time outside on my bike. I learned things quickly at school. One thing I really enjoyed was spelling. If I saw a word once (or maybe twice), I could recall how to spell it.  So when the annual school spelling bee occurred wherever I was living at the time, I usually did pretty well. In 5th grade I actually won the school spelling bee, despite the school going up to 6th grade and despite being put in an English as a Second Language class when I transferred to the school.


Last year when J was in kindergarten they publicized her school’s spelling bee. Each grade would have their own set of words, though, and it wouldn’t be as Hunger Games-ish as when I was in school with all grades competing against one another.


Here’s where I screwed up. I had kept the little certificate I had gotten from being the school spelling bee winner and the follow-up certificate because I represented the school in the district spelling competition (and lost).  I showed these to J. And she was amazed. Like her eyes got all big and she was so impressed. You would have thought I had won a real award that actually counts in life rather than a silly certificate.


She was bummed when she didn’t win her class spelling bee last year. She said she would never be as good of a speller as I was, and there might have been tears and further beating herself up about it. I tried to blow it off. After all, she was in KINDERGARTEN! She tried her best, and all I wanted was for her to try. She was 5 freaking years old, and there is absolutely no expectation that she be a world-class speller. Needless to say, she took it hard.


Now she’s in first grade. The spelling bee is a month or two away, and this little girl wants to make me proud by winning the spelling bee. It breaks my heart. I love her determination, but the way she says it is like she will be disappointing me if she doesn’t win. That’s totally not true. I keep telling her that I just want her to try her best. I don’t want her bar for her actions to be to avoid disappointing me. It kills me that she is searching for my approval. She needs to live her life on her terms. I don’t want her to base her actions and decisions on me. I might have an occasional insight or two, but I wholeheartedly want her to develop to be her own person who can navigate life without me.


I try to be a reflective parent, and sometimes that can mean obsessing about little things, like this one comment out of context. I do think what she said is a symptom of something bigger, which could be that I’m one of her main role models and her reliance on my approval given her age. Maybe that reliance will loosen as she gets older. I want to tell her that it really only matters what she thinks of herself. If she tries her best, then she should be proud of her effort, regardless what it is. If she doesn’t try her best, then be honest about it and own it (don’t make excuses).  As of right now, I’ve just been sticking to the standard “try your best” and “check your work” lines. One problem she has is doing homework quickly and making mistakes that could have been caught if she had checked her work before saying she was done. It’s a good life lesson, and many adults don’t check their work.


As a side note, I think I understand why a lot of people really enjoy being a parent. You are a god in the child’s life, at least when they’re young. That’s an incredible ego boost. And someone as anxious as myself is wondering why on earth a kid would look to me as a role model. Most days I’m a nanosecond away from becoming unglued. And then I look at my daughter, who is even more anxious than I am. Like the world needs a mini version of me!! Aaarggh!

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Parenting is fascinating

Parenting is fascinating. Keep in mind that this is coming from the type of person that wasn't passionate either way about kids. Growing up I didn't think to myself, "I must be a mother." I also didn't think to myself, "No kids for me." I was kind of eh about the whole thing. I would say that I'm "eh" about too many aspects of my life, but that's a different problem.

My ambivalence toward the concept of having children mutated once I had one, and I firmly became "heck no to more kids" after my daughter was born. She was a miserable baby, and I absolutely detested staying home with her all day. She screamed 80% of the time, and the other 20% of the time she looked at the world (and me) with scorn. She didn't eat. She didn't sleep. I had never sucked so much at anything in my life, which was extremely demoralizing. There was no way I wanted a repeat, and frankly I don't need to see my genetics. If I do desire another kid for some crazy reason, I could always be a foster parent or adopt. My husband was equally traumatized by my daughter, and we are both in alignment on the whole issue.

I'd say by the age of 2, my daughter started to adjust to the world. Now she's 6, and for the most part she's delightful. But the trauma of her being 2 hours old to 2 years old was so severe that 4 years of delight do not make up for the 2 years of agony.

What has surprised me the most is that after how much I struggled those first two years, things have been smooth sailing since we got over that purely awful hump. Part of that is likely that she is a decent kid. She's not the type of kid that routinely makes stupid decisions. No, she's the kid who will watch several people do the stupid thing, and make the decision for herself if she will do it or not--most likely, she won't do it. She doesn't succumb to peer pressure. Maybe she's still too young, or maybe she lives in her own little world too much. It's hard to say.

As I've mentioned before, I wasn't coddled as a kid. Part of it is that I grew up just before the group of kids who all got trophies for showing up. Back in my school days, only a few trophies were given out, and you had to earn them. Another part of it is that my mom was not a coddler, and she made me figure things out on my own. My main goal was getting out of the house as quickly as possible, so it all hinged on having employable job skills and a good education. Probably from sixth grade on I was focused on my home exit strategy. Why was that my main goal? "It's complicated", like that vague, intriguing Facebook relationship status.

I realize that I need to coddle my daughter a little more than I was. For one, society has changed, and things my mom could get away with when parenting me (e.g.,  leaving me home alone at the age of eight, having me walk home almost two miles from school, etc.) simply will not fly anymore. For another, some of the things my mom did/didn't do just weren't right. BUT she did instill in me a resourcefulness and a work ethic that are reasonably high, and I want my daughter to have those attributes.

Back to my thesis: Parenting is fascinating.