Monday, November 28, 2011


Whitewashing, a centuries-old chore of priming your to-be-painted surfaces, painting outdoor surfaces with a low-cost and temporarily effective paint, is a colloquialism that has evolved to mean a kind of window-dressing. Just as you could decide, instead of paying the money to paint your fence, to just whitewash it, you may decide, instead of investing in a quality plan to execute, to just do the minimum and hope no one notices.

[Blank]washing has not yet taken on nearly the level of buzzword status of as [Blank]gate (Watergate, Nipplegate, Rathergate, Weinergate) but in light of a lot of tepid do-gooder efforts, maybe it's time.

We've heard of greenwashing - Wal-mart has been accused of hyping its not-all-that-impressive efforts at sustainability even as negative aspects of its track record go unaddressed.

But over at In These Times, Josh Eidelson takes Starbucks to task for a different kind of [Blank]washing - selling little bracelets, and donating proceeds to businesses or non-profits in the hopes they will hire some more people. (Eidelson is a former co-worker who, in the interest of full disclosure, is awesome.) You should read the article to get the gist, but I guess you could call Starbucks' program Recoverywashing or Charitywashing, or maybe just Goodwashing.

A lot of things bother me about Starbucks' approach. I think what most infuriates me is that, in my memory, these types of bracelets originated with cancer awareness. It wasn't that you got a yellow, purple, red, pink or white bracelet and huffed around like you had done your part. It was a call to do more. Starbucks' bracelets are a way to say, "Yep, $5 with my AM coffee is enough."

Another message I get an earful of that troubles me is "Oh, at least Starbucks is doing something about the recession." No. What is actually happening is that you are essentially paying into a slush fund of a company that has taken over its market and whose success has driven others out of business. You are giving your money for a company to give to a company of their own choosing. Why not choose yourself? Why not take that $5 and buy something at a business you support on Etsy or Kickstarter? Or buy your coffee at a local place and pump money into the business of someone who could be your neighbor, or your kids' classmates' family?

I'll be interested to see who bites and gets the bracelet. Meanwhile, I'm excited to try Blessed Coffee for my next caffeinated treat. No bracelets there, at least.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Tonight's Wikipedia K-Hole

Sometimes I get sucked in. Tonight's meanderings:

Mad Max 2 : The Road Warrior

Some nights, I will do this for hours and it usually involves European Royalty and/or Scary Stories. Tonight: both.

Ugh, I will NEVER finish Master of the Senate, and LBJ Vol. 4 is coming out in May, what am I doing with my life, good night.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

A Compendium of #OWS Backlash

Note: this is a "rolling" post. I'll probably add to this as I come across articles that hit home for me.

When all other forms of government redress fail, civil disobedience is a noble option, in my mind. I support the Occupy movement. What impresses me most of all is that while the movement seems organic, enormous, and leaderless (I write that word with no implied value), there has been a remarkably peaceful tone to it. I haven't heard any confirmed reports of violence perpetrated by the protestors.

The movement's opponents, however, to be getting really ugly. And it seems that the movement is its only ally. Government and media seem to have seized on whatever negative aspects of the movement they can, and have attempted to do it harm.

Some friends, journalists, bloggers, and others have posted or linked to really insightful pieces on the backlash to the Occupy movement. I'm compiling those here:

This sums up the police element for me.
This sums up the press element for me. Specifically, "bold political protesters abroad, stupid criminal hippies at home."

Friday, October 21, 2011

The Power (?) of Num nums

Please go read this brilliant piece right now, because it is so very spot on, and covers so many situations.

I scream-laughed. It is that good.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Truth and Consequences

As I grew up, always an annoying little question-asking gunner, I realized that my dad often made up answers out of convenience.

10-year-old me: "Dad, what's 'rape?' "
Dad: "It's when someone gets attacked.

12-year-old me: "How many years is a generation?"
Dad: "35 years."

me a few minutes later: "How many is 'a few?' "
Dad: "3."

me a few minutes after that: "How many is 'several?' "
Dad: "4."

14-year-old me: "What's the boundary between [two towns we grew up near]?"
Dad: "Your friend Kate's house."

The other day I was eavesdropping/listening to two kids on the train peppering their beleaguered parents with questions. I noticed that the parents refused to answer questions unless asked twice. E.g.

Kid: "Dad, why aren't we moving?"
Dad: [silence]
Kid: "Dad, why aren't we moving?"
Dad: "There's a train in front of us."

Kid: "Dad, where is Grandma's house?"
Dad: [silence]
Kid: "Dad, where is Grandma's house?"
Dad: "It's in California."

Granted, these questions were pretty easy to handle. But given the low energy level of these parents, I can only imagine how much more exhausted they would get if asked more challenging questions like "How does the train move," or "Why doesn't Grandma live with us."

For that next-level annoyance, I would highly recommend my Dad's patented strategy of making up simple, but false answers to hard questions, and delivering them with utmost confidence. "The train moves when the engineer kicks it." '"Grandma doesn't live with us because she is afraid of snow." I see nothing going wrong with these answers.

Too bad no one at work understands why, when they ask me for "a few copies," I make 3.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Laundry as Metaphor

I'm a person who always likes to just get things done. I do not procrastinate - I desperately want chores and tasks in my rear-view mirror so I can move on to more fun things, or relax. "Don't let the perfect be the enemy of the good" is one of my mottos.

One thing I struggle with is the idea that laundry, a classic chore if there ever was one, never ends. I repeat: laundry never ends. You can finish a basement, you can clean a floor, and those results will last a little while before you have to revisit them. However, laundry needs to be done every few days around these parts. If there are dog or child accidents, then every day.

Laundry falls into my section of the old division o' labor around these parts. I don't mind it. It's easy to sort and drop things into the wash. What I hate is folding. But what's tricky about this chore is that even as you are folding your stupid underwear for the fifty millionth time, you still have dirty laundry in your hamper.

Laundry used to be easy. Me and Mike. We are not that dirty. Then came a dog. Then came a baby. There's no way around it. Two of us have occasional accidents; three of us wear clothes, so our things get dirty, we need to wash them, so we need to dry them, then fold them, then put them away. Then wear them again.

As a person who likes order and finality, I've finally accepted the fact that I never really "finish" laundry. I finish "a load" of laundry.

It's frustrating to continuously have laundry on my to-do list, but it's also a blessing. To me, having lots of laundry is a testament to the fact that our home is dynamic and full of life and activity. Laundry seems banal, but it's also a sign of life.

Por ejemplo. Yesterday we went apple-picking and our daughter's clothes got dirty and apple-y, as they should have - children need to get dirty. Then we strapped her into the carseat and it was hotter than expected, so I let her play with an open bottle of water. Surprise, surprise, she had poured an entire bottle on herself at our next stop. We then changed her out of her wet clothes and took her to an ice cream parlor. Ice cream. More mess. But as they say - bless this mess.

So I still don't love laundry or anything. But I do know why it's endless - because we make an effort to live a messy, full, fun life. It's now my pleasure to accept that fact. Sometimes that means that I can't have the finality I like when it comes to chores. But given the choice between just the two of us and all four of us, it's no contest.

Now if you'll excuse me, I have to go take those very clothes out of the dryer and... well, you know the drill.

Monday, September 19, 2011

DC Pride: French Names We Pronounce Wrong On Purpose in Descending Order of Inaccuracy

I never noticed this till I moved back here, but we D.C.-area folk sure do love naming stuff after French people and places and subsequently pronouncing those words terribly.

5. L'Enfant: "La-FAHNT"
4. Gallaudet: "Gal-ya-DETT"
3. Chantilly: "Shann-TILL-ee"
2. Grosvenor: "Grove-nur"
1. Dupont: "DOO-PAHNT"

What'd I miss?


My mother once told me that she refuses to give to domestic charities.

Her reasoning is that she advocates, through election work as a private citizen, through campaign donations, and through her vote, for government programs to help U.S. residents living in poverty and among disaster. Welfare, tax credits, these are the things that should take care of our people. As a patriotic lady, she believes that our nation is too great to be expected to toss people out into the street to depend on the largesse of private citizens.

By contrast, she reasons, we don't vote in, say, Haiti, Peru, the Phillippines. There are places around the world where residents more badly off, and where we have less pressure to apply. Giving to international charities that do good work is really our way to help people there in a meaningful way from afar.

I'm coming around to her line of thinking. There's much vitriol these days about how government isn't supposed to be a "charity," but why not? If there's anything we should be using our tax dollars for, in my opinion, it's homelessness, starvation, lack of access to heat and energy. And also health care, but that's a story for another post, I guess.

So I think I am going to take that tack for the time being. Donate abroad, fight domestically.

I'll be taking tee-shirt orders shortly.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Culture Shock - The 'Burbs

Okay, we moved and are kind of settled. Humming along in some semblance of a routine. But hello, culture shock!

West Philly and the 'Burbs are two very different worlds.

It's funny because I grew up in the suburbs, so it's silly to call this culture shock. On the other hand, I've never lived here as an adult - always, always lived in big cities - so there are so many things I never noticed as a little kid going about my kid-business. Some differences are big important stuff, but most differences I've noticed so far comprise little stupid stuff, like what people wear.

West Philly
Economically and racially diverse
Walk around the corner=restaurants!
Lady commuters: heels, sandals
Teeny urban gardens - cukes, thyme
Walk everywhere, actually. Can I emphasize this more?
Apartment mailboxes with teeny mail keys
Leaning out the window, front porch


Um...Racially diverse
Walk nowhere to get waited on. Transit and car 4eva
Lady commuters: flops, sneaks (I reject this. Flats.)
Sprawling lawns & beautiful gardens with everything
Stoops, corners, parks Porches, median strips, parks
Backyard! Front Porch! Back Porch!

Oh I love you both, West Philly and the 'Burbs. Is there some way I can combine you two into the perfect neighborhood? Why must I choose?

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Moving Day

I love this freakin' town. I went to college here, and by the grace of God and my husband's hard work and fancy brain full of book smarts, we ended up getting to hang out here for a few years. I'm excited about moving, but packing has been sentimental. You know, "Mike was sitting over here when he got his job offer," and "remember when we put up our first adult sized Christmas tree by that window." And don't get me started on the baby memories: first sink bath, first tub bath, first food, first tossing sippy-cups off of her high-chair, etc., etc., ahhh.

Still, the process is cathartic and important. We need to move, we're moving to an awesome place with terrific family and friends, and it's been a great ride. I don't believe in "closure," but I do believe in wallowing in your thoughts for a little while as a way to help get through a busy, life-altering situation. So in honor of our big move today and tomorrow, and before we lose our Philadelphia internet forever, here are the top five things I won't miss about Philly, followed by the top five things I will miss:

WON'T miss

5. Nutty drivers
4. Our new wingnut U.S. Senator
3. Working from home every day
2. The terribly-maintained roads in my poor, neglected nabe
1. The Philadelphia Parking Authority

WILL miss

5. T-Mac and Sarge and watching the Phils on cable
3. St. Mary's Episcopal Church and the fellowship of its terrific parishioners
2. Clark Park, including the delightful Farmers Market
1. All the people I've met and grown close to in the past two years. (You know who you are.) I'll see them less often but I know I will correspond with them, travel to see them sometime soon, and think of them fondly every day.

Pharewell, Philly.

Monday, August 8, 2011

Whose Time Is It Anyway?

I'll be blunt: I wish 100% of my time outside of 9-5 Monday through Friday were my own and my family's.

Before having a baby, I was kind of a live-to-work person. I thrived on working hard and being competitive at work. Now, I'm about 50-50 work-to-live/live-to-work. I am still driven to work hard, but I like to get everything done in 40 hours a week when possible to maximize my time with my daughter, and I have no need to prove my might to anyone at work anymore. I stress out when work demands that I take calls during the two hours a day I get to play with her. I groan at calls to my blackberry on the weekends.

I have tried to make my baby schedule clear to everyone I work with, but I can't expect my colleagues to memorize my schedule and sometimes I get sheepish calls on off-hours, or non-sheepish ones. Recently I had to choose between rocking my daughter to sleep and joining a conference call. I ended up doing both, and handling it superbly if I do say so myself. I still felt consumed with mama guilt and work guilt even though I was doing both things.

Sometimes I have to put my foot down and ignore a call or refuse a conference call invitation. The underlying message is: whose time is it anyway? The idea of "company time," being paid for a service you're delivering and the hours you put in, is obsolete. White collar jobs do not disappear when we go home at 5, 6, 7. We are Blackberried and emailed to the hilt, and it's up to us to determine what we can tolerate and what we're willing to risk to draw that line.

I came across a depressing little trend piece about the "workcation" where you basically go somewhere and work, maybe hit the pool for an hour and go out to dinner.

No. Absolutely not. This is not okay with me.

This whole work-life balance issue has been on my mind a lot lately since our own vacation is behind us. I am no psychologist, but I believe that the human body needs time to rest and recharge, and I'm not just talking about going to sleep. Humans need to retreat from the workaday world for a while, hang out with family, get lost in leisure, let someone else cover a client or a project. We can reciprocate with our fellow employees when it is their turn to get lost. A slogan for the 8-hour work week was 8 hours work, 8 hours rest, and 8 hours what we will. 8 hours what we will every day! Nice, right? In reality, it's likely something like 11-hours work, 6-hours rest, 2-hours stressing about work, 2-hours commuting, 3-hours what we will (preparing and cleaning up meals, and watching a Phils game, basically).

When I go on vacation, I like to disappear. It may not be possible for the project I'm currently assigned to, so I may need to take a few calls and do a little computer work, but I say a firm "no" to the idea of going to a beautiful destination and ignoring your family and the view. It's just not for me, and I don't think it's healthy or fair. Life is too short (and childhood too precious) to spend vacations with your mind (or your parents' minds) in constant contact with work.

And it's really hard to insist on that that these days with all the ways in which employers use advances in technology to creep in on our personal time and insist that we all be accessible 24/7, and at the same time laying people off and not creating any jobs. It's a risk. It may cost me my job, but I say "no." No to "workcations." Yes to claiming my own time, determining for myself how I spend it, and hanging out with my family on my own time.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

As Blog Is My Witness, I Will Never Go Hangry Again

In my quest to be healthier, I've found myself hungrier. My problem is simple: overeating. Calories in, calories out.

Obviously I can't eat as much as I would like to, so sometimes bad things happen. Spefically this: when I get hungry, I get angry. Hungry and Angry. You know. "Hangry." Suffering from - hanger?

I get soft. I lose my mojo. I get lightheaded sometimes, which is how I know when I really need to eat. But mostly grumpy.

Fights are picked. Barbs are tossed. Soft household objects are thrown. Oh, what am I doing talking in the passive voice, I am the one doing these things. Who suffers? Me and anyone around me. Mike, coworkers, small woodland creatures - you name it.

It's okay to be hungry for a little bit. I can't possibly cover this concept better than the fabulous Sheryl did a while back.

I need to find a way to control this, and I am putting this out to all four of you readers out there - I will find a way to get my emotions under control as I get healthier. I believe that willpower is a muscle and the more I exercise it, the better I will get at it. When I start feeling rage, I will sit down and count to ten. Or do square breathing (in for four seconds, hold for four seconds, out for four seconds, hold for four seconds).

No more (wire?) hanger(s)! EVERRRR!

Friday, July 22, 2011

Making a Home

In 2004, at the tender age of 23, I set off from my childhood home in a U-Haul, with my earthly belongings and also with four of my mother's muffin tins, for some reason. The move was driven by two things: my conviction in the value of getting a masters degree, and a leap of faith in my boyfriend.

We had picked out a two-bedroom in an apartment complex in Ann Arbor. The complex had a big artificial pond in the back, which captured our dumb little imaginations. "A fake lake! Let's lay down that security deposit," we basically said to ourselves. We arrived at 10:00 PM. I picked a fight with him because there was goose poop outside the back door, which I resented because I had expected him to roll out the red carpet - I was making a leap of faith and he makes me step on goose poop? Come on! We unloaded our boxes and collapsed. We spent the week unpacking and fighting. We adjusted to living together for the first time. We "did" grad school. We had a terrible housewarming party. We argued constantly about cleaning up, about laundry, about communicating, about school, our extra-curricular activities, expectations.

In 2005, we got tired of the apartment management losing our checks and moved to another, cheaper two-bedroom in a complex across town. We wondered why we hadn't moved in there in the first place. That move was wise, but ill-planned. We drove a Budget truck from one apartment to the other at least a dozen times. There were so many loose items and forgotten possessions; we had been too lazy and exhausted to really plan our packing.

Immediately after moving across town, we adopted a dog that we brought home to that new apartment and fretted over constantly. Is she okay? Does she like it here? Are we good dog parents? The complex had free breakfast on Wednesday. We lived on a street called Wisteria the year Desperate Housewives premiered. In winter of that academic year, my live-in boyfriend proposed marriage to me. I accepted and we became each other's "fiancés" - well, I guess he was the "fiancé" and I was the "fiancée." I graduated and took a job in another city, partially because I felt passionately about the work, but looking back, I suspect that, in a part of my brain I don't like to go to often, there was a desire for him to make a leap for me the way I felt I had for him.

I drove a car with only what I needed to a sublet in Providence and started working. He stayed in the Ann Arbor apartment and took on a roommate. I had moved away, but he had most of our stuff. I slept on an air mattress first in a Manhattan sublet, then in a Weehawken apartment shared with a college friend. I had almost no stuff. It was both awesome and horrible to have almost no stuff.

I wondered if our engagement would last. We fought on the phone, across mountains and cornfields and millions of other people, long-distance. Who was making a bigger effort? What effort needed to be made? When are we actually getting married? Why do I have to live such a Spartan existence? When are you moving out here so I can live like a 21st century person? Why didn't we make a clearer plan?

We visited each other. I surprised him with a winter visit. I unknowingly ate his roommate's snacks. We set a wedding date. The weather got warmer. My first spring in New York was ripe with hope and excitement and fun. We picked out an apartment for when he would move out to join me. I lost a bunch of weight. We had conversations about why we pushed each other's buttons, how difficult of a time we were both having living apart, how we were both going to work harder and be more selfless.

When the 2006-2007 academic year ended, he packed up our things and moved the dog and himself to live with me in Brooklyn. I could continue working at the same job and he could "do" grad school remotely. I thought I would be smugly satisfied - "finally, we are on equal footing. He made a leap, a sacrifice, for me." But really I was just so, so happy. We vowed never to do long distance again.

A two-bedroom apartment and my share of an apartment with my friend had to be condensed into a one-bedroom. So many things we had bought together had to be escorted out of the place. A dining room table was left on our sidewalk and taken away the next day. A donated couch and armchair were re-donated. Bare essentials remained - we were New Yorkers now. We got married that fall. He got a part-time job that allowed him to interact with other humans while completing his PhD. He wrote his dissertation and we watched all five seasons of "The Wire" in two weeks. Our dog loved New York. She developed an attitude.

In 2009, my husband got his PhD. He accepted a job offer from a university in Philadelphia. This time - we had movers. How many arguments that saved us from I'll never know. On the day of our move, I miscarried my first pregnancy. Once again, he was left to coordinate a move by himself, but this time instead of that being due to my smugness and laziness, it was because I spent my first day in Philly in the emergency room. We sat in our pajamas on the hardwood floors of our new apartment in a West Philly rowhouse that night, drinking white wine and eating popcorn. We put "Milk" in the DVD player. I fell asleep in his lap. I kept the job I had moved away from him to take.

In that apartment, we bought everything we had thrown away in Brooklyn. A couch. A dining room table. I had another miscarriage. Then I had a pregnancy that kept going and going and going until I went into labor and our daughter was born healthy. What? we asked ourselves. This actually worked? In happy shock, we bought a bunch of things that, I knew, we would have to pack and move to who-knows-where, but our lack of baby stuff, while it kept us more emotionally safe, was no longer practical. Maybe we could live with no baby stuff, but our daughter certainly could not.

Another job offer - would my husband like a tenure-track position in the place he and his wife grew up? Yes, please! We made our first ever offer on a house in my childhood neighborhood, not far from where I packed up all those muffin tins six years ago. The house is small, with a shallow front yard and a deep backyard and a porch, and a basement. It is just like the platonic house we had always talked about when our apartment complex management kept losing the checks we paid them for the privilege of stepping over goose poop.

The owner of the small house agreed to sell it to us. We are picturing ourselves there. There are closets for our coats. There is a basement for our boxes. There are rooms for the furniture we bought, and there is room for memories of things we lost and could not bring with us. There is space to talk, play, cuddle, fight, share meals, tease one another.

I can hardly believe we closed on this home yesterday. Thinking about all the places we have lived, four big moves, two little ones, some of them halfway across the country, piling loose ethernet cables into the back of a truck for the 17th trip back and forth across town to move, petulance, passive-aggressive behavior, I realize: we were always growing up together. Through each move, we have navigated the unexpected rocks and shoals not only of our tumultuous 20's, but of becoming a family. This journey so far has included moving in together, caring for a dog, getting engaged, married, coping with loss, having a baby, taking on a mortgage and facing the responsibilities of homeownership.

Mike, as we move into our 30's and our fifth year of marriage, I still feel like that excited, nervous, insecure 23-year-old me sometimes. I'm sure there's a part of me that always will. I think the past six years moving with you, packing, unpacking, arguing and laughing and rearranging, have helped me realize that our lives are always changing. The idea of a happy ending is false. It implies finality, stasis, time stopping. The reality is that we're always changing and growing. We may spend one year in this house or 50 years. Things will happen - good things, terrible things, amazing and incredible things, things we cannot predict or even imagine. But there's no one I'd rather change, grow, fight, and live with, and have things happen with, than you.

Monday, July 18, 2011


It's embarrassing when your eight-and-a-half month old has more determination than you do. For years I have been trying to commit to finding a sense of balance, purpose, tranquility - you know, the first world problems that I mostly talk about on this blog. I'd like to eat better, to write more, to exercise more frequently, to spend more quality time with my family and watch less T.V. Yeah, goals, you know?

My daughter just freakin' does the darn thing. She sees, she wants, she gets.

Veni, vidi, vici, mom you dummy, she always seems to be saying to me, personally.

I'm sure she'll be teaching me many parenting lessons in the future. I just didn't expect the first one to be before she could even talk. I also didn't expect it to involve dog tags. Touché, my little sweet, touché.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Missing The Unexpected

We're moving away from Philly very soon. I'm going to miss a lot of things about the city, things that almost anyone would miss: delicious ice cream at Franklin Fountain, community and greenery at Clark Park, the allure of Penn's beautiful campus. But I realized today, coming back from a trip on Columbus Ave, that I will miss something that I often dread: Driving down Oregon Avenue.

Yes, I just said that I will miss a trip riddled with potholes, impatient drivers, and dangerous, unmarked lane changes.

Just last week I almost died when a major four-way light (Oregon and Passyunk) malfunctioned so that all of the lights were green at once. You read that right: they were all green at once. My car was halfway through the intersection, my light was green, and cars were barreling in front of me. Shortly after, the cops showed up to direct traffic, I escaped with my life and car intact, and there were no accidents, thankfully. It was a traumatic experience and I shudder even writing about it. Everything worked out, but my goodness, it was terribly scary. I came home and ranted about how dangerous it was, how that road is the most treacherous artery road I have ever driven on, and why isn't there a cross-town expressway for Southwest-Southeast Philly.

But today I passed Tony Luke's, the Oregon Diner, and realized: Oregon Ave has high points. It and I have had our downs, but there have been ups too.

An "Up:" the local shops and pop-up seafood stands, espousing the can-do bootstrap spirit of the neighborhood.

An "Up:" The space-saving and cool backwards diagonal parallel parking system, followed by almost no one (this car is doing it right).

An "Up:" The people. As always in Philly.

It's a bold thing to say, but I believe that the way you feel about Oregon Ave is probably how you're going to feel about South Philly, if not Philly itself. It is full of idiosyncrasies, a neighborhood frozen in time. What time period I'm referring to, I really can't say - but there's a sense of tradition, of local rules that are understood by, well, locals. There is charm, caring and fun; there is also chaos, danger and strangeness. It is warm, friendly. It is cozy. Something keeps you coming back.

Not pictured: cars parked on (on!) the median strip, pedestrians jaywalking in front of cars going 35 miles an hour, potholes, Tony Luke's and the Oregon Diner.

Oregon Ave, and Philly, have been something else: fun, frustrating, dangerous, people-oriented, and unpredictable - but it's a relationship that will last. I will miss it here but it will always be in my heart.

It's been a wild ride, youse guys.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

In Defense of Going Outside

I may buy the hell out of this guy's book.

"We have a remarkable ability to know exactly what things we’re doing are harmful to us …. and then we keep doing those things, until we decide to stop.

"For anyone who feels this Internet emptiness chewing at them, I would say, do a little test. Go outside and take a 15-minute walk — around the block, through the park, just a short walk. While you’re doing this, clear your mind of work and of home. Just look at things, birds and cars and trees and the clouds and buildings and dumpsters, and when you think of something internal just say “thinking” to yourself and go back to walking and breathing. Then return to your computer. Do the usual things you do on your computer, like check the news and your email and the blogs you read and whatever people post on Facebook and Twitter.

"Do this second part, the computer-looking-at, for just 15 minutes. You can set one of those web timers … hang on, I have one in my bookmarks.

"When this stopwatch beeps, honestly ask yourself how you feel. Compare this to how you felt at the end of your 15-minute walk. Ask yourself what, if anything, you learned during those 15 minutes of wasting time on the Internet. Did it help you in some way? Are you better off? This is a question often asked by political challengers: Are you better off than __ years ago? Well, are you better off than fifteen minutes ago? If not, don’t re-elect the Internet."

I fully realize the irony of blogging this.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

I Do Not Think This Movie Means What You Think It Means

Yes, perhaps a rebellious mythical creature who, in a turbulent mixture of adolescence, infatuation and authoritarian repression (repression by her father), sacrifices her most prized ability in order to achieve an extremely painful physical transformation (to get away from her father) at the hands of a notorious sociopath, then wordlessly abandons everything she knows (her father), could be called a "Daddy's Little Sweetheart."

I just don't want to live in a world where that is true.

I mean there are plenty of Disney characters that are more "Daddy's Little Sweetheart" than Ariel: Belle and Cinderella, to name two. I get that it's the summer, so beach, ocean, blah blah blah, but how about a different caption? How about "Little Princess" (she was literally a princess right)? Or "I Wanna Be Where the People Are?" "Hot Crustacean Band?" I would buy the hell out of that shirt.

I guess there is the possibility that this whole thing is a cheeky prank, but given that this is mass-produced Disney-made shirt retailed at Babies 'R' Us, and not, say, the week-long project of an independent artist via Vix Emporium or Etsy, I just have my doubts.

So guys, I suppose what I am saying is, I did not buy the tank.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Caught Up

I've never read the Left Behind series (I will NOT link to it; sorry but I draw the line there) but last week I thought a lot about the end of the world. I thought about the people that sacrifice everything in anticipation of the belief that the world will end. I considered the religions that don't believe in the inevitability of a particular rapture day. I thought of the Biblical translations that lead us into different directions; e.g. translation words to "raptured," "carried up," "carried off," "snatched up." I wondered, if the world ended, how would it end? How would we know?

I don't really believe in a firm rapture date, I don't even know if I believe that the re-gathering with Christ is going to be signaled with a lot of fire and brimstone. Still, I couldn't get it off my mind, as I had a one-day, fly-in-fly-out business trip on Rapture Day (or maybe more accurately, Non-Rapture day). What a day for my first flight since September, right?

I was too tired on the way in to really worry too much about it. I was advised that people can get raptured off planes, but I figured I had until 6 pm and didn't have to worry about that on my out.

While in the meeting, no one really brought it up. We mostly talked about meeting stuff. I really don't know if anyone there was religious, but they were serious and seemed very committed to their work, so I figured they were planning on staying alive and on earth at least long enough to get through the project we were meeting to discuss. Like a real a-hole dummy, I brought it up jokingly after our meeting was over, said something lame like "Guess it's time to go get raptured now" and people laughed half-heartedly.

We almost died on the way to the airport, but that was probably due to the poor signage on the interstate, and hopefully not due to a higher power embarking on some kind of cruel Nelson Muntzian sadism. (I don't know that that's really how God rolls.)

Up in the air, I sat between two very pleasant men on the plane, both of whom seemed to plan to be alive tomorrow. They were kind, and non-intrusive, and more genuine than anyone I had ever been randomly plopped on a plane with before. The guy sitting to my right was very nice and didn't bring it up - we talked about his job offer, his flight tribulations, and our kids. The guy sitting on my left actually ran a bible study group and was Presbyterian, so he was not having the rapture stuff at all. I brought it up jokingly, said something idiotic like "Guess we made it" after we landed and guy on my left said something really interesting about how Revelations ends with something like "Don't add any words to this book" maybe because the author knew that people would go nuts with it.

The only part of my trip that gave me pause, though, was my experience leaving the airport in Philly. We landed around 12:30 midnight on May 22, and were probably the last flight, we just barely made curfew. Shops had closed hours ago, and the 60 or so of us, we who seemed so jam packed on the plane, fanned out to urban isolation once on dry land. Guess we were going to be stuck here on earth.

The airport was clean and bright, the maintenance staff probably having done a sweep before leaving their shifts. The light in the terminal hallways was uniformly white and gentle.

Just before transferring from airside to landside, there are sliding glass doors that take you from the gleaming white of the post-security area to the dark, carpeted part of the terminal that takes you to the noise of ground transportation.

As I crossed over, I shit you not, the terminal was broadcasting, faintly enough that I had to strain to listen, N'Sync's "Bye Bye Bye."

Good one, God.

*see rapiemur

Monday, May 16, 2011

Grammar Grump

I'm not trying to be grammar girl (who else can? I love you, grammar girl. I love you so muuuuch) or anything. I just need to get some things off my chest.

"Myriad" is an adjective.

A group "comprises" individuals.

Individuals "compose" a group.

A group is "composed" of individuals.

"Its" is possessive. "It's" is a contraction of "it is."

"Impact" is a noun, unless we are talking about your "impacted" teeth, in which case, ugh, sorry.

"Affect" is a verb. "Effect" is a noun.

I'm tired of seeing people who get paid lots of moolah to write and make these mistakes that a) they don't realize they are making but should have learned how to avoid in, I don't know, elementary or middle school and that b) their editors, if they have any, don't notice.

If you are a writer by trade, please take pride in your craft. I was knitting tonight, and dropped a bunch of stitches, and thought, "Well I'd like to do better but I don't really do this professionally, I am just learning."

But if I ever open an etsy shop (yeah right) I will damn sure take pride in my craft. I will not try to sell people scarves with dropped stitches (saving those for your Christmas gifts, dear cousins). I will respect my suckers customers enough to present my very best effort.

I wish people who wrote for money on the internet would do the same.*

The end.

*I am exempt from my own rule because I don't really do this professionally, I am just learning.

Monday, May 9, 2011

Wiz Khalifa: Expansion Brands

Fizz Khalifa - Heavily Tattooed Seltzer Water

Biz Khalifa - An All Work and No Play Rapper

Twizz Khalifa - Candy From Pittsburgh

Saturday, May 7, 2011

You Were Right, Mom. Thanks.

"You better write your thank you notes before you forget."

"Stop touching your face."

"Everything tastes better at the beach."

"You may think he's a nerd, but he might make a great husband someday."

"NO WIRE HANGERS!" (Kidding about that one.)

"Push your sleeves up."

"Women mourn. Men replace."

"Always be prepared to be outraged."

"Did you write your thank you notes yet?"

"Of course I took your dad's last name. I only married him because I couldn't find a 'Smith.'"

"Stop playing with your hair. Teenagers play with their hair."

"When planning anything, guests are always the most important thing to consider."

"I never sign anything I don't have to sign."

"You just have a different relationship with your body after you have a kid. You kind of don't care anymore."

"I live by the golden rule. That's my religion."

"Babies look best in white."

"Shit happens, and we try to make the best of it, and also to appreciate all the good fortune that we have."

"Okay. Sit down right now and write your thank you notes already. And stop playing with your hair."


My mother has been a very strong presence in my life, and she has given me a lot of good advice over the past 30 years. I think I have heeded most of it, forgotten more than I would like to admit, ignored some, and pretty much internalized the rest.

We have very different personalities but we have grown closer as I have learned to navigate the adult world. Lately, I have been leaning on her advice heavily, as my life has included first-time-home-buying and childbearing/rearing, as well as such critical issues as finding attractive post-maternity work clothes that are, depressingly, 4 sizes bigger than the size in which I started my "maternity." Because I now have a baby, I feel closer to my mother than ever, and I think I understand the mechanics behind our relationship a little better.

When my daughter first smiled at me, I gasped in fear because I had never seen that expression on her face before, but her smiles delight me now. Last night she was up past her bedtime and seemed for the first time to recognize a special occasion, flirting and giggling and milking it for all it was worth until she crashed. These moments are like waking up to a bright and early sunrise the morning after daylight savings time ends: disorienting at first, but actually very awesome and fun to point out to someone else. I find the first person I think of to share these moments with, after my husband of course, is my own mother.

There is also, obviously, a more difficult side. Babies are demanding. Their needs don't go away when you are sick, sleep-deprived, in a bad mood, or alone while the other parent is traveling. Babies do indescribably disgusting things in which you sometimes have to involve yourself. I guess people don't talk about that side a lot because if they did no one would have babies ever again. (Those who do talk about the gross stuff usually end up here.) The bright side of the dark side is that I have in my mother a caring, understanding, knowledgeable resource who does not hesitate to do whatever she can to ease the pain.

Soon my daughter will probably be throwing fits at birthday parties and sassing us. After that, I'm sure she'll sneak out with a boyfriend/girlfriend we hate. She'll just generally make huge mistakes and break our hearts from time to time. And after kicking around the latest issue over an adult beverage or six with my husband, I'm pretty sure I know who will be the very next person I will call to strategize, commiserate and cry.

Through all the work and sick and ick and tears, I believe something always compels you, as the parent, to do everything you can to make sure your little one feels safe and happy and loved no matter what is going on. It's not just the sense of adult responsibility. It's a powerful, visceral parenting feeling that must be a product of millions of years of evolution. It's hard to put into words, but the best way I can describe it is, "Nurture this thing, it has a part of me in it."

And I'm only six months into this gig. My mother's got 30 years on me. I guess that compelling "something" never really goes away, maybe even intensifies with time. That could explain, in part, why we've grown closer. Her reaction to me trying to buy a house is probably like mine to seeing my daughter's first smile: that surprise sunrise, a strange and momentous first. But after the initial gasp, the feeling kicks in: "nurture this thing." Comfort this thing through the hard times, celebrate the good with it, help it succeed and feel good as much as you can.

My mom has taught me countless valuable lessons about all aspects of life. But this Mother's Day, I want to thank her especially for teaching me both by example and by lesson to try to be almost as good of a mother to my daughter as she is to me.

Friday, May 6, 2011

Link Blast!

Wisconsin continues to fight. Badgers are tenacious. On Wisconsin! (TPM)

Am I a terrible mother for pre-ordering Go The F**k to Sleep? What? Louder? One more time? No? Okay awesome, thanks. (Amazon)

Right after you finish buying me copious amounts of flowers and once you've nail down your plans to feed me grapes and fan me with palms for Dia de los Muert las Madres this Sunday, check out 19th century peace activist's original vision for an movement-based Mother's Day. (Greenwala )

My clothes horse sister has introduced me to the very impressive fashion blog of a Capitol Hill staffer who manages to post three times a day. Can you say dedicated? (Hint:you can) (Capitol Hill Style)

Allie Brosh, the genius behind Hyperbole and a Half, is coming out with a book. Oh, marry me already, H-and-a-H! "This is Why I'll Never Be An Adult" is basically my autobiography!

The Las Vegas Sun has excellent pictures of a very inspiring and moving march by casino workers. One day longer. (Las Vegas Sun)

And finally - sure, go ahead, keep whining about how you are oh-so-sick of the backlash to the backlash to the backlash to the ridiculous song "Friday" performed by the actually adorable and charming Rebecca Black. Because I am POSITIVE you were humming it in the shower this morning, hypocrite. You love "Friday" and everything associated with it. So without further ado, I would like to present to you, secret "Friday" lover, the Bad-Lip-Reading version of Rebecca Black's "Friday:" "Gang Fight." You're welcome. (YouTube)

Happy Fry-eee-day, y'all!

Sugar Shoop

Here I go, here I go, here I go again. Girls, what's my weakness?

SIMPLE CARBOHYDRATES! Okay then. I’m sorry, I just love Salt ‘n’ Suga. 'N' wheat. 'N' high fructose corn syrup.

I cannot resist a cookie or a Twizzler or a Lindt truffle. I need to keep these things out of my house. I refuse to categorically reject any food (except donuts, those are completely unsatisfying to me and I feel like I need to eat 4 to feel satisfied so I am avoiding them post-pregnancy).

So I won’t say to myself, “I will never eat sugar again.” I know only one person in real life who as actually done that, and she is awesome, but I’m not her. I can’t give things up forever. What I can do is keep sweets out of my house. On maternity leave, they were so much easier to pop in my mouth with a babe in one arm than, say, preparing a salad. But then I would continue eating candy and didn't compensate by eating more healthfully on other days, or by exercising. Now that I need to model good habits for the kiddo, and get back to fighting weight (aka non-obesity), I can’t run to the grocery or drugstore in the middle of the afternoon to fulfill a Bassett’s Allsort craving as I did during pregnancy.

And I can strive to try to eat sweets when and only when there is something delicious and unusual afoot. For example, a night out for ice cream with friends, or my mother’s special coginettes at Christmas. The sweet surprise of the food truck cupcake arriving in our neighborhood. The treat of Mexican cookies at a Cinco de Mayo parties. Not daily binging at my apartment.Moral of the story? I can't be perfect. But. Cookies are a sometimes food, y’all.

*Apologies for the lyrics bastardization go out to the incredible Salt 'n' Pepa, who I have on 100% good authority read this blog every morning before breakfast. I LOVE YOU LADIES and I hope you understand.

Monday, January 17, 2011


Today according to my calendar, is Martin Luther King, Jr. (Observed) Day. I really admire President Obama's national call to service on this day. It's good to remember that this is not just a day off from work and school, it's a day to remember all the good we have done and still have yet to do in this world.

Growing up, I used to do some volunteering with my family. We would deliver turkeys, volunteer at soup kitchens, little things here and there. I remember enjoying it a lot and really feeling good and growing from it.

Somehow, after I finished grad school, I stopped volunteering. One reason for that was that my job itself was pretty demanding and I felt that the job, long hours, travel and hard work for a labor union, composed an almost insurmountable load of service in and of itself. I think, though, another reason was that once I felt truly independent, I started slacking on some of the core things I learned to do when I was small: eat right, volunteer, etc. Sort of like gaining the Freshman Fifteen, but a more gradual and sinister change - I kind of stopped doing stuff I didn't "have" to do.

I also have a talent for letting any small obstacle or hindrance stop me from doing something I say I want to do. For example, last year I signed up for Philacares, a Philadelphia-wide service organization. They mismatched my name with someone else's ("Dear Barry") and never sent me any requests to volunteer. I thought, "Well, I kind of tried," and left it at that.

This spring I hope to at least do a few things, maybe through church or some kind of cleanup at the park. I'm on leave until the middle of the spring so I should be able to find something to do.

It's funny how many people pledge to do more "clean living" - eating right, volunteering, keeping their houses clean, etc. - after having a child.

Oh, screw it, this is just a blog post about how I feel bad for not volunteering. So with that, I leave you with a photograph of the afore-mentioned park, so you can see how much it loves its community and deserves love in return. The end.

Friday, January 7, 2011

Comfort and Joy

Right now my kid and I are in perfect equilibrium. She gets food, comfort and care, and I get companionship, smiles and snuggles. I cherish her good company.

Edited to add: I also cherish her healthy skepticism, a quality she possesses in spades as the picture to the left indicates.

Monday, January 3, 2011

The Anti-Resolutionista

I've decided to make a grand total of ZERO New Year's Resolutions this year.

This is not because I'm lazy. It's because I'm ready to settle into something normal. The past year I worked really hard to maintain at work, adjust to a new city, support my husband in his incredibly stressful job search, conceive, deliver and care for a child, and deal with a very challenging housing situation. The year before, we moved to a new city, suffered two miscarriages, and I lost 30 lbs. The year before that, I achieved and adjusted to a promotion at work and traveled to a foreign country. I'm feeling kind of tired. I think making resolutions this year would be somewhat of a false enterprise: I would make them, not really care about them, and feel like I had no credibility with myself.

Instead I will continue trying to do all the things I have wanted to do all along - be a good wife, mother, daughter and sister, take opportunities to help people in need, live healthfully, and leave the world a better place than I found it. I know that sounds cheesy and generic. I also know I don't really have a plan to do these things.

But instead of making myself miserable by "vowing to blog more" or "losing 40 lbs" or starting off determined that "this is the year I will ...." I am going to try to treat 2011 as a continuation of my 2010, 2009, 2008-and-further-back-goals.

I accomplished a mother lode of stuff in 2010. Our family accomplished a mother lode of stuff in 2010.

2011 will just be a year of striving, as gracefully and happily as I can, to live well.