Monday, December 16, 2013

On Being Ornamental

We called our paternal grandmother "Mammy" because that is the kind of thing you get to do when you have a Irish/ southern upbringing.

Mammy used colorful language.  I don't mean she was profane (outside of, sigh, the occasional racial slur), I mean she had a host of these Irish expressions she'd pull out with great style.  For example, Mammy would hand a broom to me and instruct me to make myself "useful as well as ornamental."

It's funny, right?  You are welcome to use it with your own children.  Consider it a gift.  And despite what I'm fixing to write below, I'm going to keep using it because it is an excellent expression.

Moving on...

Just a few minutes ago, I was upstairs arguing with Laney about what she would wear tomorrow to the play we're going to.  And all through the argument I was hating myself for arguing with her. I can tell it hurts her feelings when I don't like the clothes she chooses.  I get disgusted with myself when I pull her hair off her face because I think she looks prettier that way.  This emphasis I put on Laney's prettiness is uncool.  I should not make an ornament of my little girl.  She is not decorative.

I mean to appreciate her beauty in the way she wants to present it, not in the way I want it to be presented.  She is my beautiful girl who only wants to wear turtlenecks or hoodies with leggings and who cannot tolerate the idea of any foofaws in her hair.  But I fail all the time.  I find myself, despite loud internal remonstrations, urging her towards a convention which privileges ornamentalism.

Here's a fun thought experiment.   Google the term "beautiful girl." Wait, I'll do it for you:



The Brits have this great word they use: "samey."  Aren't these women "samey"?   All hair and boobs (and Hermione, interestingly).  This is not to say those aren't beautiful girls.  But can't we expand our ideas of what a beautiful girl is?  Does it only have to be white girls with low body fat, luxe hair and ample boobs?

I've spent a good chunk of my life dissatisfied with the way I look.  If you added it all up, I bet I've spent a solid year of my life wishing I looked different.  And I'm terrified of passing that on to my daughter.  I'm so afraid that my displeasure at the way she looks will start her down that path of self-loathing, endemic to American women who take it as gospel that the only acceptable way to look is to look like those women in the picture above.  

I hate that I privilege this dangerously narrow standard of beauty and I'm trying to stop.  I haven't managed to do it yet.  But I'm trying.  I'm trying.   And I don't kid myself that I have the power to insulate her from it.  But I can try.  

***********************

Our argument about what she would wear tomorrow ended with my apology.  I was wrong.  I told her I was wrong and I apologized.  This is all I can do. Tomorrow, she will wear her favorite red turtleneck and black leggings which is a lovely, Christmas-y outfit which she is comfortable in and which she likes.  She'll flip her necklace out over the turtleneck and show off the charms she's collected.  And she will look like Laney and she will look beautiful.

The dress I bought her will stay in the closet.  And I won't mention it again.

Friday, November 22, 2013

I Know, I Know... Horrible Person Says Something Horrible. But...

I was in the tub reading Slate (I read my iPhone in the tub... this will end in tears) and came across an article by my girl, Amanda Marcotte, about what noted human hemorrhoid Rush Limbaugh had to say concerning the end of the filibuster on judicial nominations:

Let's say, let's take ten people in a room and they're a group.  And the room is made up of six men and four women.  Right?  The group has a rule that the men cannot rape the women.  The group also has a rule that says any rule that will be changed must require six vote of the 10 to change the rule.

Beginning, we can take as understood that comparing judicial nominations to rape is, uh, the stupidest goddamn thing ever.  It's offensive and sexist, sure.  But it's mostly just hella dumb.

Having dispensed with the obvious problem of this comparison, let's move onto the part that really struck me:

You guys, I know a LOT of men (and have known my fair share, if you know what I mean... heh heh heh).  In those numbers are a lot of lovely, wonderful, strong, feminist men (like the one I'm all married up to).  Some of them are just kind of OK men.  Some are straight up assholes. But I do not know (and have not known) ANY man who would vote to legalize rape!

Some of the worst men in the world are in the U.S. Senate.  Ted Cruz is a homelier version of someone James Spader played in a movie in the 80s.  Jim DeMint can eat a bag of dicks.  I hope James Inhofe drowns in the run off from a melted glacier. But none of those dudes would vote to legalize raping their female colleagues.  And they've got the Senate 80 to 20.  The dudes could easily break a rapin' filibuster if it all came down to gender lines.

Look, obviously all reasonable people can agree that Rush Limbaugh is an ambulatory infection. He is what happens when a burst blister gains the power of speech. He is a bandaid floating in a public pool, a pubic hair on a shared bar of soap.  He is a tumor.  He is the side-by-side used tampon and used condom you step on in the alley behind a frat house.  He is a bloated rat corpse. I do not care for him.   I am not surprised when he says horrible things.  

But that motherfucker evidently has 14+ million weekly listeners.  Do you think 14+ million listeners are going "shit, thank GOD there are so many women in my peer group otherwise we'd all start to rapin'"  

Who listens to this pestilent scab and thinks, "Ohmigod! My wife is the only woman in her office of four!  If we have majority rule for judicial nominations, she's sure to get raped!"

Who listens to this guy?  Don't tell me no one.  It's 14 million people!!!!

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Fixing to Watch SNL and Wondering About the Sudden Rage

I'm actually not feeling ragey now.  I'm looking forward to watching SNL with Laney.  While I miss my darling little punkin pie baby, it is nice to be able to giggle at the dick in a box joke from The Neighbors that Laney sorta got.  She's innocent of the sexual connotation but thinks that penises are hilarious.  To be fair, they are.

I was in the car recently and the song Roar by Katy Perry came on and I found myself feeling really pissed and wondering why I felt pissed. Katy Perry inspires no rage from me.  She writes catchy, cromulent pop songs.  Her public personal is professional and inoffensive.  She's cute.  I sing along.  And then I remembered - I was pissed about when Katy Perry was on SNL and she did that song.  Let's take a look at screengrab from her performance:


The xy component of the internet at large got its boxers all up in a bunch about the grave disrespect that Katy Perry showed to the fellow playing guitar there.  How dare she ask guitar dude to wear this ridiculous outfit?  Who the everlovin' eff does this poptart think she is?  

Note there is a woman singing somewhere behind both of them who is dressed in the same manner as the guitarist.  No one was particularly upset about the indignities she was forced into.  Weren't her professionalism and artistic integrity equally as threatened? Hasn't she worked as hard to make it, studied her craft with the same diligence?

Apparently not. We are inured to the potential humiliation of the countless female background singers and dancers costumed in whatever nonsense best sets off the image the (male) frontliner is trying to suggest.  

On a stage men (especially white men) are privileged with an assumption of legitimacy that women (especially women of color... but that's a whole nother blog post) are not.  If you got pissed off about Katy Perry's furry guitarist - pay attention to the other musical acts you watch and check yer damn privilege.

It's 10:30 now, let's all enjoy whatever cray Lady Gaga brings to the SNL stage.  It will not achieve the soaring heights of Kanye West's cray.... oh shit, you guys think I'm kidding, right?  You know I love Kanye, for real?  I mean, he's not on my fantasy dinner party list because I'm pretty sure he's a narcissistic asshole.  But he does some really amazing stuff!  Let's watch a little Kanye West SNL cray. How amazeballs and gorgeous is this?   


  

Monday, November 4, 2013

Loss

I was going to write tonight about the moment Laney asked me about Santa Claus because it was one of those rare, sparkling parental moments where I felt like I handled it just right.  Those come along, what?  once? maybe twice in life?

But instead I think it's time I wrote about my sister-in-law because I have things I want to say about Debbie and things I want to say to Debbie's children; my beautiful nieces, my handsome nephew.

Debbie is a hero of mine.  She taught me so much about how to be a mother.

I told her that the last time I saw her which will likely be the last time I ever see her.  I cried.  I lost control.  But I'm glad I told her how much she's meant to me.  This is hard to write. Let me go back a little.

I was nervous the first time I met Don's family all those years ago.  But Debbie (always and definitely the head-sibling-in-charge of the Westhoff clan) only ever expected me to love her brother and be willing to be family.  That was it and I was in.  And I was so glad to be in.

Debbie's house:  Debbie's house is good food and ready conversation, comfortable places to sit and lots of laughter.  Debbie's house is warm.  It may have bordered on magnificent at Christmas, but it was always cozy.  It always felt like home.

I spent a lot of time in that house, sitting in comfortable chairs and watching her be the kind of mother I wanted to be.  The kind of mother who delighted in her children, who let them grow up and be independent but she always, always, had their backs.  One of the first stories I heard was about Kelly, Debbie's eldest, and how she got frostbite from a time when she was a toddler and the car died and Debbie had to carry her through a snowstorm back to the farm. Kelly just wrapped her arms around her mother and held on even when the mitten fell off.   Debbie is a mother you can hold onto.  She was so strong.  And everything around her was so warm.

Another time, years later, I was visiting and Laney had just leapt off my lap, post-snuggle. I told Debbie how sad I was that one day Laney would stop wanting to hug and snuggle me.  And Debbie just smiled and said, "Oh, you'd be surprised."  And then, hours later, Debbie gently called my name from another couch.  Her youngest, who must have been 17 or 18 then, was snuggled up next to Debbie, her head on her mother's shoulder.  Debbie tilted her head to Beth and smiled at me, "See," she said, "It doesn't go away."

This was such a small moment, but I never forgot it.  I never forgot that simple kindness; the graceful way she remembered me in that tender moment.  The way she loves her children.  The way they love her.

I lost my own father too young too. He was a lot like Debbie.  He made things around him warm and comfortable and he let me grow up without feeling abandoned to adulthood.  And I remember how shattered I was when he died.  I am shattered now knowing that Debbie is leaving us. And my heart is broken because I know the loss her children face.

But I also know, just like Don wrote today, that at least we got to have her. At least, for a while, we got to warm ourselves in Debbie's heart and humor and her kindness.

I am so grateful to have had her for a sister.  I am so sad she's leaving us.  

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Deep Dish Pizza


I don't remember my first experience with deep dish pizza.  It just is: a glorious feature of my Chicago life.  I, and my near-bottomless passion for cheese, adore it.  Oh, how I pity the lactose-intolerant!  What a bleak, featureless world they must inhabit!  But, it's not just cheese. The crust. Oh Em Gee, you guys, THE CRUST!  You eat the pizza part with a knife and fork, and when it's done, you then pick up the crust with your fingers and consume its doughy, crunchy, carbohydrate-y deliciousness with appropriate reverence.

It is so good.

My mother hates deep dish pizza.  She also disdains Indian food from Devon street. She's weird.

I was also recently told that deep dish pizza is tourist food.  Let me respond to that claim which, on its surface, struck me as not entirely merit-less. But upon further reflection it is not valid.  Lookit: my favorite building in Chicago is the Sears Tower,  arguably the most touristy place in Chicago. But I love it because you can see it from so far away.  You can see it from miles and miles and miles away, traveling on anonymous highways, and you know you're almost home.  The Sears Tower is home.

Moreover, being touristy doesn't diminish the value of something.  In Florence, I visited The David.  In Rome; the Colosseum.  I've viewed the Seine from atop Eiffel Tower.  The Grand Canyon almost made me consider the existence of God.  All of these things are touristy.  They are also all wonderful.

But if the universe has, in fact, been engineered by a benevolent deity, Chicago style pizza is its highest achievement.

I write this as I await the delivery of a small deep dish from Giordano's: half spinach, half bacon.

......

The pizza has arrived.  It is so so so good.  Life once again makes sense.  May pizza be upon you all.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Trusting Your Instincts (Plus a Random Aside about The Real World)


Miss me?  You know you did!  Following is a blogpost about when it's time to stop being polite and start getting real (remember Heather?  I loved Heather, but I really really loved Julie.  I thought Kevin was kind of a pill, but I saw him recently on Kamau Bell's show and he's grown up adorable and with excellent politics.  Also, Andre.  Yummy. Oh, how I loved that long hair in the early 90s.  And then season two happened and I stopped watching.  Normally I really hate hating on young people, but, goddammit, Season One of the Real World was THE ONLY GOOD ONE and all reality shows of that ilk have sucked since then.  I feel strongly about this.  I'm done now.)

A couple of Halloweens ago, a thirty-something guy came to our door about 9:00ish.  Don answered the door and said, "yes?"  And the guy said, "Uh, you got any chocolate or something?"  And Don said, "Get the fuck out of here," and shut the door in his face.  I was appalled by that and scolded Don for being so rude.

Later, we realized that this guy was robbing people at gunpoint.

So, you know, point Don.

It made me think of this time, many many moons ago, when I was on a mostly empty bus and a guy sat right next to me.  I felt like it was weird, but also that it would be rude to object.  That guy exited the bus with my wallet.  I have endless stories where my fear of seeming rude has battled down my own inclination for self-preservation and I've ended up somehow taken advantage of.  Some of these stories are kind of horrible.

I think it's a woman thing.  I think women are judged more harshly for discourtesy than men. I think women are more burdened by an obligation to accommodate than men.  No one ever walks past a man and demands that he smile; there's not a woman walking the (American?) earth whom that hasn't happened to.

Or, hell,  maybe it's just me. I know I feel it too strongly and it's one of those things I aim to stop with my own daughter.

So, let's flash back to last week.  We were on the Mag Mile waiting for a bus.  I gave a couple of bucks to a homeless guy.  I'm pretty much down with giving whatever loose bills or change I have handy to homeless people because really, why not?  I do not buy into the theory that people are homeless by choice because that is a stupid thing to believe (fun fact: it is also stupid to blame not being rich yourself on people poorer than you.  Spectacularly!).

Later, on the bus and approaching our stop, a guy a few seats ahead of us said, "Ma'am!  MA'AM!  You got seventy cents?"  I think Laney probably expected me to give him a dollar.  But not this time.  This time I trusted my instincts and said, "I don't have any money."  I didn't say it apologetically.  As a matter of fact, while my words may have been "I don't have any money," my tone was a very DonBon-esque "get the fuck away from me."  And he did.

And then he sat next to a sleeping guy.  He tapped him on the shoulder, kind of hard, and said, "Hey man, you miss your stop?"  And then I watched the formerly sleeping guy hand dollar after dollar from his wallet to this guy, all because he felt encroached upon,  threatened, but worried that he might be perceived to have misapprehended the situation.  But all of us: the guy giving the dollars, the guy taking the dollars and the 3-4 people left on the bus all grokked entirely the situation.  Sleeping guy should have trusted his instincts and gone full DonBon: get the fuck away from me.

Teachable moment: I told this to Laney in so many words.  Do not feel obliged to be polite to people who get in your personal space, affect a threatening friendliness and then demand money.  Tell them to get the fuck away from you.  I told her this in so many words because some situations demand those words.

But, this is complicated, right? WWJD (Julie from the Real World, not Jesus.  Jesus would have given away all his money.  Julie had to learn to be more careful).  A distressingly large portion of Americans are arming themselves to the teeth,  terrified of anyone who doesn't fit into a tediously narrow worldview.  This is way more dangerous than getting your wallet lifted on a bus.  And Laney doesn't have a Heather to teach her how to be open without being taken advantage of.  She's going to have to count on us.  And sometimes...

A few months ago, late in the evening (say 10:00ish?) I was out front waiting for Ginger to pee (oh, you guys, the amount of time I spend waiting for Ginger to pee).  A couple of guys were walking down the street - they were late teens or early 20s (I think... I'm in my 40s now and have lost all ability to gauge - everyone under 35 looks 13 to me). They were shirtless, wearing sweatpants hanging low so I could see their boxers.  I started to feel a little nervous but then decided that I am not, by god, going to be a person scared of someone for not wearing a shirt when it's hot (although, it is tacky! I will go to my grave believing that shirtlessness outside of a swimming situation is tacky tacky tacky) and walking down the street. So I steeled myself and pretended I wasn't a little scared.  As they approached, one of them leaned down to scratch Ginger's ears and said to me, "She looks like Shiloh!"

She does look like Shiloh.  I felt like an asshole.

So here's what I'm saying: I want to teach Laney to trust her instincts, unless her instincts are being assholes.  And hopefully we're raising her in a way that her instincts are less likely to be assholes than mine.

Here's hoping anyway.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Alright, Lookit, Mom, Dad? Just Relax

I love Louie CK.  Madly.  I think his show is brilliant and hilarious and heartbreaking and you should all  be watching it.  But, this thing that went around the internet...



Just.... no.  No no no no.  No. Seriously, no.

What the hell is this crazy, blithe assertion that prior to all his technology kids would try on being mean and then decide it didn't feel good?  In what halcyon 50s sit com did Louie CK come of age where kids were only mean the one time?

Let's look back to my childhood, shall we?  I spent a lot of time with my brother and maternal cousins, Alexis and Jason.  I am, to this day, haunted by feelings of exclusions coupled with taunts of "Meg the Rotten Egg!"  It took a few hundred times before they decided that "didn't feel good."  Why?  Because it felt good!  Survival of the fittest works best when you can group together to identify someone as unfit.  That's childhood, motherfucker.

As it turned out, my brother and Alexis and Jason all grew up to be really wonderful people.  They are, each of them, exceptionally kind and sympathetic, and are all disinclined to take joy from someone else's pain (unless that someone else is, I dunno, a huge asshole like Rush Limbaugh or Ann Romney).

Furthermore, when they were kids, it's not like they were uniformly jerky.  Why I remember one time my paternal cousin, Shawn, was visiting and I decided I wanted to exclude her from a sleepover I was having because I felt pretty sure that being mean to her was the best way to guarantee a truly boffo sleepover!   I wasn't just a victim, you guys!  I could asshole it up with the best of 'em?  You know who talked me out of it?  Alexis!  Who was, "rotten egg" taunts aside, a pretty great kid. She sat me down on the porch swing and gently gave me the, "Meg, you're better than this..." talk.   And I was.  And she was.  And Nolan and Jason were.  And we all were.

But these days, it's (ironically?) all over the internet, this mid-life panic that the new technologies are RUINING OUR CHILDREN FOREVER because we didn't have it and our childhoods were PERFECT!

Kind of reminds me of one of my past lives when I was hanging out with my buddy Gutenberg (not Steve) in 1460 and we were just agonizing about how all this easy access to the printed word would rob our children of the deep personal connections we made growing up.

Lame printing press jokes aside, I think that most likely the best way to asshole-proof your kid is by not being an asshole yourself.  Don't scream at the guy who didn't signal before turning right... let it go (that one's for me).  When your husband takes care of getting the city sticker or your wife does the laundry, say "thank you." Smile at your kid.  Say nice things to people around you.  Don't fall into your iPhone and never look up.  Indulge in the assumption of good faith.  And stop indulging in the assumption that the only thing standing between your kid and a hideous, soulless future and is your own Luddism.

Sunday, September 8, 2013

The Limitation of Pith

The tenth anniversary of my father's death passed without comment last week. I'm not troubled by my failure to acknowledge it because Dad remains a presence in my life.  He also, with each passing day, becomes less of an absence.  The hole remains, but the place he occupied has grown and grows bigger than the hole he left.

I wonder if that makes sense.

Anyway, here are two things about me: when I was younger, I lurved me some pithy quotes.  When I got married, my wedding favors were meaningful, cute or clever quotes attached to a little bag of candy.  I was super proud of those wedding favors. When we bought our house, I had this idea that I would have a special room of my own that would be covered in meaningful, cute or clever quotes.   Up here in my 40s, though, I'm less partial to pithy quotes and get kind of annoyed by how reductive they are; how bereft of meaning they are outside of context.

Next: part of this whole atheist thing is a fierce commitment to rejecting bullshit.  And while it's easy enough to reject bullshit when it's coming from the likes of Pat Robertson or Tony Perkins, it remains a challenge to reject your own bullshit.  To wit: I think there was a lot of flight-anxiety induced bullshit in my last post. For further examples of some Sophoclean levels of anti-bullshit activists blind to their own bullshit see either the late Christopher Hitchens or the current Penn Jillette.

So, let's go back to ten years ago and the year following and how I comforted myself.  I told myself again and again that as sucky and awful as it was to lose my father so soon, at least we had him.  The joy of having had a father like I did was so much more substantial than the pain of having lost him.

And then I was reading this story about the end of Breaking Bad in Entertainment Weekly (just stay with me here) where Aaron Paul quotes Dr. Suess, "Don't cry because it's over, smile because it happened."

And I thought for a moment that my grief-induced bullshit had found its partner in pithy quote.

Except, no.  The comfort I took was bullshit-free. I've had ten years to think about this and I remain convinced. Furthermore, the unfairly maligned pithy quote is perfectly adequate for stuff like the end of Breaking Bad (SOB and also OMFG can't wait), but it doesn't work for the death of a loved one because this is not an either/or proposition. We can cry because it's over and smile because it happened at the same time.  We are complicated people able to feel all the feelings at once.  As a wise woman once said, "Laughter through tears is my favorite emotion!"

______________________

A few months before my father died, he called me. This was weird, since normally I called and talked about life with my mother and then discussed baseball and/or politics with Dad.  But he called to tell me he was worried about me because I hadn't had a baby and he knew I really wanted to have a baby.

You guys all know that I really wanted to have a baby for about six years before I got a baby (I didn't get a baby, I got the Best Goddamn Toddler In the Whole Mothereffing World is what I got).   I'd spent a chunk of those six years convincing myself that everything was OK, that I just needed to keep calm and carry on (retrofitting that one into the aughties), and that I shouldn't burden the people around  me with my anxiety.  But when Dad dialed me up out of the blue to say he was worried about me, it gave me permission to just let loose. I sat on my back porch with the phone at my ear and I cried and cried and cried. To this day I don't know how, from 500 miles away, he knew that I needed permission to grieve and that he was the right guy to grant that permission.

I can smile at the memory of that liberating, unexpected moment of long distance empathy and I can cry knowing that he never got to know the little girl who finally healed those wounds he was giving me permission to acknowledge.

But mostly, I can set my mind to his life more than his death.

There's no pithy quote to sum that up.  But there is poetry.


And there is music:


Saturday, August 17, 2013

Just Awful (or maybe not)

I am writing this blogpost from scenic downtown O'Hare, fixing to jet off to merry old England for three days of meetings which I hope will be pleasant and not at all contentions (they will probably be alternately pleasant and contentious... I should bring cookies ((biscuits)) in with me.  The next time I remember that I should bring cookies ((biscuits)) will be after I walk into the building Monday).

I am pretty sure my plane is going to crash before I get there or before I get home.

If my plane does crash, don't take this as an example of my psychic abilities.  There is no such thing as psychic abilities.  There is such a thing as paranoia.  Pretty much every time I leave the house, or the office, or step into the shower, or turn on the toaster I think something is going to kill me.  This is how it is to live in my world.  It is an anxious and ridiculous place.  On the plus side, I finally got "Blurred Lines" out of my head.  Wait... it's back.

You know you want it.... (is that, for real, the rapiest song lyric of all times or what?)

Anyhoo, what with my flying anxiety kicked all up into high gear I wanted to add a nice blogpost.  If my plane does end up in a fiery crash over the Atlantic, I would like my last thoughts here to be nice ones (side note: I drive my car every day, generally spending a good chunk of it over 60 MPH, and never have this kind of anxiety which just serves to underscore how completely ridiculous flying anxiety is).

So here it goes:  I was reading Gawker comments on one of the stories they run about people being Just Awful.  This one was about a neighborhood trying to stop one family from putting ramps on their house for a newly disabled family member due to fears about the ramps making property values go down.  Seriously: just awful awful people.  And one of the commenters wrote this:


I was going to respond to this directly, but then I thought instead that I would write a blogpost in response because surely she'll read it here and feel super special to have been the subject of my Well-ian musings (the preceding thought brought to you by Self-Delusion(c).  Self Delusion(c), keeping bloggers blogging since 2003).

Here's the deal: media is lousy with stories of Just Awful people.  There are endless stories on Gawker and CNN and DailyBeast of people proudly failing at general decency.  We watch Real Housewives and Toddlers and Tiaras and Amish Mafia (Amish Mafia brought to you by No, Just No. This is Not a Real Thing) and an endless parade of reality shows featuring people who Did Not Come Here To Make Friends.  And I think we consume so much of that because it reassures us that we are not Just Awful.  Lookit that asshole!  At least I'm not him.

Which could be taken as a net loss for humanity in general,  But chunk this one through the mind-nuggets: there are a lot more people who are anxious about being awful than there are awful people.   Which I contend might well mean that people are not Just Awful.

What makes it to the internet or the TV machine are stories of people being exceptional; exceptionally awful, or exceptionally wonderful.  But out in the real world, I think you'll find that people, in general, practice basic courtesy unexceptionally.  While we may be more inclined to remember the asshole who cut us off in the traffic than the person who slowed down a little to make room when we turned our blinker on (you do turn your blinker on when you change lanes, right?  People who don't turn their blinkers on when they change lanes are Just Awful), we are probably all of us far more likely to be the latter driver than the former.

When you head out into the world tomorrow or Monday (I strongly endorse staying inside all day on a Sunday), watch the people around you.  Watch how many people exchange a smile or hold a door or indulge one of the thousands of small courtesies we extend to one another.  Remember those instead of that bitch on Real Housewives who snarked at the maid.  Well, that bitch is probably more fun, but don't let her bitchiness overshadow that guy who handed back the five you dropped on your way out of the 7/11. 

It's a pleasant exercise.  And will restore your faith in humanity.  Just pay attention.  For real: most people are not awful. 




Monday, August 12, 2013

Up. Seriously, Always Up

Recently I crowned Louis Gohmert (R-StupidestPartofTexas) as The Platonic Ideal of the Dumb Asshole after he told this TOTALLY TRUE story about some guy buying king crab with food stamps.

In a very exciting turn of events, and after a hard fought battle, I'm declaring a new victor in the Race to Dumbest Asshole in Congress to Rep. Steve King (R-BatshitIowa) for his recent and TOTALLY TRUE claim that for every one child of an illegal immigrant to become a valedictorian there are 100  with "calves the size of cantaloupes" from toting 75 pounds of marijuana across the desert.  Fun fact: 75 pounds of marijuana is approximately how much a normal person would need to consume in order to believe this.

An homage to Republican Apocryphal Bullshit that Riles up an Increasingly Resentful and Gullible Base:

So, I heard that Louie Gohmert and Steve King were super into Michelle Bachmann (R-WTF?Minnesota) because she's always voted Hottest and Most Popular GOP Congresswoman  but then Marsha Blackburn(R-CrazyPantsTennessee) totally tried to mean girl Michelle Bachmann because she's soooooo jelly!   So Marsha pretended to be BFF's with Michelle and told her that she should go to Bob Vender Platts' Family Values Prom with the first guy to make #CantaloupeCalves trend on Twitter because she thought, no WAY anyone could do that and then Michelle Bachmann would totally have to go to the Family Values Prom stag (on account of her super gay husband) but then, dammit if Steve King didn't make it happen.  And Steve King and Michelle Bachmann danced all night to Simple Minds or Psychedelic Furs or something.

And... scene.

Do you know why it's OK for me to make fun of Louis Gohmert and Steve King and Michelle Bachmann and Marsha Blackburn (welcome to the Well, Marsha.  I plan on saying LOADS of mean things about you)?  Do ya?

It is OK because these toxic motherfuckers have way more power and influence than I do and have, all of them, decided to use all this power and influence to punch down at the powerless and the poor.

And, much like Sheriff Seth Bullock, I just cannot stand a bully.  

So let us, as the legion (or dozen or so) readers of this shitty blog agree that we will never punch down, will never blame our problems on people who have less and we will also, with great pleasure and flair, have a lot of fun punching up, mocking and exposing the poisonous nastiness of the Gohmerts and the Blackburns because even though most of us think these people are ridiculous (and, dammit, they are ridiculous), they still have more power than you.  So punch up, my readers.  Always up.

Friday, August 9, 2013

Lunch, Again?


On payday Fridays, I take myself out for lunch rather than languishing away in front of the computer eating a sad salad from home.  

Scene: I'm sitting in a corner table by a window at the Merchandise Mart, eating a pretty delicious vegetable gyoza and reading Bossypants (delightful!).  The el rumbled by outside and I looked up because I like that sound.  I saw a man smoking a cigarette on the world's tiniest balcony 10 stories up.  Behind me some people were having conversation in a language I think was some kind of Asian, but could also have been maybe Eastern European... or African.  I have no idea what language it was. And I thought, "I will never not love living here."

Y'all check in with me when I have to start driving Laney to school again and see if I'm still solid on that.

Another observation:  Female Americans between the ages of 16 and 25, it is possible your jean shorts are both too short and too tight.  I'm worried that yeast infections are becoming the new normal for  whole generation.  Go up a size. Your vagina will thank you.

That is all.

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Let's Have Lunch, Part Pi

I just rode down the elevator with a pair of young twenty-somethings from the office upstairs.

She: was wearing a cut offs with a black tee shirt tucked into the shorts.  The tee shirt said, "Coding is the New Literacy."  The tee shirt was tucked into her shorts.

He: was wearing a plaid shirt, skinny jeans and flip flops.

I: have never felt more forty-something in my life.

Monday, July 29, 2013

On the Possibility of Reinvention

I was watching a sitcom which featured women my age so it must have been Cougartown.  I'm pretty sure that's the only show on TV where women are allowed to be in their 40s.  Plus it's funny.  Don't judge me.  One character said to another something about how once you're in your forties the possibility of reinvention has passed.  By our 40s, we are the people we're going to be.

I assume frequent truth from television sitcoms. I believe that if I'd tried a little harder I could have a fabulous career doing something weird and creative while still drawing a salary substantial enough that I would never wear the same outfit twice.  Like, I don't know... a wristwatch designer or someone who makes wall sconces by hand.  I could also eat whatever I wanted all the time while still wearing my new daily outfit in a size 2.

I wonder if knowing that this is ridiculous makes it more or less ridiculous... if I lived in a sitcom, I would make my living by writing pithy musings like this down.  And make bank.

Alright, this is nonsense. But what about the reinvention part?  Am I really done?  Fully cooked?

I used to go to bed every Sunday night convinced that the following Monday I would begin a process by which I would shortly weigh 20 pounds less.  I don't do that on Sunday nights anymore.  I do it every night.  If I could reinvent myself, I'm not sure if I would reinvent myself into someone disciplined enough to lose 20 pounds or someone who embraces her size 12 body with flair and style.

Maybe I could just reinvent myself into someone with style.

I also wonder if I could become a person who puts things away.  I'm endlessly determined to be organized. But I always stick the scissors into whichever drawer is handiest. For some reason there's a hammer under my bed.

Could I be more chill behind the wheel?  More focused at work?  Better with money?  More socially responsible?

I'm probably fully cooked.  I probably am who I am and will spend the second half of my life as I am now: messy, chubby, glaring at you from my car because, goddammit, you're driving too slow.  But, maybe with age comes acceptance.  And wisdom.

I'm pretty sure I'll wake up tomorrow no longer believing that Great Truth comes in a sitcom.

Unless that sitcom is Parks and Recreation.

Monday, July 22, 2013

A Note on Bad Language

I am led to believe that in the world of weekly bloggers (a world I aspire to), some people actually write drafts and proofread and stuff.  I, on the other hand, spend the week sitting in traffic and thinking of stuff that I plan on blogging about eventually.  In my head each thought exists fully formed, grammatically correct, cogent and steeped in wisdom.

Which is why I put it down here in the first place.  Writing this stuff down makes me realize how ridiculous these stuck-in-traffic notions often are.  Or how brilliant.  Generally the former.  Let's see how my theories about language stand up....

Those of you who know me, know that I am prone to the swears.  I think it's just silly to say "shoot" when you mean "shit";  "fudge" when you mean "fuck."  Words have meanings.  There is a qualitative difference between "what the heck" and "what the hell."  The one I say is the one I mean.

On the other hand, polite people (and I really do strive to be one) temper their language based on their audience.  I would not, for example, kick off a girl scout meeting with, "Would you little shits zip it?"  If I get pulled over for speeding, I'm not going to say "Oh what the fuck, officer." Although, it is true that in both circumstances I'm probably thinking it...

And that brings me to Laney.  Laney lives with me. I am with her all the time. Our filters have been exhausted.  We are who we are, warts and all.  I no longer even try to watch my language in front of her.  She used to complain, but then I'd tell her that there are some privileges commensurate with adulthood and while I can drive a car, drink coke for breakfast and say "fuck",  she can put both her feet behind her head, eat four pounds of pasta a day without gaining weight, and her skin is always like buttah.  It was fucking fair, in a word (or two).

And then Laney finished fourth grade and the two of us sort of mutually decided she'd be allowed to swear in front of me.  She says "shit" and "hell," but steers clear of the mother-of-them-all. Don gives her less profanity latitude.  She's had to figure out what she can say in front of me and what she can say in front of Don.  She knows she can't say any of it in front of other adults and shouldn't say them in front of other kids (oh, who are we kidding...) .

We haven't even tried to formulate rules about it.  I've told her that so long as I feel like she's respecting me, she can use whatever words she wants to express herself.  Don just tells her when he doesn't like the way she's talking.  It's tricky for her.  But I still think it's a good lesson.  There's no rule book teaching us how to talk to people.  We have to figure it out as we go along.  And Laney's learning that within the confines of her own home.

Or I'm completely screwing her up.

Either she'll end up crippled by anxiety whenever she has to talk to someone she doesn't know or she'll dazzle at cocktail parties,  the most keenly articulate gal in the room.  One or the other....

Friday, July 19, 2013

Been Chewing on This Thing All Week

Flashback to 1991 or so...

I had this job as a waitress at the Rogers Park Leona's, and one night I got off around midnight and started the four block walk home.  As I was walking, this guy in a car turned down the street I was on, slowed down and started following me.  It's late, right?  I'm alone and there's a dude in a car creeping along behind me. There weren't cell phones back then.  I was truly on my own.  So, heart racing, I started to weigh my options - should I stay on the street where it was well lit but closer to the car or should I go to the sidewalk where it's dark and there are alleys and shrubs to be pushed in?  Should I run? Should I scream?  I pulled my pepper spray from my purse.

After some time of this (it felt like forever but it was probably only a minute or two) he pulled up alongside me and I whirled around, pointed my pepper spray at him and said something like, "What the fuck do you want?!?!"   I may have even sounded tough but I was shaking and I was so so so scared.

Turns out the dude was wondering if I was walking to a car because he was looking for parking spot and it is possible I scared him near as much as he scared me.

My guess is there's not a woman reading this who can't call up exactly the feelings I felt then.  Women are trained to be scared.  Rape is around every corner.  And, the kicker of it is, if the guy had been a rapist and hadn't been a guy just trying to get out of his car and get home, I would have been asked why I was walking home.  Just what the hell did I expect to happen?

Which brings me to the maddening, senseless, depressing, enraging and exhausting reactions to the Trayvon Martin murder (yeah, I said murder); with the most senseless, fatuous and willfully ignorant being why didn't this 17 year old kid, stalked and scared,  just surrender himself to an unknown, armed stranger.  

This reaction comes, I am convinced, from people completely unfucking unfamiliar with how scary it is to be followed like that.

Look, I don't mean to conflate my experience as a young white women with what black men have to put up with.  I would not change places -  mostly because I do not know you walk around with those things - so awkwardly placed and cumbersome (just lightening it up a little, folks).   I try very hard to be aware of my privilege and do not mean to say that what happened to Trayvon Martin would have happened to me.  It would in no way have.

Still, it is abundantly clear that there are some people free to move about as they see fit, accosted neither by suspicion or fear, and that freedom is not afforded to the rest of us.

Monday, July 8, 2013

Aw, Hell No




The God that holds you over the pit of hell, much as one holds a spider or some loathsome insect over the fire, abhors you, and is dreadfully provoked. His wrath towards you burns like fire; he looks upon you as worthy of nothing else but to be cast into the fire.

This weekend Don, Laney and I went to Home Depot. Twenty minutes in, it was only the lack of a licensed attorney and a notary public that kept Don and me from divorcing and Laney from suing for minor emancipation. Those of you ensconced in families are familiar with trips to Home Depot like this. Young lovers walking past us delayed planned marriage proposals. Biological clocks all around ticked much more quietly.

But we got out. And a bit later, when we all liked each other once again, I thought "That was hell, man."

At which point I took one of the big mental leaps that most people keep to themselves but I like to make public, because, why the hell not?  

Hell. 



Laney is familiar with the term, but she's not familiar with the concept. And for a second I was more grateful for that than the grateful realization that, horrible trips to Home Depot aside, I did still love my husband and daughter.

Hell tortured me as a child so much so that still, despite my deep commitment to rational atheism, my certainty in the absurdity of the supernatural (except in fiction - I do love a good ghost story), I am still wont to sit up in the dead of night terrified by perdition's flames.  

And, you guys, I didn't go to a hellfire and brimstone church! I went to a socially conscious church. A church for hippies. A church with a second collection that went to help pay the bills of the poor folks who lived in the neighborhood not for opulent Catholic swag. The church I went to was run down and raggedy, handed out peanut butter and jelly sandwiches to the poor at lunch. They called it "Reconciliation" not "Confession." They eschewed the angry god and embraced the loving one.

But still, hell was out there. Hell is impossible to avoid when you grow up Catholic. Once in school (a far less liberal Catholic environment than church) the priest got mad at us antsy kids anticipating a snow day by telling us "You all better enjoy that snow! Where you're going, you won't see much!"

I was eight.

Hell. What toxic bullshit. What hateful nonsense. And how impossible to avoid if you're coming up Catholic.

I am, in a large part, fond of my Catholic upbringing. I like the shared history, the ritual passed down through countless generations, I liked a lot of the Jesus stories. But that hell stuff... hell no.




I know I can't protect my girl from all the bugbears out there, from all the things that go bump in the night. But I am damned if I'l put her under the authority of anyone who tries to scare her into submission.


Friday, June 28, 2013

Let's Have Lunch (again)

I've been working from home for the past few days for a couple of reasons (internet is dicey in the office, Don and Laney are in Iowa so I didn't want to leave the dog alone, traffic was all messed up because of some flooding, because I wanted to....), but today I was back in the office so I decided to go get some sushi for lunch.

When I emerged from the elevator the part-time doorman (i.e., the one who fills in when the normal guy is off) said, "Getting some lunch, Deb?"  And I said "It's Meg."  And he made that face you make when you get someone's name wrong.  Then I told him that I thought he'd called me "Deb" last week because his name wasn't really Ray (as I'd been calling him) and he was getting me back.  He told me his name was Ray and then made that face you make when someone says something weird and kind of paranoid to you.

When I went outside I realized that I am probably the only person in the Chicago city limits who is not wearing some kind of Blackhawks regalia which was a little distressing to me since, as I've mentioned before, I really hate it when everyone is doing something and I'm not.

(This is, of course, excluding the Real Housewives because no matter how many people I know who watch and love those show I just... ugh.  I mean I have a hard enough time with amateur assholes because at least I can convince myself they may be accidental assholes -- hey!  just wrote a new hit for Brad Paisley! --  but when they go pro and asshole behavior is how they make a living, it makes me want to stab myself in the eye with a fork.)

Chicago is Blackhawk crazy these days.  And I'm jealous because I would like to be on board with that.  It's so much fun!  Reminds me of the 90's era Bulls fever only fewer flipped cabs.  But I just can't watch hockey because I can never follow the puck and end up relying on rise and fall of the announcer's voice which gets kind of melodic after a while and then I get sleepy.  Also, and I hope you will forgive  me for this, but there is no accent more annoying than a Canadian accent.  Other than that accent, though, Canada seems practically perfect. Sometimes Louis Gohmert gets re-elected or John Boehner says he won't bring immigration reform up to a vote because House Republicans need for the Mexico/America wall to include Mexican-detecting phasers set to kill and I think I would like to move to Canada, but that accent. Also, I think it's less forgivable up there to not be into hockey.

Anyway, I got some brown rice/mixed vegetable sushi (which is probably not *really* sushi since there's no fish in it) and some vegetable gyoza which was effing delicious.

And now I have to go back to work.

Hope you enjoyed your lunch!


Monday, June 24, 2013

Let's Talk About Louis Gohmert

There was a time, many moons ago, when you could sometimes have a thought and feel like you had landed on a rare, golden truth because there was no google around to tell you just how banal and ridiculous you really were.  Those were heady days, the 90s.  I remember once, sitting at the bar (or behind it... I spent most of my time in front of or behind the bar back then) and finding myself in the throes of what I thought was the TROOF.  'Twas:

You can get away with being an asshole if you aren't dumb.  And you can get away with being dumb, if you aren't an asshole.  But there is no room in the world for dumb assholes.

Turns out I was wrong and we ended up spending the following decade stuffing Congress full of 'em.

Which brings me to Louis Gohmert, Republican Congressman from Texas, and Platonic Ideal of the Dumb Asshole, who recently stood up in front of Congress and told what I'm sure is a totally true story about a constituent in line at the grocery store:

"He looks at the king crab legs [being bought by a person with food stamps] and looks at his ground meat and realizes because he does pay income tax, he doesn't get more back than he pays in.  He is actually helping pay for the king crab legs when he can't pay for them himself."

I'm sure, like I said, that this is a TOTALLY TRUE EVENT.  That devious poor who was buying king crab legs with food stamps hangs out with the girl in Minnesota who ended up mentally retarded after getting an HPV vaccine and is neighbors with the guy who got really mad when that other guy wished him a Merry Christmas.  They live in this neighborhood called Apocryphal Republican Stories Of People Doing Made Up Shit that Riles Up an Increasingly Resentful and Gullible Base.  They should really look into renaming that place... it's kind of a mouthful.

Lookit: poor people are not the problem.  I looked it up: the percentage of our federal budget that goes into paying for food stamps is one kabillionth.   This is not true.   "Kabillionth" is not an actual mathematical term.  But it is MORE true that Louis Gohmert king crab leg story.

And, in this first world nation of ours, helping poor people to feed themselves is literally* the least we can do.

Dumb assholes like Louis Gohmert stand up in front of congress and claim that the $4 a day a person gets in SNAP benefits is breaking the bank and then head on home to cash their checks from corporate America.  ExxonMobil get 600 million dollars in tax breaks;  Apple pays no taxes on a 74 billion dollar profit.

Make enough money to buy yourself a congressman or two as dumb and dickish as Louis Gohmert, gerrymander a district or two so that a congressman as deeply embarrassing to the state at large as Louis Gohmert can run practically unopposed and... same as it ever was: the rich get richer and the poor get poorer.

But I am hear to tell you that you don't have to be a dumb asshole.  To avoid it, stop laying the blame for your own financial impecuniousness at the feet of people who have less than you.  Punch up, fellow middle-class strivers.  Not down.   Stop begrudging those few dollars that help people feed themselves. And start asking why ExxonMobil isn't paying their goddamn fair share.

*I know I'm using the word "literally" wrong.  But it's for effect.  Dammit.

Monday, June 17, 2013

My Hair Prompts Musings on Cultural Touchstones

I haven't gotten a haircut in well over a year.  I cut my own bangs (seriously) and then leave the rest to whatever deity is in charge of hair (Artemis?  Thor?  Krishna?).  My hair is long enough that I am coming dangerously close to sister-wife territory except for how I dye it blonde every six weeks using whatever light golden blonde hair dye is on sale at CVS, which I think is probably frowned upon in whatever religion has sister-wives.

But the thing is I'm 44 years old now and have never, hand to god, EVER, gotten my hair cut and liked it for more than 15 minutes.  It's just so much easier to ignore it and shove it in a ponytail or, if I'm putting my big girl shoes on, a fancy side braid or something (I am an excellent braider which would have come in handy if I had been a sister-wife because then I could have been in charge of plaiting leather things for sale at craft fairs which is something I imagine sister-wives do).

This morning I did a high ponytail because it's hot and can't stand things on my neck when it's hot.  I was walking through the office and my long ponytail was swinging side to side and I thought to myself, "Jesus.  I probably look like some middle-aged wannabe Marcia Fucking Brady."

And that's when it hit me, like a punch in the face, that if I'd said that aloud to one of the twenty-something paralegals who share office space with us, they'd have no idea what I was talking about.

And that just blew my damn mind.  It is beyond my ken not knowing who Marcia Brady is.  It's like not knowing who Jesus is.  Marcia Brady looms that large in my consciousness.

When I was a kid I'd come home from school and watch some barely tolerable syndicated 60's sitcom on one of the three (THREE!) channels we had.  So did everybody else.  That created a whole linguistic shorthand for us that younger (and, for that matter, older) people just don't grok. Thanks to cable and DVRs and the like,  kids today come home from school and aren't limited to whatever syndicated sitcom a network can afford... they can watch shit they really like (even if it's so much worse than The Brady Bunch... I'm looking to you, Victorious).   This shared anachronistic televised cultural vocabulary may well be limited to Gen X and Gen Y.

This grand revelation occurred to me around 10:30 this morning.  Throughout the rest of the day, as they occurred to me, I chronicled various figures from afterschool sitcom viewing that provided for broad cultural touchstones for my generation. Here's a fun exercise: let's say I've met someone at a party and was telling you about them by saying, "She/He/They remind me of {fill in the blank with one of the names below}":
  • Eddie Haskell 
  • Barney Fife
  • Potsie
  • Gladys Kravitz
  • Lucy and Ethel
  • Ginger or Maryann
  • Danny Partridge 
  • Jan Brady (sigh... I always felt like a Jan)
  • Arnold Ziffel
  • Darren Stevens
  • Major Healey
  • Buffy and Jody
  • Jethro Clampett
  • Ellie May Clampett
  • Miss Jane Hathaway
  • Sergeant Shultz 
  • Colonel Klink
  • Gomer Pyle
  • Uncle Charley
  • Nellie Olsen
  • Helen Hunt on PCP
If this doesn't ring a bell for any of you, I guess I should tell you to get off my lawn or something.  But that's not really how I roll.  There's no virtue to be gleaned from watching too much TV as a tween.  But it was a nice shorthand when I was in my 20s and was out amongst my peers.  I'm sure twenty-somethings nowadays have their own thing.  This is all to say that I am only reminiscing and am not, yet, a grumpy old man. Like this guy - which is probably something else you kids don't remember:


 

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Let's Have Lunch Again

So I brought salad fixings into work, but decided I wanted a little something salty to go with it; hence I trekked away from the desk to which I am generally shackled en voyage to CVS in order to purchase some chippy comestibles.

I boarded the elevator on the sixth floor at the same time as this perky little guy that I could tell was an elevator chitchatterer. But, as is has been so amply documented in my online history that I'm sure there's no level of NSA agent who doesn't know this: I really hate banal elevator chitchat. I have, therefore, developed an anti-chitchat body language jujitsu so formidable that I have yet to encounter the chitchat ninja who can broach it.  I am chitchat proof.

This is also handy on airplanes.

The elevator door opened on the fourth floor, and a dude gets on carrying some bags from this place.

Chit chat ninja spies an opportunity!  "Those look heavy!" he commiserates.

The other guy, who clearly feels the way I do about elevator chitchat but whose own jujitsu has been hampered by his parcels just shakes his head.  Waits for a second. Then says:

"Well, maybe you couldn't carry it."

It was the meanest anti-chitchat jujitsu I've ever seen deployed and I am a woman who once countered a "Sure is cold out there" with "It's winter in Chicago."

Made me chuckle though.  I should step away from my desk more.

Still, poor perky little chitchatterer.  It's tough when feelings become the collateral damage in the elevator chitchat wars.


Monday, June 10, 2013

The Internet, Shame and Time

I really super duper mean to blog more.  Not that I suspect there are legions of desperate Well-Ites bemoaning the lack of Meg Bon Mots.  But, I've been inspired by a couple of bloggers and really mean to try and pop something on this blog at least weekly.  

But, you guys, Laney stays up SO LATE now.  Her bedtime is 9:00 and I can't get a damn thing done while she's awake because she insists on conversating until the lights goes out.   We talked about hands a lot today.  The conversation ended thusly:

Laney: Wait! What if you had two thumbs and a bunch of fingers on one hand and only fingers on the other?
Me: I guess it'd be pretty hard to use scissors
Laney: No.

"No?"  What the hell? "No?"  I was pretty proud of that scissors thing.  She loves me but she is a shitty audience these days.  Ingrate.

Anyhoo, inspirational bloggers.  The first is my cousin, Shawn, who is keeping this perfectly delightful blog that I love to read and that also makes me jealous because she's very thoughtful and always uses good grammar and would never, under any circumstance, sully her published thoughts with words like "conversate."  But I have no such scruples because I believe "conversate" should be a word and refuse to think too deeply about that. I just love to read her blog and I love that it's reliable, you know?  Every Friday, you can read what she's writing about and it's just such a damn pleasure to read.

Shawn led me to another blogger, who's become a Facebook friend, that I'm also real pleased to know and am also super jealous of.  It's this fellow named Mark who keeps a perfectly gorgeous blog which is also, like Shawn's, so thoughtful and well-written.  And it just oozes with the kind of kindness we should all have in our lives.  His last post was called "Shame," and you should go read it.  Here's a link.  I thought it was such a moving thing to write about.  But I am ashamed that even as I read it, I began compiling a list of people who should have shame.  Want to hear it?  Hear it goes:

1. Congress
2. People who don't use turn signals

Remember when Facebook first became a thing and people were all, "It's just a place where aging people missing their youth reconnect with old flames."  And even back in those heady days of yorn, those people were so tiresome because, look, I love my husband very much and would never do anything to hurt him on purpose (unless I were behind him and he failed to use a turn signal then I would CUT the motherfucker in his sleep).  But really, the main reason that neither I nor any other reasonable adult person uses Facebook for affairs, either emotional or practical, is... ugh.  Ain't nobody got time for that!

It's a damn miracle I managed the energy to string together 30 minutes to write this!  I may even shock myself and put off Arrested Development to proof it (I probably won't do that).

But isn't it wonderful that there's this shorthand way to get to know people, virtually, you don't get the chance to meet IRL.  I feel like my virtual world is a stream of interesting, hilarious, thoughtful people who live too far away, or are otherwise too far outside of my world to get to know on the physical plane.  From furniture-making bloggers, to fellow 30 Rock enthusiasts, to parents of adorbs new babies.  The old friends I'd hear from maybe once every couple of years.  Or, god, haven't heard from in 20 years but now know all about. The new friends I know better.

If it weren't for all the government spying and people posting quotes from celebrities that those celebrities never said, virtual life would be practically perfect.

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Abortion

I feel about Photoshop the way some people feel about abortion.  It is appalling and a tragic reflection on the moral decay of our society... unless I need it, in which case, everybody be cool.
- Tina Fey

It's so unpleasant to talk about abortion even if you're talking with people who agree with you about it.  But it's less unpleasant.  So let's start from a place where everybody agrees: fewer abortions are better.

That's about as much middle-ground as we're going to get between the pro- and anti-choice movements.  For us on the pro-choice side, the best way to minimize the number of abortions is to make sure that contraception and contraceptive education are affordable and available.  I think free is best.  Schools should be mandated by the government to tell kids how babies are made and how you can prevent making them.  Anyone who tells girls to imagine they're a stick of gum and once they have sex they're like a chewed up piece of gum (seriously!  Did you know that was something people told girls?  Isn't that horrifying?) should be hauled in front of family court and slapped by someone feisty like Judge Judy or Jim J Bullock.   Anyone who wants contraception should be able to walk into a clinic and get it, no matter how old they are, free of charge and judgment.  A country with a populace that is educated about (and not terrified of) sex and a country where contraception is readily available is the country with the least abortion.

A country where abortion is illegal is a country with more abortion than a country where abortion is legal.

Let's talk about a couple of horrifying stories, shall we?  That oughta be fun.  Here is a 22 year old woman, "Beatriz," who is five months pregnant with a fetus that will not live beyond birth and who faces grave risk of death if she goes through childbirth.  El Salvador has decided it's better for this woman to die than it is for her to have an abortion.  This is why we call it "anti-choice" and not "pro-life."  Allowing this mother of a living, ex-utero child (she has a four year old son) to die is not hardly landing on the side of life.

And, as I often do in situations like this, I think of her mother and what she's going through.  It terrifies me to think that I'm raising a daughter in a country that's growing increasingly hostile to her right to control her own body.  But, I'm not super terrified because, while we ain't rich, we'd have the resources to get her someplace where her health could be looked after, where her right to autonomy over her own body is respected.  If you have a little money, you can always get an abortion*.  Fly to Switzerland or get your family doctor to deem it medically necessary.  Poor women and girls don't have the same chance.

Which brings me to the next horrifying story.  For some completely inexplicable reason the anti-choice movement has glommed onto the story of Dr. Kermit Gosnell and his chamber of horrors as more fodder in their endless campaign against abortion.  But Kermit Gosnell is not the face of LEGAL abortion.  He's the face of ILLEGAL abortion. Pregnant women don't die of overdoses of Demerol at Planned Parenthood.  Living babies don't have their spinal cords severed at Planned Parenthood.  

Kermit Gosnell was cheaper than Planned Parenthood, though.  Kermit Gosnell didn't need to pay a nurse since he was far more butcher than doctor.  And, Planned Parenthood can't take insurance money or medicare for abortion services.

In one of the great ironies of this whole horrible story, picketers at Planned Parenthood were the driving factor in sending one woman to this monster: "The picketers out there, they just scared me half to death."  Note they didn't stop her from getting an abortion, she just ended up getting an abortion from someone who could have killed her.

And that's what happens when abortion is illegal.  If you don't want there to be any abortions, start handing out condoms and volunteering sex ed.  You won't get to zero abortions, but you'll get less.  If, on the other hand, you want more dead woman and more abortions, keep waging your war against it.


* Having a little money, of course, doesn't always save your life in countries where abortion is illegal.

Saturday, May 25, 2013

In Which I Eulogize a Damn Cat



When I was about 22 years old, my friend and coworker, Joelle, somehow inherited a female cat named Elizabeth.  Joelle, in her uniquely Joelle way, renamed Elizabeth to Lizard and brought her into her home where she had a male cat named Chewie (I think Chewie had been renamed from Charles or something...).  Chewie and Lizard had too much to drink one night, or fell prey to some other kitty romance and some time later Lizard had a big old litter.

Maura (my wonderful friend and roommate) agreed that our home was down about a quart of kitty and so we brought home both Lizard and her little black baby which we were, having enjoyed too many Mel Brooks movies, initially planned on naming "Schvartze."  Better angels prevailed, and we noticed the kitty's propensity for scrapping, and we decided to call her "Scrapper." 

Maura recently reminded me that kitty Scrapper had a tendency to scale our screendoor and get caught.  So you'd open the door and here was this cute little black cat stuck midway up the screendoor, yowling. It was hilarious. 

Lizard died.  Maura fell in love and moved in with the man who's now her husband and Scrapper moved with me.  Oh, you guys, the boyfriends Scrapper saw me through! 

Once my father was petting Scrapper, who was always very scrappy, and midway through a stroke, Scrapper bit him.  Dad was hella pissed.  But I said, "Look, she lets you know when she's fixing to bite.  It's not her fault you weren't paying attention."  Dad was unimpressed.

My mother always liked Scrapper despite her allergies. I think for a long time, Mom thought Scrapper was the only grand"child" I would provide her. Speaking of allergies, when Don and I moved in together 14 years ago, I told him not to worry, "She's pretty old and won't be around for much longer."  Poor old Don suffered from allergies for 14 years.

When Laney first laid eyes on Scrapper she screamed in bloody, abject terror. Laney was so terrified, Joelle had to hold onto Scrapper for a few days.  But when I brought Scrapper home, Laney was glad to see her. They've been pretty good buds since then, despite Scrapper propensity for jumping onto Laney's head in the middle of the night.  Damn cat.

She was a damn cat.  She knew exactly what she wanted and if you didn't provide it, she would make manifest her displeasure with you.  She bit my father, made my mother and husband miserable, and terrified and then irritated my daughter.  She would wake up in the middle of the night and start yowling wondering why no one was paying attention to her at 3:00 am.   I loved her despite her epic capacity for being a royal pain in the ass.  She was an epic pain in the ass.  That cat pissed me off.   I loved her.

When I took her to the vet today, all of us knew what was going to happen - the very sweet veterinary assistant (whose comforting hugs I will always be grateful for) and very sweet vet and me.  We all knew that it was time for Scrapper, who had almost no muscle mass left, who was deaf and hadn't eaten or used the litter box in a week, to die.  But, oh lord, I was ugly crying the whole time.

Scrapper's last act before shuffling off her mortal coil was to bite the shit out of me, when the vet gave her a sedative.  That was Scrapper.  Scrappy to the very end.  And, thus, I am eulogizing my cat.  Who I've had for half my life.  And now she's gone.

Friday, May 24, 2013

Family Day 2013

Eight years ago on May 26th, Don and I walked out of an orphanage in Blagoveschensk, Russia with our daughter.  We celebrate this as Family Day here in Chateau Bon.  We'll go out to eat and look for all the Russian animals in Lincoln Park Zoo and we'll give Laney one of the presents we bought for her in Moscow on our first trip to Russia.  It's a fun weekend.

But I find myself feeling very melancholy nonetheless.  Maybe it's because I think I'll be putting my ancient and beloved cat to sleep tomorrow.  Or maybe it's just PMS.  Who knows. But before this post gets too heavy, let's let a four-year-old Laney tell us a joke:



All these milestones... birthdays, family days, first tooth lost, first period, they are all celebrations.  But they are also, all, edged liberally with such sadness.

As is this whole business of raising children.

That little four year old girl telling jokes is gone.  The nine year old who sleeps in her bedroom is amazeballs and the very joy of my life.  But that doesn't stop me from missing the four year old girl, and from feeling like I missed the four year old girl. These moments slip by, defying all our best efforts to grab hold of them, to slow it all down.

When it comes to Laney, I would trade nothing, I would do nothing differently.  But being someone's mother hurts.  And the only preventative medicine for the hurt is to remind yourself, again and again, that you can't grab hold of it.  Every moment is always just ending.

Let's quote the final voiceover from the unfairly reviled American Beauty (seriously, if you hate on that movie for being a banal send up of suburbia, you've missed the point all together.  Watch it again):

Sometimes I feel like I'm seeing it all at once, and it's too much, my heart fills up like a balloon that's about to burst. And then I remember to relax, and stop trying to hold onto it, and then it flows through me like rain and I can't feel anything but gratitude for every single moment of my stupid little life.


Friday, May 10, 2013

Guns, Minus the Bombast

In the following blogpost, I am going to engage the topic of guns in America and I am going to do so without going ALL CAPS, without using any swears, and limiting my use of exclamation points.

But I am angry about guns.

To readers who are not currently residing in America, most Americans are angry about guns.  This is the current state of being an American: you probably weigh more than you should, are worried about money and angry about guns.  Most of us are angry because we are sick to death of the gross proliferation of guns and gun violence and our government's failure to do anything about that.  The minority of us (or as I call them, "them") are angry about how Barack Obama is politicking over the graves of dead children as part of his ongoing, insidious plan to take all the white people guns away and give them to illegal immigrant Mexicans who are Muslim and also Black Panthers, who are still totally a thing.

In the meantime, the NRA has long since ceased advocating on behalf of the purported "sportsman" (a rather nebulous, meaningless term itself) and is now focused with laser-like precision on enabling the endless profiteering of gun manufacturers which it does by fanning the flames of the tribal righty, whom you may recognize as that uncle or old college friend who believes there's a War on Christmas and that Barack Obama is a socialist.

We are ruined by tribal politics.  Most of us (a vast majority of us) are on board with broad gun control  measures involving things like mandatory background checks, banning large capacity magazines, tracking large scale ammunition purchases, etc.  But we are stagnant, suicidal, murdering and murdered, while our politicians vote against background checks after cashing NRA checks, muttering something about rights while a large, but quite narrowly focused chunk of our media maintains its relevance by endlessly flogging an increasingly paranoid Barack Obama conspiracy bombast.

I leave you with this quote from St. Ronald of the Huge Balls, Savior of America:

Certain forms of ammunition have no legitimate sporting, recreational, or self-defense use and thus should be prohibited.

And I ask you to imagine what Gretchen Carlson or Rush Limbaugh or, heaven forfend, Glenn Beck would have made of those same words had they come out of Barack Obama's mouth.  And that right there is all of the problem.

By the way, an eleven year old shot his twelve year old friend in the face today.  Just another crazy accident.  Fourth accidental shooting of children this week.  This is the only one where the victim lived.