C Is For Cookie, And That's Good Enough For Me

Thursday, December 25, 2008

We've been watching a lot of Sesame Street lately. Lil' Blue was first introduced to the show via that ubiquitous red Muppet Elmo. However, she's branched out into other characters, and her current favorite is Cookie Monster. Toddlers, as you know, learn by repetition - and so I've gotten to watch a lot of Cookie Monster. I assume his appeal lies in his floppy fuzzy body that resembles nothing more than a big blanky, and his silly voice and big googly eyes. But as we watch Cookie Monster over and over and over, I've found him appealing to me as well. Because Cookie Monster, more than anything else, lives in the moment. When he sings "C is for cookie, that's good enough for me", his entire world encompasses the giant cookie in his hand. Past cookies are gone, future cookies irrelevant and unknown. That cookie truly is good enough. Cookie Monster is zen.

As we celebrate our second Christmas with Lil Blue, I've had a chance to think about how much she's grown just in the last year. Last Christmas, every picture of her is from the same vantage point: straight down, as she laid on a blanket because she couldn't yet sit up. In just one short year, that baby lying prone on a blanket is a big kid who can walk, run and jump. She can chatter constantly and knows her animals, colors, and even a few numbers. The baby that barely ate solid foods a year ago now can get her own snacks and request particular types of crackers or juice. Everything is impermanent. Dinosaurs that ruled the earth are now dust below the ground. Our lives are infinitely shorter. I can't slow her growth, and I wouldn't want to. But what I can do is be fully present in each moment, and to appreciate the short time we do have together. Happy holidays, everyone!

Do not dwell in the past, do not dream of the future, concentrate the mind on the present moment.

Twilight Time: A Review

Thursday, December 11, 2008

I finally gave in and read Twilight. Mainly, I wanted to see what all the fuss was about. If you haven't noticed (because you don't watch TV, read the newspapers, surf the net, have a teenager, know a teenager, know of a teenager, etc) this book and its three equally-massive sequels have taken over the world. Now, I'll admit that I had low expectations as I went into this endeavor. And I was not disappointed. I mean, I was disappointed, which is what I expected, which...whatever.

Yes, it is a love story. Yes, some vampires show up, and blah blah blah. But after 544 pages, I closed the book thinking "and.....so?" Granted, I haven't read the other three books. Maybe, 2,000 pages later, Bella undergoes some sort of challenge or grows in some manner that explains her current status as a heroine. But it sure doesn't happen in Twilight. Bella's main "challenge" is that she chooses to move to a different city, where she happens to fall in love with a strange boy, who happens to be a vampire. The only real drama occurs when Bella is briefly chased by a vampire bounty hunter (?) who traps her and attempts to drink her blood. But Bella doesn't fight, she doesn't mouth off, she doesn't really do anything except for close her eyes and hope that it ends quickly. Which it does (for the bounty hunter) because the aforementioned boyfriend shows up to save the day. And....scene. Whatever. Its not that Twilight is bad, per se, its just that it could be so much better. And there are already so many books that are so much better.

On that note, allow me to present my list of female fantasy heroines who are better role models for young girls than Bella Swan:

Meg Murry: Meg is the heroine of Madeleine L'Engle's Time Quintet. Much like most young girls, Meg often feels insecure, and her insecurity leads to confrontations with classmates and teachers. She compares herself unfavorably to her beautiful mother (who just happens to be a Nobel-prize winning scientist), and worries about not fitting in due to her brilliant and famous parents, and her genius younger brother Charles Wallace. Yet, despite her insecurities and fears, it is Meg who travels through time and space, first to rescue her father from the evil planet Camazotz, then to rescue her brother Charles Wallace. Through Meg, we learn that regardless of who we are, the most important quality we can have is compassion (including compassion for our own faults).

Sally Lockhart: The first of two heroines created by Philip Pullman. I've often wondered how a middle-aged man can create two of the most vibrant and memorable young female characters, but I'll chalk it up to superior writing chops. The Sally Lockhart novels take place in Victorian England, and are not so much fantasy novels as straight-up mysteries. What makes Sally such a fantastic character is that she feels incredibly real and modern, without taking the reader out of the Victorian setting. Sally faces up to some of the nastiest characters from the darkest corners of London, using only her bravery and intelligence (and the ability to "shoot like a Cossack").

Lyra Belacqua/Silvertongue: I can go on and on about how much I love Philip Pullman's His Dark Materials series. Like Sally Lockhart, Lyra is orphaned at a young age. Of all the characters on this list, Lyra faces the most intense danger and personal challenges, yet arguably achieves the greatest victory. Lyra is clever, irreverant, and most of all, incredibly brave.

Vicky Austin: Unlike the other characters on this list, Vicky Austin's challenges are more internal than external (although she does face quite a bit of real danger at times). Vicky is intensely introverted but cares passionately about others. Her most important quality is her faith in the goodness in others and in humanity.

Lucy Pevensie: The first to discover Narnia, Lucy is always the voice of truth. While her brother Edmund betrays the others and the true king of Narnia, and her older brother and sister are cautious and hesitant, it is Lucy who gives herself over to Aslan whole-heartedly and saves the day (and all of Narnia).

Jane Drew: One of several children from Susan Cooper's Dark is Rising sequence, and the only central female character. Jane has several key scenes, mainly in Greenwitch. She is taken along to a ceremony in which the women of a Welsh village build the Greenwitch - a giant figure made of twigs and leaves which is ceremonially thrown into the ocean. While the other women in the village see the ceremony mainly as a social event, Jane alone sees the deeper significance in the ritual. Jane understands that the figure of the Greenwitch is not just remote and wild, but lonely and sad, and wishes that it could be happy. Her compassion and intuition are rewarded when the Greenwitch gives a valuable secret to Jane in a dream.

Each one of these characters is tested - some multiple times. Jane Drew battles the forces of the dark, Lucy battles the White Witch. Meg Murry travels through space and confronts the Echtroi who are trying to extinguish the stars. Sally Lockhart is chased and attacked by criminals. Vicky Austin is kidnapped and left for dead in Antarctica and nearly sacrificed to pagan gods when she travels backwards in time. And Lyra Belacqua travels to the dangerous, frozen North, and then to land of the dead, where she battles a warrior angel for the release of all the trapped souls in hell. Compared to these battles, Bella Swan and her vampire boyfriend just seem silly. Each of the other characters is compelled on a journey by something greater than herself, be it promises made to friends, rescuing endangered family members, or saving the world. Bella deliberately puts herself in danger, and then relies on Edward to save her. I see thousands and thousands of young girls are reading Twilight. And while I'm happy to see them reading anything, I just feel that they could do so much better.

The Wheels On My Car Go...Nowhere At All, Currently

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

UPDATED UPDATE!! When we got to the dealership, I suddenly realized that if I was going to commit to paying them hundreds of dollars every month, I might as well be paying it for a new car, instead of slowly creating a new car by replacing my old one piece by piece. SO! After crunching the numbers with my brother-in-law, car salesman extraordinaire, I drove home in a NEW CAR!! It is so exciting! With options!! And all working parts!! I woke up this morning and ran to the window to make sure it was really there!

This post is brought to you by Chevrolet, who reminds you why they're currently in Washington, D.C., asking Congress to raise their allowance.

I grew up in the Rust Belt (which becomes the Snow Belt in the winter!!). I knew plenty of people whose parents worked in steel mills or in steel-related factories. So I've made a point of always driving American cars. And all in all, I haven't been too disappointed. I mean, in the last 12 years, I've only needed to fix or replace: the entire main electrical system (Dodge); the brakes, twice (Ford); the silver pony on the front of the mustang (not really Ford's fault, that one); the brakes, AGAIN (Chevy); the side mirrors, twice (Chevy, but myself and the City of Cincinnati maintenance department can share the blame for those); the serpentine belt (Ford); and the power steering gasket (Chevy). So you know, normal maintenance.

Those issues aside, my 9-year-old Chevy SUV has been a pretty sturdy and dependable car until lately. I've been having problems doing some unimportant maneuvers like stopping and turning around corners. Due to the current state of our finances, I've been trying the Christian Science method of car repair. Apparently my faith isn't strong enough because yesterday I nearly launched, Dukes of Hazzard-style, into the Ohio River. Luckily all that training I got in the Snow Belt paid off and I was able to wrestle the car back onto the road and avoid completely skidding out. But the experience was sufficiently harrowing to convince me to actually take the car into the dealership for a physical. The major downside (aside from what I'm sure will be a huge bill) is that I've been forced to spend the day cleaning my house, blogging, reading other blogs, futzing around on Facebook, and reading Twilight (more on that later!). All of this instead of doing important Thanksgiving-related tasks like picking up my 25-lb turkey. Not that I don't love doing all the things I've been doing, but if I don't get my car back soon, my family will be eating cereal for Thanksgiving. Sorry, guys! Its not too late to change your plans!

UPDATE: I just talked to the dealership and its going to cost me $1600 to fix my stupid car. Gee, guys, do you think you could spare a few bucks from the $25 billion dollars you asked Congress for? Or at least, could you give me a ride to pick up my turkey?

This Post Not Sponsored by PETA

Friday, November 21, 2008

My friend A recently told me the story of how her daughter M discovered the Circle of Life. The family was eating dinner when M asked her mother what they were having. "This is chicken" A told her daughter. M looked at her plate, then looked at her mother, eyes welling with tears. "Bock bock?" she whispered, horrified.

Lil' Blue was less moved by the whole idea.

We were eating chicken saag when Lil' Blue pointed at a lump of chicken and asked us what it was. "That's chicken", we said. Lil' Blue looked at her plate quizzically, then brightened. "Bock bock!" she shouted. "Yes, that's right. Bock bock" I responded tentatively. She thought for a moment, then crammed another piece in her mouth, happily proclaiming "Bock bock! Yum yum!!"

Proof of the Apocalypse

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Thought you'd never hear a muppet say "crunk"? WRONG!!!

Lil Blue loves this video.

COTW - Of Mice and Customers

Monday, November 17, 2008

In the spirit of the season, I'm doing today's Customer of the Week following yesterday's abysmal customer experience. Yin/yang, etc etc. This week's winner was another lady of a certain age who was buying Christmas paraphernalia. Normally I'm not a big fan of Christmas kitsch (she says...prior to unpacking a whole freakin' tub of Christmassy stuff I've accumulated through the years) But we sell these little mouse figurines that are pretty darn cute with their little christmas elf hats on. Anyway, the COTW was buying a few of the tiny elvish mice.

"I have a friend who's got a problem with mice in her house" she told me. "So I'm going to sneak these in. She needs to learn to laugh about the situation". Now that alone probably would have been enough to make me laugh, because...well, that's really cute. I commiserated with her friend, explaining that our 100-year old house also had served as a rodent flophouse during the winter months. She then told me the cutest story ever: In a nutshell, she and her husband had been having problems with mice all winter. They finally tracked down where the little guys were coming in, and found a nest with no mama mouse. Inside were three teeny, brand new baby mice no bigger than her fingernail. Which she and her husband rescued, kept in a hamster cage, and raised as pets! Altogether now.....awwwwwwww.

There is nothing more exhilarating than pointing out the shortcomings of others

Sunday, November 16, 2008

A customer called me stupid today. I don't mean she implied it with a snide comment. I mean, she called me stupid. In fact, she went on a rant during which she stated that thinking obviously hurt my meager brain, and that I shouldn't "strain myself" trying to think. I was slightly cheered by the customers who stepped in to tell her to cool it. I was even complimented on "handling it" well after she left. Although truthfully, I wasn't so much handling it as waiting for it to be a bad joke, and not someone completely losing their shit. After she'd left, I trembled for nearly half an hour from the adrenalin that shot through me. I laughed it off, even during the telling and re-tellings with my co-workers for the rest of the day. It wasn't until much later, sitting in my daughter's dark, warm room, that the tears came. I'm not a crier - I don't often crumble into a soggy mess or wear my emotions on my sleeve. When confronted with an emotional situation I'm more likely to default to rage or just a spacy nothingness. But today was a long time coming. Even though she'd long since fallen asleep, I held Lil Blue and suddenly I dissolved. I had thought I was so brave, quitting my legal job - thought that I was teaching her that there's more to life than chasing a career. That I love her so much I wanted a job that didn't leave me exhausted and mentally bruised at the end of the day. So what am I teaching her now? That's its okay to stand behind a counter being the brunt of the anonymous public's anger? That I think so little of myself that I let someone call me stupid to my face and let it go? How can I teach her about pride and self-respect when I couldn't muster any of my own?

I haven't yet figured out how to implement my "not taking shit from customers anymore" plan and not get fired in the process. But I'm done kissing the ass of people who can't even be civil. Yes, I'm in a service job. But I'm not your servant.

Bunch of savages in this town.*

*TM Randal Graves, of course.

COTW - and a lesson about judging books by their covers

Thursday, November 13, 2008

I had initially planned a serious Customer of the Week Post centering around some post-election issues. I wanted to award the COTW to all the white people buying Song of Solomon, presumably because Barack Obama said it was one of his favorite books. Or to the man who bought a stack of Audacity of Hope to send to his friends in Europe and South America because, he said, he was so proud of America for getting it right. However, one customer who came in this afternoon just had to be the COTW because she taught me an important lesson about judging books (or customers) by their appearance. And also because she was kind of bad-ass.

About half an hour before I was due to leave this afternoon, a little old lady came up to the register. I braced myself for 1) being bitched at for not carrying enough Jesus-centric Christmas cards 2) carrying too much liberal-biased Barack Obama propaganda or 3) some other nonsense that would require me to mentally hum "la la la la la" while faking a bookstore-approved level of customer service. You probably know the type. Little old lady sweater, lots of makeup, hair that most likely requires the use of one of the plastic hat things when it rains. But, all she wanted was to ask how she could replace her customer card. I went into my spiel about how we can look her up when she makes purchases so its no big deal to not have a card, blah blah blah, when you renew we can get you a new card, yada yada yada.

Old lady: "okay. I just wanted to check. I lost my wallet when I got carjacked last week".

Me: "!!!"

It wasn't just that she'd gotten carjacked - you don't hear that every day. It was the fact that she was so blase, and seemed more irritated that now she had to replace all of the stuff in her wallet. And it gets better! She had gotten jacked in an area of town that mainly consists of college bars where kids go to get cheap beer and listen to indie bands. Was she lost? Picking up her grandson? Driving home after a Wussy concert? I'll never know. But needless to say, I hope someday I can be as badass and chill as that old lady. Rock on, grandma!

Dust on the Shelves

Sunday, November 9, 2008

*I'll return to the regularly scheduled Customer of the Week next week. I've had this work-related post kicking around in my head all week and finally feel like I can get it down on "paper".

The powers that be at my store recently decided that it was time for our regular cleaning and alphabetizing binge. You would be amazed at how much gets misplaced, mis-shelved, and just plain lost in a large bookstore. Since we alphabetize the entire store several times a year, you'd think we'd stop finding random magazines and books from ten years ago shoved behind other books, but yet it happens. There's no particular rhyme or reason to which section gets organized in what order. Mainly, the managers post a list of sections and we all hack away at it until only erotica is left. Then someone finally sucks it up (hee!) and organizes the sexy books.

I love alphabetizing, in part because it appeals to my latent OCD. After I finish a section, I just stand back and admire all the books all lined up neatly next to their mates. But mainly I like it because it gives me an opportunity to actually look at every book in a particular section. So I tend to gravitate toward the sections that interest me: religion, philosophy, science.

Lately I've noticed that I've spent easily as much time, if not more, dusting off the shelves rather than actually organizing. And that saddens me. Our country has been at war with two Muslim countries for nearly seven years. And yet the entire shelf of books on Islam were coated with dust. The polar ice caps are melting, coastal countries are drowning, and hurricanes are regularly threatening the existence of large numbers of people. And yet, dust covers the books on climate change. Gothic teenage vampire romances go flying out the door in droves, while we're constantly returning books about religion and philosophy and science because they've languished on our shelves for too long and must be returned to the publisher.

What nonfiction does sell is often of the "political expose" genre - this has been especially popular during the tenure of George W Bush et al. While certainly such books have a purpose, I suspect that many of them fulfill for the educated urban liberal the same purpose as People magazine does for the rest of the population. While it is certainly important to read about what is happening in the world, it seems that very few readers have an interest in why. At least not at the deep critical level that requires a basic understanding of who our enemies are, and what they believe.

Likewise, there has been an explosion of books on "going green" - a facile label for doing things like buying $20 reusable shopping bags. But yet we rarely, if ever, sell books to those interested in learning about the science of climate change. Even though having a basic knowledge of the underlying science allows one to read the "green" books with a critical eye, and take actions based on rational principles and not simply those promoted by the latest book printed on recycled paper.

Of course, I understand that reading non-fiction is harder. Sometimes even boring. And I'm as guilty as the next person and probably in no position to preach. However, I also appreciate that education is an active, not a passive, undertaking. To call myself an educated person, I have an obligation to pursue knowledge, even if doing so is harder than reading the next Spenser novel. I don't want to see dust gather on the shelves of the fiction section, the mysteries, or even the romance novels. That's not the point. I would just like to see the day when I don't need to wipe an inch of dust off the books in those other parts of the store.

Republicans Bite Back

Friday, November 7, 2008

I couldn't resist posting this. Apparently everyone in President Bush's inner circle is acting like a dick after the election.


Wednesday, November 5, 2008

We did it! My generation elected it's John F. Kennedy. We've finally closed the door on the past and bought our tickets for the future. And we did it our way. We did it $25 at a time. We did it by knocking on doors and making phone calls. Did you see the coverage of long lines of voters? Look at the faces in the lines. Young, black, latino...the faces that previous candidates wrote off because they don't vote, they can't be bothered to show up at the polls. And they certainly won't wait in line for four hours. Except for we did. We skipped class and took off work, we rode the bus and brought our kids, and we showed that we matter. Yes, we can. And yes, we did.

Customer of the Week - Week 2

Monday, October 27, 2008

Damn, has it been a week already? Time has just flown by. I'm still getting back into the groove of working a regular schedule, but I've enjoyed being back at the bookstore. Now I'm trying to get ready for Halloween, which is apparently this Friday, which means I need to carve some pumpkins with a quickness. But, since it's Monday (and therefore the start of my "weekend" - ie, two days off in a row) that means its time for this week's Customer of the Week! Only one stood out this week, but he was fun. The winner of the COTW, Week Two, is ..... the Flamboyant Former Bookseller!

FFB came in to order some books by Italo Calvino, an author I haven't read but who definitely intrigues me. Somehow we got to talking about books that are life-changing. The ones that you remember years later, that somehow were the right words at the right time to encapsulate everything that you needed to hear and feel. It turns out that he had worked for years as a bookseller. I told him about how much I enjoy selling books to young teenagers - I love the excitement on their faces when they purchase Siddartha or Catcher in the Rye or The Fountainhead. I wonder how they found out about their book - were they randomly searching the internet and stumbled across it? Or did an older and wiser mentor subtlely suggest they pick up a copy?

FFB is the COTW not just because he was fun, insightful, and wearing a totally fabulous striped shirt with the color up, Fonzi-style. But because he got me thinking about my own life changing book. Like millions of teenagers before me, I can remember the first time I read On the Road. Unlike many other teenagers, I've read it since then. Multiple times. While I don't think its really Kerouac's best work (Desolation Angels is better written, Visions of Cody easier to read, and Dharma Bums a more interesting story), something about On the Road makes it accessible to a young reader in a way that his other works aren't.

On the Road is often criticized for being dated, but those critics are missing the point. When I first read On the Road as a young pre-teen, I didn't read it as a travel guide to hitch-hiking across the country. But I recognized myself in Sal Paradise. Because the story of Sal Paradise is the story of a young person with an unlimited capacity for dreams, who ultimately discovers that his dreams have outpaced him. His journey almost ends before it begins, when he finds himself standing along the side of an empty road, heading the wrong direction, soaked and miserable and wearing the wrong kind of shoes for the road. At the very end of the novel, he is forced to confront the fact that his best friend Dean, the friend who had propelled him on his epic journey across the country, is actually a self-centered jerk. But through it all Sal Paradise just keeps moving. And that was what was most appealing to me as a teenager, and which still resonates now at 30 - that you'll never run out of road.

Maybe all that Kerouac in my formative years explains why I'm still searching for a niche and a career after all this time, why I'm still convinced there can be greatness in my future. Who knows. But there are worse novels to serve as a guidepost. So thanks, FFB, for bringing up great memories. And reminding me of some of the things I enjoy most about my job. Now its time to go back and re-re-read my copy of the On the Road - the one that still has my name scrawled in pen on the cover, from so many years ago.

The Inaugural Blue Crayon Customer of the Week Award

Monday, October 20, 2008

Regular readers may have noticed that when I talk about my job, I tend to spend 90% of my time complaining about the customers. That's because 90% of them suck. But I realized that I should also be talking about the 10% that don't suck, who aren't assholes and who help me enjoy my job. Therefore, starting today, I'll be posting once a week to congratulate the Blue Crayon Customer of the Week. Winners are determined in my sole and completely arbitrary discretion.

This week we actually have a tie:

COTW 1: Tiny Obama supporter. Today a young girl (maybe 6 or 7 years old) came into the store with her abuela. She was a little elfin thing and she immediately flitted up to our table of election books. "Look!" she said. "Its Obama!". And clapped her hands. My heart grew three sizes that shift, because awwww. And yay! Yes we can, indeed!

COTW 2: Nice mom with her pre-teen daughter. Work in retail for any length of time, and you will see the entire range of horrible parenting. From neglect to emotional abuse and everything in between. Our store is in a ritzy area of town, so we tend to get a lot of the Type A parents. The poor kids drag in, exhausted from piano/soccer/swimming/French class and bearing a long list of private school-mandated reading. Mom or Dad snips at them (and me!) the whole time and the kid never gets to buy a book they actually want to read, because god forbid they take time away from something they can put on their college applications. So anyway, I was bracing myself when a mom came up with her daughter (in a soccer uniform, natch). Imagine my surprise when the mom was nice - really pleasant! She asked me if I could recommend some books for her daughter, and then let her daughter explain what she liked to read. And she listened while her daughter talked! And would randomly squeeze her shoulders! You could tell mom and daughter actually liked each other. It was such a change from the normal pre-teen parenting dynamic that I see that I talked to them for a long time. It turns out the daughter likes science fiction, so good for her!

An honorary mention goes to any customer who can make me laugh. This week's winner: the husband of one of the aforementioned Type-A moms. The mom (not a COTW) stormed off in a huff because I directed her to the information desk, for, you know information. Not just to get her out of my face (although that was somewhat true too) but because I was the only one at the register, and I knew that the info desk would be able to spend more time with her and actually find her stuff quicker. Anyway. After she blew off, her husband said "oh well. she doesn't like me much either". Hahaha! Also....kind of sad. For him.

Overheard at the Playground

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Remember that one episode of the X-Files where there was the teenager who was a faith healer? And how it was supposed to be about the nature of faith, but really it was about how kids that talk like adults creep us out? Except for this kid, of course, who was just really dorky, until he grew up and became awesome. Anyway...today at the playground. Lil Blue and I were running around on the jungle gym when I heard a young boy (maybe eight years old) and his even younger friend talking. Here's what I heard (I swear I'm not making any of this up)

Kid: "You see what your problem is? Its that your clothes don't match your personality"
Younger Kid: "What do you mean?"
Clinton Kelly: "What you wear and how you look influence how people perceive you"
Bud Fox:"So what should I do?"
Gordon Gekko: "Well, look at it this way. If you dress like a princess, people will think you're a princess. Heck, if you dress like a cat, people will think you're a cat. You need to think about what you want to be, and then dress accordingly"

Seriously? Is this how kids talk these days? I mean, I can't argue with the kid's advice. And he was wearing a very fashion-forward blue-on-blue ensemble complemented by vintage Pumas (even more impressive given that he was probably -15 years old when the original Pumas were hot). Lil Blue and I looked at each other, and I'm sure she was thinking "yeah, mom, thanks for letting the kids think I'm a dirty hippie love child being raised by two moms, what with the no makeup and the cargo shorts and the Keens, you might as well be wearing an Ani DiFranco tshirt. I'll just be over here with the fancy moms wishing I had a ballerina costume on instead of this ridiculous Grateful Dead tshirt" Damn, kids are so judgmental these days.

Don't Stop Believing

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

35-14, people.


NFL Week 6 Picks

Friday, October 10, 2008

Remember two weeks ago when I said that my nemesis, the Carolina Panthers, had managed to NOT screw my picks, and that maybe my streak of NEVER EVER betting one of their games correctly was ended? Didja watch last week's game? Did you see how I said that KC was going to upset Carolina? Did you see what happened next? That's right, Carolina proceeded to win the game 34-0. ZERO! Argh! So here's this weeks picks.

Visit the Commish for all the action!


NY GIANTS @ CLEVELAND: I know, I may be the only person in America who is willing to bet on the Brownies. But I can't desert my team in their most desperate hour. Also, the Browns have a habit of playing up to substantially better teams.

NB: Can you believe the line on this game is only NYG -7.5? Are they watching the same Browns team I am? Is someone planning to sabotage the entire Giants starting lineup? Can I stand to wait until Monday?


Reaching Out and Touching Someone. Or Twenty.

Monday, October 6, 2008

My little sister (hi, B!) finally convinced me to join Facebook...and now I'm wondering where the last 24 hours disappeared to. You see, I switched schools several times growing up, including between junior high and high school. And back in those dark ages, we didn't have email, cell phones, text messaging, twitter, facebook, et cetera, to use to keep in touch. We picked up the phone (which sometimes, at least in my house, had a dial) and called each other. Well, I hate talking on the phone. Did then, do now, always have. So many of my friendships dwindled away to nothing. Kids I sat with on the bus, ate lunch with, told secrets to and passed notes to, all went their separate ways. Until NOW when I can sit at my kitchen table and chat away with people I haven't seen for five....um....ten years. We even found my "little sister" from the family who hosted me during my homestay in France!

Finding one friend in particular has been wonderful. We'll call him M. Back in our school days, a lot of the kids would call M gay, I guess because he was soft spoken and liked art. Although, it was an art school, so all of us probably seemed gay to kids at regular school. But I digress. I'm pretty sure the other kids made M's life hell in school, but he was always a good friend to me and always had a huge smile on his face. Since high school he's moved to a city he adores and has a fabulous job that brings him lots of satisfaction. And I am so, so happy for him. He was my friend and I was always nice to him. But I wasn't brave enough to stand up for him when other kids said hateful things. Maybe he is actually gay. Maybe he's not. That's not the point. The point is that those kids were assholes, and I should have done more for my friend.

My sincerest desire is that Lil Blue won't be that kid. That she won't be any of those kids - not the mean girl, not the picked-on kid, and not the kid standing quietly by. I can only hope that her father and I do a good a job molding her into a person who is both kind and courageous.

NFL Week 5 Picks

Saturday, October 4, 2008

(Image courtesy of 80's Tees which you should totally visit and buy lots of stuff from)

So what a weird season its been so far, huh? The Colts are 1-2, the Patriots are looking like mere mortals at 2-1, while the Titans and the Bills are 4-0. Arizona is leading its division. Of course, the Bengals and Lions are doing about as well as expected at 0-4 and 0-3, respectively, so its not completely Bizarro NFL. But it does make picking these games a little trickier, since I can't just pencil in a win or loss for certain teams.

I'm posting a little late here, but still squeaking it out before Sunday games begin. Last week's results were not any better than the week before, indicating that whether I do actual research or not, I can't accurately predict more than nine games. BUT in other news, my nemesis the Carolina Panthers finally didn't screw me over! In the years and years that I've played fantasy football and squandered money on office football pools, I have never ONCE accurately predicted a Carolina game. I pick win, they lose. In retaliation I pick lose, they win against all odds. Luckily, no one sent a memo to the Atlanta Falcons and they graciously put up a paltry nine points. Thanks, guys!

Winning teams are in RED this week.

TENNESSEE @ BALTIMORE: This is a tricky one for me. On one hand, I feel like TN is due for a loss. On the other hand, TN is playing fantastic defense, and BAL is playing with a rookie QB (the awesomely named Joe Flacco) leading an offense on which no one is 100% healthy. So I'm giving it to TN, in what I predict will be a low scoring game.

KANSAS CITY @ CAROLINA: I'm going out on a limb and giving this one to KC. I don't think CAR is as good as their record would make you think, and KC has some good talent on their offense.

CHICAGO @ DETROIT: "what's the score" "0-0" "who's winning?" "the Bears"

ATLANTA @ GREEN BAY: Okay, Packers fans, help me out here. I really wavered on this one, mainly due to all the GB injuries. But I'm going to pick GB because I think ATL can't win on the road.

INDIANAPOLIS @ HOUSTON: Someone has to win this game, and I doubt it'll be the Texans, home field or not.

SAN DIEGO @ MIAMI: Poor Chad Pennington. I really think he got a raw deal in NY. He rushed back from shoulder surgery because the NY media was bitching at him, which led to his other injuries and all the complaints that he couldn't throw with any velocity. I wanted to see him do well in Miami because he seems like a nice guy who could be a good (not great) QB on the right team. Oh well. Coulda woulda shoulda, and I'm giving it to the Chargers.

SEATTLE @ NY GIANTS: The New York Football Giants are on a tear. They look like the Patriots of years past.

WASHINGTON @ PHILADELPHIA: Brian Westbrook has all the ruggedness of a thoroughbred, which is to say none at all.

TAMPA BAY @ DENVER: No way Denver's losing two in a row, especially not at home.

BUFFALO @ ARIZONA: The Cardinals are leading their division mathematically. The Bills haven't lost a game.


NEW ENGLAND @ SAN FRANCISCO: I think NE's defense will win this one.

PITTSBURGH @ JACKSONVILLE: PIT wins games on the ground, and pretty much all of their starters and much of their O-line is on IR. Ben Roethlisberger (Go Redhawks!) is just not going to morph into a consistent pocket passer, and Hines Ward can't catch every pass.

MINNESOTA @ NEW ORLEANS: I think NO has the edge, plus they've got the home field advantage.


Do or Do Not

Monday, September 29, 2008

“Victory is won not in miles but in inches. Win a little now, hold your ground, and later, win a little more"
~Louis L'Amour

On Sunday I turned 30. This won't be a post about what a milestone I've achieved, or a reflection on life lived to date. Honestly, I haven't thought a whole lot about my birthday. It was, however, a momentous weekend for other reasons. Primarily, I completed my first half marathon! Everything came together to make for a perfect running experience. The weather was beautiful - the race started at 8:00 when there was still a lot of cool fog. We ran out of Oxford into the country, so for about the first hour there was nothing but misty farmland, with cows and horses just starting to wake up. As we approached the Indiana border the sun started burning off the fog, which turned the air into a million tiny prisms. Mile 8 was the turn-around, just inside Indiana. Coming back was not as cool, since we were running east into the sun, and the elevation was definitely going up. I had never run more than 10 miles before, and when I hit the 10 mile mark and still felt great, I experienced a big energy boost. At mile 12 it finally hit me that I was definitely going to finish this race, and finish strong. One last hill, down the brick streets and under the finish arch, and DONE! Official time: 2:25:07. My goal had been 2:15, but given my recent knee problems I was plenty happy to have hit 11 minute miles. So now I'm taking some time off from running, and looking forward to my next "big" race - the Heart Mini-Marathon in the spring.

While I was running, I had plenty of time to think. I came to the realization that I guess now I really can call myself a "runner". I've always avoided that title - even though I run 15 miles a week and have completed a lot of races, I've felt that other people are runners - I'm still just a hack. I realized that for my entire life, I've felt that I was an outsider - a pretender. I'd like to claim that it is due to an overdeveloped desire for independence, but really I think it is based in fear. Fear that if I call myself "runner" (or "lawyer" or "martial artist" or "blogger"...), if I stand up and claim membership in a group, that it will encourage others to scratch the surface - to see if I really am what I claim to be. And what if that core under the surface disappoints? What if all I am capable of is putting on a good display? But there comes a time when even I have to admit that the mask has become permanently attached. I am a runner - it is who I am. Because I care, and because I try, and because I miss running when I take time off.

However, in calling myself a runner, I force myself to take running seriously. Hacks take time off because they're lazy. Runners do not. My next goal is to start increasing my speed, starting with my 5K time. So starting this weekend, I incorporate speedwork into my training. And I can't wait!

Do or do not; there is no try

NFL Week 4 Picks

Friday, September 26, 2008

I ended up 9-7 last week - so much for my strategy of "research" and "picking based on statistics and carefully reasoned analysis". This week, I'm going with the "gut feeling" strategy. Winning teams are in BOLD.

As always, visit the Commish (Insta-Mom) for all the action!

Cleveland @ Cincinnati
Atlanta@ Carolina
Houston @ Jacksonville
Denver @ Kansas City
San Francisco @ New Orleans
Arizona @ NY Jets
Green Bay @ Tampa Bay
Minnesota @ Tennessee
San Diego @ Oakland
Buffalo @ St. Louis
Washington @ Dallas
Philadelphia @ Chicago

Monday Night Football
Baltimore @ Pittsburgh
Combined final score: 27

Share the Health

Thursday, September 25, 2008

My friend Amy in Ohio is giving away two free, three-month memberships to Weigh Watchers! Awesome, right? Well, to make it even better, Weight Watchers is currently sponsoring a program where they donate a pound of food to the hungry for every pound lost by members!

Visit her blog here for all the info on how to enter.

Bless Me, Internets

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

We all have our secrets. We've all done something we're ashamed of - done it in the dark when we thought no one would find out. For some of us, it was with just one person, others were all alone in their bedrooms. Some might have even done it with a group.

Yes, we've all enjoyed a movie or TV show and been ashamed to admit it.

(Come on now, someone here had to have paid to see Waterworld)

So, here is my list of shame - I'm bringing it out into the light for all to see. Step into the bloggy confessional with me and share your secret, guilty pleasures!

1. Galaxy Quest: I love this movie. I own this movie. I watch it all the time. There's just something in the way that it pokes fun at science fiction, while simultaneously celebrating it, that I find touching. Mr Blue and I frequently shout "Never give up! Never surrender!" Because we're dorks. But we're dorks with a collection of swords and weapons. Ha!

2. A League of Their Own: I'm embarrassed by this one because I make a point of never watching chick flicks. On paper, this movie has everything I hate, namely feelings. And no explosions. But for some reason, I can't not watch it when I flip past it on TV. Granted, its nominally a sports movie, but we all know its really about feelings.

3. Farscape: I was a late-comer to this fabulously cheesy TV series about an American astronaut who goes through a wormhole and yada yada yada. One of the main cast-members? Was a muppet. Every episode contains at least one science fiction cliche, if not many. But yet, I got sucked in after the first couple of episodes and couldn't stop watching.

4. Stargate: Atlantis: By the time you reach this spin-off of a spin-off, any original greatness from the Stargate movie has been greatly diluted. But on Friday evenings after Lil Blue is in bed and my brain can't handle anything with, well, a complex plot or sophisticated character development, Stargate: Atlantis fills the void. Oh, and Jason Momoa is smokin' hot. And Rachel Luttrell topped Mr Blue and my list of "women who could take me in a fight in real life"*.

5. Labyrinth: Another movie featuring muppets. Weird. Also, David Bowie in purple stretch pants, a young (pre-Oscar!) Jennifer Connelly, and the Bog of Eternal Stench. And musical numbers! Who doesn't secretly love this movie? Communists, that's who.

*The complete list includes Rachel Luttrell, Jolene Blalock, Eliza Dushku, and Jessica Biel

How to be an Asshole in a Bookstore

Saturday, September 20, 2008

1) Reshelve books. Be creative! Because after 9 hours on my feet, there's nothing I'd rather do after close than go on an exciting scavenger hunt for missing books. (Special exemption for the person who shelved the Kama Sutra in "martial arts", because that made me laugh)

2) Allow your children to run wild. I myself have a toddler, so I don't expect children to be seen and not heard. However... screaming, pulling books off shelves, and throwing food are over the line. Its a bookstore, not Gymboree.

3) Hit on the staff. The bigger the age difference, the better! True story: a co-worker of mine received a note (!) from a married man (!!) while working in the children's section, wanting to meet her somewhere "private". Ew, ew, ew.

4) Yell at the staff. Dude, I'm wearing an apron. And a nametag. Do I look like I'm in a position to make decisions about the amount of parking spaces in front of the building, to open a new store closer to you, or determine whether we should have a Biography section? Also, if you want access to every book ever written, get yerself onto Amazon. "Out of print" doesn't mean "its in the back in our magical stockroom of old books".

5) Make your payment options as complicated as possible. Bonus points if you can manage to use cash, credit, and a check for the same transaction!

6) Return books that were new when I was in middle school. Or books from another store. Or stolen merchandise.

7) Start a request with "I don't really remember anything about this book, but..."

8) Don't read any of the fine print on your coupon. Complain when I explain it to you.

Fellow retail veterans, feel free to add to the list!

Fox News, I'm Looking at YOU

NFL Week 3 Picks

Friday, September 19, 2008

Amy in Ohio, my friend and fellow NFL-obsessed chica, has created a new way for me to waste time that I should be spending working or getting to know my family. Behold, my inaugural picks in the B(logger) F(ootball) L(eague). Click on the steenkin' badge to the right to connect to Instamom, where the magic happens each week. Winning teams are in BOLD. Because ya either go BOLD, or ya go home.

ARIZONA @ WASHINGTON (a: I hate the Redskins b: while I generally disagree with buying over-the-hill talent to compete, it seems to be working for AZ so far and c: I hate the Redskins)

CAROLINA @ MINNESOTA (The Vikes are a team that rivals the Browns in their inability to find a franchise QB. Sometimes a player is a low draft pick because he is not very good)

HOUSTON @ TENNESSEE (Not just because of the hurricane. Houston is just terrible.)

MIAMI @ NEW ENGLAND (blah blah Tom Brady, I know...but there's just too much talent in NE for them to lose this game)

OAKLAND @ BUFFALO (Does anyone really care about this game? Bueller?)

CINCINNATI @ NY GIANTS (Cinci gets to see Plaxico Burress again. Great)

KANSAS CITY @ ATLANTA (yawn. whatever. I used to enjoy watching Atlanta so I could bitch about how the media so badly over-hyped Michael Vick. Now...yawn)

TAMPA BAY @ CHICAGO (so that's where Brian Griese ended up)

ST LOUIS @ SEATTLE (Man, is Seattle looking terrible this year. I flipped a coin for this one)

DETROIT @ SAN FRANSISCO (I'd like to see Jon Kitna do well. What can I say, I'm a softie)

NEW ORLEANS @ DENVER (A pretty even match-up, but I'm giving it to the team who didn't have to stress about another hurricane last week)

PITTSBURGH @ PHILADELPHIA (Because I only pick Pittsburgh when I have money on the line and I have to. Otherwise, LOSE, SUCKA's)

CLEVELAND @ BALTIMORE (Because the Browns want to make us hope, before dashing our hearts on the rocks of their incompetence, yet again)

JACKSONVILLE @ INDIANAPOLIS (Every time I pick Jax, they blow it. When will this team finally live up to the hype? Oh right, when the find a better QB)

DALLAS @ GREEN BAY (I'm happy that Aaron Rodgers is playing well. I mean, he should be, after spending approximately 17 years holding a clipboard watching Brett Favre. But I can't see Dallas losing this one)

Monday Night Game

NY JETS @ SAN DIEGO (hmmm...a team that consistently loses in the final moments, against a QB legendary for last-minute hail mary victories?)


Seven Years Ago Today

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Seven years ago today, the weather was exactly how it is today. Sunny and warm, a beautiful fall day. When we first heard the news about the towers I was sitting in class - at first we thought it was a joke, then we thought some idiot had flown a Cessna into a tower by accident. By the end of class, we knew it was much, much worse. I tried to call my husband, tried to call my parents, tried to find out what was going on. Someone wheeled a TV into the atrium of the law school, and we all crowded around. I remember seeing news anchors fighting back tears. I remember hearing that the president had been killed, that another plane had hit the capitol, that they thought maybe 10,000 people were dead or missing. I remember standing in the law school wondering if it was safe to go home. I remember realizing how much the sense of safety was ingrained in me - how untouchable I felt, ensconced in a medium sized city in the middle of the safest country on earth. And suddenly: I wasn't. I remember thinking about places like Israel, Colombia, Congo and Beirut. That there were people who felt like this every day. And how much I - how much we all - had taken for granted.

Image courtesy of the Boise Picayune

The Blue Household by the Numbers

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Years of marriage: 7
Pets (current): 2
Addresses since marriage: 4
Martial Arts schools trained at: 3
Fights settled by sparring: 17
Trips to the emergency room: 8
Concussions suffered: 7
Jobs held: 12
Speeding tickets: 4
Wedding rings lost: 2 (Mr Blue)
Jimmy Buffett concerts attended:12
U2 concerts attended: 2
Pairs of acid-washed jeans owned: 3
Countries visited: 8
Completions of Around the World in 80 Beers: 2 (Stella)
Combined years of higher education: 17


Saturday, August 30, 2008

First of all, sorry for the long stretch of no-posting. Things have been crazy busy around here. But hurray for three-day weekends! Here's what's been going on at the Blue household.

Lil'Blue moves up to the big girl room at daycare on Tuesday. *sniff* I have to buy her a little backpack to commemorate the occasion. I'm sure she'll pick the pinkest one they have at Target. Maybe we can bedazzle her name on it too.

I have an interview for that part-time gig at the law school! I've decided that I *really* want this job, so I'm taking the interview seriously (that isn't always the case for me...sometimes I go to interviews because its just nice to be wanted. But this one, I'm bringing the noise for.)

I've been in kind of a running funk lately - my longest run to date is 9 miles and since then, I've just felt sort of unmotivated. Plus, my right knee has been bothering me a lot and its just no fun to run in pain. But I have a 5K tomorrow that I'm looking forward to, so I think that'll help me get back into the swing of things. I've tried to run this race for the last four years, and something ALWAYS happens to make me back out (2005: dislocated hip 2006: bronchitis 2007: California) so this year, dammit, I'm going to run it! It takes place at the zoo so after the race Mr Blue and Lil Blue and I will go see the new giraffe exhibit. Yay! I've also decided to *very tentatively* pencil in the Akron Marathon for next year. It gives me 12 whole months to train, which ought to be more than enough. Mainly I just need to get this knee pain under control.

We spent last weekend visiting my hometown. It was Lil Blue's first time up there and she got to spend lots of quality time with her grandparents and meet some of her other aunties. We had a very nice time once we got there, but the 5-hour car ride was HELL. We ended up having to stop halfway during both trips and just kill time. I'm almost considering doing the trip in two days next time because I can't deal with the SCREAMING.

thanks to Feener at Mommyvents for helping me win my very first blog giveaway loot ever! yay!!

And extra-special thanks to all of you who commented on my last post. I wish I could give you all hugs IRL!!

Losing Myself

Sunday, August 24, 2008

It seems like lately everyone I know is on a weight-loss plan. They are my friends and I love them and I'm ecstatic to see them taking strides toward being happy and healthy. But I've mainly stayed out of the weight-loss talk, and here's why:

My name is Stella and I have an eating disorder.

It probably started when I was very young. From 4th to 8th grade I went to an arts school where I majored in ballet. I danced six days a week, twice a day on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays. While I'm sure there are many ballet schools that teach little girls how to dance and stretch and wear tutus in a healthy way, mine was not one. (Case in point: a good friend of mine was 5'8" with an athletic build. Her ballet instructor told her that if she ever wanted to see the stage she needed to get under 100 lbs. She ate only one apple a day for a week. And I thought she was awesome for doing it).

I am by nature pretty muscular. When I exercise, I don't become lithe - I become strong. So ballet was a constant struggle to lose not only fat, but muscle. I'm not sure when I discovered purging as a weight-loss method, but by eighth grade I was doing it regularly. I would skip lunch or eat a plain salad with no dressing. I couldn't escape family dinners, so I worked out a complicated mathematical system where so many bites of food equaled so many minutes of running or biking. I joined the track team and swam laps. And eventually destroyed my knees and had to quit dancing. Ironically, that only made things worse. I started high school in a new school where I knew no one. Without dancing, I didn't know what to do with myself. I joined the track team and the debate team. Debating was fun but caused me a ton of stress, so I exerted control over my life the only way I could - by controlling what went in my mouth. Every meal I skipped, every pound lost, was a small triumph. I ate Dexatrim and caffeine pills like candy.

When I started college I was 5'5" and a size 2. But whatever god or goddess watches over lost young women decided enough was enough and by random chance I ended up rooming with the best possible roommates I could have had. I was at Miami University, a school notorious for its sky-high number of women treated for eating disorders. I could have very easily ended up with a roommate who, like me, thought the world revolved around the number on the scale. But instead I had my awesome roommate M, and our across-the-hall mates A & B. M & A were athletes and four of us instantly formed a tight bond that has lasted through the years. We ate at the dining hall together, went to the rec center together, and finally things started to come together for me. I had great friends, I was having more fun that I thought was possible, my classes were challenging and interesting. I put on 30 lbs and grew an inch. My sophomore year, I discovered martial arts. I stopped weighing myself. I started eating meat again, lifting weights regularly, and discovered that putting on muscle could be a good thing. I met Mr Blue, and the rest is history. Kind of.

I am firmly convinced that eating disorders, like alcoholism and other forms of addiction, are life-long conditions. I am in recovery, but I am not recovered. Every day I have some sort of unhealthy thought. I don't keep a scale in the house and I do my best to avoid the one at the gym. About five years ago I started running competitively - gradually running longer and longer races. I think that being on a training regiment appeals to the part of my brain that needs to control my body.

My biggest fear is that someday my daughter will ask me if she's fat. Our society bombards our girls and young women with unhealthy images and unattainable goals. When I hear about girls in elementary school that are dieting - even taking diet pills! - I am so afraid for Lil' Blue. Even now I try every day to give her some sort of positive message about food. I keep her in the kitchen with me while I cook, and eat snacks and dinner with her every day. We try new foods and say "yum yum!" I don't read or keep any magazines in the house if they have models or actresses or other absurdly skinny women. And most of all, I try to let her know that she is beautiful and valued and wonderful from the inside out. Because I don't ever want her to feel that her value rises and falls inversely to the number on a scale. And because of her, every day I have a new reason to value myself - because she deserves a mother who is happy and healthy.

Jack and Lily giveaway!

Monday, August 18, 2008

Check out Now Entering Momville for a chance to win a free pair of Jack and Lily baby shoes. Ooohh...ahhhh....so cute!

Citius, Altius, Fortius.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

When anyone tells me I can't do anything, I'm just not listening any more. Florence Griffith Joyner (American athlete, 1988 Summer Olympics)

Congratulations to 41-year-old mom Dara Torres for winning two silver medals in Beijing. Torres had retired after giving birth to her daughter (now two) but decided to make a comeback in the Olympics. Another congratulations to 38-year-old mother of one Constantina Tomescu-Dita who blew away the competition to win the women's marathon. Both women were in the spotlight for being the oldest to medal in their respective sports. Other women athletes are making their mark in Beijing: 38-year-olds Kate Allen (triathalon) and Elaine Youngs (beach volleyball) are expected to perform well, and 36 year old WNBA superstar Lisa Leslie is competing in her fourth Olympics.

These women, and the many other "older" women competing in the Olympics, are proof that women's bodies can continue to perform at the highest levels for decades. Additionally, the number of female athletes who have resumed training after having children are inspiration for all of us who have been told that our bodies will "never be the same" after pregnancy and childbirth. While most of us will never be Olympians, we can all aim for our personal bests and push our bodies to the limit. Don't listen to anyone who tells you that you need to shelve your personal goals just because you've hit an arbitrary age, or given birth to a child. Dara Torres has said in interviews that she wants her daughter to know that a woman can do anything she puts her mind to. What a wonderful message for all children - to see their mothers continuing to strive, and continuing to improve their bodies, minds and spirits.

In other Olympics news, be on the lookout for cougars prowling the US mens' swimming events. Rawr!

In a Reflected Light

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

We are the sun and the moon -
you the brightness of day, golden hair and peachy skin
all the colors of sunrise.
Me the darkening shadows of night,
the secret rustling of creatures, furtive and restless under moonlight.
You are the vibrant flowers, laughing carefree,
I am the silent leaves falling under black trunks.
You are the fresh start, the hope of day beginning -
I am the calm of evening, the quiet exhalation of day ending.
But oh, my sun...
I could not shine without your light


La Leche League

Today I got started on the road to La Leche League leadership! I still need to apply and be approved, a process I'm told can take up to a year (during which I meet with local leaders and get lots and lots of training, while discussing my own views and personal breastfeeding experience).

All the News That's Fit to Blog

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Its been a busy few weeks around the Blue household. Lil' Blue came down with a case of roseola (seriously, its a real disease. I didn't believe it either. It sounds like something Oompa Loompas would catch. But in reality its no fun whatsoever) So we weathered that storm.

Half Marathon training is going well. On Sunday Mr Blue and I did an 8 mile run. My time is still pretty slow for the long runs - its definitely time to start incorporating intervals and speed work. Also? I discovered that almost-30 year old knees cannot be asked to pick up and run without adequate stretching and icing time. But, icing time = lazy TV time, so there's that.

The Blue house is undergoing some renovations. Its a nearly 100-year old Craftsman style home with lots of "potential", i.e. "hey we're getting a great deal on this place, all it needs is new paint/roof/deck/carpet/retaining walls/more paint/exterior and interior doors" We have a contractor (yet another!) coming to give us an estimate on rebuilding the craptastic DIY deck currently embarrassing the house. I had a near-meltdown when our front door lock spontaneously broke down (I didn't even know that could happen!) Of course this happened when I was outside, which necessitated a trip into the house via the dining room windows. As the lock was apparently melded permanently with the (also craptastic) front door, I was afraid we'd need a new door. But Mr Blue's handiness with a power drill, razor blade, and hammer enabled us to remove the lock and replace it. I've since decided to paint said craptastic door, which apparently in its former lives has been 1) bright green; 2) teal; and 3) purple. Yuck.

I applied for a job at my former law school. I don't want to spill the beans on which position it is, but it sounds like an awesome job, and one that would allow me to actually make a difference (for reals!) So my fingers are crossed!

Lil' Blue continues to amaze us with her new skills. Every day it seems like she has a new word or new thing she can do. And she walks almost like a regular person, as opposed to the drunken Donkey Kong style toddling she had been doing. Even though we've sacrificed much in terms of quality of life, I wouldn't have traded the past 14 months for anything. Watching her grow has been the most fun I've ever had. We're off to a local water park this afternoon, where Lil' Blue has discovered the wave pool. She likes to go deeper and deeper until the waves actually crest over her head. I apparently have a reckless adventurer like myself....hurray! And oh no!

Backwards and in High Heels

Saturday, August 9, 2008

I've been wanting to write this post for awhile...ever since I passed a road crew on my way to the market. It was the usual assortment of big guys and one woman. Who was wearing a pink hard hat. I thought about that pink hard hat for a long time, and wondered about the woman wearing it. About how she probably started working construction wearing the standard-issue yellow hard hat. She seemed to be a strong woman, she'd probably never really thought about being female. She worked hard, probably harder than the guys, just to be accepted. Construction was just a job. So when did she think to herself "I need a pink hard hat"?

You don't have to signal a social conscience by looking like a frump. Lace knickers won't hasten the holocaust, you can ban the bomb in a feather boa just as well as without, and a mild interest in the length of hemlines doesn't necessarily disqualify you from reading Das Kapital and agreeing with every word. ~Elizabeth Bibesco

I've always been the girl who hung with the guys. I wasn't a jock, necessarily, I just felt more comfortable in the company of men. Even as an adult, I tended toward activities where I was often the only woman. Boxing, flying...these are all still firmly in the man's world. I had never thought about being female. I had to work harder, hit harder, push myself farther, just to be accepted. But
boxing and flying were just things to do. I was never particularly feminine until I was surrounded by men. It wasn't until I started flying that I started wearing pink. Something about all that masculine energy seemed to bring out the latent girlyness in me. And it's not just me. Did you know they make pink boxing gloves? They do, and I never saw a pair until I left the relatively gender-balanced world of Tae Kwon Do for the rough and ready Mixed Martial Arts arena. I've been lucky to meet a group of strong, independent women and I'm proud and thrilled to be their friend. While I'm still more likely to be watching the game with the guys then scrapbooking with the girls, I've managed to find a balance. Whereas when I was younger, I tried to be just like the guys, now I realize that I can enjoy those masculine things while still embracing what makes me uniquely feminine.

The little rift between the sexes is astonishingly widened by simply teaching one set of catchwords to the girls and another to the boys. ~Robert Louis Stevenson

And so I look at my daughter, who loves all things pink and sparkly, and hope that she doesn't lose what makes her sweet and feminine. I hope that she doesn't feel that she must make a tradeoff between feminity and respect. But I also watch her play with toy trucks and building blocks, and hope that she can feel comfortable and welcome playing with the boys. Because while little girls have spent too many years trapped in the pretend kitchen with the dolls, its just as limiting to feel that you must hide your feminine side to be accepted by the boys. Feminism isn't just about the freedom to box or fly or work construction. Its about being able to wear the pink boxing gloves and the pink hard hat if that's what you want.

If Only I Could Fly...

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

A real post is coming soon...[spoiler alert! We'll be discussing feminism and dilemmas of raising daughters!]

Until then, I leave you with this graph, from the totally hysterical (but not in the feminine kind of way) Graph Jam

song chart memes
more graph humor and song chart memes

Resting on Lughnasadh

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

In the Celtic world, tomorrow, August 1st is the festival of Lughnasadh. For those who celebrate the old holidays, Lughnasadh represents the end of summer and the beginning of harvest season. In Ireland, Lughnasadh takes its name from the Sun-god Lugh, who celebrated the first festival in honor of his foster-mother Tailtiu. Tailtiu, according to legend, died of exhaustion after clearing the entire island of Ireland so that it could be used for agriculture. Thus, Lughnasadh has strong and obvious connections to childbirth - the time when the child is "harvested", taken from the dark earth and brought into the light.

Beyond its celebration of the real act of harvesting, Lughnasadh offers a chance for us to reflect on the nature of giving and taking. Tailtiu gave until she literally died from exhaustion. All of us have areas of our life where the balance is shifted too far - where we give until we're exhausted and don't get anything back. Perhaps it is a job, a relationship, a friendship that simply asks too much. Mothers of young children know that they are incapable of returning the time and energy we put into them, although in their small way they enrich our lives beyond measure.

Any farmer knows that harvest is one of the busiest times. But when all her bounty has been collected, brought in and stored for the long winter, the earth rests. And so should we.


Tuesday, July 29, 2008

I couldn't resist this astrology report from Parents.com. They were eerily correct! Except for the part about Lil Blue and me being well put-together. And others being envious. But otherwise....correct!

See your mom and baby personality overview. Generally, here's what's in the stars for you and baby!



The Scales

Sept. 23-Oct. 22

Lucky you, Libra. You're likely the mom that all the other moms secretly wish they could be: You always look good, your baby is fashionably dressed, and the preschool teachers think you're the exemplary mom specimen. Libras are naturally charming and have excellent taste and an enviable ability to keep things running smoothly. And your pitch-perfect sense of diplomacy? It will come in handy time and again at school and on the playground.

Don't forget to lighten up a little, though -- remember that mess and occasional chaos are an inevitable part of life with a baby. It's not a reflection on your parenting skills if one day you just can't seem to coordinate your baby's shoes with her overalls. And when Cheerios get squished in between the car seats? Let it go, mama.



The Twins

May 21-June 21

Your baby is blessed with a quick, engaged mind and needs constant stimulation. Read to her several times a day, and make sure you have lots of little objects (rattles, squishy toys) for her to play with. Satisfy her natural curiosity -- and fend off restlessness -- with pop-up toys, puppet shows, storytime at the library, and frequent field trips (such as to the supermarket or a fish store). A true chatterbox, your little one may be the first in her baby group to speak. Even if it sounds like gibberish, pay attention: In her mind, she always has something crucial to say.

Tooting my own Horn

Last night Mr Blue and I set a new PR - 7 miles in exactly one hour! That works out to slightly over 8 and a half minute miles. Woo hoo!

Conversations With a One-Year-Old

"Lil Blue, its time to change your diaper"
"Yes, your diaper. Come here, please"
"Diiiii-poo! Hi mama!!"
"Yes, hi! Now lets change your diaper"
"No ball right now. Diaper"
"No doggies right now. Diaper"
"yum yum?"
"When you're finished. Then we'll have yum yums"
"In. A. Minute"
"Where are you going! Come back here you little streaker!"
[sounds of little feet running away. Laughter]

"Uh ohhhhhhh"
"Hang on. Mama will get the rag"

We're Livin' on the Air...

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Sorry for the terrible WKRP reference, I couldn't resist.

Today I got to meet some of the wonderful women from Cincinnati Women Bloggers. We had a great discussion and lots of laughs. I learned a lot from some of the more experienced bloggers, especially those who are recently returned from Ohio PodCamp and BlogHer. I think we're really building a great community here in Cincinnati, and during the meeting I found myself getting incredibly excited by the possibilities. There is some overlap with this group and some local groups that are working to promote Cincinnati as a business and tourism destination - what if we could harness our combined voices and energy to really create a city that embraces technology in all its facets! That got me thinking about the other things going on in Cincinnati that only want for greater exposure. We have the Fringe Festival and MidPoint Music Festival that bring in artists from all over the world. It seems like every weekend I hear about someone or some group doing some kind of creative, exciting event. We have groups doing amazing good like Give Back Cincinnati. We have so many groups working to make Cincinnati greener, more progressive and more inclusive that when I tried to link to them all I gave myself a wrist cramp! We have so many voices with so much to offer. If we could just get everyone organized, we'd be moving forward so quickly that we'd be unstoppable.

Ricki Lake: Home Birth Ambassador

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Apparently Ricki Lake's documentary The Business of Being Born has been influencing some celebrities to consider un-medicated, midwife-assisted homebirth. According to People Magazine, Boxer Laila Ali is planning to give birth to her first child at home.

While I didn't end up having Lil Blue at home, I am a staunch advocate of womens' right to choose that option, and I would recommend that anyone who is interested in homebirth check out The Business of Being Born. Its an absolutely stunning, well-crafted, powerful look at modern birth options in America. I had a successful natural birth in a hospital (and all in all, a great experience) but far too many women end up being pressured into unnecessary and potentially dangerous medical interventions, including C-sections.

Every woman deserves the opportunity to choose for herself where to give birth, and under what circumstances. Medical interventions should be a choice made by the woman in consultation with her physician. Unfortunately, too often interventions are presented as "hospital policy", or necessary even for normal births. My own physician pressured me incessantly to be induced on my due date, despite no evidence whatsoever that my body wasn't progressing normally. I went into labor on my own at exactly 41 weeks, and had an uneventful labor and birth. Lil Blue was born healthy, on her own schedule. While things worked out fine for us, I had to put on my "game face" entirely too much during my last month of pregnancy while I argued with a doctor who was telling me that waiting even one day past my due date would endanger my child. Even though every credible medical source that I researched on my own indicated that due dates are really only "best guesses" and that absent a medical reason to induce at 40 weeks, a healthy mother should be able to go as much as two full weeks past her due date before an induction should be considered.

Another resource for anyone interested in birth options is The Thinking Woman's Guide to a Better Birth. Henci Goer is up-front about her bias in favor of natural birth, but she does an excellent job presenting all of the facts surrounding medications, inducements and C-sections.

There's What in my Strawberries?

Monday, July 21, 2008

There's no question that buying organic food has benefits for your health and for the environment. Unfortunately, for those of us who are not billionaires, a wholly-organic diet is out of reach. So how do you make the choice to buy organic or conventional? For the Blue family, our finances often make the decision easy - if we can barely afford to buy any food that week, then its conventional or nothing. But when we're farther in the black, I try to buy organic as much as possible, especially for the foods that Lil Blue loves, like cheese and snack foods. Today Gramma Blue (aka my mom) sent me this handy guide to the relative load of pesticides in each food. Its printable so you can take it with you to the grocery store to help you decide if that 200% price difference is worth it.

I also highly recommend this book. Burke goes into detail about the process of becoming a certified organic farm, and explains the benefits of buying locally as opposed to certified organic food from a large national or international agri-business. Its a quick read and contains helpful lists at the end that can be photocopied and kept as resources. Her book is available on Amazon but of course you should purchase it at your local independent bookstore.

There are issues beyond your personal health that factor into the organic vs conventional debate. While it may not be strictly necessary from a cost/benefit point of view to buy the lower-pesticide load veggies, buying organic still supports smaller, more earth-friendly farms, and helps reduce the overall amount of chemicals put into the air, ground, and water. So naturally, buying everything organic (or at least locally) is the ultimate goal.

But you have to start somewhere, and this list and Cindy Burke's book do a good job helping the average consumer make baby steps toward healthier, more responsible food buying.

Weekend News Roundup

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Our trip to California went brilliantly! After three cross-country flights with a babe under one, I've learned the following:

  • Always fly direct. Layovers only increase the risk of some sort of disaster.
  • Check your car seat. Knock on wood, ours has never been lost, and we haven't had to deal with carrying it through the airport.
  • Leave early in the morning. Yes, it sucks to be up and out at the crack of dawn, but you'll be grateful when you reach your destination and still have time to settle in and get the baby down at a decent hour. She'll be exhausted because she probably didn't nap all day, and by going to bed at her normal time, she'll be back to a regular schedule that much sooner.
  • Fly first class. Its worth every penny. Shorter check-in lines, bigger seats, your own bathroom, free food...free DRINKS....Worth. It.
  • Make a list of things you want to do at your destination. Cut it in half. Cut it in half again. Now you have a realistic goal of things to do.

Today we are going to our one-year childbirth class reunion. It blows my mind that all of our babies have turned one. It really seems like we were all doing our relaxation breathing and learning about our pelvic floor muscles, like, last week. Unbelievable.

I had my first unsubscription from the new mom's yahoo group I moderate. (Its a private group for my friends and invited friends-of-friends, so don't go looking for us!) But that makes it even sadder that someone would unsubscribe, especially without any warning or any explanation. I emailed J to see what's up and to tell her that we'd miss her and hoped she still wanted to hang out sometimes, but I haven't heard back. I'm sad to think that either something in her life has happened, or (worse) that something happened within the group to make her feel unwelcome. I guess some frienships come with an expiration date, but it still makes me sad because I like her.

I met Tito Ortiz at work last month. Nicest. Guy. Ever. I'm serious! He took the time to talk and personalize every person's book and memorabilia, and even stayed later to make sure everyone got a chance to meet and get their stuff signed. He took pictures with the staff, and was incredibly gracious. Here's a guy who has had a lot of success and never forgotten where he came from. You could tell he sincerely appreciated his fans, and his fans return that love a thousandfold. I'm already a huge UFC and MMA fan, but now I'll be sure to root extra hard for the Huntington Beach Bad Boy.

I've been working a lot lately, when it rains it pours, as they say. But all that means extra money for us, so yay!

The state of Ohio apparently doesn't want me to pay my yearly registration dues, and they're letting me know that by making it impossible for me to find a site to pay them online. Or even to check and see when they're due. This is an issue for me, because I don't work in an office so theres always a chance of a dues notice getting lost. So any Ohio attorneys who have paid your dues online, drop me a line and enlighten me.