weird epiphany

I don’t know if epiphany is the right word, and I also don’t know if I’ll come off as a jackass while relating this experience, but it was one of those moments that kind of wakes you up in a very visceral (as opposed to intellectual) way to the fact that your experience of the world is utterly foreign to someone else — even if they live in the same society, at the same income level, and have the same education as you.
So, here’s the experience: I was at the grocery store, standing in line and looking at all the magazines piled on the racks around me — Current events and entertainment and cooking and fitness and all those so-called “women’s interest” magazines.
As my gaze passed over the tight, shapely models on the various fitness magazines, I enviously noted their tight abs and narrow, muscular thighs. The headlines promised that I could look this way, too, for a mere 10 minutes of special exercise a day or slight, practically unnoticeable diet change. 

I felt a slight flare of indignant frustration — while I do want to lose about 20 pounds, I do not want to be toned. I don’t want a six pack, or glistening tanned skin. I understand those things are considered attractive by many, but I don’t care. I don’t want to look like that, and I felt a flare of frustration that fitness magazines continue to perpetuate the myth that one must be toned and tanned and muscular to be considered fit. A person who is a healthy weight (but with a little jiggle or padding to them) and lives an active lifestyle (but wears sunscreen and isn’t tanned) is somehow “not fit”.
I wished they had a normal-sized woman on there, and I began scanning the magazine covers, looking for even one model I could relate to — just one who wasn’t unrealistic and photoshopped into unattainable perfection. Only one came even remotely close — I can’t remember what it was called (edit: googled it, it’s called “More”), but Queen Latifah beamed out at me from the cover.

I stared at her a moment, thinking about the fact that whenever I see a larger woman on a magazine, she’s invariably old (Paula Deen) or black (Oprah, Queen Latifah). I began re-scanning the magazine covers, planning on counting how many larger black ladies vs. average-sized black ladies vs. skinny black ladies I saw.

That’s when I realized something stunning: Out of all those magazines, only one had a minority featured on the cover. Every single other magazine had skinny, tall white ladies with long silky hair and a smoldering or confrontational gaze. Their hair and eyes were all different shades, but their skin was white –tanned white or porcelain white, but always white. Except for the one magazine with Queen Latifah, there were no covers featuring minority models of any other race.
When the realization hit me, I felt a sort of reeling disassociation. I tried to imagine what it would be like to stand in line and gaze at magazine covers that rarely to never acknowledged my existence.
I imagined being a mother of another race, watching my daughter or son internalize these messages of what is beautiful and acceptable and right. I looked back at my teen years, and wondered how much harder they would have been if I’d been black or Asian or Hispanic, and gotten this repeated societal message that white women were the beauty standard I needed to aspire to.
Obviously, I knew about this. In an intellectual way. I’ve read about how the feminist movement differs between white and non-white communities. I’ve read about how black barbies are just white barbies with brown paint — the features are still white, the hair doesn’t change in texture. The message is the same unattainable ideal everyone attributes to Barbie, but with the added insult that only white features are beautiful and acceptable, even if the skin is brown.
I’ve read about minorities in media, and the lack of strong lead roles for minority women. I read a fascinating essay from a young black women who was moved by the character Uhura in Star Trek. She made a point I’d never considered before: as females, we have few enough strong, intelligent, independent female role models in sci-fi and fantasy, and for minority women, the pickings are even slimmer. The essay was in a livejournal post, back when J.J. Abrams Star Trek movie first came out. I tried to find it and couldn’t. If I do, I’ll link to it.
I read the essay, “What if White Women Were Black?” with it’s fascinating and enlightening comparisons and reversals of “pure” sexual traits/ features to “impure” ones, and how these subconscious preconceptions contribute to ongoing victimization and justification of sexual assault.
I’ve studied privilege in society, male privilege and white privilege and feminine privilege. I knew about white female privilege in an intellectual, detached way — but standing there in the grocery line, looking at the magazines all around me with white cover models, I felt suddenly furious and ashamed at once. Furious at the stupid blindness of our society, of our cultural unwillingness to include representations from all walks of life. Ashamed at how I’d never really noticed all the white girls on the magazines before, despite the many voices that had pointed this phenomenon out to me.

I guess . . . this is a recounting of one of those moments when the world shifts under you for a moment, and you really realize that you don’t understand the world at all. It was the disorienting shift from an intellectual awareness of a problem to a more visceral, felt sort of knowledge — but with the shuddering realization that any understanding I have gained is just a drop in the bucket.

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powerless

Our power was out for about 29 hours; from 10 a.m. Thursday morning to 3:30 p.m. Friday afternoon. It was really awful. I mean, aside from the lack of our usual entertainments (netflix, internet, x-box, or smartphone games (didn’t want to unnecessarily drain the batteries)), which wasn’t actually that bad — we could still crochet and read and paint and whatnot — it was the cold, and also the lack of cooked food.
I mean, when we talk about this modern era and our modern conveniences, a lot of people do tend to focus on the pervasiveness of video games and internet dependency. A lot of people do tend to be all mocking of dependence on electricity for amusement (“When I was your age, we read books!”) — but we’re dependent on it for so much more than just amusement.
How many of us know how to cook on a wood stove? How many of us have a wood stove? How many of us have fireplaces, or know how to properly start a fire? And even if you have a wood stove and a fireplace and know how to use them, what about your freezer or fridge? We packed our coolers full of snow and ice, but I found myself thinking about what would happen if a summer storm took out the electric grid, or some massive terrorist event. How do you keep stuff cool and fresh without electricity? I know about root cellars and ice boxes, but is it one or the other or both? And do root cellars work in any climate, or any specific ones?
And most of us don’t even know how to produce our own fresh food anymore, how on earth would we manage without grocery stores? Do you know how to milk a cow or goat? Churn butter? Hell, do you even know how to build a butter churn, because I’m 99% sure the average American citizen doesn’t own a butter churn or know where to buy one, let alone how to use it. Do you know how to make cheese? Soap? I know making soap involves boiling water and lye. I think. How do you salt meat to preserve it for the winter?
This isn’t even a matter of just raising a garden, I’m talking about protein, meats. How many average Americans know how to raise and maintain goats, cows, or chickens? How many middle-class suburbanites could survive off the electric grid?

a positive outlook

I think it’s important to keep a positive outlook on life. I mean, sure, yeah. Be realistic, don’t be positive to the point of cultivating ignorance or denying reality. It’s a balance beam to walk, but I think it’s important.
I mean, I could sit around and mope about stuff that sucks but is outside of my control: the economy, the current state of our nation in global relations, the pervasive and sickening nature of homophobia, sexism, and racism, the fact that I live next to psychotic neighbors, the fact that some (not all) of the inter-familial relationships are tense and feel like constantly navigating shifting sands of accidental insults, and so on and so forth. I could mope about these tensions, but I just don’t see the point on dwelling on them. Why?
Well, on the larger global/ political/ social policy scale, I do what I can. I donate to causes I support, I add my voice to the discussion, I contact my representatives, and I vote. I work within the system we have, and for now, that’s the best I can do.
As for the personal life-stresses outside of my control, well, I do what I can there, too, but I can’t control other people’s reactions and responses. I know I do not intend harm or insult. If someone insults me, or I find them a negative influence in my life, my stance is to first try talking about it and resolving the issue. If that doesn’t work, I pull away and stop interacting with them until such time as the issue has passed. Usually, this works fine just fine.
But there are rare cases where pulling away from someone is chancy and difficult. Usually this is in those relationships you don’t actually want to end end; you’d just prefer a little more understanding, respect, and equitable treatment. But occasionally, it happens in a situation you’d never expect, like neighbors. I tend to think of neighbors as people you smile and wave at when you’re out front, or people you can borrow an egg/ cup of sugar from in a tight spot. People who you have a nodding acquaintance with, but you don’t get too involved or friendly with. So it’s a bit weird to be in what I think qualifies as a neighborhood feud, although I’m not sure if it counts as a feud if I’m just trying really hard to avoid and ignore them, and they just keep trying to get us to pay attention to them.
Honestly, it reminds me of the stereotypical grade school crush, except instead of pulling pigtails or stealing tater tots they were ding-dong-ditching our door and stealing x-box controllers. And instead of the teacher telling them to knock it off, we had to get a restraining order. And instead of them then surreptitiously throwing spitballs at us, they instead fire airsoft bb’s at our window and throw trash in our yard and knock over our kid’s snow creations . . . so, just like a really awkward, unwanted, embarrassing grade school crush, but with more violence.
Anyway, I could dwell on this stuff. I could waste my days feeling angry and frustrated over issues both global and personal that are outside of my control, but who needs that? I have a great life, and once I’m secure in my own mind that I’ve done everything in my power to make my world a better place, it’s so much more fun to focus on the things I love about my life.
So as I approach my 32nd birthday, I want to list all a portion of all the wonderful things in my life that I’m grateful for:
  • My husband of 11 years. Sometimes I look at John and I am just blown away, because it seems too right, too perfect, too storybook. How does someone just luck into a relationship this great? How many people are lucky enough to find a partner who is such a perfect match for them in intellect, interests, and values (not to mention the physical/ intimate compatibility). I keep expecting the world to crash down around me, because being married to him is so overall awesome it just feels like something bad has to happen to balance it out.
  • Kidling. Our son was a bit of a surprise. The next year, we began trying to have another, which went on for about two years. Then I realized I was trying to have a second child for all the wrong reasons — I wanted a “redo” on my pregnancy, birth, and early parenting experiences. I wanted to do pregnancy yoga and get henna on my pregnancy belly, and have a natural labor water birth and use cloth diapers from the get-go. I realized I didn’t want to have another kid so much for the kid as for me, and that’s not the right reason (for me) to have a kid. Plus, as kids go, I won the lottery — Kidling is generous, obedient, empathetic, polite, friendly, goofy, and intelligent. Sometimes Kidling asks why he’s an only child, and I tell him the truth: I hit the jackpot with him, so I don’t need to keep trying.
  • John’s job. Sometimes John gets bored and frustrated at the repetitiveness and lack of challenge at his job. Sometimes I think he wishes he’d gotten a degree in computer sciences, engineering, or urban design. But as far as lucked-into-jobs go, this is another hit-the-jackpot situation. His employer provides awesome employee benefits, enviable pay, and all these great perks lifestyle/ health perks for employees. Plus, he gets almost as many paid holidays as state workers and a bonus twice a year. His hard work and fantastic employer has made all our hobbies, vacations, and enjoyments possible, and I’m really proud of how hard he’s worked to get to his current position in the company. He started out as a part-time temp worker, and his dedication to hard work, leadership skills, and creative problem solving had him at full-time less than a year after being hired. From that point, he’s stayed on a path of progression and growth throughout his time at the company. I’m really proud of him.
  • My origin family. I know that sounds like a super hero (or super villain) way to phrase it, but there is a difference between the family one is born into and the family one chooses/ starts. I am one of those uniquely lucky individuals who not only ended up choosing a great family, but I also was born into a great family. As I’ve grown up, met new people, and listened to their stories, I’ve come to realize that a lot of people suffer their family relationships out of a sense of duty or guilt. I was lucky enough to be born into a supportive, communicative, loving family.
  • My friends. My friends tend to be introverts, like me. They understand needing solitude. They’re readers, like me. They like to discuss author and genre and publishing and e-readers. They laugh at (and make) literary and linguistic jokes. They’re intelligent and passionate, and one is never starved for vibrant and stimulating conversation around them.
  • Modern tech. It’s so awesome to live in this day and age. Think about the transition we’ve made, as a society. In the 1980’s – 90’s, the internet wasn’t commonly available to everyone and personal computers (and printers!) were stupidly expensive and slow. We listened to music on boomboxes and audio tapes and record players. Our t.v. was a basic tube t.v. with a roof antenna and a VCR. By the 1990’s, we were using CD’s regularly, and DVD’s were becoming well known. Personal computers were getting more common, and everyone had at least some access to the internet thanks to AOL’s pervasive CD’s. Now we having streaming movies and tv programs, streaming music and internet radio, e-books and high-speed internet. We have mini-computers (smartphones) with GPS now!
  • Feminism. I used to think feminism was for man-hating freaks. Then I took a class called Women in Literature, and I learned about the sacrifices made so we could get where we are today. My interest was sparked, and this issue has been a passion of mine ever since.
  • My pets. When I was younger, I thought I was not an animal person and specifically not a dog person. Turns out I was wrong. My kid sister was the one who actually pointed out to me that I brought home most of our childhood pets, and I’ve always collected strays. I don’t know how that fact escaped me, but somehow I’d thought of each of those strays as family pets that I just happened to discover first. If it wasn’t for my husband, I probably wouldn’t have challenged the not-a-dog-person assertion, but I did, and for that I am so glad. I can’t imagine my life without Sirius, Dmitri, Hope, and Arwen.
  • My motorcycle. I can’t even really explain what riding a motorcycle is like, except it’s brilliant. I love everything about it. I can’t imagine my world without the freedom, joy, and beauty my motorcycle brings into my life.
These are just a few of the things in my life that make me happy, obviously.

██████████

You may have noticed that Wikipedia and Reddit are shut down today. Google’s search page is different, and all the hubbub is about something called SOPA and PIPA. What’s up? Well, the █████████████ ████████ is not in favor of a free internet. Corporate interests, including publishing companies like ██████████, recording companies like ███████ ███████ █████████, and film companies like ██████ are pushing to have the ability to unilaterally shut down websites that host (whether intentionally or unintentionally) pirated content.
So if, say, you’re reading a funny thread on your favorite forum, and someone cracks a joke about how █████ █████████ looks just like ████ from ███████, then links to a picture of ████ and ████ to illustrate that, well. They just pirated content, and the website they posted said pirated content  on can be taken down because of a user — not an owner or financial stakeholder in the website, but a user. It doesn’t matter whether the website condoned the activity, or whether the user was a minor or an adult. It just matters that certain copyright-dependent corporations don’t like it when people cite their work without giving them money.
These bills are real. The concern may sound hyperbolic to the average American citizen, but be assured: it’s not. You know how we, as a people, have seen the news stories about internet censorship in other countries? About Twitter and FaceBook being blocked or internet access removed altogether in countries revolting against their government, like Egypt? You know how Google and China keep clashing over censorship? All that seems removed from us, doesn’t it? You’re probably thinking, “Yeah, but that’s China. We live in America.”
What SOPA and PIPA do is allow for and indeed encourage censorship — in fact, they use censorship as the heavy arm to enforce the will of corporate interests. These bills are a blatant attempt by corporations that depend on copyright law — copyright law that has become ridiculously tight and strict over the past few decades, and no longer reflects the right of the creator, but instead reflects the rights of the copyright owner (usually a company), often at the expense of the creator — to censor the web so as to fit the world order they know, rather than adjusting to the future.
I can guarantee you two things about SOPA and PIPA:
  1. It is censorship.
  2. This is such a terrible idea that even if it somehow manages to get passed and signed into law despite the obvious opposition, it will be revoked.

I don’t know when or how, but this bill is similar to the Prohibition effort in it’s scope and complete ineffectiveness. This is the modern Prohibition — the Prohibition of the Internet, and it’s just as poorly conceived.

So call your representative. Let them know that SOPA and PIPA are terrible bills, and do nothing to address the purported evil of piracy. One way or another, these bills are going to end up in the annals of history as one of the Worst Ideas Ever — do we want to be the nation that passed these idiocies and suffered under however many years of censorship and ever-harsher measures against presumed violators, or do we want to be the nation that laughed these moronic pieces of legislation right out the door?

sick day

It’s still snowing. We’re supposed to get 13-15 inches today. Kidling woke up at 4 a.m., all feverish and sick. He’s been throwing up every few hours. There’s no school because of the snow, anyway, which sucks for him — nothing like missing a snow day because you’re sick. Poor kid. And he’s so rarely sick, too.
So that’s that. No car, so we’re a bit snowed in. Obviously, we can walk places, but that’s about the extent of it, so our range is somewhat limited. I’m thinking I’m going to make some homemade bread today because I don’t feel like walking to the store and we’re out of bread.
I am a little excited, because I’m expecting some packages this week. We returned the Roomba to Costco and ordered a Neato from the Costco website instead — the reviews about the Neato are just so impressive, and I was getting really freaked out about how often the Roomba was breaking. I mean, we’ve had it 6 months, and I’d had to call customer service and get parts sent to us 4 different times. Last week, it started making the same sound it made when the gearbox crapped out a month after we bought it, and at that point I just said, “Yeah, no, how much will this thing cost us when the warranty is up?”
So we returned it and ordered the Neato, which should (fingers crossed!) be arriving this week. I’m also expecting my replacement battery from Modern Vapor. I love getting packages. It’s so ridiculously silly, especially when they’re not even surprises or gifts or anything fun — but I just love getting packages. Same with real mail, like letters or cards or postcards or actual mailed invitations to events like baby or wedding showers. Sure, I avoid actually attending baby or wedding showers like the plague, if I can manage it. But I love receiving the invite. They’re so pretty, with neatly hand-lettered dates and times.update: So my MV replacement battery arrived. They sent not only the battery, but another atomizer and two boxes of cartridges to replace the one that broke. They also sent several coupon offering 5% off any $65 or more purchase. If anyone wants an MV coupon, let me know, because there’s no way I’ll be able to utilize all of them before they expire in February. I’m pretty pleased with them.

Also, Kidling is feeling somewhat better, and appears not to recall the copious amount of throwing up he was doing this morning, so that’s cool. I’m still not letting him outside, though. As far as I’m concerned, puke = sick = no play.

A creepy and malformed snowman has appeared in the cul de sac outside. I’ve tried to take a picture of it, but it’s problematic. The neighbors are utterly insane about outdoor photography — they actually threatened to beat up Kidling because he was taking pictures of interesting (to him) stuff around the neighborhood, like an abandoned shopping cart at his school bus stop. I know that completely ignores any understanding of logic or reality, since pictures of the neighborhood and their house and cars are available to the public on google maps streetview, but some people are just odd.

So, to be honest, I can’t see them responding in any sane or rational way if they saw me taking pictures in the neighborhood, and especially not if I positioned myself at an angle where you could see their house (that’s where the seig heil twig arm is visible from). Anyway, since pictures are not a viable possibility, let me instead paint a word-picture of the snow-monstrosity that is leering through our window.

The face is a mish-mash of pinecones, staring into our front window. There are two or three oddly positioned twig arms, one of which appears (I’m sure it’s just the angle of the twig) to be doing a sieg heil salute. I’m assuming it was built last night, but it may have been early this morning. Given that it’s already starting an inevitable tilt to the side, I’m guessing the artists were the neighbors, again.  Up along one side is a thick ridge of straight snow, running from top to bottom. It appears to be intended as some sort of reinforcement, but comes across looking like a penile-shaped back hump. Unfortunately, they didn’t dye it or dress it up this time, so I can’t share that hilarity with you. There’s also a carrot pushed into it’s head — it was scavenged (along, I suspect, with the pinecones) from our demolished snow man.

death of a snowman

So, yesterday it snowed, as I may have mentioned. I woke up late, because I love to sleep in on the weekends, and outside the world was white and bright and beautiful. Kidling, who is normally so like me, adores the snow. I don’t know where he gets it from. So when he saw the snow outside, his first response was to get dressed, put on his hat and coat and mittens, and run outside to play.
I know, weird, right?
Anyway, John joined him (of course), and the two built what was actually a pretty tall snowman outside. Not as tall as that 8-ft snow alien we built last winter (or was that the winter before?), but it was a decent-sized snowman.

 

In case you can’t tell, John and Kidling friggin love the snow. They do this whole ridiculous snow sculpture thing every time it snows enough. I’ve had snow cats and dinosaurs and snowmen families and snow snakes and snow angels, and (of course) the snow alien. Once they made a snow bird on the hood of my car and John broke off these thin sheets of ice for the wings and shaped them ever-so-carefully. They’ve gotten really good at making sturdy snowmen that stay upright and stalwart even as all the snow around has turned to slush, then water, and they’re really proud of their creations.
After a bit, I came outside, too, and Kidling and I began throwing snow at each other. We were in the midst of a really fun snowball fight when the neighbors came outside with their kids. I do tend to get a little on edge and keep an eye on these folks, because we’ve had trouble with them before. They’re a little crazy. Well, that’s understating it. They blew up a firecracker on our porch, have thrown trash at our door, and pulled a weapon on my husband. We’ve obtained a restraining order against them.
So I kept a weather eye on them, just to be safe, but kept up with the snowball fighting and chasing. Once we were nice and breathless and chilled to the bone, we headed inside for hot cocoa and the brownies I made last night. The neighbors remained outside; their son playing with their creepy teenage neighbor in their yard and the mom making a snowman by herself.
Later, we went on a walk as a family. It was only 3 or 4 in the afternoon, but the neighbor’s snowman was already starting to slump pretty sadly to the left. I admit it, we giggled a little about the poor craftsmanship. I mean, she’d used some sort of blue paint or food dye on the snow to color the hair, but it had bled and wept onto the face, so the entire snowman had this light corpse-blue head that was slowly falling sideways — and she’d dressed the thing in a bright, hot-pink bra and some sort of garish hot pink and black checked skirt. It looked like a zombie prostitute who was melting in shame. But hey, they had a broken park bench and a shopping cart on their lawn for most of the winter, so we’re kind of used to stuff like that in their yard.
We walked to Home Depot to pick up some tarps with which to cover our motorcycles. On the walk home, we ran into my sil and bil, and stopped to chat with them for a bit. Then we get home, and I introduce Kidling to that most excellent of programs, Malcolm in the Middle, which is currently streaming on Netflix. At one point, around 6 or 7 p.m., Kidling stood up to stretch and started giggling — out the front window, we could see the neighbor’s snowman, which was tilting precariously to the left. It wouldn’t be long until it fell apart. As we watched through the window, the snow prostitute slowly and sadly tumbled to pieces.
And yeah, I’ll admit that we mocked it a bit. I mean, come on! It’s freezing out, how hard is it to build a snowman that stays upright for a full day?
Anyway, I guess when the neighbors got home and saw their snowman had fallen apart, they got angry at us. At least, I’m assuming it was them — I can’t think of anyone else who dislikes us enough to do this, and all the other well-built snowmen in the immediate area were unmolested. Anyway, when we woke up this morning, our snowman was down, too — but ours had been knocked down, and had boots prints through it and it’s head had been smashed like a snowball into the street. The very bottom mound still stood, a large and solitary snowball on the front of our driveway.
Kidling gamely rebuilt the snowman. He can’t reach as high as his dad, but he rolled and patted and gave the snowman a new head and face. It sat, unmolested, all the day — but when John and I looked outside to see how the snowfall was just now (9 p.m.), we saw the new head was missing. We went outside and looked, and it’s been kicked off.
Obviously, I haven’t seen the neighbors do it. I haven’t seen them break the restraining order and come within 15 ft of our property to smash the snowman my 9 year old son and husband made. In my experience with them, it’s totally the type of thing they would do — take our their impotence and rage at the world, under cowardly cover of darkness, on a symbol of familial affection.
I admit, it irritated me. I shouldn’t let it; they’re obviously suffering from some pretty severe mental and co-dependence issues, and the dad is clearly feeling pretty self-conscious about his inability to contribute financially to the family. They’ve got some pretty heavy stresses and serious emotional stunting going on, and it’s natural for people who can’t deal with that sort of stress to take it out people around them.
Near as I can figure, they’re taking it out on us specifically because upon our initial meeting with them, it looked like we’d all be friends. We pretty quickly realized we weren’t very similar, and were really uncomfortable with certain aspects of their family life, so we stopped hanging out with them. They seem to have taken serious offense to that, because (up until we obtained the restraining order), they were harassing us non-stop.
It’s okay, though. We’ll just keep rebuilding our snowmen. There’s no reason to let their mental issues negatively affect our family, and it just gives me yet another excuse to spend more time outside with Kidling. After all, in 10 years, we’ll have moved on to another place and won’t even remember this family’s name. They simply don’t matter in the long-term scheme of things, but Kidling and John — my family — do.

[snow]

It’s snowing today. My son adores the snow, as I did at his age. As an adult, I’m not such a fan of it — it’s cold and wet and manages to get through any edges of my clothes to melt and run in icy rivulets along my wrists and waist and spine.
I remember when I was a kid, we had this wooden sled with actual runners and rope pull, and when it snowed we would take the sled down to Homann Park and go down the hills. I remember how it used to actuallysnow when I was a kid; inches and even feet deep. We would go sledding and make snow angels and run shrieking from my brother and his friends as they chased us with snowballs.
As we grew older, the weather changed. Summers weren’t as idyllically long and sunny, and autumn grew wet and dreary, instead of rife with crackling bright leaves and crisp, icy air. The winters devolved into constant rain interspersed with the occasional snow-to-slush gray, always overhung with heavy, morose skies.
I’ve often wondered if I imagined those Norman Rockwell seasons of my childhood; if it was the joyous wonder of childhood itself that has tinged my memories so happily, and in actuality it was just as often miserably gray as it is now.
But I remember, too, the rain. I remember tilting my face up at it and singing, “Rain, rain go away, come again another day,” and truly honestly believing I had a special power over the rain, because it always seemed to go away for me. I remember sitting by the window on top of a heater, my face pressed against the cool glass on one side, and on the other the curtain hiding me from my family while I read a book. The rain would silver down the glass, and outside the world was washed clean while I followed Johnny Tremain through the streets of Boston or Miriam Willard along the alleys of Quebec.
I think perhaps my perspective on the snow has changed. As a child, I saw snow days and long hours with my friends and shrieking joy. As an adult, I see the slush that will inevitably follow, the bad drivers that accompany every hint of snow, and the canceled school days. I no longer revel in the fleeting freedom and beauty of Washington snows, because all I see is the inevitable frustration. Perhaps those memories of such idyllic weather are so clear because such times were so rare.
Then again, whenever I speak to other Washingtonians who experienced the 1980’s weather in this state, I hear similar memories, regardless of age: This state, apparently, has always been fairly rainy, but we’ve experienced an unprecedented level of rain in the last two decades — an unusual level of rain that has stolen numerous white winter snow days and crisp autumn afternoons and warm, balmy spring gardens and long, Indian summers from us.

[don’t read this]

I haven’t wanted to post because I have nothing positive to say. It’s been a really stressful, stupid, terrible, horrible, no-good, very bad week. One of those weeks where all the little things build up and pile on at once.
  • The roomba broke, again. This is the 4th time in 6 months. It’s also making that grinding noise that it made last time the gearbox crapped out on us, so I suspect the 5th breakdown is rapidly approaching. I’m pretty sure we’re going to trade it in for a Neato, because this is ridiculous.
  • I ordered a Modern Vapor starter kit on 12/23/11. I chose MV because they were the most affordable, and also, pretty batteries. It arrived on 12/28/11. I really like it. I went through about 3 or 4 days of withdrawing from all those awful chemicals they put in cigarettes, but it wasn’t that bad because I was still getting nicotine — I was just withdrawing from the additives. Plus, since it’s water vapor and not smoke, my lungs were clearing up and I was feeling physically better. Then on 1/8/11, I put one of the pre-filled cartridges shipped with my order onto the atomizer, and the cartridge started leaking this oily, stinging fluid everywhere. It really hurts on your lips. The battery stopped working. I e-mailed MV, and they said it was the atomizer and sent me a new one, which arrived today (also, it wasn’t the atomizer; their leaking cartridge broke the battery and it’s still not working). So I’ve been going through a bit of nicotine withdrawal this week, which sucks because my main tool for nicotine withdrawal is Excedrin Migraine which is . . .
  • Under a voluntary recall, and the bottle I have is one of the affected batches. So I need to return that bottle a.s.a.p., and I can’t be using them to deal with my headaches. On top of this,
  • I’m dealing with a medical issue common to women in my age group, but unprecedented to me, and it’s pretty damn uncomfortable. I don’t like it. No, I’m not pregnant. I’ve been fixed, remember?
  • To add to these existing personal stresses, there’s the usual bill-juggling, grocery-shopping sans car, managing savings stresses. Then, on top of that,
  • Kidling is upset/ stressed out/ crying a lot because he can’t see his cousin. Not my decision or choice, but there’s nothing I can do to resolve it, either. So I’m trying to comfort Kidling without making his uncle seem like a bad guy for restricting access because he’s (uncle) is going through a cruddy time, emotionally, and long story short, Kidling thinks I’m preventing him from seeing his cousin and is mad at me.
  • I’m trying to figure out how we’re going to get to Kidling’s b-day party without a car. We’re going to buy a car in April, but until then, we’re sans car, and I feel like a shithead every time I call someone to ask for a ride, but at the same time, it’s really cold and rainy out.
So, obviously, I’m more than a little tense lately; very on edge and scream-y. My mom used to say, “If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all,” and lately I just feel stressed and angry and snappish. So I haven’t been updating my blog or calling people at all, because (quite frankly) I’m such a pain in the ass that I want to avoid me. Oh, and the x-box is breaking down. Yay! The tray is all stuck and annoying, and it’s no longer under warranty, so we’d have to pay an arm and a leg to get it repaired, but we can’t afford a newer one, either. So in the meantime, we have an x-box that makes this really super-loud humming sound, audibly clicks when a game or movie is in it, and doesn’t open it’s tray 90% of the time. I don’t know what the crap is wrong with it, but I can’t even play video games to relax. I’ve also decided to cancel my birthday party, mainly because I don’t want to deal with figuring out the car/ finances to do it, but I can’t help feeling a little sad that I won’t be seeing my friends on my birthday.I feel like the winter blues finally caught up to me. I’d been doing a fairly successful job throughout December of pushing them off, but man they’ve slammed me hard. I just feel like crying or screaming pretty much all the time.

happy new year!

2011 was a ride, for sure. I look back at the past year, and I’m pretty pleased. John and I like to joke that every year, something devastating happens to our family, but 2011 was pretty awesomely tame in comparison to some of the years we’ve had (I’m looking at you, 2007). I feel like I learned a lot — some of the lessons were old lessons I thought I’d already learned, but that needed to be reinforced. So, here’s what I learned this year:
Stand by your ethics. This is a hard one, and it often makes you feel unpopular and foolish. But in my experience, it’s always worse to shut up and sit down. It’s better to take a stand.
Don’t worry, be happy! This too shall pass. Just keep reminding yourself that whenever life seems to be coming at you with both fists up. There’s always a silver lining, and things eventually turn right side up. They only seem miserable in the moment; you’ll be surprised when you look back at this in 5 years and see how silly it all was.
Everybody hates drama, but sometimes it stalks you. It’s so funny, you always see those people who say “I hate drama soooo much!” on their OKC or FB profiles, and you think, “Uh, yeah . . . who doesn’t?” This year, I was pulled (as a minor side player) into two separate farces. The whole frustrating experience has taught me very clearly that sometimes you actually can lock yourself in your house, ignore the world, cover your ears, and sing lalalalala and still get sucked into other people’s drama. Sometimes it’s ethics (I’ve been informed of this information and have to decide whether or not it’s rumor, whether or not to perpetuate a potentially devastating secret, or whether to tell all and hope for the best) and sometimes it’s just that you moved in next to an insane person who won’t take no for an answer.
When drama stalks you, people blame you. That’s just the way it is. There’s gossip no matter what in life, and when the news is juicy . . . well, you all read the news. You know how it works. I believe my journalism teacher phrased it: The news doesn’t sell because we report the ordinary. It sells because we report the extraordinary, things that aren’t normal. It’s the same way in real life. Nobody’s going to walk around talking about how I’m learning to crochet, and isn’t that neat, or how I’m still struggling with writer’s block, but I sure got my grocery shopping down! Nope. And nobody is going to call me up and say, “Oh, I know John was planning on getting his hair cut — did he ever get that taken care of? And how’d he do on taking the garbage out this week; did he get both the recycling and the trash to the bins in time?”
Nobody cares. Because that’s ordinary, run of the mill, average. Boring, predictable, and stable. It’s stuff that we all do, and we all know about, and it’s not fascinating in the slightest. That’s why when in your personal little circle of friends, whomever they may be, when something happens — a divorce, a surgery, a pregnancy, a change of belief, a change of gender, a coming-out, a wedding, a dying, a chance meeting — any time anything out of the ordinary happens, it will be discussed and dissected and opined on. And the actions of anyone connected, however remotely, will also be discussed and dissected and opined on. So occasionally people will look at the happenings in our lives — the people who know us well enough to know the big happenings, but not the day-to-day ones — and react with the same armchair attitude, easy judgment, and simplistic solutions to complicated issues that were passed on Britney Speare’s public breakdown or Kim Kardashians rise to “fame.” It’s a social networking soundbite, in essence.
And the best lesson of all . . . wounds will heal. There have been times I thought I would never be on close terms with friends/ family I’ve been alienated from. There have been times when I thought the anger was too much, the divide too great, the misunderstandings too vast. There have been times when I thought no amount of apologies on either side would fix the relationship. Well, I’m glad to say I’ve been proven wrong time and time again. Where communication, time, and affection are present, relationships can heal. As long as both parties are willing to listen with compassion, forgiveness, and understanding, problems can be overcome, and it’s awesome. Remember to call up someone you love today and tell them you love them. Death is the great divider, and until that dark day, it’s only pride or shame or laziness that can topple friends and family.