thank God

I don’t know what the onomatopoeia is for this: opening your mouth as wide as you can, screaming, but also kind of yawning, as loudly as you can while shaking your head back and forth as hard as you can, becoming suddenly self-aware about the whole unbecoming thing, collapsing into laughter at your own vulnerability, and then, collapsing even more convincingly into tears.  And then laughing again, because whyareyoucrying. There should be a sound for it, the outward and physical manifestation of something nearly synonymous with catharsis, sans the religious and/or spiritual provocation that usually accompanies the real thing. What is this thing called? How can I describe it? Because this is an actual thing, that I imagine, many people have done in some various incarnation or another. It feels good to throw so much back at the world, after swallowing so much. It feels good to cry. It feels better to laugh.

But first, before I go on about the paucity of good, really fucking useful words-that-sound-like-sounds, let me say one thing to set context for my first blog post of 2013: fuck 2012. That year, the year of tying up loose ends, the year of senseless death met with confused and useless national dialogue about gun control, met with even more confused (but quieter, because SHHHHH!) dialogue about mental illness, the year the world was supposed to end, the year I became engaged, the year I turned 26, the year that began with my mother’s second terrifying brush with death, was a lesson in two things for me. The first: being a grown-up is a terrible cross to bear.

Getting older is weird, and people are perpetually disappointing. You feel woefully thankfully wiser to the world, but in the manic struggle to not become a jaded version of the glowing, hopeful, and eternally youthful self you still imagine you are (you are young! you are! you are! youareyouareyouare!) when you’re not talking or thinking about the crap you’re forced to wallow around in, you begin to harden. It starts around your ankles—in the general vicinity, as it’s likely a little different for everyone—edging up into your femoral artery, and up, up, up until—like a long, $673 medical-grade needle (estimated cost, and probably very nearly accurate)—BANG! (good onomatopoeia) Straight into your heart.  You stop feeling sorry for the disappointing people, and begin to simply dislike them. You stop putting yourself in their shoes. You stop giving. a. shit. how they feel. You despise them. Revile them. Believe, very honestly and self-righteously, in your general superiority to them. I don’t think there’s anything fundamentally wrong with this. Some people are shit. Some people are not. But the lesson, the point, is this: this line of thinking becomes dangerous to you, bearer of vile thoughts toward another, when you forget to laugh about the whole, bizarre joke of it all. Laugh at the assholes. Laugh at yourself. Pray for the lunatics, wave a sage stick at them, level an antiquated and inadequate justice system against them, I don’t care. But look at the absurdity, look at yourself, and see it for what it is. It’s okay to laugh hysterically, cry hysterically too, and hey, if the pain is deep enough, the kind that buries itself into that place where your stomach meets your soul, too deep to cry, it’s okay to just think about happier things. It’s okay to just act normal (my words, apparently, that mattered once to someone who matters to me), and laugh at something funny on television. And then, when you collect yourself, and you’re resolved to plant your feet firmly in that general superiority, do your best to live up to it. But do, I urge you, laugh when the opportunity affords itself. Sometimes laughter turns into happiness. Sometimes happiness turns into love.

The second thing: I’m okay. Everything is okay. Good. Lovely. Fantastic, actually, in 2013. IT IS NOT PERFECT. And if I force myself to stand a little ways back, and conjure up some of the more useful things I’ve picked up while practicing mindfulness in a 110 degree room with the top of my head nearly touching my ass (or running 8 miles through a 97 degree September in Central Florida, or enduring three straight hours of advanced ballet class in a room with a single, underperforming ceiling fan, etc. etc. etc.), I can say this. Maybe things were okay in 2012. Maybe they were even a little better, then, some four months ago, then they are now. Maybe I’m better when I’m fighting, or when I’m being pushed into a fight. This wouldn’t surprise me. People can fall apart, and thank God I’m one of them. I always manage to put the pieces back together into some better configuration of myself. Maybe I’m actually, always fighting something. Against something. For something.

Now on to the point. Things/feelings/places there should be a word-that-sounds-like-a-sound for. This matters. We talk about these things, and around these things, but these are things that we cannot describe, adequately, in my humble, but mostly right opinion. Somethings are more important than others, but there is no rank order. Somethings hurt, and somethings do not:

1. Grief.
2. Love.
3. Inhaling the aroma of a single-vineyard Pinot Noir.
4. Knowing that person you love is OKAY. (a nuance of relief)
5. Finding out that person you love is NOT OKAY. (a nuance of grief)
6. Smelling the first signs of spring.
7. You don’t know how good you actually have it. (this accompanies a shaking head).
8. Moving far away.
9. Leaving forever.
10. Lying in bed next to the person who doesn’t mind your cold hands and feet.
11. I’m glad you’re alive.
12. Winter.
13. Fear.
14. Fight.
15. Death.
16. Desperation.
17. Change.
18. Doubt.
19. Hope.
20. Honesty.

Ugh.

^ good one.

How limited we are.

the wisdom of strangers

So, with my new Portland phone number (which I can hardly call new as it’s been close to three years since I gave up my 813 area code), I’ve gotten my fair share of random text messages. Ironically—and perhaps, too ironically—the last person who had my 503 number actually shares my first name. Not only have I gotten random text messages, I’ve been convinced that the person texting me actually knows me. But then they’ll ask me if I’m willing to give someone cheap guitar lessons after school, and I realize that I am not, in fact, the Alex in question. I’ve also gotten a number of creepy and harassing calls from a blocked number over the last few years, but that’s a different story, and one that involves the phrase “bend your blonde ass over.” But this story, is a bit lighter, and apropos. It’s supposed to be a light time, the holiday season, but this one has been marred by some truly horrific events, which I regretfully admit is a massive understatement.

The text message I received today, read this:

“The LORD is slow to anger and great in power, the LORD will not leave the guilty unpunished… The LORD is good, a refuge in times of trouble. He cares for those who trust in HIM.” — Nahum 1:3 & 7″

First the shooting in Clackamas Town Center, in my own community, where two people died, and then just days later the painful news comes that 26 innocent people—including 20 young children—lost their lives in another shooting in an elementary school in a small town in Connecticut. To see people debating gun legislation at the expense of a dialogue about morality, and mental illness, and the intangible but very real things that lead people to hurt other people, and all in the days leading up to Christmas.

It feels wrong. It feels like the point. It feels like we’re losing, and they’re winning, when we point the fingers at everything and everyone but ourselves.

The full text of this passage seems significant:

The Lord is a jealous and avenging God;
the Lord takes vengeance and is filled with wrath.
The Lord takes vengeance on his foes
and vents his wrath against his enemies.
The Lord is slow to anger but great in power;
the Lord will not leave the guilty unpunished.
His way is in the whirlwind and the storm,
and clouds are the dust of his feet.
He rebukes the sea and dries it up;
he makes all the rivers run dry.
Bashan and Carmel wither
and the blossoms of Lebanon fade.
The mountains quake before him
and the hills melt away.
The earth trembles at his presence,
the world and all who live in it.
Who can withstand his indignation?
Who can endure his fierce anger?
His wrath is poured out like fire;
the rocks are shattered before him.

The Lord is good,
a refuge in times of trouble.
He cares for those who trust in him,
    but with an overwhelming flood
he will make an end of Nineveh;
he will pursue his foes into the realm of darkness.

Whatever they plot against the Lord
he will bring[a] to an end;
trouble will not come a second time.
10 They will be entangled among thorns
and drunk from their wine;
they will be consumed like dry stubble.[b]
11 From you, Nineveh, has one come forth
who plots evil against the Lord
and devises wicked plans.

12 This is what the Lord says:

“Although they have allies and are numerous,
they will be destroyed and pass away.
Although I have afflicted you, Judah,
I will afflict you no more.
13 Now I will break their yoke from your neck
and tear your shackles away.”

14 The Lord has given a command concerning you, Nineveh:
“You will have no descendants to bear your name.
I will destroy the images and idols
that are in the temple of your gods.
I will prepare your grave,
for you are vile.”

15 Look, there on the mountains,
the feet of one who brings good news,
who proclaims peace!
Celebrate your festivals, Judah,
and fulfill your vows.
No more will the wicked invade you;
they will be completely destroyed.

I’m praying for the families who are grieving their loved ones this holiday season. I’m praying for us.

open letter to a dark cloud

Dear dark cloud,

I’ve been watching you. Most days I choose to ignore you, but there you stay, perched just above us, needing, so desperately to be seen. We do see you, and we’re very sorry you’re stuck that way, but we remain confident that you’ll eventually dissipate and that the sun will resume its rightful position in our blue sky. Have you ever thought, dark cloud, that your effort might be wasted? You’ve spent so much time hovering here, that you’ve missed opportunities to be beautiful in someone else’s world. I’ve seen your doors open and shut, your chances come and go, but it seems you really prefer it this way, to be where you’re not admired. You’re ugly to us, and it’s an unpleasant thing to have you here, and I’ve wondered many times how you find the energy to stay planted.

Dark cloud, you must not be all bad. There must be parts of you that are good, and kind, and maybe it would be nice to have you around if those parts were easier to see. But you stay gray, and you puff up so large, that you block all of the light that is rightfully ours! We send prayers up to you, but they never seem to be heard. We’ve sent light to you, but our gestures are rebuffed. We’re spent hours, pondering your psyche, trying to understand how to reach you, but it’s all in vain. I guess, perhaps, it’s because you’re just a cloud. And a cloud can’t be reasoned with, no matter how hard you try.

You say, dark cloud, that you remain here with the singular goal of nurturing your child. But your child, the sweet earth, has been saturated—soaked to the core—and what your child needs now is sunshine and light, and the room to grow! You’ve rained your misery on us for so long that it might take years to wring it out, but still, you say, more, more, more. You’ll drown all of us, if you continue, but you don’t seem to care.

Do clouds have  a family? If they do, then yours has failed you. How could they let you stay so long, tethered to a sky that doesn’t want you? A sky that doesn’t love you? A sky that rejects you, because you’re toxic and destructive? Oh, how they could have guided you, and protected you, when your own piece of the sky started to collapse.

Do clouds have feelings? If they do, then your heart must be breaking. You’re unwanted, and despised, and we’ll never need you, the way you seem to need us. You thrive on our rejection, our disinterest—and you continue to be anathema to happiness. You want no friends, only enemies.

Do clouds have strength? If they do, then you’ve yet to find yours. You’re unchanged, and you seem to choose to be stuck. If you could know what strength is, then you might find the will to move on.

Do clouds have a soul? If they do, I urge you to reach into yours. Dig deep, and explore, and look to those wiser than you, for guidance. You may discover a path that’s brighter than you could have imagined since you’ve been hovering in our sky. You can be admirable, if you choose to be.

But dark cloud, you seem unmoved. Has nothing appealed to that part of you, that must want happiness? If it’s so, that you remain unconvinced, I have this to say to you:

We are bigger than you, and brighter than you, and we will make you move. You can challenge us with your gloom and misery, and we’ll laugh in the face of your smugness, because we know that light will always prevail. There’s something behind you, dark cloud.

It’s the sun.

And it’s ours, and it’s looking over your shoulder, and it will find a way to push through the fragile bonds that hold you together. The ground that we stand on is fertile, and blessed with the beauty and grace that’s bestowed upon those who bring true kindness and selflessness into the world. If you insist on staying here, you do so at your own peril. You will self-destruct.

You’re nothing but a collection of small, weak parts, threatening to burst at the seams.

And for that, dark cloud, I am infinitely thankful.

full disclosure

Last night, I was inspired to go back and read every post I’ve written on this blog. The first thing I thought was, wow, I’m really funny. I also thought, geez, I write a lot about food. I also felt like a little self-congratulations was in order. I really believe that I’ve done a good job of keeping my commentary focused on me: how I feel, and how I react, to situations both within and outside of my control.

Control. Now that’s a funny word. I’ve discovered a few things about myself since moving to Portland. For instance, I really like to be in control. Not over everything—I’m actually really great at delegating and saying no, thank you, when I don’t have the capacity to take on another responsibility—but over my life, and me and mine, and the regular rhythm and routine of my household. I like to live in a world where the people I love most are happy and thriving, and it devastates me when forces and situations that are outside of my control bring unnecessary pain and grief into that world. I don’t tolerate it well. In fact, you can say that I don’t tolerate it, so much as endure it, and I become extremely defensive and protective when the ecosystem I’ve worked really hard to build and nurture is threatened by something or someone I can’t control. With that said, looking back on my writing, I feel like I’ve treated delicate issues in my life with care and grace, even if it is occasionally laced with a bit of sarcasm and a little fun had at someone else’s expense (typically a stranger). I’ll excuse any of my own past transgressions (perhaps an accurate characterization was construed as negative?), with this: I AM A WRITER. The beauty of the craft is the perspective the writer brings to the events. If you were to write it, it would be a completely different story.

Surely, I could use my own little piece of the Internet to vent and rant and complain, but who would want to read that? There’s enough suffering in this world, that laborious details about my run-of-the-mill middle class problems don’t need to consume valuable real estate. I come here, after a little bit of time and distance from the problem, hours or even days after the venting and ranting I reserve for private telephone conversations with my closest friends and family, to express well-formed (for the most part) thoughts and insights from whatever fresh struggle or conflict I feel compelled to reflect on.

One ongoing theme in my life, which I feel like I’ve done some justice to in my past posts, is the idea of expectations, and the contentment or disappointment that follows. We all go through life with expectations: of relationships, investments, jobs, and government. And sometimes when life doesn’t meet those expectations, we feel wronged. Slighted. Shorted. Victimized. But the reality is, that’s just life. And if it’s your life, it’s a product of every decision and every sacrifice you’ve ever made, leading up to that moment. At the end of the day, when all of the finger-pointing and name-calling is over, we can only take responsibility for our own actions. No one is this life owes you anything. I’m guilty of having such expectations. Coming into my current life and love, I expected to experience maturity, and personal growth, and to learn from adults, who have experienced a lot of things in life I couldn’t begin to wrap my head around in the short 23 years I had spent on this earth. I had high expectations, and I was willing (if intimidated), to take on the task of role model, if that’s what it meant. I’ve been disappointed. In my actions, and the actions of others. But, in reality, all of the things I was looking for, came to me. In the face of conflict, I’ve matured. In the reality of a life that wasn’t what I imagined for myself as a little girl perched in front of a three-story Barbie dream house, but is beautiful in its own right, I’ve grown. From adults who have let me down (as well as other people, far less capable of my introspective), I’ve learned a lot.

I read a quote, completely randomly, on Instagram yesterday, and I’m preparing to completely misquote it now: “Never regret what once made you happy.” I like this, because it’s a wonderful way to allow yourself to forgive people, and forgiving other people is the only way to forgive yourself. Life is hard. Everyone has issues. Hopefully, everyone finds a way to work through them. That’s not strength; it’s surviving. For me, the only way I’ve been able to work through mine, is to remind myself everyday that they exist, and that every morning I wake up, I make a choice to be better than that. To be a better, kinder person. And being truly kind, satisfies me far more than the artifice of kindness. Mercy at the hands of the powerful, is not kindness. It’s mercy.

I’m striving for something more genuine than that. Read at your own peril.

2 big reasons to go home more often

I’m in Florida, doing the best thing I can do, under the worst of circumstances. I do not like why I’m here, and I wish I were spending time with my family for happier reasons. But given the present situation, I’m eternally grateful that I have a life that affords me the ability to book a cross-country flight on a few days’ notice, and be present when it really matters to the people I love dearly. So here I am, contemplating my luck.

1. You are not getting any younger, and neither are your parents.

Life is busy, and work (and children, even if they’re only part-time) are demanding, and it’s easy to take your parents for granted. They’re always there, and they always answer when you call. In fact, they’re probably hoping that today’s the day you pick up the phone. The reality is, they’re really interesting people. Once you cross that great divide into “adulthood,” the more valuable they become as resources, and as friends. Save yourself the trip to the head-shrinker…and ask them why and how. Get to know them. Maybe they did some pretty shitty things when you were younger. Maybe they were perfect. Either way, talk to them. They’re fascinating people now, because you held them above all others when you were little. Once they come down from that pedestal, they’re a wealth of insight into life and love and hard decisions, and it’s important that you learn everything they’re meant to teach you, even though you’re a grown-up now. I am a truly fortunate woman to be raised by women and men who love without conditions, and I’ve been taught that forgiveness is the key to true enlightenment. Forgive, and love, and you will prosper. There is no damage that can’t be undone if your heart is open to it. Sometimes good people, whom you love, make bad decisions. You’ve made bad decisions too (I assure you), and we are all human.

The same goes for your grandparents: your time with them is much shorter. They’re your best link to your history. I must say here, that I treasure these days that I get to spend with my grandmother. In less than 24 hours, I’ve learned that she worked for five years as a secretary for a mob operation in Tampa in the late 50s (ahem…an “ice machine distributor”), and that my great-grandmother (her father’s mother), for lack of a better word, was a badass. As my grandmother put it tonight: we come from “strong stock.” And it’s true. My great-grandmother (Dabney King, or “Bim,” as she was called), left her physician husband behind in Georgia in the early 1900s to become a schoolteacher in the swampland (he stayed behind to attend to his patients). She bought land on a lake here and built her own house with wood harvested from that land. That house on King Lake would become the house that my great-grandparents would live in, and later after their deaths, my grandmother. My grandmother, who lived in that house on King Lake, was diagnosed with breast cancer, and had a masectomy at 34, in the early 70s. She just had a second masectomy two days ago, a few months before her 70th birthday, due to a Stage 1 tumor in her remaining breast. My Granny is, withought a doubt the strongest woman I’ve ever known. I will write, one day, in depth about her life and challenges, but that is a bigger story for another time.  She tells me that she thinks about Bim often, and how she would handle these situations. I didn’t know this amazing woman, but I thank her, for making me strong stock. And I love her, truly, for so positively influencing my grandmother, and passing down the instinct for survival and success to all of the women who came after her.

2. Know where you came from.

I say this, with a bit of hesitance. I come from Florida, or as a good friend from Cincinatti referred to my fair state back in college—the land of the newlyweds and nearly-deads. Yeah, this place is weird. If something unthinkable and bizarre happened in national news, it likely happened in Florida. But I offer this word of caution, before you pass judgement: Florida is a transient state, full of odd, transient people, from the other 49. I’m a fourth-generation Floridian on my mother’s side, and my father and his people came from the totally uncorrupt city of Chicago. Florida is the way it is…because of the rest of you weirdos. The Florida I know and love is unobstructed lake views, rows of citrus trees, and lots and lots of mosquitoes, spiders and gators. It’s a swamp, with coastline, and all of the things that are horrible and irritating about this place were imported from the Northeast and the rest of the Atlantic seaboard by people who wanted more sunshine. For us, it’s the natives versus the Great White Northerners. When it comes to locals, we’re content to sit on a lake all day, and not drive like assholes, and not brown ourselves silly like a burnt freaking biscuit. We like the water, and we like the heat, but we do not like your inability to be friendly and kind.  You may not think you’re in the real South when you’re down here, but we like to fancy ourselves the truest Southerners by virtue of latitude. So behave.

Regardless of where you came from, and how much you love it-slash-think you’re above it, you are who you are because of it. Maybe you grew up on several different continents, and maybe you still live in the same town that you went to high school in. Maybe you moved away for a while and came back. Regardless, appreciate it, because it was critical in your formative years, and you wouldn’t be you without it. Go back and check in, if you’re far away.

If anything, if it’s nothing like you remembered it, it’s a humble reminder that the world does in fact, keep moving, even when you’re gone.

 

beach weekend

Happy April 3! Today feels significant. In exactly four months, I’ll turn 26, and I’ll officially be what I like to call, on the wrong side of 25. I also realized last night that one year ago today, I was on the island of Maui. And that…really makes me wish I were on Maui.

With no planned tropical travel this year, the monotony of Portland’s winter weather has started to drive me a little crazy. I’ll never forget the gorgeous summer of 2009 here in Bridgetown, when I fell in love with a man and the temperate climate of the Pacific Northwest, but that it’s 48 degrees and raining today, is making me think about the weather I spent the first 21 years of my life hating.

Hot, sticky, Florida weather, where your skin is consistently damp to the touch nine months out of the year, and the mere thought of wearing a chiffon maxi dress in July makes your inner thighs break out in heat rash. I have this to say: Florida, I took you for granted. You and your 1,200 miles of coastline, your 80 degree Decembers. You’re like Maui, but attached to Georgia. And much closer to Cuba. I didn’t know what I had, until it was gone.

And because my work-related quasi-reprieve in Vegas only lasted for a week (and now feels like it was decade ago), Joe and I decided to get the hell out of Dodge and celebrate his birthday with friends at the coast. We rented a darling house in Manzanita, OR for the weekend, and had the incredible luck of being there on the warmest days I’ve ever spent on the Oregon Coast. Although, it’s breathtaking, the Oregon Coast is no Gulf Coast. Pacific wind bites.

Our weekend was lovely, and the ocean was magnificent as usual. It was great to get out of the city, and especially great to spend our mini-vacation with our friends and dog-babies with no schedule and nothing to do but explore and play. Manzanita is a new favorite—although we adore Astoria, Cannon Beach, Lincoln City and Newport—Tillamook County’s hidden gem with seven-miles of uninterrupted coast is a great place to escape touristy beach-town gimmicks.

And I just love this song, which nearly perfectly sums up the sentiment.

some thoughts on sluts, prostitutes, having children, etc.

It seems like every week, I run across something in the news while browsing the interwebs that causes me to metaphorically slam on the brakes and scream, “WTF?!?” And then, in total Friends-esque incredulity, repeat, “Really? Really?” Then I comtemplate, very seriously, moving to France, for about five minutes. Then I sigh. Then I continue working, because having a job these days is a luxury in the good ol’ US of A.

Sometimes I post whatever new flavor of ridiculousness I’ve found to Facebook, and sometimes I don’t. I’m never fully satisfied by the limited and superficial discourse afforded by social media around important issues, and on the whole, I’ve found my Facebook comrades to be bizarrely brainwashed by party line issues, more than willing to jump on the newest [insert party here] bandwagon, because either Fox News or Mother Jones told them to. Important issues do exist, like…sexism and misogyny. Like the legislation of female reproduction. Like slut-shaming and the shockingly dangerous agenda of fundamentalist Christian groups. Like wage inequality and sex trafficking. Like all of those things that make me both incredibly grateful to be an educated, employed woman, and fearful that I may never see a female president of the United States of America in my lifetime, and that my future daughters may never live in a world where being a woman isn’t only not a weakness, but an advantage.

So, if you haven’t guessed it already, I self-identify as a feminist. I don’t think it’s a dirty word, and I don’t really care what you think. But, it seems like there’s something odd going on, when groups like Americans United for Life are actually succcessful in setting women back about six decades in the name of “protection,” and their model legislation looks shockingly similar to policy that seems to be cropping up all across the country. Because, you see, the AUL really believes that when we women find ourselves all knocked up, we don’t really know what we’re getting ourselves into when we decide that terminating the pregnancy is really what’s best for our current socioeconomic/family/emotional/mental/spiritual situation. They think that being made to look that unborn fetus in its embryotic face before having the procedure is critical to saving our souls lives, lest we have a change of heart and bring another unwanted child into the world to become let down by, and then forgotten by, an incredibly broken system.

WAIT. I’m mistaken.

The mandatory ultrasound legislation recently signed by Virgina’s governor Bob McDonnell (who to my knowledge, has never carried a child to term), is described by the AUL as a life-saving measure that might prevent a woman with an ectopic pregnancy from dying after being given “life-ending” drugs. Nevermind that ecoptic pregnancies constitute just around 1% of all American pregnancies each year, or that an even larger number of women die each year from unsafe abortions. You know, the kind of abortion a woman living at or just above (or hell, well above) the poverty line in Virgina might end up with if she also (likely) happens to be one of the 100 million uninsured Americans (read: 1 in 3) who just wouldn’t have the cash to seek out a completely medically unneccsssary procedure that’s legally required for her to have a safe abortion.

(Un)Ironically, Virgnia made the groundbreaking discovery that there’s a correlation between educational attainment and wealth, and that poverty in their state has been steadily increasing since 2006. Rather than legislating around education and employment, they’ve seen fit to ensure that fewer women lacking the economic resources to raise a child to adulthood have viable alternatives. And meanwhile, back at the proverbial ranch, the alternatives are shrinking, because God forbid the government mandate that insurers pay for birth control as a preventative service to ensure that women have the ability to plan their lives and families based on their readiness and willingness to raise a human being. Because of, um, separation of church and state…I mean…ummm. Because of some Reason. That has nothing to do with pushing a pro-life agenda.

Other gems you can thank the AUL for in the future (coming to a legislature near you!), include:

  • “The Planned Parenthood Joint Resolution”: not surprisingly, aims to defund Planned Parenthood. “Fetus Personhood,” could make contraceptives illegal, and might open miscarriages to investigation. In other words, “you have no rights,” and “despite the fact that you’ve experienced one of the worst tragedies you might bear as a woman, we’ll make your life even more of a living hell.”
  • The “Abortion Patients’ Enhanced Safety Act”: This would require that facilities that perform five or more first trimester abortions per month, or any second- or third-trimester abortions to be licensed as “ambulatory surgical clinics.” Of course, in order to do this, they would have to renew their license annually, and perform other services at a significant investment. Naturally, the logic here is, make it cost-prohibitive to perform abortions, and there will be fewer people performing abortions (reference unsafe abortion statistic above).
  • And of course, my personal favorite: “The Parental Involvement Enhancement Act”: This one aims to protect sexually-abused children, by requiring that any minor (under the age of 18…hello, high school), be required to inform their parents and get consent before the procdure can be performed (which happens fairly frequently now). There’s a catch, however: both the parent and minor child must sign a release stating that they both understand that the prcedure will “result in the death of her unborn child.” So if your parents are meth-addled losers, tough luck. You’ll need to find their gypsy caravan first, and then you’ll have to pay to have the form notarized.

But this of course, is a much bigger issue. Like, why are all of these women having so much sex? Women who can’t afford contraceptives like hormonal birth control pills are sluts, in case you hadn’t heard, which I’m sure you have, because the (deserved) general outrage around Rush Limbaugh’s latest misguided attempt at disgusting misogyny humor has been headline news for the last week (not that you’ll be able to get the full bit now, since his radio transcripts containing the hate speech have magically disappeared from his website). These women are also prostitutes, because in the event that the government pays for their birth control prescription (don’t even get me started on the Cost of Health Care), they’re effectually being paid to have sex, so naturally, and the government is their pimp. This one is particularly frustrating, because the situation that his comments were in direct response to should have never occurred, because there’s no sane reason why any Georgetown law student should ever be discussing the cost of birth control with congressional policymakers, ever, ever, ever. Not when the unemployment rate for women is virtually unchanged, or when women are only making 78% of what their male counterparts are making (You’d think with all that extra cash, more men could afford condoms. It isn’t so. Apparently.). Not when the same lobbyist groups who are successully creating barriers to a woman’s right to make decisions for her own body and well-being are also successfully defunding the very organizations that make affordable contraception available. NOT. EVER.

In other news, there’s a glimmer of hope for us women. There are actually women in public office who believe the fairer sex are intelligent, rational beings, who are quite capable of making logical decisions for themselves, contrary to popular legislative opinion. Women who are willing to take risky positions against the Old Boys’ Club, with satirical, and quite frankly, equal legislation, that puts a vasectomy on par with a woman’s right to terminate her pregnancy without unneccesary and costly medical roadblocks.

In Ohio, Nina Turner (D-Cleveland), introduced a bill this week that would require doctors to take certain measures before prescribing drugs like Viagra to treat sexual impotence, such as performing cardiac stress tests and referring patients to a sex therapist to ensure that symptoms are physical, and not psychological.

In Delaware, Wilmington’s City Council (the largest city in Biden’s home state) passed a resolution (by an 8-4 vote) calling for the recongition of sperm “personhood.” In our backward fair state of Virginia, Sen. Janet Howell proposed legislation that would mandate rectal exams and cardiac stress tests for any potential male recipients of erectile dysfunction medication. In Georgia (love to the Southeast), Rep. Yasmin Neal wrote this beautiful piece of legislation, including that, “(b) No vasectomy is authorized or shall be performed in violation of this Code section. In determining whether a vasectomy is necessary, no regard shall be made to the desire of a man to father children, to his economic situation, to his age, to the number of children he is currently responsible for, or to any danger to his wife or partner in the event a child is conceived. A vasectomy may only be performed to avert the death of the man or avert serious risk of substantial and irreversible physical impairment of a major bodily function of the man.”

Sounds about right, to my female brain. Separate…but equal?

In Missouri, similarly equal policy-making—vasectomies are only allowed if it saves the man from death or serious bodily harm. And of course, my favorite, from the fine state of Texas: Rep. Harold Dutton served up 3 fine amendments, including one that requires the state to pay the college tuition of children born to women who chainge their mind about abortion after seeing an ultrasound image (it’s called “personal responsibility,” ya’ll). The second would have subsidized healthcare for those children until age 18. And then age 6. None of it passed.

All in all, it looks like the joke is still on us.

Good news: only 8 more years until we get to celebrate the 100-year anniversary of our man-given right to vote. Perhaps we should have a real coup, and elect a female head of state. What a riot that would cause.

what I’ve been doing with my iPhone4s

Taking pictures of Lily! Duh.

 

new normal

2011 was a good year, and although it wasn’t perfect, I’ve had mixed emotions about whether 2012 could live up to my (now) high expectations of where I’m going and what I’m doing. I’m only expecting it to get better, and while January has had its share of challenges, irritations, crisis and change, I’m realizing more and more that it might be the rule, rather than the exception, and that my happiness is a product of how I react to the inevitable curveballs and setbacks.

In true Alex form, I’ve been dragging my feet on resolution-setting. I’ve got a good draft going, and I’ve divided these personal goals into categories to help me better focus on what exactly of my list is actionable in 12 (11!) short months. I’ve also assigned them a likeliness score, as while a good majority of my resolutions are actionable, I know myself well enough to admit that I’ll probably put off until tomorrow, what I can do today. Know thyself, was a 2006 resolution, and it has only taken me the better part of a decade to get it (almost) right.

Fitness:

  • Get gym membership (likely)
  • Use gym membership (somewhat likely)
  • Hot yoga at least once a week (somewhat likely)
  • Complete a half-marathon (highly unlikely)

Financial:

  • Put $9 a day in savings (pretty likely)
  • Put saved money in USAA savings account because you don’t know how to get it out (somewhat likely)
  • Create a budget and stick to it (somewhat likely)
  • Carry no balance on credit cards except for 0% interest card (done!)
  • Spend less on groceries by actually planning week’s menu rather than deciding at 6:00 p.m. to run to Trader Joe’s (unlikely)

Work:

  • Arrive no later than 8:30 a.m., even on Monday, pre-caffeinated and cheerful (somewhat likely)
  • Track daily work so you know on Friday how every hour was spent, and spend less time on email (pretty likely)
  • Create a 5-year development plan (pretty likely)
  • Attend 3 conferences related to marketing, web or  health care IT (pretty likely)

Family:

  • Call more often (likely)
  • Don’t ignore calls, even when it’s inconvenient (somewhat likely)

Friends:

  • Make more time to see the ones in town, and make more time to call the ones who aren’t (likely)

Miscellaneous:

  • Learn how to cook, and practice, by cooking on Sunday, which is the day that you’re typically the least exhausted (somewhat unlikely)
  • Drink good wine (pretty likely)
  • Read 50 books (likely)
  • Take on one major organizational project every 3 months (closet, desk, kitchen junk drawer, etc.) and finish it (unlikely)
  • Donate 1 bag of anything every month (clothes = unlikely, food = likely)
  • Buy fewer pairs of shoes (highly unlikely)
  • Brush up on Spanish (unlikely)
  • Be the bigger person, even when you want to start an unsolicited email with “Listen up, you delusional, clinically insane (insert choice word here):” (somewhat likely…since clearly I’m off to an excellent start)
  • Visit the Portland Art Museum 4 times (somewhat likely)
  • Learn how to play the guitar (somewhat unlikely)
  • Write more (likely)

When I look at this list, I see a year in which I buy a gym membership that I may or may not use, save money that I’ll eventually spend on shoes, groceries and a membership to a museum I’ll probably visit once, and put undue pressure on myself to study a foreign language while I’m likely on the phone with an East Coast friend or reading a book instead. I’m not totally bothered by this. It could definitely be worse.

I generally avoid using broad, sweeping statements about people, as the older I get, the more I realize being an adult is mythos, but I think the majority of us like to believe in the possibility of some better version of ourselves. The person we know we could be if my boss would only recognize how hard I workmy son’s/daughter’s father/mother would just cooperate—work wasn’t so stressful—I wasn’t so tired when I got home–-traffic wasn’t so bad on the interstate—I had the money—people listened—someone helped me. There are a hundred reasons every day why we can’t do something, and almost an equal number of reasons why we can and should, yet somehow, we most often end up relenting to the former. My list of New Year’s resolutions is just that—a list of things that this better version of me can and should do. The real version of me is a work in progress, and I’m learning how to aim for my highest standards, but be more forgiving of myself when I fall short.

It might sound like I’m setting myself up for failure just three weeks into the year (I’m already making excuses!), but I assure you, I’m only orienting myself in what a friend so poignantly referred to as a “new normal.” Tomorrow is my last day as a web producer at Regence, and in a few days, I’ll start a new job as a solutions marketing manager at a software company here in Portland. While I’m excited about a new opportunity and more bottom-line impact and responsibility, I’m moving into a whole new industry with high expectations and a (fun!) commute into Beaverton. It’s different, and it’s going to take a lot of time, energy and focus to succeed, all of which I’m happy to give. While I’m focusing on starting a new job, I’m not conjugating verbs in Spanish, or training for a 13-mile run. I guess I could do it all, but I’d never see Joe, Travis or Lily, eat, sleep or do laundry. If life is anything, it’s a lesson in trade-offs.

Other things happen, in life, like on a Thursday night, when you get a call at 1:00 a.m. PST because your mother’s lung collapsed again, and she’s at the hospital having another chest tube put in, and no one can really really tell you what that means, a week before you start a new job. Your lease might be up on January 23rd, so you might also be house-hunting when your mother is in the hospital and you’re starting a new job. And then, while all of that’s happening, other people, who are of no relation or actual importance to you, might be causing unnecessary stress in your life for one reason or another, because maybe, they actually don’t have anything real to worry about. So there’s all of those important things, and the unimportant things, and it’s fairly easy to decide between Bikram yoga and a quiet evening on the couch with Netflix streaming, or between spending any number of reflective hours admiring Titian’s greatest works and cleaning the bathroom.

A new normal isn’t bad. It’s just new. And there’s nothing wrong with getting your bearings before you take on the rest of your life.

I feel like closing this post with a little ELO (not to be confused with LFO). Because I do what I want.

explaining marketing to a 6-year-old

Tonight, Travis asked me what I was reading, and I explained that it was a book about websites, and how to make them easy for people to use. He seemed really unimpressed. I told him that my old job (at least my job through January 24), is to decide what gets built on a website, but that my new job is in marketing, which, (in my own humble opinion) is the most important job in the world. “Why?” he asks. I tell him that marketing makes money, to which he replies, “well, everyone makes money at work.” I say yes, that’s true, but marketing and sales are the people that make money for the whole company, so that everyone else that works there gets paid money. He said “wow, I didn’t know that.”

I really wanted to drive the importance of marketing home, so I went on to explain that everything single thing he’s ever wanted, he wanted, because of marketing. He looks more interested. “Every Hexbug, Hot Wheels track, Pillow Pet, you want, because there’s someone in a boardroom somewhere, saying, “Okay, guys, what is going on in the mind of a 6-year-old boy.”

His eyes get wide, he gasps. He says: “Uh-oh.”

He explains: “I have secrets in my mind, that nobody knows.”

Help. Us.