Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Gender Wars

Tonight we ate at McDonald's. Yeah we ate at McDonald's. Today was the last day of school and the start of summer. I know I've just been knocked down several notches on the good parenting rung by admitting that visit, but I'm nothing if not transparent. We even caved to buying the Happy Meals, which Hannah mistakenly thought were called "Healthy Meals". Tonight the thing that got me was the toys and the larger issue they represent.

Hannah decided the cars looked the coolest and wanted to get them, while Gen thought that the light up, key-chain shoe looked the best. As we ordered, we were asked for whether we wanted the "boy toy" or the "girl toy" in each meal. Why do the cars have to be "boy toys" and why were the girl toys displayed amongst purple and pink cardboard hearts, peace signs and flowers? It was too confusing for the employee explaining that we wanted the "boy toy"  and finally had to tell him that the Happy Meal was for a boy before he knew what to select. I bet Hannah is sure to pick that option again, if she had to be labeled as a boy in order to get it or hears us all refer to the toy as a "boy toy". Grrrrr. Why do we have to restrict girls and boys so much, but especially girls? Can't there just be two options and either gender is welcome to think either is acceptable?

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Big Bertha

Readers meet Big Bertha. Sorry she can't really meet you, she's too busy recovering from her winter binge on oil. Unless you live in New England, you may think this rusty hunk of metal was found in some industrial plant, but oh no, it's located in our basement. Almost every house has their very own metal hunk of stinking junk. Even houses that were recently built. Old Bertha holds heating oil which heats the water and the house.. She costs $1000 to fill and you typically go through three tanks in the winter and four throughout the year. When was the last time you paid $4000/year to heat your house?

On a particularly low moment of the winter, we had our house heated at sixty-five degrees on the main level, we were all bundled in coats and socks and the kids were complaining of the cold and begging to turn up the heat. I became a little over dramatic in my head and began comparing myself to some poor, struggling family huddling around a fire, dressed in rags, freezing to death. I start to cry thinking about how we can't even turn up our heat to sixty-eight and I spiral down into cursing the backward nature of New England. Yep dramatic, that's me. Don't worry though, now I'm wishing it was freezing again, but I'm not crying about it yet.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

We Don't Kill Bugs in Connecticut

Fly Not Included
A couple of months after we moved to Connecticut, we found a couch set on Craigslist and also found ourselves the proud new owners of a few dirty house flies. I'd already tried a handful of stores to find a simple device called a fly swatter. Maybe you've heard of it? I don't think Connecticut has. Initially I found it odd, then annoying, then a downright conspiracy that a fly killer could not be procured. And every time I'd go home empty handed, my bitterness would only increase when I'd hear the little beasts buzzing in a taunt.

Target has everything right? Not in Connecticut and not when they don't believe in "super" anything. I tried two workers before I found one that could do more than grunt at me and then I got more than an earful. I asked if she could tell me what isle the fly swatters were on. "Oh you don't want to kill them do you?!"

Umm yeah I do. Flies sit on poop and then sit on our food. "Yes, actually I do."

"Oh you don't have to kill them. You can just catch them and then let them outside".

Oh yeah, sure, in between Stew's screams, unloading the dishes and making dinner I'll just spend the next three hours leaping from couch, to chair to counter, trying to catch Mr. Fly in my hands. "I usually do take bugs and spiders outside, but I think a fly would be kind of hard to catch."

"I don't think it would be hard at all. Just open the door and shoo it out the door with a piece of paper." She starts pantomiming how easy it would be to set this fly free. I start wondering why I let it get to this point.

Why do I care whether she knows if I'm kind to bugs? Why am I wasting time getting a lecture on fly cruelty? But I still let her finish her peace, because that's the nice (chicken) person I am. At the end of the schpiel , it's confirmed, no swatters. I still haven't found one. Poor guy just died of starvation or was eaten by Luna. But, shhhh, don't tell PETA.

Friday, June 7, 2013

Fighting Against the Lie

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"He must really like you, if he started dating you after you looked like that". Oh the things women say to each other. Instantly I felt the hurt and then I felt my mind flow into action and fury, screaming things like "yeah he likes me, for me, not how I look, not what kind of clothes I wear, but for what kind of person I am. You know real like." But that was almost fifteen years ago and I still remember, I still sting with shame and feel a little uglier and a little sadder whenever it sneaks to the forefront. I'm still effected. I'm not self-actualized.

I studied psychology because I'm fascinated with people. With what we think, what we do and why we do what we do. I know that studies have shown how influential attractiveness is. How attractive people are automatically assumed to be good and kind. People with good looks make more in tips, get jobs and make more than their less attractive counter-parts. Problem is, I could really care less what I look like. I would much rather spend my time reading a good book or chatting with a friend than spending hours primping over myself in a mirror. I'd rather spend money traveling the world, than buying the latest designer spring fashions or having my thighs lipo-ed. But sometimes I try because I want friends. I want to be liked. Because that's what girls like. That's what you must do.

I also know the horrors of the relentless onslaught of beauty propaganda. I know that women are objectified, lied to and made to feel that their worth is no more than their dress size, designer clothes and flawless face. I know the awful lie. Yet I am fully entrenched. I waffle between sniffing, scoffing and sighing in sadness at those who run a million miles, talk incessantly about losing weight and shopping, and spend all of their energy chasing the ideal in fashion and beauty. But in the same sigh, I've already compared myself to these women and decided they are prettier than I am, they are skinnier than I am and consequently better than I am. My inner critic must tell me in fifty different ways, throughout the day,  how fat I am, how terrible I am at dressing myself and how ugly I look. If anyone else said the things I said to myself, I'd hurt them. A lot. I don't even try to be friends with someone who I've determined is too beautiful to want to hang out with me.

That same dashing, alluring boy who liked me despite my shocking lack of fashion, went way beyond like and into love. He married me and he constantly tells me how beautiful I am. For years, I thought he was just being charming or kind, but lately I've realized he really does believe what he's saying. And I've committed to not discount what he says, but to believe. To really let what he sees sink into every part of me. Maybe I'm the one whose been seeing with distorted glasses. Maybe we all are.

What I know in the deep down, solid part of me, is that what really matters is who I am, not what I look like. That's what matters about all of us. We're all deeper than our skin and despite what imperfect human frailties lead us to sometimes judge based on what we see, so many of look beyond and into the soul. And those are the good ones. Those are the ones who you want as friends.

So often I see and define my body by what it looks like and I forget what is best and most powerful about my body is what it can do. It can take me on a fifty mile backpacking trip through the Uintas or take me through a hard-fought tennis game. My body can can swim through the ocean while gazing at the glorious, shimmering fish below. My eyes can cry with a friend or watch my children sleeping. My mouth can speak comforting words or witty retorts. My hands can type, write and express my truths. My whole body can love my husband. My brain can take me on adventures or give me hours of delight as I go birding or listen to an engaging lecture. 

I will consciously point out to my children how wonderful their bodies are because of what they accomplish. I will put them in sports. I will encourage them to dance. I will refrain from vocalizing any misgivings about my own weight or appearance. I will stop beating myself up and start building myself up. And I'll stop getting in trouble for saying mean things about Russ' wife. (A little thrill goes through me every time I realize that's me). Will you do the same?

This article fired me up. Read it: http://www.stuff.co.nz/life-style/wellbeing/8760102/When-your-mother-says-shes-fat

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Animals Attack

"What is that smell?" is one of those phrases that likely strikes fear in the heart of every human, but when you have a dog, a baby and two little girls, it brings on full panic mode.

We're finally ready to fall into bed when we realize Luna needs to be sent out for a potty break. Upon her return, we're overwhelmed with an overpowering, all-consuming stench of what through the gags, seems like burnt rubber or a chemical plant that has burned up. Russ assumes that something bad is happening outside so he quickly shuts the door as Luna is circling and sneezing around our legs. I realize with horror that I know that smell close up. Skunk. Luna has been sprayed. I scream, "I think it's skunk. We've got to get her out of here." Visions of my childhood dog bolting into our house like she's possessed, rubbing on couches and every carpet in every room, is flying through my mind, but I'm paralyzed. I'm terrible in traumatic situations. Luckily, Russ still has the use of his limbs and is quickly ushering Luna up through the kitchen door. It's midnight by the time I'm tiptoeing around her poop, breathing through my mouth and guiding her to a new spray, of hose water and a rubdown with shampoo. After the first two washes I realize just a simple wash is never going to do it. I retreat back through the poop field and go in search of the marina sauce I had used for cooking club that night. As I'm about to begin the saucing, Russ calls for help from the basement. We've now got a frog hopping around as he's trying to scrub the carpets. Now we're gagging through skunk smell, baking soda drenched floors, running after a terrified frog. I make the catch, he escapes my grasp and I recatch him in mid-air before I get him out the door and into the bushes.

At two in the morning Luna is sopping wet, with a slight pink tinge looking very dejected as we shut her outside for the night. She still has an open wound from her surgery and we have to risk her going without the cone of shame, since it got the brunt of the spray. We abandon our summer residence in the basement, shed our skunk laden clothes and settle in for a less smelly, but sweltering short night of sleep. And Gen's birthday party is a day away. All hail to our darling dog. 

Monday, June 3, 2013

Family May Visit

One of the things I love about living in Connecticut is the proximity to so many fun things to do. New York City is a little over an hour drive away. Boston is 2 1/2 hours away, D.C. 5 and so on. When my family came, the hard part was squeezing in all of the fun things we wanted to do. We missed out on doing everything ( I guess they'll just have to come again very soon), but we did get to some pretty cool things.