Slut o ween


Perhaps I'm getting prudish in my old age. Honestly, though, I don't think that's the problem. There have been stories and blog posts all over the Net about how Halloween has turned into an excuse/expectation for women and girls, even young girls, to dress provocatively and to male fantasy standards. Naughty nurse, sexy cat, sexy cop, French maid, etc. I personally hadn't given this a whole lot of thought. When I was in fifth grade, one of my classmates came to our Halloween carnival dressed as a ten year-old Playboy bunny. Everyone was aghast. I thought this was something like that--something odd that happened occasionally with young girls and was not generally considered acceptable. As for adult women, I've long ago accepted that a great majority of us will dress in a stupid way if given half the chance and hardly find it surprising when the line between provocative and sluttified is crossed and re-crossed.

Then, yesterday, I went to buy Halloween candy. While I was in the store, I checked out some of the costumes for sale.

Oh. My.

It seems that every women's costume, adult and child alike, has been sexified. There are no witches, just sexy witches; no pirates, just sexy pirates. Slutty superheroes, bad kitties, tavern wenches (OK, so that one was actually kind of cute, and at least it was for a grown up), and even children's outfits that screamed nothing so much as BDSM. Several versions of "pimp" and "ho" costumes! And then something that I can just barely describe, which I think was called a "dollar girl" costume, and seemed to be a short dress made entirely of plastic dollar bills?

Who lets their kids wear this stuff? Are the trick or treaters that come to my door tonight going to be dressed this way? Wasn't it bad enough when little girls were all expected to be fairies and princesses and ballerinas? Now they have to be sexy fairies, dominatrix princesses, and lap dancers?

I'm really not anti-sex, or even anti-sexy dressing. And I can totally see how and why Halloween is a fun night for women to dress more sexily than they would otherwise. I've done it myself. But not as a small child! At the age at which girls now are presumably dressing as "dollar girls," I dressed as a Care Bear, a (non-sexy) pirate, and one banner year, a book! And I had a great time on Halloween and all was well and I wasn't being asked to sell my body before I even knew what it was.

I find these sexy costumes for kids really distressing. The beauty of Halloween as a kid, to me, was imagination. It was thinking about what you could become that would be fun, being allowed to act out and look weird. This seems like just an escalation of the pressure young girls feel every day, at younger and younger ages, to meet a male sexual ideal, whether it works for them or not. And if that is what Halloween is going to be about, then I'd rather skip it all together.


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Happy Halloween!


Had to share today's calendar page, in all its spooky glory (cuz really, what's spooky like a grinning wolfhound?).

Irish Wolfhound in mist

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A primer on Marys with three names


Hollywood is full of women named Mary who have three names. These women often confuse me. Perhaps they confuse you as well. In case they do, I present a handy primer.

Mary Stuart Masterson1. Mary Stuart Masterson is a blonde actress, best known for playing Idgie in Fried Green Tomatoes and Joon in Benny & Joon. She is not Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio, with whom I confuse her due their names.

mary elizabeth mastrantonio2. Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio is an actress with dark curly hair. She is best known for playing Maid Marian in Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves (she was also in Scarface, for the more cinematically pure-hearted). She is neither Mary Stuart Masterson nor Mary Steenburgen, who also has dark curly hair but does not have three names, and played the mom on Joan of Arcadia.

Mary-Louise Parker3. Mary-Louise Parker is a dark-haired actress who plays Nancy on Weeds and previously was Amy on The West Wing. She is none of the Mary's above, nor is she Lauren Graham, who played Lorelai on The Gilmore Girls and is not a Mary, but does resemble Mary-Louise Parker. She's also not Julia Louie-Dreyfus, who played Elaine on Seinfeld and looks nothing like her, but as a Louie in her name.

mary kate olsen4. Mary-Kate Olsen is one of the Olsen twins. Clearly, she is not her sister, Ashley Olsen. She is the Olsen twin who had the anorexia issues a few years back, who sometimes does not have blonde hair. She is also the Olsen twin who did a guest appearance on Weeds.

Mary Tyler Moore5. Mary Tyler Moore is the iconic star of The Mary Tyler Moore Show in the 1970s. Yep, the one who threw her hat up in the air. I don't get her mixed up with anybody.

Mary Kay Place6. Mary Kay Place is the actress who plays Adaleen on Big Love. She's been around a long time, and was on Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman in the 70s. I don't mix her up with any of the other Marys, but do sometimes get her confused with Debra Jo Rupp, who played Kitty on That 70's Show.

Mary Beth Evans7. Mary Beth Evans is a long time soap opera actress. She's played Kayla on Days of Our Lives since 1986 and has simultaneously been on As The World Turns, Port Charles, and General Hospital. She is sort of the epitome of soap actress (besides Her Highness Susan Lucci, of course).

There are, of course, countless other three-named Marys. However, these are the best-known ones, and the ones I am mostly likely to confuse. I hope this has been edifying.


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Look, I'm over here!


Have you checked out Heroine Content lately? Don't you think maybe you should? I have a new post up today, detailing the exercise in disappointment that was Alien 3.

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On Friday evening, Eugene went to his new home. All signs are good there and I think it will be a great situation for his new family (which includes a not-quite-five year-old boy) and for him.

On Saturday, we inherited our new foster dog, Tucker, from another foster home who needed to get him out in order to make room for a new high needs dog. Tucker already has an adopter lined up, so we will only have him for 1-2 weeks (until we can make transportation arrangements, as his new adopter is out of town).

Tucker is a 14-month old bloodhound. He is very much on the skinny side (and eating 8 cups of high energy puppy food a day!) and weighs about 100 lbs. He's a big, big boy. He's also a drooler, and has an amazing bark/bay. He's a big sweet love. He's not at all what we expected to have next, so we've had to make some adjustments, but I think he's going to be just fine. Doesn't he look like one of ours already?

Tucker on the couch


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Finn coverI usually have a pretty strong stomach when it comes to fiction. In television and movies, I can handle most anything and am not really bothered by violence, gore, or abuse. Because I don't see pictures when I read, this is even more the case with books than with visual media--give me the nasty stuff, I can take it.

Jon Cinch's Finn, however, bothered me. The book is not supremely graphic in its gore, but it does contain multiple murders, one of which includes body dismemberment, and the sexual abuse of both an adult and a child, and something about how these scenes were written stayed with me. So before I say anything else, take that to heart--it's violent, and the violence, for whatever reason, stuck with even my hardened heart.

That being said, it's a hell of a book.

The task Cinch sets for himself is not an easy one. While remaining true to events and characters portrayed in Mark Twain's The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn and The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, Cinch tells the story of Huck's ne'er do well alcoholic father, "Pap" Finn (who even in Cinch's book is never given a first name). Moving back and forth in time, Cinch weaves the threads of Finn's strange and horrific childhood, his early relationship with Mary, Huck's escaped/stolen slave mother, his loss of Huck to the Widow Douglas, Mary's murder, and eventually Finn's own untimely death.

It has been a long time (two decades, perhaps) since I've read Twain's books, so I don't remember all of the details surrounding Pap Finn, but it seems that Cinch works into his narrative explanations for things that go unexplained in Twain's own work, such as the discovery of Pap Finn's body in a whitewashed room with walls covered in bizarre charcoal drawings (these drawings are done by Finn himself as he descends into madness after murdering Mary). What he does not try to do, however, is take on Twain's tone (as Alexandria Ripley did--poorly--in her less successful Gone With the Wind sequel, Scarlett). Perhaps because he doesn't spend much time trying to write the same characters on which Twain focused (Huck in particular), Cinch has no need to imitate Twain's style of writing, and I think the book is better for it.

Cinch writes Pap Finn to be as bigoted, mean, and drunk as Twain's supporting character, but fleshes him out in his own voice, making him a real character with a past and reasons for his horrible actions, rather than just a foil for Huck. This (albeit limited) sympathy for Finn, as well as Cinch's original characters, is the strength of the novel. The places where Cinch overlaps with Twain (Judge Thatcher, Widow Douglas, etc.) are a bit weaker. It seems almost as if Cinch is too careful with these characters, perhaps afraid to upset Twain purists. Tellingly, Tom Sawyer doesn't appear at all, and most of Huck's appearances are at a younger age than when we first meet him in Twain.

Please do not think you'll love Finn if you loved Twain's books. Tom Sawyer and Huck Finn are children's characters, and though their adventures did get a little wild, and even a little political, their stories are nothing like Finn. Cinch's book is almost gothic, the cornerstones of its story are violence, alcoholism, and madness. There are no frolicking adventures here, and what humor there is has a very dark underbelly. Finn is every inch a contemporary adult novel, even if its basis is in children's literature from a previous century. However, it's a very good contemporary novel, and if read as such will likely stay with you in a way most contemporary novels don't. Cinch balances the horrific aspects of his story with just enough hope to keep your turning the pages, and at the end you are left feeling as if it was good that you read that, even if reading it was harder than you'd expected it to be. If you think you have the stomach for it, this is a book I would definitely recommend.

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We have a name!


Everyone, I'd like to introduce you to the newest member of our pack/pride, Illy. Yes, like the espresso company. The competition was fierce, with Mark pulling for Indigo, on account of her blue-eyedness, but I won out in the end.

illy 1

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What we find, and what finds us


When I was a kid, I used to tell people I was going to travel the world and get pregnant in different countries and end up with a multi-lingual, multi-ethnic brood of kids. As I got older and understood adoption, I decided I'd do it that way. I had in mind a family that looked a bit like Brad and Angelina's, actually. I loved the idea that I would have a family that had all come from different places, at different ages, and had different life experiences. In my biological family, people tend to resemble each other quite a bit physically, talk in similar ways, and live in similar conditions. I wanted something more exotic (remember, this is when I was a kid, please, and no flames for what I now recognize as a pretty obnoxious thought patterns). A mixed bag.

As an adult, I have no plans to adopt an international brood. Or, really, to adopt even one child (at anytime soon, anyway). But it occurred to me today that my motley passel of canines and felines in some ways fits the dream I had all that time back, without the nasty using-kids-as-accessories undertone. The folks who came to visit Eugene the other day asked us where our dogs had come from, and this started us down a path of explaining it to them, and in doing so, I realized that the stories are pretty funny. We haven't gotten a pet from a breeder, but we've gone just about every other route.

Our first dog, Chance, came to us from Blue Dog Rescue, a local multi-breed rescue organization. Chance had been a puppy at the city pound who was adopted for a year and then given back to the pound, where the rescue picked him up.

After Chance died, we adopted Leo from another multi-breed rescue organization, this one several hours away. Leo was found living alone on a farm in the middle of nowhere, pretty clearly abandoned. More than any of our other pets, Leo was "shopped" for, only really, it was just that the pictures of him drew me in and I couldn't not go get him.

After we'd had Leo a few months, we adopted Atticus. Atty was a kitten born at the county shelter the next county over, but I found him at Petsmart, where they were displaying local shelter animals in the hopes of clearing the shelters out to make more room for animals after Hurricane Katrina.

A few months later, we added Atakan. Ata was our first true pound puppy, rescued off doggie death row at the county kill-shelter with fleas, mange, a horrible ear infection, and nearly starved to death. He'd been picked up as a stray. He was our biggest risk, with clear health issues, no temperament testing, and no sure way to even tell his breed. We had no idea what we were getting into.

About a year later, we added another cat, Esme. Essy came to us from our good friends when they moved to Norway to a small apartment where she wouldn't have an easy way to stay away from their dogs, who are friendly but not much for respecting kitty peace and privacy. She was born a barn cat in Oklahoma and came to our friend by way of her parents.

Now, finally, we have our new kitty (still no name), who is your basic off-the-street stray, found by our next door neighbors and brought to us because we now have a reputation as people who will help animals in need.

Twenty years ago, or even ten, this wasn't what I pictured. Pets, beyond perhaps a fish, were never my intention, and certainly I didn't think of myself spending my future living in what is quickly turning into a menagerie of lost or discarded animals. Each new addition has been sure to be the last for a while, and yet the more of them there are, the easier it becomes to open our arms one more time, make a little more space on the couch and in the budget. And the more sure I am that the offensive crap about multi-colored babies I spouted as a child was, in fact, coming from somewhere inside me, something I knew I was meant to do. I just didn't know then that the babies would be of the furry and four legged variety, or that I could get them all within a few square miles and still have them be so different and have come so far.

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Kitty update


It's a girl! The vet has pronounced her probably full grown (which makes my head spin--she's tiny compared to Atticus and Esme), but very thin and malnourished. Her general health is OK, though--some ear mites and fleas, no parasites. We couldn't get a feline leukemia test today because she's not in any shape to have blood drawn, but we'll keep her away from the other cats (or only allow her to be around them under supervision so they can't fight) until we can do that. Her estimated age is about a year.

All the pets at the house are doing pretty well with her. Atticus isn't particularly thrilled, but he'll live, and Esme has taken a shine to her instantly and spent a good chunk of time last night showing her all the places in the house that the dogs can't or won't go. I think she'll fit in fine.

So, a name. I'd like it to start with an I, since we have an A(tticus) and an E(sme). Suggestions?


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In which we are aquired by another cat


Situation: A very thin, not great looking cat shows up in neighbor's yard. Neighbors are great folks who happen to have a dog that is not and will never be cat friendly. Neighbors are at a loss as to what to do with cat after they have gone around the neighborhood and made sure it doesn't belong to anybody they can find.

Solution: New cat at my house, naturally.

We are as yet unsure as to the cat's age, gender, or health status, besides damn skinny and pretty clearly Siamese mix. S/he will see our vet tomorrow and we'll know more then. We will, of course, try to find his/her home, but needles, haystacks, etc. If we end up with cat number three...well, worse things could happen, right?

Poor skinny baby:
new cat 1


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Not a lot brewing in my allergy-laden brain today. I'm four or five cups of coffee in, as well as a handful of post-breakfast Reeses cups, and I still feel like I got up just five minutes ago. Ah, the joys of allergy season.

One good thing I can report is that I found some pants that fit me. At J. Jill of all places! Someone had informed that they had stuff that was good for the smaller waist-bigger ass combo, and they had a big sale, so I ordered some cropped pants and damned if 2 of 3 pairs don't fit and feel great! I'm wearing these today and have these in the queue for tomorrow. I'd actually like to stock up on a couple more pair while I'm at it, but since I'm supposed to be getting serious about the not spending and don't have the cash, I'm not going to.

It is considered a fashion faux pas to wear cropped pants once summer is officially over? Considering how warm it still is here, I can't imagine it is, but that just occurred to me. Oh well, considering the state of my hair, I'm all about the faux pas anyway. Clinton and Stacey would not be pleased.

Eugene will likely be going to his adoptive home this weekend. I could cry just thinking about it. That little dog has grown on me SO MUCH these past two weeks. It's probably a good idea to get him out of the house ASAP, as I'm not sure how much longer I could live with him and not insist on keeping him. This is the problem most people who don't foster identify as the reason they don't think they could do it, and it's not something I've ever had any serious issue with before. Now that it's happening to me, though, I realize it is definitely something you have to take seriously. If Mark would let me, I'd totally keep this dog, even though we've both said numerous times that it is not reasonable for us to have more than two permanent dogs right now, and that the last dog in the world we should be adopting is a young, healthy, well-behaved one like Eugene who is such a great adoption candidate anyway. What we need to do (and what we will do, I'm just whinging) is get him to a good home and go pick up another pup. Who probably won't be nearly so cuddly...

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Pictures with Eugene


I am going to have SUCH a hard time letting this dog go.

grace and eug 1

grace and eug 3

grace and eug 4

grace and eug 2

grace and eug 5

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Ellen and pet rescue


OK, so Ellen DeGeneres adopted a dog from a rescue organization. The dog didn't work out with her cats. Rather than returning it to the rescue, as the contract she signed stated she was obligated to do, she gave it to her her hairdresser (read about it here). When the rescue called to check on the adoption and was informed that that dog had been given away, a rescue representative went to the home of the hairdresser (who has pre-teen children) and reclaimed the dog. The Ellen went on her show crying and apologizing, saying that she thought she had done the right thing by finding the dog a family, and that the rescue is not a home or a family, and that her mistake shouldn't be taken out on the dog or the children, who had become attached to it.

Got it?

Now imagine livid little me.

Ellen's "I guess I signed a piece of paper that says if I can't keep Iggy, it goes back to the rescue organization" doesn't cut it. If you adopt a pet from a rescue, it is standard procedure to agree to give the pet back to the rescue if you cannot care for it. There is a really good reason for this--rescue organizations put a ton of time and money into their rescues, and we are absolutely committed to finding appropriate homes for our animals. Your home may have been screened and found appropriate, but that doesn't mean the home of whomever you decide to give the animal to will, and it is both the right and the responsibility of the rescue to make sure the placement is healthy and happy.

The obligation of the rescue is not to you, to the family you decide to give your pet away to, or to any other human. The responsibility of the rescue is to find the best placement for that pet. And even if the family to whom DeGeneres gave the dog is perfect, the responsible thing for the rescue to do, in my opinion, is to reclaim that dog until that judgment can be made. I understand why that would be hard on the kids in that family, but the emotions of those kids cannot be the rescue priority--the rescue priority HAS to be the dog.

DeGeneres' flip attitude toward this rescue policy (which is, to my mind, the single most important policy a rescue can have) is the thing that bothers me most. To me, it implies that she never took rescuing seriously enough--she clearly didn't even read the contract! I also wonder about her reasons for giving up the dog--shouldn't it have been tested with her cats before the adoption ever happened?

We will probably have an adoption go through for Eugene this week. Not only will the adopters sign a contract that says they'll return Eugene to us if they can't keep him for any reason, we also institute a seven day trial period wherein Eugene will live with them but can be returned to us at any time if it isn't working, for a full refund of his adoption fee. Mark and I will make sure our adopters are aware of both of these clauses before they ever take possession of the animal for which we've been caring. And if we find out down the line that they decided to give him away to someone we've never heard of, rather than bringing him back to us, you can bet your ass I'll be at that person's door taking the dog back. He's my obligation.


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This is Somewhere


This is Somewhere album coverOn the recommendation of a smart friend with similar musical tastes, I recently picked up the latest release by Grace Potter and the Nocturnals, This is Somewhere. And boy am I ever not sorry. This is Somewhere is one of those albums that I will listen to again and again. I don't think there is a bad track on it, and I can play it all day and never be annoyed, which speaks volumes about both the quality of the music and the diversity of the sound.

Vocally, Grace Potter sounds a lot like a younger Bonnie Raitt (nods to Frog for that brilliant observation). Over the course of the album, she lends that voice to songs that range from straight-up rock (I particularly like the opener, "Oh Mary") to folkie ("You May See Me" and the Dylan-flavored "Ain't No Time") to sultry pop ("Stop the Bus," which is likely my favorite track on the album) to nearly gospel ("Big White Gate"), and each style is believable. My preferences being what they are, I could stand to hear more folk-style stuff on the album, but I really enjoy the style mix.

The instrumentation is solid if not remarkable. Potter plays piano and some guitar, and she's accompanied by Scott Tournet on lead guitar and occasional harmonica and lap steel, Matt Burr on percussion, and Bryan Dondero on bass. Again, I'm a fan of the folky feel (especially the lap steel and accordion in "Apologies"), but they do a good job with the more straightforward pop and rock tracks as well.

Lyrically, Potter is capable of a phrase that sounds like a knowing grin ("could be all the booze we drank in Austin/could be we're just scared of growing old/could be this ain't no way of living/but there ain't nothing like that rock 'n roll") or a bitter cry ("I sang to my children/before they strayed so far/I sang for my lovers/or a nickel in a tip jar/I never knew Jesus/I never read the good book/but on my day of dying/I'm giving life a second look"). Her songs cover the usual ground of relationships and regrets, with enough naiveté to be believable and enough maturity to keep it interesting ("you got the eyes to look for what you saw/and when you don't win or lose I guess you draw/I had to leave I guess you had to stay/don't come looking babe/'cause if you look to hard/I just might look away"), and there is an undercurrent in everything of friendship and music and good times that reminds me of nothing so much as Janis Joplin. I was shocked to learn Potter is younger than I am--she both writes and sounds like a more seasoned musician.

This is Somewhere is an all-around fantastic album, and one I'll be recommending to anybody who will listen for months. Consider yourselves warned.

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New blog plug

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Please take a bit of time out from your regularly scheduled blog reading to go over and visit Can I Sit With You?

The project:

The goal of Can I Sit With You is to share our schoolyard horror stories not only amongst ourselves, but also with the children who are experiencing this special form of social purgatory right now. We want them to know that even though what they're going through sucks, they're not alone.

Great idea, no? And it's panning out just as well as you'd expect. Read, comment, contribute, enjoy.


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Hard Times in Babylon

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I am listening to Eliza Gilkyson's newest CD, Your Town Tonight. It's a live recording and it's amazing. Rather than a review, though (since you already know how I feel about Eliza and this CD is mostly live versions of songs that I have already reviewed on other albums), I wanted to share this with you.

Hard Times in Babylon
I light a candle in your name
Long past midnight
Memories bright in the freeze frame
And I’m asking myself why

I see you at the Marriott
Funny little grin
Driving those drums like a chariot
Did it hurt too much to try?

Woody you were my hero
A shoulder to cry on
When I bottomed out at zero

In the hour of the wolf
Just before the dawn
Hard times in Babylon

OK, so you had to go
Talk a walk on the wild side
Down through the valley of the shadow
But it just don’t seem like you

Woody you could have called out
There’s not a man or a woman
Gathered here tonight in the big house
Who wouldn’t run to pull you through

An incident so grievous
Twenty years ago who’d have thought
That this was the way you’d leave us?

But in the hour of the wolf
Just before the dawn
Hard times in Babylon

We’ve gotta hang together
When the air’s this thin
Hand out the masks for the oxygen
Live for something

Coming up on the time in our lives
When the little dreams live
But the big dream dies
Not for nothing
Not for nothing

I know the love don’t end
But nothing I can do is gonna bring you back
Or let me see you again

In the hour of the wolf
Just before the dawn
Hard times in Babylon

In the hour of the wolf
Just before the dawn
Hard times in Babylon

Doesn't that just break your heart? I have always wondered who it was about, since it sounds like it was someone in the Austin music community, but it seems to refer to something that happened quite a while before I moved here, so I don't know. Anyway, it's a great song and I'm in a morose mood, so I wanted to share.


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Raves about reusable pads


Warning: if you are squeamish about period-related matters, better skip this post.

So I've switched over to using reusable (cloth) pads for menstrual protection. This is due to a number of factors, the biggest being that internal stuff (tampons and Diva Cups) doesn't work for me anymore (going off the pill has given me much more period pain, and these things make it a lot worse). I used recycled disposable pads for a bit, but I don't like adding that much garbage to the world if I don't need to, and they aren't cute and fun like reusables, so I picked up some Glad Rags from my co-op. Turns out those don't quite work for me either--I don't like dealing with the inserts (I want something that is all one piece) and they are sort of big and bulky.

So it was time to experiment, and so far I've found two things that work just great.

picture of three moonpadsThe first is Moonpads. These are fairly small one-piece numbers that fasten around the underwear with wings and a snap. The good things about them is that they don't feel bulky, they are super cute, and they're 100% handmade of organic cotton (flannel on the outside, terry cloth on the inside) by the lovely Epicerma. Another bonus is that you can fold them up and snap them together to toss them in your bag, which is great. I paid $19 plus $1.50 shipping for three of them, and they came quickly. On the downside, they are pretty small, so they're only going to work if I change very frequently or for the lighter days of my cycle. I will likely buy another set of these.

three Punky's PadsFor heavier days, I now have Punky's Pads. The ones pictured (with the various skull print fabrics) are the ones I bought, three of them for $18 plus $2 shipping. They're heavier than the Moonpads, as well as longer and wider, with a wrap around design, but they're still pretty comfy and they give a lot more coverage. They also have an internal water barrier to protect against leakage. The downside is that they are not 100% organic and the snaps are plastic rather than metal, and likely (I'd expect) to break more easily. The other downside is that Punky's Pads isn't taking orders right now, so I can't get anymore.

bunch of Saucy Tots padsI also ordered some pads from Saucy Tots, but there was a delay and they have not yet arrived. These are fun because you can choose your own fabrics, and they have a one-piece, wrap-around design made of flannel and terry cloth. They're $5 each, and shipping is very low (less than $2 for my order of 4). I'll let you know how they work when they arrive.

Until then, any recommendations for good one-piece pads I should try? I am going to need to build up a stock of a few more in order to be 100% reusable and stop having to use the uncomfortable Glad Rags.

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On thrifting, for fun and profit


Someone asked me recently how my thrift-for-profit venture was going, and I realized I hadn't posted a full autopsy report of that now-dead enterprise. I meant to, I apparently just flaked on it.

Anyway, thrifting for profit. First, I absolutely believe it is doable and that some people are very successful at it. I also absolutely believe that I will never be one of those people. It's just not in me.

See, the part of thrifting for profit that is time-and-effort consuming isn't the thrifting part. It's the researching what will make money, writing listings, answering questions, and spending endless hours at the post office. And I want to do none of those things. So, what I end up with is piles of stuff that either isn't worth enough to bother trying to sell or I am too lazy to try to sell, making the entire enterprise revenue-reducing, rather than revenue-generating.

Which isn't to say that there aren't still things I would buy and slap up on Ebay if I saw them--Ergos, new Dankso clogs, things I know will sell. But thrifting for profit in bulk, as a side business, just isn't going to work.

I've learned a couple of valuable lessons, I think. The biggest one is that just because something has "intrinsic" value (is well made, has lots of wear left in it, etc.) doesn't mean it has market value. I should have already known that, of course, but this experiment certainly served as a reminder. The second one is that my labor has worth, and even though the thrifting part is something I'd be happy to do for free, the rest of it isn't, so the whole thing would have to pay enough for that part to be worth my while. Which it doesn't.

However, having seen what I've seen by visiting the bins weekly or more for months, I don't think my personal consumption habits will ever be the same. The sheer volume of stuff that is thrown away is truly nightmarish, and it has definitely upped the ante for me in terms of how I shop. I'm not committed enough to go 100% used--at my size, I just can't put in the effort and time and heartache all used clothes would mean--but there are things I would have bought at a conventional store before that I won't now. For example, I spent a couple of month’s worth of thrift store trips looking for pint glasses recently. We wanted some, and they wouldn't have been much more expensive (and would have been immediate) if we'd just bought them new, but I know how much glassware gets thrown away, so I just kept an eye out for them until I found them used. Whether or not that kind of a gesture ultimately makes any difference I can't say, but it does make me feel marginally better about being a part of this over-consuming society.

My attention is currently on thrifting Christmas gifts. I don't think I'll be able to manage 100% thrifted presents, but I'm going to do the best I can, and I have a few things left over from my attempts at thrifting to sell that will work well as gifts. I'm working on feeling OK about giving the people on my list who are not thrifters themselves non-new presents...without getting up on a high horse about it. We'll see how that all goes.

All in all, I'm glad I conducted the thrift-for-profit experiment, as I think it has really opened my eyes and helped me to be that much more honest with myself about my consumption. I admire people who do it seriously--it's a butt load of work, and mostly not the fun kind. And I'm glad to be back to just being a recreational thrifter.

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The Birth House


Birth House book coverby Ami McKay

I requested Ami McKay's The Birth House from the library at the recommendation of my friend Trudi, a Nova Scotian. The book takes place in Nova Scotia and is written by a Canadian radio journalist. Reportedly, McKay lives in a house that was formerly owned by a midwife, and her curiosity about and investigation into that woman's life led her to write the novel.

The Birth House takes place mostly during World War II (though it does travel back in time some and the final chapter takes place during World War II). It is the story of a shipbuilder's daughter, Dora Rare, who is taken under the wing of the town's Cajun midwife and taught her trade. The bulk of the book centers around the conflict between the new, hospital-driven male model of medical care for birthing women and the traditional, home and midwife-based female model, but it also branches into other conflicts between men and women, and the ways in which Dora and the rural women around her asserted their independence and agency. Issues including women's suffrage (in the U.S.), temperance, education, and spousal abuse are all addressed.

The book is a quick and interesting read (it took me two evenings). While it is probably not something I will go out of my way to force all of my friends to read, or read again, it is definitely worth reading and I enjoyed it very much.


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Another financial thing


Oh, and another financial thing I need to do in order to get myself back into a healthy place is to resume my monthly giving campaign on the blog. I suspended it several months ago, and I can't even quite remember why now, and I have been resenting myself for it ever since. So, for the month of October, I'm giving to Basic Rights Oregon. Basic Rights Oregon is a group dedicated to "ending discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity in Oregon," and right now they are fighting for a comprehensive domestic partnership law in Oregon.

That's them on the right, if your giving dollars are still burning a hole in your pocket this month.

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Confessions of a financial dumbass

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So for several months now, I've been posting a financial update every month like a good little girl, noting my successes and (more often) failures.

But I haven't really been trying. See, the card(s) were still in my wallet, and I was still actively using one of them. I was still buying more than I had cash for, not sticking to any sort of budget, etc. And that, more than any of the catastrophes I've been looking at recently, was why the numbers weren't going down.

Which is why October's numbers will show lower savings and higher debt than September's did, once again, even though I got a raise.

And it's gotta stop, or I am never going to get out of debt or reach any of my goals.


I got another new 0% interest card and initiated transfers from the two cards I have with balances. Once those go through, I'll cancel the old cards. Then I will have exactly two credit cards--the one with the big balance being paid off, and the one connected to my bank accounts for overdraft protection. They'll both not be in my wallet, and neither one of them will have a number that is already pre-programmed into everywhere I like to shop. And then I pay, and I buy only what I can afford with the cash that is actually in my checking account each month. And I try in earnest to be a responsible financial citizen.

It's so long past time. This is so embarrassing, not just to not have a handle on it, but to have been pretending to really try and to have a handle on it for these past months. I can be such a spoiled baby.


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Gift train


By way of Frog.

By the end of the calendar year, I will send a tangible, physical gift to each of the first five people to comment here, so long as each of those five people are willing to make the same offer in their own LJ or blog.


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New tattoo itch


So I'm having that old tattoo itch again. Really, that's what I get for watching LA Ink. Anyway, I've been rolling some general themes around in my cranium and today started looking for pictures, and thought I'd share.

I had planned to have my next tat be my Oregon-tribute one (fir branches), but I'm now thinking I'd rather get that done in Oregon, so it will have to wait. Now I'm obsessing about getting my first larger piece done, probably on my thigh. And here are some of my ideas:

suffrage poster

This is a poster from the U.S. national suffrage movement. If I were to get it, I'd take some/all the words off and probably get it at least partially in color (you can't tell so well in that representation, but that's an orange tree she's under).

National Women's Trade Union League logo

This is the logo for the National Women's Trade Union League, which was organized to support women in unions at the beginning of the 20th century. Again, I'd probably lose some/all of the words.

bread and roses

This is a symbol of bread and roses. I wouldn't use this particular drawing, but something similar, with roses and wheat chaffs in someone's hand. I think this might work better as an arm or lower leg tat, though, since it is more long and narrow.

Thoughts? Ideas of similar stuff I should consider?


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Ask me three questions


I so enjoyed the three questions meme at Frogblog, I thought I'd try it here. Basically, you ask me three questions in the comments--anything you want to know, and I will answer honestly. After I answer your questions, I'll ask you three questions and you will post the answers to them on your blog.

Got it? Good. Go.


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3 Questions from Frog


Over at Frogblog, Frog told her readers that we could each ask her three questions, which she would then answer and ask us three in return, to be answered on our own blogs. I participated with glee, and these are the questions Frog had for me (no, that did not rythmn intentionally, but it's silly, so I'll leave it):

If you had to recommend one book, one recording, and one food item to me, what would they be?
Book: Breaking Clean by Judy Blunt
Recording: Comfort of Strangers by Beth Orton
Food: Nice crisp tart apple slices with Nutella

What are your kid plans at this point?
At this point, my kid plans are basically "wait and see." I've come to the point where I'm OK with thinking that I may or may not decide I want to/it is time to have kids at any given point in the future. Though I'm still feeling some baby lust, I really don't want to have any kids right now. And I'm still not sure I want to have biological children at all--I have a lot of concerns about passing on some of my genetics. So basically it's something I've put off thinking about too much for the time being.

What's the most challenging part of blogging your finances?
The only thing that is really challenging about it at all is that I have this back-of-my-mind fear that my mom will find out about my credit card debt and be disappointed in/disgusted with me. I really don't mind doing it in the least, and I am seeing progress (though slower than I'd like).

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This dog has had enough for now.


I don't usually post the images from my dog-of-the-day calendar here, because, well, it would get annoying. And also probably be copyright infringement. But because today is Friday, and because it is not yet 9 AM and I am already fed up, I'm making an exception:

picture of frowning dog

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I just realized I haven't introduced you all to our new foster dog, Eugene.


After our long break from fostering, we decided it was time to start up again. Since our house is pretty much in shambles anyway (more even than usual--I actually put my foot through the shower wall the other night), there isn't much they can hurt, and we're going to be home steadily from now until Christmas. So we went last week and met a beagle mix, at the pound, and Saturday we brought him home. And named him Eugene, because we're cruel like that.

Eugene is a fantastic dog. He's clearly been someone's beloved and cherished pet. He is the cuddliest thing ever, loves to sit on your lap and sleeps contentedly (and quietly!) right next to me at night. I really wish I could find his people, as I'd assume he lost them, but since I can't, I am dedicated to finding him a great family to replace them. Honestly, I'd keep himself if given half the chance.


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I've been drinking a lot of coffee lately. Beer and coffee (not together--ick). I have been drinking less Pepsi, and these are the super-healthy replacements I've found. Anyway, my increase in coffee consumption seems to have precipitated an increase in thoughts. Really. I am just having more thoughts. I know this because many more times a day than I am accustomed to I am stopping and saying to myself, "I should blog about that." That's how I know I have a thought--I consider blogging about it. (And does Grace think if there is nowhere to write it down? Probably not.)

Anyway, since I have all these thoughts, and I have this blog, and I still have a little bit of coffee left in my thermos...

I'm not a huge worrier in general. I don't stay up at night worrying about war, or global warming, or my increase in gray hair, or anything. But there is one thing that keeps me up at night sometimes. Books. I am horrified by the fact that there is no way for me to read all the books. I feel like I got started so late, and they just keep making more of them! Even if nobody ever wrote another book starting now, I still wouldn't make it through all the interesting ones before I died. It's my number one reason for wanting to become an immortal, actually--then I'd have a possibility of reading all the books.

Nights spend on this particular worry are generally preceded by evenings spent at in the Goodwill book section (like, oh, last evening). I never come home with fewer than 5 new paperbacks, and I never read more than 2 of them. But I have the very best intentions. Especially with novels. I have hundreds of novels to read. Some of them are on my book list, but most of them are not. They are just sitting there, taunting me while I page slowly through yet another social history and feel myself running out of time.

If I start to consider the huge wholes in my canonical reading, and how much I've forgotten of the canonical books I have read (Plato is so vague to me...there was a cave, right?), it gets even more depressing. I took a lit course in college called "Narrative and the New American," which was all focused on books written by/about first-generation Americans. The professor had a habit of recalling other works in our discussions of the books were reading, in such a way that assumed we were familiar with them. He did it so much that by the end of the semester I filled both sides of several sheets of paper making a list of all the books, stories, and plays he'd mentioned. I swore then that some day I'd be that well-read, to be able to make casual connections between whatever I was reading and hundreds or thousands of other things I'd read previously. I'm so not there.

Another thing I've been thinking about is whether or not there would be any market for a guide on how to thrift shop successfully and how such a thing would be best written. It's something I'd love to do, in a real, committed way and not just a half-assed rambling way.

I've also been thinking about what I want to do next. I'm pretty content in my present job, but it's not something I want to do forever. I've been saying I want to go back to school and get that Ph.D. in history that I decided not to get because it was too self-indulgent a few years back. Seems backwards--shouldn't I be less self-indulgent now? Then I think about going into some actual writing program, since I am the world's least disciplined writer. But they'd probably make me write fiction or something, which I don't want to do. Then again, is there really room in the world for yet another personal essayist? Especially one who doesn't have any particular niche about which to essay and isn't all that funny? Probably not.

There are lots of other things I've been thinking and wanting to blog about too, but since I didn't write them down when I thought them, they don't exist anymore. Must be time for more coffee.


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Readership survey


Somewhere (and I honestly can't remember where) and I saw this interesting little thing--a survey about your blog readership, kind of demographic type stuff. I thought I'd try it here. Be forewarned, the sucker is long and kinda random, but you can do as much or as little of it as you want and whatever you've done previously will be saved, so if you feel in a survey-taking mood, please click:

Please take my Blog Reader Project survey.

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More on body image


After writing yesterday's post, I was thinking some more about body image and particularly weight issues. Though I am by absolutely no means an expert on this, I think I've actually done fairly well, particularly recently, at coming to terms with the body I have and accepting and loving it as it is. Given that I don't tend to be the mentally healthiest person in the world in general, I was wondering why that is, and here is what I came up with:

Grace's Simple One-Step Plan to Loving Your Body, No Matter the Size

1. Get some clothes that fit.

Like I said before, nothing destroys my body image for the day, or week, or month like spending precious morning minutes fighting with a closet full of ill-fitting clothes. It's just the most defeating thing in the world. So I think the #1 way, for me, at least, to accept my body is to get the clothes that don't fit the hell out of my closet. This means doing a thorough purge and not being sentimental. Just because you love and adore a given item of clothing doesn't mean it still fits you, and having to see it not fit you every day is going to be a lot worse than getting rid of it. So the first thing to do is get rid of every single piece of clothing in your closet that doesn't fit. And if something doesn't feel right to you, it doesn't fit, regardless of what anybody says about how it looks.

Whether or not to actually remove these clothes from your possession completely really depends. I don't, usually, because my size does fluctuate too much. I put them in Rubbermaid bins, labeled with what they are, and slide them under the bed. But I think that will only work if you can really forget they are there. The whole point here is to remove these non-fitting clothes from your mind completely and start thinking of your body as something new, rather than something that is somehow failing to fit into stuff you already have.

Oh, and this goes for clothes that are too small AND those that are too big. While too small things may make me feel fat, too large things make me feel sloppy and frumpy, and honestly it's not much better.

Of course, after you get rid of everything that doesn't fit, you are probably going to need some new things. This part is tricky, because (especially if you are like me) buying a whole new wardrobe every time you change sizes is very expensive. One recommendation I have, of course, is thrift, thrift, thrift. If you are of anything approaching an average build (i.e. somewhere between a size 2 and a size 16, probably, and not extremely short or tall) and you live in a somewhat large city, this should be possible (though it may not, I hear some cities really do have terrible thrift stores). Thrifting has always been my solution to restocking my closet. At my present size, and at my height in general, some things are hard for me to thrift for (pants in particular), but I do still try.

If thrifting hasn't worked out, or if you just need to fill in some holes for things you couldn't find while thrifting, then my next step is discount stores. I like Ross in particular, but Marshall's or T.J. Maxx might be better where you live. Anywhere you can get slightly higher quality things for reduced prices. Personally, I generally stay away from clothes from really low-end stores (Wal-Mart, clearly, but also K-Mart, Rave, etc.) because they fall apart and shrink/warp, and then I'm faced with having to do the exact same thing over again.

Finally, take a look at sales. N.Y. and Company has AMAZING sales (I just got two pairs of jeans and two silk short-sleeved wrap sweaters there for about $50). Their clothes are not exactly high-end, but will always get me through at least one season, and given my constantly changing sizes, that's usually all I need. They also tend to carry pants that fit me well, which is a real blessing at my height and with my waist-to-hip ratio.

The idea here is not to buy a whole passel of new stuff and get yourself into serious debt, especially if you are a size-fluctuator like me. The idea is to buy a few new things that actually fit and make you feel good when you wear them, and to wear them. Then, when/if they stop fitting and making you feel good, repeat the process.

I know this isn't the most conservative thing to recommend, in terms of finances, the use of resources, etc. And I feel bad about that. But in truth, it is worth making compromises in other areas for me to go through my days feeling good about the body I have right now, and this is the best way I've found to do it.

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Did I say that?

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There was an article in the NY Times the other day about the college selection process. Alumni of about my age (class of 2001) from three schools--Penn, U Michigan, and Reed--were polled and interviewed for the article. I wasn't personally interviewed, but I did fill out the poll on which the author bases some of his assertions.

The poll found that 28% of Reed alumni "said that learning “how to think, to work, to learn” in college was what they valued most now." I'm pretty sure I'm part of that 28%, because more than anything else (except perhaps for some complicated lessons about social/economic class on which I've already expounded here), Reed taught me how to learn. When you're a kid, learning comes naturally to you--everything is new, and learning and adapting to your environment are directly linked to your survival, in one way or another. As an adult, though, you already know enough that it becomes possible to get by without making any attempt to learn much more. And, honestly, I think a lot of people live their lives just that way--thinking they already know enough and can somehow stop learning now. To my mind, that mentality goes hand in hand with classes in which the most common question is "will we be tested on this?" And, for the most part, that attitude was not only not encouraged, but simply not tolerated at Reed. Now that I am (basically) out of formal education and responsible for initiating my own learning, and am profoundly grateful to have internalized Reed's way of thinking.

And so I will grit my teeth just a little bit less when I make this month's student loan payment.


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A meditation on my body


I've been thinking about my body a lot lately.

This is not exactly news, as far as being a woman in Western society goes. We think about our bodies a lot. In fact, we're more or less obsessed with them, as a rule. I know I am and have been in the past. But lately, I am really trying to think about mine in a different way.

With me, it usually starts with clothes. My body has a tendency to fluctuate quite a bit in size and shape, so the clothes that fit me last fall don't necessarily fit me right now. In fact, I've realized during this past couple of weeks that I have basically no pants that I don't have to hike up every five minutes. Also, my bras are too small around and too big in the cups. So off to Ross I go.

I get sick of doing this. It's wasteful, buying new clothes every season because last year's models don't fit now, and I am large enough that I have a real problem finding thrifted clothes in my sizes. The shopping is also frustrating, as I hover between plus-sized and not, and have a generally hard-to-fit body. For every pair of pants that makes a reasonable approximation of my waist-to-hip ratio, I'll try on at least a dozen that don't. Due to these frustrations, I can get kind of twitchy about the whole subject.

What I am trying to internalize, though, is that clothes not made to fit me is their problem, not mine. There is absolutely nothing wrong with my body. The path it travels between a size 14 and a size 18 is not a negative reflection on my character. My breasts are not less attractive at a 38B than they were at a 36C. And I have an absolute right to buy myself new things when the old ones don't fit--nothing makes me feel worse faster than facing getting dressed in the morning when everything in the closet is the wrong size. While it is a hindrance financially to have to buy new clothes every season in order to have things fit properly, doing so not a reflection on my character or even on my physical attractiveness. It is also not a reflection on something bad I'm doing--I don't yo-yo diet. I don't binge eat, at least not recently. My current slightly-smaller physique is due mostly to the bout of food poisoning that left me down nearly 20 lbs in four days a month or so ago, but I've made no particular effort to keep that weight off, or to put it back on. I try to eat a reasonable diet and eat when I am hungry, what I'm hungry for. I'm not physically active enough, but at this point in my life, given other health and lifestyle issues I am working on, I can accept that. I'm doing just fine.

I've been watching with great interest a Flickr project called Pictures of You. In it, women post photographs of themselves at different times in the history of their bodies and write notes on them explaining what was going on, how they felt about their bodies at the time, and how they feel about looking at the photos now. I submitted some pictures of my own, but as yet they haven't been added (the group may be closed, I'm not sure). Going through the photos and thinking about what to say about them was extremely cathartic, though, as was the prospect of sharing my thoughts, so I thought I'd do my own little exhibition here. Step right up for a brief photo history of Grace's body:

beach picture, 1994

This picture was taken in the early summer of 1994. I was 14. If memory serves, I was about 5'10" and weighed about 145 lbs. I wear a size 8 or 10. My breasts and hips hadn't developed yet and looking back at this picture, I had amazing legs. At the time, I had just started being truly concerned about my body, but weight wasn't an issue--I spent all my mortification on how tall I was and how I didn't have any chest to speak of. Looking at the picture, though, I see comfort, confidence, joy.

beach 1997

This picture is also at the beach, almost exactly three years later. I'm 17 and just about to leave home and high school. I've gone up another 1-2 inches and gained 15-20 lbs. I wear a size 12. By this point, I've begun to be concerned about my weight on and off, particularly the inner thighs I am blissfully showing in this shot. Looking back, I think I look fantastic, of course. I still have almost no chest, and it still bothers me.

with Simon, 1997

This picture is at the end of 1997, only about eight months after the previous picture. You can't tell, but I'm actually 10-15 lbs lighter here than I was before, due to a stressful first semester at college (my freshman 15 went the other way). I'm still generally in a size 12. However, I have started to really obsess about my body at this point, in part due to being larger than my new boyfriend (also pictured). Oddly, the first thing I notice about this picture now is how incredibly fat my arm looks. I think it's just a weird angle or something, because I know it wasn't that big, but I can't help but think it looks terrible. Guess I still have a long way to go.

lifeguarding, 1998

This incredibly silly picture, taken in the summer of 1998, represents probably the best shape I've ever been in as an adult. It is at the end of the summer when I got my lifeguard training and certification. I worked at a public pool and swam a lot (which also explains the hair and the tan). I'm at my full height by this point (about 6'1" but I am still calling it 5'11.5") and probably weigh about 160 lbs here, still in a 12. I honestly don't remember if I knew then how great I looked, but I sure know now.

smoking, summer 1999

This picture was taken the following summer, 1999. I'm 19 here. I've just been very very sick and my weight is way down--probably back down to 145 or close to it. I'm swimming in my size 12 clothes and have no money to buy anything else. My hips and breasts have started to actually come out by now, and my body just seems weird to me. Looking back on the picture, all I can think of is how much I love that haircut.

summer 2000 with sunburn

This is the following summer, 2000. I am 20. I am back up to my regular (at that time) weight, probably 165-170. I've moved to a size 14 in most clothes. I've developed a love/hate relationship with what I now think of as my enormous ass, and I wear baggy pants all the time. I still feel pretty good about my body, though, as shown in my typically short shirts and lack of sleeves. Looking back, it is hard for me not to think of this as my best natural body.

with Mark, 2002

This picture was taken in September of 2002. I'd just turned 22. My post-college weight gain has started, so I'm probably about 180 here. My breasts have blessedly grown and with the help of a push up bra I can actually fill out the front of that dress. I remember being concerned about how I was sitting when we took these pictures, as I wanted to be shorter than Mark in them (he's about 5'8"-5'9") and not have my legs squished up so they looked fatter. I guess it's safe to say I now officially have weight concerns. It bothers me that I weigh more than Mark, even though I know I'm much taller and built heavier. I'm wearing a size 14 and periodically try to get back into a 12 through crash dieting.

with Ata, 2005

This photo is, I believe, from the spring of 2005. I'm 25. I'm at around 200 lbs, struggling to stay in 14s and branching out to 16s much of the time, and really, furiously unhappy with my weight. When I saw this picture the first time, I mostly saw fat arms and belly rolls. With more retrospect, though, I don't think I look bad at all, and I remember the day (The Mighty Texas Dog Walk) as being a great time.

halloween as rosie the riveter, 2006

This is last Halloween, almost a year ago. I am probably at about 215 here. I'm wearing men's jeans with a 38 waist, and I've moved into a lot of size 18 clothes. I didn't show many people this picture when it was taken, because I thought it made me look fat (and honestly, it does). However, I have to end with it for the sake of symbolism now. I am a strong, beautiful, competent woman, no matter what I weigh or what size my pants are, and that is what this costume was supposed to be about. Comically, it's also an illustration of how wearing clothes that are actually too big for you does nothing to make you look smaller.

Today, October 3, 2007, I am 28. I am still about 6'1" and I weigh somewhere between 205-215, I think. I have on brand new jeans, which fit me perfectly and make me feel good, and they are a size 16. Whether I remain in this size, or go up, or go down, it's fine. That's not what that is about. This is about realizing that I look good in ALL of these pictures, and that the changes in my body are fine.


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September Financial Update


Gonna have to try harder...

Last month:
Total credit card debt: $6,389.75
Total student loan debt: $33,159.21
Total savings:$700.00
Checking account balance: $467.60

This month:
Total credit card debt: $6,495.21
Total student loan debt: $32,990.42
Total savings:$650.00
Checking account balance: $361.62

On a higher note, my CC debt is down almost $1,600 from when I started last February. I was certainly hoping for more progress than that, but I've had some setbacks and if I get back on track I think I can still make my goal to be completely CC debt free by the time we leave Austin.


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The Merry Recluse: A Life in Essays


The Merry Recluse Book CoverBy the time I was introduced to Caroline Knapp's work in 2005, she had already been dead for several years. When I learned this, after reading and being astonished by her book, Pack of Two, I was heartbroken. I went on to read her other books, Drinking: A Love Story and Appetites: Why Women Want and found myself very sad that I couldn't read the newspaper column she refers to writing or any of her magazine articles.

The Merry Recluse fixes that problem, at least to some extent. Published several years after Knapp's death, the book is a collection of some of her most notable essays from her time at the Boston Phoenix and her magazine writing. For the most part, the subject matter is the same as that found in her books--her alcoholism, her anorexia, her relationship with her family, her relationship with her dog. One thing the essays get at that the books didn't as much, though, is Knapp's decision to live alone and to be what she terms a "merry recluse"--a person who is content and even happy with her solitude.

One of the reasons I was more impressed with Pack of Two than with Knapp's other books was that I had previously read intelligent discussions of alcoholism and anorexia, but I'd never read anything that took relationships with dogs so seriously or talked about them in such an intelligent way as Knapp does in Pack of Two. While reading the essays in The Merry Recluse that dealt with Knapp's living alone and being "reclusive," I felt the same way. The human need to be alone, and the desire of some of us to be alone much or most of the time, isn't something I've seen much discussion of anywhere, and Knapp discusses it with both humor and gravitas.

For someone who has not read Knapp's other books, reading some of the essays in The Merry Recluse is definitely a quick way to tell you if you'd enjoy her longer stuff or not, and which of her books you should start with. For me, most of it was not new, but it was still great to "hear" her voice again. Caroline, you are missed.

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Making Monday easier


If you are having that cranky Monday feeling this morning, I suggest taking a trip over to the American Humane website, where they have posted the winners and finalists of their pet photo contest.

Not as good as another hour's sleep, maybe, but it'll do.

P.S. This one is my favorite, hands down.

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