I am so not pregnant

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Yeah. That is not the secret. Come on. If I were pregnant, would I tell you like that?

What I am is in Norway, on my first trip to Europe ever, hanging out with my fantastic friends Susan and Tony and my small friend Harper. I could not be having a better time, and will likely not update a whole lot until I get back.

Happy New Year!

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I have a secret

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And I'm not going to tell you. But you'll know soon enough.

In the meantime, some more pictures?

Mark really loves this one. He is standing next to a tree that is several hundred years old. It was taken just up the road from my parents' house. And they say there is no more old growth in Oregon!

Mark with big tree

This is also just up the road from the homestead. We didn't get any snow right where we were, but it didn't have to go far to find it.

Mark in the snow

Picturesque, isn't it?


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Christmas in the PNW

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We had a really great time. I'm still not quite up for long-winded storytelling, so pictures, 1,000 words, etc.

These are from Christmas Eve at my folks' house. Notice my mom's mad sexy back brace! Both Mark and I spent a good deal of time over the holiday playing with my brother's 12 week old lab puppy, Hank, and my mom's year old schnauzer mix, Bella. They're both great dogs. Plus, tree and presents!

grace with dogs christmas eve

Grace with Hank

This is my brother, Mitch, passing out some of those presents.

Mitch passing out presents Christmas Eve

My stepdad, George, opening the books I picked out for him.

George opening books Christmas Eve

Bella in the pile of presents.

Bella in presents Christmas Eve

Mark opening a present (looks skeptical, doesn't he?) while Grandma Lou looks on.

Mark and Grandma Lou Christmas Eve

Me opening a package (look at that wreckage!) while Mitch observes.

Grace opening present Christmas Eve

My mom opening her big present (it's a necklace!) while I, apparently, point and laugh. She said she'll have to get surgery right before Christmas every year, since she got so many presents.

Penny opening necklace Christmas Eve

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So much to tell you!

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I missed you!

I'd love to regale you with stories about how wonderful my Christmas in Oregon was, and I do have lots of those stories, but damn it's late and I spent all day traveling, so I'm gonna to keep it to the essentials. New kitten pictures, now with NAMES!

The tabby is now called Feliz. As in Feliz Navidad. He weighed in today, Day 12, at 9.6 oz.
feliz day 12

One of the black and white kittens, now called Noel, has gained even more quickly and is the same weight as Feliz!
Noel Day 12

The next biggest kitty, Yule, weighed in at 8.6 oz.
Yule Day 12

Finally, there is itty bitty little Holly, who only weighs 7.2 oz. But she's growing!
Holly Day 12

All of the kittens surprised us when we got home today with how big they are and how much more they look like little cats than they did when we left. Their eyes are open and they are starting to explore their box a little bit. Mama is a little bit skinny, so we're redoubling our efforts to pump calories into her, but she looks good too and is obviously taking excellent care of the babies.

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See ya!

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We leave very very early in the morning, not even morning really, so much as middle-of-the-night, to go home and visit my family for Christmas. I can hardly wait. Since my parents live in the land of dial-up, I likely won't be checking in here. So, until I return to fast-connection civilization, peace be with you.

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Doll house reno

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One of my favorite holiday gifts this year has just been given, so I can share it with you all now.

About a month ago, I purchased a Ryan's Room A-frame doll house at the Goodwill. It came with several roomfuls of furniture for a total of $9.99. Retail for the lot would have been $150 or more, but it was in less than savory shape. The house's previous owner had covered much of it with marker scribblings, a house number, stickers, etc.

dollhouse before
(The photo is of a colorful wooden doll house covered in scribbling, stickers, etc.)

Knowing my small friend Y. was wanting a doll house for Christmas, I thought maybe I could do some touch-ups on this and make it good-as-new for her. Today, she and her Pepe came to visit us, and she left with this:

dollhouse after
(The picture shows the same doll house, newly painted in bright colors.)

It's amazing what a little cleaning, sanding, and painting will do.

Now, if I get the furniture done before her birthday...

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Day 6 weigh-in

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Finally, individual kitten pictures! Keep in mind that when these guys went to the vet on Monday (Day 1), the biggest of them (the tabby) weighed just about 3 oz. So they've grown quite bit.

tabby on scale
The tabby weighed in at 6.2 oz.

blk whi 3 on scale
The largest black and white kitten at 5.6 oz.
blkwht 1 on scale
The medium black and white kitten at 5.0 oz.

blkwhi 2 on scale
And the littlest kitten at 4.4 oz.

(The four pictures each show a kitten on a postal scale.)

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People disappoint me

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Twice, now, I've come upon a new blog or podcast and been enjoying the hell out of it when all of a sudden I've come across an entry all about abusing or otherwise mistreating an animal, told as if it's funny. First it was a podcast all about flushing a live mud puppy down the toilet because it grew to be "freaky" and then taking a whole line of dogs to the pound because they acted like dogs, and then today it was a blog entry about allowing a child's dying hamster to suffer all day, then feeding it to a neighborhood cat when it finally expired. Now maybe I'm a touch to sensitive when it comes to pet-related stuff, but y'all, none of that is funny. And two more blogs/podcasts are struck from my list.

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Vanity fair questions from Karen

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I am laying aside my Maggie Mason project until after the holidays, since my Internet connection is going to be spotty at best for a bit. However, I can't resist the list of questions from Vanity Fair magazine that Karen at Chookooloonks, one of my very favorite blogs, posted the other day.

1. What is your idea of perfect happiness?
Feeling safe and feeling like all the people I love are safe as well.

2. What is your greatest fear?

Nobody loving me.

3. Which living person do you most admire?
My grandmother.

4. What trait do you most deplore in yourself?

Self-centeredness.

5. What trait do you most deplore in others?
Stinginess.

6. What do you consider the most overrated virtue?
Bullheadedness cloaked as perseverance.

7. On what occasion do you lie?
Lots of occasions, actually. When there is a greater cause.

8. What do you dislike most about your appearance?

Depends when you ask me. Lately, my yellow teeth.

9. What is your greatest regret?
Generally not appreciating things when I have them.

10. What or who is the greatest love of your life?
Honestly...dogs.

11. Which talent would you most like to have?
I would LOVE to be able to sing.

12. What is your current state of mind?
I've been very stressed the past few days, but I'm mellowing as we get closer to leaving for the holiday.

13. If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be?
I'd like to be a more peaceful person.

14. What do you consider your greatest achievement?
The help I've been able to give dogs.

15. If you were to die and come back as a person or thing, what would it be?
The idea of coming back is so odd to me, it's hard to answer this. I'd like to come back as another kind of animal, I think.

16. What is your most treasured possession?
Probably some of my books? I'm really not sure.

17. What do you regard as the lowest depth of misery?
The kind of self-loathing that comes from addiction and the behaviors it can foster.

18. Where would you like to live?
At home, in Oregon.

19. What is your most marked characteristics?
Hmm...my height? I'd like to hope it's my generosity.

20. Who are your favourite writers?
Pam Houston, Dorothy Allison

21. Who is your favourite hero of fiction?

The entire Stamper family ("never give an inch")

22. Who are your heroes in real life?
Pali Boucher

23. What is it that you most dislike?
Injustice

24. What is your motto?
What's the worst that can happen?

25. Favourite journey?
Growing up.

26. What do you most value in your friends?
Humor, tolerance, comfort.

27. Which word or phrase do you most overuse?
"No shit?" "Damn!"

28. Which historical figure do you most identify with?
Hmm....what a great question. And I can't come up with a single answer.

29. What is your greatest extravagance?
I have too many. Bath products. Fancy coffee. Eating out. Gifts.

30. If you could change one thing about your family, what would it be?
I'd give them more money. Or move them around so they'd be closer to me. But those things would both make them different, which I wouldn't want, so I guess I wouldn't change anything.

31. What is your favourite occupation?
Theoretically? Cultural critic.

32. What is the quality you most like in a woman?

Strength.

33. What is the quality you most like in a man?
Ability to perceive privilege.

34. How would you like to die?
No preference as long as it happens a long time from now.

35. If you could choose what you want to come back as, what would it be?
Something that could do more to help. Maybe a St. Bernard!

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Repose

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I am cool with the lion bedding down the lamb and all that, but do they have to do it on my bed?

ata and cats on bed

(The photo is of a large white dog, Ata, stretched out on the bed, along with two cats, the tabby, Atty, and the tortie, Esme.)


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Addendum to bath products galore post

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I missed one, and in the interest of full disclosure, I wanted to add it.

I ordered a $25 Mystery Sampler from Lollibomb Beauty in the hopes of getting some hip looking products to pass on to my nieces. Shipping was an additional $7.50. I requested a "most popular scents" sampler, since I wasn't sure what said nieces would enjoy.

The box came today, and my first thought was, "wow...it's...small."

The box contains the following:
1 .5 oz body frosting in "On the Lamb" ("Notes of white freesia, violet, peach, rose, jasmine and pear blended with orange blossom, frangipani blossom, and heliotrope flowers for one unique, sensual fragrance that's unforgettable!")
1 3ml lip balm in "Melon Margarita"
1 1 oz travel lotion in "Fuzzy Navel"
1 4 oz sugar scrub in "Mint Chocolate Chip"
3 .3 oz fragrance rollers, in "Almond Biscotti," "New Age Girl," (no idea what that means) and "Yuzu"

To make my first impression worse, something oily spilled a little bit in the box, I think, as everything seems slightly greasy and the labels are peeling off things. And it all smells really really strong. Note to self: vegan does not mean natural.

So...yeah, I'm not thrilled with the quality or the quantity here. Yeah, it mostly seems usable for its intended purpose, but compared to all the other great indie stuff I've found, I'm not at all wowed.

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Living with someone else's demon

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Jon, who is married to the lovely Heather (aka Dooce) has written a phenomenal piece on his own blog about living with a depressed partner. I came right over to tell you about it just as soon as I stopped bawling.

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Bath products galore!

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I know I said I was going to shut up, but since typing has the benefit of not hurting my throat the way talking does, y'all are one of only communication outlets until this plague leaves me.

Besides, I want to share my scores.

I mentioned before that I scored a few great things at Black Friday sales. Well, I've done some shopping since then. I'm planning to give a few folks non-Lush bath goodies for Christmas, so I ordered from several online shops, all of whom seem to have very high quality products, are independent, generally woman-owned businesses, and don't piss me off. I haven't tried the stuff out myself yet, as I'm not 100% sure what I am gifting and what I am keeping, but it looks and smells divine.

cottage garden.jpgFrom Cottage Garden Therapies I ordered nine bars of soap. A Black Friday sale got me free shipping, so my total cost was $35. I ordered a package of six goat's milk and honey holidays soaps and a package of 3 regular milk and honey soaps. The scents I chose were cranberry, Santa's Whiskers, pumpkin spice, cinnamon cider, frankincense & myrrh, outrageous orange, eucalyptus mint, milk and honey, and lavender mint. These 4 oz. soaps are individually packaged in labeled cardboard boxes with a wax seal, so they'll be perfect for small gifts and stockings. They are handmade in Louisiana with all natural ingredients.

sassy orderFrom another new-to-me shop, Sassy Scrubs and Such, I spent $17, including shipping, and got a ton of stuff. I got six two-ounce sample size scrubs, in my choice of scents (2 rose, 2 lavender, 2 brown sugar fig) and six dozen bath fizzes (gingerbread, brown sugar fig, black raspberry vanilla, rose, lavender, cinnamon orange. The nice folks also sent me a free lip balm. I feel good about supporting Sassy, too--it's an Etsy shop run by a SAHM to three boys.

rainforest orderFinally, I made yet another order from my new go-to place, Rainforest Soap Shack. With the thought of getting things not just for myself, but for others, I ordered a "Christmas Sampler Pack" which contains a 2 oz sugar whip in Icy Kiss ("Peppermint Candy Canes, Eucalyptus and Black Cherry"), a 2 oz body whip in Mrs. Claus's Kitchen ("Fresh Baked Gingerbread and Maple Sugar", and a 2 oz bath butter in Deck the Halls ("A spicy combination of Cranberries and Cloves"); a regular sampler back, which contains 3 2 oz body frostings, in Lavender Dreams, Chai Tea, and Girls Night Out ("A rich bouquet of fruits and flowers on an intense base of musk & creamy vanilla notes."), and three bath bombs (Girls Night Out, Things That Make You Go Hmm ("This fragrance begins with top notes of just the right amount of sweet raspberries, followed with middle notes of buttery marshmallow cream filling; perfectly rounded out with bitter sweet chocolate.")..., and Lavender Dreams). A free Christmas-themed rubber duckie, a .5 oz sugar whip sample in Monkey Farts ("A unique blend of bananas and fresh grapefruit, with strawberries, kiwi, bubble gum and a touch of vanilla."), some mini candy canes, and a teeny vial of Mango Tango perfume were included for free. My total including shipping was $27.09.

Honestly. How much do you wish you were on my list?

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More kitten pictures

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No reason me feeling crappy should deprive you of this.

illy with kittens

kittens day 3

(The top picture shows the mama cat, Illy, who looks kind of like a Siamese with tabby points, and her four kittens. The bottom shows just the kittens, nestled together against her stomach. There are three black and white kittens and one brown/gray tabby kitten.)

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#87 Do what you love.

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Thought I was going to skip the Maggie Mason post today, didn't you? In favor of all-kitties-all-the-time? I thought so too, but it turns out I found a low impact one.

Consider your passion. Could you make an entire blog about biking, digital cameras, relationships?
...
Choose a subject you're passionate about and consider devoting yourself to it. You may not want to be a professional blogger, but you're more likely to maintain your blog in the long term if you're posting about things you care about.

This makes me think of a couple of things. The first and most obvious is Heroine Content. My HC co-blogger Skye and I are both dedicated to feminism and anti-racism, and both love action movies, and out of those passions, Heroine Content was born. It's honestly the most fun I've had blogging--I'm energized by it, I'm proud of it, and I think it's a great resource.

There are also a couple of other passions in my life that I think would make good single subject blogs--specifically, dog rescue and thrift shopping. I've been thinking about how to go about focusing more intensively on those two things, and hope to figure out a way to do that in 2008. I hesitate to just jump right in and start two more blogs, but that may be the best thing to do. What do you think?

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Last word for the night

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The vet gave everybody a clean bill of health, and Illy's milk has come in. Everyone is currently nursing. Looks like we have three boys and a girl (though that's mostly a guess at this point). The largest kitty (the tabby) is 3 oz., the other slightly smaller. I will try to get individual pictures in the next couple of days.

Several sets of names are under consideration. My current favorite plan is to name them after EPL football teams--Arsenal, Manchester, Liverpool, Chelsea. We'll see.

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A few more details

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Sometime between 3am and 6:30am this morning, Illy gave birth, unassisted, to four kittens. Sexes are currently unknown. Three of the kittens are black and white, one seems to be gray/brown tabby. All are healthy so far, though Illy doesn't yet have any milk in and the whole lot of them are going to the vet this afternoon to get that checked out.

Currently mom and babes are residing in a box in our spare room, decked out with old sheets and towels and a warm heating pad to make sure everyone is cozy. Several hours post-birth, Mom enjoyed a hearty meal of Wellness chicken and herring soft food.

More news as it is available.

pile of kittens


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Day 60

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Illy plus four

illy with kittens

illy with kittens 2

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#24 Make it easy.

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As per Maggie:

Coping mechanisms help us pretend that the day is long enough to fit everything in. Tell us about the small habits you've adopted to make your life run more smoothly.

I'm just kind the kind of dork that loves the idea of taking up habits that save you time and increase productivity in your life in millions of tiny ways. Unfortunately, I'm a lot better at thinking about these things than I am at actually putting them into practice. But I do a few things:

  • I sort silverwear when I put it in the dishwasher, putting knives in one dishwasher section, forks in another, etc. Makes it easier to put away.
  • For the first time this year, I used Shutterfly's service, wherein you input your address list and they print, address, and mail your Christmas cards for you. Amazing.
  • Another Christmas one: I'm doing all my wrapping this year in reusable cloth bags, like these. Not only is using reusable wrapping environmentally sound, the bags make wrapping a ton easier. I plan to get some non-Christmas themed ones after the holidays to use for other types of presents, too. As a bonus, these take MUCH less space to store than wrapping paper/ribbons/boxes/tissue paper.
  • Even though we have our own washer/dryer and they are accessible anytime, I refuse to do laundry more than once a week. This way we have full loads, which is a better idea environmentally, and it takes less time total.
  • Same thing with bill paying, which I do online, but don't automate because I'm a control freak. I only do it two days/month, and have all the bill due dates set up so that works out.
  • I buy presents throughout the year, when I see them, and save them for present-giving occasions. This is a mixed bag, as I probably spend more doing it this way (as I often see "perfect" gifts for people I wouldn't necessarily gift otherwise, or forget and get multiple presents for the same person), but it is more convenient.

I thought I had more, but...I can't think of any. How about you? Let me know in the comments--I'd love some ideas!

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#12 Play favorites.

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There is nothing wrong with offering recommendations, but it's possible that the world could live without another extended review of The Godfather. If you don't have time for a full-blown analysis, or if it just seems unnecessary, consider starting a brief list of the media you think readers should check out. Just name a few of the movies, books, magazines, or songs that have affected you.
...
Jason Kottke (www.kottke.org) does an impressive job of tracking the media he consumes on separate pages of his site. For movies (www.kottke.org/movies), he offers ratings, and a review here and there. For books (www.kottke.org/books), he displays thumbnails of the covers and offers a review of each. By organizing his picks so thoughtfully, he's created a deep resource, one post at a time.

I've actually been attempting to do this, in several ways, for just about as long as I've been blogging. I love to write reviews, I love to read other people's reviews, and sites like Kottke's really are a fantastic resource. However, Kottke writes code and I don't, so I find it's more reasonable to use outside sources to keep track of what I am reading and watching, as well as posting one-off reviews here. So here's a list of the resources I have to offer, even if they aren't as well-organized or comprehensive as the example:

Goodreads
: This was mentioned before, it's where I keep track of what I've read, give ratings, and post reviews. However, the reviews are mostly also posted here, in the Books section of the blog.

Heroine Content: At HC, my friend Skye and I post reviews of action media (mostly movies) looked at specifically through the lens of feminism and anti-racism. We've been doing it for over a year now, and we're building up a pretty fair library of reviews.

Movies: Right now, I just post non-HC movie reviews in the Movies section of the blog, but I'm hoping to find a resource something like Goodreads or organize that a bit better in 2008, particularly because I don't review everything I watch here. Suggestions welcome. My movie tastes can also be sampled in the ubiquitous Netflix queue, but please keep in mind that it is a joint effort between Mark and I, so there is a lot on it for which I am NOT responsible.

There are also reviews in the TV section and the Baths section here.

As not to leave this post totally without new content, I offer a list:

My Top 5 Heroine Content Heroines:
1. Sarah Connor (Linda Hamilton in Terminator 2, Judgment Day)
2. Tank Girl (Lori Petty in Tank Girl)
3. Jane Smith (Angelina Jolie in Mr. and Mrs. Smith)
4. The Lady (Sharon Stone in The Quick and the Dead)
5. Diana Guzman (Michelle Rodriguez in Girlfight)

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In which I am really, really pissed at Lush

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So I've told you before about my love-hate relationship with Lush. But really, I gotta say, I'm just about over them now.

What happened is this: Mark's brother and his partner generously sent me a box of stuff from Lush for Christmas. Unfortunately, they picked all skincare products, which are wasted on me, the girl who does not wash her face. So, I called Lush to see if I could exchange the products, all of which are still encased in their plastic wrapping. And the fairly short person with whom I spoke told me I could probably return them to a store. When I told her I did not have a local store, she told me that the person who ordered the items could return them, because they needed "proof" that they were purchased. When I said I had the packing slip, she said that wasn't good enough and I couldn't return them. Keep in mind, please, that I wasn't trying to return these items for cash--I just wanted to exchange them for bath stuff.

OK. So I went over to the Lush website, where there is a forum where I'd previously seen people swapping Lush products. After foraging through threads and FAQs to try to find out how to swap, I finally posted a question re: swapping. And was told swapping isn't allowed there anymore.

So. I have over $50 worth of fancy face wash and moisturizer, which I will not use, which Lush will not exchange formally or informally. I emailed them to complain, but so far all I've received is a stock "we received your message, here is our FAQ" reply.

These products cost way too much for this level of customer service to be acceptable. If I hadn't been done with Lush before, I would be now.

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#77 Show us your B-side.

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We don't always get to pick the soundtrack when we're having a haunting adolescent moment, but if you could choose the soundtrack to your life, what would be playing?
There are two solid approaches to this. First, you could list the songs that were actually playing during big moments of your life--your first slow dance with your high school crush, the song you played with your college roommates when you were getting ready to hit the town. You could tell us about the first record or CD you bought with your own money, or mention the albums that you wore out from constant play.

Or perhaps a combination of the two...

Scene 1: I am born and am a baby.
Song: "Started Out Fine," Holly Near (off the impossible to find 1975 Redwood Records "A Live Album," my mother's copy of which is completely worn out)

Scene 2: I am a small child.
Song: "Elvira," The Oak Ridge Boys (which I loved to sing, particularly the "Oompapa" part)

Scene 3: I am shuttled between my mom and my dad on weekends, on long car trips with my stepmother and stepsister.
Song: "Can't Fight This Feeling," REO Speedwagon (one of many songs I remember clearly from the car radio in those days)

Scene 4: I go to school.
Song: "I Think We're Alone Now," Tiffany (which was often song on the playground by group of roving girls--I kid you not)

Scene 5: I attend my first middle school dance.

Song: "Wind of Change," Scorpions (mixing the romantic with the political since 1991!)

Scene 6: I become a sulky adolescent and have an even sulkier burgeoning sexuality.
Song: "Something I Can Never Have," Nine Inch Nails (this is the funniest part to me now, honestly, but at the time it. was. not. funny.)

Scene 7: I "fall in love" for the first time.
Song: "The Sunmaid," Soul Asylum (ok, this is getting embarrassing...)

Scene 8: I am crushed by the death of Kurt Cobain and continue feeling angsty.
Song: "The Man Who Sold The World," Nirvana (bad poetry should be written and subsequently burned during this scene)

Scene 9: I drive around with Scand and feel free.
Song: "You Oughta Know," Alanis Morissette (one of the happiest memories ever)

Scene 10: I graduate from high school.
Song: "Joy to the World," Three Dog Night (yes, I really walked out to this at my graduation)

Scene 11: I start college.
Song: "Little Plastic Castle," Ani DiFranco (over and over and over again...)

Scene 12: I fall in love for the first time for real.
Song: "Insane in the Brain," Cypress Hill (odd choice, I know, but you're just going to have to trust me--it's this or ICP)

Scene 13: I hang out with my college group.
Song: "Mao Tse Tung Said," A3 (oh! so big with the radical politics AND the new musical genre! I have to mention that this was BEFORE A3 was made famous by The Sopranos)

Scene 14: I fall out of love and into it again, and find levels of angst at 20 that my teenage self would not have believed.
Song: "Protection," Massive Attack (this is one of my Top 5 favorite songs ever, still)

Scene 15: I graduate from college and start to freak out about being an adult.
Song: "New Tricks," Mary Prankster (nobody does this life stage better than Mary Prankster)

Scene 16: Mark and I move to Texas.
Song: "The Last Cowboy Song," Highwaymen (worth watching the video just for Willie's mullet)

I guess that just about gets me up to date...

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#27 Show some love.

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Another really great suggestion from Maggie Mason for today:

...the people around you are doing worthy things--raising healthy kids, perfecting a signature mixed drink, making a fresh start. Write little profiles of your friends, counting up the reasons you respect them or the times they've surprised or impressed you.
You can interview them, or just write up a paragraph or two. Tell us who your friends are, and why you picked them to be a part of your life.

God, where to begin? I know some fairly outstanding people...they are identified here only by nickname or initial, just to be sure, but they should all be very proud of who they are.

My friend Scand is a roller derby star. This impresses me in all kinds of ways. To begin with, roller derby is just so freaking cool, and I'm impressed that she is physically able to do it and do it well. Beyond that, though, I think roller derby has in some ways been in facet through which she's come out of her shell, met new people, and taken on a new and fun persona, and I admire that. She's gone through a lot of changes in recent years and her life has taken some turns that weren't expected, and she's not only dealing with all of that with amazing good grace, she's embracing it and making having fun a priority for herself. I kind of want to be her when I grow up.

In the past few years, a whole passel of my friends have become parents, and they are all damn good at it. I admire all of their parenting for different reasons. My friends S. and T. really thought hard before becoming parents, went through a lot to do so, and make parenting a priority in every part of their lives. They take being parents seriously, and recognize that it is important work. My friends N. and Z.Z. are very different kinds of parents, but are no less admirable. They have perfected balance, living their lives and concentrating on their careers while also being wonderful examples of both parents and partners. The Princess and C-Man are newer to parenting, but it is already clear that they, too, will be role model parents. They display outstanding patience and an unrelenting dedication to allowing their child, even at his very young age, to be his own person. All of these people have fantastic kids, with whom I am privileged to spend time.

I admire my friend The Libertarian Librarian for her insistence on living her life on her own terms, whether that means never having a monogamous relationship, or refusing to sleep when it is dark and be awake when it is not, or having off-kilter ideas about what is and what is not breakfast food. This kind of faith in ones own ideals is hard to come by, and I'd like to have more of it myself.

There are many ways in which my friend Me inspires me, and her long-distance running is only one of them. It isn't so much her determination or her stamina that impresses me as it is her patience, her willingness to build slowly towards her goals. She's shown this in so many areas of her life, but working her way up to running for tens of miles at a time is the one that makes the most apt metaphor.

Some of my friends are couples, and some of those couples have relationships from which I draw encouragement and by which I am inspired. B. and E. have been through a lot together, including marriage, unemployment, the death of a parent, financial problems, and the birth and raising up of their little girl. They have always shown respect for one another and it has always been clear how much they care about each other. That is inspirational, and has only become more so as their daughter has grown into her own person and their twosome has become a threesome. I'm also inspired by T. and E., who are brave enough to know that family is what you make it, and yes, you can choose your own family and build it in the way you choose.

I have admiration bordering on unhealthy envy for my friends Nij and Gany, who are both going after the degree I wanted to go pursue when I left undergrad, but didn't have the courage or the willingness to make sacrifices. Watching them do it makes me believe I can, but only if I can display the dedication they've shown.

My friend H. is the smartest person I know, and he manages to wear the mantle of that intelligence without being a pompous ass. He doesn't talk to me like I'm stupid, even when I'm being stupid. He doesn't underestimate others' capabilities, nor does he downplay his own. There is, I think, extreme confidence in that.

Finally, there's Mark. Mark who has done so, so many things for me, about whom I admire more than I could ever put here. Perhaps more than anything, though, I am forever grateful to him for teaching me to love dogs, and for providing such a fantastic example for how to properly integrate them into your life. Even if our relationship ends terribly (which I have no reason to think it would), I will always have that, and it's the best gift I've ever been given.

I am lucky indeed to know these fine people.

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Gifts that give

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As you may have already noticed, everyone who is anyone has a charitable holiday gift giving guide, listing their favorite holiday gifts which also contribute to charity. Well, I'm a sucker for a trend, so here are a few I like:

  1. JustGive.org. Want to give a donation in someone's name, but not sure where they would like the cash to go? As JustGive, you can buy a charitable donation gift certificate, and the recipient can then choose which of over 1,000,000 local and national charities to use it for.

  2. Eco-Libris. Eco-Libris is an organization from whom you buy credits to plant trees to offset the books you read (like carbon credit purchasing). A good gift for a book geek? For the holidays, they have packages of a holiday card and 5 book credits for $6.50, 10 for $12.00, 25 for $25.00, and up.

  3. Humane Society Woof Doormat. Cute, heavyweight doormat, made of natural fiber and eco-friendly dye, benefiting the Humane Society. $35 plus $5 S&H.

  4. Dog Breed Bottle Stoppers. Also benefiting the Humane Society. How freaking cute are these? Comes in tons of breeds, $18 each.

  5. Recycled Silk Throw Rug. This throw rug is not only gorgeous, it's made from recycled silk scraps by a family-owned fair-trade certified Indian business. Buying it for $39.95 through Greater Goods also provides either 28 bowls of food for shelter animals (if you choose The Animal Rescue Site store) or something similar through one of the site's other charitable stores (The Breast Cancer Site, The Hunger Site, The Child Health Site, The Literacy Site, or The Rainforest Site).

  6. Stone Mala Necklace. These hand-strung fair-trade semi-precious stone necklaces are blessed by the nuns at the Dolma Ling nunnery in Tibet, whom the proceeds from their sale help support. The $24.95 you pay for a necklace at Greater Good will also provide 50 cups of food if you order through The Hunger Site, or similar from the other options.

  7. One Laptop Per Child. If you haven't already heard of this program, the premise pretty simple. Through the "Give One Get One" program, you spend $399 and get one specially produced XO children's laptop and donate one to a child in the developing world. Gotta do it now, though, as it is available only through December 31.

  8. Can I Sit With You? I've mentioned it here before, but buying the $14 Can I Sit With You? book, to the dual purposes of giving kids stories to help them believe they really will make it out alive and supporting the Special Education PTA of Redwood City (SEPTAR), is an excellent plan.

  9. Life saving essentials for Burmese families. Partners World asked Burmese refugees what they needed to stay alive, and they came back with the following heartbreakingly simple list, for a family of 5 for a month:
    1. 75 kilograms of rice; 5 kilograms of salt
    2. 1 cooking pot
    3. 1 lighter
    4. 1 machete
    5. 1 large plastic sheet for making a roof in the jungle
    These things can be provided for $50.

  10. Finally, whatever you are going to buy, you can probably sign up through iGive to buy it and make sure some of the proceeds to to the charity of your choice.

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#64 Get dibs.

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I have to say, this is one of my favorite of Maggie Mason's ideas:

I'd like to collect decaying mansions and move them all to one neighborhood so I can repaint them and plant trees in the front years. Unfortunately, I don't have a few million laying around for my mansion collecting just yet, so I'll have to settle for perusing real estate ads and whimpering.
Start your own virtual collection of items that are too unwieldy or too expensive to collect in real life. What your passion--airplanes, modern art, pricey jewelry--pick twenty pieces for your online collection and rotate them out as the mood strikes you.

How cool is that idea?

I took several days to think about what I wanted to virtually collect. Art is really tempting--I mean, since it's virtual, I could have anything I wanted! Or dogs--I could get representatives from 20 breeds if I only had to virtually feed and walk them! But at the end of the day, what I'd really like to collect is historical artifacts. Stuff that I absolutely agree should be in a museum in real life, but should live in my house virtually.

So here is my virtual artifacts collection, or at least a start to it:

1. Original report from the first U.S. women's rights convention, Seneca Falls, New York, July 19-20, 1848.
Currently housed at the Women's Rights National Historical Park at Seneca Falls.

emma goldman photo2. Portrait of Emma Goldman, circa 1890ish. Currently housed at the International Institute for Social History, Amsterdam.

3. Letters between Mother Jones and John Mitchell, 1902. Currently housed at the American Catholic History Research Center and University Archives.

suffage parade program4. Program for the 1913 Suffrage Parade. Currently housed at the Library of Congress.

5. Thomas Edison's film of Annie Oakley, 1894. Currently housed at the Library of Congress.

6. Woody Guthrie's "This Machine Kills Facists" guitar. Currently housed ?soviet poster

7. Soviet propaganda posters, Bokshevik Era, 1917-1921. Housed all over, though rare.

That's probably enough, to start. Don't want to get greedy.

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On Beauty

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on beauty book coverDoes it ever happen to you that something is recommended to you very highly and then you finally read or watch it and it sucks so very much that you think maybe you made a mistake and got the wrong thing? Well, that's what happened to me with Zadie Smith's On Beauty. Over and over people told me how great this book was and how much I would love it. And then I suffered through reading (well, listening to, actually) the whole damn thing, and it never got any good at all.

The first and most pressing problem with On Beauty is that I had no sympathy for any of the characters, save Kiki, and got very little insight into her. The major character, Howard, is a repulsive human being. And I get that he's supposed to be, and that the book seeks to expose liberal academics as racists and narcissists, but good Lord it's hard to keep at a book where you hate everybody! Howard is only slightly worse than any of his three children, who also play large roles in the story. It's not even that I hate them so much as just don't care about them in the least. If you don't care about the characters, it's hard to care what happens to them.

And, in On Beauty, nothing much does happen to them. The book is so impressed with itself that it actually goes into extensive detail of a university faculty meeting. There is nothing in the world that could make me want to sit through one of those meetings, much less read a book about sitting through one of them. The characters talk endlessly at each other, and we're treated to even more of their inane internal monologue, but there is no real action. There is one death, which takes place off-screen, as it were. There is some totally meaningless travel, in order to facilitate more talking. There are a couple of arguments and a couple of sex scenes. That's about it.

This is a long, boring, trite, self-impressed book. It's just bad. Don't read. Whoever told you you'd like it was has no clue about your literary taste.

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Feline belly picture

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Illy, day 1, 4 lbs, 12 oz.

illy day 1
(The photo shows a very thin cat.)


Illy, day 53, 7 lbs, 8 oz.

pregnant illy
(The photo shows the same cat, much fatter.)

Cats gestate for approx. 63 days. She's been inside for 53 days. We should have kittens within the next ten days.

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Cavedweller

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cavedweller book cover(The image is of the cover of the paperback Cavedweller. It shows a black and white picture of a small house overlooking a field of caves, with the title above it on a red banner.)

I've told you before how much I love and admire Dorothy Allison. Both her non-fiction work (Skin, Two or Three Things I Know for Sure) and her fiction (Trash, Bastard out of Carolina) is extremely impressive on an intellectual level, as well as deeply moving on a gut level. So I expected no less from Cavedweller, her second novel. And I'm sure it is only because I went in to reading it with such very high expectations that it was disappointing.

Cavedweller is a very good book. It's just not as good a book as Allison's other books.

The story, which follows the childhood of Cissy, who moves at a young age from Los Angeles to Cayro, Georgia with her mother, Delia, a recovering alcoholic and faded second-tier rock singer, doesn't hurt the way Bone's story in Bastard out of Carolina does. Though you are alternately in love with and pissed off by Delia, she doesn't spark the kind of pity and fury Bone's mother, Anney, does. Like in Bastard, the women in Cavedweller are strong and hard and more than a little bit crazy, and then men, both good and bad, are a little bit weak and simple. There is more room for forgiveness for that weakness and simplicity in Cavedweller, though, which may speak to Allison's greater maturity when she wrote it. The moral universe is not quite so black and white. But what it loses in clarity also makes it less compelling.

Bastard out of Carolina, is, to my mind, the kind of novel that someone writes only once. Like To Kill a Mockingbird, it is the novel that takes the other novels out of you. Given that, I think it was brave of Allison to write Cavedweller at all. Still, it's a sophomore novel, and it reads like one (albeit a particularly good one). Farther, probably, from Allison's personal essays than any of her other fiction, it loses something as it moves away from her. The characters in it that seem the most familiar (the wild and pained Dede in particular) are the strongest elements.

Should you read Cavedweller? Absolutely. You should just read all of Allison's other work first.

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#32 Break it off.

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Today Maggie asks:

What are your relationship deal breakers? Some folks are annoyed if a date shows up ten minutes late. Others look for something weightier, like a felony records. Have you ever rejected someone over something that seems insignificant to your friends? Or do you have selective blindness for red flags?

This is an odd question for me, since I've been in a relationship for so long. What would be a deal breaker in a relationship that is ongoing is a very different question than what would be a deal breaker for a new relationship. Mark would have to do something pretty awful to break our current deal, but newbies wouldn't get so much slack.

If I were in the situation of starting something new, there are things I'd be picky about. The first thing that comes to mind is that I'd want someone who was already pretty set in his or her career and through with school. I'm willing to do what I'm doing now (being the one with the "grown up" job and all that) for Mark, but I'm not sure I'd be willing to do it for anyone else, at least not at this stage. In fact, to take it a step further, I would want someone with a solid financial future. I have a hard time seeing myself beginning a new relationship with someone at this point if s/he were not financially independent.

Beyond the money/job stuff, non-monogamy would be a deal breaker for me. I'm just not interested in non-exclusive relationships. Too complicated, too many factors, too much work. If that makes me a stick in the mud, so be it.

Finally, my pets are a deal breaker. They are 100% part of the deal if you want to be with me, and you have to no only tolerate them, but be actively interested in them. No exceptions.

The rest of my deal breakers are probably pretty obvious. I couldn't be with someone who was anti-choice, or pro-death penalty. I likely couldn't be with someone who worked in a field I consider morally repugnant. I'm over needing men to be taller than I am, or having age limits on who I could have a relationship with (aside from the obvious need for an adult). I'm open to all genders and races.

For some reason, though, this is a thought experiment I can't particularly get into. I guess it's because the idea of being in a relationship other than the one I am in just holds no appeal to me. This is, I think, a good thing.

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#36 Swallow your pride.

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Maggie suggests:

Scan in photos of you in a uniform with an awkward haircut, offer up the choicest yearbook inscriptions, or tell us about your top-three suspensions. The more miserable you were, the more endearing you'll become.

I've already regaled you with pictures of my unsavory past, but yearbook inscriptions? That's brilliant. I just happened to find my yearbooks recently, too, so lets see what we can find in there...all misspellings and sad grammar from the original.

1994:

Hey grace, Have a great year. I don't have any deep thoughts so party.

Hey neighbor, I love homework don't you. Just joking anyway friends forever & have fun yo only got 3 year left, they go by quick.

Hola Graciela! By the way--how the hell do you pronounce that name? I just want to say that you're a super-crazy/good friend. May all things come your way. Today and always. If you want to laugh just think of those 3 years at school you've left. You'll start laughing at once, I guarantee ya (good advice ha?) Let's have fun, lot's of fun I mean, this year. Stay the way you are. --Well, take care--cause I don't...

1995:

Hey Gracey. I like your hair it matches you. In the light its shiny and pretty but if you catch it just right its dark and scary. Don't worry about what people think and Tony can just kiss your ass. But if you need to scream at someone you can scream at me.

Hey Grace Stay spontanious, raise Hell, and get in lots of trouble, but don't take Sandy with you. Your a bad influence. Just kidding you're a great friend and have helped me allot. Thanks.

Grace. You flat chested over grown volleyball player. Now your cool kind of ya right. Your a good friend.

1996:

Hey word up, Hows every thing going last year sucked this years going to suck. and I would like to say Snatch

Grace, Well it's the last year that you will be in high school. You are the most gentle giant that I know. Have fun Grace.

Yo Grace. Even though we have different political views you're still pretty cool.

1997:
My senior yearbook is completely unsigned. If I remember correctly, we got our yearbooks the following fall, so I probably had that one mailed to me when I was already at Reed or something.

Looking through these makes me feel like everyone hated me in high school. Which may or may not have been the case, I honestly don't know (or much care). I should say, though, that none of the comments I choose to reproduce here were from particularly lose friends. I kept the close friends' comments private, just because as stupid as they may sound now, they were heartfelt.

I wish I had a way to see what I wrote in other people's books. That would likely be funnier. I thought I was awfully smart back then and probably tried to be profound. Gah.

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#45 Ante up

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Bit of a cheat today, as this is something I already do. Maggie Mason suggests:

Do some research and point your readers to a few worthy charities. While you're at it, explain what their donations would accomplish for the organizations you list. Then put your feet up and bask in the warm glow of self-satisfaction.

I do this every month, and already did it for December, so I'm not going to reiterate. Click on the "Giving" link on the sidebar (under categories) to see all of the past charities I've highlighted. I will give this reminder, though: if you give before January 1, you write it off on your 2007 taxes.

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Handmade product review round-up

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I few things that aren't gifts, so I can talk about them freely.

claire de lune cloth pantylinersClaire de Lune cloth pantyliners. These were 3 for $10.50, plus $1.50 S&H, and they're fabulous. They are very lightweight, which works great for me, but are still long enough to provide reasonable panty coverage. And the fabrics are cute, too! They seem very well-made and I expect they'll be long-lasting.

modest maiden cloth padModest Maiden cloth pads. These were more expensive: I paid $5.50 each for two pads and got free shipping. I don't like them as well, either--they fabric is cute and they're well made, but they are thicker and shorter and so far I've leaked around them. They are also staining in a pretty displeasing way.

Barb's Homemade Soap. During their Black Friday Sale, I got four slices of shea butter soap (peppermint, Autumn Sunshine, fig, and orange) and three bath bombs (Golden Honey, Sweet Dreams, and Refresh) for $19 including shipping. So far, I've only tried the Autumn Sunshine soap and the Sweet Dreams bath bomb, but I'm pleased. The fragrances are very nice and the bath bomb left my skin very soft. The soap lathers well, but is disappearing very very fast.

Bauble Bath. This was my biggest Black Friday score. I ordered two Bauble Samplers (each made up of seven assorted one-bath size mini bath bombs), a package of peppermint snowmen bath melts, and a package of honey bath melts, and paid a total of $21.95. A full-size gingerbread bath bomb was included in my order free of charge. And this is good stuff--smells great, makes your skin feel wonderful. The mini bath bomb sampler is a good deal in general, too--I think it's only $7 full regular price.

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#61 Collect the greatest hits

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In her 61st suggestion, Maggie instructs us to collect some of our best ever blog posts into a list. Here's mine:

February 26, 2004: Won't you be my neighbor?

She'd call all the time, asking us to run to the store for her, and later to come up and rub her feet.

June 3, 2004: In defense of the lazy

As far as I am concerned, good work ethic means taking pride in the job you are doing, getting what needs to be done and done well, and doing things that need to be done without being specifically intstructed to do so. Period. Busy work does not require good work ethic.

September 20, 2004: Patriot

Well, I'm not going. Not because I don't think things might not be more pleasant elsewhere--they certainly might be. Not even because I don't believe the sky is really falling right now, I think we're just in a trough and things will get better again, even if we have to endure four more years of Shrub first. Because this is my country and goddammit they are not going to chase me out!

January 7, 2005: Watching my town die

About a year ago, I was talking to my mom on the phone. Often, mom's phone calls can be summarized in list form: "Who Died," "Who Got Sick," "Who Had a Baby," and "Who is Pregnant" are the usual categories, with a fair sprinkle of "Who Got Married" and "Who Got Divorced." This was a "Who Got Sick" list.

January 16, 2005: Self-respect

I've wondered quite a bit, over the years since this happened, if it showed a lack of self respect that I didn't quit on my own. I've also wondered if, given the time to think it over, I would have quit on my own eventually. I'd like to think I would have, but I was 14, you know? I've also come to realize that of all of the things that were yelled at me during this experience, it wasn' being called a worthless cunt or a stupid bitch that dug the deepest--it was being told that I have no self-respect.

March 1, 2005: Fat

I'm fat, but I'm not part of their tradition. My arms may look just like my mom's, but she wears her's without a thought, as part of who she is, while I try to hide mine. I don't revel in the things my body can do, and I certainly don't use it to make my living. I eat with shame, guilt, petulance, but never gusto. And I wonder, since I'm never going to be skinny, if I can learn to be fat like them?

November 15, 2005: The legacy of the mirror and the speculum

Which, of course, made me think of my cervix. Because really, who were more into cervixes (cervi?) than 1970s feminists?

November 18, 2005: The Man in Black

I loved Cash's booming voice and Willie's smooth one, and it took me many more years to realize that Kris Kristofferson really doesn't have much of a voice at all. I really believed Waylon was a cowboy, and I was more impressed than scandalized when somebody told me The Hag had spent time in the penitentiary. Looking back on it now, I doubt my parents intended me to see these men as heroes, but I certainly did.

January 23, 2006: Grace's feminist canon

My friend T. recently asked me for a list of my favorite feminist books, to use for a book review website project he's putting together. Unable to contain myself with the joy of this task, I put together a fairly comprehensive list (though I edited it down quite a bit). It was so much fun, I thought I'd share it here.

May 12, 2006: Chick lit

There are people, I'm sure, who will argue that books about romantic relationships (always heterosexual, always ending in marriage) are just what woman want to read. I don't buy it. I think that's what we're taught to want to read, from Jane Austen through Jennifer Werner. And it's not enough. We're selling ourselves short, both as readers and as writers. Relegating ourselves to chit lit. Which is downstairs, by romance.

June 20, 2006: My life in dog years

That may well make me the crazy dog lady, but so be it. There are worse things to be.

June 22, 2006: Rules of responsible dog ownership

And that your dog, no matter how great you think s/he is, is not an exception to this rule.

July 18, 2006: More on the Willard Suitcase Exhibition

As far as I know, she died in the state mental hospital. She never got to mother her babies. She never got to make her own decisions. She lost her freedom, and then she lost part of her brain.

January 10, 2007: Pain in the House

The topic of this pain doesn't go away. It peaks and wanes, but it's always there, and not just as a reason for House's drug addiction, but as a topic in and of itself.

April 4, 2007: Yet another treatise on thrifting

We're killing ourselves with our own consumption. Creating these mountains and mountains of trash that isn't trash at all, until we're all buried under it, and all the time buying more and more new stuff.

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Mastered

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The same month I started this blog (August 2003), I began my master's degree in public affairs.

Today, I finished it. I just got back from turning in my final paperwork and a copy of my final report (sort of like a master's thesis). My i's are all dotted, my t's all crossed, all the signatures gathered. I'm finished. Once everything is checked off on somebody's list, I will have a master's degree.

It's been a long road. I went full-time for a year, did my summer internship, and then...scattered. I took a job and started taking classes part time, and then not at all for a while, and then part time again. I put off calculus for as long as humanly possible. I dallied on my final report for two semesters. I really disliked a lot of it, thought numerous times about just quitting. But as much as I procrastinated, I didn't quit, and today I legitimately finished.

I'm proud of myself.

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#14 Watch your language.

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Miss Maggie says:

"What are the words you love, or the phrases you wish would come back in fashion?"

Oh, there are many. I tend to use the occasional colorful phrase myself, due mostly to a childhood spent around people who use colorful phrases. So here are some that I use that I think everyone should:

  • Built like a brick shithouse.

  • Gone pear-shaped.

  • Crik (for creek)

  • Rig (for car or truck)

  • Batshit crazy.

  • Like a red-headed stepchild.

  • Busy as a one-legged man in an ass-kicking contest.

Others, that I don't use myself, at least not yet, but wish would come into fashion or back into fashion, are:

  • On the job (for having sex)

  • Fisticuffs

  • Fortnight

What about you?

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#62 Hit the stacks.

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In this suggestion, Maggie directed me to LibraryThing, where, if one is so inclined, one can catalog and categorize one's books, as well as getting suggestions based on what you have, writing reviews, etc. Even I am not up to the level of time-wasting it would take to add every book I own, but I did add all of those I have read in the past year, with the intention of keeping it up as I read. My bookshelf is here. I like this more than my previous way of tracking my reading, if only because I don't have to alphabetize it myself. Now if I could just find a way to keep a "to-read" list on it, I'd be all set.

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Where are the cats?

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When you can't find Atticus and Esme, it turns out they might be making out in the linen closet. I remember the days when these two hated each other. Ah, young love.

Atticus and Esme in the closet
(The photo is of two cats, Atticus and Esme, curled up together on a shelf of folded sheets and blankets in a linen closet.)

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#23 Define your inscrutables.

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Maggie says:

"Is nothing sacred? Well, not really. You're the type who puts it all out there--relationship details, depression-med doses, dark family secrets. With all that online information waiting to be discovered by your stunned parents, you might be surprised how much readers still don't know about you."

She goes on to say:
grace's handwriting sample
(The picture shows a sample of my handwriting, saying the following: "They wouldn't recognize your handwriting on a note, be able to discern your laughter in a group, or even know how tall you are. Take a photo of your handwriting, show readers your wardrobe, or record a short clip of yourself humming a tune. You've covered the big topics, now get to the details.")

So there's my handwriting. As for wardrobe, here are some pictures of my underwear and sock drawers, post re-organization:

underwear drawer

sock drawer
(The photos are of my very organized underwear and socks.)

The humming isn't going to happen. Trust me, you're better off.

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Decking the halls

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Last night, with the help of some good cheer in the form of a hot chocolate spiked with Cointreau, I set about decking our halls. Or our kitchen and living room, anyway. Given that we have a plethora of pets, we have no chimney, I'm allergic to pretty much all trees, and we're going to be gone for quite some time over Christmas anyway, some compromises had to be made. That being said, I'm very happy with the results.

The stockings (made by my mom, and just like the ones I grew up with at home) were hung in the window with care:
stockings in window
(The picture shows six homemade felt stockings hung on the curtain rod in the kitchen window. Each has the name of a family member: Mark, Grace, Atticus, Leo, Esme, Atakan.)

And the tree is a foot tall rosemary plant. This is suitable for several reasons, including the pet and allergy ones mentioned above, and the fact we can plant it outside and use it for cooking later.

Of course, due to its small stature, it's a bit ornament heavy. But that's OK.

rosemary tree with ornaments, left side

rosemary tree with ornaments, right side
(The pictures show the right and left sides of a small rosemary plant shaped like a tree. It is hung with several safari-animal ornaments, including an elephant, a hippo, a crocodile, a monkey, etc.)

Not even a quarter of our ornaments fit, so we had to add the set of AKC dog ornaments to the stand the tree is on. You can't see them very well in this sub-par photo, but there are four doggies hanging from each shelf.

tree stand with ornaments
(The photo shows an iron plant stand. The tree is on the top shelf. Each lower shelf has a framed photograph on it, and there are dog ornaments hanging from each shelf ledge. The entire stand has lights and tinsel on it.)

That will probably be it for holiday decorations, given our constraints. However, I'm pretty happy with it. Beats the hell out of the giant wind-filled Santa my neighbors have in their yard. They never have the wind on when I drive by, it seems, so they just have a puddle of Santa in their yard. It's kind of sad, actually.

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#2 Fess up.

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Today Maggie Mason suggests the following:

"All readers need an occasional dose of schadenfreude, so fess up. How do you fail? Do you consistently kill plants? Keep getting fired? Always take the last cookie? That's the stuff, friends. To err is human, but to share? Divine."

In many ways, it feels like the majority of what I write here is about how I fail, so I'm not sure I have anything really new to report. As you already know, I'm terrible with money and falling even deeper into debt, even though I have plenty of income. My self-discipline is truly lacking. I eat very poorly and don't exercise. I never floss. I've become a procrastinator in recent years. I snore. I have dandruff. I have a really poor sense of direction. I'm forever making big pronouncements and grand plans and not following through on them. My ability to navel-gaze is legendary. I fidget uncontrollably. I snort when I laugh. I an incredibly cranky when tired. I require pharmaceuticals to keep an even keel in general. I am a disaster in any sort of outdoor sporting situation.

Is that enough schadenfreude? I could go on all day...

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First line meme

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Frog did this meme today wherein she reprinted the first line of each month of the year's first entry. I like it. When I like something, I sometimes copy it.

January: Today is the first day of 2007.

February: You probably know that February is Black History Month.

March: I have a new post up today on Heroine Content. Check it out?

April: Due to my being a bit of a scheduling numbskull and double-booking myself for April 14, I am not going to be able to take part in this year's SafePlace Walk.

May: On a (well, slightly, anyway) less self-obsessed note, I have to tell you all about As We Are Magazine.

June: I will attempt a real post-vacation entry tomorrow, when my head is on more straight, but today I'm just doing the financial update thing because I am doing my bills.

July: I know I have mentioned here before that I tend to be a bit slow on the uptake when it comes to pop cultural phenomena.

August: One of the things I decided I wanted to do while I was at BlogHer was write a post when I returned highlighting all of the new blogs I was introduced to (through their people!) while I was there.

September: I am back, finally, after sickness, recuperation, and a fantastic weekend spent with my college chums, about which I will attempt to post later.

October: 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.

November: Today is the first day of NaBloPoMo, and I am mad excited.

December: So, for the first time in quite some time, I'm drunk.

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This meme brought to you by my insomnia

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So I'm awake. I wish I weren't, but I am. And I'm having a cup of tea and futzing around on ze Internets. So now is as good a time as any to take Meg's help and make a love list, only a couple of days late.

Things I Love:

Song you love: "The Origin of Love" from Hedwig and the Angry Inch

Food you love: Doughnuts

Thing you love to look at: amber (with or without bugs in it)

Sound you love: rain

Thing you love to laugh at:
my dogs

Gadget you love: the almighty iPod

Person you love: Mark

Software you love:
Excel

Word you love: aluminum

Thing you love on the internet: IMDB

Place you love to go on vacation:
Oregon. home.

Sensation you love: waking up and knowing I don't actually have to get out of bed

Animal you love:
elephants

Book you love:
Our Bodies, Ourselves

Emotion you love: anticipation

Occasion you love: my birthday

Quality you love in people:
generosity

Thing you most love to shop for: used books

And finally…

What you love about today:
that I finished what I needed to finish without feeling bogged down by it

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Handmade haul

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I've been buying a lot of handmade stuff recently, but haven't been able to share descriptions or pictures of it here, because most of it is intended as gifts for people who may be reading this blog. Yesterday, however, I attended the Wheatsville Arts Festival, one of my favorite annual Austin events, and bought a boatload of stuff just for me. Which means I can share!
wheatsville arts haul
(The photo shows two stacks of homemade soap, two sets of hand-thrown pottery bowls, one blue and one green, and three brightly colored handmade headbands.)

Above you'll see my haul from yesterday. The sets of bowls in the back are made by a local potter who sells her wares under the name "Mudslinger Pottery." I've bought from her for three years now. Last year, I bought a large bowl with the same glaze pattern as the green bowls shown in this picture. I love her stuff because it's not only gorgeous, it's super-durable, microwave and dishwasher safe, and lead-free. It's also really reasonably priced--these bowls were only $10 each, and her larger ones are generally $20-$30.

To the left of the bowls is a stack of soap from Herbal Soapworks. They're vegan, olive oil based soaps scented with essential oils. No nasty stuff. I bought three bars, one in lemongrass, one in orange chamomile, and one in lavender. They were $4.50 each or 3/$12. I haven't tried them yet, but I'll let you know how they are. They are rumored to be long-lasting with a dense lather.

To the right is another stack of soap, these by Fleegal Farms. They're not all olive oil based, but also contain palm and palm kernel oils. However, they are again scented with only essential oils and colored with natural pigments. My stack includes a pumpkin spice soap, a peppermint swirls soap, a lavender fields soap, and a clay facial soap. These too were $4.50 each, or 4/$16.

Finally, in the middle, you see three handmade fabric headbands from The Crafty Monkey. The Crafty Monkey makes not only accessories, but also quilted art, and she had some amazing stuff in her stall. I love these headbands because they are made of 100% cotton, fantastic prints, are reversible, and actually fit on my giant cranium. She makes stitched, silk, quilted, and ribbon versions as well. These were a bit spendy at $9 each, but given my current state of hair grow-out, very much worth it.

All of which is to say only this--buy handmade! For Christmas, for yourself. The stuff is way cooler than what you'd find in the store, it's not that much more expensive, and you are supporting someone's art. What could be better?

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#58 Think back.

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Today's Maggie Mason idea:

"Tell us what you were doing during the major historical events of your lifetime. Here's a brief timeline of U.S. history to jog your memory. What were your thoughts when you first heard the news?"

  • President Kennedy assassinated.

  • The Beatles appear on The Ed Sullivan Show.>

  • Martin Luther King, Jr. assassinated.

  • Robert Kennedy assassinated.

  • Man walks on the moon.

  • President Nixon resigns.

I'm skipping those, for the obvious reason--I wasn't alive when they happened.

  • President Reagan shot: This was in 1981, so while I was alive, I wasn't old enough to remember it.

  • Challenger explodes: This is my first clear political memory. It happened in 1986, when I was in first grade. I remember watching some coverage of it on a TV in our classroom (and this was back in the day when having a TV in your classroom was a big deal, especially if it wasn't tuned to "Reading Rainbow." I don't clearly remember my exact thoughts, but do remember that there was general sadness in particular because a teacher, Sharon McAuliffe, died in the explosion.

  • Berlin Wall falls: This I remember much more clearly--it was another TV-in-class occasion. It happened in 1989, so I was 10 and I think in 4th grade. My most clear memory, however, is of the song "Winds of Change" by the hair band Scorpions, which was released the next year. Everyone would get very kiddie-serious when that song came on and pretend to be thinking about the wall.

  • Persian Gulf war: This was 5th grade, and I mainly remember everybody in my town hanging flags all over their stuff. And lots of what I now see as racist jokes, but didn't quite identify as such at the time. I don't remember being scared by the war, or even particularly interested in it.

  • Rodney King riots: This is where I start getting political, at least a little bit. I'm in 6th grade, I'm arguing with my classroom teacher about abortion (how completely inappropriate is that?) and I'm starting to have the guts to call people on their racist tripe, of which there is a lot. I think this is about the time I started getting into political arguments at home, too. As far as the riots themselves go, though, it was really removed for me. I was a kid, I knew NO people of color, and it all seemed...vague. Like something I'd see in a movie.

  • Waco, Texas standoff: This happened in 1993, when I was in 8th grade, but I don't remember it at all. It just flew under my radar, I guess.

  • Oklahoma City bombing: The was '95, my sophomore year in high school. My clearest memory is of that photograph of the fire fighter holding the baby that was all over the newspapers. It seemed like that picture was everywhere for months. Honestly, though, I was living pretty far inside my own head at this point and wasn't much on paying attention to what was going on around me.

  • Presidential election recount: Wow, big jump. This happened in 2000-2001, during my last year of college. I remember this VERY clearly. First, we had an election results party that included a drinking game wherein you took a shot of tequila every time a state went to Bush and a shot of Jack Daniels every time one went to Gore. Simon and I went to bed thinking that Gore had won and woke up and found out he hadn't. And then it dragged on and on and on. I supported Gore in the recount, and really thought and still think that Bush's victory was ill-gotten, but what was more important to me then and now was that it was even close, and that the Democrats couldn't find someone more sympathetic than Gore to put up. I also remember discussing this a lot in class, particularly with my favorite professor, who is Iranian and has some pretty strong feelings about sham elections.

  • 9/11 attacks: This happened my first year out of college. It's the weirdest thing. I never ever turned my TV on when getting ready for work at that time--I always listened to music. Yet, for some reason, I turned my TV on that morning, just in time to see the second tower fall. I called Mark and woke him up to make him turn on his TV to watch it. Then I went to work, and everyone in the office spent all day trying to get in touch with friends in New York. My boss finally sent everyone home in the early afternoon. At the time, I was in no way concerned about the greater implications of the attacks--I just wanted to know my friend Mychy, who was working at the Fed not far from the towers, was OK.

  • Iraq war: Too recent to look back with nostalgia of any sort--all I've got is rage. Lots of protests, including an amazing one in Portland that really made me feel like I was actually part of something. A feeling that no matter what we did, it was going to happen anyway, and it was going to be bad. Had no idea how bad, thought.

  • Columbia explodes: Honestly, this didn't register too much for me. As an adult, I am very very suspicious of the space program. I simply don't think it's a good use of time or money. Which isn't to say I don't feel badly for the astronauts who were killed on the Columbia, but this didn't inspire a huge mourning or anything.

  • Hurricane Katrina: This was really, really awful. Really personal, and close to home. Austin was full of refugees, survivors, and they needed a lot of help. More than any other "historical event," Katrina made the world feel small and dangerous. I'm still not over it.

  • Dick Cheney accidentally shoots his friend in the face: This was just funny. Still is, actually.

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December giving

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Over at the right, you can see my December giving choices. Both have already been mentioned here, but just a reminder, Operation Paperback sends books to soldiers abroad, and Orange Santa is my local "giving tree" type program. Go forth and give. 'Tis the season.

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December finances

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So I'm not posting a financial update for November. Or December. And here's why:

I love Christmas. And one of the things I love the most about it is buying gifts for people. I honest-to-God prefer giving to receiving. Christmas shopping (which I spent a good deal of the day at today) is fun for me.

But when I'm trying to count pennies and worry about my debt-payoff goals, it's not fun. It's a depressing chore.

So I'm suspending the whole deal until January 1. After January 1, I know I'm going to have to dedicate myself much more seriously to paying down that debt. But until then, I am not going to worry about it, and I'm not going to keep track of it, any more than enough to not overdraw my checking account.

Before anyone says anything, I know that this is an irresponsible, privileged, and not very wise position for me to take. I know it's going to set be back. I know I'll be crying about it in January. And you can go ahead and post all of those things if it will make you feel good. But it won't likely change anything. I'm young, have fairly few fiscal responsibilities (i.e. no kids), and am going to enjoy my Christmas gift giving as much as I can for as long as I can. If that makes me a worse or weaker person, so be it.

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#1 Reign supreme.

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Today, on my first day of post-NaBloPoMo freedom, I've decided to give myself a new blogging task, in order to keep myself writing daily for the next bunch of days. A couple of birthdays ago, my pal and fellow blogger The Princess got me a copy of Maggie Mason's No One Cares What You Had for Lunch: 100 Ideas for Your Blog. I read the book immediately, but didn't actually use any of it for blog fodder. Well, now seems as good a time as any to start. So, without further ado, I am going to work my way through Maggie's 100 blog suggestions. As the book is broken up into segments for 15-minute blogging, 30-minute blogging, 60-minute blogging, and longer blogging/more serious "writing," I won't be doing the entries in order, but I will be keeping track of which ones I've done and attempting to do them all. Starting now, with #1.

Maggie writes:

Your cousin wears a red dress to your grandmother's funeral. The guy in the Porsche takes up two spaces at the front of the lot. Your boss enjoys scheduling meetings so she can arrive thirty minutes late.
All of us should just learn to tolerate stupid people. But what if we didn't have to? If you ruled the world, things would be better, at least in a few small ways.

If I ruled the world...

  • You could mail international packages from the Automated Postal Center.

  • I'd have veto power over everyone's fragrance choices.

  • Pet ownership would require passing a test, and be available only through adoption, no for-profit intentional breeding.

  • The work week would be 30 hours, flex-time.

  • Afternoon naps for adults would be normal.

  • Nothing would ever start before 10am

  • You could actually live off minimum wage.

  • Not cleaning up after yourself would be a prosecutable crime, on par with theft or assault.

  • Bad coffee would not exist.

  • There would always be something good on TV.

  • Everybody would have access to a good library.

  • I'd be referred to as "Her Most Esteemed Badassness.

Ah, an auspicious beginning...

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