The foster learning curve

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Back when I had that contest to ask for blogging ideas, Jill wrote:

I'm with Julia: more about your dogs. I'd like to know how you introduce rescues to your permanent pets, do you walk all of them?, do you do anything (obedience, etc.) to make the fosters more adoptable...that type of thing.

Those are good questions. I'm afraid my answers aren't going to be that enlightening, though. I'm not really a great dog advice person. I've been around a lot of dogs now, and done quite a bit of work, but I don't have a real philosophy or guidelines or anything. For a real dog expert, I highly recommend checking out Joanna's blog. That woman knows her shit.

Me, I just sorta do what works.

Grace and Chance 2The whole dog rescue journey started quite by mistake. Mark and I adopted our first dog, Chance, from a rescue in 2003. In retrospect, adopting Chance was a big mistake. I wouldn't change a thing, of course, but we went in pretty blind. You should NOT choose a totally untrained 120 lb Rott-Anatolian cross to be your first dog. But we did, and we loved him from the beginning. Which is good, because if we'd loved him any less, he'd have ended up being put down. Chance was aggresisve. Aggressive enough that he was dangerous. We spent a whole lot of time and money fixing that issue, which the help of a really high quality trainer. Those training sessions (and there were a lot of them) are pretty much the sum total of my dog training expertise. And much of what was suggested for Chance, particularly regarding establishing dominance, I don't bother with when relating to my current dogs. Chance needed it. They don't.

7 napping puppiesAbout a year after we adopted Chance, we found ourselves fostering seven five-week old Lab mix puppies. The how and why of that is a long story, which you can read here if you are interested. By that time, Chance was pretty mellow (well, all things considered). But seven five-week old puppies is a lot by anybody's standards, and we were completely unprepared. It was, as well as being one of the most rewarding experiences of my life, hell on Earth. Weeks of cleaning up after them, running after them, not getting any sleep, worrying about them...but they all lived to be happy, healthy dogs, and we found homes for all of them. It was expensive, it was frustrating, and it was amazing.

After that, we just knew we could do it. We didn't actually do any more rescue for a while, as we weren't quite sure how Chance would react to having another adult dog in the house (he loved the puppies), plus we were in a rental, but the seed had been planted.

Then we bought our house, and Chance died. We adopted Leo, and when we went to pick him up from the rural rescue where he was living, I fell in love with the idea of having land and being able to rescue large scale. We didn't take any more fosters for a bit, though, as we wanted to give, Leo, who turned out to be elderly and have some health issues, time to adjust. Then we met and unexpectedly fell in love with Ata, and so we had two dogs. They got on so well together, we figured it was time to take the plunge.

Ata, Bridgie, and LeoOur first intentional foster was Bridget, the Anatolian Shepherd. We had Bridget for about six months. She was not an easy dog. Unlike Ata, Bridget was a very typical Anatolian--very standoffish and difficult to get attached to. Plus, we learned about the difficulty of walking three dogs who are all 90 lbs+. But we kept at it, and she came out of her shell. She never really fit in as part of our pack, but she was safe and healthy with us, and we eventually were able to find her a great home.

The bug had bitten us by then. We started looking more seriously for a rescue with whom we would like to work. And, a bit later, we hooked up with Hound Rescue. Neither of us had any particular hound-love, but I heard or saw a call for fosters from them somewhere, and called on a lark. I liked the person who got back to me so much that we decided to give hounds a try, with the specification that we wanted bigger hounds, not the beagles the rescue specializes in, since they'd surely be yappy and annoying.

Mark and Friday on the couch 5Our first HR foster was Friday, who was an absolute nightmare. He was a basset hound/fox hound mix. When we first got him, he was sick with kennel cough and seemed very mellow. The healthier he got, the worse he was. He was destructive, he howled non-stop, and he refused to be housetrained. It was such a headache! He clearly knew he was supposed to go outside to go to the bathroom, but he would get mad at you and look straight at you and pee on the floor. We made him wear a doggie diaper. He peed in it, then peed through it. We checked for a health issue. The issue was determined to be behavioral. We pulled our hair out.

And then Friday got adopted, and we learned from his new owner that he never peed in the house. We realized it was us, or our other dogs, or our house. Sometimes dogs are good matches for your family and sometimes they aren't. You do the best you can. The thing we learned from Friday was that the key to being succesful in rescue is support. We had lots of people to talk about our issues with, they made suggestions, they offered supplies, and when it became clear Friday just wasn't going to work out at our house, they offered to house him elsewhere (which ended up not being necessary). Even though our experience with Friday hadn't been great, our experience with the rescue was, so we went on to foster through them again as soon as Friday was adopted out.

oliverAnd since then, we've fostered, by my count, 10 dogs through Hound Rescue. Four beagles; three beagle mixes; two larger hound mixes; and a bloodhound. One of the mixes was a puppy. The bloodhound was a disaster and did have to go to another home (suddenly, it became clear just what it means for a house to be too small for a dog). Three of them I would have kept in a heartbeat. Two of them had fairly major medical issues. Nearly all of them had ear infections, mange, fleas, or all three. All of them taught me something. And, most importantly, all of them had a home with us, and now have homes with other loving families (well, aside from Huey, but he will).

I've never done anything else that has filled me with such a sense of wonder as dog rescue. These animals NEED us, and they give us so much for what amounts to so little. But it's not always easy. I've had to learn to be more patient, for sure, and deal with more extreme nastiness than I ever could have guessed (there is seriously nothing grosser than seven puppies being dewormed). It's been hard on my permanent animals, particularly the cats. It's been hard to let them go. It's been hard to keep them.

grace and eug 5My major piece of advice for anyone considering doing rescue is to focus not on the type of dog you want to foster, but on the organization with whom you are going to work. The support you are offered by the organization makes ALL the difference. It turns out that we love beagles, and I can't imagine not having more of them in my lifetime, but I doubt we'll foster beagles in Virginia, unless we happen to find another fantastic hound rescue. It's generally harder to find fosters for larger breed dogs, and we're comfortable with the big guys, so we'll likely look in that direction. Also, since I am going to work from home, we're open to puppies again, which we haven't been. Mostly, though, what we're going to look for is an organization that supports its fosters, provides resources, and never makes you feel like you should do more than you can. We've found that here, and we never would have gotten this far into rescue without it. I very much hope we can find it there, too.

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The further adventures of Huey P.

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Remember when Huey got his head stuck in the cat box lid?

Well, apparently, it's not just the cat boxes he gets in too far with. He's into their toys, too.

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I'm scattered along the way

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Home is where the heart is
Ain't that what they always say
My heart lies in broken pieces
Scattered along the way

-Steve Earle

When I left Oregon, I was too stupid to know I was going to miss it. Not just miss it, but hurt for it. I was so excited about my plans and being somewhere else and getting out and seeing things that I neglected to realize that there was nothing I could see that was ever going to compare with growing up in the Umpqua Valley or coming of age in Mt. Hood's backyard. I knew I loved my family, but I had no idea what the real difference was between being a three hour drive away and being a five hour flight away.

It didn't take too long away for me to figure it out. I've spent the majority of my twenties--the time I've been away from home--trying to see a way back.

And now I'm almost thirty, and I'm moving in the wrong direction. Only this time, there is no happy ignorance. I know both that I am moving farther away from home and that I'm leaving the surrogate so carefully constructed in Austin. I spent today driving a rental car all over Northern Virginia, checking out houses and neighborhoods and noting the locations of grocery stores and the traffic patterns. Researching. Making plans. Plans to uproot myself again.

The truth is that it breaks my heart to realize I am going to miss Austin. I miss Oregon so much I didn't think I could miss anywhere else, but just like the number of people for whom I am homesick keeps on increasing, apparently the places for which I am homesick will as well.

I guess this is just how it is. Your whole life is, in some way, about leaving. And I am supposed to be getting better at it as I get older. Instead, the older I get, the more people and places I miss, and the more I resent the whole situation. The more I don't want to meet new people, or integrate into a new place, because they'll eventually leave my life as well. Whatever excitement I can muster for the new stuff, it doesn't hold a candle to the nostalgia towards the old.

And, more than anything else, I still just want to go home. It doesn't help in the least that it continually becomes a more complicated question just where that is.

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A long way from government cheez

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Back in college and just after, in my hippier and less materalistic days, I used to like this song by T.R. Kelley called "Downwardly Mobile" (aka Government Cheez)." I can't remember all the lyrics now, but one refrain was, "you gotta pay somebody money to do things you ain't got time to do because you are too busy earning money." It repeated several times over to reinforce the circular logic. The song was all about living a low budget life that focused on valuing time over money. Another lyric said that "time is the one thing you can't buy back." At the time, I found that to be wise advise--do something you love, take off as much time as possible, live low on the food chain, reduce, reuse, etc. I never romanticized poverty the way some of my peers did--I grew up in it, so I had a better idea of the realities than most people--but I never intended to be wealthy, either, and I certainly didn't intend to be a big consumer.

The me of ten years ago would definitely scoff at the today's me--her makeup, her fancy bath products, her mortgage and car loan, and especially her very straight desk job. This was not what my younger self had in mind for us, for sure. So what happened?

A lot of things, I'm sure, but the biggest single one? I started making money. Unexpectedly, mid-grad school, I got a job that paid twice as much as the highest paying job I'd ever had before. So we bought a house. And a new car. And my lifestyle, without me much noticing, changed to accomodate my income. I'd been on my way to a class change since college, based on my educatio, but when I actually started having the income to match, it was complete. I took my place, unwittingly, maybe, but fully, in the American middle class.

The extent to which this has happened has been driven home this week, as Mark and I have been deciding who to hire to work on our house. We aren't just hiring someone to do the work we aren't qualified to do, like some electrical repair and intalling carpet, but to do the work we are, like cleaning up the landscape and painting. We're not hiring expertise; we're hiring labor. We're paying someone else to do something we could do ourselves, and it is a better economic argument for us to do so, as our labor (mine, in particular) is worth far more per hour than the labor of our painters and landscapers.

Just typing that makes my heart hurt. Ladies and gentlemen, I have become The Man.

It is information I'm not quite sure what to do with. On one hand, I am glad I'm not painting and landscaping in 100+ heat. And I recognize that I have put quite a bit of time and money into developing the skill set that allows my labor to be worth enough that hiring someone to do those things for me is feasible. But I also recognize that my time and money aren't the only reasons I'm here and not painting or weeding--it also has to do with luck. The luck of being born white and an American citizen. The luck of being born into a supportive family. The luck of being born without physical or cognitive obstacles to overcome. None of those things have anything to do with my effort. None of those are things I "deserve," they are just things I got. Given that, how can it possibly be right for me to make more sitting at a desk than the men who are sweating at my house are making from me?

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Where do your taxes work?

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I just got into an interesting discussion with someone who said, among other things, that she had no idea what percentage of her taxes paid for what services or programs. I was sort of shocked by this at first, but then got to thinking about it, and a lot of people probably don't know that (or they have major misconceptions about it). Due to the nature of my graduate degree and some of the jobs I've had, I actually have a pretty fair idea, and, more importantly, I know where/how to find that information, but I haven't really thought too much about it in recent years (being away from school and those jobs). So, I thought maybe it would make interesting blog fodder?

So, a tutorial. If you want to know how much you personally are paying to fund what, here is what you need to do.

Step 1: Determine your tax burden.
First, you need to know how much of your earnings you are paying to the federal government (for the sake of simplicity, we're going to keep this example all federal). You can find this on your tax return. I'll be the example:

As per my 2008 tax return, I paid $4,153 in federal income tax in 2008.

However, the federal government does have other sources of revenue. Personal income taxes only account for about half of total government income. The rest is made up of Social Security payments, payroll taxes, corporate income tax, excise tax, customs duties, estate taxes, etc. If you are like me, the only one of those that applies to you personally is Social Security, and you can get your paid in amount for that off your W-2.

As per my 2008 W-2, I paid $3,373.22 in Social Security withholding in 2008.

Finally, I also paid Medicare tax, which is separate from both income tax and Social Security. This is on the W-2 as well.

As per my 2008 W-2, I paid $788.90 in Medicare tax in 2008.

So, my total personal contribution to the 2008 federal government spending was $8,315.12. For the sake of whole numbers, we'll skip the $.12 and round to $8,315.

Step 2: Determine federal budget.
This is where things get trickier. Federal budgeting and federal spending are not the same thing, any more than your budget and you're spending are (or mine, anyway). A budget is what is planned to spend, not what is spent. That being said, if you are, like I am, looking at the last full year, you are likely to find more solid numbers for budgeting than for spending--it's easier to get your arms around. And, for the purposes a getting a general idea of where your money is going, it will work. So, we need to find the 2008 Federal Budget. The best place to do that, for my money, is the source itself--the GPO Access website. But, as you'd imagine, the federal budget is not exactly a simple document to navigate, and what we want is a simple breakdown. Luckily, someone has already provided that over at the lazy Internet sleuth's friend, Wikipedia.
Fy2008spendingbycategory.png
(Pie chart courtesy of Skiddum, used with permission.)

Step 3: Do the math.
From here, it's simple math. Multiply the percentage of federal budget dollars spent in each category by the total you paid in. For me, it works out like this:

Social Security (21%): $1,746.15
Department of Defense (16.6%): $1,380.29
Medicare (13.3%): $1,105.90
Unemployment/welfare/other mandatory spending (11.2%): $931.28
Interest on the national debt (9%): $748.35
Medicaid and SCHIP (7.2%): $598.68
Global War on Terror (5%): $415.75
Health and Human Services (2.4%): $199.56
Department of Education (1.9%): $157.99
Other on-budget discretionary spending (1.8%): $149.67
Department of Veteran's Affairs (1.4%): $116.41
Other off-budget discretionary spending (1.3%): $108.10
Department of Housing and Urban Development (1.2%): $99.78
Department of Homeland Security (1.2%): $99.78
Energy (0.8%): $66.52
Department of Justice (0.7%): $58.21
Department of Agriculture (0.7%): $58.21
NASA (0.6%): $49.89
Department of Transportation (0.4%): $33.26
Department of Treasury (0.4%) $33.26
Department of the Interior (0.4%): $33.26
Department of Labor (0.4%): $33.26

Obviously, these numbers are only as helpful as you understand what each category represents. And there are some pretty big things left out. For example, the Iraq and Afghanistan Wars aren't funded through the budget, they are funded through special appropriations. So the $1,380.29 I gave the DoD last year? That's without my contribution to those wars.

Government budgeting is an extraordinarily (and maybe unnecessarily) complicated process. These estimates are very, very rough. Given time and resources, I could come up with better ones, but those would be rough too. However, even given its flaws, I this is a worthwhile exercise to get an idea of how much of your personal money goes where. For example, I'm not surprised by the amounts going to DoD and Social Security and the "War on Terror," but I had no idea I was paying $750 a year towards national debt interest, or only $160 on education. However rough they may be, those are enlightening (and horrifying) numbers.

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Midweek makeup blogging: eye crayons

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It is midweek, right? Well, close enough.

I really will blog about some of the other issues you wonderful readers suggested, but not until I have time and thought to spare. Which could, at this point, be months. In the meantime, it is easy to blog about makeup. Makeup is very, very simple.

So let me tell you about a product I love. The eye crayon. It's like a pencil eyeliner, only bigger and softer. It goes on like a thick eyeliner, but looks sort of somewhere in between liner and shadow. And it's my favorite eye product. If I am in a hurry, I can just color over my top lash line and be done, no need for shadow or anything. If I have a bit more time, I pair it with shadow and love the look even more. It's very natural, not a harsh line like a lot of eyeliner can be.

My love for the eye crayon started with picking up a couple of Jane Colorsticks Eye Crayons on super-sale at Walgreen's (I think they were $.99 or something). Even when not on sale, these are cheap--only about $4 each. I've tried the Mercury Rising, which is a grayish purple, and the Oh Yes, which is a silvery green, and liked both. The only downside I found with these was that they didn't last all day.

In hopes of finding something more long-lasting, I then tried a high end version: Lorac's Sparkle Pencil Shadow/Liner. At $16, this is a much more expensive option than the Jane crayons, and it only comes in Midnight Sparkle (black with silver sparkle) and Blue Topaz (blue with silver sparkle). I bought the Midnight Sparkle. It goes on the same way as the Jane product, and it does last longer, but I'm not a fan of the glitter or the black for everyday use. I'm holding on to the Lorac crayon, but it's a dress-up event type of product, and at $16, I wouldn't buy another one.

Knowing that what I really wanted was a longer-lasting version of the Jane product that comes in a range of colors, without glitter, I saw Sephora's version on a trip to Sephora for something else, and hit the jackpot. The Sephora Brand Jumbo Pencil is the perfect eye crayon. At $6 each, they only cost a bit more than the Jane version, they are long lasting (especially over eye primer), and they come in great colors. I started with the violet, which I love, but I'm expecting the gray and the beige in the mail soon. Don't be turned off by the boring names--the violet is almost exactly the same color as Jane's Mercury Rising, beige is really champagne, etc.

There are some more eye crayons I'd like to try. If I could learn to love the glittery look a bit more, I think Pop Beauty's Glitter Stix would be fun. Nars Glitter Pencil is expensive ($24), but comes in great colors. On the bargain front, Rimmel's Exaggerate Eye Crayon looks promising--it's less than $4 and has fun, glitter-less colors. There is also Maybelline's version,the Cool Effects Cooling Shadow Liner, which has fantastic colors (I love the Cold Front and the Cool as Cucumber) and retails for about the same price as the Sephora version. Finally, I'm interested in the version by Pixi Beauty (which sells at Target). I'm not sure how much they are, but they have awesome bright colors I haven't seen elsewhere.

I recommend these, especially for those who have trouble applying regular eyeliner or don't like the harsh look. But go with a cheaper one--the Jane or the Sephora--this is one area where so far I see no need to spend a lot of extra cash.

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My life in a box

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What's going on at my house?

Let Atticus give you a hint:

Yep. We're packing. It's part of a a multi-step pack-renovate-pack-show-pack-sell-pack-move process.

Why yes, I AM in hell!

I don't think of myself as being overly attached to my stuff, but I realized today, when faced with not seeing my craft supplies until September, that I am. And I am putting off packing up all of the non-necessities in my bathroom. Two months plus with no changes in soap??

Seriously. I'm going to try to keep blogging regularly (my laptop, needless to say, will not be packed until the very last moment), but things are getting extremely hectic around here, so if there is some radio silence, it's probably because I'm up to my ears in boxes and tape.

Pity me.

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Yo! Spend local!

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First, a question: how far back to you have to trace something for the sake of blog etiquette? For example, the thing I am about to post was made known to me when it was Google Reader shared by my friend Jenny, who shared this post from ennui will rock you (best blog name ever!), who in turn picked it up from this post on Humble Cuisine. I can't tell where they got it, because their site isn't working correctly on my browser. Now, did I need to tell you all that? If not, should I have stopped with Jenny? With ennui will rock you?

Getting on to the subject at hand:

You in? I'm going to give this a try this weekend. I'm shooting for stores that aren't just in my city, but in my neighborhood. I'll report back.

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June contest winner!

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Sorry about the delay--I just remembered I needed to pick my winner for this.

Only ended up with 15 comments, so your odds aren't bad. And the winner, as per Random Integer Generator, is...

TWO!!

That would be this comment:

I'd love for you to get back to blogging your vintage something Thursdays if possible. Would also love to hear more about the loved animals.

Posted by El | June 10, 2009 2:40 PM

El, you are a winner! I'll be getting a super deluxe Little Black Box in the mail to you soon!

Everyone else, thanks for playing!

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Zenni Optical, I love you

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I wear glasses. My eyes have been bad forever, and I've worn glasses full-time since sometime in college. I wore contacts for a bit when I lived in Oregon, but I haven't been able to do that in Texas due to allergy issues. I long for Lasik surgery, but it's not something I've made a financial priority as yet.

In the meantime, I am picky about my glasses. I want fun, funky glasses, and I want multiple pairs to choose from. You can see a bit of my glasses history here (these are in approximate chronological order, and span the last five years):

In recent years, I've met these needs by spending hours looking at frames at Lenscrafters or the like when they're having a twofer sale. That way, I get two pairs to switch between. Last time I did this, though, I ended up with two pairs of glasses that fell apart within a few months. Not cool. So, when I got my new prescription in May, Id decided to go to Costco Optical, which had been recommended to me by several people, pay a bit more, and just buy one new pair of glasses.

I did that. I ended up buying two pairs--one regular glasses, one sunglasses (pretty much a necessity if you want to be able to drive here). My total was around $280. More than I've ever paid for glasses, but I figured I needed a good pair, so I paid it. Then I waited for a week while my glasses were made.

When I picked them up, the sunglasses were fine. I ended up not living the rather ostentatious frames I'd picked, but they worked fine. The regular glasses, however, hit me with a headache and nausea the minute I put them on. Figuring it was just that new glasses feeling, I tried to get used to them.

And tried and tried. And kept feeling sick. And then came to the conclusion that the prescription in the glasses must be wrong and that I should take them back.

And then went on vacation. And then got sick. And then neglected to do anything.

So I found myself in the position of having no accurate prescription glasses. When I complained about this state of things online, an e-friend pointed me towards Zenni Optical. Looking at the website, I felt pretty skeptical. Glasses for as little as $8? Really? How is that possible? But I loved a lot of their frames, and the risk didn't seem too big, so I decided to give it a try. I measured my pupillary distance with a ruler in the mirror, entered in my prescription from the card the eye doctor gave me, and made an order for three pairs: one conservative, one geek chic, one funky and bejeweled. Total cost, including shipping and handling, was $37.80. I made my order on Friday, June 15. On Monday, June 15, I received an email notifying me that my glasses were shipping. Yesterday, June 17, they arrived.

And I am thrilled with them. Every pair fits correctly, has the correct prescription (I can see and don't have a headache), and looks awesome.

The quality seems fine--they come in cheap cases, but that is pretty easy to fix. I don't see any difference between them and the ones I've gotten anywhere else, except that at $9.95-$12.95 each, they were less than 10% of the price. How does Zenni Optical do that? I have no idea, and honestly, I don't care. I just plan to take full advantage of it. Next up--different styles of sunglasses!

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The Story of Goo

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In September, the rescue called to ask if Mark and I could pick up a dog at the shelter and hang on to him for a couple of days before another foster could take him. Since we already had one foster (Belle), we said sure, so long as he wasn't permanent. We were briefed on him--older, friendly, overweight--and expected a dog much like our Belly.

That was the day we met Huey. While we were waiting for someone at the shelter to bring him out to us, we looked at his intake form. Under weight, it said 62.5 lbs. "Must be misprint," we said to each other. "Or he's a mixed breed. No way a beagle can be that big."

When he came through the door, we saw that we were wrong. I took one look at his rotund body and short little legs and smile, and christened him Huey P. Long (though the man himself was apparently not that fat, whenever I think of him I see him as portrayed by John Goodman, and that's what popped into my brain upon seeing Huey for the first time).

Huey P. had a lot of weight-related issues, obviously, but some fairy serious other problems as well. He had parasites, fleas, and the worst ear infection I have ever seen (there was, literally, black liquid coming out of his ears). Boy were we glad he was only going to be with us for a few days!

And then a few days became "a bit longer," as the foster who was supposed to take him ended up with another dog instead. And by the time "a bit longer" could possibly have rolled around, we'd already decided he was fine where he was. We are pretty centrally located and close to the vet the rescue uses, so we had less trouble than most taking him in for his numerous appointments. And he was getting along very well with everyone at our house, including Atticus, who is, in general, not that easy to love.

Not just easy to get along with, though, Huey also just made himself at home. Unlike a lot of fosters, he was almost immediately comfortable and at home at our house. He picked out his spots, attached to us, and moved right on in. He was too fat to get onto the furniture, but loved the dog beds, and made a special favorite place out of a basket intended for the much smaller Belle (much to her dismay).

Then, in late October, Huey suddenly started limping very seriously. When it didn't get better, we took him to the vet and learned that he had torn his cruciate ligament. This is not an uncommon injury in dogs, especially those who are very overweight and large breeds. It can be fixed surgically--often very successfully--but the surgery costs a lot of money and comes complete with a long recovery period. Before Mark and I called our rescue coordinator to tell her all this, we talked about it ourselves. We both agreed that if the rescue couldn't come up with the cash to fix Huey's leg, we could. These are the situations for which credit cards are invented.

Luckily, the rescue did come up with the cash. Some very generous folks (including some who came right from the button on this blog!) ponied up, and we were able to schedule Huey's surgery for January.

A few days before Huey's pre-surgical consult, he started limping on the other side. It looked bad. Mark took him to the consult and the doctor confirmed that he had indeed blown the other ligament. Since it would render the dog completely unable to walk, he recommended against getting both sides fixed at once. Rather, he said, he would fix the new injury, which was more serious, and Huey would continue to get around on his other leg until he was healed up from surgery and the second one could be done. We agreed to this plan.

While we were waiting for his surgery, Huey continued to endear himself to us in all kinds of ways. One reason we didn't adore him, however, was his insistence on trying to get into the cat boxes (which neither Leo nor Ata shares). To keep him away from them, we put a baby gate up in the doorway to our laundry room. Then, one day, we came home to find the gate knocked down and Huey running around with his head completely stuck in a cat box lid! (I blogged about that here.) Even though we ended up having to cut the box lid off him, we couldn't be too mad--it was just too damn funny!

As luck would have it, Mark ended up being out of town on the day of Huey's surgery. I worried myself into near hysterics and got horribly lost on the way to the surgical hospital (which is the same place where Chance had his post-bloat surgeries and died). By the time I got there, I was frantic, but I had to hand him over and hope for the best.

Early that afternoon, they called to let me know that it had gone fine and I could come and pick him up after work. When I got there, he looked a bit pathetic and out of it, but happy to see me. He had a couple of tumors removed as well as the ligament repair (including a large one in his tail), and those injuries were even nastier than the stitched up leg. With strict instructions to keep him still and coned, I took him home.

Huey was not the model patient. Always rambunctious (especially given his size and age), he had trouble understanding why he couldn't play fetch or roam outside. For the first few days, he had to be crated whenever I wasn't watching him, and he hated that. He also hated being taken outside on a leash only. But we survived, and his leg and other injuries began to heal.

After about a month of healing, we discovered something--Huey could now (with a little boost) get on the couch! To many people, this wouldn't be considered a good thing, but given how much Huey loves to cuddle, we thought it was excellent.

Now it's June. Huey's incisions are all healed up and he's down to around 45 pounds. He's still big for a beagle, but he looks very good. He's ready to have his other leg fixed, and I'm sad to say that we won't be the ones who care for him after that happens. See, we're moving across the country, and we can't take foster dogs with us. And, even after spending the better part of a year as part of our family, Huey is a foster dog. So, he's is going to be going to another foster family. It's probably going to happen sooner rather than later, in order to give us one less pet with whom we had to deal while trying to fix up and show our house.

This is the part people ask about most often. How do you let them go? It's a very good question. It's not easy. Especially after so many months and him (and by extension, us) having gone through so much. But even after all this time, and as much as I adore Huey, I don't feel like he's one of my dogs. I knew from the beginning that he was with us only temporarily, and I kept that idea in the back of my head all the time. Which isn't to say I didn't get attached to him--I did and I am--but it is still a very different thing than the way I feel about the dogs I know are staying with me until they (or I) die.

One thing that makes it easier is being very confident that he'll be taken care of. It is not unlikely that Huey will remain a "foster" dog forever. He's approximately 10 years old and he's beat up. He's got scars and a permanent limp and his tail, though much better, is still pretty mutant. As well as he's doing, he's still not a dog for someone who isn't willing to spend a lot of time and money at the vet over the next few years, or for someone who isn't willing to take on the possibility that s/he just won't have very long with him. Given those odds, and as many dogs as are in rescue right now, it may be that nobody ever picks Huey. But if they don't, he'll still have a home, just like the one he's had with us. One of the benefits of working with a small rescue, like we do, is knowing the other foster families. Because I know them, I know that Huey will be fine with them. It's a tribute to Huey's personality, as well, that I am so confident he'll make himself right at home and become part of someone else's family, just like he became part of ours. And if it turns out he needs to move between several homes over the remainder of his life, which may well end up being the case, he'll do fine with that. He's that kind of dog. I have absolute faith, however, that the rescue we've been working with over these past few years will do right by him, even if he costs more money than he brings in (which will be the case no matter what happens) and takes up valuable foster space. That day Mark and I, as representatives of the rescue, pulled Huey out of the pound, the rescue made a commitment to him forever. And they will see it through, even if Mark and I aren't here to help out.

Over the past few years, rescuing dogs has been among the most challenging and worthwhile things I have done. It may well be THE most worthwhile thing. It has been a fantastic experience that I absolutely believe has made me a better person. Having Huey here for this last year has been the perfect end to that experience, and has done nothing but cement my commitment to rescue, and in particular to rescuing old dogs and dogs with health issues. He is an amazing, resilient, goofy, lovable, loud, loyal, wonderful animal. Our lives have been vastly improved by having him, as I am sure his has been by being with us. The end our role in it may be making me a little bit weepy, but Huey's a very good story.

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What's to come

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So far, I've only had 10 entries to my June Contest, which is a bummer, since the prize is pretty awesome. So, if you haven't entered, go do that. In the meantime, these are the suggestions for blog topics I have received:


  • memememememememe
    Apparently, Frog would like me to blog about her. I might do that.

  • I'd love for you to get back to blogging your vintage something Thursdays if possible. Would also love to hear more about the loved animals.
    These are both good suggestions. I'll try to pull out a vintage item this Thursday, and an animal-related post is forthcoming.

  • I think you should blog about -- ummmm -- cake. Or pie. Or maybe that's just due to my having skipped lunch. I need to think more about it.
    If I make or eat any good cake or pie over the next few weeks, I promise to tell you all about it.

  • Blog about makeup! Show us your favorite products, looks and how to pull them off.
    Did this, and will continue. Look for a post soon about expensive v. cheap options and when I think the extra money is worth it.

  • How about... postcards?
    I'm not sure how to do this. I keep thinking of something Post Secret-esque. I'll keep thinking about it.

  • Blog about closets, whether actual or dream-closets. :)
    Again, not sure what I have to say on this subject, but I will think about it.

  • I'd love to read more about your pets and fosters (how's Huey?). And your thoughts on finding a new rescue group after you move.
    This is very much on my mind these days, so definitely expect a post coming up on this subject.

  • for reasons obvious to you, i'd love to know more about how money is an issue in your fam, namely, that you make way more of it then them. Is there embarrassment? Do you rebuff gifts? Help out? Get flack for your spending by them? Tell them how much you make? etc.
    and
    Building on Jenny's comment, I'd be interested in learning more about how money impacts your relationship with your significant other (if that isn't too private). My boyfriend and I are getting to a point where more finances are shared and it is an adjustment that I'm interested in getting others' perspectives on.
    Both really good suggestions, and pretty heavy topics. I may need to mull over this subject for a bit, but I'll attempt to get some thoughts out on it soon.

  • I always like seeing pictures of your house and decorating style. And food. Food is always good.
    We're getting our house ready to sell now, and it's going to be on the market in three or so weeks. You can guarantee you are going to be seeing pictures of THAT.

What else? As long as I am building a topic list, I may as well hear from anybody who is interested. C'mon, readers who don't usually comment--what posts interest you?

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Makin' money via BlogHer ads

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Back in February, when I signed on with the BlogHer ad network, I posted to explain why. At that time, I said:

So, why? Well, not for the reason you think. For me, it's got nothing to do with money--as low as my readership is, I hardly think it's going to bring in the big bucks, and whatever I get from it is going straight to charity. But, after observing and hearing about them for so long, I wanted to be part of the network. Under that ad are links to posts from other blogs in my group, and I am exicted as heck about that--both finding new things to read that way and having my own work featured in those links in the future. So there's that reason.

The other reason is that my blogging has been falling off lately, and it's largely because I am not making time for it when I have so many other projects to do. Projects that I am responsible for, because someone is paying me for them, or at least expecting them of me. Joining the network puts my blog on the list of those projects--paid projects for which I am responsible, not things I just do for myself. Since it's a major goal this year to blog daily or near-daily, getting my blog on that list was an important step In general, I think my ad plan has worked. I've blogged much more steadily since the ads came about than I did before that, my entries have often been featured in the links, and my readership has gone up (though my vacation hiatus sent it spiralling back down).

And, I've made some money. Not much, but some. Today I got my first payment from BlogHer, for $35.22. I believe that is for three months, but I'm not sure.

So, where should it go? As I said originally, all proceeds go straight to charity. What geeky women's charity can I put this towards? Ideas?

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The daily makeup

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I'm going to go through the suggestions of things to write about given by the entrants into my June contest, starting with the easier ones. Like Geminita's, which said "Blog about makeup! Show us your favorite products, looks and how to pull them off." Seems like a good place to start!

Playing with Photo BoothWhat you see here (and please excuse my poor Photo Booth picture) is my every day going-to-work makeup. I change it up some, but it basically looks like this.

So what do I have on?

Face
Smashbox Photo Finish Foundation Primer; Clinique Moisture Sheer SPF 15 Tinted Moisturizer in Neutral; Clinique Almost Makeup SPF 15 Pressed Powder in Fair; Lancome Blush Subtil Delicate Oil Free Powder Blush in Cedar Rose.

Eyes
Pop Beauty Eye Magnet Primer; Smashbox Photo Op Under Eye Brightener; Dior Diorshow Mascara in Black; Urban Decay 24/7 Glide-On Eye Pencil in 1999; The Body Shop Shimmer Cubes Eye Shadow in Palette 16 (Midnight Black and Moonlight Silver only).

Lips
Clinique Almost Lipstick in Black Honey

I know that sounds like a ton of stuff, but it isn't time consuming. My morning routine goes like this:
1. Put on water for coffee (we use a French press)
2. Use bathroom, put on deodorant and perfume; brush teeth, wash face
3. Put on makeup
4. Pour now-boiling water into French press
5. Get dressed
6. Pour now ready coffee into thermos
7. Leave

It's about 25 minutes total, and however long it takes a small kettle of water to boil is how long it takes me to put my makeup on. Less than 15 minutes for sure.

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Prioritizing with The Prioritizer

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I was reading one of my favorite debt-reduction blogs, I've Paid For This Twice Already... today, and paidtwice mentioned The Prioritizer. The Prioritizer is a tool created by CNN Money to help folks focus on their financial goals.

It works very simply--you enter up to 15 goals in the boxes (long-term or short-term), and the Prioritizer pits them against each other in various ways, with you having to choose not between all of them, but just between two of them at a time. Once you've made all your choices, it spits out a ranking of which goals you have indicated are most important to you.

Seems like something we shouldn't need a tool to help us with, right? For me at least, not really. It's very difficult to look at a list of things, all of which I want, and rank them. Much easier to pick between two things. So I decided to try it.

First, I listed some goals. I went back to my 43 Things list to remember some of them.

The 12 goals I came up with were:


  • travel

  • get a Ph.D.

  • get Lasik surgery

  • see Gustav Klimt's paintings in person

  • donate more to charity

  • pay off my student loans

  • work for myself full-time

  • publish writing

  • have my photo taken by Karen Walrond

  • start my own dog rescue

  • move back to Oregon

  • build a retirement fund

After going through the exercise, the tool told me my priorities lined up like this:


  1. move back to Oregon (100)

  2. travel (90.9)

  3. pay off my student loans (81.8)

  4. work for myself full-time (72.7)

  5. see Gustav Klimt's art in person (63.6)

  6. get Lasik surgery (45.5)

  7. build a retirement fund (37.9)

  8. donate more to charity (34.8)

  9. start a dog rescue (28.8)

  10. have my photo taken by Karen Walrond (25.8)

  11. get a Ph.D. (18.2)

  12. publish my writing (0)

There are definitely some surprises here. The first two are what I expected, with moving back to Oregon being my #1 long-term priority and traveling in general being the most important way to spend money I can think of right now (though my actions don't necessarily line up with those priorities). The rest, though, is interesting. I had no idea that getting a Ph.D. would rank so low, or that build a retirement fund is more important to me right now than donating more to charity or starting a dog rescue. And publishing writing might as well just drop from the list completely, since I rank it behind everything else.

I don't know how much this list will change the way I spend money, but it certainly gives me a new way to thinking about some things. So what about you? Try it and see if you are as surprised as I am.

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JUNE CONTEST!!

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I haven't had a give away in awhile. It's time.

The prize: A super-deluxe edition of the Little Black Box, made up of things taken from my boxes from the last several months, as well as some other miscellany. May contain body products, candles, jewelry...and whatever else strikes my fancy.

Who can enter: Anyone. One entry per person, please.

Dates: Contest closes one week from today, Wednesday, June 17.

How to enter: Leave me a comment and tell me something you'd like to see me blog about. Be sure to use your email or leave me another way to get in touch with you if you win.

Good Luck!

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Farewell, Olde Reed

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reed college seal.jpgAt the beginning of my senior year in high school, I put together a list of colleges to which I wanted to apply. I'd always assumed I'd go to college far away, but once I actually had to start applying, I surprised myself by wanting to stick close to home. My list, if I remember correctly, was comprised of University of Oregon Honor's College; Stanford; Reed; Lewis & Clark; and The Evergreen State College. In the fall, before the early decision deadlines, my mom and I went to Portland to visit Lewis & Clark and Reed.

And on that day I fell in love. I spent about 10 minutes on Reed campus before I knew that was where I wanted to go. I applied early decision and was accepted in January. I withdrew my other applications. My decision was made.

That was in 1996-1997. If I am remembering correctly, the total estimated tab for a year at Reed (including tuition and fees and room and board) was about $30,000. In what I can only consider an irony, $30,000 was almost exactly the same amount as my family's total annual income, as per the endless financial aid forms I filled out.

But it was OK. Because, back then, Reed had a policy by which, if they accepted you, they offered some sort of financial aid to cover your estimated need (given, of course, that estimated need is calculated in a very different way by an admissions counselor than by an actual family with other bills to pay). With a family at home living under the poverty line, my estimated need was complete, and my acceptance came with an offer of complete financial aid. They covered everything--tuition, fees, room, board, and even some living expenses. There was a letter along with my acceptance letter outlining the funding I was being offered. Part of it (I think about $4,000 that first year) was a federally guaranteed Stafford Loan, and part was a Pell Grant, but most of it was just a big fat grant from the college itself. A new version of that same letter cam every semester I was at Reed, and while the loan amounts did increase (I left with a total of about $30,000 in loans), I never had to make a hard decision, or scrounge for tuition.

Things have changed. As per an article in the yesterday's New York Times, more than 100 students otherwise deemed good candidates were dropped from Reed's accepted freshman class for next year, due to financial need. The total cost of going to Reed is now estimated at about $50,000 a year, and students are not only not being offered all the help they would need to pay that amount, some of them are simply not being accepted if they can't pay it.

Reed has for now cast aside its hopes of accepting students based purely on merit, without regard to wealth, and still meeting their financial need. Only the nation's richest colleges do that. What's more, when Reed turned to its waiting list this year, it tapped only students who could pay their way.

To say I am disappointed would, I think, be an understatement. I understand that the recession is taking its toll, and that the money has to come from somewhere. I'm skeptical that Reed couldn't find a better way to come up with some of it (the article mentions that plans to build a new performing arts center on campus are moving forward), but I do get that cuts have to be made. The thing that infuriates me is not that Reed can't offer aid-as-needed to all accepted students, like they could when I went there. It's that the response to this, rather than accepting those students anyway, offering them the aid that is available, and letting them decide how to proceed, is not accepting them at all.

That is simple discrimination. Leaving 100 plus students off the acceptance list (and everyone off the waiting list) because of their income is, to my mind, exactly the same as leaving them off due to their race, gender, or religion. While it is not Reed's responsibility to offer aid to everyone (and aid can be reasonably based on merit as well as need), how can it not be the college's responsibility to offer admission with a blind eye to money? How can it possibly be justified to have "ability to pay for it, based on our analysis" be an admissions criteria?

It is true that if I hadn't been offered the aid package I was at Reed, I wouldn't have gone there. It simply wouldn't have been possible without taking out huge unsubsidized loans, and I wouldn't have been willing to do that. But shouldn't it have been my choice? Accepting me and not offering me aid would have been harsh, but reasonable. Not accepting me based on my perceived ability to pay, though? That's just wrong.

I loved, and still love, Reed. I got the best education I can imagine there. It was absolutely worth the loans I'm going to be re-paying until I'm 40, worth the four years of too many books and too little sleep, worth the class-based chip it wore into my shoulder, worth the guilt that comes with being over-educated in an under-educated family. I've spent quite a bit of breathe in the last few years defending Reed from the critics who find it both too pompous and too permissive. I believe in the way Reed has historically conducted itself, at least by and large. But this isn't the first time since I graduated that I have been massively disappointed in my alma mater. Just a couple of years post-graduation, I wrote an incensed letter to the Board of Directors about Reed's shoddy treatment of their non-faculty employees. (The letter, by the way, was met with an extremely snarky and disrespectful reply from one board member, against whom I hold a grudge to this day.) Looking at the students chosen to profile in the most recent Reed magazine, I'm left wondering what, exactly, they are trying to become (Why is everyone so normal looking? Where are the freaks?). And now this. Not just a choice to put buildings and keeping the endowment up ahead of students, but an actual policy of exclusion of low-income attendees. People like me. People like some of the best friends (and most dedicated students) I knew while I was there. If they are looking for a fast way to destroy the good in what Reed has historically been, this just might do it.

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Traveling by book

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Laurie has a great post over at BlogHer today about books and the places they can take you--both metaphorically and physically. Her piece, in turn, was inspired by Sandra Foyt's How to Plan A Read Across America Road Trip. Basically, both entries are about the places reading books inspires one to go, or at least to dream about visiting.

Laurie writes:

Since I discovered this idea I've been thinking of cities and regions I love that have amazing literary history, that have inspired me to seek out the voices writing about them - New Orleans, San Francisco, New York, London (I'm an Austen fan - I could go for a country tour, no problem.) Hemingway made me see and taste Europe almost like I was there, and when I go back, I should probably bring A Moveable Feast for a re-read.

Like Laurie, I'm enamored with the idea. Maybe a trip to Ireland would be just the thing to finally get me to read James Joyce? Again like Laurie, nothing has made me want to see Spain like Hemingway (in my case, The Sun Also Rises). I'd even be willing to re-read Anna Karenina (well, maybe), if I could do it in Russia.

Imagine re-creating Humbert and Lo's American adventure while reading along with Lolita! Or taking a slow drive from Oklahoma to California with The Grapes of Wrath? Anne Rice put New Orleans in my imagination forever, but I'd also love to see Faulkner's Mississippi and Zora Neale Hurston's Alabama.

The hallmark of a good book, for me, has always had to do with how I react to the characters. Weak plot points are not an issue if the characters can make me love them (or hate them, or pity them, or lust after them). But in the best books (and not just books, but songs, movies, etc.) location serves as a character or characters all its own. Would To Kill a Mockingbird have worked set on the Midwest? What about a Southern Sometimes a Great Notion? Could a tree have grown in Detriot instead of Brooklyn? I think not. The places in which these books are set are not just backdrops--they are essentials. The stories don't work without them.

One of the truly great things about reading books in which the location is as compelling as the characters is the way it makes you consider places you otherwise wouldn't--not always positively. I hadn't given a whole lot of thought to Newfoundland before I read The Shipping News, and Ami McKay's The Birth House made me think about Nova Scotia in a way I certainly hadn't before. While driving through Kansas a couple of years ago, my mind often returned to In Cold Blood. Europe has long been at the top of my must-see list, but The Poisonwood Bible absolutely made me want to go to Africa.

Books also help me return to the places I do know. I picked up Marion Winik's Above Us Only Sky for the first time not because it looked particularly interesting (though it turned out to be fabulous), but because the essays are set in Austin. Some of my favorite books are set in Oregon: Katherine Dunn's Geek Love; Ken Kesey's books; and of course Beverly Cleary!

Given that I'm about to move across the country, again, to a place about which I know very little, I guess now would be a good time to find some books to guide me. Anybody have a favorite set in Northern Virginia?

And what about you? What books take you places? Where would you like to make a fiction-inspired visit?

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Well-read

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As I've written about here before, I'm not a huge fan of those lists of books one supposedly needs to have read to be considered "well-read." In part, that is because those lists tend to be really really whitemanocentric. In part, it is because looking at them makes me feel woefully poorly educated. But something I *do* love is an interactive spreadsheet. So, when I saw Arukiyomi's 1001 Books spreadsheet, I couldn't resist.

Turns out I've read 72 of the 2008 edition of 1001 Books You Should Read Before You Die, or about 7%. Of the 208 books that were replaced between the 2006 and 2008 editions of the list, I've read another 13 (about 1.3%). So, total, I've read 85 of the 1209 books I ought to have read--about 6.5%. To get through the entirety of the list, assuming everybody stops writing anything worth reading and I live to be an average age, I need to read about 23 listed books a year.

Not gonna happen. There are lots of books on that list I have no desire at all to crack. However, there are also some that are probably worth reading. To get started, I'm going to try to tackle five of those in the remainder of 2009.

The nominees?

Hideous Kinky by Esther Freud
Kitchen by Banana Yoshimoto
Watchmen by Alan Moore
Nights at the Circus by Angela Carter
Breakfast at Tiffany's by Truman Capote

Doesn't sound like a bad list, does it? Anybody up to do this with me?

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Bins re-cap

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Bins finds, 06/08/09After at least a month's absence (too much to do!) I finally got to the Bins today.

I spent a total of about $8.50, including tax. The haul was:


  • A large Ziploc full of embroidery thread and fabric

  • A wooden Bentley's tea chest

  • A glass jar with hinge lid

  • A Vera Bradley makeup bag in new condition

  • A small Ziploc full of (all unopened) samples, mostly from L'Occtaine

  • Two Alice in Chains CDs

  • An (unopened) jar of salt scrub

  • An (unopened) sample size bar of Lush's Honey I Washed the Kids soap

  • Two vintage tea tins

  • Several spools of vintage-looking trim

Mostly, this stuff is to give away or swap--the embroidery stuff, the Vera Bradley bag, the salt scrub, the trim. I'm planning to make candles in the tea tins and use the wooden tea box to store essential oils. The glass jar is for Tiny Shiny Things. The CDs went to Mark. The Lush soap and L'Occtaine samples are all me, though.

I missed the Bins. It's kinda hard to thrift right now--with moving on the horizon, I'm trying to weed out possessions, not add to them. But I think I did a pretty good job today sticking to things that could be used immediately or useful immediately, either to me or to someone else.

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Pre-BlogHer Excitement

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We're having a pre-BlogHer meet up locally tomorrow and it has me all excited thinking about this year's conference. I went in 2007, but missed last year, and I am REALLY stoked to get to go again.

Will any WINOW or Heroine Content readers be there? I'd love to meet you.

I've been looking over the schedule, and these are the break-out sessions that are piquing my interest:

Friday:
Break-Out Session #1: Business of You: Bloggers are Pioneers in a Post-"Employee" World
Break-Out Session #2: Leadership: Writing Your Op-Ed
Break-Out Session #3: Leadership: What is "Pro-Woman" in a Post-Palin World?

Saturday:
Break-Out Session #1: Business of You: Advanced Social Media, Syndication and Stats
Break-Out Session #2: Identity/Passions: FoodBlogging in the Time of Recession
Break-Out Session #3: Identity/Passions: Enough About You...Who's Reading You?

I'm also really excited to see the Community Keynote on Friday night. And, you know, pick up as much as swag, meet as many awesome women, and learn about as many new blogs as possible.

I am geek girl, hear me roar.

Relatedly, I was looking at the list of sponsors for this year's conference, and I'm pleasantly surprised. Sure, there are the expected sponsor's for a conference of women--Green Works, Tide, Wal-Mart, Ragu, Playskool, Mary Kay, etc. But there are also some sponsors of the type that women's magazines yearn for--Chevrolet, Microsoft Office, Liberty Mutual, Motorola, Intel. It feels like progress, folks.

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20 Years from Tiananmen

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20 years ago today, a number of people we'll probably never know (with estimates ranging from 10,000 to the official Chinese government figure of 241) were massaccred by their goverment in Beijing's Tiananmen Square. Their crime was protest. They were patriots. And today, I mourn for them.

And when I think of them, I think of this song (pardon my old school hippy call-out):

It Could Have Been Me

It could have been me, but instead it was you
So I'll keep doing the work you were doing as if I were two
I'll be a student of life, a singer of song
A farmer of food and a righter of wrongs
It could have been me, but instead it was you
And it may be me dear sister and brothers
Before we are through
But if you can work for freedom
Freedom, freedom, freedom
If you can work for freedom, I can too

Students in Ohio, at Kent and Jackson State
Shot down by a nameless fire one early day in May
Some people cried out angry
You should have shot more of them down
But you can't bury youth my friend
Youth grows the whole world 'round

It could have been me, but instead it was you
So I'll keep doing the work you were doing as if I were two
I'll be a student of life, a singer of song
A farmer of food and a righter of wrongs
It could have been me, but instead it was you
And it may be me dear sister and brothers
Before we are through
But if you can die for freedom
Freedom, freedom, freedom
If you can die for freedom, I can too

The junta broke the fingers on Victor Jara's hands
And said to the gentle poet, "play your guitar now if you can"
Victor started singing, until they brought his body down
You can kill a man, but not a song
When it's sung the whole world 'round

It could have been me, but instead it was you
So I'll keep doing the work you were doing as if I were two
I'll be a student of life, a singer of song
A farmer of food and a righter of wrongs
It could have been me, but instead it was you
And it may be me dear sister and brothers
Before we are through
But if you can sing for freedom
Freedom, freedom, freedom
If you can sing for freedom, I can too

A woman in a jungle, so many wars away
Studies late into the the night
Defends a village in the day
Although her skin is golden, like mine will never be
Her song is heard and I know the words
And I'll sing them until she's free

It could have been me, but instead it was you
So I'll keep doing the work you were doing as if I were two
I'll be a student of life, a singer of song
A farmer of food and a righter of wrongs
It could have been me, but instead it was you
And it may be me dear sister and brothers
Before we are through
But if you can live for freedom
Freedom, freedom, freedom
If you can live for freedom, I can too

-Holly Near, 1974

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Some pretty things (product reviews)

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It has been absolutely FOREVER since I've talked about makeup! I can't even remember where I left off, so let me just tell you what is working for me and what's not:

Stuff I Love

Shampoo: I recently started using the Hybrid Solid Shampoo from Lush (I know, I have been railing against Lush for years, but the store in Cambridge called to me when I was there and I couldn't resist). I love it. My hair and scalp feel great, my hair looks awesome, and it's a wonderful shampoo experience. The smell is like licorice, but not too strong, and it lathers in a soft, wonderful way. It is also not that expensive. It's $9.25 for a bar that I think will last me at least three months (keeping in mind that I store it in a case and I don't wash my hair more than 3 times a week).

Makeup remover: I use Blum Naturals Daily Cleaning Towelettes for Dry and Sensitive Skin, and I love them. They take everything off, don't dry my face out, and feel good while doing it. Apparently they are $7.29 a 30 count package retail, but I bought four or five packages when they were at Ross for $2.99 each, so I am stocked up for a bit.

Primer: I am a complete disciple of Smashbox Photo Finish, as I've mentioned before. I am just finishing my first full bottle of it and have another to open when that one is empty. The first bottle lasted about four months, I think, of near-daily use, and it costs $36 a bottle, so it's not cheap, but it's worth it.

Powder: Again, I am wholly satisfied and no longer looking in this category. Clinique's Almost Powder Makeup SPF 15 is the one for me. It goes on smooth, looks natural, and, in Neutral, is the perfect shade. It's $22.50 a compact, but I bet the compact will last more than a year, so price isn't a big issue.

Blush: I have not one, but two blushes I love. The first is Nars' Blush in Orgasm, which I have mentioned here before (probably more than once). The second, which I am actually using more now that it's summer and my face has some natural color and doesn't need as much help, is Lancome's Blush Subtil in Cedar Rose. I love the oil-free formulation and how easily it slides on and natural it looks.
The Nars is $25 a compact and the LancĂ´me is $29.50, but again, I use so little, each will last more than a year, I'm sure.

Eyeliner: I've recently made two happy eyeliner discoveries. The first, a surprise, was The Body Shop's Hot Brights Eyeliner. Since I have hazel eyes, mine is the purple one, and I very much like and am using both ends of it. It seems to stay on well and it's easy to apply. It's $13, which isn't cheap, but eyeliner lasts for as long as you are willing to keep on using it, so I think that's OK. The other one I'm using is Urban Decay's 24/7 Glide-On Eye Pencil, which is also awesome and the easiest eyeliner ever to apply, but a bit much for daytime for me. I have the 1999, which is plum with tiny gold glitter, and it works great at night. It was $16, but again, will last indefinitely.

Eye shadow: Again, I made a surprise discovery on a trip to The Body Shop. The Shimmer Cubes in Palette 16 are working great for me, in particular because I really don't like heavy eye shadow and just want a little bit of dazzle. I've used 3 of the 4 shades (everything but the darker pink) and liked all three of them. The set is $22, which seems reasonable for this much shadow.

Deodorant: After a brief foray into Oyin Funk Butter, which irritates the hell out of my skin (I think it's the baking soda), I am back to Secret Clinical Strength Hypoallergenic. It just works. I won't stray again. As a bonus, they have it at Big Lots for $2 right now. I might stock up.

Soap: The world is FULL of soap that I love, but my favorite right now is Villainess' Blush. It's great summer soap, smelling like berries and lime, and it makes the smoothest lather that never feels like it is leaving a residue. I love it. It's $5 a bar and worth even more.

Scrub: Again, I've rarely met a scrub I didn't like, but my right-now favorite is Arcana's Murder Ballad Blues. It's super moisturizing, doesn't leave a grease film, and again, smells like summer berries. I wish I had another jar of it. It is generally $11.99 for a 10 oz jar, which lasts me about 8 uses, but I don't use it every day.

Shaving Cream: This was another Ross discovery: Tree Hut Shaving Cream for Him and Her. I LOVE this stuff. It's super rich and thick, with a bunch of shea butter in it. Makes for a great, smooth shave, and it smells wonderful, especially in the Brazilian Nut scent. I've been looking forever for something to replace my Trader Joe's Honey Mango, and this is definitely it. Looks like it's about $4 a bottle at drugstore.com, too!

Body Moisturizer: I have to go with Villianess Whipped. It's a little bit heavy for summer, so I don't use it on the days I use scrubs, but since I have dry skin, it's still useful. The scent I am using right now, which I love, is Xia. It's a blackberry (can you tell I'm into berry scents right now?)/vanilla/pepper/cocoa smell, and it's just wonderful. It's $10 a jar, and a jar would last me probably 40 days of continual use, so it should last all summer.

Stuff for Which I Still Search

Conditioner: I am using Aveda's Smooth Infusion Conditioner, and it's fine, but it doesn't wow me. Also, it's expensive--$21 for 6.7 oz, and I use quite a bit of conditioner.

Face Wash: I've been using regular Cetaphil for quite a while, but it seems to work less and less well. I've tried a few other things, but so far they've all spectacularly failed (particularly the tea tree facial wash from Trader Joe's, which I swear peeled my skin off).

Tinted Moisturizer: I am using Clinique's Moisture Sheer Tint SPF 15. And I like it, but I don't love it. It's still not quite as sheer as I'd like, and I have a hard time putting it on without it ending up in my eyebrows, which makes it look like I have brow dandruff. It's also expensive, at $27 a tube, though I use so little I can't imagine the tube lasting less than 4 months or so. On the upside, it does feel very hydrating, which I like, but I still want something that is a little more moisturizer and a little less foundation.

Mascara: O perfect mascara, why does thou forsake me? I have been through nearly every highly-recommended brand of mascara out there, and I still haven't found what I'm looking for. I want something that makes it look like I have long, natural lashes. Lengthening, but no thickening or clumping or looking and feeling sticky. I've tried Definicils, Diorshow, Smashbox Bionic, and am now on to Imju Fiberwig, which is better than anything I've tried previously, but still not really what I want. It's also $22 a tube, which makes it not really something I want to replace every 3 months. I may go back to Neutrogena's Weightless Volume Wax-Free, honestly. The difference is just not that great, and it's less than a third of the price (around $7).

Lipstick: I put this in the "still searching" category because although I like what I have, I want more. The lipstick I am wearing the most recently is Benefit's Silky Finish Lipstick in Dessert First. I love how it looks when it goes on--just the right amount of color and shine and it feels really nice and never dry--but it doesn't last at all, which is a bummer, because I hate having to reapply. I thought choosing the Full-Finish Lipstick might help this, so I got that in Do Tell, but it goes on way to matte. Looks OK once I put gloss over it, but I hate it by itself. I'm also still using Clinique's Black Honey Almost Lipstick, though it's not quite what I want in the summer, and Bare Escentuals' Buxom Lip Gloss, which is too shiny for during they day for me right now. The Benefit lipsticks, by the way, are $18 each, which seems reasonable for a lipstick, since they last forever.

Facial moisturizer: Right now, I am using some health food organic stuff I can't remember the name of. It seems OK, but something is making me break out around my hair line, and I think it may be the culprit. I had a sample of something rose-based that I just loved, but I can't for the life of me remember what it was. Does that ring a bell for anyone?

Whew! I use a lot of product these days! Guess I've become a high-maintenance girl!

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Fox News and the Obama's date night

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Last night on Jon Stewart, Jon mentioned the Fox News criticism of the New York City date President and Mrs. Obama took last weekend. Knowing nothing about it, I gave it a Google. Apparently, the criticism didn't just come from Fox, but from the Republican National Committee, who issued a press release criticizing President Obama for spending the money to take a jet to New York for the evening while the nation is in recession and GM is going under. (Read the Fox story here, but it turns out they weren't the only ones pissed off--political bloggers are all over this.)

Surprise! I have no problem with this! I don't care if it did cost the $50,000-$100,000 Fox estimates (though I kinda doubt it did). I'm OK with that. As a citizen and a taxpayer, I'm cool. Happy to pay not only my 1/10th of a cent ($100,000 divided by approx. 100,000,000 US taxpayers), but yours too! In fact, if you'd like, my entire 2009 tax burden can go to the Obama date fund!

Why? Couple of reasons:

First, this is a completely hypocritical complaint. Was there an outcry every time Bush took a jumbo jet to the ranch? Not that I remember. And he did it all the damn time. U.S. President is kind of an all-expense paid kind of a gig, you know? Can't change the rules on that now.

Secondly, to the criticism that the Obamas should have just gone out in Washington. Sure. They do. They've done it a number of times. But if they occasionally want to go somewhere else, what's the issue? And Christ, they just hopped over to New York--it's less than 200 miles! It's not like they went to Paris for the evening.

This leads me to the criticism about their evening being too extravagant. They went to New York, had dinner at Blue Hill, and went to a Broadway show. Unless there was some undisclosed diamond buying in between, I don't see what's so freaking unreasonable about those activities. Yes, Blue Hill is a nice restaurant (if you are curious, the menu is here--sounds pretty good, actually), but it's within my occasional date night range, so it should certainly be within the President's. Thousands upon thousands of Americans see plays on Broadway every year (and, if I remember correctly, the Bush's asked that Broadway be brought to them in the form of a White House viewing of The Lion King). So the extravagance, really, is the jet, limos, and entourage. You know, the things the President HAS to use to be safe?

Finally, I WANT our first couple to have some R&R. God knows they deserve it, and I can only imagine they need it. And it's not just good for them--I think it's good for all of us to see them, in their hot goin' out threads (they both looked fantastic, BTW), doing something fun together. Looking at them, all stylish, jetting off for a New York evening...it even reminded me of Camelot, and I wasn't alive then. Maybe I'm just misty eyed, but I don't see anything but good in having a little bit of romance in the White House.

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The weather up here

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I don't know how wide the coverage of this was, so you may already know it, but the world's tallest woman, Sandy Allen, died last week. She was 7 feet 7 inches tall. She was 53 years old.

Sandy Allen was so tall due to a pituitary imbalance. She reached 6 feet before her tenth birthday. If she had not had surgery to stop her growth, she may have gotten even taller.

Sandy Allen was, to many people, whether they'd say it or not, a freak. Not only did her condition threaten her health, but it crippled her social life. People stared at her, were rude to her, treated her like she wasn't a woman, or even a human being.

And folks, it does trickle down. This weekend, The Guardian ran a piece by Arianne Cohen about being a 6'3" woman. Though the piece is ultimately (surprise!) about accepting yourself the way you are, it's not the self-affirming part that struck me. It's this:

The true challenge of tall life is not that you're tall. Who cares about that - legs are legs. The challenge is that everyone can see you, all the time. Eyes follow everywhere you go. You're public. On display. There is no hiding. Learning to love yourself has nothing to do with the blather you see in women's magazines about treating your body as a temple - it's learning to accept the high-wattage spotlight that came packaged with your body, always shining on you. I can tell you what it feels like to resist: like a non-performer pushed on stage, day after day. The giraffe in the room.

This is, nearly exactly, how I've felt for much of my life. It was certainly the way I felt as a 5'9" pre-teen, being hit on by adult men who (I suppose) assumed I was full grown. It was how I felt as a teenager, nearing 6 feet tall and constantly being asked about playing basketball, playing the piano, or, on occasion, modeling. When a short dude I went to high school with dubbed me the "Gentle Giant," the spotlight burned. And, briefly, in my late teens and early 20s, I learned to enjoy that spotlight--especially when I learned, like Cohen, that being tall meant that it took forever for the beer to show up on my belly and I could wear almost any clothes I liked (as long as they weren't intended to be full-length) and never look dumpy.

Now, at nearly 30, I can't honestly say I wouldn't rather be shorter. If I could change my height, I still probably would, by at least a couple of inches, just for comfort and ease why flying. But I don't feel like I'm being stared at much anymore. I don't know if that's because tall women have become so much more prevalent, or because people's manners have improved (ha), or just because I move so much differently in my body now. But I don't feel freaky anymore.

What is interesting, though, is that I am still, by definition, kind of freaky. The average non-Hispanic white American female 20+ years old from 1999-2002 (as per the CDC) is 163 centimeters tall, or about 5' 3 1/2". This makes me 8 1/2" taller than average. Less than 1% of women in the U.S. are as tall or taller than me. To put that in perspective, someone 8 1/2" shorter than the average woman would be 4'7", and would be considered a Little Person by most definitions. Which certainly puts things in perspective for me. As difficult as I sometimes find being a couple of standard deviations above the mean, I bet being the same number of standard deviations below it would be much tougher.

In most things, it is simply easier to be average. You have the option of blending in. Things are made to suit you, Clothes come in your size, you don't have to special order your shoes, you can reach most things but you don't have to fold yourself in half to get into a compact car. And the benefits--well, I don't feel the need to dress like a sexpot anymore, and the beer finally caught up with even my belly, so those are out. Being able to reach things is all well and good, but I can't whip up that much enthusiasm for it. If you are, like me, neither model nor athlete, being tall really isn't beneficial in any concrete way. Still, it's who I am. It's who I have always been. And the really horrifying thing, to me, about Cohen's article was her discussion of the estrogen therapy her mother took (and offered to her) in order to stunt her growth. Being tall may not be all that useful, but it isn't something of which to be ashamed, either. And it's better, once you realize that.

After all, it is hard to hide.

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