2009 Goal Progress Report: Week 30

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Did you noticed how I just stopped reporting on my goal progress over two months ago? I didn't mean to--I'm not hiding anything--I just kind of forget.

So back to that.

Here's how I am doing now, in Week 30 of 2009:

1. Read one book per week.
As per my GoodReads list, I've read 21 books so far this year, including the 2 I am currently working on and the 3 I didn't finish. Not so great. Need to read more books.

2. See one movie per week.
All Consuming tells me I've seen 43 movies so far in 2009--way more than 1 per week. So I'm good here.

3. Take at least one overseas trip.
This hasn't happened yet and no plans are in the works. In all likelihood, this is going to become a 2010 goal.

4. Improve my eating habits.
Major failure here lately. Truly terrifyingly bad.

5. Exercise regularly.
Again, failure. I have big plans for after we move, but I'm totally stalled at present.

6. Pay off my credit cards.
Still done. No new balance. Going strong with the responsible credit card use and proud of how well I am doing.

7. Save at least $100/month.
I amended this goal to $1,000/month in May, and that hasn't happened. However, the reason it hasn't is because we've been able to pay cash for the work we've needed to do pre-sale on our house, rather than use credit, so I think it's OK. I am still saving at least $100/month, though, and now that the house repair stuff is mostly done, I should be able to increase that from August on.

8. Learn a new craft.
No progress on this front. All the crafting supplies I've acquired are in storage. Given that and the present time constraints, this one is on hold.

9. Journal and blog regularly.
I'm going to give myself half credit here. I've been doing great with the blogging, but I just picked up my journal again last night after having abandoned it in January.

10. Sell our house and move.
This is in progress. We had an offer on the house, and we have several more possibilities, so I don't think it should be too much longer. We've also secured a rental in Virginia and started our other preparations for moving. This is right where it should be.

11. Practice cooking.
I've done a whole lot of nothing here.

12. Make my home more livable.
Amazing what putting your house in show-ready condition will do for this goal. Our place is lovely now. Livable, not so much, given that we have to keep it sparkly clean all the time and half of our stuff is in storage. However, knowing what it feels like to live in a less cluttered, more vacuumed space has me commited to better general housekeeping once we aren't under the strain of showing anymore.

13. Build my freelance resume.
Things on this front continue to go well. I am working on a smallish project right now and there are more in the pipeline. I need to actually put a new resume together, though. I should make that a goal for next week. Or maybe two weeks from now, actually. By Week 32, I should have a new and updated freelance resume.

So, all in all, progress remains pretty steady. I'm happy with the financial and home situations, and with the professional stuff I've done. I'm less happy with the way I've treated my health (eating and exercise) and with the time I haven't made for reading and journaling. So I need to try to maintain the progress in the first areas while concentrating on the second areas. Not an easy thing to do, but I'm definitely going to try. Making concrete goals and having a public place to note my progress has been infinitely helpful. I definitely recommend it.

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What I mean by "my partner"

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I've met quite a few new people lately. Since we're moving in a month or less, I imagine I'll be meeting quite a few more in the near future. This has me thinking about this situation that almost inevitably comes up, in which the person I'm meeting asks if I am married, and I say no, I am partnered.

From there, the person to whom I am talking generally says one of three things:

1. "Oh, OK," and goes on, assuming that I am a lesbian.
2. "What does that mean?" or "Your what?" or "What's that?"
3. "Do you have kids?" or "How long have you been together?" or whatever other question would have been asked if I had indicated that I was married.

None of these is the "wrong" response. Partner is a term that is still used more among same-sex couples, so it makes sense that some fraction of people will assume that I mean my female partner. I don't correct them--it usually comes to light soon enough, and I don't think it particularly matters in most circumstances. It does occasionally end up funny, though. A couple of jobs ago, I mentioned my partner during my interview. My boss was shocked to find out, several months later, that my partner is male.

When I am asked "what that means?" it gives me an opening to get up on my anti-marriage soap box. Sometimes, I take that opening. Other times (like, say, at a wedding), it seems inappropriate. On those occasions, I usually say something like, "I'm not married, but I am permanently partnered." This gets a bit tricky, because people tend to assume that I mean I am not married yet. That's not the case. Not married is my permanent condition. This condition is by choice. It's not that I'm "not ready," it's that I'm not interested. It is important to me that this be known (otherwise I would just present myself as married and save the whole hassle), but I do want to be situationally sensitive.

The third response is my favorite, because it's easiest for me. I never really know what the other person is thinking and I don't have to craft a reply that is both honest and non-confrontational. Is she confused by my statement, but afraid to respond? Or, is she just comfortable with the idea of an unmarried partnership? I hope to find more and more people in the latter category. Much as not being married is a "political statement," it's also something I don't particularly like to discuss. I have a long list of reasons why I think marriage is a bad plan, but most people are married, and most married people are offended by those reasons, so it's mostly a chat I'd rather not have, particularly with someone I just met.

On the other hand, it's absurd when I hear Mark referred to as my boyfriend. We've been together almost my entire adult life (eight years in September). Most married people aren't together than long before they tie the knot (and a lot of them aren't together for that long afterwards, either). We're as serious as we're going to get. Our not being married is not a comment on the strength or maturity of our relationship--it's a comment on marriage.

Recently, someone asked me if Mark was my "business partner or life partner?" I laughed; I couldn't help it. The idea of Mark and I working together is just that funny. Plus, the term "life partner" just gives me the giggles. It's so serious sounding. But in reality, yes, I suppose he is my "life partner." It shouldn't be that hard to understand, especially for someone who is married--all of those things that your spouse is to you? That's what Mark is to me, just without the marriage. From what I can discertain, my relationship doesn't work much differently than anybody else's, married or partnered, gay or straight. We face things together. We make major decisions together. We raise our family together. We move across the country together. We hang out. We have sex. We talk. We watch movies. We fight. We're partners.

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Beautiful

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As I mentioned, one of the best things to happen to me at BlogHer was to meet, chat with, and have my picture taken by Karen Walrond. I can tell you, now, why Karen is such a great portrait photographer. She makes you feel beautiful while she's doing it. Having my picture taken makes me all kinds of nervous, and yet when Karen had her camera all up in my face, even though it was in a room full of people and exactly the type of situation guaranteed to send me running for a benzo, I felt calm. I felt safe, like she wasn't going to laugh at whatever came out of the camera. She's just got that kind of presence.

I didn't automatically like all the pictures she sent me. When I first looked at them, I wanted to criticize myself--bad skin, frizzy hair, all that. I looked and thought, "why did I, on that day of all days, not bother with makeup?" But there is something else, too. I see Karen, pointing out to me on the little screen on her camera what she sees in this shot or that one. Pointing out my pretty. (As it turns out, I can share that with you, too--while Karen was taking my picture, Bossy was taking Karen's.) And it really, really helps. I know that I am not and likely never will be the type of person who just takes good pictures naturally. I'm all angles and planes and I make funny faces and I show way too many teeth and I usually look gawky and geeky and awkward, because that's pretty much how I feel. Like them or not, though, none of the pictures Karen sent me are gawky, geeky, or awkward. Even the ones I didn't automatically love I could see myself in, and not be embarrassed.

And then there is that one shot: the one I was hoping for. The one that I can look at and see exactly what I look like, to myself, inside. What I hope I look like to everyone who sees me. The one that shows who I am.

Thank you, Karen.

grace5.jpg

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Dear Mr. Goodell,

I'm sure this letter will echo many others you have received lately and will continue to receive. It will likely not say anything you haven't heard before. Still, there are times when one has to speak out, even if it seems like yelling into the wind, and this is one of those times.

I am a football fan. I am also a dog rescuer and advocate. It is in both of these capacities that I am both shocked and horrified at your decision to allow Michael Vick to return to the National Football League. It matters very little whether he is allowed to play as soon a team picks him up or has to wait until October. He should not be playing at all. He should never play professional football again.

In your statement, you said "I hope that the public will have a chance to understand his position as I have." What understanding is it, exactly, that you hope the public will achieve? Michael Vick bankrolled and participated in an operation dedicated to the abuse and extermination of innocent animals. He admitted as much. I see no need for any further "understanding" of that "position." This is not an issue up for some kind of debate, where we all just have the wrong idea. This man did these things. He served 18 months in jail for them. You suspended him for them. Now you're allowing him a second chance.

Michael Vick does not deserve a second chance in the NFL. It undermines the seriousness of the crimes he committed that you are giving him one. Not only are you allowing Vick himself a second chance at a great opportunity that he squandered the first time (playing professional football), but you are sending a message to the fans of your sport that this kind of behavior is acceptable. Sure, he had to miss a couple of years and do some time, but his career is salvageable. Suspensions similar in length to Vick's have been issued for doping and substance abuse. Was Vick's crime really no more serious?

I had hoped that the Vick situation would shed some much needed light on the problem of dog fighting in the United States, and that it would begin to be taken more seriously in that light. For a while, it looked like that might happen. Now, I am not so sure. It seems equally likely that Vick and his supporters will be allowed to sweep this under the rug and that he will pick up where he left off. Anyone who has seen the long-term consequences of dog fighting, including shelters full of dogs bred to be fought and killed who are now unable to be rehabilitated, due only to human greed and stupidity, knows this is unacceptable.

I only hope that the NFL teams themselves will follow the lead of the Giants, Jets, Cowboys, and Falcons and show better judgment than you have when it comes to Vick. Just as he is an embarrassment to your league, he will be an embarrassment to any team that will have him, just as he ought to be to you.

Grace Mitchell

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Post BlogHer exhale

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Since everybody is doing BlogHer recap posts, and all I have up is a couple of rants about the sexism of the thing, I feel like I should add some more. I really actually had a wonderful time and was super glad I went. So here are ten things I LOVED about BlogHer this year:


  1. The Community Keynote. I was only about to stay for about half of it, but the part I listened to was very moving and a lot more useful than a keynote from an "outside" source.

  2. The MamaPop party. I sort of hated every other big party I went to, due to severe overcrowding and swag-related trampling. But the MamaPop party was fun, had no big swag, and had only the amount of people that actually fit in the room. Plus glowsticks. Nice.

  3. Getting to spend some one-on-one time with Suebob, who I met at BlogHer 07 and have loved online since then. Yay for Suebob.

  4. Talking to several women blogging about their lives post-kids, in middle age. I didn't meet a lot of these women at my first conference, and they really seemed like a presence this year, which was excellent.

  5. My right-place-at-the-right-time swag bag from Sephora, which I'll tell you about a bit later.

  6. Meeting, chatting with, and even having my photo taken by the simply incredible Karen Walrond. That one was on my bucket list, folks. I feel truly blessed. And if you've not met her, she is even more incredible in person than she seems online. For real.

  7. The Room of Our Own session on privacy and TMI. It's something we need to talk about, and not just in regards to blogging about kids. It didn't go as far as I wanted it to go, but it was a good start.

  8. When Laurie White told me how much I am going to hate where we're moving in Virginia. Every time I think about that, I laugh out loud.

  9. The stack of business cards and scrawled URLs I came home with. New blogs! I'll be recommending some of them soon, I'm sure.

  10. The Shutter Sisters Suite. Truly a fantastic group of women who created a fantastic oasis in the chaos of BlogHer. They've made a lifelong fan/friend in me, for sure.

There are more, of course. And there are things, aside from those I've written about at length already, that I didn't like at all. But my overall feeling is blessed to have been there, and quite certain I'll go again next year, even though it's going to be even bigger and likely even crazier. When someone who is as naturally introverted as I am is willing to make the effort to put herself out there for three whole days, to hundreds of new people, you know that's got to be something special.

And with that, I think, I've said all I need to say.

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So in May I reviewed the Sweet Delights Divalicious Sample Box and was duly impressed. Today I got The July box, and I remain so. Read about my haul, and keep in mind that the whole works was only $25 Canadian, including shipping:


  • Cocoon Apothecary Magic Bean Body Cream, 4 oz bottle, Cream & Coffee (estimated value $10)

  • From Lumiere Cosmetics, small sample pots of eye pigment in Raspberry Truffle, Hypnotic, and Halo (estimated value $5 each

  • A small bottle of Adult Cold Care blend aroma oil and a Jasmine tinted lip slicker from Blue Monday Soap Co. (estimated value $8)

  • A .5 oz Dolce de Limone lip balm from Herban Lifestyle (estimated value $5)

  • A blue and silver chain bracelet from Roxy's Rox (estimated value $7)

  • A yellow and black cell phone charm from from CellChic (estimated value $8)

  • A sample gift tag and 10% off coupon code from Pick Me Paper Designs (estimated value negligible)

  • From Heaven and Earth Essentials, a sample of White Chocolate Latte Sugar Scrub and a $5 off coupon code (estimated value $4)

  • A 1.5 oz lavender soap sample from Heather's Natural Soap Co. (estimated value $2)

  • A pink and brown polka dot clip from Pretty Hair Clippies (estimated value $2)

  • A sample vial of "Seduction" perfume from Rosalyn Scent (estimated value $1)

  • A pair of blue beaded earrings from Satin Doll (estimated value $10)

  • A Scrabble tile pendant from B.B. Bellezza (estimated value $7)

  • Four tea lights (2 white tea & ginger scent and 2 love spell) from Crystal Lights (estimated value $4)

  • A felted rope (to be used as a necklace or bracelet) from Lisa and Lucy Jewelry (estimated value $15)

  • A keyfob from Venezie Bags (estimated value $4)

  • Two samples of hydrating facial creme from Aguacate & Co. (estimated value negligible)

  • A Grandma's Kitchen soap sample from Mountain Farm Soaps (estimated value $2)

  • Five Peak-A-Boob strips (estimated value negligible)

Total estimated value: $104

Crazy, right?

The eye pigment is the most exciting part for me--the colors are really vibrant and there is actually enough to wear it a few times. The lip balms both look promising as well. The jewelry isn't to my style, but the quality is good. Overall, I couldn't be happier. Sweet Delights can count me in for September's box for sure.

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Yarn Contest Winner!

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Sorry, I know I was supposed to pick the winner of my yarn contest a couple of days ago. I got distracted by all the shiny stuff at BlogHer.

Plus I had a conundrum. I said I was going to pick my favorite response. But how can I do that? Everybody has great plans for the yarn--kitty blankets, clothes for kids, presents for me...

So I'm back to the random number generator. And it picks...

2

The second comment:

All that Elann would make lovely kitty blankets for the shelter. Stripey blankets for stripey cats! Some of the bamboo could be used for a pair of mitts that fit you, ha ha... but the Noro, hm? I think a pair of yoga socks, perhaps (mixed with another yarn).

So, Jennie, the yarn is yours! Kitties will have blankets, and I, perhaps, will have mitts? Congratulations and I'm gonna need your new address!

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BlogHer as women's space

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So that last post about sexist shirts at BlogHer? Should have thought a bit more about what I was biting off before I hit publish on that one. Not that I take back a single word of it--I don't--but I wasn't quite prepared to have so much response.

Reading through the comments, I'm struck by the number of people who are offended that I implied that men shouldn't be at BlogHer at all. I hadn't really considered that opinion to be surprising. That there are a group who prefer that women's spaces are women-only spaces is pretty much a truism in any sort of feminist activity. The debate over whether or to what degree men should participate goes hand in hand with most feminist events. It's an argument that's often just not worth having anymore, because people's minds are made up and everybody just gets pissed off. (If you want to read a bit more about why women-only spaces are needed, there is a pretty good article at Rad Geek People's Daily.) Personally, I am of the opinion that there are some spaces that ought to be reserved for women exclusively, that claims that this is "reverse sexism" ought to be met with nothing more than an eye-roll, and that men who insist that they, too, belong in these spaces are much more interested in their own egos than they are in actually supporting women.

The question remains, however: is BlogHer one of those spaces?

Until this time around, I honestly hadn't thought it was. BlogHer's mission statement is: "To create opportunities for women who blog to pursue exposure, education, community, and economic empowerment." When asked if guys could be at BlogHer, the founders responded resoundingly that that they could. "Gentlemen, if you are interested in learning more about women who blog, please accept our invitation to the greater blogging community to attend BlogHer conferences." That was their ruling, it is their organization, and it made sense to me. Men who were interested in learning more about and supporting female bloggers, are welcome. I'm down with that. It's not a protected, women-only space, but it's a woman-centered one. Women who blog are, put simply, the point.

I met, I think, two men at BlogHer 07. They both seemed to clearly understand that they were there in support of women, not as their own interest group. They weren't second-class citizens in BlogHer's world, but they were aware that they weren't the focus, and they were fine with that.

That is what I saw as changed this year. It wasn't just the t-shirts, which I've already discussed and I don't want to get into again. It was the "noise," for lack of a better word, that the presence of guys this year seemed to make. They had their own panel, which I mentioned, but there was something else, as well. Something a bit less tangible. A friend (who I won't identify in case she doesn't want to be brought into this shit storm) said that it seemed like just showing up with a penis made men at BlogHer special. I got that feeling too. And, for me, at does take away from the mission.

It is telling to me that in their comments on my post about their shirts, neither Adam (Avitable) or Karl (Secondhand Karl) mentioned wanting to support women as being their reason for attending the conference. In mind, that is the essential difference between the men who should be at BlogHer and the ones who shouldn't. And there is no way to keep out the ones who are there for the wrong reasons.

So what to do? Previous to having read the comments on my last post, I would have suggested a woman-only conference policy. Not that it's going to happen, but that would have been my position. Reading through the comments, though, I am realizing that maybe it is me who is in the BlogHer minority. I think of BlogHer as a women's conference. Other people don't. And if you don't think of it that way, of course the idea of making it women-only is ridiculous. Maybe I'm injecting feminism where there simply isn't any.

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Silence and sexism at BlogHer 09

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I've tweeted about this a couple of times over the past two days, but I'm writing about it here, too. I apologize for the redundancy--I guess I'm more than 140 characters worth of pissed off.

BlogHer is, as far as I know, an organization which considers promotion of women in blogging to be among its primary goals, if not its very utmost purpose. The conference, in general, reflects this goal. There are some missteps, but the atmosphere is, in general, one I would consider pro-woman.

The attendance, while not 100% female, is very largely so. I haven't seen more than 20 or 30 male attendees since I've been here.

The first one I saw just after arriving, at a restaurant in the hotel. I noticed him due to his shirt. It showed a graphic of a woman with her breasts exposed, her nipples replaced by @ signs. It read "show me your tweets."

Then, not an hour later, I saw a man sporting a shirt saying something along the lines of "I love mommy bloggers--they put out." The next day, the same man attended a party, hosted by an ostensibly feminist website, sporting a shirt reading "I am having very spiritual thoughts about your breasts" or some similar nonsense.

This is not OK. It's not just that these shirts are crude and demeaning, though they are. It's that these men are making a point to bring these crude and demeaning words and images into what is, or should be, women's space. They're the visitors here. This is our culture.

I know who both of the t-shirt wearing bloggers are. Both of them advertised their blog names on the offensive shirts. Getting that kind of attention, clearly, was the purpose (and no, I won't be linking to them). That does nothing towards making it acceptable. Clearly, it is successful--after all, I hadn't heard of either of them before noticing their shirts (though it's not like I'm rushing out to add them to my reader now). But, at the cost of alienating and offending women--the people for whom this space was created--are a few extra hits on your site worth it?

The grrl power vibe at BlogHer can get a little bit nauseating at times. There are lots of people around talking about women as tastemakers, as marketing targets, and as important, cutting edge users of new media. Why, if we're such an important and respected cohort, are we here, in what should be a space in which we make the rules and issue the invitations, dealing with exactly the same stupid, sexist shit we face every day everywhere else?

There is a breakout session for men at BlogHer this year. The title has something to do with being vaginally challenged. Space, it seems, has been made for the guys who chose to come here. I wonder why? Isn't every other technical conference in the world space enough? Do we need to cater to them here, too?

Most of the women to whom I have spoken about these shirts (though thankfully not all of them, or this would likely be my last BlogHer) seem willing to roll their eyes, laugh them off, and not think much more about it. I have no idea whether they really aren't bothered, or whether it's just easier not to think much about it. It's easier, when you are a woman and something offends you, to pretend it doesn't, lest you be labeled a prude or a killjoy.

Well I'm taking a stand on this one. I'm fucking offended. Really fucking offended. These shirts, in whatever small way, undermine the whole point of being here for me. If I wanted to hang out with sexist geek guys, there are lots of other places I could be. Pretty much any place, actually.

All this rah-rah pro-woman stuff is great. I get as choked up about the beauty of seeing a ballroom full of girl geeks all deep in conversation as the next person. But how seriously can I really take it when, among all those rad women, are a few assholes using their very bodies to advertise just how little they really respect the people who created this great space? When, even though we have a numerical advantage that is well more than overwhelming, nobody approaches them, nobody calls them out? What is the real message? The one I'm reading is coming through pretty damn clearly. Even here, in a space made by and for women, a space focused on the power of our thoughts and communication, rather than our bodies, we can easily be reduced to pieces of meat, intended for the pleasure and amusement of even just a few men. And we let them do it. All these forums to tell our stories and share our thoughts, and mostly, we'll all be silent.

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Home is where the...uterus is?

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So first, yes, I am at BlogHer 09. And I promise I will tell you all about that, just not tonight. Tonight I am exhausted, and overwhelmed, and thinking about something else altogether.

I had this conversation, with a group of women I had never met before (aside from Skye), about the desire to go home. One woman, whose name has already totally escaped me, said that as soon as she had a child, her desire to go home intensified dramatically.

Of course it did. I've thought of that before, of wanting not just to go home, and not just to have a baby, but to go home and have a baby. But, for whatever reason, that thought hadn't carried out to its logical conclusion:

If Mark and I decide to have a child, we will quite likely begin trying to conceive said child within the next five years. I'm about to turn 30--more than five years out, it starts to get a bit more difficult to do, or at least that's what I'm told. And if we try to conceive within the next five years and are successful, we're going to be having a baby in Virginia. An entire continent away from home.

To say that I am horrified by that thought would be a radical understatement. Austin was far enough from home. But the East Coast? How is that even a possibility? How could I possibly even consider having a child over 3,000 miles away from my mom? 3,000 miles away from trees? 3,000 miles away from proper mountains and proper rain and proper coffee?

This is another one of those things that just didn't used to happen to people. We never used to be so mobile. And sure, there are telephones and Skype and air travel, but the bottom line is that when you are geographically far away from someone (or somewhere), they aren't part of your life in any real way. Especially given hyper-stressful day-to-day situations, like, oh, say, a baby's first years.

For the first time in months, I am seriously rethinking whether or not I want to have a child in the near future. I've been getting more and more gung-ho about the idea of starting to think seriously about it, and maybe even starting to do something about it in a year or so. Now I'm not so sure. I know we won't be going home for five years or so, and even then, there is no guarantee. The reality may well be that I never live in Oregon again. I can't much bear that thought, but there it is. And I find it just as upsetting as the idea that I may never have a child. Both of them are things I've started to want so much that I almost assume that they are in the future, just around the bend, even. But it's quite likely that they aren't. And what happens then?

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BlogHer What to Wear Part 2

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After saying I was going to relax about packing, I ended up stressing anyway. And, in fact, I wasn't paying attention and cut the tip off my finger on a razor last night, so whatever I wear is going to be accessorized by Band-Aid anyway. But, just in case you were wondering what the less-fashionable wear to BlogHer, I'll share what's in my suitcase:

Traveling clothes: wide-legged black trousers, sleeveless scoop neck teal tee-shirt, black Easy Spirit sandals that I wear all the damn time, fancy silver bangle bracelet, watch. Oversized purple suede purse that almost always travels with me.

Conference Day 1: Dark wash jeans (Seven7, from Marshall's--lifesavers!), one of various black t-shirts, purple Converse.

Party Night 1: Fancy layered black skirt and little sequined pink top outfit I bought for New Year's Eve in Oslo, silver strappy sandals.

Conference Day 2: Black trousers from travel day or jeans from Day 1, one of various black shirts (with jeans) or purple Martin & Osa shirt (with trousers), purple Converse or sandals.

Party Night 2: Trouser jeans, silky fushia top or sleeveless black top, sandals.

Traveling back: whatever is the least dirty.

I'm also bringing a little black cardigan and an orange pashmina, for expected in-hotel chilliness. And sock monkey pajamas. :)

Just for kicks, here is my excited, flight-leaves-in-two-hours face (how much do I love my iPhone camera?):

iPhone self portrait

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Sponsoring the girl geeks

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In one of my earlier posts about BlogHer, I mentioned that I was surprised and happy to see the breadth of the sponsors list for the conference. Now that the final sponsors list is up, I wanted to say a bit more about that.

First, here are the sponsors (this list is pulled directly from BlogHer's site):

Platinum Conference Sponsors

  • Chevrolet

  • Green Works

  • Walmart

  • PepsiCo

  • Tide & Bounce

Gold Conference Sponsors

  • Microsoft Office and Bing.com

  • Ragu

  • Liberty Mutual's Responsibility Project

Premium Conference Sponsors

  • Bill Me Later

  • Ketchum

  • Wiley

  • Hanes

  • PLAYSKOOL

  • all

  • McDonald's

  • Elations

  • National Pork Board

  • BISSELL

  • Suave and Degree

  • Wild Planet

  • Motorola

  • Mary Kay

  • Brother

  • Ann Taylor

  • Michelin

  • Disney Consumer Products

  • VTech

  • T-Mobile

  • Bertolli

  • Eucerin

  • HP

  • Geek Squad

Exhibiting Conference Sponsors

  • Blue Avocado

  • Picnik

  • ZESPRI Kiwifruit

  • Safety 1st

  • CHPA Educational Foundation

  • Sprout

  • Safe Kids USA

  • springpad

  • JumpStartĀ®

  • Nikon

  • The Johnson & Johnson Family of Consumer Companies

Other Participating Sponsors

  • LeapFrog

  • eos

  • Johnson & Johnson

  • Intel

  • Intelius

  • Pearl of Wisdom Campaign

  • Orbitz

  • PBS Parents

  • Gilbert Guide

  • Motherproof.com

  • Hasbro

  • 20th Century Fox's Strawberry Shortcake

  • PBS Frontline

  • Nokia

  • Dove

A couple of caveats:

First, some of these are companies with whom I strongly disagree on major issues. Some of them are even companies that I boycott. I'm not going to write about that here. I don't censor myself on those issues on this blog, and I may well write again about those companies, but that's not the purpose of this post and I don't want to get bogged down in it.

Secondly, I honestly and completely appreciate each of these companies being willing to sponsor BlogHer. I know they're doing it for business reasons--there is absolutely something in it for them--but I still appreciate it.

Now then:

I've been interested in advertising towards women for a long time, in particular since I wrote my thesis at Reed on Ms. magazine. One of the major problems with Ms. early on was that there both unable to entice advertisers who weren't "traditional women's labels" (cosmetic companies, appliances, etc.) and unable to appease their readership on the subject of morality of advertising "anti-feminist" products. This issue still exists today, obviously, and BlogHer is a great example of how it plays out.

When I last attended in 2007, one of the sponsors was Curves Cereal and Snacks. Some of the people to whom I spoke, particularly those on a panel about blogging and body image, took issue with that. It was a particular problem, I learned, because Weight Watchers had been a sponsor in 2006 and there had already been backlash about that. For my part, I was perhaps not thrilled with Curves' inclusion, but I was generally very happy to see so many companies that are not traditionally "women-focused" on the sponsorship list that year.

This year is even better. Yes, there are some sponsors who are definitely the same ones Ms. would have drawn ire from their readers for all those years ago: Mary Kay, Ann Taylor, eos, and Dove, which are obvious, as well as GreenWorks, Tide/Bounce, Ragu, all, etc., since advertisers still seem to think only women cook and clean. There are several more who are clearly there for the mommy bloggers: Playskool, Disney Consumer Products, Sprout, JumpStart, etc. But there are also a long list of sponsors Ms.'s advertising department would have given up their fringed ponchos for--honest to God gender neutral companies. Some of them are the non-surprising tech companies that go along with a blogging conference, gendered or not, like Microsoft Office/bing.com, Bill Me Later, Motorola, Brother, and T-Mobile. Others, though, I have trouble connecting in any obvious way with women or with blogging, and that makes me inordinately happy. The big one is Platinum Sponsor Chevrolet, but there are also Liberty Mutual's Responsibility Project, public relations agency Ketchum, technical publisher Wiley, Elations (a glucosamine condroitin supplement company), Michelin, and PBS Frontline, among others.

What does it mean that these companies have chosen to put their support behind a fast-growing conference of blogging women? Dare I hope it's respect for women's buying power, not just as mothers, cleaners, or purchasers of clothes and cosmetics, but as full-share American consumers who buy cars and cameras and pork (yep, the National Pork Board is another sponsor) and make investments and watch Frontline? Could they really be seeing us for what we are?

Time will tell. I'll be sure to report back next week on how these sponsors conducted themselves and what impressions I got from them at the conference. In the meantime, again, thanks to our sponsors!

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Intro ABCs

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I feel like I did a pretty lousy job on my BlogHer intro post the other day. I'm just not great at introducing myself. And that's bad, not just because of BlogHer, but because I am also participating in International Comment Leaving Week right now, which means new readers (yay!).

So I need to try that intro thing again.

Mrs. Gamgee over at Hobbit-ish Thoughts and Ramblings did an "ABCs of Me" intro post yesterday that I really like, so I am going to give that concept a whirl.

A is for Austin, Texas, where my partner and I have lived for just about six years now.
B is for blogging, which I unabashadly adore. I've been writing What If No One's Watching? since we first moved to Austin.
C is for cats. I have three--Atticus the gray tabby; Esme the gray tortoiseshell; and Illy the Siamese-mix.
D is for dogs--two of those at my house--Leo is an 8-10 year old Great Pyrnnes mystery mix and Atakan (Ata) is four-ish year old Anatolian Shepherd.
E is for Elkton, the tiny tiny town in Oregon where I grew up.
F is for feminist, something which I am, and about which I blog.
G is for Grace--that's me! I'm named after my maternal great-grandmother.
H is for Heroine Content, the other place where I blog.
I is for Internet, to which I am SO addicted.
J is for joy, which we all need to focus on a bit more.
K is for kin, which I have a ton of--huge extended family.
L is for Lush, who I both love and hate.
M is for Mark, my partner of nearly 8 years.
N is for naps, which I I excel at taking.
O is for obsessive, which I tend to be.
P is for Picasso, whose work is tattooed on my arm.
Q is for the quarrel you'll occasionally find in my comments.
R is for Reed, where I went to college.
S is for shopping, which I tend to do a lot of.
T is for thrifting, one of my favorite things to do and blog about.
U is for union, which I strongly support.
V is for vehicle, mine is Honda Element.
W is for writing, which I do every day.
X is for my size-XL.
Y is for you, my reader, who I cherish.
Z zealous, my attitude towards dog rescue, bath products, and writing reviews.

So know you know me! If you do one of these on your blog, please link it in the comments--I'd love to read your alphabet!

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Nine Good Teeth

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I was reading an old magazine. It was probably O! or Martha Stewart Living or something. I think I was in the doctor's waiting room. Anyway, I came upon an article about very elderly women. It featured I think six women, all of whom were over 100. For one woman, it mentioned that her grandson had made a documentary about her. I love a good documentary, so I requested it from the library. And so it came to be that I spent a piece of Sunday watching Nine Good Teeth.

Nine Good Teeth is the life story of Mary Mirabito Livornese Calviere. Her grandson, Alex Halpern, filmed in between her 96th and 100th birthdays in the late 1990s. Mary was born in Brooklyn, to Italian immigrant parents, in 1899. Through interviews with her, her sisters, her daughter, and her nephew, Halpern tells both the story of her individual life and of many of the major events of the 20th century.

Many elements of the story are not surprising--Mary went to school until the 8th grade, then stayed home with her younger siblings after her mother took ill. Her father was a well-respected longshoreman and she was raised in a traditional Italian Catholic family. She married early, though not exceptionally so (she was 20, her husband only 17). She had two children. Her son served in the second World War. Her husband died in the 60s and she remarried. Her second husband died four years later, then her son. Several of her siblings died, but at the time of the filming, six of them were still alive. Other than the long lifespans of her family, her story is pretty classic.

The surprising bits are the more personal details. There is resentment between Mary and her sister Gladys, because Gladys lived with Mary and her family from the ages of 15 and 25 as sort of a nanny, and feels Mary stole her best years. Mary's daughter, Maria, also holds some resentment towards her, saying that Mary always favored her brother. And it's Mary's son, Tommy, who is perhaps the most puzzling part of this equation--he was a musician, scarred by his time in the Pacific Rim, who was friends with Jack Kerouac.

Much is made of some of these elements, others it seems are nearly swept under the rug, either by Halpern or by his subjects. In one scene, Mary and her sister Janet are asked about their regrets. Both of them say they wish they had more children, and Mary comes out, surprisingly, with, "I should have had four--I had two abortions." Considering that Mary's childbearing years were in the 1930s and 1940s, and she's Catholic, this is an unexpected confession. It is not mentioned again.

Mary's general attitude towards sex, which is touched on at several points in the film, is perhaps the most surprising thing of all. She says, at one point, that she is lonely and wishes she had a companion in her old age. Then, with a bit of prodding, she follows up by saying that she thinks she could have an orgasm at her age. She also mentions regretting that she didn't more frequently "say yes" to her first husband, with whom she had a troubled relationship. She also confesses to an affair with the man who would eventually become her second husband early in her marriage to her first, and talks about his affairs as well.

Though Halpern's portrayal of Mary is ultimately flattering (he is, after all, her grandson), it's not perfect. She's clearly a stubborn woman, perhaps a bit self-centered, and definitely someone who made some bad choices during her long life. As always, though, I am thrilled to see someone take the time to tell the story of one woman's life, particularly when that life spans a century. She's amazing not just due to her longevity, and her willingness to talk about it, but due to the complicated, heartbreaking realness of her story. Every time someone writes a book or makes a film like this one, it's another nail in the coffin of history being written about only the "important" white males. I though of this in particular when comparing the film to the obituaries and memorials I've been reading this week about Walter Cronkite, who didn't live quite as long as Mary did, but was still quite old. Cronkite, love him or not, was the type of person about whom history is usually written. Unsurprisingly, I find more connections with and learn more from Mary.

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Intro for BlogHer 09

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Yep, another BlogHer post. But I do have a movie review to do later, so I promise I won't post all BlogHer content this week.

That being said, BlogHer Community Manager Denise suggests posting a pre-conference intro post to your blog, then cross-posting it to BlogHer, so we'll have some way to "get to know each other" before we all fall into a sea of 1,500 and are overwhelmed by business cards and names and faces. Good idea, says I. So here I go:

My name is Grace Mitchell. Online, you can mostly find me under the handle avengingophelia. It's an old handle and not one that particularly suits me anymore, but it's sort of too late to change it. I have two blogs: What if No One's Watching? is my personal blog, Heroine Content is the place where I co-blog feminist and anti-racist analysis of action media (mostly action movies).

Heroine Content is pretty self-explanatory. What if No One's Watching? is a bit trickier. I've been blogging there for nearly five years now. Mostly, it's my ramblings (several times a week) about whatever is currently interesting to me. Topics I blog about often include dogs and dog rescue, thrift shopping, crafting (particularly making bath products), makeup, clothes, movies, and books. My favorite things to write are generally reviews, so I do a lot of those. Thematically, I'm also kind of hung up on goal development and on the weirdness of growing up, so I touch on those pretty often as well. I'm a fairly self-indulgent, navel gazing, sometimes overly honest blogger, so you have to be able to handle all that to enjoy WINOW.

In my offline life, I live in Austin, Texas with my partner and our canine and feline crew. Said crew is currently made up of two extra large dogs, Leo and Ata, and three cats, Atticus, Esme, and Illy. We are moving to Northern Virginia at the end of the summer and are currently in house-selling hell. I am, by day, a technical writer and on the side a grant writer.

This year will be my second BlogHer conference. I missed last year, but did go to Chicago in 2007. Unfortunately, due to own completely wrong expectations of the conference and other stuff I had going on at the time, I didn't get nearly as much out of that experience as I should have. I don't plan to make that mistake again, and will be forcing myself out of my reserved shell this year.

Look for my business cards--they have a little girl leading a hippo on them--and for a tall woman with a Picasso dove tattoo. I'll be looking for you!

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BlogHer 09: What am I gonna wear?

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So back to pre-BlogHer posting.

I have a confession to make: the idea of packing for BlogHer fills me with fear. Much as I'd like to be, I am not the world's most fashionable person, and some of the attendees really, really are. Yesterday, Suebob tweeted a link to her red stapler pictures from the Chicago conference in 2007, for a glimpse at what people were wearing. Looking back at them, I remembered how put together and stylish I thought the women at BlogHer looked (particular nods Pioneer Woman Ree and BlogHer's own Lisa Stone). My Heroine Content co-blogger and general blog-guru Skye showed me up too, rocking cute skirts and cardigans while I schlepped in jeans and a layer of sweat.

I doubt I am the only one with these apprehensions. But there is advice out there!No Pasa Nada's HeatherB posted on BlogHer a couple of weeks ago about what she's packing (dresses, cardigans, and sandals, BTW). Miss Disgrace Grace is also planning on (really cute) dresses. Mobile Mommy Laurie is packing from her super organized list, and bought a new bag for the occasion. So that's a place to start.

HeatherB's main piece of advice is to wear what you would normally wear--i.e. be yourself. Good advice in most situations. I think, though, that for those of us who so rarely get to do anything like BlogHer (meetings and parties and lots of new people), there is a definite need to be ourselves only better. I don't just want to wear the clothes I wear to work every week, or the ones I wear around my house on the weekends. I want to do more than that. And so I've been doing a little shopping, both retail and in my own closet, and have come up with a few "me only better" things to pack. New jeans. Fun shirts that aren't work appropriate. And, like Laurie, a specially purchased Etsy bag. I want to be comfortable, and no, I am not there to be a fashionplate, but it's nerve wracking to know you're going to be meeting hundreds of women whose only real life impression of you will be formed over these few days. Everybody wants to put her best foot forward.

Now, if I can only find time to fit in a pedicure...

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Super thrifted yarn contest!

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I know I'm supposed to be making pre-BlogHer posts, but I can't resist this.

Yesterday, while doing a bit of thrifting with The Princess, I spied a bag of yarn. I always look at the bags of yarn at the Goodwill, but 95% of the time, they are full of half-skeins of synthetics. This time, however, I saw something else. Since the bag was stuffed full and marked $4.99, I decided to take a chance and bought it.

The contents:


  • One hank of Cotton Classic 100% cotton yarn, yellow (retail $6)

  • One hank of Himalayan Yarn Co. 60% wool 40% recycled silk yarn, maroon (retail $9)

  • One skein of Noro Silk Garden yarn, 45% silk, 45% kid mohair, 10% lambswool, Tan/Purple/Black/Teal/Rust (retail $12)

  • Two skeins Crystal Palace Yarns Panda Silk fingering weight yarn, 52% bamboo, 43% superwash merino wool, 5% combed silk, butterscotch (retail $8 each)

  • One skein of Crystal Palace Yarns Panda Wool, 51% bamboo, 39% wool, 10% nylon, Neptune (retail $7)

  • One skein of Crystal Palace Yarns Panda Wool, 51% bamboo, 39% wool, 10% nylon, Vine Green (retail $7)

  • One hank Berroco Cotton Twist, 70% mercerized cotton, 30% rayon, varigated (retail $5)

  • One skein Elann Adara, 87.5% mercerized cotton, 12.5% linen, Pecan (retail $2.50)

  • One skein Elann Adara, 87.5% mercerized cotton, 12.5% linen, unknown color (red/brown/white) (retail $2.50)

  • One skein Elann Adara, 87.5% mercerized cotton, 12.5% linen, Lagoon (retail $2.50)

  • One skein Elann Adara, 87.5% mercerized cotton, 12.5% linen, Surf (retail $2.50)

  • One skein Elann Adara, 87.5% mercerized cotton, 12.5% linen, Fern (retail $2.50)

  • One skein Elann Adara, 87.5% mercerized cotton, 12.5% linen, Amaranth (retail $2.50)

  • One skein Elann Adara, 87.5% mercerized cotton, 12.5% linen, Teaberry (retail $2.50)

  • One skein Elann Adara, 87.5% mercerized cotton, 12.5% linen, Hyacith (retail $2.50)

  • One skein Elann Adara, 87.5% mercerized cotton, 12.5% linen, Garnet Rose (retail $2.50)

  • One skein Elann Adara, 87.5% mercerized cotton, 12.5% linen, Byzantium (retail $2.50)

  • One skein Elann Adara, 87.5% mercerized cotton, 12.5% linen, Pistachio (retail $2.50)

  • One skein Elann Adara, 87.5% mercerized cotton, 12.5% linen, Waterfall (retail $2.50)

  • Takumi Clover #6 4.25 circular bamboo knitting needles (retail $9)

  • Takumi Cover #7 4.5 circular bamboo knitting needles (retail $9)

  • Two sets Takumi Clover #13 0.9 circular bamboo knitting needles (retail $13 each)

  • Takumi Clover #11 8.0 circular bamboo knitting needles (retail $13)

Total estimated value: approximately $149

Nice score, huh?

So, the contest: leave me a comment and tell me what you would do with this yarn if I sent it to you! What you would make and who you would make it for. One week from today, I'll pick the most awesome answer and send that person the works.

Go!

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Review: Flutterby Beauty

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flutterby logo.jpgThe LBB has done it again! In June's box, one of the most exciting items was a little bag of several samples from Flutterby Beauty, a new bath product shop on the scene. Intrigued by the sample items (and the 20% off coupon code), I made a small order from the website.

After some deliberation, I ordered: two 6.5 oz jars of Whipped Body Polish (one in Comfort, "a soothing blend of calming lavender with a hint of creamy milk and a drop of honey;" one in Clementine Lavender, "a relaxing and balancing fragrance of French lavender and sweet clementine supported by bergamot and Italian lemon"); two 2 oz bottles of Silky Body Oil (one in Head Over Heels, "fragrance opens with sweet vanilla, leads to a delicate floral center, and ends with a base of blackberry musk (compare to Philosophy Falling In Love);" one in Marrakesh, "an aromatic blend of spices including ginger, cinnamon, and clove balanced with a bit of zesty orange and warmed by a hint of vanilla"); and two 2 oz bottles of Moisture Mist (one in Honey Bee, "sweet honey drizzled over sticky toffee balanced with a squeeze of juicy orange and light florals (compare to Lush Honey I Washed The Kids);" one in Nectarine Blossom, "just-ripening nectarines with a hint of the delicate blossoms and a touch of honey (compare to Jo Malone Nectarine Blossom & Honey)"). After my discount code, my order came to about $35 with shipping.

It shipped lightening fast (two days, maybe?) and arrived quickly. It was well-packaged, with each set of two items in its own bag, tied with a purple ribbon. There was also a purple organza bag with three sample items--a body polish, a lotion, and a perfume. Flutterby's packaging is minimalist--just a simple label--but the bottles and tubs aren't flimsy and everything held up just fine.

Since the order arrived, I've had the chance to try at least one of each item. The body polish has a great texture, didn't seperate during shipping, and washes off without leaving an oil residue. I don't love the Comfort scent--the lavender overwhelms everything else in it--but there are lots of others to choose from. It's definitely worth buying again.

The other two products are even better. The Silky Body Oil is much like Haunt's Skin Glossing Oil (only $1.50 a 4 oz bottle cheaper), and it's an amazing moisturizing after-shower alternative when it's too hot for thick lotion (like now). I've tried both scents, but I love the Marrakesh--it's just spicy enough without being overpowering, and both the citrus and the vanilla are both clear in it. It's one of those smells, like Villainess' Jai Mahal, that just makes me feel cozy. Wonderful.

The Moisture Mist is also a winner. It's nice and cooling and lightly scented--perfect to carry around during the summer to replace heavy perfume oil. And the best part? Honey Bee is a dead ringer for Lush's Honey I Washed the Kids, which is one of my all-time favorite scents. I'm not a big fan of the Nectarine Blossom, but, again, there are lots of other scents to choose from. It's also fairly inexpensive, with a 4 oz bottle costing only $8.95.

Even more so than the first company to which the LBB introduced me, Heaven & Earth Essentials, I am taken with Flutterby. I'll definitely be ordering from them again. And, if you want to do the same, they are having a grand opening sale right now--the coupon code OPENING gets you 15% off your order and $5 flat rate shipping on all domestic orders. Go!

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Thoughts on self-indulgence

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The way I grew up, there were a long list of things considered self-indulgences. Not just things we didn't personally have money to buy, but things we wouldn't spend on even if we did. Things people shouldn't spend money on because it was weak, shallow, indulgent. Mostly, these things were not so much discussed as understood. And the list was long. Off the top of my head, it would include: paying people to things you could do yourself (including cleaners, having your car washed, lawn maintenance, painting, etc.); gym memberships; salon services (anything beyond a basic haircut at Supercuts, really); just about anything bought on credit; having multiple TVs or phones in the same household; paying full price for just about anything; name brands; and eating dessert or having an appetizer or drinks when dining out (and, to a point, dining out itself). Anything premium would also be included, from non-generic dog food to orange juice that came in a bottle rather than a concentrate can.

I remember, vividly, the small ways in which the inappropriateness of asking for or even wanting these things and others like them was instilled in me. People who spend money on things they can do themselves are lazy. Gym memberships are for people who are too stupid to find their own exercise. Salon services are for pampered princesses. People who have multiple TVs or phones at their house must just not like living together and being together. While it was clear we couldn't actually afford any of these things anyway, the more pressing issue, at least the way I interpreted it as a kid, was that wanting these things made you less of a person.

So now, clearly, things have changed. My parents, who do better financially now than they used to, have changes some. They buy orange juice in a bottle now and go out to dinner more than twice a year. Then even have a cordless phone. But the basic sense of not wasting money, no matter how much of it you have, is still healthy in them.

I, however, have become the kind of self-indulgent person I was steered away from as a child. This week, I bought an iPhone. I didn't need it--I had a perfectly good phone--but I wanted it, and I could afford it, so I bought it. And it's the latest in a long line of what would be considered unnecessary indulgences, including salon services (not just haircuts and colors, but manicures, pedicures, waxing, and massages); eating out often and well; buying premium items when I see a quality difference (like dog food); and yes, occasionally paying full price (though that one still bugs me). But these things don't come without guilt.

I have my fair amount of your typical middle class liberal guilt, i.e. "I shouldn't be buying this, I should be feeding the hungry/clothing the unclothed/sponsoring a child/insert your cause here." Beyond that, though, every time I buy something that is both expensive and unnecessary, I feel a little bit farther from my roots. It's not just that I've changed socioeconomic classes, and am now clearly in a different one than the one in which I grew up, but that I feel like I'm deliberately turning my back on the moral code under which I was raised.

I don't know how helpful any of this guilt is. It doesn't cause a change in my spending. I have been in the habit, for longer than I'd like to admit now, of buying pretty much whatever I want. I know it would be considered self-indulgent by the people who raised me, and honestly, I consider it self-indulgent myself, but I do it anyway. More and more, the pull from the way I was raised loses out to the pull of the hyper-consumer class in which I currently reside. In this class, these self-indulgences are normal. There are certainly people who don't visit salons or have gym memberships or buy expensive gadgets, but they are fewer and farther between all the time. And it's not so much that I feel the need to keep up with them (though that's likely part of it), but I can look to them as an example and think that this kind of spending must be OK.

This is one of the facets of growing up that nobody warns you about. Learning how to balance your identify as a consumer and as a worker is difficult in the best circumstances, but it is magnified when the consumption morals of your current class clash so dramatically with those of the class in which you were raised. The ways in which I spend embarrass me, and I do hide them from my family. I know that, even if they didn't say anything, my parents would judge the amount I spend on grooming, the number of times per month Mark and I eat out, and even the cost of the food our dogs eat. When they visited my house, I know that, consciously or not, they noted positively that we still only have one TV, and negatively that the TV is large and new. They notice those kinds of things for the same reason I do--it's how they were raised. How do they interpret them, though? Are they simply signs of my "affluence," of my being in a new class? Or are they signs of my weakness, laziness, and self-indulgent, thoughtless spending?

I know there are folks reading who have faced some of these issues as well. How do you deal with having not just different spending priorities, but different spending morals as either your family or the people around you? Is it uncomfortable? Perhaps most importantly, how do you arrive upon your own moral structure for these things, rather than just feeling like you are bucking those given to you without replacing them with anything else?

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Anybody want to buy a great house?

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I just realized I didn't tell all you (all. heh. all five.) readers about my house! Our listing went up on Friday! So far, we've had four showings. No offers, but a couple of really positive responses, so our fingers remain crossed.

The listing is here, if you are interested. And, because someone did ask for more pictures of the house at one point, let me show you how well it staged!

Front patio:
front patio.jpg

Kitchen:
kitchen.jpg

More kitchen:
kitchen 2.jpg

Dining area:
dining room.jpg

Living room:
living room.jpg

Guest room:
guest room.jpg

Master bedroom:
master.jpg

Office:
office.jpg

Fountain and pond in the back:
fountain and pond.jpg

Back herb garden and arbor:
back yard.jpg

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People I want to meet at BlogHer: Day 2

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Today's blogger I want to meet is Grace from Miss Grace's Disgrace. First, we share a name, which is always cool. Second, she's got a new tat, and it's amazing. Finally, her blog is the funny, not-too-sappy kind of blog I like. And I love that she features her life list on the sidebar.

Also, she's got a shopping blog, Disgraced Shopping. I love shopping blogs. I kinda want one. Scrolling through it I see it features Anthropologie clothes and organic lube. Love.

So what do you say, Grace? Wanna have a drink at one of the fabulous parties? You seem like the type who is going to have a really, really good time at BlogHer. I could learn something from you.

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Disover cash back duh moment

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So I'm a fan of the Discover card. Yes, I know, I was in credit card debt not that long ago and some people probably believe I shouldn't use cards at all. I think those people are wrong. Credit cards are tools, and if you can use them responsibly (which I believe I now can), then they are a good thing. So, I put just about everything on my Discover card. Why? The cash back.

Given that, how did I not know until today about the Shop Discover program? It's basically the same deal as Ebates, but for your Discover Card, and with bigger cash back percentgaes. For example, I always buy from Sephora though Ebates, to get 4% cash back. If I had been using Shop Discover, I'd have been getting 10%. 10% at Beauty.com, too. And at Ulta. An excellent 15% at Petco. 20% at Restuarant.com. 20% at VistaPrint. And the list goes on.

Making things even better, Discover is having a promotion wherein people who blog about this deal (like I'm doing now), can get $50 gift cards! I'm guessing this post is too late for that, since it started in early June and they are only awarding the first 50 bloggers, but I thought I'd let you know anyway, since this seems like a particularly good deal to me. That whole "card that pays you back" thing may be for real.

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People I want to meet at BlogHer: Day 1

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As I mentioned last week, I want to do a special series of posts leading up to leaving for the BlogHer conference next Thursday. I thought a bit about what to do, and I decided that, in keeping with my resolution to meet more people this year, I should feature some blogs and bloggers! So, every day between now and next Thursday (7/23), watch this space for a tidbit about the blog of someone who is planning to attend this year that I'd like to meet. That way, even if you can't go, you have the opportunity to find a few new blogs too!

StandTall is a Nigerian feminist and gender activist. Her personal blog is The Activist. I've only read through a month or so of her entries, but I'm hooked. StandTall writes about her daily life as well as a lot of gender-related issues, and her perspective is very different than that I read so often on American and Canadian blogs.

An entry from last week, "I Am Aunty Mary," discusses the use and misuse of respect-related prefixed being added to names. I've thought about this before in my own context (for example, I'm very uncomfortable being addressed as Aunt Grace, by friends' kids or by my own literal nieces), but StandTall's context is completely different. Her discussion is personal, but also well-informed and well thought-out. It's a great post.

So, StandTall, I hope to get a chance to meet you at BlogHer. And, if not, you'll be on my blogroll.

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T minus two weeks until BlogHer

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I'll Be Geeking OutI cannot tell you how excited I am about the BlogHer Conference. It's coming up in only two weeks, and I have pretty much started counting down the days.

I went to BlogHer in 2007, and I enjoyed it, but I was in a funk at the time and wasn't as extroverted as one needs to be in that type of situation and didn't have half as good time or get half as much out of it as I know I could have. This year, I am going to remedy that. To begin, I am rooming with a stranger (or an e-friend of a friend, really). That ought to force me out of my shell some. I've also RSVP'd for no less than a half a dozen of the fantastic parties that are scheduled, which ought to help (Grace is much friendlier with a few cocktails under her belt). I didn't make it on to the list for the Blogalicious Lush party, though, so if anybody wants to take pity on me and sneak me in there, I've be forever grateful. Seriously. Please?

I'm also checking out the attendees list over on the BlogHer site and reading up on some new blogs, in hopes I will be able to match faces and writers at the conference (easier said than done). For my own part, I'm planning a pre-BlogHer post series to begin on Monday, and at least one review over at Heroine Content before I leave for Chicago.

Also, I wised up this year and had some business cards made with all of my online information on them. One of the best things I did get out of the conference in 2007 was the stack of cards for new blogs I came home with, so I'm hoping to be a part of that process this year.

What else? Are any of you going? Can we meet up there? Any suggestions about how to make the most of the great opportunity to be there?

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Admiration exercise

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I don't remember where I heard about this--in a book or on a TV show, probably. But anyway, the exercise is to make a list of people you admire, then list the specific personality traits you admire in them. Then, remove the people and look just at the list of traits. Are you displaying those in your own life? Are the things you admire in other things you, too, have going for you, or are they things you need to work on? Good "step back and think about yourself" thing to do, I think, and something I've been meaning to share here for quite a while.

I'm going to skip the first part, with the list of people I admire. Well, not skip it--I did it--but not publish it here, since it won't really be relevant to readers who don't know these people. But this is the list of character traits the people on my admiration list hold:


  • openness; willingness to reach out to others

  • strong work ethic

  • perserverence

  • sense of personal style

  • intellectual curiosity

  • willingness to consider the impact of her actions

  • generosity

  • respect for other people's boundaries

  • patience

  • cool head in a crisis

  • thick skin; self-confidence

Seeing the traits I admire in other people listed out that way, I see a pretty clear map of the person I'd like to be. I'm farther along with developing some of these traits than others. The openeness and willingness to reach out I've been trying to learn from my mother for my entire life still isn't really present in me. The intellectual curiosity I admire in Mark has been pretty well instilled. I think about the sense of style I've always admired in my friend Sarah often, but emulate it rarely. I'm a work in progress.

I really suggest trying this, if you're at all interested. It's an eye-opener.

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When the Man comes around

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There's a man going around taking names
And he decides who to free and who to blame
Everybody won't be treated all the same
There'll be a golden ladder reaching down
When the Man comes around

-Johnny Cash

I know many of my readers don't believe in Hell. And neither do I, to be fair. But, for the sake of a thought experiment, pretend you do for a minute. Who gets in?

Say there is a God, a Johnny Cash-style all-knowing all-judging God. How are our lives measured, when we die, to decide who goes to Heaven and who burns? What are the criteria?

The reason this comes up is Robert McNamara. Upon hearing that he'd died, I said something to the effect of "if there is a Hell, he can see LBJ there." I was corrected, numerous times, by people who insisted that McNamara repented for his mistakes and would be forgiven.

Would he? How does one repent for a body count that size? Is being sorry enough, or do you have to save as many lives as you cost to even your balance sheet?

Repentance, as an idea, is interesting to me. It's the subject of some pretty great art and music and literature. It's something we've been obsessed with for centuries. Why? Is it really even possible to repent? And if it is, does that really just mean ask forgiveness/buy masses/do penitence, or is there more?

To add another pop culture reference to this already muddled train of thought, Joss Whedon's work is often about repentance, particularly in the character of Angel. For those who aren't in the Joss-know, Angel is a centuries old sadist vampire who is cursed with a soul so he is keenly aware of all the harm he's caused. In Joss' universe, he spends the majority of his time repenting (well, and brooding). His life is about repentance. This doesn't go too deep in Buffy, but once Joss made Angel's spin-off show, repentance was the overarching theme, not just for Angel, but for other characters as well. And the bottom line always seemed to be that it's never enough. That you have a responsibility to try to repent, but that you never really even your score, not even if you save the world. Pretty bleak, maybe, but ultimately true?

While I don't believe in Hell, or in a judgmental God who is up there keeping score, I do believe in trying to atone. Not to save a spot in Heaven, but to keep some sort of vague Karmic balance. It's not about paying off in the end, but more about getting back what you put out. And maybe that's what I really meant about Robert McNamara. He was personally responsible, more or less, for hundreds of thousands of deaths. Judging by the evidence he left, that weighed on him, and he did spend the rest of his life, after leaving Johnson's White House, trying to do good in the world. Is that atonement? Is there really anything he could have done to balance that kind of Karmic debt? Given that regular old dudes don't usually get the opportunity for Angel-sized world saving, I don't really think there is. He may be sorry, but, on a national level, if not a celestial one, he's not forgiven.

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June LBB review

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The LBB is on a roll. June's offering did not disappoint! As usual, this post will contain a rundown of what my box contained, but I'm also going to attempt to figure out the value of the items therein. All the values listed are taken from the merchant's website. If what was in the box is not offered on the site, the value is estimated based on what is offered.

In the box:


  • A Freesia Hand Poured Soy Melt from Walking Leaf Co., $5.95

  • Two printed package tags and a 15% code from Shalom's Cottage Home, $.75

  • A pink teardrop adjustable size ring from AlluRing, $6.

  • A green ribbon clippie barette and a free shipping code from 3 Little Monkeys, $2

  • A small bag of dog treats from Pawsh Dog Bakery, $1

  • A sample sized bar of Pure Lemon soap from Strawberry Hedgehog (also featured last month), $1

  • A sample sized jar of unrefined shea butter from Nature's Shea Butter, $2.25

  • A Patriotic Parfait sample sized wax melt from Whiff and Sniff Candles, $1

  • An Autism Awareness ribbon pin and a 15% off coupon code from Jodi's Craft Emporium (also featured in April), $5

  • Two wooden and paper magnets from QueenVanna Creations, $1.75

  • A beaded ponytail wrap and a 20% off code from Pony Pretties, $5

  • Two small envelopes and two matchbook notebooks from Crye's Creations (also featured in March, April, and May), $.70

  • A large size pink cotton crocheted scrubbie from Mom With a Hook, $1.75

  • A Sultry Summer perfume sample and a lollly from Lemon Lollipop (also featured in May), $1

  • A chili pepper shaped catnip toy from Colorado Catnip Toys (also featured in March), $3.95

  • A super cute "If You Love Something, Set it Free" screen printed postcard from 3 Lambs Graphics, $3

  • A screen printed thank you card and an offer for four free monogrammed cards from Just Wright Boutique, $4.95

  • A Winter Nights soy scent tart and a sample sized bag of Pomegranate bath fizzies, along with a magnet, from The Serene Dream Shop, $.75

  • A sample of Wakey Wakey Whipped Body Polish, a sample of Strawberry Fields Hydrating Lotion, a sample of Afternoon Delight Silky Body Oil, and a sample of Classic Vanilla Moisture Mist, along with a 20% off code, from Flutterby Beauty, $6

Grand total: $51.80.

Yeah, I think it's definitely worth the money.

I am particularly excited about the Flutterby Beauty stuff--it's a new shop, and the information on their website leads me to believe they are right up my alley!

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Shopping handmade: Wallets

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I know you all love a good shopping post...

I need to buy a wallet. The zipper pouch I am using is driving me crazy. I've looked in a few stores, but nothing has jumped out at me. I have some money in my Paypal account. So, Etsy! I searched for "wallet" and here are the great options I found:

Retro Owl Everyday Clutch Bag by Mimi's Crafts, $24.
This isn't exactly what I am looking for, but how cute is it!? I love the fabric, and style shape and size would be great for non-workdays. It's going on my favorites list.

Gooseberry Wallet by Pego Creations, $35.
Again, not quite what I am looking for, but isn't this "stitch printed" wallet great? I don't want something this shape, as it would take up too much room in my bag, but I love the simple yet artistic style of this one.

Bella Wallet by Bliss by Heather, $29.
Again, this isn't the shape I want, but it's gorgeous and looks very well made. I love the fabric choices, especially this bright red one. Plus, the price has been reduced from $35 to $29!


Two Compartment Pouch by oktak, $35.
This I just love. It's well made, seperated, and has a gorgeous print. However, I'd be concerned about the light colored fabric getting too dirty, and about the snap closure coming open in my bag. So this one is going on the favorites list for another time too.

KF Palm Pal by Krazy Fashion Accessories, $12.
Now this is more what I had in mind. Something that's still small, but has compartments so I can organize cards, and in a cute, darker colored fabric. Plus, on sale for $12! Can't beat that. Unfortunately, when I looked close I realized that this wallet doesn't have a space for cash, so that leaves it out for me.

linen wallet.jpgLinen Wallet by Laura Bucci, $23.
This could be the one. It is small, has seperate compartments for credit cards and cash, and is just lovely. Plus, the natural linen color should hide dirt fairly well. This is on the short list.

Mini Accordian Purse by The Laughing House, $16.99.
Another distinct possibility! I love the multiple slots for cards and the small profile, and being able to choose my own fabric is a distinct plus.

Frame Clutch Wallet by Kailo Chic, $32.
This is the last wallet on my short list. It isn't what I was originally looking for, but I love the style of it, and that I'd be able to carry it by itself if I wanted to. The downside is that it would never fit into a pocket and I am still concerned about the frame snap coming open in my bag.

So I'll decide between those three. Do you have an opinion? By all means, share it.

Now, a couple of words about shopping on Etsy, for those who aren't already pros. First, be willing to dedicate some time to it. When you have to search and click to see things, it takes a bit. If you are impatient with that process, you probably won't have a good experience. Second, pay attention to the listing. Not just the picture, but the actual words. In this instance, it was important for me to check the size of the wallet in the listing, since some seem smaller or larger than they actually are. Next, if you search and see something you like, but it isn't quite what you are looking for, click through to the shop and see what else that seller has to offer. Much of the time, something closer to what you are looking for will be available. Also, keep in mind when looking at prices (and when waiting for your ordered item to arrive) that these are handmade items--they SHOULD cost more and take longer. Finally, use your favorites list. If you see something that's great, just not what you are looking for right now, put it on your favorites list so you can find it again later. Otherwise, it will be lost in the Etsy ether.

Happy Shopping!

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In contemplation of the cul de sac

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As I mentioned, we're looking for a place to live in Virginia, with the intent of moving there at the end of the summer (likely in late August). Before we actually started looking, Mark and I both had a romantic notion of living outside the cities and suburbs, in horse country, maybe on a few acres. I imagined having space for lots of rescue dogs. I imagined quiet and solitude. I imagined a stream, and maybe a barn. I neglected to consider the impact of all that solitude on my work-at-home self. Or ony having one car. Or the million or so things that totally blow about living out in the country, like lousy Internet service and long commutes. But when I actually went and visited the area, these things all sprang back to mind.

And so, it seems quite likely that we're headed for the suburbs. I grew up in the country and have lived in a city since then. I've never lived in a suburb. In fact, I've spent a good part of the last decade or so making merciless fun of suburbs. Places where you can't walk or bus anywhere. Places with houses all built the same, with lots of rules, with no real trees and cardboard neighbors. Edward Scissorhands land. Why would anyone want to live there?

Turns out there are reasons. Long drives every day to work suck. Space is nice to have. My dogs need a yard, and I'd like a bathtub. It's a difficult thing for my trying-to-be-hip self to say, but there are benefits to living somewhere with sidewalks and "safe streets." I'm still not thrilled about the idea of moving into one of a hundred houses that look just the same, or having someone come down on me if I put something they don't like in my lawn, or having to get in the car to get coffee/go to the library/whatever. But I do understand the reasons a bit better now, having compared what is available in the 'burbs to the city and country options.

This is yet another one of those weird growing up things. Just like I never expected to work at a desk from 9-5, or wear makeup every day, or pay someone to paint my house, I never expected to live in a much too-big house in a suburb. Just like I pictured exciting, important jobs and cutting edge clothes and a do-it-myself life, I pictured either rural simplicity or the excitement of a city. I was never going to be halfway anywhere, I was never going to let people tell me what to do. And suburbs are the epitome of halfway.

It never ceases to amaze me just how much things change. It seems like almost every day right now it's something else. What's next? Once we are installed in our multi-bedroom sububan home, a couple of proper DINKS, then what? A baby? A SUV? A subscription to Rachael Ray's magazine? Where will it end?

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