Friday, June 29, 2012

The Cost of Health


So yesterday there was quite the buzz about Obamacare and SCOTUS and healthcare in general.

Let’s be honest – I don’t really understand all of the ins and outs of Obamacare, but as someone with a preexisting condition, I am excited about the idea that denial of healthcare for preexisting conditions will be eliminated under this plan. That’s kind of awesome.

I’m also excited about the notion that insurance companies will – in theory, anyway – have to stop price gouging.

Because here’s the deal: I work for a company that does not provide benefits. This is not my idea of an awesome situation, but it’s not abnormal in this country – many, many companies do not provide health care benefits. As a result, I self-insure.

I can afford this – barely.

In case you’re wondering what it costs to self-insure, I will tell you that I have NO IDEA what the average person pays. But I’ll tell you what I pay – for just me, with $1000 deductible, I pay $515 a month.

I expect it to go up in January. It typically does (although, maybe now … not as much? Fingers crossed.)

Here’s what I don’t have: I don’t have vision. I don’t have dental. If I want glasses (which I do, if I ever want to be allowed behind the wheel), I have to pay out of pocket. This is painful, but necessary.  I don’t go to the dentist. Because I pay $515 a MONTH for health insurance. I don’t have the money for the dentist. (At this point, I feel like dental care is a luxury, one for other, richer people.)

If you have grabbed a calculator (or if you’re one of those crafty, do the math in your head folks) you have figured out by now that I’m paying $6180 this year for the privilege of having health insurance.

That’s $6180 that’s NOT going into savings, where it is DESPERATELY needed.

It’s $6180 that’s NOT going to paying off debt, where it would also be incredibly helpful.

It IS covering doctor visits. It covered MOST of the tests on my heart a year ago January, though I ended up paying about $1300 out of pocket. It covers a lot of the costs of asthma medication – a single inhaler can cost over $200, that’s handy too.

 Health insurance, however, is burying me.  It costs almost as much as my rent, and while it’s comforting to know that I have it, it’s embittering to know that it makes my life more difficult, to know that the panicky “Oh my God, what am I doing” feeling would be gone if I wasn’t shelling out that much cash every month for a service that, with the rare exception, I don’t often use. (Well, the prescriptions and about one doctor’s visit a year. Other than that, not so much.)

I don’t know what the answer to the health care problem in this country is, and I’m not going to pretend that I do.  What I will say is that healthcare in America is a dire, problematic situation, and the notion that I am slowly bankrupting myself to be able to continue to have healthcare is making me – well, unhealthy.

I don’t know if Obamacare is the final answer, but I know it’s a start. And I’d rather have an imperfect start than nothing at all.  

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Captain of the Storm Troopers


I’ve come to a decision.

And here it is:

THE PEOPLE UPSTAIRS HAVE TO MOVE.

They HAVE to.

Here’s what happened: one lovely morning, I went out onto the balcony to drink a cup of coffee and find my zen so I could, you know, face the workday with some sort of centered calm.

Closed my eyes.

Deeeeeeeeep inhale. Slow exhale. ZENNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNN.

Sip coffee. Smile. Open eyes.

Happen to glance down at car.

Zen squeaks in fear and dashes away as I am FILLED WITH RAGE.

Why? You ask in alarm. What could you POSSIBLY have seen?

Here’s what I saw:

A cigarette butt that had been tossed – still lit – onto the hood of my car.

Which could have come from ONLY one place.

THE STORM TROOPERS.

I marched upstairs and pounded on their door. The noisy fella – the one who’s always on the phone on HIS balcony – answered. I appeared to have awakened him.

Good.

“Hi,” I chirped. “I live below you. You – or a member of your household – threw a cigarette butt onto my car. This is not acceptable.”

“How do you know it was me?” he smirked, apparently unaware that I have a history of smirk-wiping.

“Well,” I said sweetly, “I know it wasn’t ME. I know it wasn’t the people BELOW me, since their apartment is below street level and tossing a butt out their window up ONTO the hood of my car would be a feat indeed. I also know that they don’t smoke. So logic and physics point to you.”

He opened his mouth to speak, but I rolled right over him.

“I also deduced it from the fact that the soda bottle you’ve BEEN putting your butts in is on the ground in FRONT of my car, where it’s been since it blew off your balcony a couple of days ago. See, what I’ve noticed about you is that you’re a slob, and you don’t care about anyone’s things. Not your own, not anyone else’s. I don’t care if you don’t care about your stuff, but I do care VERY much about mine. What you did? Is not okay.”

“Uh,” he said.

“Also, so you know, I won’t be calling the building manager today. But let me tell you – when you piss me off again? AND YOU WILL, because between the constant noise, the ridiculous behaviour, the running the truck for twenty minutes every morning – and what’s that about? You don’t have to warm a truck up IN THE SUMMER, you’re RIDICULOUS – and the beer cans and such that you throw off your balcony?  You’re not a great neighbor OR tenant.  So – cut the crap. Clean up your mess. And I won’t have to report you for sucking at life. Are we good?”

“Yes ma’am,” he said. I think he was in shock.

“Have a nice day!” I said sweetly.

They’ve shaped up. Kind of.

But I’m hoping their month to month lease is over soon.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Finding My Happy


It’s shaping up to be one of those weeks – some plans that I was looking forward to had to be canceled, the internet is being hinky, I’m under the weather (well, sorta … I feel okay except for the exhaustion that requires a daily mid-day nap, which can’t be right) – and it would be easy to throw in my happy towel.

Except that I don’t WANT to.

Sometimes, I have to remind myself that no, really, life in general doesn’t completely suck. It helps me if I make a list.

Here’s today’s list. And here’s to whatever makes you smile.

15 Things that make me ridiculously happy:

1.       The way the air smells after it rains in the summertime. I love this.

2.       Daffodils.

3.       Beach sand underneath my toesies.

4.       Melty gooey pizza cheese, despite the fact that I constantly burn my mouth.

5.       The first 45 minutes of any roadtrip.

6.       Sequins

7.       All things potato.

8.       Popsicles.

9.       The colour orange.

10.   My car.

11.   The sound of the wind in the trees.

12.   Moments of uncontrollable hilarity.

13.   Bubble bath

14.   Black mascara

15.   The first sip of coffee of the day.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

JT, You're Still My Hero

I am SO tired.

It's this guy's fault.




(Here's the link if the embed is all wonktastic: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pIKEWCyj8mw)

But that's okay, because I love him. Even though he didn't sing this song the other night when I saw him in concert.

So you should listen to it now. And then forgive me for a really sad little post. Tomorrow will be better.

Monday, June 25, 2012

Single.


I spent a lot of time over the weekend discussing relationships – and why I’m not in one – with delightful, well-meaning people who only want the best for me.

Siiiiiiigh.

“It concerns me,” one of them said, “that you appear to have given up.”

I can actually see how someone would come to this conclusion, being as I don’t date, rarely at this point go out, and told eHarmony and Geek2Geek to take a hike months ago. Yes, I do appear to have given up. However, after some introspection, I realize that I may be giving the mistaken impression that I was ever in the game in the first place, because I really wasn’t. 

Let’s put it this way: you can stand in the water all you want to, but that doesn’t mean you’re swimming.

If I’m going to be completely honest (and why not? Why be otherwise?) there are several factors involved with my “oh hell to the no” with the dating. The first is this: I spent some time this weekend reflecting on my relationship history, and with a couple of notable exceptions (not coincidentally, these exceptions are the few exes I still speak to), that history? Is a timeline of realllllllly bad choices. Oh so bad. The kind where, if you were at a movie about relationships, you might curse at the heroine on the screen, throw popcorn at her, and then damn the writers for creating such a phenomenally stupid character.

Unfortunately, I AM … with distressing regularity … that phenomenally stupid. (However, it is also sometimes hysterically funny, but that is another post ENTIRELY.) It occurs to me that I attract, and am attracted to,  er… quirky personalities* and since the one constant through every relationship is ME, perhaps it’s in everyone’s interest – you know, like all of the people who have to deal with me – if I opt off of this particular Crazy Train.

So there’s that.

The second factor is, of course, fear. When my ex-husband left me, it nearly killed me. I don’t think I have the kind of sterling character that is required to survive something like that twice. I just don’t.  There’s not really a way to pretty that up or make it funny, so … moving on.

The third part is that I’m fairly content with my quiet little life. I’m a homebody. I mostly live inside my head, which is annoying to partner types. I have a tendency to put all of my ridiculousness on the internet, which can ALSO be annoying to partner types. (“Oh, hi, remember the fight we had where I called you an asshat? The internet ALSO thinks you’re an asshat. Asshat.”) I don’t want to be with someone and have them think they need to fix me, mold me, save me, change me. (This always happens. “I love that you’re independent. Now depend on me.” Uh, no. But thanks.)  I have some baggage. Oh hell, I have so much baggage that I’m considering hiring a bellboy to lug it around. But I’m used to it. It’s MINE. And I deal with it.

Perhaps not with, as recently was also suggested, a formal therapist, but I deal with it.

I love my friends and family, and I love that they want me to be happy. But I also think that the way to drive a single woman in her thirties insane is to keep asking her why she doesn’t have a romantic partner or suggesting ways in which she could meet one, when really? She’s fine just the way she is.

Sometimes, you don’t NEED to go swimming.

Sometimes, it’s enough just to stand in the water and watch everyone else swim.

* kinder way of saying  “deviant, insane, criminal types.”

Friday, June 22, 2012

The One Where I Say "Vagina" A Lot


We were talking about the glass ceiling and equal pay for men and women and maternity leave issues when it happened. My friend said, “I just don’t think that a woman should be paid less or be denied opportunities because she has a …” her voice trailed off.

“Vagina?” I said.

“Yes!” She said.

“I’m comfortable saying vagina. Let’s all say it. VAGINA. See, that wasn’t so hard!”

But apparently, the word vagina is an issue. I’ve noticed it over the last several years as the term “vajayjay” came into use on television shows that spoke about women’s issues. And while vajayjay is fun to say, it’s also not a medical term. So if, say, Oprah is going to be talking to Dr Oz about women’s medical issues, I want no discussions of the vajayjay, but I would appreciate a discussion about a vagina.

I become infuriated by this, because it doesn’t seem to happen with the word “penis.” I’ve yet to see a medical professional pause in the middle of a televised discussion or lecture, pause, and substitute the word penis with something cute and made up and rhyme-y rather than the technical name.

This bothers me.

It bothers me that MTV – which has brought you such high class programming as “16 and Pregnant,” and “The Jersey Shore” -- will bleep out the word vagina.

It bothers me that two Michigan state lawmakers – both women – were kicked off the floor during a discussion of reproductive rights (which seem as though they might require MENTION of a vagina or two) for saying the word vagina. (A Michigan Republican state Representative later said that the word was so offensive that he didn’t even want to say it in front of women… apparently unaware that all women are actually in possession of a vagina, and are familiar with the word.)

It bothers me because the inability to name something properly indicates that there is something inherently evil or dirty about the thing you will not name. A vagina is NOT Lord Voldemort, people.*  It is okay to say the word. In fact, it’s MORE proper to call it by its name than it might be to call it by most of the slang terms for it, some of which are so rude that I can’t even say them without blushing.**

Because, by itself? A vagina is a body part. Like an arm, or a leg, or a nose, or … let’s face it … a penis. We can call those what they are without shame, but reserve the obscenity notion for a women’s anatomy – which means, of course,  that we remove the vagina from discourse.  And if you can’t talk about a vagina, well, then it ceases to matter; in a space where there is rampant debate and possible legislation regarding the bodies of women – to which the vagina tends to belong – this is an issue.

 I am probably blowing this out of proportion (which I am sometimes wont to do) but it seems to me that we have reached a point in the war over who gets to control the health (and bodies) of women where we are erasing the ability to speak knowledgably about them. I don’t want legislators to be deciding what I am and am not allowed to do with my vagina, but I DEFINITELY don’t want them making those choices if they can’t call it what it is, or think that it is shameful, dirty, and offensive.

There’s nothing shameful about being in possession of a vagina.

But there’s something VERY shameful about trying to make it seem as though there is.

*Although that might be more fun than Vajayjay, amiright?  “I need to go to see the doctor about my Voldemort.”

**which is saying something, because I have a filthy mouth that no amount of Orbit seems to be able to freshen up.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Curses!


I got an email a while back (which is short for “it was a REALLY long time ago; so long, in fact, that I’m not really sure why it’s stuck in my craw right this minute, but it is so… whatever…”) that basically said the following:

“Hi I like your blog. You’re a good writer, but you swear too much.”

To that, I can only say the following:

A)     I have an upcoming post that is going to contain the word “vagina” MANY times. While I know that vagina is not a swear word (unless, apparently, you are in Michigan), it seems as though this might offend you, and you may want to be on the lookout for that one.

B)      You clearly don’t know me in real life, because I censor the SHIT out of myself on here.

Is it delicate and ladylike? Do I sound educated when I’m dropping the f-bomb all over creation? No ma’am. However, as I get older and wiser, I become less concerned with delicate and ladylike and more concerned with getting my point across and sometimes, Dear Ones, the best way to do that is not with a quietly cleared throat and an “Excuse me, I don’t mean to intrude on your presence with my own needs, but if you wouldn’t mind, could you please move your vehicle into the proper lane as it is currently blocking my ability to turn left on this green arrow and you have clearly misread the road signs.”

So, cursing.

The other problem with me, of course, is that I spend most of my time alone, on the computer, with my cat, so it could be said that I am perhaps not as socialized as I once was due to my ability to yell obscenities at the computer when things are not going as smoothly as they might otherwise go.

I try to, you know, be appropriate.

Sometimes I fail.

I rewrite most of my blog posts and edit out the swearing. One, because in my head I can see my mom wincing every time she comes across random cursing (Hi, Mom! Apologizing in advance for the vagina post!) and two, because in print, cursing is SO much more dramatic if it’s well placed and not overused. Having said that, I also pride myself on the fact that my writing generally sounds like, well, me… and sometimes I have a potty mouth.

So there you have it.

I’m thankful every time someone reads my blog, even if they don’t like it. And I’m thrilled every time someone comments or emails me, even if they hate me and think I curse too damn much.

(I’m still working on the “Not cursing so much around little children” portion of the program.)

(Also, vagina. Just to help you to get used to it before the next post.)

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

(un)Forgiven


I am not the type of person who holds a grudge. The things I despise are, generally, abstracts: injustice, homophobia, racism, sexism, classism. I hate a lot of  -isms. I don’t usually direct my anger/hatred/ loathing at specific people. If I get angry at a specific person, it usually lasts for all of an hour, and then it’s done. This is mostly because I am conflict-avoidant and the reality of being in direct conflict with someone – anyone – is so painful and distressing to me that I need to get whatever it is off the table and resolved quickly; it is simply my nature. Once I’m past something, I’m past it. We will never have to discuss it again. I’m not the type to have a later argument and yell at my opponent “This is just like that other time you did that thing!” because to do so is unfair – that was THAT argument, this is THIS argument, and they don’t need to be related because life is not a hockey game and we don’t need to keep score.

However.

Being conflict avoidant and generally not grudge-y doesn’t mean that there are not people – not many, but some – who I could cheerfully go without speaking to ever again. There are a select few individuals who I wish would have some sort of memory altering procedure so as to make them forget that they ever knew me, so that if there is ever a situation in which we meet face to face, they would not feel as though they have to make nice, or say hello, or even acknowledge my presence. We don’t need to make small talk – we don’t need to have any kind of talk at all – and I don’t want to have to be polite to them, or look at them, or deal with them. I just don’t.

This is not one of the more sterling aspects of my character, I know, but I confess it here: there are some people in this world who have hurt me, and I cannot forgive them.

I was raised in a faith that is all about forgiveness.  After all, Jesus – who was, after all, a very nice guy who did lovely things for people, and got executed for His efforts – HE forgave people! So YOU should be able to forgive people! C’mon! He was NAILED TO A CROSS AND HE FORGAVE. No one nailed YOU to a cross! So forgive a little!

I would like to point out here that Jesus was also able to do things like turn water into wine and walk on water. I’ve not yet managed those feats either.

That I am writing about this at all is due to the fact that one of the few people that I find completely intolerable sent me a friend request on Facebook today.

Which, of course, sent me into a tailspin.

Because – we’re not friends. The last exchange we had was completely hateful and accusatory on both sides. We had a history of conflict – we are very different people, who approach life from wildly divergent angles and who could not find common ground -- before we found ourselves thrown together, as luck would have it, on a project. The project was completed successfully.

Our ability to interact with one another was not so successfully resolved. Words were said – the kind that, once uttered, can never be retracted.

Some years have passed, and I’m not the same person I was, so I understand that my adversary may not be the same person s/he was, either. Perhaps the friend request is an olive branch. After years of Sunday School and forgiveness training, I understand an olive branch.

And yet.

I have not responded to the friend request.

 The loving part of my brain, the part that is kind and wants to wrap everyone in a warm, fuzzy blanket, wants me to reach back across the chasm and take the hand that has been outstretched. That part thinks that being Facebook friends with this person might be perfect, because it’s not as fraught as having to deal with this person in real life. “It’s a small step, but a good one,” says that part of my brain. “Surely, we can let go just enough to reciprocate. Surely, you can be the bigger person.”

And then I think, “If I was the bigger person, I would have made the friend request first. Also, when you say ‘bigger person’, did you just call me fat?”

“Oh knock it off,” says the loving part of my brain, exasperated – but in a nice way, because that’s what that part of my brain does.

The meaner part of my brain, the defensive, “don’t tell me I’m wrong” part, doesn’t want any part of this. That part of my brain, I think, acts like the loving part’s big brother. It tries to keep her safe and protect her tender heart, so it gets all blustery and angry. “This person HURT you,” it says. “This person is not deserving of your friendship. So, NO. And if s/he interprets the silence as a sign that you don’t like her/him? IT’S BECAUSE YOU DON’T. Good riddance to bad rubbish.”

But I also know this: I believe in second chances.  Sometimes, that is taken advantage of, but there it is. I believe in second chances because I know that, if it came to that, I would want one.

So I should forgive.

But my finger still hesitates over the “accept” button. And my heart still stutters over the choice.  Maybe it shouldn’t be so complicated, but it is. Maybe I shouldn’t torment myself with it, but I do. Right now, it’s just a friend request – so simple! So not worthy of all of this angst! But it makes me think about the other people in my life who I have such a hard time forgiving, and wondering – if I reach back across the divide to this person, can I reach out to those other few? And if I do, what will happen?

I don’t know.

I know that holding onto my hurt like this is out of character, and I know that it only hurts me. Intellectually, I know that.

And yet.

I cannot seem to take the next step.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Practicing Random Acts of Kindness




(if the above video doesn't open, you can view it here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=auNSrt-QOhw)

This is glorious.

GLORIOUS.

Yesterday, someone made a comment to me that really bothered me. It bothered me because it was unintentionally hurtful, and it also made me realize how many times I have thoughlessly opened my mouth for snark (I speak snark fluently, y'all) and probably said something that was mean or judge-y.

I appreciate my own sense of humour, and I know that sarcasm has a place in the world, but I also know this: it takes very little effort to be kind. The whole "thinking before you speak" portion of one's brain requires almost no effort. It does, however, take some practice.

So does behaving in ways that are benefical to others. No time, really. Just practice.

I can practice this.

Monday, June 18, 2012

Beansie Boo

I talk about my cat a lot.

So I thought you might like to meet her.

This is Rhiannon Colleen, better known to everyone as Bean, or Beansie Boo.


She's a bit of a moose -- she's 14 pounds of solid cat -- but when I got her, she was a teensy ball of fluff, as can be seen below:


She was also, as I've mentioned before, in dire straits; she weighed about a pound, she had a horrible lung infection, her eyes were infected, and she had ear mites. At all of four weeks old, she was struggling. The day I got her I immediately took her to the vet and begged them to see her. The lady at the front desk said, "Well, let's get a look at her," so I put the carrier on the counter. She took one look and said, "Let's take her back to exam room two ... uhhh, if you could not let her out of the carrier, that would be awesome."

That was not a good sign.

I went back to the exam room and didn't let her out of the carrier, but I opened the door and put my hand in. She crawled into my palm -- her whole body fit in there -- and began to purr.

Instant love.

I might have cried a little bit. "You need to be okay, little bug," I said.

The vet later told me that he didn't think she would make it, but he didn't want to tell me because I seemed attached to her. Well, duh.

It took an entire summer for her to get better. We made a lot of trips to the vet, and bought a lot of medicines that had to be administered with eyedroppers. However, the kitten who climbed into my hand on the first day I had her made one thing known -- she was here to stay, and I was her human. That was all.

She demonstrated this in several ways. I had shoulder surgery and spent that first summer in a sling. She would climb into it and go to sleep, purring loudly. She would curl up in my shoes. She would curl up on my pillow, beside my head. She would occasionally curl up on my neck, which was okay until she started to grow.

And GROW. 1 pound of kitty on a neck is MUCH more comfortable, by the way, than 14 pounds. In case you were wondering.

She became a GIANT. (Although, to this day, she seems to believe she is a tiny, delicate flower, and no amount of crashing into things or blundering about or falling off of things can convince her otherwise.)

She also retained her sweet nature, and she still thinks I belong to her. As a result, she looks out for me. When I was first separated from my ex-husband, she would sleep in my bed -- like always -- but if she had to get up in the night, she would bring me one of her toys. If I woke up and she was gone, pink mouse would be on the pillow. I'm not sure what thought process was involved in that (if any ... she's not the brightest daffodil in the flower bed, to be sure) but it was so adorable that I could hardly stand it.

I never meant to become one of those people -- you know, the kind who goes on and on about her pet until it becomes weird and kind of annoying. However, having her has brought me endless amounts of joy and laughter. She's one of the best things that has ever happened to me.

She just turned 9.

Happy Birthday, Beansie Boo.

And for you, Reader-person, I would say this: If you do not have a pet? MANY animals -- cats and dogs and gerbils and hamsters and birds and probably the occasional turtle or snake -- need homes. Rescue one. It will make your life better, I swear.

Friday, June 15, 2012

Today, on My Strange Addiction


Hi, my name is Danielle.

And I … am addicted to … Subway sandwiches.  

Not just any sandwich. The Subway Club. Which I’m pretty sure isn’t a club sandwich at all, when it comes down to it, because I’ve ordered club sandwiches at other places, and while they tend to resemve each other, NONE of them resemble the Subway Club.

But I don’t even care.

I am hooked.

Besotted.

Entranced by the deliciousness.

I’m told that Subway has a whole menu full of sandwiches, but I don’t care about the rest of them and, frankly, don’t even know why they bother putting anything else on the menu. IT’S THE TASTIEST SANDWICH EVER, Y’ALL.

This is a problem, because this is what I do: I become obsessed with a food item (once it was greek salads, another time it was ham, pineapple, and jalapeno pizza, yet another time it was grape-nuts cereal… it’s a long list) and then I want to eat it every day for three weeks and then it’s done. I’m over it. I move on to the next random thing.

But it’s been over a month and I still want to nom the deliciousness. ALL OF THE TIME.

A bigger problem is that there is a Subway about 5 minutes from my house.

Where the people have begun to recognize me.

This, of course, makes me feel like an IDIOT. I am contemplating driving INTO TOWN (which sucks, because traffic) so I can go get my sandwich in peace, without becoming the weird girl who always orders the same thing. I figure that if I break it up and go to some DIFFERENT Subways, it won’t seem so bizarre to the friendly sandwich artists.

The above paragraph just shows the depth of my sandwich-y problem. When you’re contemplating skulking from Subway to Subway to get a sandwich fix? You have ISSUES, man.

I do have issues. One of which is that it is almost lunchtime, and there is no delicious Subway club on my desk, waiting to be eaten.

I should resist the temptation, right? This is ridiculous. It’s getting out of control. It needs to be STOPPED.

I’m not going to get one.

I’m probably not going to get one.

Is there a 12 step group for this?

Thursday, June 14, 2012

A Long December


Remember when I said that I saw a girl at the beach and immediately dubbed her J-Woww and she was lovely and I was all “I’m going to be in a bikini next year”?

Well.

A)     I’m not in a bikini.

B)      This is not about me.

I was at the beach last weekend – same old me, same old body – when J Woww rolled in. Still rocking the bikini, but not in the same shape, exactly. She still looked amazing, mind you, but the layers of muscle that she’d been sporting before looked softer. She looked curvier to me.

It would have been easy to snork and chuckle and judge and be like, HAHAHA J WOWW GAINED WEIGHT except, well, I’ve been the girl who got mocked and no one likes that. (We don’t judge, y’all.)

And also? When she turned to set down her beach chair, I saw the scars.

They were massive, and they were new.

On one of her arms, she had by her shoulder a new, barely healed burn scar. It was, if I had to guess, larger than my hand. Lower on her arm, she was wearing a bandage, the kind that you get if you’ve had skin grafting. It covered a large part of her forearm. She also had some scars on her torso.

J Woww had a hard winter.

I don’t know this woman. I don’t know anything about her except that I see her on the beach. But I can tell you this: She is amazing. She is strong.

She doesn’t cover up and she doesn’t apologize.

True story: about 10 years ago, I had surgery on my shoulder. In the summer. My partner at the time and I went out to dinner, and I was wearing something that showed the scars, which were still healing. The people sitting next to us blatantly stared at me, at my scars, and made comments about the fact that I had no business being out in public, no business wearing something that showed what was, honestly, minor. Some stitches. Nothing gross or appalling. Just not what they considered beautiful.

I felt like I had done something wrong. I felt … ugly.

J Woww knows that she is beautiful.

I was envious of her last year – she was ROCKING that bikini, man, I can’t even tell you – but this year, I am more envious.

It would be easy to cover up, to hide – after the scene at the restaurant, I surely did -- and it is probably easy to feel like you should when you wear your scars on the outside. But she doesn’t – and she shouldn’t have to. None of us should.

I used to envy her abs.

Now I envy her courage.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Head. Ache.


I was out of commission with a migrane yesterday. It started on Monday afternoon, and I thought: “Well, okay, I’ll sleep it off.”

This usually works.

But I woke up yesterday morning and still had it. It was bad. The kind where you try to crawl, whimpering bravely (okay, that might just be what I do) out of bed and immediately have to throw up because oh, the PAIN.

People who get migranes know what I’m talking about.

People who don’t say things like: “Isn’t it just a headache?”

To which I reply: “Yes. Like a zombie tearing through the top of your skull to eat your brains would just be a headache. Or someone driving a railroad spike through your left eye. Or a great white shark eating your face. Or a crane running over your head. Those would just be headaches, too, right?”

This is usually when the more astute non-migrane sufferers back away.

Some, however, don’t. They think they can be helpful, and start suggesting things you could try, you know, to get RID of the crippling pain.

(This is sort of the equivalent of some “helpful” individual telling a fat person that s/he needs to exercise, as though the fat person will say, “REALLY? I DO!” (Falls weeping to the floor, clutching their educator’s hand with gratitude.) “THANK YOU FOR TELLING ME NO ONE EVER TOLD ME THAT BEFORE! WHY HAS THIS BEEN KEPT FROM ME?!”)

For a migrane, this comes in the form of: Take an aspirin! Take an Advil! Take a Tylenol!

Why thank you, I’d never heard of any of these miraculous painkillers, and certainly wouldn’t have TRIED any of that! I’m so glad you were here to tell me!

Argh, migranes.

The best suggestions come from migrane sufferers – we demonstrate, as a group, that we will do ANYTHING, ANYTHING to make the pain stop.

“Get in your car. Drive three blocks, do a u-turn, come back. Get an ice pack. Hop 5 times on your left foot, place the ice pack on your face, and recite the first seven stanzas of Longfellow’s Hiawatha. Get into bed and cover only your right hand with a blanket. Jab a pencil into your eye, and then try to sleep for exactly 85 minutes. That might help.”

If you know someone who gets migranes? And they suggest something like that to you to help with yours? YOU WILL TRY IT. You will not be able to help yourself.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to go look up Hiawatha.

(MANY thanks to all who sent me migrane conquering tips that were more elaborate than "take an aspirin" -- I tried them all, so I don't know what eventually worked, but I appreciated them!)

Monday, June 11, 2012

Make a Difference Monday: Cayla Roberts


Here’s what you need to know about Cayla Roberts:

She came to the US  from China illegally, when she was 12. Her father had some gambling debts, and in order to pay them, sold his daughter.

To a sex trafficking ring. 

Which brought her here.

Fortunately for Ms Roberts, she was taken into police custody immediately upon entering the country. Yay! The trafficking ring was busted. Yahoo! But then, there was the problem of what to do with 12 year old Cayla. She couldn’t go back to China, because the remaining members of the trafficking ring would kill her.  And her father – who so lovingly SOLD HER – had also threatened to kill her. So instead, she was placed with a foster family.

Where she demonstrated that she is awesome.

Honour roll? Check. Volunteering to help others by, among other things, rebuilding houses after Hurricane Katrina? Check. Working with children? Check.

Cayla Roberts has been an outstanding US citizen, the kind we want all of our citizens to be.

Cayla Roberts is married – to a US citizen – and is about to graduate from college with a double major.

She’s also in danger of being deported, because she entered this country illegally. Even though she didn’t do so by choice, even though she can’t go back to China safely. According to Immigration and Customs Enforcement, she is an illegal.

This is RIDICULOUS. It is dishonourable. It is just plain not okay.

Here’s what you can do.

Sign this petition:


Tell her story.

And use your voice to speak when you see something like this, which is so blatantly and painfully wrong. Like Cayla:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-Yr4_sn67UE
(For more information, and a much better explaination of the legalites surrounding this, please see http://www.xojane.com/issues/cayla-roberts-sex-trafficking-victim-immigration-customs-enforcement where it is covered more fully.)

Friday, June 8, 2012

Fat Gets In Your Eyes


Warning: The posts for the next several days are going to feature what could potentially be considered sensitive topics, the kind you don’t bring up at holiday dinners because, you know, Uncle Bill will probably get all fired up and stab someone with a meat fork.

Just saying. 

I want to talk to you about bodies – yours and mine – and how we treat them.

More importantly, I want to talk about how we LOOK at them, and what we say about the view.

I hate making statements that start like this, as I feel like it’s a place of pseudo-authority, but here it is anyway: As a woman who has spent the majority of her life hating her body,  I understand that the majority of  that hatred has been a direct result of internalizing the public notion of what should – and should not -- be seen as beautiful.

Well, I mean, I understand it NOW.

When I was younger, I only knew that carrying extra weight made me loathsome and ugly. I knew because I heard it many times: “It’s really too bad, because she has such a pretty face,” as though anything that was happening with my body negated any potential loveliness in my face. Because you cannot be beautiful if you are overweight. Or -- hell with it, let’s just call it what it is -- Fat.

Does the word “fat” make you uncomfortable? Are you looking away? Let’s say it a few more times, so you can get down with it. In fact, you should try saying it out loud: Fat. Fat. Fat.

Three letters. Not a big deal. Unless, of course, you’re a little girl on a playground, being taunted every day by a group of boys who used to be your friends, because they consider it their civic and moral duty to let you KNOW that you’re fat, in case you’d forgotten to look in the mirror that day. At that point, those three letters become like daggers, and what they actually pierce is your eyes, because you become blind to the reality of yourself and your body; you lose your ability to see anything but indistinct blobs and shapes, none of which are lovely and all of which make you ashamed.

No one should look at herself (or himself, for that matter) in the mirror and, upon perceiving herself, feel ashamed.

The reality is that all bodies are beautiful. All of them. Fat and thin and in between and toned and not toned and whatever colour they might be – all bodies are beautiful. Every one. While certain types may not appeal to your definition of what it means to be attractive – and that’s okay, your preferences are your own – what is not okay is making someone who has a body that does not fit your personal standards feel ugly or as though they are not worthy of being in the public view.

What’s also not okay is challenging someone who is at home in her or his body, who is comfortable and happy, and who believes in her/his own beauty. It’s not up to you to judge or shame them for being proud of who they are. You don’t think someone belongs in that bikini? That’s fine, but know this: She’s not wearing it for you, and making a comment about whether or not she belongs in it – in her hearing – isn’t “helpful”  or kind. It’s just mean.  It’s also presumptuous, because you are not the fashion police.

It’s also not okay to look at what someone is eating and judge them, as though fat people should only eat at salad bars, and never get to have a candy bar. True story: I was in a Panera in North Carolina, eating soup, when I became very aware of two college-aged women looking at me in horror, because apparently it wasn’t okay for my fat ass to be enjoying a bowl of French Onion deliciousness and a roll when I could have had a SALAD.  It wasn’t bad enough that I could see them, judging, but I could also hear them whispering. They weren’t subtle.

It was interesting (and, to be honest, horrifying) because they knew nothing about me except that I was carrying extra weight (I gained quite a bit of weight after my husband left, which – who cares? At least I didn’t drive off a bridge, which was something I considered every day for several months) and that they though it was appropriate to make some sort of public show of their displeasure. As though that single meal was the cause of every extra pound. As though being fat was personally offensive to them. I’m pretty sure I could have kicked a puppy in front of them* and received less of a showing of displeasure.

And why?

Because they didn’t see anything about me other than fat. They saw what I, with my usual disordered view of my own body, see: shapeless mass. Ugliness.

The truth of the matter is, though, that my body is not shapeless mass. No body really is, when you think about it. My body is made of curves, some of which are pretty damn impressive. It holds me up and keeps me going. It dances and it likes to laugh and play.

It did so when I was fatter than I am now, it did so when I was thinner than I am now, and it will continue to do so – that’s what bodies DO, and doing so? Makes them beautiful.

All of them.

Not just the thin ones.

So when you look at a body – yours, your loved ones, someone you don’t even know – try to make sure that you see beauty, confidence, a PERSON, and not just a number on a scale. Otherwise, you’re selling everyone in that gaze short – and that, my friends, is a true shame.

*Please know that I would never kick a puppy.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Did That Just Happen? (or, JANE PRATT AARRGGH!)


Did I mention that I had something published on xojane.com?

And that, in my little world, that was kind of an OHMYGODIMIGHTDIERIGHTNOW big deal?

Let me tell you a little story:

Back in the day, when I was in 8th grade, I was sitting in Mr. Dutch’s homeroom, which was ALSO a science lab and, frankly, not the best place to have homeroom, what with the high chairs, lab stations, and sinks rather than desks. We carried on.

One day, Jen Silva said to me, out of the blue: “I get this magazine. I think you’d like it, so I brought you a copy.”

And she placed an issue of Sassy in my hands.

Sassy, for those of you who were not 13 years old in 1989, was a magazine for young women, but it was NOT Seventeen, or Teen Vogue (which didn’t exist then, but whatever) or Glamour or Cosmopolitan. It was not about how to get a boyfriend (Laugh at his jokes! Do stuff for him!) or how to be popular (make fun of nerds! Pretend to be dumb!) or how to lose weight (It’s so important to be skinny! You should probably just stop eating!)  – though sometimes, it is true, they did talk about boys, or health (I don’t recall any “how to be popular” articles, though) ; instead it was about being smart, being honest, being aware of what was going on in the world.  I had a subscription to Seventeen back then, and here’s what I remember about it: I remember an article that said that a girl/woman should always pay attention to her manicure, because your hands present you to the world.

Here’s what I learned from Sassy:

*Don’t be silent*Don’t give up*Don’t be afraid to say what you think*You can make a skirt out of thrift store ties* it’s more important to be smart than it is to be pretty*Smart IS pretty*Speak your mind*Love what you love, and don’t be embarrassed*Question authority*No one is better than you*Aspire to great things*You can ACHIEVE great things*You can also achieve little things*You are loved simply by being* You are fabulous just as you are* No one has the right to judge you*You are fierce and amazing and special*

It was smart. And clever. The writers, who went by their first names (though I do to this day recall that Christina’s last name was Kelly), seemed like they were not terribly far removed from who I was, as a girl – they were like the big sisters that I didn’t have.

And of course, their leader was Jane Pratt.

And of course, I wanted to grow up and BE Jane Pratt. Because in my world, the one where I was a nerdy girl who liked to write and who didn’t always feel like I fit in? She was a ROCK STAR.

Sassy magazine eventually folded – I don’t know the story in full, but I’ve heard something about advertisters wanting Jane to compromise about what her staff was writing about, and she refused (I would love this to be true, and suspect that it is) but that did NOT keep Jane Pratt down. She had a new magazine, named Jane, that – while not totally filling the place in my heart that Sassy had long held, didn’t suck.

Because she was still Jane Freaking Pratt.

And she was still a ROCK STAR.

I missed it when Jane went by the wayside, but about a year ago, Jane Pratt – STILL FABULOUS AND MY HERO – launched xoJane.com.

Which circles me right back around to … well, me. When I got an email from xoJane saying that, yes, they’d LOVE to run my piece? I may have cried a little.

Then I may have gotten up and danced around.

Then I may have cried a little more.

When someone you’ve designated as “Person I Want To Be When I Grow Up” notices your work? It’s kind of a moment.

So there I was. Published, for the first time as an adult, by Jane Rockstar Pratt. I have an author’s bio on xoJane.com. People from all over have read something I wrote.

It feels bizarre. I keep looking at the site to make sure it happened, that I’m not imagining it.

And maybe, just maybe, dreaming of what I will do next. I can do anything at all, you know. I learned that from Sassy magazine, when I was 13 years old.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Read It and Weep (or Laugh, or Snort -- Whatever)


Yesterday I discovered – to my joy – that one of my favorite books of all time has been made into a movie that will be released this fall. (And the author actually wrote the screenplay so – oh please oh please oh please – it is likely that it won’t suck.)

Thinking about this book as one of my favorite books, though, made me wonder: if I had to make a list of my top ten favorite books of all time, what would that list look like?

Since I love me a list – here you go. 10 books. Not in order of love – number 10 is not necessarily less beloved than number 3 – and some are going to be a group or series. (I get to do that, because it’s my list. Whee!)

10. The collected works of Jane Austen: I seriously love every single one of her books. Every one. If you asked me to name my favorite, it would be a struggle. I could tell you that Emma is not my MOST favorite, but that’s hardly a damnation of Emma, because I love Emma. Here’s why I love Jane Austen: she clearly believed in true love (The Princess Bride kind! “Luffff… twoooo luff”), but she also wrote about people who weren’t ideal people. They were regular people – some of them are snotty, some of them are nice, some are sarcastic and mocking, some are gentle, some have overinflated egos, some are downtrodden – but they’re the kind of folks you relate to and can find yourself cheering for.

And oh, that Mr Darcy.

9. To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee. If I was trapped on a deserted island and was only allowed to have one book with me to read for the remainder of my days, I would choose this book, simply because I find something new and amazing to love every time I read it – and at last count, I’d read it probably 60 times or so. (That’s not an exaggeration.) Atticus Finch will probably always be my hero, and is also the reason that I don’t shut up about things that I consider to be outrageously unfair. This book is perfection. PERFECTION, I tell you.

8. The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chboksy. I was an awkward kid. A lot of books about awkward kids try to minimize the awkward. Not this one. This one dives into the weirdness straight on – the narrator is writing letters to a mysterious someone that is never seen, and often makes questionable choices that are clearly not going to work out – but, given who he is, make complete sense. There are no rose coloured glasses here -- high school is a weird and frequently painful place for people who aren’t certain of themselves, and Chbosky doesn’t pretend that it isn’t – but the story is still so beautiful, and the characters are so honest. (The movie is coming out in the fall, but don’t cheat: read the book first.)

7. The Stand by Stephen King. One: wipe out most of humanity with a virus. Two: write a battle of good versus evil. Have the final show down take place in Vegas because, well, duh. Three: mention my hometown in it at least once.

I love this book. All eighty gazillion pages of it. I re-read it every summer because – well, because that’s how I roll. You should probably read it once. (You can read the original version rather than the uncut version – it’s a bit shorter – but if you have the time? The uncut version is better. Just saying.)

6. The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald. (This is also coming out as a movie, but I would recommend the older one with Robert Redford and Mia Farrow because … Robert Redford. Seriously. Though I will probably see the new one as well.) This is very English-teachery of me, but the LANGUAGE in this book is so beautiful that it breaks my heart in the best kind of way. It’s the Roaring Twenties version of Mad Men. Gatsby is the original Don Draper. With, sadly, a less happy ending.

5. The Harry Potter Series by J.K. Rowling. I was not a kid when these books came out. However, Harry & Co got me through: graduate school, teaching, a wedding, some deaths, a career change, a surgery, divorce, another career change, and a move to North Carolina. As a result, though I didn’t exactly grow up with Harry Potter? I came into my own with Harry Potter. I am a re-reader, as I mentioned before, and I re-read the entire series every summer. It doesn’t ever become less magical.

4. The World According To Garp by John Irving. “In the world according to Garp, we are all terminal cases,” John Irving writes. (I should mention that I also love A Prayer for Owen Meany which is also a terminal case kind of a book.) Garp is weird and funny and tragic and awesome. You should read it. Now.

3. The Mists of Avalon by Marion Zimmer Bradley. Do you know what happens when the Arthurian legend is told entirely from the perspective of women? AWESOMENESS, that’s what. If you like fantasy at all, if you dig King Arthur, if you like strong female characters, you should read this. If you don’t like any of those things? Well, I’m sure you have other fine qualities.

2. Get In The Van by Henry Rollins. I love Henry. I LOVE HIM. This book is one of the reasons why – it describes touring with Black Flag, and it’s very … naked. (Not actually naked. That would be weird.) Like, “I know I’m a mess and here’s what’s in my head and this is uncomfortable to share and it’s uncomfortable for you to read” naked. Which is why I love it.

1. Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte. Also a fairly recent movie starring the DELICIOUS Michael Fassbender (I feel a little weird about describing him as delicious. Like that’s objectifying and wrong. But … he’s really delicious. Which has nothing to do with Jane Eyre but is a simple observation). The book is… well, it’s glorious. Another true love story, with twists and turns and a heroine who refuses to give up or compromise herself, even when it would be easier.

So there you are. I could have made a much longer list – I love to read, it’s like breathing in my world in terms of necessity – but I thought you’d be bored. I also am always interested in the things you are reading, want to read, love to read. So feel free to drop a comment in.


Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Gimme a Head with Hair


Someone here changed her hair AGAIN!*

Which, whatever. Are you bored with my hair stories yet?  Are you thinking, “Good God, woman, for someone who claims not to be very vain, you’ve been going on and on about the hair for, like, a year. And there are WAY more interesting things for you to be nattering on about. Like your obsession with Henry Rollins, which you’ve barely TOUCHED on.  Or the fact that you continue to think Ramen is delicious.”

You’d have a point.

But I love to mess with my hair. I love it. Even though my mom does not. (“God gave you really pretty hair,” she says. “Why do you have to change the colour?” “Um, God also allowed for the invention of hair dye?”)

Anyway.

The beauty of messing with the hairs is that, from a technical standpoint, anything you do to your hair is temporary. Even permanent colour is temporary, because hair keeps growing. Hate it? Cut it. Or grow it.* Or whatever it.  It doesn’t matter. It’s a chance to play with who you are and what you look like.

I think that’s why I keep messing with mine: it’s a chance to play with identity and with perception. This is who I am today. It might be different tomorrow. I don’t know. But I know this: I’m not bored, and I’m not boring, and most of us take ourselves much too seriously anyway.

At least, I do.

So to the gentleman who, after seeing that I’d chopped all of my hair off in the first place, said: “Men like women with long hair,” I would say this: “None of the men who are into me care if I even HAVE hair. The hair isn’t the point.”

To the woman who told me I look like a lesbian with this haircut, I would say this: “Can you get me the lesbian conduct code that identifies this are part of the uniform? And also?  Why is that a bad thing?”

To the friend who said “I don’t have the courage to cut my hair that short,” I would say this: “Courage is required for battlefields and impossible situations. This is just hair.”

Because it IS just hair.  My hair. And it doesn’t matter if anyone thinks it’s too short or too long or too red or too spikey or too whatever as long as I love it. As long as I can look at it and smile.

Maybe hair isn't your thing. It doesn't have to be. But you should have something -- big or small, significant or not -- in your life that makes you happy. That you can mess with and change and walk around with, something that lets people know how you see yourself, and how you wish to be seen. I have a friend who wears hysterically snarky t shirts. That's his deal. I have a friend who's into body modification -- a little less temporary, perhaps, but no less fabulous a way to identify herself as unique and beautiful.
Find your freak flag and let it fly, I say.

And make sure you don’t take yourself too seriously. Life is meant to be enjoyed, after all.

*Yes, I know, you want a picture. Maybe tomorrow? I have no time today! I barely got this post out!

**Unless you’re me, in which case your super fabulous hairdresser is so happy with your short hair that she will never let you grow it again.

Monday, June 4, 2012

(Laundry) Basket Case


One of my friends is having a baby.  (YAY! You know who you are!) When I found out she was pregnant, I was surprised and, then for a moment, weirdly envious.

Not because I want to have a baby. I don’t want to have a baby.

But because my friend has her shit together enough that she can be like, Hell yeah, I’m having a baby!* and know, deep within her soul, that she can have this baby and be a great mom and it’s all going to be completely fabulous. I mean, I imagine that there’s probably some of that pregnant lady stuff happening in her head (like the “HOLY CRAP I’M GROWING A PERSON” thoughts, which would have me curled up on the floor in the – hahaha – fetal position) but she’s mostly cool as a cucumber.

Which is why I was envious.

Because I’m never cool as a cucumber. I am a mess. I’m … a tomatillo. Or some other weird produce item.

Here’s one of MANY things that lets me know that I am not with it enough to have a baby:

Laundry blindness.

I think there are two kind of people in the world. The kind who have no idea what laundry blindness is, and the kind who chuckled, knowingly, when they read the previous paragraph.

Laundry blindness is an inability to see laundry, as though it doesn’t exist. The hamper may be overflowing, but that means nothing. **

The afflicted individual might run out of clean underwear. S/he will then think: “That’s weird. I used to have plenty of underwear,” and will then GO TO THE STORE AND BUY MORE. Because being out of clean underwear has no connection with a failure to do laundry – how can it, when laundry doesn’t seem to exist?

I have been diagnosed with laundry blindness. The only cure is this: I MUST follow a strict laundry schedule. If I get off schedule? It’s not pretty because by the time something in my head thinks, “Hey, shouldn’t we, you know, wash some clothes or something?” it’s like laundrymageddon in there. Honestly.  

If I can’t be counted on to wash my own clothes, I can’t have a baby.

I mean, really.

My momentary envy was, however, quickly replaced by joy. Because the truth is, I don’t need to have a baby. SO MANY OTHER PEOPLE (my friend not the least among them) ARE DOING IT FOR ME!

There are babies I can hang out with everywhere.

Which is awesome, and not simply because I don’t have to worry about washing their little baby clothes.

*I don’t think my friend has ever said “Hell, yeah” EVER, now that I think about it.

**until it starts looking messy, which offends my highly developed sense of order. Which is the other reason I can’t have a baby – I can’t cope with messiness and disorder, and babies are tornadoes of bodily fluids etc by DEFINITION.  I would be a basket case. And that would be sad.