Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Giving out

Apparently, today is the 50th anniversary of the publication of The Giving Tree, a book about which many people (including myself) have strong feelings. 

I will admit that my take on this much-beloved/much-loathed parable is maybe a little skewed by the fact that I first encountered it as a young adult, rather than as a child.

So... what's yours? Love it? Hate it? Ambivalent? Can't believe anyone gives it this much thought? Also: why?

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Half-plus-seven

I recently read an internet comment (I know, never read the comments...) in which someone suggested that a relationship between a forty-something and a twenty-something is, if not doomed, then probably shallow, because what would they find to talk about? It is not the first time I have heard this suggestion.

I am 43.

RI is 28.

Also, the last two people I dated were 18 years older and 13 years younger than I. I have a little expertise here.

In case there are those who literally wonder what people with a more-than-ten-year age gap find to talk about, and who are not merely pearl-clutching as an accessory to judgement, I offer a partial list from my current relationship (list may skew to the recently-discussed):

  • Our days
  • Our jobs
  • Our volunteer work
  • Bowling
  • Laundry
  • Sleep
  • Politics, local
  • Politics, national
  • Politics, identity
  • Religion
  • The Office
  • Other TV shows
  • The Ramones
  • Other music
  • Movies
  • Playing games (card or board, not mental or emotional)
  • Our respective childhoods
  • How we feel about each other
  • How we feel about ourselves
  • How we feel about other things
  • Our friends
  • Our families
  • Our schedules
  • Social inequalities
  • The future
  • What we're having for dinner
  • What to do with so much kale
  • Money
  • Sex
  • Our deepest values, and how attached we really are to them
  • Our health
  • If this outfit looks OK
  • Yard saling
  • Prison
  • Stuff we read on the internet
  • Stuff we read in books
  • Jokes, heard or read somewhere
  • Jokes, inside
  • Jokes, nonsensical
So, yeah, kind of a lot of what we talk about is pretty surface level. And also, some of it is not — and I am not sure it is always possible to tell which, nor am I sure it always matters.

I can't speak for RI, but I'm pretty happy with the balance.

What do other people find to talk about?

Monday, September 22, 2014

Good to the last drop

Lisa's not the only one who can take a picture of a mug. Mug provided by bzh.

Welcome, Polka Dot Cottage readers! There should be some new stuff here soon, but it'll be about Plattsburgh, NY, so if you want to get up to speed around here, may I recommend you start with The Plattsburgh Saga from nearly three years ago? (Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4) To get a feel for the rest of what I write, click around on the labels over there in the left rail, according to your interests.

Regular readers, hey there! A much more popular blogger than I (who is also my old friend) featured me on her blog this morning! She writes all kinds of useful/interesting/fun things, and today, she posted an interview with me! Grab a cup of coffee and get to know your blogger better. I will be drinking iced tea. Or lemonade. Probably an Arnold Palmer, because I'm indecisive like that. But I don't drink coffee. That was a bonus fact for those of you who actually read CMC, whether newly today or all the time.

(Also, today is RI's birthday. Happy birthday, RI!)


Thursday, August 14, 2014

Appropriate

I've been trying to think about how or whether to write about this Robin Williams stuff, and had mostly decided not to, for a couple of reasons. And then I had this conversation this evening with a friend of mine whose mother has dealt with a whole lot of mental and physical health issues, and still does.
Friend: I have a question about online appropriateness.
You're very appropriate.
May I ask you?
bzzzzgrrrl: Sure!
Friend: So... with this whole Robin Williams thing... people are all like "Oh, suicide and depression and other mental health things!" and now "Oh Parkinson's"!
bzzzzgrrrl: Right
Friend: But... I haven't seen anything that's like... hey... Parkinson's can be caused by the use of psychiatric meds.
Or... treating long term mental health disorders is a really shitty road in this country and the way we do it often puts people in a situation where they end up with mental AND physical health issues as a result of their treatment.
And... clearly... I have a personal stake in that right now.
bzzzzgrrrl: Right
Friend: And I'm mad that nobody is making those connections.
bzzzzgrrrl: I mean, that's presumably because they don't know, because capitalism
Friend: But also, I'm kinda mad that people are getting all up in Robin William's business and making assumptions in the first place.
Right.
I know.
bzzzzgrrrl: Right
Friend: So... I kinda want to bring a little awareness, but also not be an assuming gawker.
bzzzzgrrrl: In your shoes, I might literally copy and paste a bunch of this conversation and share it on Facebook
Friend: Heh.
bzzzzgrrrl: Or also, in my shoes, I might ask permission to do the same and share it on my blog and then let you share the link.
Friend: You certainly have my permission to do that.
Here's the link that I think is helpful that I kinda want to share.
http://www.parkinsons.org.uk/sites/default/files/publications/download/english/fs38_druginducedparkinsonism.pdf
Mom's had a crap ton of the drugs on the list in that link.
And she's almost certainly gonna land a diagnosis of secondary Parkinson's next week.
Which, frankly, we're hoping for because it would open up a lot of doors for services that you just can't get covered for mental health issues.
If you keep me anonymous in your blog, you can post any of this that you want.
FYI
It's just so infuriating to see people on my FB be like "Wow! I can't believe he had Parkinson's too!"
Like it's a damn coincidence.
I mean... maybe it is.
But.
The terrible side effects of those drugs just get swept under the carpet all the damn time.
So, yeah. I'm still not sure I have anything to say about Robin Williams. But I'm glad to give a platform to someone who does have something to say about something related to Robin Williams.

Feel free to make the comments a free-for-all for helpful information. Emphasis on helpful.

Thursday, July 31, 2014

I hit that

Hey!

Yesterday, I hit the jackpot!

(It's a spinning wheel with eight segments that I have been spinning almost once a day since November. Statistically, I should have hit it many times before now. But the wheel is fixed, so I didn't, until yesterday. Very exciting.)

Friday, July 18, 2014

Only Water Floss the Teeth You Want to Keep

The other day, I had some pretty major (well, pretty major for me, anyway) dental work. I will spare you the gory details, but suffice it to say there are any gory details. I'm OK now. Knock wood.

This was the fourth and last in this series of appointments, and by far the biggest deal. But the appointments have been over the course of a few months, so there's visible change in my mouth, in a positive way. Naturally, this has my friend who is also my dental assistant very excited.

She's a generous-of-spirit type anyway, as evidenced by her calling in to the dentist while we waited for my local anesthetic to kick in: "[bzzzzgrrrl] is one of the coolest people I know." The dentist looked at me, seemingly in disbelief, and I said, "To be fair, [assistant] hath a limited thothial thircle." (He and I then got into a big conversation about wines. About which I know nothing. Nonetheless, it went slightly better than our last wait-for-the-Novocaine conversation, regarding his theories on the JFK assassination.)

And a while later, when he was done with me and her part of the appointment was beginning, she showed me some Water Pik videos.

"You should do a Water Pik blog," she said.

I laughed appreciatively.

"You're probably the one person I know who is cool enough to do it," she said. "Here, I'll print out your before-and-after pictures. Look how good that looks."

It may be that she has a different idea of what "cool" means than a lot of people do.

Monday, July 14, 2014

Unplanned

Someone recently asked me how blogging fit into my daily life, and I responded with something like, "I WISH blogging fit into my daily life."

And you all know that's true, that for me blogging is mostly a way of staying in touch (though I love all my internet-only buddies here, too), and that I love staying in touch.

But also? I am just filled with gratitude for my life right now. Like, people ask how my weekend was, and I say, "busy," while rolling my eyes and almost out of breath, but the fact of the matter is, I choose my busy, because my life is filled to brimming with fun stuff and I don't want to miss out on any of it.

I've had this problem before; in college, I'd stay up late and get up early (sometimes), just because I didn't want to miss latenight conversations or shenanigans in the hallway of my dorm, and if I could get myself up in time, I didn't want to miss breakfast with a different group of amazing people.

For example, this weekend was the first in a long time that RI and I didn't have any plans — and we have a lot of heavily planned weekends coming up. In this unplanned weekend, I:

  • Went to a lecture on "The Future of Truth and the Decline of America’s Moral Integrity"
  • Visited with my parents and some old family friends
  • Went yardsaling
  • Hit the farmer's market
  • Took a nap
  • Started a new book (reading, not writing)
  • Watched a documentary
  • Had a date night out at our favorite Latin American restaurant
  • Played a new game
  • Set up a screen tent and a queen-sized airbed on the deck and fell asleep watching the fireflies (and woke up hearing birdsongs and the neighbor kid practicing violin)
  • Went to church and heard my dad preach a really excellent sermon on the child refugees
  • Took another nap
  • Had a spontaneous ice cream double date with some friends
  • Went to the supermarket
  • Played with my niece and nephew
  • Saw the very end of the World Cup final
  • Read with my niece and nephew
  • Had dinner with the family
I did not:
  • Go to bed as early as I planned
  • Get the laundry done
  • Do a little writing for work
  • Blog
...but I wouldn't have missed any of it. I mean, right?

Friday, July 11, 2014

Hello Muddah

An old summer camp friend of mine has a friend whose (12-year-old) kid is going to camp for the first time and was looking for advice, both for mom and kid.

I suspect I was asked because I was online at the time she had the question. And because I have worked at or attended about a dozen camps, as camper, counselor, division head, drama specialist, dorm parent, costume designer (OK, that was a theater camp), maintenance person, kitchen crew, arts-and-crafts director (very briefly and in a pinch), office administrator, and director. So I know pretty much everything.

But so do a bunch of you.

Here is some of what I said.

For mom:

  • Even if you feel sad or worried about your kid, DO NOT emphasize that. Tell her you'll miss her, but not how much, and then let her go have fun — if she's homesick, let it be on her own terms and not because she's worried about you. 
  • Don't  hang around a long time after you drop her off. Get there early so she can get a good bunk, help her settle in quickly and then leave.
  • Write. Letters from home are some of the best parts of camp. Do it even if your kid is terrible about writing back. Do it on paper, not email, even if camp lets you email.
  • Have fun while she's gone. If she is an only child (or her siblings are also at camp), have grownup fun that it's harder to have without her around, and tell her about the appropriate-to-share but boring-to-her parts, in your letters. ("Edith and I went to the teacup museum and saw seven hundred different kinds of teacups. It was so fascinating.") If not, obviously you will have special fun with your other kids, but encourage them not to brag about it until she's home and can brag back.


For kid:

  • Make friends with as many interesting fun kids as you can and also at least one kid who doesn't seem to have very many other friends. 
  • Try as many things as seem fun to you, even the ones you're afraid you won't be good at. 
  • Eat as many fruits and veggies as you can, even if they're gross, and at least a little protein at every meal. That will help avoid whatever sickness winds up going around. 
  • Write to your parents, at least once every week but no more than once a day.
  • Come armed with a couple of legitimately funny jokes, and then don't tell them right when you get to camp. There will be a moment when you will be glad you have them. 
  • Bring one nice outfit (not fancy, just, like, clean and makes you feel good) and save it (maybe in one of those big plastic Ziploc bags) for towards the end of camp, when everything else is kind of dirty and cruddy and gray and gross. YOU WILL FEEL SO AMAZING.
So, my many, many other camp-expert friends, including the ones I know from summer camp: What do you say? What's the best advice you've gotten? What's the smartest thing you've seen done?

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

...and Taking Names

One day last week, I:
  • wrote a letter I'm really proud of
  • made a delicious dinner
  • rearranged the living room with my partner in a way that pleases us both and incorporates all of our furniture (including a foosball table)
  • made really good cold-brew iced tea (thanks to Lisa at Polka Dot Cottage)
  • got some work done
  • half-wrote this post

So, you know. Calling it a win, overall. It's amazing, that feeling yielded by the combination of creativity and productivity, right?

What are you getting excited and making?

Friday, June 20, 2014

Trapped indeed

Kind of a lot going on around here. The Romantic Interest (RI) has moved in for the summer, which has been just really blissful, actually.

Plus, I am learning and growing every day.

Here is how you can tell: I just wrote the following phrase, in seriousness: "In retrospect, among the most striking things about [R. Kelly's] Trapped in the Closet ..."

Also, any of you who have actually watched some or all of Trapped in the Closet should admit it right here in the comments, because OMG why have we not all seen this? I mean, aside from that R. Kelly is basically a monster.

If there is sufficient demand, I will write a post on many of the striking things about it.

Saturday, June 7, 2014

Hint, hint

I read too many advice columns. That is just true, and I'm OK with it, basically.

For those of you not in the know, "Hints from Heloise" is a column of household hints. On average, one a day involves a new use for vinegar. For me, it contains a mix of:

  • useful tips
  • tips that fill a need I don't currently have — often regarding opening jars with arthritis or handling pet issues
  • tips that are so obvious it's hard to see why anyone would need to ask an advice columnist about them.

We're going to talk about that third category today.

Yesterday morning, the first letter to Heloise was as follows:
Dear Heloise: 
Could you please reprint your hint on how to create NEW FOLDERS ON YOUR COMPUTER for those of us who need a little extra help? 
-- A Reader in Illinois
Is that possibly real, that someone would want to do such a thing and not know anyone, socially, familially, or professionally who could help them in real life, to the point that Heloise is who they would ask?

Never mind that Heloise's specific advice would absolutely not work on my computer. Turns out, the 63-year-old vinegar queen is not an IT guru. Who knew?

Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Striking a hoard

Two possibly relevant pieces of information before we begin our story:
  • The expected high today where I live is 43 degrees.
  • I am really, really not into hickeys. Don't want to give them, don't want to receive them, never have, for reasons probably both good and less-good. We'll plumb those depths another time.

Now that that's out of the way...

Last night, I was just sitting around, watching Hoarders, maybe a little judgmentally, like everyone who watches Hoarders.

And then, it was time for bed.

So I got up and immediately tripped on a pile of clutter in my own home (because hubris. Or karma. Or both.).

Fortunately, I did not break my laptop, which I was holding at the time.

But I did land both painfully and awkwardly, collarbone first, on the railing to my treadmill.

All of which is to say, thank goodness that it is appropriate to wear this turtleneck (technically, cowlneck), because bruisey:


Thursday, April 24, 2014

Another True Story, Just More Disgusting than Adventurous

About 20 years ago, I decided to (mostly) stop drinking sugared drinks. No more regular soda for me, or juices with a bunch of sugar added — all diet soda, all the time.

About 15 years ago, I stopped drinking coffee (mostly iced) because it was wreaking havoc on my guts.

About three years ago, I decided it was time to quit artificial sweeteners. I was drinking sugar again. I kept drinking soda (only one a day) (but it was an enormous one), just the kind with sugar (usually high fructose corn syrup) (but real sugar when available). I have not had any artificial sweeteners since.

About six weeks ago, I decided to see how long I could go without regular soda. There was no big blanket "never again!" this time, just an awareness of how much sugar is in a high-fructose-corn-syrup-laden enormous soda. I can't avoid all HFCS, but I can avoid one giant dose of it. I switched to un-pre-sweetened iced tea immediately for my caffeine fix. And even as much as I like sweets, I'm never going to add as much sugar to a glass of iced tea as is already in a soda, for two reasons:
  • embarrassment, and 
  • solubility.
That's been going great. I can even procure my iced tea from the same location I was procuring my soda, for nearly the same very low price.

Until, SIGH, I had reason to send this letter to the customer complaints address of a certain convenience store chain this morning:

I regularly visit both the [my town] store and the [RI's town] store.

A few weeks ago, I went to buy an iced tea in [my town], only to find a long, mucouslike glob (of mold, I assume) dripping from the spout. There was a store employee cleaning nearby, who saw me react, and immediately agreed that it was unacceptable, poured out the full urn of tea, reassured me that they do clean the urns frequently and that he would reclean that one, and offerred me a free fountain soda, coffee, or hot tea. I was completely satisfied with his reaction, and have returned to that store several times since then, though I haven't been able to stomach the thought of getting iced tea there again.

Saturday morning (4/19) at about 10:30, I stopped in [RI's town] for an iced tea. There were no visible issues, but after I left the store, I discovered the iced tea tasted rotten. It was undrinkable, and I poured it out (but did not complain, because I'd left the store, and essentially forgot about it). I have had [store's] iced tea often in the past with no taste issues.

This morning, at about 5:45, I stopped into the [RI's town] store for an iced tea again, and was startled to find what looked like a dried-up version of what I'd seen in [my town],  again, coming from the iced-tea spout in a long thread. Again, there was an employee in the area cleaning. I pointed it out to him, and he was dismissive, and just picked the crud off the nozzle. I left the store without buying anything, and will certainly think twice about buying anything prepared at that location again.

To have the same experience in two stores in such a short period of time suggests to me that the cleaning process for those urns (or maybe the design of the urns themselves) is problematic. I hope you'll work with your stores to find a solution, and I hope you'll let me know when you do, because I'll miss having such a convenient, inexpensive option — but I'm not likely to buy iced tea at any [store] location unless I know the problems have been rectified.

Thank you for your attention.

It is now about 8 hours later, and there's been no response from the store, and I still feel as sick to my stomach as I did first thing this morning. Gross.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

A True Story That Really Happened (mild cursing because I am that cool)

Sorry for my, er, inadvertent vacation from blogging, and for my abrupt and inexplicable return.

BUT.

THIS HAPPENED.

Last night, I was in Bennington, Vermont.

There are not a lot of places to buy gas between Bennington and West Brattleboro on Route 9 (about a 40-mile stretch). There are enough places that I should not have been in danger, but I am also an idiot, and that is relevant.

So I was extremely low on gas. And when I was about 5 miles from the next gas station (according to my gps) — my car stopped. I tried to start it again a few times, with no luck. Which was unfortunate and inconvenient, but, whatever, I thought. It wasn't too horribly late at night, and I have a number of friends who live, say, 6 or 7 miles from where I was stopped."I'll text people. One of them will be around, and they'll come bring me gas, and it'll be fine."

So I wrote said text.

And hit send.

And... no service. Not even enough to send a text. So, that's no good.

But, you know. I was on the downhill side of a mountain.

I decided maybe, if I put the car in neutral, I could roll forward enough to get a little cell service and then the text would send itself. It did not seem to me to be the smartest idea I'd ever had, but it did seem smarter than hitchhiking in the dark with no one knowing where I was.

So I put on the hazard lights and I tried it.

And I rolled (without power steering, because the car's not on, or power brakes, because ditto). And I rolled. And I rolled. I rolled, in fact, for about three miles and only stopped because someone was behind me and it made me nervous.

Sadly, the place I could pull over was flat enough that I couldn't just continue to roll in neutral from a stop.

By then, the text had actually sent. But also, by then, the last fumes of gas were willing to cooperate a little better and so I managed to start the car and drive the last little bit to the gas station across from the other gas station in West Brattleboro, at which I filled the tank and texted my friends back that I was OK.

From there, I drove home and got on Facebook and sent a very similar version of that story to the one above to the two friends I'd attempted to text.

They were, understandably, very impressed with, I think, mostly my storytelling but also my badassery.

I allowed as how, as it was happening, I kept alternating between thinking, "[Our friend who is also a mechanic and a daredevil, previously called Special Guest Star on this very blog] will think I'm such a badass!" and "There's probably some reason this is terrible for my car, and he's going to give me hell about it."

So, naturally, I checked.

In case you were wondering, he responded thus: "You are, indeed, a badass. ... not likely to be bad for your car. Rolling in neutral isn't the best for an automatic transmission, but that's normally a problem when you're towing a car long distances or something. Brakes and steering, as you noted, lose their assist, but if you press super hard on the pedal you can still stop pretty quickly. So I hope you were at the ready with both feet."

I was indeed.

Monday, March 31, 2014

Just Cause (Part 4)

And continuing 40 Days of Worthy Causes... I'm highlighting a cause a day for each day of Lent. I hope you'll find some of them worth looking into, even supporting — and I hope you'll tell me what some of your favorites are, too, in the comments.

Day 16: Breast Cancer Action. I first heard of BCA from a person who's had breast cancer who dislikes a lot of other breast cancer awareness organizations. She has a pretty good rant about it, that I couldn't possibly top, so I'm not going to try. From BCAction's site: "...they are the only national breast cancer organization that does not accept funding from companies that profit from or contribute to cancer. Because they can't be bought, they tell the truth about important issues concerning our health, like toxins in the environment. Their work affects all of us, not just those with breast cancer."

Day 17: Sea Shepherd. Sea Shepherd first came to my attention after Bindi Irwin decided to associate herself with Sea World. Paul Watson, of Sea Shepherd, had some great things to say about both why Sea World is terrible and also why that's not the fault of one fifteen-year-old girl. They do incredible work and have the best logo for a nonprofit I can think of. From their site: "Our mission is to end the destruction of habitat and slaughter of wildlife in the world's oceans in order to conserve and protect ecosystems and species."

Day 18: Families Against Mandatory Minimums. I saw The House I Live In this week, and it left me with lots of feelings and thoughts and plans for action (if you're interested in watching it, it's available on Netflix). One thing that was very clear to me is that mandatory minimum sentences aren't helping anyone — and from even the least sympathetic, most mercenary viewpoint, they're costing us a ridiculous amount of money. From FAMM's Mission: "FAMM (Families Against Mandatory Minimums) is a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization fighting for smart sentencing laws that maintain public safety. FAMM sees a country where criminal sentencing is individualized, humane, and sufficient to impose fair punishment and protect public safety."

Day 19: Autistic Self Advocacy Network. This is another organization that's important to someone who'se important to me — and one that's specifically helping a population that's often talked about by others speak for itself. From the mission statement: "The Autistic Self Advocacy Network seeks to advance the principles of the disability rights movement with regard to autism. Drawing on the principles of the cross-disability community, ASAN seeks to organize the community of Autistic adults and youth to have our voices heard in the national conversation about us."

Day 20: The Root Social Justice Center. The Root started as a coworking space, but has become so much more in such a short period of time. It's rare for me to go two weeks without attending some event there, and every time, I'm just impressed with the simplicity of the idea of having a space where important social justice work of lots of different kinds happens under one roof. From the "About the Root" page: "The Root SJC provides a physically and financially accessible space to support and bring together communities working for social justice. We operate collectively to sustain a space that strives to be free of oppression, harm, and injustice."

Day 21: Invisible No More. From the home page: "Invisible No More is a peer run group representing the Trans* community, based in the Pioneer Valley of Massachusetts. We exist for the purposes of Support, Advocacy, Education, and Celebration." INM's on this list because they supported a really wonderful production of "The Naked I" this weekend, which arguably counts toward all four of those purposes.

Monday, March 24, 2014

Just Cause (Part 3)

It's time for a continuation of 40 Days of Worthy Causes. I'll be highlighting a cause a day for each day of Lent. I hope you'll find some of them worth looking into, even supporting — and I hope you'll tell me what some of your favorites are, too, in the comments.

Day 11: Planned Parenthood. Probably, you all know what Planned Parenthood does, but if not, it provides health care, of many kinds, to people who need it, and takes a lot of heat for doing so.* I still go there because I have insurance, and they took care of me when I didn't, and now my insurance dollars fund something I believe in. From the "Who We Are" page: "Planned Parenthood is one of the nation's leading providers of high-quality, affordable health care for women, men, and young people, and the nation's largest provider of sex education. Planned Parenthood also works with partner organizations worldwide to improve the sexual health and well-being of individuals and families everywhere."

Day 12: Heifer International. HI is one of the first three charitable organizations I can recall raising money for, as a child** — there is something tangible and easy-to-understand about giving animals that can feed, clothe, and otherwise sustain people. From "About Heifer": "We empower families to turn hunger and poverty into hope and prosperity – but our approach is more than just giving them a handout. Heifer links communities and helps bring sustainable agriculture and commerce to areas with a long history of poverty. Our animals provide partners with both food and reliable income, as agricultural products such as milk, eggs and honey can be traded or sold at market. When many families gain this new sustainable income, it brings new opportunities for building schools, creating agricultural cooperatives, forming community savings and funding small businesses." Also, I would swear that there was a bit on The Office where Kevin described HI's work as "a great prank," but I can't find it, for the life of me. Anyone else remember that?

Day 13: Sylvia Rivera Law Project. From the home page: "The Sylvia Rivera Law Project (SRLP) works to guarantee that all people are free to self-determine their gender identity and expression, regardless of income or race, and without facing harassment, discrimination, or violence." Seems important, right?

Day 14: Bike and Build. I first heard of this group a year ago (two?) when they were doing a bike clinic with kids at the church of a friend of mine when I was staying at said friend's house. From the home page: "Bike & Build organizes cross-country bicycle trips which benefit affordable housing groups. Specifically, we fund projects planned and executed by young adults. Over the past 10 seasons we have donated more than $4.5M; built for more than 160,000 hours; pedaled over 7.5M miles; and engaged more than 2000 young adults in spreading the word about the affordable housing crisis in America." And hey, if you're interested, they still have 2014 rider spots available.

Day 15: Camp Rising Sun. People who know me well know I believe in camp, generally. This camp helps kids with cancer. I first heard about it from a former coworker, one of their volunteers, who used to (perhaps still does?) go back every summer, and when she came back to work she just shone with the joy of that experience. From their "Who We Are" section: "It is our mission at Camp Rising Sun to provide a safe nurturing environment to kids who have faced the diagnosis of cancer, so that they may grow and learn from their experiences to become the best they can be."

Day 16: National Park Foundation. Maybe it's just because I'm sick to death of winter, and ready to get out and hiking, but our national parks are awesome, and I support them. "The National Park Foundation, in partnership with the National Park Service, enriches America’s national parks and programs through private support, safeguarding our heritage and inspiring generations of national park enthusiasts."



*Also, unrelated to Planned Parenthood, but related to what PP gets a lot of attention for, which is abortion: If you have a chance to see After Tiller, I hope you will — I saw it a few weeks back and it really moved me and shifted my thinking about some things. I saw it with the only other person who I know saw it, and she is probably bored of hearing me talk about it by now. You can watch it through Amazon, if there isn't a screening near you.

**Other early favorites were:
  • Unicef, because children
  • What was then the Presiding Bishop's Fund for World Relief, now Episcopal Relief and Development, because church
  • The National Multiple Sclerosis Society, because competitive reading. Anyone got a kid doing the MS readathon? Or any other readathon?

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Right Said Fred

Why should I write a post when my friends do it better?

Here is what my Facebook feed said about the death of Fred Phelps today. I think it is pretty safe to say that none of these people would have been considered pro-Phelps, or even Phelps-neutral, while he lived. I did not cherry-pick these responses. This is literally every response I saw.

Rev. Emily C. Heath: I pray that Fred Phelps finds in death the peace and love of God that he never found in life.
"Do not repay evil for evil..." - 1 Peter 3:9

Heidi Carrington Heath: Prayers of healing, peace, and reconciliation for Fred Phelps. Fred, may you be surrounded by the infinite mercy of God's love that loves all of us. May you find the peace in death you could not find in life. May your family find comfort as they grieve your death. Go with God.

Patrick Hagerty: I know that the man, while alive, espoused a hate-filled agenda. I hope, now that he is gone, that he is at peace and all the conflict and pain he caused can now start to heal. In the end we should treat even those who despise us with compassion, although they would not do the same for us. It's what makes us different.

Sonora Chase Snyder: Farewell Fred, and may God heal you before you get reincarnated.

Beth Zacharias Hunt
can’t help but wonder where Fred Phelps finds himself this afternoon.

Erik Marino: Fred Phelps is dead. My bracket is ruined. 

George Takei: Today, Mr. Phelps may have learned that God, in fact, hates no one. Vicious and hate-filled as he was, may his soul find the kind of peace through death that was so plainly elusive during his life.

Mary Lambert: Don't practice what Fred Phelps preached. A death is a death is a death. My wish is that he is met by the beautiful souls he hatefully picketed and learns compassion, empathy, and true love.

I may have more complicated feelings later, but right now, I'm hardly thinking about Fred Phelps. I am thinking about how lucky I am to be in a circle of folks who are so loving and hilarious and unhateful. I am pretty excited that these are the people I have surrounded myself with, or been surrounded by, over a lifetime.


Note: All quotes are used with permission, and attributed by permission, except for the ones by celebrities who already shared the sentiments publicly, so, seems OK. I don't actually follow either Mary Lambert or George Takei, but my real-life friends shared their words.

Monday, March 17, 2014

Just Cause (Part 2)

Sometimes, things happen, like not having the internet at home. But now, a day late, we have a continuation of 40 Days of Worthy Causes. I'll be highlighting a cause a day for each day of Lent. I hope you'll find some of them worth looking into, even supporting — and I hope you'll tell me what some of your favorites are, too, in the comments.

Day 5: Green Mountain Crossroads. GMC is an LGBTQ community organization for southeastern Vermont, southwestern New Hampshire, and northwestern Massachusetts. It was founded by a couple of people who are simultaneously really incredibly lovely and very very dedicated to their community. From the Facebook page: "Green Mountain Crossroads is a nonprofit organization working to increase the connections among the LGBTQ communities. We maintain a community events calendar on our website, and assist in organizing events, workshops, performances, and support groups. Our website also provides resources and referrals for health and well being."

Day 6: Davis-Putter Scholarship Fund. I have a friend who's on the board of this organization (they have 16 days left to raise $10,000 on their indiegogo campaign, if you're into that), but I also just love the idea of supporting student activists, specifically. From their "about the fund" page: "The Davis-Putter Scholarship Fund provides grants to students actively working for peace and justice. These need-based scholarships are awarded to those able to do academic work at the university level and who are part of the progressive movement on the campus and in the community. Early recipients worked for civil rights, against McCarthyism, and for peace in Vietnam. Recent grantees have been active in the struggle against racism, sexism, homophobia, and other forms of oppression; building the movement for economic justice; and creating peace through international anti-imperialist solidarity."

Day 7: Justice in the Body. I got to know this organization (and one of its founders) when I crashed on its floor (organization, not founder) about a year ago. If you're in the Portland area, check it out — I find myself frequently wishing it was closer, or actually just more widespread. They're doing great work in so many seemingly disparate but widely varied ways. From their "About JITB" section: "Justice in the Body is a socially responsible education, training, and movement center devoted to integrating well-being, love, justice, and liberation with individuals, groups, and social movements." The founder I met had a practice of asking people who asked about JITB: "What would justice in your body look like?" I've been carrying that question around for a year now.

Day 8: Academy of Hope. My first job out of college was teaching adult ed at AoH, and that experience was totally formative in so many ways. It changed how I thought about teaching, and learning, and privilege, while I was at the same time living in a group house that was changing how I thought about faith and community. Big year. When I moved back to DC a few years later, I volunteered, and am proud to have also participated in their adult spelling bee, which is among the best fundraisers I've participated in. From the "Mission and Values" page: "Academy of Hope's mission is to provide high quality adult basic education in a manner that changes lives and improves our community. ... Since its beginning in 1985, the Academy of Hope has been powered by adult learners, volunteers, donors and staff who are dedicated to building one of the most respected not-for-profit organizations in the Washington, D.C., area."

Day 9: You Gotta Believe. An old friend is adopting a 19-year-old young man through this organization. I can't think of any reason why most of you would know that the adoption (or fostering) of older youth is, like, A Thing for me, but it is. From their mission: "You Gotta Believe is one of a precious few organizations in the U.S and the only organization in the New York City Metro area that solely limits its practice to finding permanent parents and families for young adults, teens, and pre-teens in the foster care system. We were founded with a mission to find adoptive parents for pre-teens, teens and young adults before they age out of the foster care system and run the extremely high risk of becoming homeless."

Day 10: Yes!And Collaborative Arts. Did you know that March is Youth Art Month? Neither did I. But I do know that having artistic outlets, early, made me comfortable in many of the things I am today: weird, silly, a gifted problem-solver... Those outlets also gave me the friend who suggested this nonprofit to me. From the "About Y!A" page: "Yes! And... equips children and young people with the tools to be better learners, to believe in themselves and to realize their dreams through the work of creating collaboratively with peers and professional artists. As educators, we practice and teach a different way of interacting with kids, with each other and with the world. We believe that children learn best when they are given the opportunity to engage with one another, classroom content and their own ideas in the context of a safe, affirming and specific environment – this we call Tribe Centered Learning, a unique brand of Collaborative Arts Education."

Sunday, March 9, 2014

Just Cause (Part 1)

So now we embark on our 40 Days of Worthy Causes. I'll be highlighting a cause a day for each day of Lent. I hope you'll find some of them worth looking into, even supporting — and I hope you'll tell me what some of your favorites are, too, in the comments.


  • Day 1: Episcopal Relief and Development formerly The Presiding Bishop's Fund for World Relief). ERD is one of my go-to organizations, mostly because it's well-managed. From the "What We Do" page: "Episcopal Relief & Development works with Church partners and other local organizations to save lives and transform communities worldwide. We rebuild after disasters and empower people to create lasting solutions that fight poverty, hunger and disease. Working in close to 40 countries, our programs impact the lives of approximately 3 million people around the world. ... Our four core program areas [are]: Alleviate Hunger and Improve Food Supply, Create Economic Opportunities and Strengthen Communities, Promote Health and Fight Disease, Respond to Disasters and Rebuild Communities."
  • Day 2: JDRF. When I started asking around about people's favorite causes, I was surprised by how often this one came up, because I didn't immediately recognize the acronym. But it did come up, a lot. From the "About JDRF" page: "JDRF is the leading global organization funding type 1 diabetes (T1D) research. JDRF’s goal is to progressively remove the impact of T1D from people’s lives until we achieve a world without T1D. JDRF collaborates with a wide spectrum of partners and is the only organization with the scientific resources, regulatory influence, and a working plan to better treat, prevent, and eventually cure T1D. ... JDRF is currently sponsoring $530 million in scientific research in 17 countries. In 2012 alone, JDRF provided more than $110 million to T1D research. More than 80 percent of JDRF’s expenditures directly support research and research-related education. In 2012 Forbes magazine named JDRF one of its five All-Star charities, citing the organization’s efficiency and effectiveness."
  • Day 3: Takoma Park Volunteer Fire Department. TPVFD is mostly on this list because of the good work frequent commenter Mike is doing with them, both as a volunteer and through partner efforts for community CPR training. From Mike's comment on this post, "I got a grant for my volunteer fire department to teach a CPR instructor class (CPR instructor training is surprisingly hard to get and very expensive) for free to people who commit to teaching a certain number of free CPR classes for the community over the next few years. Next we'll be looking for funding to do an instructor class for bilingual Spanish speakers, so we can offer CPR classes in Spanish, and ASL speakers so we can offer classes in sign language. (You'd think that would be available already in these parts -- D.C. -- thanks to Gallaudet University, but even they use interpreters and non-signing instructors.) Disclosure: The training is provided through the donated labor of a small business Heather and I started to teach CPR and first aid, so we will also be able to employ some of these new instructors. But we are not making any money from the grants. (Like us on Facebook: Takoma Park CPR.)"
  • Day 4 (also International Women's Day): Girls on the Run. This is another one that's dear to the heart of several who are dear to me. From the "Who We Are" page: "We inspire girls to be joyful, healthy and confident using a fun, experience-based curriculum which creatively integrates running. ... We envision a world where every girl knows and activates her limitless potential and is free to boldly pursue her dreams. Girls on the Run honors its core values. We strive to: Recognize our power and responsibility to be intentional in our decision making; embrace our differences and find strength in our connectedness; express joy, optimism and gratitude through our words, thoughts and actions; nurture our physical, emotional and spiritual health; lead with an open heart and assume positive intent; stand up for ourselves and others." I'm not really doing it justice. It's a phenomenal curriculum that incorporates physical health with confidence-boosting and leadership and other good values.

Saturday, March 8, 2014

Some quizzes I have taken lately, their results, and how accurate I think they are.

Which "Frasier" Character Are You?
Daphne.
Unassumingly beautiful, you are the object of everyone’s affection. The secret is that that you’re warm and elegant, the kind of person who fits in at a fancy ball and at home with a bucket of chicken. Accuracy: Medium-low.

Which U.S. President Are You?
Andrew Jackson.
You’ve never been given handouts and for that, your success tastes so much sweeter. You may be given great power, but you have the great responsibility to handle it. You always do what you think is best. Hats off to you.
Accuracy: False. I mean, of course I always do what I think is best, but so does everyone. The rest is just wrong.

How Neat Are You?
Clean, but not obsessive.
You maintain a healthy balance. You don’t automatically wrinkle your nose when you walk into slightly messy room, but you also know how to clean up after yourself and be a grown-up human in the world. You make an excellent roommate/romantic partner/general cohabitant.
Accuracy: Not great. I'd describe me as, "Messy, but not consistently revolting."

Which Mythical Creature Are You?
Fairy.
Positively enchanting! You’re naturally adorable, but your enemies are in for a nasty surprise if they think that means you’re helpless. You’re feisty and quick to act, and you’re a bit of a trickster and enjoy practical jokes. You know how to enjoy yourself. From appreciating a sunny day to standing up for what you think is right, you carpe the diem, always.
Accuracy: Meh. Whatever.

Which ’80s Pop Icon Are You?
Daryl Hall and John Oates
Some people think you’re kinda dorky, but you don’t care – you know you’ve got style and talent. You’re not afraid to throw yourself whole-heartedly into romantic relationships. You like so much stuff that you actually keep a list of the best things in life.
Accuracy: This is not what I expected, but I like it fine. Watch out, boy, I'll chew you up.

Which "Community" Character Are You?
Shirley.
You're the mother hen of your group, always keeping people in line and making sure they have what they need. You might be bossy at times, but it's because you're usually right. The maternal thing isn't the only thing that defines you, though. You're a badass in business and on the foosball table.
Accuracy: This is as close as I was likely to get on this quiz. Just grateful not to get "Annie's Boobs."

Which "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" Character Are You?
Cordelia.
If life were an after-school special starring a girl who's constantly learning lessons about being a decent person, that girl would be you. Showing an unrivaled penchant for personal growth, you've transformed yourself from kind of awful to an exemplar of goodness.
Accuracy: I stopped reading after it didn't say "Oz." OK, not really. Very low accuracy. Fun fact: My ex went to the same Las Vegas Catholic school as Charisma Carpenter, at almost but not quite the same time.

Which Michael Jackson Song Are You?
"Man in the Mirror."
You're a deeply sensitive person who just wants to make the world a better place — starting with yourself. You're not perfect, but you're always working towards bettering yourself.
Accuracy: Not bad.

Which of Jesus's Disciples Are You?
Saint Thomas
Ferociously intelligent and streetwise, you don’t take any nonsense from anybody and aren’t afraid to call people out on their BS. Some might call you argumentative, but you know what you want and you’re not afraid to ask for it.
Accuracy: Pretty good. I'm grateful they left out the whole "faithlessness" angle.

Which Johnny Depp Character Are You?
Cry-Baby.
What would the world be without an attractive daredevil like yourself? You live lief on the edge and are always looking for the next thrill, even if it means risking your own life. Though you come off as a badass, you're really a big softie — how else can we explain your love for emotional singing?
Accuracy: Terrible.

Which “Goonies” Character Are You?
Stef!
You are wise beyond your years, which can often seem like you are being brash when really you just know a lot. You don’t mind not being the center of attention but are not afraid to take charge when need be. Also, you are a lot more fun than you are given credit for, which is something you always enjoy surprising people with.
Accuracy: I obviously only wrote this whole post because that answer is perfect and I want to be able to refer back to it forever.

So, what whatever are you?

Thursday, March 6, 2014

It's always nice to feel really understood.

It's kind of an eventful week, socially and religiously and whatnot. The great irony is that more to report means less time in which to report it. But I had pancakes for dinner Tuesday and went to church Wednesday and am having dinner with friends tonight and may go to a film festival gala Friday and Saturday there's an event happening where I'm really into the opening acts but somewhat less so into the main act, and, well, you know, stuff.

Also: Yesterday, I went to Google something.

I typed in, "has anyone ever gotten the," and Google autofilled it as, "has anyone ever gotten the jackpot in candy crush," and here's the thing:

That is what I was going to ask.

Exactly.

Yeah, so, big times. You?

Friday, February 28, 2014

Lent-al stew

So, you know, Lent's coming. (Starting Wednesday, in fact.)

Last year I started a discipline here that I liked, but dropped the ball on.

This year, I'm attempting to improve.

I'm going to highlight 40 good causes — one a day for each of the days of Lent (so, one each day of Ash Wednesday through Holy Saturday, skipping Sundays) in a weekly roundup post on Sundays.

Here's your chance to influence me.

Share in the comments below (or on Facebook) whatever good causes are your favorites right now — nonprofits especially, but also Kickstarters for people doing good work, etc. Share as many as you like; include a description if you like, include a link if you can. Feel free to share things you're personally connected to, organizations you give money to, groups you serve as a volunteer, groups that have helped you when you needed it, whatever. Secular and religious are equally welcome, and religious certainly includes non-Christian.

Some of your suggestions are likely to get highlighted on CMC between now and Easter.

What's out there?


Monday, February 24, 2014

Dumb, Alec

Sometimes, I read something and want to talk to people about it.

You are my people.

Alec Baldwin wrote a stupidly long piece for New York Magazine called, "Alec Baldwin: Good-bye, Public Life." If you want to read it, go ahead, and then come back. If you don't want to read it but still want to follow what I'm talking about, highlight the text that follows for what I think he was trying to say:
He is not a homophobe, and everyone thinks he's a homophobe, but he seriously isn't and he knows plenty of actual homosexuals, and also, he wishes everyone would just leave him the hell alone, and so once he's done with these 5,283 words (many of them accusations leveled at other people and several of them homophobic), he's never talking again.

I may be missing some pieces; it really was very long.

I am sympathetic to the plight of people who live in the public eye, especially unwillingly. I am not on the side of photographers and reporters who think it's OK to intrude on every facet of someone's life because he's an actor, especially if some of those facets are yelling at children.

I also have often expressed my fondness for Alec Baldwin, which is real.

But also? I think that when you have your own giant platform where you are determining the content, and you choose to sign off from public life —never commenting again — with words and phrases that include, apparently unironically:

  • "tranny"
  • "cocksucking"
  • "toxic little queen"
  • "...I didn’t view “toxic little queen” as a homophobic statement. I didn’t realize how those words could give offense..."

...it is going to be hard to give you credit as the unhomophobe you apparently want to appear to be.

Any other thoughts on what's happening here? Am I just missing the comedic genius?

Friday, February 14, 2014

I choo-choo-choose you

Today, my dear friend Cal posted on Facebook:

Happy Lupercalia, y'all! Let the wearing of goat skins and the consensual flogging begin!

to which I responded (privately, but not anymore),

You naked kids and your fertility thongs stay far away from me.
Sorry — as I also said to Cal, I haven't said or done anything else remotely funny lately, so that's what you get.

I'm maybe a little goofy today — early morning (5:30), plus dogsitting for my sister, plus my first Valentine's Day with a date in many years (the last Valentine's Day I had a steady, said steady was far away from me, and the last Valentine's date I had before that was in 2006 and I don't remember it). And I don't think Valentine's Day is a huge big deal, but it is nice to go bowling with someone and make them fun surprises (that I can't tell you all about, because RI reads this).

But you know what was also really nice? A pot luck last year with loving friends.

And the running naked and whipping the ladies who choose it sounds pretty good too, if that's your kind of thing.

And another friend is home with her snowbound kids today, giving them a schoolless good time, complete with chocolate and movies.

What's your deal today?

Friday, February 7, 2014

Sigh

I had reason to talk to a friend-of-a-friend about some stuff I'm puzzling over today. She's both very smart and also very educated in helping people think about things.

Sorry, that was weird and vague. She's a life coach, and while I wasn't going to her for coaching, I think she can't totally turn it off.

I wish wish wish I had written down her exact words, but since I didn't, you get the paraphrase:

You should do what makes your body feel good.
When you find the things you should be doing, you'll feel a sense of relief in your body.
Spend the rest of your life chasing that relief.

I suspect not everyone has the exact reaction I did, but memories of times I've done that — chased relief, or attained relief — flooded me.* They were followed fast by awarenesses of where I'm not doing that, where I'm struggling or have struggled.

Mind. Blown.



*Hey, we haven't talked much about RI lately. In case you're curious, that's still going on, still wonderful. And it was the first of those relief moments I thought of. Even our struggles (mostly logistical) contain some element of that. I hope every one of you has something that gives you that, whether it's relationships or life's work or faith or avocation or anything. Because this stuff is for real amazing.

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Stormy weather

Today, my workplace was closed due to snow.

The highlights:

  • As I am part of the "emergency communications team" at said workplace, I got up at 5:15 a.m. to share the word. Which mostly went fine.
  • At about 6:15 a.m., after attempting to record the outgoing message for the switchboard about one million times, I texted my neighbor and subsequently went to her house in my pajamas to try again on her landline. That went better.
  • I watched a few episodes of Dexter. Big revelation: A date that is featured sort of casually but repeatedly on that show is my exact date of birth. So that's fun.
  • I videochatted with my sister and niece and nephew, which included tours of both houses, a puppet show, and my nephew's enjoyment of a toy drill for just slightly too short a time for me to come up with "that looks boring" as a clever thing to say. Those kids are very very very amused by seeing me upside down or sideways.
  • I ventured out to the convenience store .6 miles away from my house on foot, both because I needed the exercise and because my driveway wasn't plowed yet. It took almost an hour round-trip because of the snow.
  • My sweet friends had a temperature-solstice pot luck over the weekend that I was very excited about but then was too sick to attend, with the result that I have an excess of my favorite summer dish, which means peach cobbler, which is seriously summer in a bowl and good for the spirits of the snowbound.
  • I watched Breaking Away. Golly, that's a good cast and a beautiful movie.
So, pretty much of a win overall.




How's your day going?

Friday, January 31, 2014

Video killed all other interests

So, I have watched a lot of movies lately.

A lot.

Here is a nearly complete list of the three and a half weeks that started with my Reel Quandary and ends with last night, in roughly reverse chronological order.



Some of that volume of viewing is due to my determination to cut down the Netflix list. Some of it is due to the fact that, right at Sharknado time, I got a new and amazingly better TV. And some of it is no doubt due to the fact that it's freezing out. Like, really, really cold.

In any case, there are a lot of great, great movies in that mix, but it seems silly to try to talk about them all. So: What are you watching that I should add to the list? And what of what I've seen do you want to hear more about?


* Didn't finish: Too pro-Rand
** Didn't finish: Too rapey
*** Didn't finish: Insufficiently awesome effects for my new TV

Monday, January 27, 2014

Trying to become the funk in your right

Calvin says this is the most romantic scene in film history.



Which is funny, because I always thought it was this.



Which maybe explains how (or why) I sometimes confuse "sexy" for "romantic."

What's your most romantic (or sexiest) film scene? And are you OK with that?

Monday, January 20, 2014

Higher than a...

So today, the car radio broke again. It worked perfectly for a few days, and I could turn it off or adjust the volume — and then, just before a very long drive, it stopped working, and so is now stuck off.

Naturally, I had to sing to myself a little in the car.

And I found myself singing, kind of loudly, "Star! Fish! Were meant to fly-ai-yi..."

Which, no. Not quite.

Two things, then:
  1. Ever caught yourself singing something odd and not quite right?
  2. If starfish were meant to fly, would it be more terrifying or hilarious?

Monday, January 13, 2014

ZIP a dee doo dah

This hardly seems like it would warrant a post, but who else am I gonna tell?

More than six years after moving to my current address, I have twice in the last week found myself inadvertently responding to requests for my ZIP code with my old one from the DC area. I had that ZIP code for eight years (at three addresses).

At what point do we think that'll wear off?