Saturday, December 20, 2008

Quote of the Week

Reality check: you can never, ever, use weight loss to solve problems that are not related to your weight. At your goal weight or not, you still have to live with yourself and deal with your problems. You will still have the same husband, the same job, the same kids, and the same life. Losing weight is not a cure for life.
- Phillip C. McGraw

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

The Big 2-0-0

Dear Ms. Winfrey,

I am sorry to hear the news of your weight gain. I am not sorry because I can empathize with the 200 pound mark; a scary place unless your six foot five or playing in the NFL. I am not sorry because I, like many women, understand the struggle you face each time you step on a scale, look at yourself in the mirror, or step into your closet. I am sorry because it matters, it matters that unarguably one of the most powerful women in the world has to worry the size of her body when she has much more important matters to contend with. I am sorry that you feel like you’ve let yourself and women worldwide down by gaining weight when in actuality you’ve let women of the world down by continuing to make your weight such a big deal.

Oprah, you and I have much in common; unfortunately it is not a multibillion dollar fortune. My weight yo-yos are legendary. During my adult lifetime the scale readings ranged from 157 to 216. Winning a weight battle is easy, I like you have done it many, many times; it is the lifelong war that is hard. I understand your frustration because we know what to do, are scared because we know how bad extra weight is for the body, yet time and time again we “fall off the wagon.” It does give me some sort of sick vindication that with all the money and power in the world you continue to struggle with your weight but it also makes me very sad that you reached the pinnacle of success yet you, and much of society, discount your accomplishments simply because you cannot control your size. It is a shame that in this day and age a woman can be smart, accomplished, well-read, and benevolent, but cannot be classified as truly successful unless she is also thin.

Unfortunately Oprah you making your struggle with weight headline news only proliferates the issue of women being judged by how they look on the outside rather than who they are on the inside. You are a shrewd business woman who understands how women tick and have used your own weight roller coaster as a way of connecting with your female audience, cashing in on our insecurities, frustration, depression, and embarrassment. Your focus on weight sends a bad message to the millions upon millions of people who look up to you as a role model; all the accomplishments in the world are meaningless if you are not thin.

I have a dream that one day this nation will be size blind. I have a dream that little girls will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the size of their hips, but by the content of their character. I have a dream where women will define their self-worth not by their size but by their accomplishments, intelligence, strength of character, and contributions to community. You have an opportunity to make these dreams a reality rather than aiding and abetting eating disorders. Stop making food the enemy, encouraging women to give up carbs, eliminate fat, or try a liquid diet. Promote healthy eating, portion control, and the joy of eating well. Workout reasonably; your all or nothing personality (which I understand all too well) discourages women from exercising. You are either training for a marathon or the couch potato Olympics; there is a safe, happy, and healthy middle ground each of us can achieve. You announced that this time around the weight roller coaster you are striving for strong, confident, and healthy, not thin and to that I say bravo. Attaining a “healthy weight” takes commitment, time, and patience, not a few months of starvation so you can show off your svelte self during sweeps week. Lead the celebration of what our bodies can do rather than what size covers them. Oprah, if you really focus on your strength and health and not the latest crash diet you could have a positive impact on the long-term physical and psychological well-being of millions of women, an accomplishment much more profound then fitting into a pair of size 10 Calvin Klein Jeans.

Explosive Bombchelle

Friday, December 12, 2008

Quote of the Week

Because I am a woman, I must make unusual efforts to succeed. If I fail, no one will say, "She doesn't have what it takes." They will say, "Women don't have what it takes."
- Clare Boothe Luce

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

"Birth" Announcement

For years I have wrestled with a personal struggle that my closest friends and family were all too aware of but didn’t know quite how to help. They all watched as I put my body and mind through the wringer in an effort make my dreams a reality. I tried everything; different positions, consultations with specialists in the field of medicine, meditation, exercise, yet nothing happened. People often told me to relax, that I was trying too hard, that I was too uptight, that nothing would happen if I didn’t just chill, but these words fell on deaf ears. How can they possibly give me advice, they have no idea what I was going through. Time marched on and people around me were making their big announcements and it didn’t seem fair, why were they so lucky? What were they doing that I wasn’t? With my self-confidence shredded I thought about giving up, maybe it was not in the cards for me, maybe I wasn’t good enough, or deserving enough. It took nearly two years of hard work, sacrifice, struggle, heartache, and sometimes tears but here I am, about to tell the world (or a small cross-section of it) my big news.

On Friday morning I received word that I was promoted at work. Without going into too many details this is a personal victory of monumental proportions, one that many agree is long overdue making. Moving mountains might be easier than getting a promotion in my organization and I had actually considered leaving the company for a year to come back in at a higher position; a very successful method that many colleagues use to get ahead. But alas the bittersweet moment came and I am trying to savor sweet happiness rather then wallow in the bitterness that it took so long. Ironically I received my big announcement about 30 minutes after hearing the family news that my cousin was in the hospital about to give birth. My family eagerly awaited the arrival of the newest family addition and I am not naïve to think that anyone would find my news that exciting given the circumstances. So I told a couple of coworkers, a friend, my mother, and my husband. My mother’s excitement actually surprised me given the impending arrival would make her a Great Grand Aunt. I didn’t want to push my luck by telling my sisters who for all intensive purposes were about to become Aunts to a cousin who is like a sister; someone would have their thunder stolen, and that person would be me.

Through the years I have spoken with other childfree women who struggle with how to share their own “big news.” Pregnant women broadcast their news from the hilltops, expecting all around to be happy and joyous. People expect women to have children and many childfree woman are pressured into changing their minds and making the announcement that all their friends and family really want to hear; any other update is secondary. Unfortunately other life successes are discounted because people place such emphasis on women as child bearers. The role of mother is an important one (one I argue that far too many people do not take seriously enough), but women who choose other roles and other paths in life should not be dismissed as less important. Although it is a satirical newspaper, The Onion recently published a line that many childfree women can relate to and communicates volumes on this topic; "But what do I know. I'm just the lead researcher for an entire team of Northwestern grad students who look to me for the answer because I'm their boss. All my achievements are irrelevant because I never had any kids, right, Mom? Right?"

From another angle it did not dawn on me until recently how friends and family might struggle with the right way of announcing their pregnancy news to me or any other openly childfree person. The epiphany came when my friend Becca shared her news with the following caveat; “We know it’s not for everyone but we're excited about this next stage in our lives and wanted to share the news.” Admittedly I’m not as excited as their other friends and my focus is on the health and well-being of the woman I already know and love and not that of the child she is carrying. I might not fully understand why anyone would want children, but when the announcement comes from a couple who are stable, loving, healthy, happy, financially sound, and competent then I can share in their happiness.

Those who meet my “criteria” for sharing in pregnancy happiness are often the same couples who accept and embrace me for who I am and would receive my non-pregnancy news with equal excitement. They are people who accept that babies aren’t for everyone and understand there are other paths in life that deserve celebration and recognition. Some women conceive babies, others conceive ideas. Some women birth human babies, others “birth” businesses, books, art, gardens, blogs, stamps in their passport, marathons, community service, and promotions. These are the “babies” of the childfree that also take years to develop, raise, and grow. It is important to recognize and celebrate these successes whether a woman is a parent or not.

Friday, December 05, 2008

Surviving the Yuletidal-wave

My home is normally Christmas central by the first week of December; decorations filling every nook and cranny and the familiar sounds of the season piped throughout the house. For the last few days I attempted to decorate, start Christmas cards, and fill the CD player with Andy Williams and Bing Crosby, but the holiday spirit is noticeably lacking in my home and in my heart. I am just not in the “Christmas spirit” yet and refuse to march through a long list of holiday chores just because it is what I should or normally do. All around I see people miserably trudging through long lists exclaiming “if I get this done I can enjoy the holidays.” This sentiment confuses me because personally the enjoyment of the holidays is intricately woven with the holiday preparation process. Christmas is not about getting to the destination of December 25, but enjoying the 24 day journey to the big day. Isn’t decorating, baking, sending cards, and shopping all part of enjoying the holidays and the journey?

My Scrooge-like behavior this year has nothing to do with the economy, a reason many -news analysts are claiming cause the bah-humbugs. “Christmastime” starts earlier and earlier every year as retailers attempt to cash in on the wallets of holiday shoppers and this artificial lengthening of the Christmas season is killing my spirit. Most places had the common decency to wait until after Halloween to break out the red and green, but this year it is as if everyone forgot that the United States has a pretty major holiday between October 31 and December 25. Thanksgiving, once the official starting point for the Christmas season, is becoming nothing more than a speed bump on the race to December 25. Families still get together for the holiday created to give thanks for our harvest, our spiritual beliefs, our possessions, and our loved ones; but people now have the option to scarf down their dinners and take naps to hit the “black Friday” sales that begin as soon as the clock hits midnight.

Beginning on November 1 radio stations and digital cable started playing Christmas music, Christmas themed commercials broadcasted during every show, people not only put their Christmas lights on their lawns but actually turned them on! This is all occurring while I am frantically preparing for family and friends gathering at my home for Thanksgiving. Christmas is becoming like planning a wedding; a big, long, expensive build up for a short few hours of actual fun. The death march towards Christmas is producing marathon exhaustion for millions. To deal with Christmas infringing on Thanksgiving I blocked it out; ignored commercials, turned any radio station that played anything with a jingle bell, even avoided shopping establishments that insisted on putting up their Christmas tree before I served Thanksgiving turkey. After weeks of blocking out everything red and green it is nearly impossible to unblock it now.

Elongating the Christmas season is not just exhausting, it’s boring. By the time December 25th comes rolling around the music and decorations actually overstay their welcome. Kicking off the Christmas season on November 1 means 55 days of Christmas by the time families gather around the tree. The soundtrack and décor for fifteen percent of the year is holly, mistletoe, and all things “festive”. Kids visiting Santa on November 1st should realize how unlikely it is he’ll remember what they asked for 54 days later. How can we consider Christmas such a special time of the year if it dominates such a huge chunk of our calendar?

The process of preparing my home for a new season acknowledges the progression of time. It celebrates and embraces different traditions through each season. December means making yummy treats for the people I love, sharing family photos with friends, and singing carols; but it is only meaningful when done out of enjoyment and love. As much as I enjoy traditions with family and friends I cannot proceed with my usual holiday fanfare; my anger at Christmas being shoved down my throat in November is making it difficult jump back into my routine.

Perhaps this is one of the benefits of being childfree. We don’t have to decorate, or put on music, or string the house with lights, or sing songs, or bake cookies for the “sake of the children.” When we do it, we do it for ourselves. Traveling to family rather than hosting the holiday also makes it easier to skip Christmas. A part of me is a little sad I feel like such a scrooge this year, but I am not forcing myself to go through the seasonal motions just because. Plain and simple; if I’m not enjoying it, it’s not going to get done. The only person who is going to be disappointed is me (and maybe the husband).

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Playbook Smarts

Sometimes I wonder why I watch sports. Why I put so much time and investment into an interest that often leaves me angry or depressed. There was seriously contemplation this week as to whether it was time to hang up the jerseys, hats, banner, and foam fingers to retire into a less emotional activity like crossword puzzles or sudoku. With more thought I realized that even though my love of sports causes much angst and exhaustion, it has taught me so many valuable life lessons. I am a Buffalo Bills fan, the team famous for dominating the AFC for four straight years in the 90s, only to lose the Super Bowl with each visit. Cheering for my home state of New York’s only team (the Jets and Giants play in New Jersey) comes with a special set of challenges, but some of these challenges contributed to me becoming the person I am today.

The Bills taught me about disappointment and heartbreak. Scott Norwood was the first man to break my heart. Although Buffalo had many opportunities to score in their 1990 Super Bowl loss to the Giants, it is hard to forget the moment, or the man, that ended a magical season for the Bills. With the score 19 to 20 with only seconds left in the game, Scott Norwood’s 47 yard field goal that would have won the game for Buffalo sailed outside the uprights. Scott Norwood is to Bills fans what Bill Buckner is to Red Sox fans. Just as no fan will ever forget Buckner letting a routine grounder roll through his legs in the 1986 World Series, no fan will ever forget Norwood’s missed field goal. Just like it was yesterday, I recall sitting in my living room, holding my breath for what seemed like an eternity, the ball flying through the air in slow motion, and the crushing words finally uttered by the television crew; wide right. Just the mere words “wide right” send a shutter down my spine and bring back vivid memories of the crushed hopes and dreams of that season. As a Bills fan living in Giants country, this loss was especially devastating. Just like sports, life is full of devastation, and learning to overcome it is what makes each of us stronger.

The Bills taught me about humility. How a person celebrates a victory is just as important as how a person accepts a loss. It is important to be humble in times of victory for many reasons. No one likes a pompous winner just as no one likes a sore loser and the Bills are humble when they win, and noble and magnanimous when they lose. During their four Super Bowl appearances they were America’s underdogs with the support of millions; people just wanted the nice guys to win. Surviving crushing losses does help one learn all about humility; when one understand the emotions of humiliating loses they are less apt to throw a win in their opponents face. Even outside of sports we have winning moments; job promotions, raises, eBay victories. It is important to celebrate, but not at the expense of the “loser.” (note to The Husband: I am still working on this life lesson when it comes to board games.)

The Bills taught me about perseverance. Buffalo came very close to missing out on their fourth Super Bowl appearance. The Houston Oilers (RIP) went into the locker room at halftime of the 1993 AFC wild card playoff game beating The Bills 28 – 3. One minute and forty-one seconds into the third quarter, the Oilers scored again making the score 35 -3. Most people turned off the game since no team has ever recovered from that large of a deficit. Then the Bills decided to play a little football, managed to tie the game at 38, and ultimately won 41 – 38 in overtime; the largest comeback in NFL history is affectionately referred to as just “The Comeback.” In this game the Bills proved that any comeback is possible. Lesson learned; no matter what the odds, giving up is never an option.

The Bills taught me never to get my hopes up. Buffalo might hold the record for the biggest comeback, but they must hold some unofficial record for most heartbreaking, final second losses. As a Bills fan you quickly learns what Yogi Berra meant when he said “It ain’t over till it’s over.” No matter how big a lead the Bills have it is dangerous to assume they have the win until the final seconds of the clock are done clicking and television coverage has actually switched over to another game (or 60 minutes). One game that epitomizes the Bills propensity to blow it late is the game is dubbed “The Music City Miracle.” In the AFC wild card playoff game in 2000 the Tennessee Titans defeated Buffalo 22 to 16 in a crazy play that included multiple lateral passes that left everyone watching with their jaws hitting the ground. It was astonishing; no one could believe a team could come back and win in such a grand and unique fashion, no one that is except for Buffalo Bills fans who come to expect their team to be on the losing side of these historic games. This game also provided a very good lesson on the power of revenge; the Titans were once the Houston Oilers, that team the Bills defeated in the biggest comeback in NFL history.

The Bills taught me to study history, because it often repeats itself. When Buffalo had the opportunity to win in the final seconds of their Monday night match-up against the Cleveland every fan deep down in their hearts knew what was going to happen. The similarity between the Bills final play of the game and the final play of the 1990 Super Bowl again the Giants was sickening. Just like Scott Norwood, Rian Lindell was given the opportunity to win a big game with a field goal from 47 yards. Just like Scott Norwood, Rian Lindell took that 47 yard field goal and kicked it wide right. It was like déjà vu. It is important to learn from your past mistakes, and to go the extra yard to set up a better chance for success.

Buffalo Bills football made me a stronger, hopeful, and more realistic person. So as much as this week’s loss made me consider swearing off of football there are still far too many valuable lessons the game, and my team, can teach me. I just wish there were more lessons that included winning.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Quote of the Week

The government’s view of the economy could be summed up in a few short phrases: If it moves, tax it. If it keeps moving, regulate it. And if it stops moving, subsidize it.
- Ronald Reagan

Friday, November 14, 2008

Quote of the Week

The topics of human rights and equality deserve more than one quote...

Don't be in a hurry to condemn because he doesn't do what you do or think as you think or as fast. There was a time when you didn't know what you know today.
- Malcolm X

Give to every human being every right that you claim for yourself.
- Robert Ingersoll

I am the inferior of any man whose rights I trample underfoot.
- Horace Greeley

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Mawage is not what bwings us togeder

The passage of Proposition 8, that discriminatory, civil rights revoking California amendment banning marriage between same sex couples, makes me so mad it is impossible articulate my thoughts in any constructive manner. As a (non-practicing) political scientist it saddens me how frequently history must repeat itself before we learn that our constitutions, federal or state, are not documents made for banning legal rights but for granting them. The now defunct 18th Amendment to the US Constitution, the one that took away American’s rights to buy, consume, or transport alcohol, lasted only thirteen years and is now blamed for an increase in drinking and the rise of organized crime. See what happens when we take away people’s rights? The Bill of Rights, and everything it stands for, is desecrated each time we add something that limits anyone’s life, liberty, or pursuit of happiness (including that pesky 16th amendment legalizing the federal income tax). Rather then go on and on with all the angry thoughts going through my head, I am going to reprint a piece (with some edits) I did as a guest contributor to during the 2004 election season. It is just as relevant now as it was 4 years ago.

11/4/2004- Marriage, specifically, the definition of marriage, was a major focus of conservatives during our recent presidential elections and the subject of referendums on 11 state ballots. I initially thought our government had gotten involved with the issue because of the monetary implications of allowing gay couples to wed. Recognizing same-sex unions means these couples would receive the same legal rights to health insurance, social security benefits, and welfare benefits equating to greater costs incurred by corporations and our government. To get more people on the support bandwagon, I believed the government was cleverly disguising this as a moral issue rather than an economic to garner more support from the religious right.

Much to my surprise, President Bush announced that although he disagrees with same-sex marriage, he supports civil unions:

"I view the definition of marriage difference from legal arrangements that enable people to have rights. And I strongly believe that marriage ought to be defined as between, a union between a man and a woman," Bush said. "Now, having said that, states ought to be able to have the right to pass ... laws that enable people to you know, be able to have rights, like others." - W

With this apparent flip-flop of support for legally recognizing same-sex unions, it is a wonder why so much time and energy is being devoted to adding amendments to state laws and our US constitution banning same-sex marriages. This is not a political issue, it is a linguistic issue. If Bush himself believes that same-sex couples deserve the same legal rights as heterosexual couples, then this push is simply around a definition of a word. I don’t believe it is in the best interest of our society to have our government start taking on the responsibilities of maintaining dictionaries. Don’t we have Webster’s for that?

marriage n.
1. The legal union of a man and woman as husband and wife.
2. The state of being married; wedlock.
3. A common-law marriage.
4. A union between two persons having the customary but usually not the legal force of marriage: a same-sex marriage.

civil union n. : a voluntary union for life (or until divorce) of adult parties of the same sex; "parties to a civil union have all the same benefits, protections, and responsibilities under Vermont law as spouses in a marriage"

Webster’s has spoken. So long as Bush and other anti-gay marriage/pro-gay civil union supporters agree that gay couples deserve the same legal rights as straight couples, then Webster’s can make a few updates to their definitions and we can be done with it. What difference does it make what we call it so long as everyone has the same legal rights? Whether we are bound by a Pastor in a Church, a Rabbi in a synagogue, a judge in a courthouse or Elvis in Vegas, our government’s responsibility is to honor the legality of the union, it is up to Webster’s to describe words, and it is up to each couple to define their own marriage to ensure its success.

If we really think about this debate, doesn’t it seem silly that government bodies are wasting time, money, and precious resources determining whether they are going to recognize a marriage? Should all couples, homosexual or heterosexual, be granted a civil-union by the government and leave the word marriage out of the equation? Frankly, I would rather have my own relationship defined as a civil union these days. All I want from the law is to recognize the legality of our relationship for the purposes of property, insurance, benefits, and next of kin rights. I don’t want my relationship to be defined by people trying to defend the so-called “sanctity” of marriage through discrimination. How is defending the “sanctity” of marriage by discriminating homosexuals any different then how the “sanctity” of marriage was once protected by banning womens' right to vote or how the "sanctity" of our society was once protected by segregation? Discrimination is discrimination no matter who it is against. If the government wants to define marriage as an institution that discriminates against gays and lesbians then frankly I want nothing to do with that institution.

For other thoughts on this topic I strongly encourage you read Nancy’s piece on My Blog Is Not For You, or Keith Olbermann’s piece on MSNBC.

Thursday, November 06, 2008

Quote of the Week

It would be a service to mankind if the pill were available in slot machines and the cigarette were placed on prescription.
- Malcolm Potts, MD

It needs to become as easy to get hold of a condom in a poor country as Coca-Cola.
- Clare Short

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Vote of No Confidence

After George Bush lost the poplar vote in 2000 but won the Electoral College, and therefore the election, there were outcries across the land from people who deemed the Electoral College system as undemocratic and antiquated. Some people argued there is no reason to have the Electoral College in our modern society, the basis for its existence outdated. This assumes the reasons our forefathers developed the Electoral College methodology is history, but honestly, their concerns are just as legitimate today as they were 200 plus years ago.

The Electoral College was proposed as a means of ensuring small states still had a say in Presidential Elections, assuring the President would continue to listen to the concerns of small states rather than focus on just larger states. While the size of the haul in California, Texas, New York, and Florida is substantial, a win on election night requires a candidate to carry other states. From a mathematical standpoint this is very important to listen the opinions and interests of every state in the Union. The nine largest states account for a little over 50% of the US population yet adding up the electoral votes from these same 9 states yields only 241, 29 shy of the 270 needed to carry an election, giving small states a place on the Presidential election stage.

Enough with the simple civics lesson on states' rights. Most people know the other reason our forefathers developed the Electoral College; they did not trust the common man. They feared a tyrannical candidate could and would manipulate citizens in a popular vote. They did not trust the judgment of the general population, people who could barely read their ballot, to make the right choice. Many are outraged when they learn our forefathers were so pompous and arrogant that they did not believe the people could not be trusted to vote intelligently. Some who support the abolishment of the Electoral College argue that citizens of today hold the intelligence and knowledge necessary to vote. While my feelings on the Electoral College are pretty neutral, the argument that the entire population of the United States is smart enough to vote makes me laugh uncontrollably; there are still plenty of common men (and women) who I don’t trust have the intelligence to make an informed decision.

Statistically speaking 50% of the population is of below average intelligence. Simple math, half the people are above average, half are below. This is not drawing the line where “smart” is, just the median. Campaign managers are well aware that people who are educated, involved, and flat out smarter will take the time to learn the facts about a candidate, formulate opinions, research voting records, and make an informed decision. These are not the individuals that campaigns focus their time, energy, and money upon. Instead millions upon millions of dollars are spent to sway the vote of the very same people our forefathers were fearful of voting in the first place.

Campaigns target the lowest common denominator; people who do not have the time or intelligence to perform the due diligence on the issues and facts to make an informed decision. They present half-facts or total opinions to mislead voters on how a candidate stands. As an Independent I received more political mail in one month then I’ve received Victoria’s Secret catalogs in a lifetime. Every person from every party sent no less than 4 to 5 mailers and each one spoke in vague terminology, requiring the ability to read between the lines. One candidate claimed to “support the measures necessary to decrease our dependence on foreign oil and lower the prices of fuel for you and your family.” Something we can all stand behind, right? Except after doing some research on the candidate these “measures necessary” weren’t focused on things I support like building renewable energy sources, increasing public transportation options, or encouraging the development of fuel efficient cars. Nope, the “measures necessary” was to continue our dependence on oil by supporting offshore drilling and Alaskan oil exploration. Another candidate aimed to “protect employee rights” which as far as I could tell by his record meant allowing pharmacists to stop filling prescriptions for birth control or selling condoms.

Very popular this year is the email forwards aimed at discrediting candidates. Most of these emails are filled with blatant lies that are easily disprooved. The issue is most people don’t take the time to research the validity of the emailed information and take the contents as fact. There are countless people basing their vote on misleading emails that are not monitored for libel defamation because they are not official messages from the campaign. Anyone naïve enough to believe that these mass-forwarded messages did not start at the keyboard of some campaign worker has obviously been living under a rock for their entire existence; campaigns love nothing more than free, effective advertising.

Not only is the “common man” manipulated by campaign tactics, apparently the common man is so clueless to the complexity of running a country that they think the best candidate is someone just like them. It might be important for politicians to understand the struggles of the common man, but the last thing we need is someone in office just like the Average Joe. I don’t know about you, but personally I don’t want the leader of the free world to be a person I can grab a beer with. Not that I don’t love and respect all the people I do beers with, but none of us have the knowledge, drive, desire, and perseverance it takes to effectively govern a nation. While these strange polls that make Ben Franklin do somersaults in his grave provide entertainment to some, they frighten me. There are actually people whose egos are so inflated that they vote for a candidate who is the kind of person they can watch a football game with. The qualities I look for in a person I catch a ballgame with are incredibly different then the qualities I look for in a person running our country. Candidates actually have to dumb themselves down at times because there are so many people who vote for the person they think is most like them. No wonder we have so many idiots in office. (Note: For a well written commentary on this subject, please take the time to visit The Katie Girl Project.)

People often say they don’t vote because there are no good candidates, but there are no good candidates because the good ones are eliminated early in the game. Egotistically voting for a person who you can grab a beer with partnered with the manipulation of the unintelligent and uninformed is partially to blame for our lack of choices in elections. People are choosing to elect candidates who remind them of the guy next door, or the girl they had a crush on growing up, rather then the most qualified and experienced individuals. Our state and national elections are no better then the popularity contest of an average student council election where the nerdy geek gets beat out by the dumb jock. People continuously write off the nerdy geeks, the very people who possess the intelligence and insight to manage a city, state, or country, as socially inadequate or weird and then complain that their ballot choices are limited.

Until people take their voting seriously, understand the issues, research the candidates, and give the process more time and energy then they do choosing a meal at Applebee’s, then we’ll never have top notch leadership in our nation. Stop reading email forwards, mute the commercials, and throw out the political postcards. Take the time to visit The League of Women Voters or On the Issues to learn more about who you’re voting for. Take the issues tests on Speakout Vote Match or Glassbooth to see which candidate aligns with your personal beliefs. Don’t be common; be informed, not influenced.

The best argument against democracy is a five-minute conversation with the average voter.
- Winston Churchill

Friday, October 31, 2008

Happy Halloween from Soleirella and Snow Black

Halloween 2007
Halloween 2006

Quote of the Week

Wishing everyone a safe and happy Halloween!
Charlie Brown is the one person I identify with. C.B. is such a loser. He wasn't even the star of his own Halloween special.
- Chris Rock

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Obama: The Ron Popeil of Politics?

Tonight’s 30 minute long Barack Obama “infomercial” scares the willies out of me. Although ahead in most polls, there are still enough undecided voters who could make or break either of the campaigns. Many political strategists predict that only half of those undecided voters are actually undecided and the other half are individuals who would not vote for an African-American but do not want to be labeled as a “racist” by the pollsters. Those supporting democrats are historically more fickle and are more likely to stay home then take the time to visit their local voting booth. If these strategists are correct the election is even closer then polls are indicating. With so much at stake in the final 6 days of the 2008 Presidential race I do understand the need for such a bold move on the part of the democratic campaign. Will this move will break, not make, Senator Obama’s bid for the White House?

Money Shot in the Foot: Barack’s campaign raised an unprecedented amount of money. Historically the Republican’s commanded the position of largest war chest which makes the Democrats fundraising juggernaut even more amazing. This monster fundraising effort is why the Obama campaign can spend nearly $5 million for a 30 minute infomercial on 7 television stations. Even though the campaign could spend that type of cash on television time should they spend that much money with the crumbling economy being at the forefront of the mind of every voter? Will voters be turned off by the five million dollar extravaganza?

Rally Cry: Tina Brown of The Daily Beast was quoted as saying; “One of the striking ironies is that a man who draws tens of thousands of people to his rallies, whose charisma is likened to that of John F. Kennedy, can be sort of a bore.” Will tonight’s infomercial showcase Barack’s trademark charisma or expose his reported boring side? When you have a face for radio you stick to radio, not television. When you have a personality made for rallies you should stick to rallies.

Over-exposed: Hillary Clinton announced her bid for the presidency on January 20, 2007. Barack Obama threw his name in the ring on February 10, 2007. John McCain officially became a contender on February 28, 2007. By the time Election Day rolls around the American electorate has been inundated by political ads, messages, news, mail, and phone calls. If you live in a swing state like we do in Minnesota, these messages are almost constant. Will a 30 minute political infomercial be the last straw for people who already feel bombarded with campaign messages and are sick of a 20 plus month election cycle?

The Great Pumpkin Effect: There is always the chance of saying something stupid that could potentially sway even committed voters away from a candidate. Barack Obama can learn a great lesson from the Peanuts special that aired immediately following “It’s The Great Pumpkin Charlie Brown” on television last night. Linus Van Pelt, the sweet, blanket loving friend of Charlie Brown, runs for student body president in “You’re Not Elected, Charlie Brown” Holding a commanding lead until his final speech, Linus tells everyone about the Great Pumpkin, quickly becoming the laughing stock of his school. He ends up winning by one vote only because his competitor, Russell Anderson, voted for the best candidate; Linus.

Somehow I don’t think John McCain would cast his vote for Barack, so if Mr. Obama wants to win the election he better avoid pissing off his supporters and any mention of The Great Pumpkin to protect his small lead.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Gossip Girl

In our household we pride ourselves as intellectuals bordering on full-out geekdom. Our bookshelves are filled with well thumbed novels from a variety of genres; everything from history to mystery providing hours of entertainment and mind expansion. The ginormous television in our living room is primarily tuned into the History Channel and the Discovery Network. Playing Trivial Pursuit is a favorite evening pastime and it drives us both crazy that our Scrabble skills are not superior to many of our friends who beat US Weekly. The Best Week Ever would certainly include hours of reading, a trip to a museum, an American History marathon on TV, and a trip to our favorite watering hole to play NTN trivia. Our focus on gaining knowledge and desire to learn as much as we can about the world around us are traits we share with many of our friends who are truly Extra-ordinary; incredibly well-read, well-traveled, and educated. Sharing our lives with such intelligent People is inspirational, and drives my personal desire to continue growing intellectually and emotionally. Relationships with some of the best minds around do come with a certain set of challenges; fear of inadequacy, humbling conversations, and moments of topic confusion. My ego learned to deal with not being the smartest or most knowledgeable person in the room, but the confession I am about to make has me questioning whether I am as smart as my friends, or just a source of their Entertainment Tonight.

My ambivalence to the output of Hollywood is not a secret to those who know and love me. During the course of a year I might make it to the movies once or twice. Most nights of the week the television is off or tuned to programs geared towards both entertainment and personal enrichment; Good Eats, Modern Marvels, and Mythbusters fill our DVR queue. Turning my back on conventional entertainment like Blockbuster movies and sitcoms makes confessing to my love of trashy entertainment shows and publications much more embarrassing to admit. Stopping short of actually subscribing to the trashy and expensive tabloids that make paparazzi rich, I limit reading gossip to online sources and doctors’ offices. The only time I actually spend money to learn what Hollywood’s heartthrobs are up to is if I need a mindless read on an airplane. Even then I am known to hide the People magazine inside the cover of the in-flight magazine so those around don’t judge me by the crap I’m reading. There, I said it. I admitted it. I love celebrity gossip, but why does someone who couldn’t care less about entertainment have any interest in the entertainers?

My understanding of high fashion is so out of step with trends that my clothing purchases focus on the classics; those people who never seem let me down: Calvin Klein, Ralph Lauren, and Ann Taylor. Even sticking to a few select designers, with more loyalty then a Labrador Retriever I expertly study the clothing of models and actresses as if I’m suddenly going to inherit millions of dollars and switch my wardrobe to Dolce & Gabbana. The Oscar pre-show on E! is celebrated like a national holiday even though I rarely see even one movie nominated for the Academy Awards. As I screech with laughter at each fashion victim, there are no fewer then a dozen phone calls to my mother to discuss what they are wearing, not who is winning. I love a good fashion disaster!

While the breakout of baby rabies, loosely translated as an obsession with having or raising babies, in Hollywood is nothing short of obnoxious, there is something inherently satisfying about watching female celebrities get fat. The only thing more satisfying then watching these size zeros blossom into women with curves is when they discover motherhood is not all Prada, Prams, and Playdates. Does anyone feel sorry for a moment that Angelina is overwhelmed with her 6 children? Even with nurseries filled to the brim with eco-friendly baby bottles, 1000 thread count crib bedding, and an expert staff of nannies and personal trainers we read of celebrity struggles with sleep, weight, child behavior, wandering husbands, and varicose veins. Look how well Brittany handled motherhood. Even more pleasurable than reading about starlets realizing motherhood is a hard job is reading about the beauty, happiness, and success of professed childfree actors and actresses like George Clooney, Dame Judi Dench, Kim Cattrall, Rachael Ray, Bill Maher, Kathy Griffin, and Oprah Winfrey. These stars stand by their childfree convictions despite the negative impact it could have with the media and its obsession with baby bumps. Bravo!

Perhaps my love of all things gossip is just a bit of Schadenfreude, the German term made famous in the Broadway musical Avenue Q (see, I am cultured, I go to musicals!) . Schadenfreude is translated as happiness at the misfortune of others. These stars who seemingly have it all with their looks, money, and fame have their own set of issues too; adultery, depression, divorce, health woes, break-ups, and breakdowns. I cannot be the only geek in the world that gleans a little pleasure from the fact that even the most beautiful people in the world lead less than perfect lives. For a reminder that we’re all a little bit dysfunctional, nothing beats a good celebrity train wreck.

I might not know why half the people in celebrity news these days are even famous, but that doesn’t diminish the way I devour this trash. A ravenous appetite for celebrity news and gossip might not be the most intelligent material to ingest, but ultimately it’s probably OK! to have this mindless diversion to my everyday stresses.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008


Never in a million years did I think my marriage would experience a lull, but apparently no one is immune to relationship ebbs and flows, not even us disgustingly cute couples. Despite having a life filled with activities, projects, careers, and friends my marriage became staler than week old bread. Even with jam packed social calendars our personal interactions were boring, focusing on the mundane transactional activities necessary to run a home and care for two small dogs. Our marital problems did not stem from anger, hatred, unhappiness, or shattered illusions of marital grandeur but our becoming more like business partners and roommates than lovers. Friends dealing with crises such as abuse, neglect, adultery, and bankruptcy in their own marriages left me feeling selfish even thinking our marriage had issues let alone talking about it. After whining to a few friends, letting go of the fear they would think I was a colossal failure, I quickly realized I was not alone.

It is pretty cliché actually, but in hindsight the fun in our marriage took a nose dive about seven years after we moved in together. The honeymoon was over, the glow of young love extinguished by the realities of day to day living. The Seven Year Itch is loosely defined as the propensity to become unfaithful after seven years of marriage and honestly, things were itchy. The infidelity we used to “scratch” that itch was not dalliances with other people. We began cheating on each other in other ways; spending too much time at work, focusing our energy on the dogs, watching increasing amounts of television, replacing intimacy with food and wine. Reading and ironing fast became the top activities occurring in the bedroom. At first I thought these changes were a sign of strength and maturity in our relationship, demonstrating our ability to live independent lives, free from the co-dependence prevalent in many marriages. It didn’t take long to realize our relationship wasn’t maturing but deteriorating; our passionate romance turned into something more boring than C-Span. While we didn’t lose that loving feeling, that lusting feeling was certainly lost.

How did this happen? As a childfree couple we hit a point of stability that most couples with children don’t hit until much later in their marriages. We have established careers, a dream home, two dogs, and plenty of stamps in our passports. There is no obvious personal ladder to climb, which is odd and unusual in a culture that constantly focuses on “what’s next.” We don’t have a little human's progression and growth to focus on as a supplement to our own marital advancement. After confiding in some friends who are mothers on the lull in my marriage, the universal reaction was how they blamed their own marital lulls on raising babies. They also expressed how little time they had to even focus on issues with their mariages since they were so busy raising children; at least I had the time and energy to acknowledge and address the seven year itch.

Until recently I laid blame for the marital monotony on my husband; he stopped paying attention to me, looked right through me, put everything else in life ahead of me, ignored my “advances,” and stopped taking me out on dates. My interpretation of what was happening left me miserable and paranoid, feeling grossly unattractive. My self-confidence was shot; if my husband didn’t find me attractive, who would?

Then I had a friend turn the mirror on me and ask why I wasn’t blaming myself for the missing wow factor in my marriage. The obvious answer is I never blame myself for anything and think I am always right, but after much consideration I realized that maybe I was a little guilty. We both let increased responsibilities inside and outside the home come before our relationship, we both took each other for granted, and we were both going through the motions. I allowed monogamy to become monotony. I turned into something that I swore I would never become; a wife. I allowed myself to become a boring, nagging, unhappy, cranky, wife. If I didn’t want to be that person anymore I had to do something about it.

One friend pointed out the difficulty in balancing the desire for stability with the need for excitement in a relationship. Another friend mentioned her struggle balancing getting comfortable with letting herself go. How can two people remain romantically connected when they spend much of their day dealing with household management and high-powered careers? Is it possible to inject mystery and passion into a relationship between people who routinely witness each other plucking unwanted hairs or sitting on the toilet? When people say marriage is hard, these are some of the struggles that make it hard. How do you get wanton attention from a person who watches you floss your teeth and pick your zits?

After 7 years of marriage and 10 years together I had honestly forgotten what it took to “catch” the eye of a man in the first place. Every suggestion I got, from playing hard-to-get to picking fights to spark “make-up sex,” seemed like silly games teenagers play. Isn’t the reason to get married to stop playing games? I’m also married to a man who HATES games, who would assume hard-to-get equaled uninterested and whose reaction to a fight is to shut down, not rev up. Can this marriage be saved? Yes, but it wouldn’t be by playing games, it would be by finding the very thing I had that attracted my husband to me in the first place; sexy confidence. I forgot how to be sexy and lost part of my confidence because of that.

It is always important to have a role model, a person who personifies a goal. So who could serve as the role model for developing sexy confidence? Marilyn Monroe, the original object of attention in “The Seven Year Itch,” is one woman normal men find universally sexy. WWMD, “What Would Marilyn Do,” became a personal mantra. Marilyn would never wear sweats to bed. Marilyn would strap on stilettos rather than sneakers for a night out. Marilyn would wear thigh highs and lipstick when scrubbing the floors. Marilyn would never hide her personal assets behind frumpy clothes. Marilyn would flirt, seductively smile, light candles at dinner, drink champagne in the bathtub, and keep men guessing. She would strut her stuff and not care if anyone noticed… although she knew they did. Although Marilyn didn’t get the guy in “The Seven Year Itch” she was the object of his desire and that is a much more fun role than playing a wife, in the movies or in real life. If watching paint dry is more exciting then your marriage try asking yourself “What Would Marilyn Do” although I hope this marital plan to spice things up works so well you’ll someday be asking yourself “What Would Michelle Do?”

Friday, October 17, 2008

Land of the Free?

During a recent trip to Europe I couldn’t help but notice the number of people engaging in life threatening activities. No matter where we went people were taking their lives in their own hands, risking their safety and well-being with no one protecting them from the perils they faced. How could the government and law enforcement just sit back and watch these people commit unspeakable acts like riding a bicycle without a helmet or, *gasp*, drink beer with alcohol content higher than 6%? The opportunity to live on the edge is so incredible overseas there is no need to do crazy things like sky dive or bungee jump. Who needs extreme sports when you can risk life and limb eating at a restaurant that doesn’t use latex gloves? If I wanted to drop a hairdryer into the bathtub there was no warning against that. Not one of the many coffees consumed advised me of the possibility of scalding. Essentially my ten days in London, Amsterdam, Brussels, and Bruges served as a reminder of the everyday freedoms that we in the United States somehow lost through the years.

Laws in the United States often focus on protecting us from ourselves, assuming that people are too stupid to make sound decisions on their own. Rather than provide some education on the dangers of an activity or expect the populous to have an ounce of common sense, our lawmakers and courts have formed a land where we can’t get a good, scalding hot cup of coffee, run barefoot through a park, or get a juicy, rare hamburger. Common Sense dictates that coffee might burn your mouth, broken glass could be stepped on while running barefoot, and eating undercooked meat could cause illness. People should be permitted to make their own decisions on such trivial matters based upon the amount of personal risk they are willing to take on. Will there be people who make bad decisions, take on more risk, and end up hurt or dead? Yes. But maybe letting Darwinism do its job and weeding out some of the idiots among us isn’t a bad thing.

We know that bike helmets can prevent brain injury but sometimes you just want to feel the wind rushing through your hair during a good bike ride. Shouldn’t this be a personal decision? Shouldn’t parents determine whether their children should wear a bicycle helmet, sit in a car booster seat until the age of 10, or have railings on the edge of their beds? Yes, each of these safety measures has proven benefits but what if a parent can’t afford these items? They should be able to make the decision about the amount of risk they are willing for their child to take. In Amsterdam, where the bicycle is the preferred method of transportation, I witnessed several women biking through the city with more than one child accompanying them on the ride. These children were not wearing helmets in fancy trailers behind the bicycles equipped with mechanisms to disconnect the trailer from the bicycle in case of a fall. Nope, these women were riding with one or two children in little wooden contraptions built on the front of their bikes, another metal seat attached to the handlebar, and an infant strapped to their chests in a carrier. The kids were having the times of their lives, the mother was getting a heck of a workout, and they were avoiding car transportation for their simple need to get from here to there. Think about it, these women would be arrested for neglect in the United States and have their children taken from them. Is that freedom?

Even without official laws, today’s companies and small businesses protect themselves from frivolous lawsuits. One of my favorite things in the world is a hamburger mooing right back at me and most places won’t serve it for the fear of giving me food poisoning. If I’m willing to take the risk, give me the damn cheeseburger! This is the same for my love of coffee, extra hot. The coffee in Europe is to die for and one major reason is the nuclear thermal temperature; the coffees were piping hot and delicious since baristas were not protecting themselves from stupid lawsuits. There are even restaurants that refuse to serve over easy or sunny side up eggs because they might get you sick. Leaving my house might make me sick too, should I live in a bubble instead of living life?

What makes these dumb laws protecting us from ourselves so infuriating is how little attention is given to real dangers that each of us are unable to control. Our right to bear arms makes the topic of limiting access to guns a hot topic of debate. If laws provide any indication as to what our government sees as our biggest threats, fireworks are banned in more places then firearms. It is easier to go out and buy a gun than it is to get un-pasteurized milk, grain alcohol, a hot cup of coffee, or a freaking rare cheeseburger. Guns have certainly been the cause of death for more people then raw milk, but I could get a gun at the local sporting goods store but cannot transport raw milk cheese into the country or across state lines. About 300 people got sick from raw milk cheese in 2001 yet it is somehow treated as a bigger health threat against our health than a revolver or rifle. We can make the decision whether we want to ingest these banned food/drink products, but for most people murdered or killed in accidents the decision to have a gun draw on them was not theirs to make.
What is the essence of America? Finding and maintaining that perfect, delicate
balance between freedom "to" and freedom "from."
- Marilyn vos Savant, in Parade
Don’t get me wrong, I do love the United States and the life that I have. What I don’t enjoy is being babysat by the government and lawyers who spend more time protecting us from unimportant things and less time focusing on the real dangers facing each of us everyday. Attempts to save us from germs, disease, and accidents are keeping us from enjoying some of the finer pleasures in life and freedoms while Europeans eat, drink, and are merry. Lawmakers should focus on crime, global threats, economic stability, and ensuring our water supply is safe and air is clean enough to breathe and stop limiting personal, enjoyable freedoms.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Quote of the Week

I'm still playing a massive game of catch-up from my vacation. I hope to have something substantial posted by tomorrow. Until then, chew on this:

If you can speak three languages you're trilingual. If you can speak two languages you're bilingual. If you can speak only one language you're an American.
- Author Unknown

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

Quote of the Week

For my Mother, who is celebrating her 28th birthday again today...

The more you praise and celebrate your life, the more there is in life to celebrate.
- Oprah Winfrey

Thursday, October 02, 2008

Quote of the Week

The traveler sees what he sees. The tourist sees what he has come to see.
-G.K. Chesterton

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Better Health Brewed Daily

Each day I experience a moment of profound sadness that sends my heart dripping to the deepest depths of despair. Normally I’m not the kind of person who runs so hot and cold, but it is hard to press on after such a painful part of the day. My friends would certainly classify me as “glass is half full” kind of person, but an empty mug makes the daily grind almost unbearable. Luckily this feeling does not brew for very long, for today will filter into a perky tomorrow, and I am back to my cheery self in an instant.

I love coffee and am not ashamed to admit to my addiction. Coffee makes me happy; somehow it relaxes and stimulates me simultaneously. Part of my goal to find greater balance in life includes addressing all areas of over-indulgence; food, wine, and unfortunately, coffee. Coffee is certainly an area where I struggle with tendencies to over-indulge and I needed to cut my coffee consumption down to what the general population would consider normal range.

With my mug no longer bottomless, I have the unfortunate experience of actually knowing if my coffee is actually good to last drop. Tipping my mug to take full advantage of the liquid gold; recent studies indicate that a daily coffee habit can help stave off diseases like diabetes, Parkinson’s, colon cancer, heart disease, and cirrhosis. On top of staving off diseases, coffee is chock full of antioxidants, protecting us from a host of little bugs that bring harm to our bodies. Coffee could very well be the best thing we do for our bodies all day! Coffee drinkers, ignore caffeine naysayer’s, hold your mugs up high and be proud of the steps you are taking towards better health and well being.

Here’s to your health.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Quote of the Week

Wishing my sister Kristen a very happy 30th birthday!

Time and Tide wait for no man, but time always stands still for a woman of thirty.
- Robert Frost

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Take me out to the Wedding

Tonight marks the end of an era as Yankee fans and the world say farewell to the house that Babe Ruth built. Through the years Yankee Stadium became more then just a house of baseball, but a home where legions of fans laughed, cried, and created memories to last a lifetime. Perfect games, record breaking hits, and World Series wins are memories we all share and relive thanks to the power of video tape. The history of Yankee Stadium: the World Championships, famous players, Papal visits, concerts, is extensive; but it is the personal memories created by the individuals visiting that make saying farewell to the building so much sadder.

I was born in the Bronx in the summer of 1975 and probably heard my first game playing in the background as I snuggled in the hospital nursery. It is impossible to recall the exact moment that I embraced our national pastime, baseball is as much a part of my life as breathing and eating. Going to the game was always special, whether it was with my father, sisters, or friends, but it wasn’t until I was older and moved from New York that I understood how special a visit to the stadium really was. Yankee Stadium is as much a part of our nation’s history as any national park or monument and it is as much a part of my personal history as my institutions of learning, Carle Place High School or Mary Washington College. I know all the chants of the Bleacher Creatures, tear up during Sinatra’s “New York, New York,” and think grounds crews across the nation should really spruce up their routine with a little YMCA. To this day I’m still surprised my husband didn’t propose over the jumbotron, but given his opinion of the Yankees and desire to propose someplace that would be around forever, he opted for another location.

Just as I cannot remember becoming a Yankee Fan, I cannot remember when my father and I had anything in common except one thing; baseball. As I grew older, I grew further and further apart from my father. Without going into the tale of a strained parent/child relationship, it is best to just say we are like oil and water, or better yet, the Red Sox and the Yankees; we’ll shake each other’s hand when we have to, but deep down think the other really sucks. Baseball was almost like his way of pretending he had sons rather than daughters, and watching games was the only way he could truly connect with the three of us.

Seven years ago tonight I was the leading lady in a storybook wedding. Our wedding was a beautiful mix of traditional elements and personal touches, and despite my less than stellar relationship with my Dad we decided to save face with our guests and keep the traditional Father/Daughter dance. Finding the right song was a struggle; most suggested songs were just not right given our history. Much to everyone’s surprise, including the DJ, we chose a song, the only song, that could give our relationship justice; “Take Me Out to the Ballgame.” For a few short minutes we polka danced around the room, singing the same song we did dozens upon dozens of times during the seventh inning stretch. It is ironic that the scene of our best memories is shutting its doors on the anniversary of our baseball polka.

Baseball’s anthem is a common tune known from sea to shining sea, but what most people don’t know is the original tune is about a woman and her love of the sport. Tonight I say farewell to the home of many of my fondest childhood moments, but long after the last pitch, the memories, and the song, will live on.

Take me out to the Ballgame
Author: Jack Norworth
Composer: Albert Von Tilzer

Katie Casey was base ball mad.
Had the fever and had it bad;
Just to root for the home town crew,
Ev'ry sou Katie blew.
On a Saturday, her young beau
Called to see if she'd like to go,
To see a show but Miss Kate said,
"No, I'll tell you what you can do."

"Take me out to the ball game,
Take me out with the crowd.
Buy me some peanuts and cracker jack,
I don't care if I never get back,
Let me root, root, root for the home team,
If they don't win it's a shame.
For it's one, two, three strikes, you're out,
At the old ball game."

Katie Casey saw all the games,
Knew the players by their first names;
Told the umpire he was wrong,
All along good and strong.
When the score was just two to two,
Katie Casey knew what to do,
Just to cheer up the boys she knew,
She made the gang sing this song:

"Take me out to the ball game,
Take me out with the crowd.
Buy me some peanuts and cracker jack,
I don't care if I never get back,
Let me root, root, root for the home team,
If they don't win it's a shame.
For it's one, two, three strikes, your out,
At the old ball game."

Friday, September 19, 2008

Flight of my Life

In High School I wrote for the newspaper, played the violin, competed athletically, planned dances, served as a class officer, interned with a law firm, and belonged to a whole host of other extra-curricula activities. It was not unusual to show up for school at 7am and return home around midnight trying to jam-pack everything into a single day. College was no different as I continued to overextend myself, often foregoing sleep to take on another activity, help with another event, and take on a new responsibility. Post-academia this work ethic fit perfectly in the consulting environment, a career path synonymous with long hours and tons of travel. After all those years of burning the proverbial candle at both ends I now strive for a better life/work balance, encouraging others to find their equilibrium. Some people never learn to find harmonious balance between work, volunteering, school, church, family, and friends; others find that balance all too late. My life was on the unhealthy trajectory of a workaholic, but all that changed in an instant five years ago.

September 19, 2003 was the first real crisp day of fall, when even the most rugged and stubborn person trades short sleeves for a sweatshirt. The day followed the rhythm of my normal Friday as a consultant, the start of a fresh new weekend at my home rather then the hotel I called home Monday through Thursday. Recalling the morning is easy since the routine was well established; wake up, go to the gym, shower up, eat a bowl of cereal, log onto the computer, finish up work from the week, join a conference call or two, eat lunch, work a bit more, end the day. There was even one non-routine event in that morning, a doctor’s appointment, which is easy to remember due to the power of the palm pilot. After finishing up work I headed to a friend’s house so we could spend some time relaxing at a local spa, a beautiful way to end the workweek.

Routine and dreams of relaxation ended with a crash that day, literally, as I got into a fender bender on my way across town. No big deal besides the stupidity one feels with the realization that they were the cause of the fender bender. I remember pulling the car over, I remember getting out of the car, I remember making eye contact with the woman whose car I hit, then there is a small gap in my memory because the next thing I remember is flying through the air.

The human brain is amazing in both its ability to block out horrible memories and to respond quickly in times of need. The details of being smacked by a car are quite fuzzy, but I do remember thinking to myself “oh my God I’ve been hit by a car and I’m flying through the air and I need to protect my head or I’ll crack my skull.” The hang-time my body had over the pavement was certainly shorter then the amount of time it took to think that sentence, yet that split second thinking resulted in a reflex to tuck my body and cover my head with my arms. My left side slammed into the street, my neck whipped to the side, throwing my head against my arm and my arm (and not my head!) against the hard pavement. I went into a roll, cocooning my head into my chest and arms, the physics of friction eventually stopping my body, instincts kicking as I crawled to the sidewalk’s safety. Hunched over on the sidewalk, surrounded by people expecting to find a body, I sat stunned, unable to hear voices and sirens but acutely aware of the sound of my heartbeat pulsing in my ears and a faint birdsong in the distance; alive.

Leaping from the ground I could tell I was hurt but adrenaline surged through my veins, masking the extent of my injuries. My focus; making sure the woman I was in the initial fender bender was okay. Imagine her horror with a front and center seat to witnessing a pedestrian car accident. After confirming she was okay, more shaken witnessing my acrobatic flight through the air then the fender bender, I realized that I should probably get to a hospital; my shoulder and foot hurt terribly and witnesses were convinced I must have suffered internal injury.

The hospital receptionist, nurse, ER doctor, intern, orthopedic, heck event the janitor, looked at me like I escaped death and reminded me how lucky I was. It took a few hours for everything to compute. The car hit my leg, leaving a football sized bump but no break. Road rash was minimal, jeans and a long sleeve shirt donned to protect me from the sudden fall weather responsible for protecting my body from harm. Shoulder separated, not broken. Foot cleanly broken in 3 spots and required nothing more then a walking cast and physical therapy. It took a few days to realize the worst injury was not to my body, but to my mind.

The accident left me emotionally drained, frazzled, and depressed. Each time I closed my eyes visions would turn violent, my body the target for cars, buses, trucks, and trains. I know other people on the unfortunate end of a vehicle/pedestrian accident who did not fair well, sustaining massive injuries, paralysis, even death. Acutely aware of my “luck,” I shunned most help and sympathy, feeling guilty at my feelings of sadness. I survived, what did I have to be upset about? I broke down with my doctor, hysterically crying and unable to articulate the fear and emotions associated with surviving a “near miss;” anti-depressants were offered as a solution. Medications are an important part of the treatment plans for those suffering from the ravages of depression but the prescription offer made me see how easy it is to receive these powerful drugs for the wrong reason. I was not depressed, I was weepy and treating weepiness as depression would be terrible for my long-term health. Besides risking the side-effects of any medication, numbing the mental anguish of my accident would just delay my dealing with it. Life has highs and life has lows, and dealing with the emotion needed to happen sometime and I decided to face it right away, no drugs; one of the better decisions I ever made.

Rather then canceling a scheduled vacation to Las Vegas a few weeks after the accident, we took the vacation and decided to helicopter into the Grand Canyon. Rather then hide behind an unflattering dress at my class reunion, attempting to hide the broken foot weight gain, I wore a plunging neckline and hobbled the night away. Rather then count the days until I could move back to my friends out east I began making friends in my new hometown. Rather then travel every week to a job I hated, a manager I despised, and a lonely bed in a hotel room, I quit and found local work. We booked a 3 week dream trip in Europe. We got a dog. We bought a bigger house. We got another dog. We went to Australia. We used all our vacation days. I committed to seizing days, opportunities, moments, and life.
Here is the test to find whether your mission on earth is finished. If you're alive, it isn't.
- Richard Bach
I don’t know if I believe in God, or destiny, or being here for a reason, all things people with different beliefs threw at me as reasons for my extra time on earth. What I do know is I am still here and had my “a-ha” wake-up moment to take my life back from work, from committing all my time to things that matter little in the long run, and to make the most of my trips around the sun. I see things much differently now, life through a crisper lens. I am better able to decipher what is important and what is crap. Not only did I stop sweating the small stuff, I spit in the face of the small stuff. Life took on a whole new meaning and my vision of the world around me became so much clearer. I can see through phonies, somehow looking into their soul and reading their insecurities. I can see people’s emotions. I can see who cares and who doesn’t. I can see what’s important in the world, what’s important to me, and take care of those things.

I arise in the morning torn between a desire to improve the world and a desire to enjoy the world. This makes it hard to plan the day.
- Elwyn BrooksWhite
The hardest thing to work though is seizing the day while still living a life of responsibility, striking a balance between work and play rather then swinging completely to all play because “life is short.” The accident didn’t take my life; it gave me a deeper sense of what was important to me. Life is only short if you spend it unwisely. It was more important to spend every night in the arms of my husband then moving up the consulting ladder. It was more important to share my life with a dog then to earn frequent flyer miles. It was important for me to see the world, foster deep friendships with people who I loved and who loved me back, have a career that engaged my mind and improved the lives of others, read, write, eat, laugh, and to make the most of this body life gave me. I realized that I was in control of my own happiness, the captain of my own destiny.

The most painful part of having my eyes opened to my unhealthy life is witnessing others making unwise decisions about their time. Nothing I say or do will ever change the way people think and live. Everyone has to have their own “a-ha” moment and decide how that moment will change them. The accident did not take my life, it was a moment of time that brought clarity and understanding to my life, and I am fortunate this lesson happened while I am still young enough to make the most of it. There are still times when I have nightmares, get scared on busy roads, or commit too much time to unimportant matters, but all it takes to get back to balance is recalling the day I finally realized that life might be short, but every second is precious.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Quote of the Week

A pessimist is one who makes difficulties of his opportunities and an optimist is one who makes opportunities of his difficulties.
- Harry Truman

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Not Palin Around

It seems that political scientists and analysts for the Republican Party concluded that their best choice for a presidential running mate needed to be female, and basically any female would do. The McCain camp bypassed other well-qualified candidates and chose Sarah Palin, the relatively unknown governor from the State of Alaska. Conservative pundits and politicos rallied around the choice, touting her ultra-conservative values and energy background as necessary elements to win over independent and undecided voters. Her inexperience on the national and international stage raises suspicions on the true reason she is now the Vice Presidential candidate for the GOP. McCain’s choice of Sarah Palin seems like nothing more then a thinly veiled attempt to win over female voters and the assumption that women will vote for their gender rather than their beliefs is nothing short of offensive.

Admittedly I am known to do all I can to “support my sisters.” I go out of my way to do business with female doctors, lawyers, shop-keepers, farmers, bakers, and other places of business in an attempt to provide women much needed support in our male dominated society. Choosing to do business with a woman is fairly easy; there are plenty of good doctors, dentist, and business owners with XX chromosomes. While I would like to offer the same level of support to a female candidate, the choices are a bit more limited than other areas of life. I want to support a female candidate but I will not support a candidate just because she is a woman; only if the woman running is the best person on the ticket. I did not support the Hillary Clinton campaign because I did not believe she was the best person on the primary ticket; instead supporting Governor Bill Richardson who was much more qualified, but did not win the popularity contest for his party.

Sarah Palin was not chosen to run with McCain on his ticket for her policies or experience, but because of her gender. I sincerely hope that women, whether they lean right or left, are outraged and insulted by this. Apparently there is a perception that women are so feeble minded that they would vote based upon a candidate’s gender rather than their beliefs. Most insulting are people who believe that Hillary supporters would gravitate to the Republican ticket because of Sarah Palin, a woman whose values and beliefs are the polar opposite of Ms. Clinton.

I am fiscally conservative, and in some areas socially conservative, but the right of women to control their bodies, and ultimately their destinies, is the number one issue in my list of priorities. The Republican Party declared open season on women’s health and reproductive rights, targeting policies and programs aimed at everything from limiting access to birth-control to banning abortion in all cases. Sarah Palin opposes abortion even in the case of rape or incest, threatening to further victimize women whose lives were already destroyed by these awful crimes. Some are refuting reports that Palin is anti-birth control, even for wed couples, but until the Palin camp comes out and says they are pro-birth control in an official statement I remain skeptical of her stance on birth control. According to the mindset and beliefs of ultra-right winged conservative groups, birth control is tantamount to abortion. Every egg that passes through a woman’s body unfertilized is a lost life. Every person who has engaged in protected sex is prohibiting the creation of life. Sex is nothing more then a means to pregnancy and women are reduced to nothing more than walking incubators. The Republican Party all but openly admits that the Sarah Palin choice was one way to engage the support of the ultra-conservatives; Sarah Palin will never risk losing those votes by taking an official pro-birth control stance.
No woman can call herself free who does not own and control her body. No woman
can call herself free until she can choose consciously whether she will or will
not be a mother.
- Margaret Sanger
Palin’s own daughter is a victim of the uselessness of abstinence only education that is all the rage with Conservatives. This is not an attack on Palin’s family or her poor teenaged child; it is an attack on her failed policy. A pregnant seventeen year old is nothing to be proud of and is usually not considered a “family-value.” She is a just another statistic in the sad rise of teenage pregnancy among ill-informed and uneducated teens. Bristol Palin and her baby-daddy Levi are lucky to have family who won’t beat or disown her. They are fortunate to have a family who can help support them. Most young girls face much harsher realities when faced with an unwanted/unplanned pregnancy and the Republicans are kidding themselves by sporting the upcoming baby and marriage as an example of how girls can prosper despite an unplanned baby.

There are a host of other questionable acts that make the Sarah Palin choice even more offensive. Sarah Palin is against stem cell research, putting the importance unused embryo over the life of a person with a debilitating disease. She opposes not just marriage but all rights of homosexual couples and even belongs to a church that claims to “heal” homosexuality. While Mayor, Sarah Palin fired a librarian who wouldn’t engage in censorship through banning of books. She opposes adding Polar Bears to the endangered species list because it could effect oil drilling. Governor Palin supports the aerial killing of wolves, a practice that rarely kills but often maims the animal, resulting in a long and painful death. She even approved a $150 bounty to hunters who hacked the left foreleg of a wolf and brought the appendage in for their reward. Alaska receives more pork-barrel spending money per capita then any other state in the union, and as Mayor of Wasilla she received $27 million from the national government, driving our national debt up and the worth of our dollar down. Sarah Palin is currently under investigation for firing the commissioner of public safety when he refused to fire a state trooper who was in a contentious custody battle with Palin’s sister.

It is also quite fishy that other female candidates in the party, from Christine Todd Whitman to Elizabeth Dole, were passed up for Palin. Part of me thinks other women passed up offers out of fear of a Republican loss this November, but the pessimist in me cannot help but wonder if Palin’s looks came into play in the vetting process. Sarah Palin was the Miss Alaska runner up in 1984 and is even being touted as a VPILF (a high-ranking MILF if you will). As a woman who hates beauty pageants, and is disgusted at the thought of people voting based upon looks, it sickens me to think that other qualified women were passed over because they weren’t pretty enough.

The one point where I disagree with the opponents of Sarah Palin is around her decision to accept the nomination for Vice President as a woman and mother. Far too many people are criticizing her accepting the nomination, questioning whether a good mother would put her pregnant child through the media circus or have the time to be a good mother to a mentally disabled infant. Would a man in the same family circumstance be questioned about his decision? Perhaps Governor Palin should thank her lucky stars that some people look beyond her role as wife and mother and give her the opportunity to be a leader. In return she should do the same and give greater support to women who chose careers in addition to or rather than being a mother.

If there is any person who should vote Republican, it is me. My “career” began in politics, interning with a former Republican presidential hopeful (whose little macaca reference ruined his career and my resume!). I work in health insurance and my stock options and job are potentially on the line with a democratic win. But the Republicans have sold their small government inner soul to the devils of the evangelical church. Since biblical times people engaged in practices to assist them with so called family planning and now we have a party who supporting policies that make women helpless victims of their biology. I’m not willing to take a chance on a party hell-bent on making sure every woman and little girl ends up barefoot, pregnant, and helpless to her biology. I cannot support a party that profits extensively off of big oil. I cannot support a party that chooses the life of an unborn fetus over the life of a fully-formed woman, or the life of a sick person who could benefit from stem-cell research. I could get another job, I could invest in new stock, but my life, and the lives of millions of men, women, and children would be irrevocably changed if their ability to control their reproduction is taken from them or the environment continues to crumble around them.

Women need safe and effective ways to take control of their bodies. Women need to be protected from the violence of rape and incest, not punished through forced pregnancy. Women need access to books and films, even if they are deemed offensive to some groups. Women need powerful role models whose rise to prominence are based upon hard-work, intelligence, dedication, and perseverance; not outer-beauty and intimidation. Women don’t need just any woman in office they need a person, man or woman, who looks out for their needs. Sarah Palin is completely out of touch with the realities of being a teenage girl, woman, and/or parent in the United States today and is not a role model worthy of the Vice Presidential nomination. Normally I support third-party nominees on the Independent, Constitutional, or Libertarian tickets, but this offensive choice by the McCain camp is forcing my vote. After 8 years with Presidential administration that exemplified the worst qualities in both parties, a social conservatism and a fiscal liberalism, I was hoping even the Republican party realized it was time for change. McCain had a chance to choose a running-mate who could rally moderates, and instead pandered to the religious right while hoping women would overlook Palin’s policies and just vote based on gender. I cannot help but quote my good friend Alex who coined a good phrase for those voting not for the Democrats, but against the Republicans; “Barack for the Block.”

Monday, September 08, 2008

Quote of the Week

A little something to celebrate a beautiful beginning to the NFL season. Go Buffalo!
Football players, like prostitutes, are in the business of ruining their bodies for the pleasure of strangers.
- Merle Kessler

Friday, September 05, 2008

The Other Man

It all began quite innocently. A few friends mentioned a place downtown that could help me break out of the daily routine that left me bored, lethargic, and depressed; that is where I found him. This Adonis-like man. Long, lean and muscular; he took my breath away from the moment I stepped into his mirrored lair. Addiction to the pleasure and the pain he forced upon me was almost immediate, and soon I was visiting him two or three times a week to get my fix. Spending countless dollars to feed insatiable cravings; powerless to his magic. For over three hours each week he does things to my body that no man, or woman, has ever done. Making me scream, moan, and sweat to the point of utter exhaustion. Luckily my husband is very understanding of a woman’s needs and encourages me to visit the other man in my life, knowing how happy I am after the end of each heart-throbbing session.

A few years ago I gave up my gym membership, viewing the money spent as a frivolous waste of cash given my access to workout equipment at the office and in my home. For the most part I took full advantage of the machines and weights available to me, but the monotony of my routine and limited options led to boredom and ultimately, some pretty major weight gain. Toying around with re-joining the local fitness giant, I remembered some friends mentioning a gym downtown, The Firm, that offered a variety of fitness classes and decided to take advantage of their “first week free” policy. With my friend Amy in tow, we started the week with cardio strip tease, tried a little circuit training, and ended our free week at a Saturday morning Step class. Little did we know that stepping into that final free class would actually be a life altering experience.

Doug, also known as Diva Doug and Queen Diva, is the Adonis-like man who routinely pushes his disciples to the brink of death and has them begging for more. His style and persona are larger than life and his work is more life coach and performer than aerobics instructor. Each class is a production; the choreography refined over two decades of teaching, music upbeat and uplifting, costumes risqué. Doug is front and center, the leading actor of the program who performs on a disco-esque lighted step stage but this is not a one-man show. Each person of the class plays an important role in the performance, sometimes comedic or tragic, often an epic blockbuster complete with more burlesque moves and naked skin than in cardio strip tease.

Blasphemous as it sounds, the messages heard in a downtown Minneapolis aerobics studio are more empowering and uplifting than anything said in the dozen or so churches I attended throughout my lifetime. Although class is referred to by many as “The Church of Doug,” this isn’t religion; followers are not worshiping a false God, but finding faith in themselves. Our “preacher” Doug spreads the word of personal strength, perseverance, and determination, creating an environment where parishioners learn lessons of hope, faith, fellowship, and love. We hope our bodies will bring us through each class as we gain strength and stamina. We have faith that the sweaty palms of those in the crowded room will maintain their grip their barbells, protecting us from bodily injury (and broken studio mirrors). We form friendships and bonds with those in the class, and each of us continue to bring new people into the group so they too can embark on a journey to self-discovery and better health. We learn to love ourselves and in turn find a truer and deeper love for our friends, family, environment, and mankind.

Unlike many churches, The Firm has an open door and open closet policy; clientele is dominated by gay men and athletically gifted women, but even chubby girls (like me!) and straight men can find fellowship and support at the gym. Although accepting to all, Doug’s Step Class is not for the weak or those who give up easily; I can easily say most of the US of population would poop out well before the Jane Fonda-like warm up is complete. Personally, I have yet to completely putter out, but can often be heard exclaiming moving phrases like “praise God,” “heaven help me,” and “Mommy.”

Spending time with another man for the past 5 months has made me stronger, happier, and healthier, with none of the mess or guilt associated with adultery; Doug would most definitely be more interested in my mind than in my womanly figure so my husband has nothing to worry about! Feeling better about one’s self is enriching and empowering to one’s body, mind, and soul. Many attend a specific church not because of the denomination posted on the bulletin, but because of the energy and outlook of the pastor or priest officiating. After lasting eight minutes with a substitute instructor I realized I do not belong to the religion of step, but follow the word (and moves) of Doug…

The Ten Commandments of Doug (interpreted and authored by Explosive Bombchelle and Friends)
  1. Thou shalt believe in yourself.
  2. Thou shalt move with purpose.
  3. Thou shalt remember to breathe.
  4. Thou shalt appreciate how lucky you are to have bodies that can move and sweat.
  5. Thou shalt jump (and bend and squat and lift) with joy.
  6. Thou shalt have pride in yourself.
  7. Thou shalt learn how to fly.
  8. Thou shalt whoop and hoot and holler while exercising, celebrating your strength.
  9. Thou shalt sweat in places you didn’t know you had sweat glands.
  10. Thou shalt have fun.
Many thanks to my friend Amy for contributing to this piece and my editor-in-chief, The Husband, for being the number one man in my life.