Archive for the ‘reflections’ Category

Dear Pinterest, Please Make Them Stop.

Oh, Pinterest. You’re such a great idea, and I have many boards dedicated to ideas for our upcoming home remodel, but sometimes you make me wonder.

I saw this cartoon and had a good laugh:

Many women who use you have been inspired to organize their homes and cook a new recipe, and that’s not really a bad thing, if that’s what they’re in to. You’ve tapped into the competitive nature of many women who use you; I would be willing to bet that most of the projects women try are more inspired by the “oohs” and “awwws” they hope to receive from women than by men. And that’s cool, whatever makes them happy and keeps them busy. I consider myself a third wave feminist like that.

But then I find other popular pins that really make me wonder, Pinterest. I’m not blaming this on you, by any means. I am just sad that your vast popularity encourages and allows women to share these offensive ideas without any critical thinking. Perhaps you’re just bringing to light attitudes that I was blissfully unaware still exist.

Like this one, for example:

Pinterest, why do women choose to identify themselves as trivial, vacuous, and inferior? Why would they say, and then re-say over and over by repinning, that this is what it means to be a woman? The last time I checked, I have a vagina, and I identify myself as a woman, but I would not use any of these sentences to describe why I am a woman. I mean, this is just insulting! To say that being a woman means you are inherently incapable of math calculations? Why encourage this stereotype, when it’s really just that, a stereotype, and one that has kept women from many of the high paying, well-respected professions that they would be perfectly capable of?
Look, I know I make bone-headed mistakes like pushing a door that says “Pull.” But that’s because I was absent- minded at that moment, and not because I have a vagina. My boyfriend sometimes makes that mistake at doors, and I assure you, he is not a woman. 
Then there is this. This has been repinned hundreds of times with the caption “Best advice ever.”

Pinterest, why are women spreading THIS as the “best advice ever?” Surely you agree with me that this is ludicrous, right?
I mean, I maybe understand the sentiment about advising that a woman doesn’t go around talking shit about her husband; I’ll agree to that. But shouldn’t everyone be able to talk to a family member, close friend, or therapist about problems they may have with their significant other? Is this pin suggesting that if a husband displays troubling behavior, a woman should just zip it and deal? If a husband drinks to excess, gambles away their money, or cheats, should a woman keep that to herself for fear of ever speaking ill of her husband??

Now, open communication is (I think) the most important trait of a healthy relationship, and sure, a couple should talk out their problems. But to say that the best advice ever is to never “talk bad” about a husband ever, to anyone, is harmful (not to mention unrealistic).

And it hurts my heart, Pinterest, to see that women are the ones spreading this and encouraging one another to believe that this is the most important part of being a good wife.

Pinterest, I want to emphasize that I don’t blame this on you. I have learned many great tips and ideas from other women who use your site. But I am afraid of these women, these ones who are afraid of their own womanhood and capabilities and intelligence, and choose to perpetuate negative stereotypes and behaviors.

It’s so paradoxical how clever websites like yourself can somehow manage to drive the women’s movement back by several decades…

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Downton Abbey versus The Walking Dead

Last night I finally got around to watching the most recent episode of Downton Abbey. That means I spent three days of having to interrupt people with “No no no! I haven’t seen it yet! Stop!” to avoid spoilers. (BTW, thanks a lot, New York Times. You’d think they’d avoid giving spoilers in a headline in the Monday edition!)

You see, the real problem is that when it comes to good television, I am over-committed on Sunday nights. I don’t even watch that much T.V., but now my two obsessions, Downton Abbey and The Walking Dead are both airing new episodes on Sundays. And you have to know that when I say obsessed, I mean it– watching an episode means no phone, no laptop or tablet, lights dimmed, wrapped in a blankie with snacks and drinks within reach. When I watch an episode, it is one of the few moments of the week when I am not multi-tasking. So amen for DVR, because I would not want to have to make a choice between the two.

But when it comes to choosing between The Walking Dead and Downton Abbey, I’d bet that most people could pick a side rather quickly and easily– shooting zombies or debating the financial future of your estate? Scavenging for food, or having your servant dress you for dinner?  I mean, you couldn’t get further from the zombie apocalypse than a British period drama set in Yorkshire, right?

Hmmm.

I admit that I have eclectic taste, but maybe in some ways, the shows aren’t all that different from each other…

You Can’t Get Too Attached to the Characters

Both shows are in their third season, and in both, the writers are not afraid to kill off main characters. Remember the last two episodes of season 2 of The Walking Dead? I still miss Dale. And just when you thought the gang had mastered their skull crushing skills and could clear the prison of zombies, No! As Chris Hardwick says, “Noo, nootttt T-Dog!!!”
The same thing goes in Merry ol’ England. Cybill pulled through the labor and the baby was beautiful and we all breathed a sigh of relief, until nope, Eclampsia. The village doctor was right, and like that, she dies in front of everyone.
You thought things were turning around in Downton, with Mary’s pregnancy and the new plans to modernize? Too bad, Matthew’s gone now.

The producers of both shows are not at all afraid to change the opening credits. You can become attached to characters all you want, but there’s a good chance that they will die in the next episodes. Even though this leaves me cursing my TV, I have to admit that it increases the drama and keeps me coming back for more.

It’s a Very Different World Out There, and Characters are Trying to Find Where They Fit Into It.
To say that Georgia is now a different place post Zombie Apocalypse is a stupid understatement, but as far as world changing events go (real or hypothetical) I think it’s fair to say that World War I was a close second.
During the war, the characters of Downton found themselves having to quickly adapt and even reinvent themselves; a footman becomes a medic on the front lines, a daughter of a lord becomes a nurse, and Downton Abbey even becomes a convalescent home. Men who had once never mingled with one another because of class find themselves fighting together on the front lines, and characters at home struggle with finding ways to contribute and prove their patriotism. And the war was just the beginning of things; once that’s over, the world markets fall into turmoil and noble estates find themselves in financial ruin. The characters all ask of themselves and others, should we accept change or should we resist and uphold tradition? Can Cybill really marry a chauffeur?! Overhaul the business model of Downton?! With telephones and electricity, it’s a confusing new world, and no one is quite certain where they fit in.

Now obviously the changes are more stark in Georgia, and characters are just hoping to survive one day to the next there. But the Zombie apocalypse means that characters get to virtually reinvent themselves, and their contributions to the group define who they are. They have serious roles to fill within the group, whether it is standing guard or preparing food for everyone. It doesn’t matter how squeamish or weak a character was pre-apocalypse; even little Beth (Hershel’s daughter) is now a pretty good shot. Maggie has no problem  stabbing a zombie in the skull. The wimpy pizza guy is now a man who kills zombies with their own bones. And the little kid shot his mother for christ’s sake! Every character discovers a time and a place when they need to step up, whether they are prepared to or not.

A New World Means New Rules
As the characters try to negotiate their changing worlds, their ethics come into question in ways they never thought possible. Before the zombie apocalypse, it was pretty clear that one should never kill another human. Then the walkers came about, and their humanity was questioned, but it became pretty clear that the only acceptable course of action was to destroy by any means possible the brain of the walking dead. Gross, but understandable. Crushing a skull might feel wrong at first, but you get used to it. But then when the living become problematic, that’s when it gets tricky. Those strange guys in the bar looking for a place to stay, do you help them out or kill them? That injured kid, do you kill him or set him free and risk others finding you? Your best friend trying to usurp your power, does he deserve to live? Is it okay to shoot your mom after a messy emergency c-section? In the zombie apocalypse, the dead are easy to kill (again); it’s the living that really make you question what’s right and wrong.
Things aren’t as bloody in Downton Abbey, but morality can still be a little messy. A former prostitute working as a house maid for Mrs. Crawley?! We can’t allow that, can we? Or if we do, what then? And to christen the first granddaughter as catholic? And house a political refugee from Ireland? The Crawleys find themselves having to make all kinds of allowances that a few years prior would have been unthinkable, but things are changing…
Class is Everything and Nothing
This is a central theme in Downton Abbey; the upstairs/downstairs dichotomy is the most striking feature to a 21st century audience. And yet, those class lines aren’t always as solid as first glance would have you think. Think of Lord Grantham and Mister Bates; comrades in the South African war who trust each other with their lives; because of class Bates serves as Grantham’s valet rather than dinner guest. But they are more intimate with one another than dinner companions. They confide in and give each other advice, and the Crawleys are far more invested in Bates’ conviction and sentence than one would expect of an employer/ employee relationship. Mary listens to and confides in Ana more than any of her sisters. Then there is Tom Branson, the chauffeur who marries Cybill and becomes part of the family, rather than their staff. Serving him may be weird at first, but even Mrs. Hughes remarks on the way that he has transitioned so nicely into his new position. Class is there, but its arbitrary nature becomes more and more apparent to all involved. 
Zombies, however, are the great equalizer. They are equal opportunity biters and attack indiscriminately on the poor and the rich. Characters who may have never interacted before the outbreak now rely on one another to stay alive. Think of Andrea, the attorney, and Derryl, the redneck. Unless she was defending him in court, she would have no interaction with him. For all we know, the Governor was a high school gym teacher before the outbreak, and now he runs Woodbury with an iron fist. The longer they have been in the new world, the less anyone cares about what position any others had before the outbreak; if you are good with weapons, that is all that matters.
Beware of Outsiders, and Above All, Protect the Family
In both shows, the core families are very suspicious and guarded of outsiders attempting to infiltrate. Matthew and Isabel Crawley were only welcomed at arm’s length into the family thanks to law, and it took the family quite some time to warm up to them. Branson has only barely earned acceptance into the family. The Dowager countess (and Mary too, for that matter) let all outsiders know that they are under scrutiny and not yet welcome. Even downstairs, the staff, though friendly, are not quick to warm up to new comers. Newcomers upstairs and downstairs have to await approval before being officially welcomed. 
Now, earning the dowager countess’s approval is NOT a position I would ever want to be in, and to be honest, I don’t know who is scarier to an outsider, her or Rick Grimes. But Rick is not about to let anyone just walk up and join the group either. People have died trying to do so. Those who have been let in, like Michonne, are not trusted and only permitted to stay on a temporary basis. Even the governor doesn’t let people just wander into Woodbury. Outsiders are the biggest security risk.
But.
In both families, once in, you have the full protection of the others. You might even find the Dowager Countess sticking up for you. The Crawleys will do anything to make sure that no scandal or gossip falls on any member of their household. In The Walking Dead,  your family will put their lives on the line to come rescue you. They will shoot anyone who tries to hurt you. The families in both shows are not big, but they stick together and defend the honor and safety of all.
Also. Oddly enough, several actors on The Walking Dead are British, so, maybe that’s the real common thread here.
So for some the choice between one show or the other is clear, but if you’re a strange one like me who enjoys both equally, it’s for good reason. Shows that put morality into question, while reaffirming what is most important–family– are few and far between. It’s only unfortunate that they happen to air on Sunday nights. And could the characters of Downton survive a zombie apocalypse? I think the downstairs crew would get on just fine, and the dowager countess’s walking stick may become very useful…

Oh, 2012…

One of my favorite things about New Year’s Eve is that it forces you, if at least momentarily, to reflect on the year you are finishing. Some years I have cringed at the memories I was leaving behind (ugh, 2009 and 2010) but this is one of those years where I can’t help but grin as I think back. I don’t mean to brag, especially since I know a lot of people who had a tough year, but as far as I am concerned, 2012 was effing awesome.

I don’t want to bore anyone by listing the year month by month or anything, so here’s a sort of random compiling of categories to help me remember this year:

New skills I learned (or at least tried):
 Sailing– took classes at a community college and learned some fundamentals on small Lido boats; saw how it all works on a 50 ft boat in May off the coast of Mallorca. Planning to continue my sailing education.

Cheese making– I feel I have mastered making mozzarella and goat cheese. The cheddar, parmesean, and gouda I tried really sucked, but now with more kitchen space and better equipment, I plan to try again this winter.

Gardening– I have several hanging and potted plants on the balcony. Some have died and been replaced, some are still going strong. At the moment they are all living and thriving, but I want to learn more about how to keep that happening, and how to start a vegetable garden in the back yard.

Teaching a writing course that included more literary analysis– I feel like that went better than expected. I copied my colleague Beth and started assigning Alice in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass and What Alice Saw There in my English 101 courses, and since I did, the classes and assignments are so much more fun. At a time when I was feeling discouraged and burned out about teaching, it’s shown me just how awesome my job can be.

Teaching an Upper-Division Course: When Beth and I got the opportunity to co-teach a course for undergrads and grad students who work in our writing center, I was equal parts thrilled and terrified. It ended up being such a positive experience, though.

New Year’s Resolution, and did I keep it:
 To make my bed every day. In the parts of the year where I lived alone, yes. But once I moved in with Cliff it became nearly impossible since he’s usually in bed when I am leaving for work.

Favorite television show:
Hands down, The Walking Dead. I am obsessed. So obsessed that Cliff bought me a Katana for Christmas.

Road Trips:
Joshua Tree in March, Phoenix/ Tempe in November, Bakersfield in December

Best Meals:
Beef Tartare in Paris
Traditional Mayan food in Xela, Guatemala
The yogurt, fruit, granola and honey breakfast we kept ordering at Hotel Modelo in Xela, Guatemala
Christmas Eve tamales
Cedar Plank salmon that Cliff and I grilled up
Filet Mignon with bleu cheese crust at Ruth’s Chris

Best drink:
ginger margaritas at Rip Jack Inn in Costa Rica

Books read:
Middlesex, The Hunger Games trilogy, Just Kids, Big Sur, Lamb, Medium Raw, The End of Something, A Moveable Feast, Love in the Time of Cholera, The Paris Wife

Books I started, didn’t finish, but will come back to:
Lady Chatterly’s Lover, Bitter Fruit, and Blindness

Scariest moment:
Zip lining in Costa Rica and braking too early so that I was stuck on the line and had to pull myself long to the platform. I actually still have nightmares about zip lining.
Moment that should have been scary but really wasn’t:
Falling out of the raft and being swept down the rapids (also in Costa Rica)

Memories that will ALWAYS make me smile:
-playing hop scotch and “Salta!” with the preschoolers in Guatemala, and little Roxanna Michaela showing me the stash of chalk she had hidden in the folds of her traditional skirt.

-finding Shakespeare and Co. in Paris in the pouring rain– we got lost and combed the streets for hours looking for it

-The cats that hung out on the bar in Costa Rica
-The bartender at The Liberty Bounds pub in London who was excited that I was from Huntington Beach. He said that when he was younger, he and his friends would practice their California surfer accent, much the way I’ve tried a British accent.
-Cliff presenting me with a leopard print key to his house
– Getting hammered with my brother at The Bruery’s St. Patrick’s Day bash
-Dinners with my family

Biggest Physical Accomplishment:
Hiking to the summit of Mount Baldy

Memory that makes me Proud of Myself:
Making friends with strangers in Dublin. I had always been afraid of traveling alone, but when I got to Dublin I discovered that I wasn’t staying with a friend and had to experience the city on my own. I cried for a short while, but then I got myself a bus pass and a map, and went exploring. I chatted with all sorts of people and surprised myself with what a good time I could have. A few times I found myself lost outside of the city due to my poor understanding of the bus table, but it all worked out, and I always found my way, eventually.

Places I traveled to (internationally):
Costa Rica (Arenal and then Playa Grande), Amsterdam (for a few hours– enough time to visit coffee shops & the red light district, and to get some pommes frites), Mallorca, Guatemala (Xela, Lake Atitlan, and Antigua), Dublin, London, and Paris.

Things I kind of Sucked at:
-Keeping some plants alive
-Saving money
-Speaking Spanish
-Zip Lining
-Tying bowline knots
– Not dwelling on negativity when I should know better
– Keeping up with everyone in Vegas. I am not the drinker I used to be!

The Best Change of 2012:
Every day I come home to my best friend.

Resolutions for 2013:
Do more yoga
Stay in better communication with friends and family
Write more

2013, you’ve got a lot of awesomeness to compete with, but I have faith in you.
I can already tell that this year is going to be amazing, and we’ll be ringing it in at the W Hotel in Hollywood tonight.
CAN’T WAIT!
Cheers, everyone!

Oh, 2012…

One of my favorite things about New Year’s Eve is that it forces you, if at least momentarily, to reflect on the year you are finishing. Some years I have cringed at the memories I was leaving behind (ugh, 2009 and 2010) but this is one of those years where I can’t help but grin as I think back. I don’t mean to brag, especially since I know a lot of people who had a tough year, but as far as I am concerned, 2012 was effing awesome.

I don’t want to bore anyone by listing the year month by month or anything, so here’s a sort of random compiling of categories to help me remember this year:

New skills I learned (or at least tried):
 Sailing– took classes at a community college and learned some fundamentals on small Lido boats; saw how it all works on a 50 ft boat in May off the coast of Mallorca. Planning to continue my sailing education.

Cheese making– I feel I have mastered making mozzarella and goat cheese. The cheddar, parmesean, and gouda I tried really sucked, but now with more kitchen space and better equipment, I plan to try again this winter.

Gardening– I have several hanging and potted plants on the balcony. Some have died and been replaced, some are still going strong. At the moment they are all living and thriving, but I want to learn more about how to keep that happening, and how to start a vegetable garden in the back yard.

Teaching a writing course that included more literary analysis– I feel like that went better than expected. I copied my colleague Beth and started assigning Alice in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass and What Alice Saw There in my English 101 courses, and since I did, the classes and assignments are so much more fun. At a time when I was feeling discouraged and burned out about teaching, it’s shown me just how awesome my job can be.

Teaching an Upper-Division Course: When Beth and I got the opportunity to co-teach a course for undergrads and grad students who work in our writing center, I was equal parts thrilled and terrified. It ended up being such a positive experience, though.

New Year’s Resolution, and did I keep it:
 To make my bed every day. In the parts of the year where I lived alone, yes. But once I moved in with Cliff it became nearly impossible since he’s usually in bed when I am leaving for work.

Favorite television show:
Hands down, The Walking Dead. I am obsessed. So obsessed that Cliff bought me a Katana for Christmas.

Road Trips:
Joshua Tree in March, Phoenix/ Tempe in November, Bakersfield in December

Best Meals:
Beef Tartare in Paris
Traditional Mayan food in Xela, Guatemala
The yogurt, fruit, granola and honey breakfast we kept ordering at Hotel Modelo in Xela, Guatemala
Christmas Eve tamales
Cedar Plank salmon that Cliff and I grilled up
Filet Mignon with bleu cheese crust at Ruth’s Chris

Best drink:
ginger margaritas at Rip Jack Inn in Costa Rica

Books read:
Middlesex, The Hunger Games trilogy, Just Kids, Big Sur, Lamb, Medium Raw, The End of Something, A Moveable Feast, Love in the Time of Cholera, The Paris Wife

Books I started, didn’t finish, but will come back to:
Lady Chatterly’s Lover, Bitter Fruit, and Blindness

Scariest moment:
Zip lining in Costa Rica and braking too early so that I was stuck on the line and had to pull myself long to the platform. I actually still have nightmares about zip lining.
Moment that should have been scary but really wasn’t:
Falling out of the raft and being swept down the rapids (also in Costa Rica)

Memories that will ALWAYS make me smile:
-playing hop scotch and “Salta!” with the preschoolers in Guatemala, and little Roxanna Michaela showing me the stash of chalk she had hidden in the folds of her traditional skirt.

-finding Shakespeare and Co. in Paris in the pouring rain– we got lost and combed the streets for hours looking for it

-The cats that hung out on the bar in Costa Rica
-The bartender at The Liberty Bounds pub in London who was excited that I was from Huntington Beach. He said that when he was younger, he and his friends would practice their California surfer accent, much the way I’ve tried a British accent.
-Cliff presenting me with a leopard print key to his house
– Getting hammered with my brother at The Bruery’s St. Patrick’s Day bash
-Dinners with my family

Biggest Physical Accomplishment:
Hiking to the summit of Mount Baldy

Memory that makes me Proud of Myself:
Making friends with strangers in Dublin. I had always been afraid of traveling alone, but when I got to Dublin I discovered that I wasn’t staying with a friend and had to experience the city on my own. I cried for a short while, but then I got myself a bus pass and a map, and went exploring. I chatted with all sorts of people and surprised myself with what a good time I could have. A few times I found myself lost outside of the city due to my poor understanding of the bus table, but it all worked out, and I always found my way, eventually.

Places I traveled to (internationally):
Costa Rica (Arenal and then Playa Grande), Amsterdam (for a few hours– enough time to visit coffee shops & the red light district, and to get some pommes frites), Mallorca, Guatemala (Xela, Lake Atitlan, and Antigua), Dublin, London, and Paris.

Things I kind of Sucked at:
-Keeping some plants alive
-Saving money
-Speaking Spanish
-Zip Lining
-Tying bowline knots
– Not dwelling on negativity when I should know better
– Keeping up with everyone in Vegas. I am not the drinker I used to be!

The Best Change of 2012:
Every day I come home to my best friend.

Resolutions for 2013:
Do more yoga
Stay in better communication with friends and family
Write more

2013, you’ve got a lot of awesomeness to compete with, but I have faith in you.
I can already tell that this year is going to be amazing, and we’ll be ringing it in at the W Hotel in Hollywood tonight.
CAN’T WAIT!
Cheers, everyone!

Reflections on the Elections

On Wednesday night of this week, I came home to the boyfriend watching PBS News Hour loudly on the television. “Noooo mooore neeeewwwsss,” I whined, “I am soo sick of hearing about the damn election!” He was a little taken aback, especially because I normally love to discuss politics and current events.

 It’s just that throughout that day I made the mistake of spending too much time on Facebook and Twitter, which meant having to hear some pretty ugly comments from Romney supporters. The hurtful comments about immigrants and people who receive government assistance were a little too much for me, coupled by plenty of idiotic remarks about the country spiraling into Socialism and the need to stock up on guns and ammo. Sigh.

 So I want to back up a little to that night before, and remember why I was so happy when I woke up on Wednesday morning. That night the boyfriend, his cousin, and I gathered in the living room with pizza and wine to watch the drama unfold. None of us wanted to jinx it by even saying it, but we were all a little nervous about what the outcome would be. We masked our anxieties by over-analyzing every prediction and analysis made on tv, comparing different news coverages, laughing at Brian Williams’ snarky commentary,, and reading aloud witticisms from the internets. Anything to distract ourselves from admitting what was really at stake that evening.

 And then it happened, just as we were all in the kitchen serving up pizza: NBC called Ohio, the last swing state that Obama needed to win in order to clench the election. We cheered, but with apprehension: was this going to be a repeat of 2000? It was still close; had they made this call too early? We flipped to Fox news and watched Karl Rove and the anchors in the midst of a full-blown meltdown and knew it had to be true.

Barak Obama would be the Commander in Chief for 4 more years.

 In many ways, I think this election was more important than 4 years ago, at least to me. In 2008, coming out of the Bush era and hearing this idealistic black man talk about hope and change, it was easy to get on board. Of course people wanted change. Of course people were hopeful. The fact that we could be electing our first Black president made it even more cool, and things sucked so hard under Bush, that why not, right? We were going to make the country cool again.

 But by 2012 there was so much pessimism, and with a nation so polarized that polls showed candidates neck in neck, I wondered about what it would say about us as a nation if Romney won. Not because I dislike Romney or what his party stands for (though I do), but because of what it would say about us as a culture. If 4 years ago we were swept up in a tide of optimism, with people chanting “yes we can!” only to completely change our minds 4 years later because change hadn’t come over night, what would that say about our patience? About our fortitude? About our desires, our work ethic, our courage, our innovative spirit, our acceptance of others, our willingness to adapt to change? Could Americans be so short sighted and focused on instant gratification that they would choose the status quo, the establishment, the rich white guy who “knows what is best for us” (gag)?

 Fortunately, the answer was no. In 2012, the majority stood up to the fear and rhetoric and pessimism, and they said Yes. Yes we can, yes we will, yes we believe. The kind of change that politicians talk about won’t happen overnight, but that night, there was a change in the American landscape. And it makes me want to give all of America a big hug.