Thursday, February 28, 2008

The Romanticization of Work

Lately it seems I've been hearing a lot of feminists talk about how women who don't continue to work full-time after having children are leeches on society and pawns of the patriarchy. I've heard it on NPR and read it in a few places. This disturbs me for two big reasons:

1. Women at work can be just as stuck as women at home. Dear Important Lawyer Woman who argued on NPR that "There's a lot of great work going on in the world": You are perhaps lucky that you've never been stuck in a dysfunctional workplace where your intellect is under-employed. Perhaps you come from wealth and have never needed to keep a job for the pay. I would argue that at least 75% of jobs suck, and suck the life out of the employee. Maybe the woman working 3 shifts at Wal-Mart would disagree with you. We can be just as exploited in the workforce as at home.

2. Why are we devaluing the important work of child-rearing (which someone still has to do, it just gets hired out), cooking, and making a home?

Yes, it's a Big Problem if staying home barefoot and pregnant is the only option, or the Expected Option, or if women expect a "free ride". But for some women there is choice, and freedom to choose a mix, or even staying home altogether. I know at least one working mom who hates having her tiny child in the care of others more often than in her own care. It's not an easy decision for anyone, in either direction.

Plus and Minus

Today, I am irritated. Here are some of the irritations:

  1. I am so tired that I overslept two buzzing, dinging alarm clocks and a screaming, hungry cat for 45 minutes.
  2. I proceeded to make myself a cup of oolong. This was foolhardy, for it seems to contain less caffeine than my other teas, and did nothing to wake me.
  3. At work, I then drank three cups of black tea.
  4. At lunch, I made a special drive to a favorite cafe, to which I had a gift certificate. I ordered a turkey wrap and more tea. I drove the 12 minutes back to work. Ensconced at my desk, I opened my wrap, which contained no fucking turkey. My wrap actually contained lettuce on both ends. I had a whole fucking head of romaine in there. I became convinced it was a Weight Watchers conspiracy.
  5. The cool independent record store next to the cafe is going out of business.
  6. Still exhausted, I drank my strong darjeeling tea while endlessly chewing my lettuce sandwich. At 3 PM, feeling like crap, I realized that I had not drunk any water whatsoever all day. I began hydrating.
  7. On a post about being irritated, Blogger is turning all my dignified, indignant numbered lists into flowers. Which actually, is pretty funny and Zen of Blogger, come to think of it.
Here are the things that did not go so badly:
  1. I got a double Bowie CD at the closing music store for 20% off. Space Oddity is an amazing song, now and forever.
  2. When I called to complain, the cafe promised me a free sandwich and took down my name. I'm going to order a goddamn corned beef with bacon and turkey. Don't mess with me when I want meat. I don't eat that much of it, so it better be in the wrap when I order it.
    (Excuse me...ranting.)
  3. It was sunny.
  4. I didn't have all that much work.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008


They've started a Weight Watchers at Work program at my workplace. For some reason, this is annoying the crap out of me. I can't quite figure out why.

It's partly that I fear it may create food police, it's partly the ludicrous amount of company-wide promotion, and it's partly the note on a bag of chips left in the communal food area: "Cleaning out because I'm starting Weight Watchers! :)" But it's more than those reasons--there's some gestalt at play. I can't pin it down.

I mean, it's really nice that the company responded to an employee request and started this. But it's bugging me. Maybe after it actually starts my fears will subside and it will annoy me less. Incidentally, no one else seems annoyed by it.

Meanwhile: Thriller, still an incredible album 25 years later. I'm groovin' to Billie Jean as I type. The kid is not my son.

UPDATE: AH! This abstract explains much of WW resistance. Viva la resistance!

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Don't Like

Blog Friends, let's take a moment of listing Things We Don't Like That We "Should". Together, we can purge our Shoulds. I'll go first:

  • green tea
  • whole wheat pasta
  • Lord of the Rings (at least the movies)
  • God
  • puppies
There, I feel better already. Well, OK, I do like some puppies, but I got on a roll there.

GRE Diagnostic

Oh man. The Kaplan CD diagnostic test says I am at 95th percentile verbal (yay) and...10th percentile quantitative. That's really bad.

But here's the thing: If you don't remember the basic geometry or algebra rules, you can't apply them. I read a lot, and you know, talk, so my vocabulary remains sharp. I hope that once I review the darn math, it will come back.

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Mmmmm, Harvest Bread

It's more of a golden-brown in person, not so red nor so yellow.


My favorite character just died. I'm a wreck.

Friday, February 22, 2008

This Weekend in Projects

O, what a snowy day. We must be breaking some sort of winter record for accumulated snowfall.

Snow awakens in me a desire to create little projects. Maybe playing with some brush calligraphy, or finally making a binder of my favorite Architectural Digest homes. These will not actually happen, I always know in the back of my mind. There is reading and meditating to be done, plus mundane chores: cleaning, paying taxes. But there are two projects that will happen this weekend.

One, I will create my own variation on my beloved Harvest Bread from Nashoba Brook Bakery. I'm going to omit the apricots and figs, and just stick with dried cranberries, walnuts, and candied ginger for now. One day, once I've practiced on the simplified version, one day when I wake up in a mood of unabashed decadence, I'll spring for all the ingredients. This bread sounds like disgusting overkill on paper, but it is truly wonderful. The sourdough sponge for my own rendition is bubbling to life as I type.

Two, I will henna my locks again. The nice people at the nice natural foods store (from whence comes my unsulphured dried fruit) now carry henna already prepared in a cream, which will hopefully create less powdery mess in my bathroom.

Otherwise, taxes, cleaning, PBS, and finishing The Subtle Knife before embarking upon The Amber Spyglass. I disciplined myself between the first two books, dutifully reading an unrelated book in the middle to make the series last, but I feel such willpower slipping away with each page I turn...I may dive directly into the third and final.

In the Land of the Landscape Architects

Yesterday, I drove faaar across our fair state to visit the open house for the Master of Landscape Architecture (MLA) program at an excellent state university department. This program also offers a dual degree with a Master of Regional Planning (MRP). I wanted to see what that was about.

The Landscape Architects were really running this show. Not a Planner in sight. Everyone was very nice, and they showed us their beautiful models of would-be parks, squares, and revitalized urban areas. The faculty and students talked in vague ways, and when they got specific, they used vocabulary I did not understand (swales? whosey-whatsey software?), while the other prospectives nodded.

Two thoughts began to shimmer at the edge of my mind:
  1. These people were landscape architects, and that is a different tribe from planners, even though they share a peninsula (or, in this case, a building).
  2. Most, if not all, of the other prospectives had already applied to the program.
(Why is Blogger turning my numbered list into a flowered list?)

Eventually, I escaped to visit the regional planning department. They were unaware that MLA was hosting an open house that day, which made me suspect that a dual degree might not be as easy as they want me to think. I liked the regional planning professor, and what she told me about the department, and the prospect of a potentially free education; I do not like that the department is on the other side of the state. I also left with the happy impression that I could get into a planning program, no sweat.

The RP gave voice to one of the thoughts at the edge of my mind. "You're either a planner or a landscape architect," she said. "By nature," was the implication.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Birthday Plans

Today is the actual day. We'll be driving the hour down to my parents' house, and even my brother and sister are coming for the occasion! First, a late lunch of Mexican food (not my very favorite, but will be fun, especially with margaritas in the equation). Then, we'll pick up my grandparents, return with them to my parents' house, and enjoy pineapple upside-down cake (my request). It's going to be fun.

But first: I'm getting out in the sun for a walk. I spent all day enjoying brunch yesterday; really fun, but no chance for sun on an exposed bit of face. This is crucial for my winter well-being.

Dinner with a Real Italian

Friday night, we had dinner at the home of a real Italian, from Italy; and his lady, a real Iowan. We had a wonderful time, eating a delicious meal seemingly tossed together with the greatest ease, drinking red wine, and allowing a vast selection of digestifs to pour down our throats. To aid digestion, of course. Really. (We provided the cake.)

Naturally, being a fauxtalian, I observed our host closely for hints. Here is what I noticed: that our Italian friend seemed to pass through dinner, conversation, and life surrounded by a cloak of ease. I do not mean that he doesn't work hard. I mean that he seems to know how to leave his cares behind at the end of the day, to keep from getting too worked up about the foolish aggravations of life, and to smile and enjoy a glass of wine. As a result, he seems to be wonderfully accepting and welcoming to a vast swath of people, some of whom (based on stories I've heard) are folks I would find intolerably difficult. But he can share a cigar with the difficult people and find amusement in their idiosyncracies.

But mostly, we just had fun. We were told upon leaving that the next dinner would be at another Italian's home. They revered the other Italian's cooking skills. He was sick and could not make the party Friday.

Saturday, February 16, 2008


Today we are having brunch to celebrate the last day of my 20s. I love brunch: it can be sweet, it can be savory; it gives you a license to drink at breakfast. Everything goes in the name of decadence and sloth.

But, how will I decide between the wild mushroom quiche and the poached eggs on toasted cornbread?

Friday, February 15, 2008

People are really nice about networking.

I had some trepidation before I began networking, but I've discovered that people are really generous with their time and nice about sharing info about what they do. Wow. Thanks, all you nice people out there.

...Are these the same people who drive me crazy in traffic? Nah, can't be.

Very Serious.

One of the things that strikes me, viewing American culture as an "Italian", is how obsessed with self-improvement is this culture, and how self-improvement is always equated with denying pleasure.

Pleasure is un-virtuous. We are serious catz. Srsly.

Now, I know I am far from the first to make this observation about America, but it becomes more striking when, as an "erstwhile" American, an expat living right in the Lower 48, one excuses herself from the mindset. You begin seeing the madness everywhere.

I drink tea because I like it. I really like it. I would be very unhappy cat if you took my tea away.

Did you know that tea is good for you? It's really good that you drink tea. I should drink tea, too.

For a while, I tried out green teas, because they were better for me and all that nonsense. I didn't like them as much, though, so after a brief dalliance, I returned to yummy black tea: Prince Vladimir, chai from the local bakery that does chai really well (NO Dunkinbucks chai! You hear me?), English breakfast, Irish breakfast, Russian breakfast, anon. Sometimes I drink a green tea for pleasure/variety, but I relinquished my obligation to antioxidizing some time ago.

And then what happened? Oh look, black tea has health benefits, too! But that's beside the point.

Here is my question, Italia to America: What if tea (wine, greens, exercise) only benefits you if you enjoy it? Interesting premise, isn't it? Keep tweaking what you do until you find the joy.

PS And maybe if one can be less rigid about, Not Doing/Consuming X, one can find a way to do/consume X in moderation.

Saturday, February 9, 2008

Tonight in Drumming

I went back to the drum circle for the first time in a while. We drum ceremonially, in a sort of eclectic, catchall, Native-Celtic-pagan way. Well, that's the structure; I see it is a chance to drop into that right-brained, creative space where symbols live instead of words. I don't necessarily believe in the Goddess etc., except as vivid symbols. (Don't tell the others.)

Before the drumming begins, we go around the circle and share our intentions. Most of the women have very prayerful intentions: healing on some level, giving thanks, offering blessings. These are lovely. Tonight, my intentions were threefold: to support the others in their intentions; to be open to new possibilities, in the circle and in life; and to be juicy! and creative!

We drum for each of the Four Directions: East (Wind), South (Fire), West (Water), and North (Earth). In the East, the direction of Winged Ones, I normally see eagles or owls soaring above tall pines. But tonight: goldfish. A school of shiny goldfish flew through the blue sky. And then, crisp white sheets flapping on clotheslines, with hummingbirds darting all around. New possibilities, hello! Let's turn everything on its head--YES.

In the South, I usually find myself around a campfire in a tribal setting, all of us dancing in a circle in the deep woods. But tonight--Carnival in Rio! Opa! Oh, how we danced on the float, the samba rhythms sweeping is down the crowded street. And wearing costumes--transformation. Axe, muito axe!

In the West, I often go for a canoe trip and meet some river animals. Tonight, however, was no ordinary night. I stood on the ocean shore, and the goldfish returned. They took me into an Atlantic City casino and we gambled, drank, and laughed! When I returned to the shore, the crabs sitting in the low tide mud were playing cards, too. Gambling, taking risks, having fun.

The North was a trip to Africa, where I danced under the giant tree where the first human live. The ancestral homeland of us all, Mama Afrikka. It was groovy.

Friday, February 8, 2008

In Which She Putters

My sweetie is away in lovely Pittsburgh, PA--in February--for the weekend. His last conference took place in sweltering Orlando in August. They are not seasonally astute, these people.

So I am having Unstructured Time. I am puttering. Yes, I started the day with a teeth cleaning (report: I need a filling replaced--but it lasted me a good 20 years) and a shiatsu appointment. Then I formed sourdough loaves and went for a walk, before my life-coach friend came over. We were supposed to trade shiatsu for coaching, but I suggested we just have tea and socialize instead, and she was feeling the same way. We chatted, ate some sourdough straight from the oven, drank tea.

After she departed, the order of events becomes hazy. At some point I napped on the couch, at some point read a little more Three Cups of Tea, and at some point spent 2 hours lying on the living room floor with my feet propped on my meditation cushion, listening to the Slate Book Club and starting at the plaster patterns in the ceiling. During some part of the Book Club, I did a few yoga asanas. Not very meditative while listening to podcasts, but still a good stretch. I also researched New Urbanism online, wondered why such good ideas make such creepy places (anyone?), and ate tuna fish (with terragon!) on corn chips and in a piece of lavash. I also ate the rest of my chocolate cream pie. No husband was there to chide me about the necessity of a "proper dinner". I contemplated making my own yogurt from the yummy goat milk they sell at Trader Joe's, but took no action in this regard.

I feel that sort of time dilation that happens when one is stoned. It's nice. It's sort of healing...recharging.

UPDATE: New Urbanism may be so creepy to me because the N.U. places look like they were manufactured in a test tube, clones of the olde-tyme main street. Celebration is doubly creepy because it is owned by Disney, the corporation that famously made a fake Main Street.

I have to wonder whether N.U. is, on some level, romanticizing the past, fetishizing Main Street, like pastoral literature romanticizes country life.

But, suburban development is not going well, so...

I *Heart* New Roma

New Roma is the name of my sourdough colony. And sweet lord, does she make excellent bread. That little colony makes the bread rise even more than commercial yeast does, all the while imparting a complex, subtly sour flavor.

I know some people who always add commercial yeast when baking with sourdough; they say the bread doesn't rise otherwise. I wonder what they are doing to their colonies. Maybe they don't feed them enough, or perhaps they never remove them from the fridge to warm up.

Thursday, February 7, 2008

So. So. Tired.

Blog peeps, I am just wiped out. I don't know if my body is at last succumbing to the horrendous flus and sinus infections going around--I am not sick, but I am wiped out in that way of "fighting something"--or if it's the deadly 1-2 punch of 2 days of pouring cold rain making me sleepy, plus preventing me from getting out and walking. Oh, and working through last weekend with all the shiatsu activity. Maybe the answer is D., All of the above.


Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Super Tuesday!

It's so freaking exciting! Happy Primaries, everybody!

Monday, February 4, 2008

A Weekend in Food

On Friday we dined at Trattoria Toscana. We ducked out of cold sheets of horizontal rain into the cozy restaurant and nourished ourselves with a thick Tuscan soup with beans, carrots, and kale. We warmed ourselves with a cheery chianti and then laid into our pastas. I had a gnocchi dish with meat ragu. The gnocchi were edible pillows from heaven. The runner overheard us discussing politics as he refilled our wine and agua minerale, and he asserted his support for Clinton's more-liberal immigration policy. He was from Colombia, you see.

Oh, and then we topped off dinner with the best tiramisu I have ever eaten. It was creamy, richly coffee-flavored, and just sweet enough. Even the husband was enraptured, and he is not normally a tiramisu fan.

On Saturday, we had our omnivorous friends over for dinner. They are very enthusiastic about food, but don't seem to know much about it. This gives them a certain freedom, a certain culinary innocence that lets them think outside the box, and makes their enthusiasm infectious. They brought offerings to the feast: sesame dumplings filled with red bean paste (my favorite dim sum, as they knew) and a reisling.

We devoured the dumplings with the cheese and crackers we had put out. (When planning the meal, had we debated appetizers for a while before remembering the party these friends had hosted when they put out cheese without crackers. Not just hard cheese--brie. We decided that we must put out cheese and crackers, as an unspoken tutorial. Also, we were curious whether these random-but-enthusiastic eaters knew how to use crackers.

...They did.)

Our guests suggested we drink the reisling with appetizers, but I knew they would go perfectly with the baked golden delicious apples we were serving for dessert. I therefore limited the food randomness and held the reisling. It was glorious with the apples: serendipity.

In between, we had lamb pre-marinated by the good people at Trader Joe's. G. roasted said lamb with potatoes, carrots, celery, and pearl onions tossed in olive oil and herbs. It came out wonderfully, and went nicely with the tasty red wine (a rioja, G. tells me).

We had a terrific time, laughing, eating, talking, and playing a lively game of Apples to Apples. And it was so gratifying, I must admit, how appreciative and enthusiastic our omnivore-friends were about the cooking.

Sunday: leftover cheese all day.

Ironically, I taught a workshop about holistic approaches to IBS treatment feeling totally overstuffed with cheeses.

Saturday, February 2, 2008

My Husband: Not a Solid

I take a sleep intermission every night. Get up for a few moments, use the ladies' room, sip a little water, give the kitties a snack. This is how I discovered the raccoon, but that's another story.

Every night when I return to bed, my dear husband has taken the shape of his container; i.e., there is no room left for me. And he steals the blankets while he's at it! Sometimes, if Luna Cat has not gotten up with me, she takes over the remaining bit of warm bed and lies there, dead asleep and much heavier than she is by daylight, like a rock-cat.

So I crawl in and squeeze myself into little sphere with one foot diameter, carving out a small space to use as my base of operations. Then, I yank some covers on to keep from freezing. Cat and husband groan in response, and sometimes I even get a muttered, supremely irritated, sleep-talking "Come on" from the human. Once securely in the bed, I began my expansion. I start by pushing the cat with my feet. This doesn't always work, so I have to shake her a little and call her name, which usually gets another irritated sleep-sound from husband.

Once I uproot the feline, I must shove the human from the center of the bed back to his side. Usually I accomplish this by lying on my side facing him and pressing my knees into either his kidneys or his knees, depending on whether he's sleeping on his right or left side. This gets a big "Harumph" and a dramatic flop as he rolls over and cedes my bed-territory.

Oh, that makes sense.

My career counselor had me take the MBTI. I've taken it before, but not with an eye toward career. And the results have been a little different every time I've taken the test, because I fall in the middle of the scale on two categories.

But, here and now, today, I am an ENTP. The official analysis provided with the results was very affirming. The pages seemed to speak: Yes, you are in totally the wrong job for your personality. It's not that there is anything wrong with you. But this is a bad fit. It's no wonder the last 6 years have been torture. It's gonna be OK, we'll find you the right job.

I can't share my official report here, but I did find other neat resources about ENTPs and their career needs.

Friday, February 1, 2008

Wow wow wow

Urban planning. I spoke with someone I found through my alumni network about his job--getting parks made for communities. It's awesome, part community work, part strategy, all innovation. I got high just hearing about it. Also, he gave me the names and phone numbers of everyone in the field to talk to, including the profs at the Masters programs.