Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Crow Training

At a party, I recently learned that it's possible to train crows to bring you loose change that they find, and I was instantly enchanted.  That is a career that has Dana written all over it.  No phones.  No angry customers.  No forms and paperwork.  No fax machines.  Also, I like crows.  

I announced to my friends and husband that I planned to train me up a murder of crows to do my bidding.  No only would I train them to bring me change, I would train them to send letters as well.  I know eight Game of Thrones Geeks off the top of my head who I'm certain would pay me to send letters for them by crow.  

My friends and husband laughed, assuming that I was just drunk and full of bad ideas, like usual.  

They were wrong.

Of course, I had no idea how to begin.  Where does one go to find crows?  How do you make them stay?  How do you communicate with birds?  I realized that I had zero answers to these questions, and I became discouraged.  

However, one day when I was playing outside with Nadia, what should we see, but a murder of crows?  They were hanging out in the trees across the street.  I panicked, completely losing my shit.  I was not prepared!  I WAS NOT PREPARED!  I raced inside and got a piece of bread, vaguely recalling that birds like bread, and tore it into tiny pieces and threw them all over the sidewalk and yard.  The birds ignored me and flew away.

I was sad.  A friend assured me that they would come back in a week, which made me feel slightly better, but I wasn't sure I believed that it was true.

It was true.

One week later, the crows were back.  But this time, I was prepared.  I had a jar of peanuts, ready and waiting.  I sprinkled them all over the yard and sidewalk, while my two year old daughter snatched them up and ate them, giggling because Mommy was throwing food everywhere, which was obviously an attempt to create a wonderful new game.  Eventually I got her to stop eating the peanuts by simply taking her back inside.  But when I went out later to check, all the peanuts were gone.

The next day, again, Nadia and I went outside, and again the crows were there.  Again, I threw peanuts for them, and went back inside.   Repeat.  Repeat.

Then, one day, the number of crows increased.  As soon as Nadia and I went outside, they FLOCKED to my house.  It was one of the strangest things I have ever experienced.  Because they didn't just hang out in a tree - they SURROUNDED us.  They landed on top of the house, on the telephone wires, on every tree in the backyard, and every tree in the front yard.  

The rush of feelings was intense.  First of all, I felt powerful and effective.  I had done it!  I was the Queen of the Crows!  But on the heels of that elation, was very real fear.  Because being surrounded by dozens of watchful crows is creepy as fuck.  

I took Nadia back inside.

Later, I told Phil about my crow luring, skimming over the amount of effort and time I'd actually spent doing it, and he was less than pleased.  Turns out, he has no desire to live in a Crow Kingdom, and was pretty adamant that I cease all crow training operations immediately.  I pouted a little, but in reality, I think I was kind of relieved.  

And so, my crow training days have come to an end.  Phil made a solid point that we don't want our house and cars to be covered in crow shit, and I do agree with that.  Also, I don't want Nadia to get her eyes pecked out if she accidentally angers them.  Crow time is over.

For now.

Thursday, December 10, 2015

The Fifteen Commandments

Raising a child forces you to think a lot about morality.  Because you want your child to be a good, moral person, and it's almost entirely up to you to make sure that that happens.  So, it's important to ask yourself "What is a good person, anyway?"  That's what I've been doing, while I lay in bed at night, panicking about my parenting.  And I've come up with Dana's Fifteen Commandments for Being a Good Person.  These will be the foundation of Nadia's moral education.

So, without further ado - The Fifteen Commandments.

1) Refrain from harming others, whenever possible.  Never abuse children or animals, or anyone over whom you have power.

This is probably the most important commandment.  It's better than "love thy neighbor as thyself" because lots of people are self-hating, and they treat themselves like shit.  Also, the definition of "neighbor" is open to interpretation, which I find sort of apalling.

2) Cultivate kindness - try to always act kindly, and maintain a kind attitude.

This is sort of an extension of commandment one, but I feel it's necessary to include it.  Just so there's no loopholes.

3) Do charity.  Help others whenever possible.  Do volunteer work regularly.  

I'm trying really hard to find some kind of volunteer work that I can do with Nadia, but it's hard because she's two, and can't really do much yet.  I found one opportunity, reading to small children in doctor's waiting rooms, but I hesitate to bring Nadia into germ infested sick rooms, every week.  So as of now, I'm a shitty person.  But I'm working on it.

4) Have courage.  Stand up to cruelty wherever you see it.  

5) Have a sense of humor.  I absolutely believe that failing to have a sense of humor is a moral failing, and a rather serious one at that.  Don't be a grim, humorless douchebag.

6) Be curious.  Always be learning something, and keep your curiosity whetted at all times.  You can't force yourself to be intelligent, but you can force yourself to learn, which is just as good in most cases. Don't let your mind become dull.

7) Be an interesting person.  Never let fear of ridicule or fear of failure stop you from trying things.  It's better to do something badly than never do anything at all.  The more experiences you have, and the more things you do, the more interesting you will be/become.  Boring people are usually just scared people.  Or people who have neglected to cultivate their curiosity.

8) Monitor your words.  Don't engage in harmful or potentially harmful gossip.  Be honest whenever you kindly can.  Don't spill others' secrets.  

I firmly believe that there are such things as "good lies" and "bad lies", and you should be morally mature enough to understand the difference between "Don't worry about it.  I'm sure no one noticed the broccoli in your teeth," and "Mr. Lester is a pedophile.  Let's burn his house down."  That's why I say be honest "whenever you kindly can."

9) Be loyal.  Be loyal to your spouse,  your family and your friends.  Protect them to the best of your ability.  Don't shame them in public, even if they deserve it.  Stand up for them and help them when you can.

10) Keep your germs to yourself.  Never go out in public and/or touch things and/or cough when you're sick with something contagious.  Don't spit gum anyplace but a trash can.  Do not spit on birthday cakes.  Better yet, don't spit at all, ever.  Use condoms when you should.

11) If you develop a drug or alcohol addiction, that doesn't make you a bad person.  But you must get treatment.  Don't force the people who care about you to watch your decline, and/or support you like you're a child.

12) Don't steal anything that will be missed.

13) Sex is fine, rape is not.

14) Do not kill other people except in self defense, or as an act of kindness (euthanasia).  

15) Use birth control, preferably at all times, unless you're actively trying to get pregnant.  Yes even if you're not sexually active.  Because you never know.   Also, it's good to remember that not all sex is consensual, and you don't want to be in the awful situation of having to choose between an abortion and a rape pregnancy.  

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Playing Outside

My daughter loves playing outside.  LOVES it.  She's like a little feral cat, or a hippie.  If I let her, she would spend 100% of her time outside, like an animal.

I'm told that this is a good thing, mostly by people in my parents' and grandparents' generations.  If you listen to older people talk, they basically spent the entirety of their childhoods outdoors, and it turned them into wonderful super people, and it's just a shame that kids spend so much time indoors these days, and GET OFF MY LAWN!  

In addition, there are lots of psychologists and scientists who say that fresh air and sunshine are important for healthy physical and psychological development, and you need to make sure your kids spend time outside.

Ok.  Fine.  Since the whole world seems to think that being outside is the best thing ever, I do it.  Despite the lupus, and the fact that I need a tub of hypoallergenic sunscreen and a parasol, I do it.  I dutifully take my child outside to play, every single day.

But here's the thing - I'm not entirely convinced that this is really enriching her life in any serious way.  Here are the things we do when we "play outside".

1) Trying to Fly

Nadia has a set of fairy wings that she loves to wear.  She insists that I put them on her, and then we go outside, because apparently you have to be outside to "fly".  "I FLY!"  She screams.  "I FLY!"  And so we go out, even though I know exactly how this is gonna go.

The thing is, she can't fly.  She just can't.  And if I pick her up and swing her around or attempt to assist her into the air, she gets really, really angry, because that's cheating.  She doesn't want Mommy's assistance.  She's not an idiot.  She knows that's not really flying.  And yet, her own attempts to fly are pathetic and sad, and ultimately end in tears.

Is this good for her?  I guess we'll let her future therapist decide.

2)  Bothering Ants

I don't pretend to understand Nadia's fascination with ants.  It doesn't extend to any other insects.  But any time she sees an ant, she immediately drops to her stomach and watches the ants, fascinated, unblinking, for an unsettlingly long time.  If there is a stick or a leaf nearby, she will use it to poke at them, routing them in different directions, or letting them climb on her little ramps.

I suppose this is sort of educational, in a way.  You could say that she's learning about the natural world.  But I would say overall, the education she is receiving from the ants is rather limited.  She's mostly just bothering them.

On the bright side, she never intentionally hurts them, so she's probably not doing it for psycopathic reasons.  It's not a "God-complex" thing.

3) Collecting Sticks

Nadia loves sticks.  But it's the love of a rock star for an unattractive groupie.  Brief, uncommitted, and greedy.  She wants the stick badly, until she finds a new, better stick, and then she hands off the old stick to me, the "band manager" of sticks.  Occasionally she will use the sticks to bother ants, or to brush Mommy's hair (i.e. beat Mommy in the head with a stick while saying "Nice.  Pretty.  Nice." in soothing tones)

This is not enriching.  She is learning nothing from it.  It is a waste of everyone's time.

4) Tresspassing

She loves to tresspass on others' property.  She has absolutely no concept of private ownership, and she doesn't give a fuck about your walls and fences and dogs.  The thing is, there's a really cool stick in your yard, and she wants it, and that's all that matters.  She will have that fucking stick if it's the last thing she does.  Or flower.  Or ball.  

I would just like to say, however, that if you put a koi pond in your front yard, you're kind of asking for it.  I can't imagine any child walking past it would be able to resist peering into it, at least for a minute.  You are going to have toddlers on your property if you put a koi pond there.  

Anyway, I suppose that tresspassing may actually be useful for Nadia if someday she becomes a burgler.  Or a spy.  But otherwise, no, not so much.

Side note: If you have a child, and she hangs out in someone else's yard, collecting flowers and leaves, no one looks out the window and says "Hey what's that weird two year old doing in our yard?"  Nope. NO one blames the two year old.  Instead, they'll say, "What's that woman doing standing on the sidewalk, staring at our trees?  She's got a kid with her.  Or, is she following that kid?  Should we call the police?"  You're the weirdo.  They never blame the baby.

5) Throwing Balls into the Street, Because Whatever, Mommy Will Get Them

Nadia enjoys playing with balls.  But not like, actual games.  She just throws and kicks the ball to various places, and demands that I stand in one place and occasionally throw the ball back to her when it gets lodged under the car.  No big deal.  I can do that.

Except she intentionally throws and kicks the damn ball into the street, knowing full well that she's not allowed in the street, and that I will be forced to go retreive it.  It's the most tiresome game in the world.  I tell her repeatedly not to deliberately throw it in the street.  I am cheerfully ignored.  Eventually my patience runs out, and I take the ball away, and say we have to go inside because she's misbehaving.  At which point she will demand to wear her wings and "go fly".  

You might say she's learning hand eye coordination, and getting good exercise.  You're right.  But mostly I think she's just messing with me, learning how much disobedience Mommy can tolerate before she snaps.  

Is playing outside the wholesome, enriching activity everyone seems to think it is?  I don't know.  I feel like she could learn all this stuff inside just as easily.  But it makes her happy to be outdoors, and I suppose in the end, that's what matters.  

Friday, October 16, 2015

An Open Apology

Staying indoors all day with a child who doesn't speak English that well gives me lots of time to brood. These broodings have led me to some new insights into my behavior, and I have brought it to my attention that I am sometimes unintentionally rude.  In this post I will be apologizing for and explaining my actions.

Rudeness #1: Asking if it's a child friendly event.

How its perceived: I'm putting you in an awkward position by asking this question.  If you wanted Nadia to come, you would have invited her.  But if you say it's not a child friendly party, so I should leave the kid at home,  then you feel obligated to throw a party full of hookers, pornography, cocaine, and machetes, which probably wasn't what you had in mind.

My explanation: I'm honestly just trying to figure out if I need to get a sitter or not.  

My solution: I will no longer do this.  If you don't invite Nadia specifically to an event, I will assume she is not invited.

I'm sorry.

Rudeness #2: Trying to figure out your race.

How it's Perceived: Well, I hope no one knows I'm doing it.  I'm not obvious about it, I don't make any comments, and I don't ask any questions.  At most, I might talk about my heritage, hoping that you'll chime in with yours, becoming disappointed when you don't.  BECAUSE YOU NEVER DO.

But if someone were to figure out that I'm trying to learn their race, this is what I imagine they'd think.
"Why do you need to know that?  So you can place me on some hierarchy, so you can treat me accordingly?  So you know which stereotypes to apply to me?  You're such a racist, Dana.  I hate you."

My Explanation:  NO!  It has nothing to do with racism, I swear!  I'm just curious and I want to know more about you!  Being raised in a community where 99% of everyone is white has rendered me completely unable to tell what ethnicity anyone is.  I seriously have no idea what race you are, unless you are milky pale like me.  For instance, my prom date in high school was one of the only non white people I knew, and I thought he was Indian or Pakistani, and I was surprised when he told me he was, in fact, Mexican.  His last name was Maldonado.  So you see what we're dealing with here,  I'm basically disabled at knowing your race, so it's kind of become a game for me, to try to figure it out.

Also, I'm hoping you're some ethnicity that has amazing food, and we will become friends and you'll give me your great grandmother's secret special recipe for Cambodian goulash or whatever.

I'm sorry.  Please know I don't mean anything nefarious.  I have no intention of hiding my valuables based on what I learn.

Rudeness #3: One upping your stories 

How it's perceived: You tell a story.  I tell a similar story.  You hate me because I'm trying to one up you.

My Explanation: I honestly didn't know that this was a thing that bothered people until fairly recently.  In my mind that's how conversations work.  You tell a story.  I think of a similar story, and share it with you.  We laugh over our shared experiences.  It's called bonding, you judgmental prick!  I'm trying to relate to you!  But no, you have to get all sensitive, and get all butt hurt because my story was better.

You know what?  No.  I'm actually not going to apologize for this one.

Rudenss #4: Shitting on things you love/tearing things apart

How it's perceived: "Dana is so rude.  Can you believe what she said about bicyclists?  I ride a bike, and I'm proud of it!  She obviously hates me."

My explanation:  There is no excuse.  This is the worst thing about me.  I tend to state my opinions frequently, using strong language.  I do this because I find it entertaining.  The more exaggerated I make my statements, the more entertained I am.  It makes me feel good to tear apart bad arguments, destroy bad logic, and criticize things I dislike.  It makes me so, so happy.  And I forget that most people take this kind of stuff personally.  In my mind, if I'm criticizing your wrong idea, or a show you like, it has nothing to do with YOU.  I still like YOU, even if I don't like all the things you like.  But most people don't separate themselves from their ideas or interests, and they feel personally attacked by my tirades.

This is my fault.  I AM working on it.  I'm trying to be more aware of it when I'm being negative, and I'm trying to only say nice things about the stuff people like, when I'm talking to them.  I am very, truly sorry.  

Friday, October 2, 2015

Say His Name

In the wake of yet another mass shooting, many people are calling for news outlets to maintain the anonymity of the shooter.  First of all, let me just say that I respect this position, and if you choose to refrain from using the shooter's name, more power to you.  However, though I respect this position, I disagree with it.  Here's why -

The arguments against using the shooter's name, as I understand them, are these -

1) Using his name when reporting on the shooting is somehow honoring him, and giving him fame.

My Rebuttal:
No.  It's not.  Attention is not the same as adulation.  Yes, if the news anchors were like, "The talented, brilliant and handsome Eric Cartman killed ten people today, which really showed the bastards who was the superior being.  A link to Mr. Cartman's manifesto can be found here..." OK, then yes.  That would be glorifying him, but that is NOT what is being said.  All of the attention is negative attention.

2) Giving the killer attention is giving him what he wants.  After all, these guys just do it for the attention.

My Rebuttal: 
Look.  I'm familiar with attention seeking behavior.  The nine year old who shoots spitballs in class.  The woman who has every food allergy under the sun, and is afraid of pineapples.  The guy with the obscenely huge truck.  These are all examples of things people do "just for attention".  "Mass murder" is not attention seeking behavior.  Yes, the desire for recognition may be a part of their motivations, but their pathologies go much, much MUCH deeper than "Hey, everyone look at me!"

3) Using the killer's name will give new killers someone to emulate.

My Rebuttal: 

I'm not a psychologist.  But I've read so many books about psychology, serial killers, mass shooters.  So many, you guys!  And I've watched a bunch of documentaries about this stuff too.  So yeah, I'm pretty much a psychologist. 

Mass shooters don't tend to be "copycats".  It might seem like that, because they all use guns and kill innnocent people, but they don't do it to honor other shooters, or because they idolize other shooters, at least not specifically.  Yes, they might get the idea to do a shooting because of other shootings they've heard about, but it's the actions that are inspirational to them, not the murderers.  

But aside from all these rebuttals and such, I honestly wonder: what is to be gained from preserving the shooter's anonymity?   Will prospective shooters of the future say to themselves, "Well, I was going to shoot up a movie theater today, but you know, when that last shooting happened, no one said his name, so...I guess I'll just get to work on this term paper."  

Have you ever read he Harry Potter books?  In them, the bad guy is named "Voldemort".  Voldemort is so very, very evil that most people are afraid to say his name, because it causes bad feelings.  I think this may be a part of the motivation behind the movement to stop saying the killer's name.  I think people are afraid when confronted with this kind of evil.  

But here's the thing.  By keeping the shooters anonymous, we are not helping the situation.  I honestly do not believe that keeping him nameless will act as any kind of deterrent for shooters in the future.  I truly don't believe that it will help.   What I do think it will do, is turn the shooters into nameless boogymen, which will create an even greater climate of fear.  Fear breeds irrationality.  Fear and irrationallity beget more violence.  

Worst of all, if we can't name the evil, the evil becomes disembodied and amorphous.  The shooters are anyone, could be anywhere.  And then the problem of mass shootings starts to seem like a problem that we cannot solve.  And we can solve this problem.  I truly believe that.  But we have to believe that we can, and we have to approach it rationally, without fear.


Interestingly, I do think there is one good reason for maintaining the shooter's anonymity; one that's never brought up - and that is protecting the family of the shooter.  Let's face it, if people know that your brother killed dozens of innocent shoppers at a mall, people are going to look at you funny.  Employers might not want to hire you; after all, what if you're just as batshit crazy as your brother?  Would a woman want to marry into your family?  Probably not.  Even if you're the nicest, sanest person in the world, the stain of what your brother did will follow you forever.  

Friday, August 28, 2015

Stop It, Workout Instructors

I go to the gym six times per week, and I take lots of classes.  I need to work out a lot to keep myself sane, and under two hundred pounds.  And while I love most of my instructors, some of the things they do drive me insane.  Here is a list of things fitness instructors need to knock the fuck off.

1) Pretending they don't know what numbers are. 

Not all instructors do this, but enough do it that it needs to be addressed.  You'll be doing pushups or whatever, and the instructor will say "Four more!".  You'll prepare yourself mentally, rationing your energy so as to complete those last four to the best of your ability.  And the smartass instructor will go "Four, three, two, two, two, two, two...aaaaaand ONE!" and then she'll laugh.

Well, I refuse to participate in her sick games.  As soon as I've completed my four, I simply stop and stare at her until she's done pretending to be an idiot who can't count.  I urge you to do as I do.  Eventually the instructors will get the hint and stop trying to fuck with our heads.

2) Insisting that students whoop and holler like trailer trash.

Every.  Single.  Instructor.  Does this.  (Except yoga instructors, obviously.)  At some point during the class, the instructor will say "Wow.  You're all so quiet today!".  Because instructors are an extroverted bunch, and they become intensely uncomfortable with the slightest bit of quiet.  They need constant validation from their students that they are, in fact, enjoying themselves, and unless the students clap and carry on like drunks, the instructors feel blank and hollow inside.  

Dear Instructors: We do enjoy your class.  If we didn't we wouldn't come.  Not everyone likes to scream and shout, especially not when we're sweaty and breathless from exertion.  Learn to love yourself, Dear Instructor.   Your self esteem will shine from within, and it will draw us toward you, like moths to a flame.  

Or, you know, at least let us maintain what's left of our dignity.

3) Insisting that we need to burn off the claories from whatever holiday has happened recently.

I kid you not - in February, I had to hear about working off the Valentine's Day chocolate until FEBRUARY 28TH.  No one eats so much chocolate on Valentines Day that they are still working it off weeks later.  Or rather, the people who eat that much chocolate are probably not hanging out at the gym much.   But it's also Christmas, Thanksgiving, Fourth of July, Labor Day, whatever.  You can bet that if there's been a holiday within a week of the class you're taking, every instructor will make the same lame ass corny joke about how we need to burn off those Black History Month calories or whatever.  Stop it, Instructors.  Stop it!

4)Instructing  us how to smile.

"OK, now extend from the elbow.  And press.  Press.  Press.  And press.  Now lift.  Lift. Lift and lift.  Now bend the knees. And hold.  Pulse.  Pulse.  And turn the corners of your mouth up."  Then shel'll smile at her little joke.  She's tricked us into smiling!  Isn't that precious?

Dear Instructor:  We aren't smiling for a reason.  You are hurting us.  We are in physical pain.  Tricking us into smiling will only make us hate you.  It is not helpful.  It burns no calories.  Just let us be.

Tuesday, August 4, 2015


When I was a little girl, I knew several children who were forbidden to use the word "hate".  I distinctly remember a lilttle girl singing "I dislike myself for loving you" on the schoolbus, and thinking she was ridiculous.  After all, "hate" wasn't even a swear word.  What was her deal?

Now, many years later, I still don't really understand the thinking behind this rule.  I figure it must be one of two things - 

1) By prohibiliting the word "hate" you would somehow prohibit the feeling.  You would create a psychological environment in your child where hate was simply not allowed; it wasn't even a thing.  Or at the very least, by removing the word "hate" from the vocabulary, you would dull the child's negative emotions, muting them to mere "dislike" or "annoyance".  

Or, perhaps - 

2) The parents thought it was perfectly okay to feel hate, just not to express it.  

I very much doubt that it was a successful strategy, either way.

I sort of get it.  Hate is generally a very bad thing.  Hatred is the cause of most of the evil in the world.  I totally get wanting to protect your child from it in all of its forms.  And yes, "hate" is a very strong word, and I absolutely support rules prohibiting children from saying "I hate you", or other hurtful language, when it's not justified.

But, like it or not, hate is a part of life, and most everyone will experience a feeling of hatred at some point or another.  It seems to me that trying to ban the very concept of hate, or teaching children to simply ignore hate, is silly, and perhaps even dangerous.  

Because hate does exist.  It is a thing.  I wish I could talk to some of these mothers to see what their intentions were when they made this rule.  I don't judge them harshly - I think their intentions were probably good - and so I would like to hear their side of the story.   Did they ban other words for things they didn't like - things like "sex" and "sugar" and "war" and "guns"?  I'm honestly curious.

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Home Sweet Home

I recently met a woman who was born and raised in Los Angeles.  She told me that she felt like a loser, because she'd never lived anywhere else.  She'd gone to college at UCLA, and then got a job in LA, and still lives there now.  

"That in no way makes you a loser" I said, emphatically.  "LA is basically paradise, but with shitty parking.  Why would you feel the need to move?  Everything good is here!"

She explained that she didn't want to be one of those people who never left her hometown.

And I realized that lots of people have this attitude.  They buy in to this notion that if you don't move far away from home, as soon as you're done with school, you've somehow failed at life, and you suck.  

I personally think this is ridiculous.  Whether or not you're a loser is not dependent on whether or not you leave your hometown.  That really depends on where your hometown is, and why you stayed there.  For instance, if your dream is to run a farm, and  you were raised in a rural area, then it doesn't make you a loser to stay in that rural area.  If it's important to you to live in a safe place with a real sense of community, and you were born in a beautiful, friendly small town, it only makes sense to stay there.  And of course, if you were born in a big city, and you love city life, there's no reason to move!  There just isn't.

Of course, it's a good idea to see more of the world, so you don't wind up being a provincial hick - but it's entirely possible to do that and return to your hometown when you're done.  

I would argue that you're only a loser if you stay in your hometown if said hometown is a backwards shithole, and you are only staying there because you've screwed yourself out of options, or you don't have the gumption to make life decisions, and you're just succumbing to inertia.

I left my hometown, but I don't consider myself to be superior or more successful than others because I did so.  I left because there was no way for me to have a good life or be happy there.  I'm someone who needs sunshine and warmth.  I need opera houses and independent theaters and fancy restaurants and Anthropologie and Disneyland.  If I had stayed, I probably would have wound up drinking myself to death, and that's probably not an exaggeration.  Still to this day, when I see Facebook posts from people who stayed in my hometown, it's all like "That same tweaker from last week just took a shit on my front porch again" and "Dude, why do my neighbors keep coming to my house at 3:00am asking for Sudafed?" and pictures of storm damage.  Not the place for me and my family.

That being said, I think it is extremely important to have family nearby.  I would be so extraordinarily  happy if I had more family that lived close to me!  Especially now that I have a child.  It would be so nice to be able to call up a relative and say "Hey, can I drop Nadia off on Friday?  We're going to see a play" and then not have to worry about paying a sitter, child abuse, etc.  Or if I get a stomach virus and am incapacitated, it would be great to call up a relative and say "Hey, can you take Nadia out of here so she doesn't get sick or die from neglect while I spend all my time vomiting?" And Nadia would have the experience of growing up in an extended family, with picnics and birthday parties and shit.  

And those types of experiences are not just important for me - they're important for everyone.  Children were not meant to be raised in a bubble with no one but their parents to call family.  Of course, it can be done, and it can be done successfully, but it's hard, and not as rich.

So if you've made a decision to stay in your hometown, do not feel embarassed about it, or like you've failed at life.  Bottom line, if you are able to have the life you want in the place where you were born, then it's a really, really smart idea to stay there.  Why abandon your family and friends, just because?  Family is important.  Friends are important.  Moving for the sole purpose of making yourself seem more successful?  Not that important.  

Saturday, June 13, 2015

Children's Programs and Parenting Skills

Lots of times when I'm watching Daniel Tiger or Sesame Street, I get the distinct impression that the shows are trying to coach me in how to be a proper parent.  (Note: being a good parent, according to kids' shows, generally means pretending that you've had an ice pick lobotomy.)

Here's the thing.  It's one thing for these shows to teach kids to count to ten, or to know their shapes or whatever.  These are reasonably simple, straightforward tasks that can easily be learned via puppet instruction.  But if you, as an adult, go to Stinky the Plant and Elmo for lessons on how to raise a child, your problems are deep and serious.  They are not the type of problems that can be solved with a song and dance routine, however cleverly crafted.

I don't find the parenting lessons insulting, exactly.  They don't make me angry.  On the contrary, I think the makers of the shows are well intentioned.  But it makes me feel depressed that there might be parents who need to be instructed in such basic matters, in such basic fashion, and that there are TV show producers who feel that they are the ones who need to provide this instruction.  

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Phil Quotes

Phil is wonderful.  Here are some wonderful Phil quotes for your enjoyment.

"Bellingham is a very conservative town."

Me: "Are you telling me that more than one person here owns a private island?"
Phil: "It's not that big of a deal, Honey.  Lots of people own islands."

(To a man who wrongly accused me of letting my dog poo on his lawn)
"You need to stop harassing my wife, or I will take a shit on your lawn!"

Me: Do you think I'm wasting my brains by teaching yoga?
Phil: (laughs and laughs) I am not touching that question with a ten foot pole.
Me: What?  No, I won't get mad.  I just want to know what you think!
Phil: (goes into the kitchen and turns on the faucet) I can't hear you over the water!
Me: I just mean-
Phil: No, I still can't hear you!

(Driving past the multimillion dollar homes on the way to The Huntington)
"I bet all these people get really annoyed that cars drive past their houses all the time to get to The Huntington."
Only Phil has sympathy for the poor, poor rich people who have to deal with cars driving on the roads.

Saturday, April 11, 2015


For those of you following my Facebook posts, here is your answer.  Yes!  We made it into Microcon!  Here's how it went- 

Nadia and I showed up at the library, where the convention was being held.  The meeting rooms and the restrooms are on the same level, so no one stopped me as I went downstairs, assuming I was taking my small child to the bathroom.  

Muh hahaha!

But when I got to the meeting room, it was locked!  LOCKED!  And not one of those pickable locks - it was one of those keypads where you have to know the password.  I did not know the password.  I was sad.  But, I suppose these foreign dignitaries need certain security measures to prevent assassinations/troll attacks, etc.  

But then, a miracle!  Out of the room stepped an extremely tall man, about my age.  I liked his intelligent eyes, and kind face.  I also was extremely impressed with his fancy purple velvet cape, and his metal breastplate.  Yep.  I knew what I had to do.

I waited for a minute, and then I followed him.

Here's the thing.  When you want something from a stranger, you can't just ask, straight away.  It scares people off.  You have to verbally fuck around for a while.  This is where it helps to play dumb.  So I approached him and asked "Excuse me - what's going on in that room down there?"

He was only too happy to tell me!  He explained about Microcon, and how it was a meeting of people who had formed their own independent countries.  He himself was the King of Arcadia.  He introduced me to his family - two adorable children and a wife.  The kids seemed quite happy in their prince and princess regalia - I wanted the princess dress for Nadia - it was truly fabulous.  The Queen was dressed in regular thirty-something-American-mom clothes, and she looked like she needed a hundred beers.  Whether that was from the convention, or from wrangling two small children, or from her queenly duties, I do not know.  

The King of Arcadia then said the magic words.  "Would you like to join us?"


And so, I was escorted into Microcon by the King of Arcadia Himself!

When we got into the room, a presentation was in progress.  It was a suited young man from California Republic, talking about the plans for updating their embassy.  He had a very fundamentalist look about him.

All around, everyone was fascinating.  There were men in very serious looking military clothes.  There were lots of people in Ren-Faire type clothes.  Many people were dressed in ordinary outfits.  There was one guy who was wearing a crown that looked suspiciously like a Burger King crown, but I withhold my judgment.  After all, it is not for me to look askance at other cultures.  Maybe Burger King is a very important part of life in his country.  

The California Repubic fellow ended his speech, and was followed by The King of Uberstadt, a kingdom located on an island in the Pacific Northwest.  He began telling the story of how he got the idea to form a country, his inspirations, etc.  

And then, Nadia.

I should preface this by saying that it was Nadia's naptime, and I had no business taking her to a meeting of foreign dignitaries.  I fed her a large lunch, hoping that the food would make her content and a bit logey, but it didn't.  Unfortunately, she is conditioned to sleep about a half hour after lunch.  It is our routine, every single day.  Lunch, play for a little bit, nap.  It's Pavlovian.

First, Nadia was fascinated by the cameramen.  (There were cameramen.  Documentary makers, maybe?  Not sure.)  She kept pointing to the cameras, wanting me to take her to them.  I refused.  She started yelling.  "Shhh!" I shushed her.  This worked, sort of.

And then she saw it.  The Hat.

If you haven't spent much time with Nadia lately, you may not know this, but Nadia is very into hats lately.  She LOVES them.  She puts them on.  She takes them off again.  She puts them on  you.  She takes them off of you.  She loves hats.  LOVES them.  

Well this one gentleman had a very fancy, colorful hat with feathers in it.  It was very eye-catching and fun.  Nadia wanted that hat.  She kept pointing at it, over and over, saying "that"  "that"  "that", which is her catch-all phrase for "Give it to me".  I tried to distract her with a pamphlet for the Republic of Molossia, which was even less effective than it sounds, if that's possible.  But Nadia simply refused to respect the King of Uberstadt's authority, and continued to mak noise during his speech.

She began crying.  Crying like the saddest little girl in the world.  And I knew my fun was over.  I suppose I could have tried to get the hat for her, but I don't think that would have gone over very well.  Besides, the meeting was very quiet and serious, and not really a place for a child Nadia's age.  I was extremely disappointed.    

I will probably never get the opportunity to attend another Microcon again.  I am sad.

Concluding Thoughts - 

I know that to most people, these folks are crazy.  Deserving of contempt even.  They are jokes.  But I actually rather respect them, and here's why you should too!

It takes a very special and awesome kind of person to decide to form a brand new country.  There are certain personailty traits one must have to take this kind of action.

1) Confidence
You must have confidence in yourself and your own abilities in order to say "You know, I think I could run my own country!"  Some people might call it over-confidence, or even arrogance, but those are the kinds of people who lack confidence themselves, and who feel threatened by people who aren't crippled by self-doubt.

2) A Can-Do-Attitude!
To start your own country, you have to be the sort of person who is willing to roll up your sleeves and solve problems yourself.  You don't wait for politicians in Washington to solve your problems for you, or for lobbyists to help your cause - you just do it!  Yourself!

3) Imagination
People who start their own countries are not bound by the conventions of the societies into which they are born.  They have the creativity and imagination to see that the world could be different.  They have an idea in their minds of what they want the world to be, and they do their damndest to make it happen!  

4) Independence
If you form your own country, you open yourself up to ridicule and scorn.  They know this.  They have no illusions about how they are perceived by others - but adhering to their principles and ideals is more important to them than acceptance in mainstream society.  We can debate whether this is actually a posititve trait or not - after all, it is important to work and play well with others, as humans are social animals - but I think we can all agree that a certain amount of independence is desirable in most people.

Are these countries doomed?  Probably.  Are they taken seriously by "real" countries?  No.  Are they making any real difference in the world? Meh, debatable.  But I still think there is something admirable about microcountries and the people who found them.  These are people who were, for whatever reason, unhappy with the way things were in their natal countries, and so, rather than whine about how awful things are, they simply said "Fuck it.  I'm gonna start my own country.  And everything's gonna be done exactly how I want it done.  I am the captain of my soul, I am the master of my fate!"  Is it the most effective solution?  Probably not.  But dammit, they do it anyway.  And I like that about them.

Monday, April 6, 2015

Teaching Kids to Share

It's extremely common for children's programs to tackle the "sharing" issue.  And with good reason!  Generosity is one of the most important characteristics a person can have.  I would be extremely disappointed if Nadia turned out to be a miserly person who refused to help others in need.  Helping others who need help is, in my opinion, like 85% of what it is to be a good person.  


The way in which these children's programs tackle the subject leaves a bad taste in my mouth.

The show or book will start off with two characters.  We'll call them Ben and Jerry.

Ben has a really cool toy.  He's playing with it by himself.  Jerry comes up to Ben and says he wants to play with it.  Ben says no, because it's his toy, etc.  Jerry whines.  A teacher or other well meaning adult intervenes and makes Ben share the toy with Jerry.  Together, Ben and Jerry learn that it's much more fun to share the toy than it is to play with it by oneself.  The end.  

Ok.  So Ben has learned that sharing is a good thing to do, and that it can even be fun.  Great!  I fully support this message.

But what has Jerry learned?

Jerry has learned that if he wants something that someone else has, he is entitled to it, or at least to a portion of it.  If Jerry lacks a cool toy, then it is Ben's responsibility to share his cool toy with Jerry.  Jerry is never encouraged to find his own toy.  Jerry is never told that he should wait until Ben is done playing with the toy, and then play with it.  It is always Ben who forced to share, whether he wants to or not.  

Also, it is never, ever discussed that Ben might have a good reason for not wanting to share with Jerry. Maybe that toy was given to Ben by his dead grandmother, and it is special to him, and he wants to make sure it doesn't get broken.  Maybe Jerry is a gross kid who wipes his boogers all over toys.  Maybe Ben simply doesn't like Jerry and doesn't want to play with him.  

I know that I'm moving into morally fuzzy territory here.  After all, it's mean for Ben to exclude Jerry from his game, isn't it?  Shouldn't all kids get along and be nice to each other and like each other?  Yes, in an ideal world.  But in reality, some kids are not very likeable, just like how some adults are not very likeable.  It's never ok to be cruel to someone we don't like.  Children need to know that it's NEVER ok to be mean to another person.  We have to control ourselves and make an honest effort to be kind, even to mean, gross people.  But it doesn't follow that we have to spend our free time socializing with people we don't like.  

I am terrified of the day that some evil little asshole is mean to Nadia.  Of course, I hope that it will never happen, that she will be universally loved by everyone she meets, and that she will never lack for awesome toys to play with, and that her entire life will be nothing but sunshine and rainbows.  But that might be a tad unrealistic.  Someday, there might be a little tyrant on the playground, who has the most awesome of all possible toys, and maybe Nadia will ask to share it.  I hope that the little tyrant says yes, and allows Nadia to play with her.  But if the tyrant refuses, I hope that Nadia maintains her dignity, refuses to whine to a teacher, and finds new friends and makes her own fun.  

Tuesday, March 17, 2015


It's featured in movies and TV shows regularly.  It's wailed over and angrily mocked in feminist blogs.  There are lampoons of it all over Youtube.  Women complain about it happening to them.

A nice looking woman walks past a construction site.  The construction worker and his buddies yell filthy comments at the woman.  The woman is disgusted and gives them a dirty look, or in comedies, she sometimes interacts with the men, putting them in their place.  This sort of behavior is so very, very common.

Yet it has never happened to me.  Not once.

I've been whistled at, but only by boyfriends, or male friends being funny.  It was never anything threatening or disgusting - it was always in good fun.  And though I know I should be happy about the fact that I've never been treated disrespectfully in this way, I can't help but feel the tiniest bit...sad about it.  I can't help but feel that it's in some way a comment on my lack of physical appeal.

I know that this makes me a Very Bad Feminist.  I know that what I'm saying is fucked up on many, many levels.  But really?  Every woman in the world has been catcalled except me?  Why not me?  Am I so asexual that no sophomoric construction worker would ever dream of saying something inappropriate to me?

When I have these thoughts, I sometimes tell myself that it's not because I'm the ugliest woman in the world, it's because of how I carry myself!  I exude confidence and strength, and those idiot men know that I can't be intimidated or bothered by their shitty behavior.  I'm like Professor McGonagall.  Or the Dowager from Downton Abbey.  Or the Queen of England.  Then I remember that those are all old woman - badasses, yes - but old women - and then I feel kind of bad again.  

I'm not jealous of the women who get catcalled, exactly.  I understand that it's not a GOOD thing for men to treat women as if they are sexually available, simply because they are walking down the street.  But it can't be normal that it's never happened to me ONE SINGLE TIME!   I'm like a fifty year old virgin, or a grown man who has never driven a car, or anyone over the age of five who has never seen The Wizard of Oz.   And yes, I'm an idiot, and yes, I'm being awful, but whatever.   I'm also right.  

Monday, January 5, 2015

I Hope I Don't Forget These Things Now That I'm a Parent

1) It is not my place to be the fashion police.

Of course, it is perfectly acceptable to enforce basic rules of propriety - for instance, I would not let Nadia wear a Catwoman suit to a funeral - but if it is just a matter of personal taste, I need to stay the fuck out of it.  

When I was young, I saw the following horrors thrust upon my fellow children -
* a boy forced to wear extremely high waisted jeans, because his parents disapproved of the saggy look.  They seemed unaware of the fact that there was a happy medium between tight cowboy jeans and jeans so low that the underwear showed. 
* a girl who was not allowed to shave her legs until she was thirteen, even though she was hairy like a male yeti.  She was mocked relentlessly.  What was her mother thinking?  What was she afraid would happen if her hairy-ass daughter shaved her legs?  That she would contract tetanus?  That she would turn into a slut?
* A girl who was not allowed to wear nail polish unless it was pink or red, because any other color was "inappropriate".  
* A girl who was not allowed to cut her ridiculously long hair, because her dad wanted it long for some reason.  She looked like she was raised on a polygamous compound, and she clearly hated it.

All of these are examples of parents forcing their taste on their children, to their children's detriment.  Fashion changes.  What was cool when I was young will not be what is cool when Nadia goes to school.  And unless her clothing choices are offensive or dangerous in some way, I need to stay out of it and let her experiment with how she wants to present herself.

2) The kids who kiss my ass are not necessarily the nice kids.

We all knew those kids.  They were super polite and perfect when adults were around.  And in return, all adults loved them.  "Why don't you invite Kid A to your birthday party?  She's such a nice girl!"  

But she wasn't a nice girl, was she, ladies?  No.  She was an evil bitch.  But nothing you said would ever convince the adults in your life that she was anything but an angel.

3) The kid who has no manners is not a bad kid.

The kid who comes to my house and has no understanding of how to eat at a table,  who never says please or thank you, who uses foul language, etc - is NOT a bad person.  He is neglected, and possibly abused.  Obviously no one gives a shit about him, and no one has ever bothered to teach the child how to behave.   Lots of times, I've heard parents say that they don't want Such and Such KId to come to their house because she's rude and awful.   They need to realize that A) If a child doesn't know how to behave, it's not the child's fault, and B) Allowing the child to hang around  your home will help to teach that child how to behave properly.  Children learn my example.  If you ban the rude kid from your home, all you've done is teach that child that manners are the domain of snobby, exclusionary assholes, and she might not ever learn any better.