Wednesday, December 29, 2010

a rambling mind, the early years

I confess...I believe that we are all fluid and works in progress.  I believe that we are impacted by a multitude of factors and always becoming rather than finished.  That said, there are many moments in my early years that show much of what makes me who I am was there from fairly early on.  Some examples...
  • From what I've heard, it isn't uncommon for babies to react a bit to the many vaccines that mark the early months of life.  They get cranky, maybe even run a little fever.  I went beyond that and got very ill with every vaccine.  They actually adjusted the routine to try and alleviate the misery that I showed (and that, no doubt, was passed to my mother).  I haven't changed...I don't get the flu shot because I react terribly and I'm generally on the sickly side. In later early years, strep throat was an annual event. My body showed some of its challenging issues pretty early on.  (Side note:  I favor vaccinations generally...I'd get any that are really necessary and vaccinate a kid if I had one)
  • My mom was the primary care-giver in the early months (well, beyond that too).  She's a speech pathologist by trade.  My dad's a doctor and everyone in my family in education oriented.  No one spoke baby talk to me.  Pretty much ever.  I'm not sure how old I was..probably pre-verbal myself but close to talking when my grandmother's friend visited.  She didn't know the speech habits of my household and, while doting on the adorable baby (modest, huh??), she touched her necklace and said "Look at the pretty beady beady beadies"...or something close.  My mom says I looked at her like she was completely nuts.  Conjecture has it that I was thinking, "It's called a necklace, lady" and just couldn't say it quite yet (though I did talk early and in more complex phrases than the average to)  The traits seen here...being on the smart side (more modesty), liking well-used words, and being a bit snarky when intelligent people act stupid.
  • I remember the aftermath of this event, but not the moment itself.  Apparently, I had asked a pre-school classmate to move.  She didn't.  I asked her again.  She didn't move.  I bit her.  She moved.  What I do remember is hearing two teachers talk and hearing the term "problem child" retrospect, the teacher was likely pretty thrown when the 3 or 4 year old girl with all the curls said "Problem solver!"  Again, a bit sassy.  And also quite logical...I apparently explained it to my mom with the logic above...asking didn't work, biting did.  (Note:  I outgrew biting, but still like logic)
  • There are two circus tales.  I think this one happened a little later, but I want to build to my favorite.  I was on a school trip, either kindergarten or first grade (i.e 4-6yo).  My trip-buddy and I got lost.  She thought she saw the teacher (another early sign...I was shorter and couldn't see), she dropped my hand and ran off.  I was alone in a big crowded hallway.  I wasn't all that scared because I knew what to do.  When you got lost, you were to stay where you are and the grown-ups would find you.  So, I sat down.  In the middle of the hall.  I remember ankles passing, many almost tripping over me.  I'm here so I must have been found but I think that may not have been exactly what the teachers meant by staying put.  Early insight here, I like rules and tend to follow most.  I also take things pretty literally.  And I get lost easily.
  • Circus Story #2 (and my all-time favorite story of me) was with family.  I watched the events with rapt attention (another lesson: I was a good focus-er, even at age 4ish).  I very clearly remember when the tightrope-walker-man appeared. The crowd fell silent, as they do at such moments.  I remember being filled with fear and worry for this man.  I wanted him to be okay. I felt tense and I couldn't contain my concern.  With the crowd silent, I yelled up to the tightrope-walker-man "Be careful, don't fall!"  I remember the crowd, and the tightrope-walker-man all turning to look at the odd youngster (still with loads of curly hair).  I imagine that somewhere there's a tightrope-walker-man who tells this story (and maybe uses it as a warning in training new folks).  Early signs of me:  I am a talented worrier and this extends to utter strangers...I worry about people I pass on the street...I've gotten shier (note: did you know shyer and shier are both accepted?) and quieter, but I'm still yelling warnings inside.
I have others examples covering many me-ish things...early love of books, never-ending clumsiness, being the only kid who didn't have big lists of toys or other things I wanted for the holidays.  But I like the tightrope-walker-man story (and saying, though not so mugh typing, tightrope-walker-man) so let's end there.

Monday, December 27, 2010

book review: The Women Jefferson Loved by Virginia Scharff

I confess...I'm not a history buff (in large part b/c my fact-memory is weak), but I've always had an interest in the often untold stories of the women whom history tends to overlook.  Thus, I was interested in The Women Jefferson Loved, a recent book by Virginia Scharff, and selected it as one to receive from Harper (in return for a promise to review it but w/ no limits on what I write).  The book is focused on the home life of Thomas Jefferson and the women he cared for including his mother, his wife, Sally Hemmings (a slave w/ whom he had a long relationship), his daughters (only two lived to adulthood), and a bit on his granddaughters.

I really enjoyed this book.  It showed that the women who supported Jefferson lived complex and difficult lives.  Many women in his immediate circle perished in childbirth and the women often lived with the debts that his position entailed.  I had been aware of the Hemmings story but learned a lot more about it...I hadn't realized that the relationship developed only after his wife's death, that Sally was also his wife's half-niece, and that she was about 30 years his junior.  Throughout the book, the author notes the complexities of slavery including the shadow families that were so common and the balancing of ideals with the reality of the times. 

There are a lot of names here, which tends to be hard for me in any book.  The author anticipated this, using nicknames to help distinguish different women and providing both a genealogy chart and a "cast of characters".  I very much appreciated these additions and they contributed to making the book an enjoyable and approachable read.  Definitely recommend to anyone with an interest in women's history...not the women who made the headlines but rather the women behind (and overlooked by) the well-known stories of historic men.  Four stars (of five...I rarely give five).

Sunday, December 26, 2010


I confess....I'm going to whine.

I'm in a lot of pain.  It is the wrenching pelvic pain that comes from the endo and is always at its nastiest when I'm on the tail end of a bug.  It feels like someone reached inside my, around the hip line, and is twisting everything tightly. 

I spent the morning curled under the covers waiting till it got bad enough that my body let my mind go and I just passed out.  It isn't fainting, but it isn't real sleep's hard to explain.  I was at the point where I just waited for it to get a little worse because I knew it would take me away.  It is an odd moment that only other pain folks get...when you almost want it to get a tiny bit worse so your mind leaves. 

I actually did walk a bit.  If I can get moving, I get a break while I'm going and for about 20 minutes after.  Then it comes back.  Worse.  Much worse.  I went back to bed.  I even curled up next to my mom...not at all like me...sometimes you just want Mommy...even if you are 33.  I curled up and shook...there's this odd point of pain that just makes me shake like a leaf....I have no idea why.

I'm out of medicine and feeling grouchy generally so I'm taking the totally unhealthy approach of wine and comfort food.  The wine will eventually help a bit with the pain.  The comfort food will...well, comfort.  Though the snow limits my options...but I'll make do. 

I was tempted to watch the football game...I normally couldn't care less but it's Philly versus Minnesota which has a bit of an emotional tie to it this year.  It is postponed till Tuesday...I doubt I'll watch it then, especially after an extra splurge day today (I know that isn't a logical head works its own way).

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Here is a Human Being: At The Dawn of Personal Genomics by Misha Angrist

I confess...although I tend to be a fiction gal, the topic drew me to Here is a Human Being: At The Dawn of Personal Genomics by Misha Angrist as a book to receive (and then review) from the folks at Harper. I never really focused on science studies but I was always intrigued by genetics and fulfilled one of my natural science requirements in college with a course titled Human Genetics, Ethics and Public Policy. I was in college in the later 90s so obviously there has been change since then. I say all this to provide more information about my background...I think I'm a smart gal and I've had more than passing exposure to genetics issues but I'm really a lay-reader in this realm. I'll also admit I read this with a nasty head cold which limited my ability to focus intelligently.

That's important context for my review. I found the book very interesting, but I had a lot of trouble following it. It felt a bit jumbled to me. The book explores both the technology of studying human genomes and the ethics and other human issues surrounding it. The main focus is a project that sought to sequence and make public the genomes of 10 individuals who were selected because of their knowledge and understanding of the field. Angrist does try to explain the technology and science but I got a bit lost in it at times. I was more drawn to the ethical issues and thought they were well explored. I was drawn to a few individual stories (esp. a young girl whose father was trying to identify the condition that caused her health struggles. I cared less about the battles between different companies and different techniques for gene study.

There's a lot of information in this book, a lot of good information, and I'd give it high marks for content. But the form was hard to follow and made the reading experience much more difficult. It might be better suited for someone a bit closer to the scientific realm or with a bit more patience for pushing through the information.

Monday, December 20, 2010

destined to be well worn...favorite new reads of 2010

I confess...I tend to get a bit befuddled when asked to make "Best of" lists. Though, ironically, befuddled would totally make a list of Words That Are Just Plain Fun. But, it is the season for such things and I feel like partaking. Being me, the topic is clearly Best Books with 2010 being the year I first read them, regardless of when they were written. Being me still, the list shall be in alphabetical order so that it is clearly not in any "rank" order. More me...a caveat that I probably missed some. And the use of bullet points :)
  • The Book Thief by Makus Zuzak -- I've read a lot of WWII-era novels but this is truly special. It is narrated by Death, who isn't at all evil...just a "guy" with a job kept quite busy in 1940s Germany. The protagonist is a young girl, sent to live with foster parents. The book celebrates acts of bravery...from big ones like sheltering a Jewish man in hiding to smaller acts like handing food to the starving or refusing to fall in line with Hitler Youth. Beautiful tale celebrating the important acts of everyday people. It's classified as Young Adult but has great value for adult readers as well.
  • The Bucolic Plague: How Two Manhattanites Became Gentlemen Farmers: An Unconventional Memoir by Josh Kilmer-Purcell -- I'm a fiction gal and I would never have bought it on my own. I'm so grateful that it found me (with help from the folks at Harper). Josh and his partner, Brent, both have middle America roots but are very much New Yorkers. During an apple-picking excursion, they fall in love with an old mansion on a farm in a small rural town. The memoir follows them as they work to restore it to working order, learning about the realities of farm life and also themselves in the process. I not only gave it five stars but felt inspired to write the author (who wrote back!!). It is a very real book, things aren't perfect nor are they all Green Acres cute. The farm struggles (still does), their relationship struggles, they doubt. But it is just a beautiful tale. Try it, even if memoirs aren't your thing. (Side Note: They have a TV show too, The Fabulos Beekman Boys...I watched a few minutes but it didn't pull me in. Also, I'm not a Martha Stewart follower but Josh's partner was Dr. Brent and on her show).
  • Cutting For Stone by Abraham Verghese -- I just reread this story of twin boys (conjoined but separated at birth) born to a nurse-nun in Ethiopia who dies in childbirth. Their father, a doctor, flees and they are raised by two other doctors who are struggling to keep the hospital afloat and to save patients suffering as much from poverty and circumstance as disease. The author is a doctor himself, which is made clear both in the medical language and in the passion for the art of healing. At root, it is a story about family and loyalty. Taking the narrator from birth (well, even before...) to adulthood and Ethiopia to New York, the novel shows insight into culture, devotion, and the journey that forms our identity. (Side note: On the first read, I gave it four stars on goodreads...I actually enjoyed it much more the second time which is rare)
  • Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close by Jonathan Safran Foer -- A young boy tries to make sense of the world after losing his dad in the 9/11 attacks. This is an unconventional novel but it works beautifully. The young protagonist (who shares narrating duties with his grandparents) is insightful and wise. His journey is unique (he looks to find a lock that matches a key he found among his dad's belongings) but the motives are universal -- it is his way of trying to make sense of a confusing and troubled world. Truly beautiful.
  • The Forgotten Garden by Kate Morton-- I don't tend to read thrillers or detective tales but recently became a fan of literary mysteries. This book tells one overall story through three women in three time periods. The modern narrator learns that her grandmother was a foundling whose efforts to track down her roots were cut off when the granddaughter was left in her custody. Many elements are beautifully woven together including a book of fairy tales, family secrets, a garden hidden behind a hedge maze, and competing loyalties and loves. A great book to get lost in and one you are sorry to leave.
  • Little Bee by Chris Cleve -- An African girl (well, young woman) shows up on the doorstep of a successful and busy magazine editor on the day of her husband's funeral. Many reviews warn that they can't really tell you what happens without giving too much away and I agree. As the novel unfolds, we learn how the women are linked through an unthinkable shared moment during the editor's visit to Nigeria. The story is one of endurance...facing horrors, coping, surviving, and moving beyond the impossible. It stays with you for its depth and beauty. Even the somewhat comic image of the editor's son, a little boy who only answers to Batman and refuses to wear anything other than his costume, is a statement about coping and asserting control in a chaotic world.

I look forward to new journeys, meeting new characters and visiting new worlds, in 2011.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

guilty pleasures

I confess...I'm wanting to wallow. The endo pain is at the point where I want to curl up and cry, but I'm trying to distract myself a bit. I've taken medicine but it is only helping a bit. And I felt bad about it since I'm running low and feel bad asking for more. Anyway, the idea here is to move on so I'm going to confess to some guilty pleasures...

  • I've watched a lot more TV in recent months but I limit what counts as a guilty pleasure (though I'm hard pressed to put that into a definition...if you have read this blog, you'll know that is frustrating). Glee is a guilty pleasure because of the cheese-factor (despite some very serious storylines) and because anything where they regularly burst into song counts. Community is a new love and I'm not sure why I'm a little embarrassed about it...maybe b/c of how much I like Abed. The View is AWFUL but terrific treadmill company. I stand by my Gilmore Girls love but tend not to re-watch anything so the daily 5PM reruns fall into guilt-land.
  • You know I love my sweets. Most of them are limited to my "off" days, but Chocolate Goldfish are in my daily plan and a bit of a blush-er in the grocery cart. On a different note, the Mousse-style SF Jello cups are an odd texture but I've become addicted.
  • I spend a LOT of time online....I could go on for a while about that fact in itself. My new guilty web indulgence is The Frisky. It's a mix of gossip and random girl chat with a good number of daily updates. I read several forums on Television Without Pity daily (mostly in the Potluck area). I'm awaiting the new incarnation of Ask Ausiello...I don't read most of the articles since I don't watch too many of the shows he covers, but I've become a spoiler-seeker (and that's a guilty admission too).
  • I subscribe to two magazines. I really think Women's Health is of decent quality so it isn't a guilty pleasure. Glamour totally is. Again, it's treadmill candy. I used to get a bit embarrassed reading some of the sex-related articles in public but I've gotten over that. At my current gym, they don't have a great selection of mags there (I leave mine...I think others should return the favor) so I've been known to glance at an Us Weekly or Entertainment. The guilty pleasure becomes guiltier since they are often way out of date.
  • I got a new purse around August. I'd had my old one for at least 5 years and it was time. The new one is a bit bigger. My mom considers it small but I don't carry much since I'm not a make-up gal and I carry a spare contact rather than my glasses. The guilty admission...I love that it is the perfect size for a paperback. That makes me happy (and makes me relate to Rory from the aforementioned Gilmore Girls who brought books everywhere).
  • I've mentioned this one before, but I get some of my workout clothes from the girls department in Target. I consider myself pretty average sized (well, these days that's tough to say...I'm a healthy size) but the L or XL fits and the girls stuff saves a few bucks. I've gotten one regular shirt there as well (usually I pay the extra for normal clothes b/c the shape is different).
  • Gum. A lot. It's not healthy, but especially helpful keeping me from noshing all day when I'm home. It's made a guiltier pleasure b/c it drives me nuts to hear other people chewing gum. I usually do it alone or at least without someone in chew-hearing-distance.
  • As winter settles in, I'm even more inclined to hide under the covers in the morning (again, an unemployment side effect). I'll often read but sometimes I just curl up and turn my mind off and enjoy the blankets and my new Total Pillow.
  • I know it isn't skin-friendly, or earth-friendly, but I love HOT showers. I am usually in and out in about five minutes on a normal day but longer on deep-conditioner days. Yes, it is good for my frizz-prone hair and I do see the difference it makes. But part of me knows it's an excuse for a longer shower (it needs to stay on for 3-5 minutes). And that might account for deciding I need to use it twice a week.
  • Facebook. Sorry for all the updates. No hurt feelings if you hide them.

There are more but I think I'm done distracting myself and ready to wallow a bit.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Gym Dandy

I confess...I've never used the phrase "Jim Dandy" but I was trying to think of a title and that's what came. I have been a regular at many gyms: UVA student gym, a women-only gym in Charlottesville (it was just cheaper area gyms), multiple branches of LA Fitness in Atlanta, the Weymouth branch of Boston Sports Club, a resident gym in my Quincy apartment building, and a non-chain gym here in PA. So, I am going to lay forth some rules, both for gym-goers and the gyms. This list is in no way comprehensive...not even close. I'm sure I'll want to come back and add on as soon as I hit "publish" but I'll restrain myself b/c that might be a never-ending cycle.

The format is b/c can't get multiple "levels" of bullets to work...imagine what I'd do if I could!! Another ransom note: My very first blog entry was another rules post (public transit focused).

Rules for Gym-Goers
  • Some nudity in the locker room is a necessity. And I totally get blow-drying your hair in a bra and slacks...I have thick hair, it gets HOT under there. But locker room nudity should be functional and kept to a minimum. I admire your body confidence but I don't need a show.
  • There are reasonable priced gym clothes available (Target is a great option). Please purchase them. I've accepted that some people disagree on the need for a gym wardrobe and can deal with some street clothes but still get amazed. Recently, it was a guy in slacks, a button-down work shirt, and a leather belt. A friend shared seeing a guy in a sweater! It baffles me. I'll credit my friend with noting that it poses a danger to the rest of us...cause it is bad of get the giggles while bench-pressing.
  • I'm not a germ-freak. I actually don't always see the need for wiping off a treadmill (you don't touch much of it, unlike a bike or something). But, if you are wiping down equipment (and you SHOULD in the right cases), please don't use your towel on your face and then use the same towel on the equipment...especially w/o any cleaning spray. I know the other direction would be icky to the wiper-person, so try two towels or a paper one for the equipment.
  • You have a lovely singing voice. I don't need to hear it when I'm working out.
  • Smoking is bad for you, but you know that. I won't lecture you. But please wait till after the workout to indulge...breathing is kinda important at the gym and hard to do when there's a human ashtray a few feet away.
  • I do weights and I know they are good for me (and vital to the return of my cute triceps) but I don't like them much so I do like to get through them. Sometimes, I'll switch between two exercises, like a shoulder move and a tricep move, to use time efficiently. This can require having two sets of weight handy. That's well and good. But keeping possession of more than two sets is just selfish as wrong. It's like draping your belongings across four machines at once.
  • I kinda like that my current gym schedule puts me there with the senior set. They smile and I like that they give an air of working out for health rather than vanity. While I'm a solitary gym-rat, I understand that the gym is often a social event, especially for this crowd. It's fine that you want to chat and catch up but please be considerate. Don't sit on the leg press machine and talk for 20 minutes about the Eagles. And keep an eye out, there's a restroom near the aerobics room in my current gym and it is often blocked by folks waiting for their "Silver Sneakers" class and they tend not to notice the dark haired gal trying to get around them.
  • Ladies -- I get that in the afternoon/evening, you might be coming from work and have make-up on. But I'm pretty sure some of you are putting it on before the gym....I get feeling good about yourself at the gym but limit it to some foundation or the like (I don't "speak" makeup...). It isn't a fashion show.
  • I've been known to breathe loud or even make an audible grunt when finishing out a set. But let's be reasonable folks. Being able to hear you across the room is not reasonable.
  • This is not a rule but one of my favorite tips. Ladies -- if you can find one, the gym that caters to gay men is the best thing ever. A compliment is always just a compliment. No one cares about how you look...but there's often quite a lot of nice eye-candy for you :)
Rules for Gyms
  • Okay, you need to make money. I get that. And resolution-season is a boon. And lots of newbies will drop out in a month or so. But there needs to be a limit on sales. In Atlanta, I sear I'd have to wait a half-hour in line to use a treadmill with a 20 minute time limit. I'd like to suggest a "go to the front of the line" card for longer-term folks but I do see that one isn't too likely.
  • Day care options are great and I know they are vital to lots of gym-goers. I like that you have them. But please put a bathroom in the daycare area. At most gyms, the bathrooms are through the locker rooms. There's an age at which kids still need watching but are a bit too old to cross through the opposite sex locker room (w/ a parent or the care-giving-employee). It doesn't bother me in a typical restroom, there are doors there (well, at least for ladies) and I get not wanting to send a 6 year old alone. But the locker room is another story.
  • I've never been a "pink girl" but I don't hold anything against those who are. I know that sometimes the smaller dumbells (3-7.5 lb-ers) are bought separately from the main set. And I know that women are generally the ones who use them, both because we naturally have less muscle mass and because some women have a heavy weights phobia. It still bugs the feminist (I may do a post on what that means someday) part of me when the little weights are pink.
  • Member appreciation days are nice. Some cut veggies or a new logo-ed water bottle would be lovely. But big hoagies, burritos, and cookies are just wrong. I battle tempting food enough (at one gym, I had to walk past a Moe's and a Coldstone Creamery), I don't need to deal with it INSIDE the gym. And the ban goes double, maybe triple, for food that SMELLS tempting.
  • Employees shouldn't hover. I know you want to push personal training but I don't need frequent sales pitches. But they should be present. I don't want tips, but sometimes someone "official" needs to warn a member doing something really dangerous. And sometimes I just need someone to change the channel. I'm devoted to the treadmill but I need entertainment.
  • Not a rule, but just something that would be nice. Most gyms have a little vanity area for post-workout primping. It would make me smile if they left a few hair bands there. I know you can't anticipate everything I might forget (I've neglected a sports bra and even a left sneaker) but I know that my hair tie is vital and is probably the most forgotten item for ladies. I've given one out more than once, in exchange for the promise that the recipient do the same one day. Cheap-o ones are fine, because I can totally see folks stealing them, but I'd love a gym that anticipated the need.
  • Broken climate control qualifies as a gym emergency. That problem was largely an issue in my apartment gym. I get that it isn't of the same rank there that it would be at a "real" gym but, when it is 95 degrees...or 3 degrees, it can render the gym useless. One branch of my Atlanta gym also had climate control issues several times. In the summer. In Atlanta.
Yeah, nowhere near complete....
This isn't a tip but something I want to say. I'd like to say I don't notice when a larger person is at the gym...people say that when overweight folks are nervous about starting to workout...but it isn't true. I do notice. But it is with awe and admiration. I know it is harder for people with a significant weight issue to go to a gym, both emotionally and physically. I know it takes more work for them...I couldn't go as fast on the treadmill with a 75lb backpack on. I want you to know that I know it takes an extra effort. And that I admire you so much for it. I won't tell you, because I feel like it won't come out right, but I think you rock.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

checking in w/ me

I's time for a check-in with me. There will, of course, be bullet points...

  • Body

I "failed to progress" in PT so I was kicked. I am a logical and rational person and I do understand that the insurance company won't keep funding something that isn't helping. I had no real pain relief and made only a small advance in flexibility. I KNOW that I worked hard in PT. I'm just frustrated. My older PT said it can take 90 weeks to heal these injuries. My old doc said it is a minor injury medically but still feels like a bullet to the spine. I'm trying to believe and trying to do the strength work on my own. It is a lot of work.

The endo is also acting up. I had a tummy bug around Thanksgiving and I have a bit of a cold now. For me, any sort of bug sends my body into a downslide. The cold is just a sniffle so far but the hives and endo are kicking up. One of the friends that I've reconnected with did have a hysterectomy to treat endo. I'm not sure if that's right for me...endo is odd and I have a small amount of it but a lot of pain so I don't know if that would impact a doc's willingness. I've never "needed" to have kids but I am not quite ready to write it off. I have decided that I'll evaluate that again when I turn 35....looking at where I am then (including relationship status).

I'm not thrilled with my current weight but I'm trying to be okay with it. I have definitely added back a LOT of lost muscle. I am VERY proud of that. And letting myself say so:)

  • Jobs

Still plugging away. I have a few visions of jobs I'd really like but know I need to keep things broad. I'm worried I scared one employer away with an ill-posed question (one I thought was reasonable but these days they have so many people to choose from...). In the ever valid words of Dory from Finding Nemo...."Just keep swimming!". Really, that's one of my mottos.

  • Relationships

I'd definitely be ready to date. I am at peace with the divorce...I still shed some tears at times but I think that's normal. I still, however, feel like a can't look for a relationship until the job falls in place since I'm looking in multiple markets. I am more a relationship girl than a casual dates girl and wouldn't want to risk a hard decision (or do long-distance). I have a jumble of things I'd look for in a partner. Smart is key, probably including well-educated because that's a big part of my identity. I want someone who is active (my gym habit is baffling even to active folks but would be too strange for a non-active type). Physically, I definitely prefer strong guys, tall is nice too, but I'll admit I would feel intimidated by "perfection"'s my body issues talking there but it's honest. Non-smoker. Enjoys red wine (so they'll share a good bottle). Non-smoker. Here's my oddest pets. I love dogs but my allergies would never cooperate (even with those labeled non-allergenic)...cats get to be an issue too. Personality-wise, I think I like dog-lovers but I would never date a dog owner because there would someday be an awful decision to be made...I couldn't live with someone giving up a pet for me.

  • Books

Only in my world would this be its own bullet line. Truly, books have fed me even more than normal in the past months. I often read more than one a week...recently, I went through three in three days. Luckily I find good deals on them and I'm waiting on a shipment from Amazon. I love falling into a book, meeting the characters, and thinking about their worlds. I have read several WWII era books recently with an amazing variety of voices and contexts....I think it is an era that the current crop of writers are intrigued by since it is recent and still felt today but also a bit removed. My last read was a harsh reminder of how recently terrible racial divisions exist. Okay, I know they still do. But it was interesting to note how even the "good" characters took for granted that the black neighbor (returned from the war) "belonged" in the bed of the truck if he got a ride from town (not the cabin, next to the white driver).

Books are in my blood. The time to read and enjoy the experience (rather than just using it to unwind before bed) is hands-down the best part of unemployment.

  • Etc.

I'll see the step-family folks for the holidays. It will be fun...there are three step-siblings, all are married with nine kids amongst them. My aunt and uncle will also join. I don't know if some other folks will be there too (my step-siblings have steps on the other side too). I'm glad I get to join. And, I'll confess, glad I'll go home after. I am easily overwhelmed.

In January, I'll spend a few days at my dad's. I like that we have a better relationship than when I was young and that I feel welcome and wanted in his home. His current wife is always kind to me and she encourages, rather than blocks, our relationship. It will always be very complex with lots of baggage but it has very much evolved. There are steps and youngin's on that side too...a fun group that I'm glad to have added to my world. I have half-siblings too but that's even more complex...not sure I'll see them.

I often meet some friends for Friday night dinner (I can't say that w/o thinking of Gilmore Girls...but mine is chosen and one I enjoy). I sometimes stop by another bar has much better wine and a half-price happy hour. I've met some nice folks there and that's been a pleasure. One thing I didn't like in Boston was it didn't feel welcoming. This place is totally welcoming and I really enjoy that. And the good wine choices helps does the fact that the bartender knows what I like. I enjoy having a "regular" and folks who know who I am.

  • A Wish and a Promise

So, for my birthday (12/13), I am asking for more followers for my blog. I don't know why I want more...I just do. Rationally, I know I have some regular readers who aren't registered "followers"...I appreciate them too. What can I say? I like numbers. I am going to get to be a part of a "blog tour" in February for one of the books from Harper (I think they have reviewers lined up to post one the book each day for a bit...)....that sounds fun. I have to make sure I have good regular posts near the time of the review....

Which leads to part two of this section, the promise. My promise is that my next post will be more interesting than this one....I felt the need for a self-check but I imagine these aren't the most intriguing for readers.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

a scary tale and navigating the line between caution and fear

I confess...many of you have heard this story before. But I've been feeling compelled to add it to my blog. They say things you post online are there for ever so I guess I want it recorded. It is a story that could have had such a bad ending. It is a story that still scares me, no matter how much time passes and no matter how much I share it. It is a story I want to share because I want people to know it is real.

It was the second New Year's that I spent with X...12/31/2003 (I am never confident in labeling the holiday with a's NYE 2003 but it became 2004). We went to a fancy hotel party...the kind with an open bars, several different rooms with music, fancy clothes, and fresh Krispy Kreme doughnuts at 1AM). We'd had dinner before, nothing fancy but plenty to prep for a party, and I had a few bites off the snack buffet too. I recall getting in line for a drink, it would only be my third glass of red wine...three glasses is generally enough to relax me but not enough to really make me drunk, just a little happy. The line wasn't too long but I recall the guy behind me commenting on the fact that a guy near the wall seemed to be staring at my butt. He offered to angle himself to "protect" me from the gaze. I kinda laughed since the guy he accused of ogling was X. We chatted very briefly, I got my drink and went off to join X.

I don't know how much time passed, I don't think it was long. I remember feeling really upset all the sudden. I'm told I demanded X go find us champagne for a toast as midnight was approaching. He says he protested he might miss the moment with me but I was adamant. I do know he didn't make it back for the stroke of midnight and I know I looked mad since I remember a guy (not sure if it was the one from the line) trying to say something to make me feel better.

It's hazy beyond that (well, during that too). I got more and more upset. I do remember a girl stopping me in a hallway and telling me it would okay but I should go to my room and lie down (many people had rooms there...we didn't and planned a cab ride to X's after). She said we all had night "like that" and that I should go lie down and things would be better in the morning. I'm not sure when, but X eventually started to sense it was more than me being dramatic. I think we sat outside a bit...I have a memory flash of slumping over on a curb. We got a cab and I am told I passed out the moment we got seated. The next flash of memory is of me standing in the bathroom at X's apartment...I wanted my earrings out but was baffled by how to make that happen. That's all I have from that night. The next day, I was very very sick. I don't know that I'd even finished that third glass of wine...

I'd never put my drink down. I'd never let anyone touch it. But I have no doubt that I was drugged. I suspect it was the guy in line by the bar. I don't remember anything specific but it wouldn't have taken long for him to pass a hand over my glass and drop something in. I didn't make any obvious mistakes. It is only because I was with someone I could trust that the story isn't much much worse. X was angry and confused at first when I was acting off (totally understandable) but ultimately he made sure I got home and safely to bed (umm, to be 100% clear, he put me to bed to sleep...). He brought me water the next morning and even came back to my place (unplanned, we both had work the next day) the next night to make sure I was really okay.

I have tried to find the lesson here. The best one I can get is to have people looking out for you and to look out for each other. Look out for others too...if you have a concern that a woman is not functioning and may be at risk, tell someone to see if you can have help (as a woman, I'd be nervous intervening on my own, I think a bartender would be a good option to help). When I first shared this story, I said you should always have someone you trust nearby. I'm older and my life has evolved. That doesn't seem like it is always going to be possible...I go for a drink on my own these days. I don't take extra risks (I don't leave an unfinished drink if I go to the ladies room). When I'm alone, I do chat with the bartender...partly because I like to, partly because I know they are another set of eyes. I stay alert and aware, not only of my surroundings but also of my body...I hope I can catch the warning moments.

I wish there was some magic answer. I'm struggling with how to close this post (and I'm coming back to add this in partly because I don't feel satisfied after doing so...the following are the only words I'm finding....). The solution is NOT cowering in fear and never having another beverage in public. I got on a plane in October 2001 because I felt and still feel that "they" win if I don't keep living. I will be smart. I will make good choices....not "perfect" choices because there is no such thing...but I will do my best. I will fight the bad guys by being one of the good guys. I haven't had to face the moment when I've seen someone whom I think is in a danger zone, but I hope I'd find a way to intervene. I will keep sharing my story to make others aware...not to make them scared but to remind them that these stories aren't just quick items on the evening news. As corny as it sounds, knowledge is power...awareness is isn't perfect, but it's what we've got.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

the journey

I confess...I'm feeling reflective lately.

The following paragraph is from a Thank You email that I sent following on phone interview. I had parts that were a bit more specific, but this paragraph was rattling inside my head last night and I think it expresses a lot about where I am:

At the risk of committing a few interviewing faux pas (the recruiter in me knows not to talk about age or anything remotely religious), I'll share a bit more. I have never been a religious person but I have a clear memory of my AP English teacher telling us to always watch out for 33 year olds. Per her discussion, it is considered the age at which Jesus died and authors often use it to signify characters at a crucial changing point or ready for rebirth of some sort. I turn 33 on December 13. By any measure, my 32nd year was a rough one. It has, however, led me to reflect and take stock of who I am and what I want my life to be. I have had the job with the big paycheck and the fancy office and it didn't satisfy me. I have had a job that was "just a job" and I still worked hard and found things in it to nourish me, but I felt empty. I want to look back and say that 33 is when I found where I belonged.

I'm not one for resolutions or bucket lists. I get nervous even with enumerated goals (of a personal nature, I like enumerated goals in my work world...actually, I really really like enumerated goals in a professional context, especially ones I can measure and check off of a list). But I do have things rattling in my head that I want to strive towards. I want to feel good about what I do...ideally this comes from work given the time we spend there, but I can find it someplace else too. I don't have anything more specific about what that means -- (I felt like I needed a change from the dots there) finding it will be part of the journey.

In another vein, I also want to try to get published. I submitted an essay to a Glamour contest about my eating battles. At this point, I'm pretty sure I didn't win. I actually wasn't enamoured with the was important to me and personal but I'd had to work to reach the minimum word count and that made it much less "me" (I like to be succinct). Being a lawyer, I recall that entering the contest meant signing over the copyright on the essay but I think I can fairly take it back to the pre-adding-words-for-words-wake stage and try some other places. I don't have a story to fill out a novel and I don't think a book of my ramblings would find enough of a market, but I will try to send out some essays. And take pleasure in just the trying, even if it never goes further.

These aren't resolutions. And I don't even want to call them goals. They are steps on my journey...not the only steps rattling around in my head, but I hope they will be part of my evolution.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

and so on...

I confess...I was trying to avoid my trademark bullet-points, but I'm giving in...

  • Happy Hanukkah to those who celebrate. When I was very young, my mom and I only had a one bedroom apartment. My "room" was actually a dining area...a small space off the kitchen. But I didn't know it...there's a beauty in being five, I suppose. At Hanukkah, my mom put the menorah on the half wall between my room and the kitchen and it made me happy.
  • I continue to wait for us to get rid of legalized discrimination on the basis of sexuality. As I've said before, I hope that in a generation or two, the kids are as baffled by these bars as we are when we think of bans on interracial marriage etc. But my tendency to want the right words is putting me in an odd spot...I can't fully say we need to repeal "Don't Ask, Don't Tell." I want people to be as open as they choose, to "tell" if they so desire. But I don't think we should be asking...
  • I never excelled at foreign languages but I recall a French teacher saying it meant you were on the way to fluency when you dreamt in the new language. I've had several dreams recently about pain...really, I didn't want to be fluent in that.
  • I was discharged from PT. I know I got stronger, but the pain wasn't better. I thought I was more flexible but she said it was just a few CMs and that it wasn't enough to satisfy the insurance folks.
  • It says so much about our world that there are PSAs telling people to stay home from work when they are sick.
  • I drink way too much diet soda. I often recall an exchange with a friend (hi, L!) about how sometimes we really liked the tickle of the bubbles. I'm totally wanting that these days...maybe due to dry air from the heat.
  • I was sick last week with a tummy bug. With me, that means I get another week with the endo bad. This is when I question whether my immune system is bad or REALLY good but confused. Whenever any bug hits, the endo and hives fire up for a while.
  • I mentioned this in the last post, but one of the things I do enjoy about unemployment is slow mornings. I like to linger, then get the contacts and teeth in shape, grab a beverage, and slip back into bed to read under the covers for an hour. It rivals my post-workout shower as a favorite time of day.
  • Ben Affleck is about to be on Ellen. Clearly, I need to go.
  • But, first -- I have three exciting phone interviews coming up. Send good vibes!

Monday, November 29, 2010

books, a love affair

I confess....I need the extra space.

We moved to this house when I was eight. It was the summer before I started fourth grade. We were still somewhat new at the blended family thing but I was the only kid who was going to be a full time resident. My step-sister must have been starting college and my step-brothers would have been in their teens. I'm guessing it was with an eye to their various visits that the guest room was furnished with two twin beds. Since my return home in my thirties was unexpected, my childhood room has long been an office (both mom and step-dad work from home) and I am in the guest room. The twin bed has taken an adjustment and there is a bit of an emotional/mental downer in using it, but the second bed is mighty handy. I have a bed for me. And I have a bed for my books.

I am generally not a very material person. I don't tend to want a lot of things (which frustrates folks in December with my birthday and the holidays crammed together). But I hoard books. They are my wallet-weakness. I know I should use the library, but there's something that compels me to OWN my books. I prefer paperbacks, and would even if they weren't cheaper, because they fit better in my hands. This is especially true since I enjoy reading in bed, traditionally before going to sleep. The upside to unemployment is reading in bed in the mornings too. It's a lovely way to enter the day, especially when the air is cold and the blankets cozy. I've fallen in love with getting used books (always in good condition). I suppose there's an irony since I take them out of circulation, but I kind of enjoy wondering where they've been. I loved the one that had stamps showing it lived abroad and in a library. I kept a plane ticket stub that fell out of another (travel b/w Croatia and Italy!!).

I am sure I've said before that I revisit books. I have a decent memory for happenings in my life but have never been good at memorization beyond that. It's why I never enjoyed history classes...the stories of history intrigues me but I never could recall dates or make analogies to other events. Likewise, I sometimes recall how a book "felt" but I never fully remember it so I can reread it without boredom. Some I even reread annually...those I do recall more strongly but I still find new wonders each time.

I tend to be drawn to character driven books (I swear I've blogged on this before but can't find it...). I don't need a complex plot, I'd rather have complex players. I don't need to love the characters, in fact I prefer that they have imperfections, but I need to be intrigued by them. I like them well-rounded and with warts. I don't want them to be quite like me or like people I know, I like to "meet" new folks, but I want to understand them (even if I don't agree with them). I tend to read "quality fiction" with an occasional chick-lit break thrown it, though I've enjoyed getting to explore other genres through the HarperCollins review team.

That last paragraph feels thrown in to a post more about physical books than their stories, but I didn't want to skip it. I'll return though to the material reality of reading before I hit "publish" and send this off to the e-sphere. I desperately hope that "real" books don't become a relic of the past. I suppose they are a bit safer than records/tapes/CDs since they can be enjoyed without any extra equipment, but I hope they don't disappear with technology. I know many who love their e-readers, including my dad who is a fellow book addict, but I just can't do it. I want to hold my books, not a tablet computer. I want to feel them and turn the pages and dog-ear them (yes, I dog-ear...and I'm proud of it!!). I like the heft and the reality. When I left Boston, I brought a large duffel filled with some "essentials" and left several boxes full of books to be sent when I have a new place of my own. The second twin bed has the books that came with me and many more that I've found since then. I may need a two bedroom apartment to accommodate them when I settle again. It'll be worth it to have their company.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

it's been a bit...

I confess...I sometimes even think in bullet points. Being the type to overthink things, I wonder if my bullet posts are annoying. Then I realize it's my blog and I can do as I please. Then I wonder again. Then I think I want more followers....some sort of ego thing....then I wonder if bullets bore followers. Really, life in my head is quite complex.
  • Two weeks ago, I missed a birth control pill one night (took two the next). Normal women take a week off of active pills every month. I don't since I take them to control the endo. I was off with ONE pill after years of no misses. I ended up curled in the fetal position for a week.
  • Yesterday, I went to the store and bought a pint of ice cream and a copy of Shape magazine. I caught the cashier (well, self-checkout supervisor-type) grinning.
  • I've come to a conclusion on the marriage stuff. I am not mad at X for divorcing me. I am, however, mad at him for marrying me. He knew the problems that ended up making him leave were there and just hoped they'd change. He didn't take me as who I am. I admit I'm not perfect, I own that I have issues that contributed to the problems, but I was open about those. I took him as he was (he isn't perfect either...), he didn't do the same.
  • A guy hit on me the other day. We'd made eye contact at a bar (we were the only ones under 60 there alone). He came over and said "You have pretty hair." I thanked him. He said "It's long." I said "Yes" and that I'd worn it long for many years. He fumbled with his beer and then eventually left. It was kinda sweet and felt nice but, as a suggestion to readers, an opening compliment is lovely but you need to have a follow-up. Yes, I could have helped, but wasn't feeling motivated (or, honestly, attracted).
  • I can feel my core muscles getting stronger from PT. Definitely a good thing. I get nervous before appointments sometimes because I can't think of much to say and you kind of need to talk during the assisted stretching part.
  • I've never been a fan of the Thansgiving meal. I am, however, looking forward to: lox pinwheel appetizers, squash, and dessert. And red wine...but that's a given.
  • My mom has always cooked Thanksgiving. She puts on music since she's in the kitchen for a while. It is often the only time of the year the CD player is on and it is often Barbara Streisand (some stereotypes of New York born Jews hold true). For this reason, whenever I hear Memories, People (Who Need People) or other such songs, I think of turkey.
  • An addition to my treadmill tv viewing is On Demand episodes of The Defenders. I was really surprised to enjoy it. Not "fine TV" by any means, but a fun watch.
  • I want to see Harry Potter but want to let the crowds die down. I'll admit they've all fallen downhill for me after the first...but that's not unlike me.
  • I'm waiting for a new shipment of books. I've taken to buying used ones in good shape from Amazon. There's usually a $3.99 shipping charge on each since they are from different places (not Amazon itself) but that's not a bad deal when the books are usually between a penny and four dollars.
  • My birthday is sneaking up. It triggers a random bit of mental trivia from an English teacher. She said to watch out for 33 year olds because that's the age at which Jesus is said to have died and thus it often has meaning when used. I'm wondering what meaning 33 will have for me. My 32nd year was not a good one but it does present the opportunity for 33 to be a re-birth of sorts. Now the same voice at play in the intro to this post is wondering if that statement would be offensive to some people. I hope not.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

two-for-one: Mental Floss History of the US & Take Me Home

I confess...I procrastinated a small bit so you get a double review. Both brought to you by the lovely folks at Harper who send me promo copies.

  • The Mental Floss History of the United States: The (Almost) Complete and (Entirely) Entertaining Story of America -- Will Pearson, Mangesh Hattikudur, Erik Sass

This definitely falls into the realm of a book I might pick up and glance at on my own but wouldn't likely have bought if not presented with the opportunity to read it for Harper. I enjoyed it, though I think it may be better as a "pick-up and read a few pages" book than one read straight through.

Mental Floss is a magazine that presents factual information in a humorous tone (how is that for a totally non-humorous description). I knew the name in passing but hadn't read anything in their retinue before. This novel begins with the arrival of man in North America, makes a quick leap to European explorers (w/ a solid explanation for the missing detail due to the lack of written artifacts), then goes through colonialism and American history through Obama and the current recession. In each section, it gives a general chronology, reviews some popularly accepted misconceptions, and covers some biographies and popular topics. The whole is told in a very readable, enjoyable manner. I made a few new discoveries (Washington wasn't a great general) though less was a surprise than it might be to most since my education favored questioning history a bit more than most.

It is an enjoyable ride. I do NOT intend it to be negative when I say it would be a great "bathroom book"'s simply a book that would be easy to pick up, peruse for a few pages, and then put back down till a later date. I'm not a history gal (partly b/c I have no memory for it so it frustrates me) but it held my attention and I give it 4 of 5 stars.

  • Take Me Home -- Brian Leung

This novel falls into the realm of books that I wanted to like more than I did. I very well might have picked it up on my own and I wouldn't have regretted it but I also would be unlikely to return to it or pass it on. I'd give it a solid 3 out of 5 stars.

The novel follows Addie Maine in both her first stay in the Wyoming Territory (1880s) and her return as an older woman (1920s). The focus is on the earlier period, when she joined her brother who had been attracted to the territory by the promise of a homestead. Having found the land rough, he ends up working in a coal mine shortly after Addie arrives. The area is populated by both Caucasians and Chinese, the latter brought in by the rail and mine groups to provide cheap labor. The lack of money leads to strong racial tensions, tensions to which a growing friendship between Addie and a Chinese man run counter. I won't say too much more to avoid venturing into spoiler territory, although it becomes clear early on that Addie is wounded in a local riot (one that has a historical parallel).

I like stories about strong women and Addie is certainly one. I am also interested in the history of racial tension, especially stories that sometimes go untold...I knew of tension with those of European descent and the Chinese (it's easier to have tension w/ groups that appear different on sight) but not of the particular story that provides the historical backdrop for the tale. I just never felt fully pulled in, never fell into the story and the characters (I've said before, characters make a book for me more than plot). I wanted to know a lot more about Addie's lone female friend in the territory but that was pretty much a side story. Leung (who I think is only on his 2nd novel) has talent for identifying an interesting context and tale. His prose flows well and has character. But I just didn't find myself surrendering to the tale enough to give it a higher rating. Good, but not great.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

a really rambly post continuing the talking theme

I confess...I finished a book so should be writing a book but instead I want to ramble more and expand on the last post. Which in a way is ironic since the main point is that I know I talk less than the average person. Warning -- I know this is more disjointed than most. My back is bad and I took some medicine to help and am a bit disjointed (EMPLOYERS -- I WRITE BETTER THAN THIS!!).

I don't feel the need to speak nearly as much as others seem to....and I know it can drive others nuts (AGAIN, EMPLOYER-TYPES, THIS IS SOCIAL ME...I INTERACT WELL IN AN OFFICE SETTING WITH FOLKS AT ALL LEVELS...I LIKE TO SHARE A STORY ABOUT MY LAST DAY IN MY ATTORNEY JOB TO SHOW THIS, CALL AND ASK ME ABOUT IT). I don't always say "hello" to someone who enters a room (I know this bugs my mom). I don't feel the need to say too much about my day...especially these days when the main difference is the level of pain and whether or not I had PT. I have a very busy inner monologue but rarely actually talk aloud to myself (though my thoughts are often in fully-formed that normal??). I admit I'll speak under my breath when I'm upset/arguing...stuff I want to voice but don't want heard...but most of my spoken words are meant to be heard. I call out Jeopardy answers if people are around but never if I'm alone.

There's a listening side here too. I get thrown sometimes when people chatter, especially if I'm involved in another task. I think I concentrate more on verbal exchanges than most (see prior post)...I mostly speak if I really want something heard and, in return, I really listen if someone else speaks. I sometimes throw in a comment about a TV show, but it is carefully timed to fall in a silence. It drives me nuts if people talk over a show since I can't hear both at once. And I'm often truly watching and listening rather than using the TV as background noise.

I think this may tie in to a hearing issue. I can't distinguish sounds too my old apartment, I had to turn the TV up when the air conditioner fired up and I had trouble with conversations when I was on the train. My mom's a former speech therapist and says this is a figure/ground issue. A hearing aid wouldn't help since it isn't volume but rather the ability to separate sounds.

I think it is also about attention. I want to be listened to when I speak so I want to listen when you speak. If you are just talking to talk...or talking more to yourself...I have difficulty. I've started to just plain ask whether my mom is talking to me or just thinking aloud. And, while it may be sad, I do often really want to pay attention to things like my book or a TV show (especially my favorites!!). I can multi-task with many things, but it's harder for me when it involves listening and/or speaking. So, unless it is time-sensitive, it helps to wait to the commercial (or ask me to look up from my book).

The X (see for definition) was (well, is) a talker. And the difference definitely frustrated both of us. He'd decide to talk less to accommodate me but seemed to put that into practice at inconvenient times. If we're at dinner, let's talk. But I kind of like companionable silence when sitting on the couch or driving in the car.

So...I'm not sure how to wrap-up here. If I don't say "hi" when you enter the room, don't think I don't care. If you're talking to yourself, warn me and all is good. Gilmore Girls is on in twenty minutes, so talk to me on the commercial (oddly, I could read a reply here easier than listen to someone speak). Forgive me for being a bit of an odd-duck. It isn't you, it's totally me.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

le mot juste

I confess...sometimes I feel like an explorer on a new planet. I watch people and am fascinated by them and I think I understand them, but I have trouble translating that into interacting with them. To be clear (READ THIS ANY POTENTIAL EMPLOYERS), this is Social Me...Work Me has a task and is representing more than just ME and Work Me does fine.

I think part of the issue is that I communicate differently than many people. I don't feel the need to say too much and I like to be able to really think before I speak. I form my thoughts before I voice them rather than working them out as I speak. I know where I'm going. And, I'll admit, I get frustrated with folks who don't. Not because they are in any way inferior, but because I just don't relate. I get frustrated with people grasping for a word or finding their way to the end of the sentence during a pause rather than in advance. I know this is my issue, not theirs. But I still get impatient.

I also really like the RIGHT word. Which can mean I'm quiet while I find it. And that I sometimes get confused when people misspeak because I am truly listening to the specific words and need clarification. It also explains why I like to write more than speak and why phones can be a bit scary (AGAIN, NOT AN ISSUE FOR WORK CHERYL, IN CASE YOU WONDERED). Actually, I write pretty quickly but I'll go back to fix a single word to fit better. It is not about grammar, especially in blog-land where I rarely go is about the perfect words. I get frustrated when I can't put my finger(s) on the word I want. Right now, I'm annoyed that I can't say "le mot juste" with one English work.

I think my communication style also plays into, but doesn't fully account for, my social nerves (I think that's a better word than anxiety for this instance). I get nervous in conversation, especially one-on-one. I do think quickly (modest, huh??) but I can't always verbalize immediately. I know I fall back on some less than ideal traits to compensate. I often throw in a "me too" story because I want something to say and I want to be a part of the conversation. I worry this comes off as one-upmanship. I don't intend it as such and hope you'll forgive it.


Saturday, November 13, 2010

book review: maryann in autumn

I confess...this is another book review and, after reading other folks' thoughts on the book, I realize I am again out of the target market. But, again, I still enjoyed the read (and, again, this was a book sent to me by the lovely folks at Harper with my agreement to review it but no limitation on content or nature of the review). Mary Ann in Autumn is a recent release from Armistead Maupin and is part of a long-running Tales of the City series. I think I may have read one of the books 15 years ago or so, but I'm not a follower....clearly, the series has MANY fans from my perusal of other reviews.

The book is built upon the return of Mary Ann to San Francisco from twenty or thirty years away on the East Coast. It follow her plotline as she reunites with friends, deals with crises in both her health and her marriage, and evaluates where she is in her life. Other characters include her estranged daughter who writes a sex blog and is drawn in by a homeless woman and a transsexual man who becomes acquainted with someone very much outside his world. From other reviews, it is clear that most of these characters are "known" to followers of the series but you can certainly catch on and enjoy the book without that familiarity. The book can stand alone (though I think it might contain "spoilers" if someone read this and then went back to the prior books) and does so as an enjoyable tale of deep friendship and identity (that's my theme lately, I suppose). It is an easy read with inviting prose and well-constructed characters.

I do think you'd enjoy the book more if the characters were old friends, but I still enjoyed the visit. I gave it 4 of 5 methodical mind wants to say 3.75 stars but I think the last 1/4 would be an easy give for fans of the series. For those unfamiliar with the Tales, it's still enjoyable. It clearly operates from a very open-minded position on sexuality and gender...that fits with my views but it might not be for everyone so I do want to include that proviso.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

book nook: Cinderella Ate My Daughter

I confess...I was never a girlie-girl. Nor am I mother or a sociologist. So I may be a bit outside the primary demographic for Cinderella Ate My Daughter: Dispatches From the Frontlines of the New Girlie-Girl Culture. But I am fascinated by the development of identity, especially in girls and women, so I was excited by the chance to read this book by Peggy Orenstein. To cover formalities: I was provided an advance copy of the book by the lovely folks at Harper (but they do NOT control what I say about it)...expect three other reviews in the near future (one very near since I'm 3/4 through another book).

Moving on...Orenstein has previously explored gender issues but watching her own daughter led her to focus on girlhood beginning at a younger age. It was fascinating to learn that the concept of "pink is for girls" is relatively new and that the idea of Disney Princesses as a stand-alone concept (apart from the movies themselves) is only a decade old. On a side note: the Princess concept is marketing-driven and apparently the "purists" at Disney objected and, as a result, the materials with all the gals have them all looking away from each other. Orenstein explores the pluses and minuses of princess-play and the mini-pop-star phase that follows on its heels (think Miley Cyrus and Hillary Duff) as well as children's pageants and the role of the internet-world on girlhood.

The book is intelligent and informative. Orenstein clearly has her views but she does attempt to solicit input from opposing camps. She makes clear that she isn't some paragon of perfection as she presents vignettes from dilemmas encountered in her own role as mother to a young girl. I'd give the book 4 (of 5) stars. I think it would be of particular interest to new moms (and maybe not just moms of girls, although that's the focus) but it needn't be limited to that audience. Anyone interested in the development of identity and the impact of our culture on girls (and thus on women...both of today and of tomorrow). It was a very fast read (my copy was ~180pp) but gives a lot to think about.

Monday, November 8, 2010

levers and punchcards and scantrons, oh my

I confess...this post would have been more appropriate last week. So, ummm, rewind your mind...and giggle at my little rhyme.

I'm a December baby and started school early so the first time I got to vote was in the Fall of my sophomore year in college. My first lesson in the realities of democracy came with registering to vote. My college was only about 1100 students but certainly the type that put the "liberal" in "liberal arts education" (side note: I actually have a picture from my freshman year with a bunch of liberal Democrat students and a few communists smiling aside a likely-unknowing Bob Dole). But, anyway...the first lesson in democracy came with learning that our tiny school had been gerrymandered into three different districts. The area itself was fiscally conservative and I guess we proved a threat. The college had also repeatedly offered to host a polling location for one or more district but the folks-in-power somehow decided that it was better to, literally, place a polling place in some guy's garage. Can't make it too easy for them youngin's to vote.

As an excited 18 year-old, I did a bit of volunteering in advance of my first ballot....which was November 1996. Given the political dynamics, the college crew had done a lot of work for a US House candidate in a neighboring district. None of us could actually vote for him, but it was where the energy might pay off. We held a big party on Election Night and celebrated Clinton's re-election, but the House race remained too close to call. In the end, our candidate lost by a mere 84 votes...a minuscule number in a US House race. Part of that was painful, we could have called 85 more people!! But, it was a very real and vivid lesson that voting does matter. Yes, most elections won't be that close, but they can be and you don't want to be left regretting apathy or laziness. We worked for the same candidate again two year later. He won.

So, that's where I started. I voted this year knowing my folks were unlikely to win, but I still got my butt there (and avoided the three car bumper-bashing mess as I was leaving the lot). I've voted in PA, VA, GA, MA (and PA again). I've used levers, punchcards, computer cards, fill-in-the-lines, and light-up ballots. My favorite was the absentee ballot in VA for 2000...they sent the punchcard ballot and included your very own little puncher (kinda a straightened paperclip). I have a semi-interesting story of Election Night 2000 but that's more of a verbal tale.

Ultimate point...I voted. So, even though I concede my choices didn't carry, now I get to complain if I don't like what happens.

Sunday, October 31, 2010

distracting myself....

I confess....I'm really just trying to distract myself....

  • My back hurts. Bad. The endo hurts too...usually the back distracts me but today it's both firing full force. I've actually had some okay days in the past few weeks but today is very bad and I am medicine-less. Which means I want a lot of comfort food. Which wouldn't help.
  • After finally seeing the Project Runway finale, I'm hoping Heidi decides to invest in Mondo herself. I do think Gretchen is more marketable, but Mondo is more fun and seems more runway-like.
  • I miss Mad Men but am looking forward to Men of a Certain Age in December.
  • When we first moved to PA, we could get close to 100 kids on Halloween. My mom says we get very few now. When I moved here, there were families with girls my age on both sides of us. All three families are still here. I'm fairly sure those are related.
  • I am coming up with excuses to make a right turn after PT even though I need to go left b/c it's always backed up. Voting will be a good excuse on Tuesday...I'd prefer to go earlier but like the right turn excuse.
  • I want a tuna melt. Which is odd since I generally hate mayo. See entry one, I suppose. I also want wine. And chocolate.
  • Sestak, Onorato, Murphy. I may skip other questions since I haven't paid attention to any other races.
  • I wonder what will fill all the ad space after polls close on Tuesday.
  • I've read three fiction books set in the Holocaust era lately. I've appreciated that they've had three unique focuses. The most recent was about a camp in Israel where British forces detained undocumented Jewish refugees after the war. The camp was probably well-intentioned and humane in general terms but must have been awful for people fleeing memories of fences. (see
  • An Internet friend needed support a few days ago but I just didn't have strength to give that day. I feel guilty about that even though I know it genuinely wasn't mine to give right then (and that I still supported her in my heart).
  • Still hurt.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

americans who like puppies and kitties

I confess...I forget what is advertised on TV when they don't have political ads for four out of five spots. I'm also envisioning the use of assorted digital tools and such to enable political ads in a product placement format...Booth and Bones can talk about a local race (w/ the fancy computers helping tailor it) rather than the gadgets in a Toyota.

Anyway, I have two "thoughts of the day" related to political ads:

Thought One:

I'm living in Southeast PA at the moment. We have busy Gubernatorial , Senate, and House races of our own and our TV stations cover multiple states. It amuses me how many of the ads fail to mention what office the candidate is seeking. Honestly, I had to do a bit of work to figure out which ones applied to me. I know that other races impact me in terms of the balance of the federal government and even at the state level for things like redistricting. But I obviously only get to vote in my specific campaigns.

So, let's add a requirement that ads not only mention their sponsorship but also name the office they are seeking. It's good to say who brought you the message...though I am waiting for one by "Americans Who Like Puppies and Kitties" since not all having clear names...but it seems more important that people know which names will be on their ballot.

Thought Two:

I fully own that this thought is not flushed out AT ALL.

I'm troubled by how much money is spent on political advertising, especially in the cases where mega-millionaires are involved (i.e. E-Bay lady). I think we need a rule requiring that a given amount go to charity for every dollar spent on political ads....ideally charities specifically aimed at the area they seek to represent. I foresee a bit of complexity in making sure the money isn't going to a political charity (even some 501(c)(3)s have pretty obvious political ties) and I'm not sure how to solve it. Maybe the money goes to schools...since we all like schools....or food banks since I think we all like that too.

Like I said, not fully flushed out...I've got the idea, I'll let someone else figure out the details.

(unofficial Thought Three: Click the "Follow" button and follow my blog...'cause I said so)

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

tales of school

I confess...I've been thinking a lot of schooling lately. Some of this is more general and theoretical...I still think we need longer school days and years despite some disagreement to that idea when I mentioned in on Facebook. Other parts are more personal. I suppose the theory would be of broader interest, but oh're getting some vignettes of my education instead:

  • Writing Like a Sixth Grader

One of the first assignments for English in sixth grade was a project about the Summer Olympics. My mom was an active parent and helped proofread most of the project but thought I should do two sections on my own. I got a B. At Parents' Night, the teacher told my mom she gave it a lower grade because she thought I'd had too much help. As proof she cited two sections, the one's I'd done alone. She admitted that she'd since seen more of my work and now wouldn't have questioned it. Turns out, my mom tried to edit the work to sound like a genuine sixth grader...but I didn't write like a sixth grader on my own.

  • Tracking, In Bold

I have noted before that I benefited from tracking and its tendency to give the very best teachers and smaller classes to the honors classes. And noted that I feel a bit guilty about that since it isn't very fair to the rest of the school. In junior high, I took all honors courses...except for Science...I was recommended to Honors but I always had to work very hard in my courses and needed one class where I could relax a bit. My honors teachers were active and involved with debates, conversations, role-plays, and more. My science teacher once had a computer brought to the classroom. Two kids could use the program at a time. The rest had to sit silently. I tried to take out a schoolbook and work...I think it was even the textbook for that class. I got reprimanded and told to put it away and sit quietly. Not something that would have happened in my other classes.

  • Honor Code Preview

In ninth grade, I'd missed the Social Studies teacher handing out a take home exam. When I got the papers from her, I asked if it was open-book and what the time limit was for the test. She laughed. She couldn't imagine giving a take-home exam with resource limits (and this was a Gifted program class). I was a bit hurt by the lack of trust that implied. I ended up at both a college and a law school with strong honor codes...including unproctored exams that were sometimes closed-book and/or timed.

  • The English Major Pep Talk

I majored in English because I liked it, not because I excelled. I did well and all, but my non-major GPA was definitely higher than my English GPA. I told a Professor that I felt intimidated when people flung back and forth elements of critical theory...I enjoyed talking about literature but the theory and the language of the discipline were hard for me. I was nervous in this Prof's English Drama class, even more so because I knew he was going to be my senior thesis advisor. He told me "Cheryl, you sling the vernacular has but you know what you're talking about." That felt deeply insightful...and accurate.

  • The Socratic Method

The image of law school is one of the Socratic method, where teachers guide by asking questions of random students rather than simply explaining the matter at hand. Really, many of my Profs only did this first-year or at least gave you warning of when you'd be on call. I was in first-year Property. I'd already been called on so I felt confident I was in the clear. I was cold and borrowed a friend's flannel shirt. The room filled up and I realized it had been flagged as a course for admitted students to observe during an admitted students visitation. The sixty person class doubled. And, within two minutes, the Prof called my name. She was known as a tough one...and very good Prof but a challenging one. She kept on me the whole class. At the end, I hadn't taken a single note (a friend gave me some later) and really couldn't recall the content. The sleeves of the flannel were wrinkled into tight balls. The Prof stopped me on the way out...she said I'd done very impressively (I'd NEVER heard her do that before) and that she'd called on me because she knew I'd be prepared and do well. I was amazed she even knew me apart from the rest of the class. The next year, first-years remembered me and said the class almost scared them away from law school. I took the Prof again my third-year and she lamented that 9/11 interrupted my scheduled on-call days. She and I were really different (she's very conservative politically) but her respect really meant a lot to me and still serves as a boost when I recall the experience.

I should proofread this. But I'm feeling lazy.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

mini-post: an amusing political ad

I confess...I have an angry tummy that doesn't seem to want to get okay. Being me, this means I want comfort food but I've managed to be smart thus far. I am very ready for this tummy monster to leave now....I keep picturing Rudy Huxtable as a five year-old telling the germs in her tummy to stop partying.

I feel the need to post but don't have a ton of energy. So I'll just share a political ad. It seems like 3 of 5 prime time ads right now are political...maybe 4 of 5. We're in the southeast corner of PA so we get two statewide PA races plus a handful of PA House races and we also get ads for neighbor states. Including Ms. O'Donnell but I already complained about her.

Anyway, I like this one. It is a bit corny but I think it is actually a decent response to ads criticizing the candidate for voting in favor of bailouts and the like:

Thursday, October 14, 2010

this time i'll be bullet-points (i amuse me...)

I confess...I am feeling particularly rambly and random today. And you know that means you are treated to a bullet-point post....
  • Is it still an attack ad if the opponent would embrace everything in it? There's an ad now that one candidate runs noting the other compares himself to Rick Santorum and opposes a woman's right to choose. I do see the wisdom in the ad, especially in an area that is economically conservative but socially more liberal making a fertile "middle" group of voters. But the opponent wouldn't disagree with the it is still an attack?
  • I went to a small local supermarket today and felt jolted back in time. The aisles are tiny and they didn't need to scan my soda 12 packs (5 for $10 is why I went) even though they were different types...which surprised me since it meant an inability to track stock details.
  • I am awaiting a book shipment and re-reading Little Bee by Chris Cleave. I love the following passage:

On the girl's brown legs there were many small white scars. I was thinking,
Do those scars cover the whole of you, like the stars and the moons on your
dress? I thought that would be pretty too, and I ask you right here please
to agree with me that a scar is never ugly. That is what the scar makers
want us to think. But you and I, we must make an agreement to defy them. We
must see all scars as beauty. Okay? This will be our secret. Because take it
from me, a scar does not form on the dying. A scar means, I survived.

  • I am glad that bullying is getting so much attention. I went through years of it and it is horrid and awful and technology has made it all the more pervasive.
  • I am starting PT again next week. This is good. I hope they take my old PT up on his offer and call to chat with him. I liked him and think he worked to understand me, both in terms of the physical injury and my mental/emotional space around it. I did ask for a PT who'd understand an athlete/gym-rat and that is truly important to me. I think it makes for different goals than a worker's comp or elderly patient. It also means I know my body well and I appreciate someone who talks to me with that understanding.
  • Christine O'Donnell is NOT me. Even the people I vote for are NOT me. In some ways, I hope they are BETTER than me. I'm smart and a good person but don't think I'd be good in politics. I could take a candidate saying they'd "speak for me"...though even that seems limited since they speak for many more voices than just mine.
  • I think I may be done with CSI: Original. I like Nick and Greg but have been less of a Catherine fan and really can't stand "Dr. Ray." My reaction to him is a lot like my reaction to Goren on L&O: CI...pompous, know-it-all folks annoy me. It is even worse with Ray since he's actually a junior team member.
  • I am enjoying today's rain. Okay, I'm enjoying it now that I'm done my gym and store runs.
  • More bars/taverns should serve tater tots. And not fancy ones with truffle oil that cost $9. The tot is an underutilized side item.
  • You should "follow" my blog. Because I say so.

Monday, October 11, 2010

a bonus book review...The Book Thief

I confess...I typically onlypost my HarperCollins reviews here. I do review other books that I read on Amazon and Goodreads but usually leave those there. This one I wanted to share though because it stood out and has made me ponder heroism and other topics.

I finished The Book Thief by Markus Zusak. I might not have ordered this book if I had seen the "Young Adult" label. I am so very glad that I didn't.

I spent a good deal of time pondering this book and I think it excels at showing an interplay between the extraordinary and the ordinary. Death narrates but not as an evil figure...he's rather ordinary despite having the job of carrying souls away from bodies. Death's not happy about his job but he isn't the cause of the end of a life...he just comes in to deal with the ending (and these are busy times for him with the war and the death camps).

Likewise, the novel's characters are ordinary citizens living in Nazi Germany before and during WWII. Most are swept along in their times, there aren't many bad people and Hitler Youth and swastikas are just part of their is their normal, their ordinary...even if some recognize something is amiss. Some, including the main character and her family, show extraordinary bravery in their quiet resistance. These are truly acts of heroism, but they are (in some ways) just acts of ordinary humanity (handing bread to a hungry man, sheltering a Jewish man) that are rendered heroic by the context of their times.

The style of the novel is a bit unique, with the omniscient narration at times interrupted with short, bulletpoint thoughts or facts. The style appealed to me (a lover of lists, bulletpoints, and non-traditional stories). I saw a review that said this wasn't a quick read but I found the pages flew by fast and I was through the 550 pages in no time at all. It is, however, a story that I'll ponder for much longer than it took me to journey through the words. Strongly recommended

Sunday, October 10, 2010

status update

I confess...I'm either sleeping for too long or not sleeping at all. Neither is the best in the world. Last night, it was the latter and I was tempted to come down and write this but decided it might make me more awake. So, a status bullet points...because we all know I like bullet points. And if you're not up for some reflection on my own state, including wallowing and angst, then you are free to leave and come back for a future post (which you should do either way...and you should become a "follower" b/c I want more followers).

  • Relationshipy Stuff
Okay, most of you know his name but I don't feel it is my place to use it so I will call my ex-husband-to-be simply "X". X and I chat online about once a week. I'm not a big one for big phone conversations so this is better. The chats have been amicable.

X asked if I'm "ready to move on." If that means, ready to meet someone theory, yes. The reality is I want to wait till I feel like I'm someplace more permanent before I do, but that's the practical side, not the emotional. If "move on" means no longer hurt, no longer angry, then then answer is no. But I'm not one to really forget or to shed emotions. I can move PAST it and I guess that means move ON, but I'm not one to forget.

And I'm thinking about it a was last night's source of sleeplessness. I'm angry and hurt that I wasn't enough...that isn't intended as a value-laden sentiment (though it sounds like one), just a fact of compatibility. And I'm wondering if X's feelings changed or were never really there. I do NOT mean to imply anything malicious. It would have been a lie to himself as well as to me (and others). I don't hate him and, even when I am angry and feel like throwing things, I do not think X is a bad person at all. I do NOT want to disparage him. But I just have a lot in my head....and heart....
  • Job

I'm frustrated. I was laid off in April. Having spent the past years in recruiting, I know it isn't unusual to be looking for more than six months. There's an odd reality that the search is often longer for people with graduate-level makes us harder to place. Especially when we don't want the most natural position for our degree. I'm underqualified and overqualified. I know I have great skills and that I'm a "catch" for an employer...I work damn hard. I know it is largely the market....I've heard several times that I was at the top of "Tier Two" where "Tier One" was folks with experience levels that I couldn't match (they'd held the exact job before...though I can argue for me being better anyway...). It's just still hard. And it is hard to put in effort when you keep getting knocked down.

And it just feels like I'm on pause until I fnd a job. I don't want to get too settled and I can't fully move on without that step, especially with a nationwide search. I had to ask X to send down some fall/winter tops...that made me sad. I'd hoped to be in a new job (and thus a new place) before I needed them.

  • Body

It hurts. A lot. When I move, I feel a knife in my lower spine. It travels through my hip and down to my knee. My foot is probably secondary and less severe, but the plantar fasciitis is back. I'm looking into a PT here...that's a mental challenge as well since I'd hoped to wait until I was in a new place but it just can't be put off.

I'd gotten some pain meds but I blew through them way too fast..I'm scared about not having it. And I worry about using to much. I worry a lot (I'm a talented worrier)...too many PSAs and ads for Intervention. I DO take them to escape, but not from life...just from my body (the pain, not any emotional/mental body issue). The medicine lets me escape from my body a bit, which feels more like a hindrance and a prison than a part of me. When I get that escape, it is hard to go back to the pain...I hang on to the escape until I fall asleep to ease the return. I do NOT think I'm abusing medicines at all. And I'd admit if I was (I admit to abusing Chocolate Goldfish crackers on Fri and Sat). I use it for its purpose. But I hate that my body is such a barrier that I need the escape. If you've read my blog for a while, you know I have mental/emotional body issues in addition to several sources of pain. It is MUCH harder to work on that and to find peace in my body when it is a source of such pain.

The endo's acting up too. But it seems so secondary. I've heard that an itch is just a low-level pain and that scratching overpowers the lower, annoying pain. I guess the level 7-8 back pain is a similar "cure" for the level 6-7 pelvic pain.

  • Etc.

I appreciate the place to stay but still feel 16 being at my mom's.

I'm doing long walks since I can't run...I'm probably doing more than is ideal but it is a time when I can't eat which is good. I am doing upper-body weights once a week and most of my old PT back/core/legs routine on another. I am starting to see my triceps return, which I like.

I drink too much diet soda.

I have become a DVR addict and it will be hard to go without it one day...but I think it will fall into the "not necessary" realm. Though basic cable and wireless may be necessities.

I'm reading a lot. I'm embodying my new shirt that quotes Erasmus: "When I get a little money I buy books; and if any is left I buy food and clothes." Luckily, I usually get them used on Amazon, often for under a buck. Since they are from different places, I pay shipping on each...but $3.99 shipping fees aren't too bad when the book is 75 cents. And there's worse stuff to spend money on.

Ellen's talk show has lost its shine for me (I leave it on most days but multi-task) but Gilmore Girls reruns are still a wonderful thing.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

name-calling (and religion)

I confess...I'm an agnostic. I believe that if there is a God, that it is beyond our ability to know. I realize that this is why it is called Faith. And that's not really the story of this post, but I did want to mention it. I think it is helpful to acknowledge our "come from" places. So that's mine...born to a Jewish mother and taught to be proud of that heritage but it was more a culture than a religious practice.

I've watched the controversy around Christine O'Donnell with interest. She is the tea-party endorsed candidate running in Delaware. I've seen her opponents ads here in the Philly area. I've only seen hers as a discussion point on news shows. I'd certainly prefer she lose but some of the debate is bugging me. There was a quote pulled from an old reel in which she mentions dabbling in witchcraft and she has a new ad in which she states that she is not a witch (she also says "I'm one of you"....which I could go on about in itself but won't).

This whole debate angers me....both the people who dug up the quote and the decision to dignify it with a response. I do understand both, especially given her position in a fairly "value centric" political landscape. But it drives me nuts. It raises the same anger in me that accompanies claims that Obama is a Muslim.

Why do we let religion be an epithet?

Wiccan is a very peaceful and loving religion. I have a friend whom I watched as she embraced the practice and it seems so open and welcoming, more about communing with and respecting the natural world than turning princes into frogs. Islam is similarly a peace-loving religion. People have twisted it an used it to justify horrible acts, but that is NOT Islam, that is evil wearing a Muslim mask. I want to remind everyone who talks about the religious roots of 9/11 that plenty of evil acts were done in the name of Christianity. Some little thing called The Crusades comes to mind.

I do understand that, my idealism aside, America is not ready for a Muslim president. And may not be ready for a Wiccan Senator. I'd like to think either could win a smaller race, in the right community, and I can respect that as a first step. While I understand the "need" to respond to the use of a religious label as an epithet, it still disheartens me. I wish the denial could at least be simple and a basic conveying of use a lighter analogy, like the Seinfeld "Not that there's anything wrong with that" episode, though truly genuine. I don't have blond hair...that's just a truth...but I am in no way disparing blondes.... heck, I get annoyed at blonde jokes too.

I hope that we'll be laughed at one day. I hope that one day people will look at gay marriage like we look at interracial marriage and think we were utterly idiotic for forbidding it. And I hope that one day Muslim, Wiccan, Whatever will not be a loaded and disparaging label. It will be a statement of fact and a label that can be worn with pride. Obviously, I can imagine a truly evil religion and that would be another case. But I hope we'll recognize that Muslims and Wiccans are practicing a good faith. That there are certainly evil members in both groups and that they may cloak their acts in their faiths. But that we'll be smarter than they are and see past the excuse...that we'll see them as exceptions and disparage the individuals rather than the groups.

I think most Americans would say the embrace the freedoms upon which our nation was founded. I hope one day we'll truly practice that belief and widen it beyond our narrow purview.