Saturday, August 28, 2010

me: a user's guide...

I confess....I despise "about me" sections. Law school applications required a vaguely labeled "personal statement" and I used my space to talk about how ridiculous it is to encapsulate a person in one page. So, this is NOT an "about me" and it is in no way all-inclusive. It is, however, a bit of a users isn't everything (I know I'll think of more as soon as I hit "publish post"), but it gives some idea of things you should know if you are going to be in my world.

Here we go:
  • I live with chronic pain. I have had endometriosis for a long time and more recently have a painful back problem (minor in medical terms, but painful nonetheless). Living with pain is very tiring so I can be pretty low energy and sometimes putting on an outside face takes a LOT out of me. I try to warn people when the pain is bad...I know it makes me grumpier and snappy. I haven't had any medicine in a while given transitions in my life but I felt like the days that I treated pain gave me a glimpse into normalcy....and I am jealous.
  • I have eating and body problems. I do NOT expect anyone to really understand them. By nature, they are not rational. If you are going to be close to me, I won't ask for understanding but you will likely need to live with the impacts at time (like me needing to "be good" sunday to thursday with a few self-guided exceptions). I do fight it. I do work on it. But I think I will always be recovering, never totally recovered. I feel guilt when it impacts others. But it does. And I will always have days that I see a fat girl in the mirror.
  • I worry that people I consider friends don't really like me. I honestly am fine with people not liking me. You don't need to like me. I just want to KNOW. I don't want to be where I'm not wanted.
  • In some ways, I am very low-maintenance. I don't want much in the way of material goods. I hate making gift lists. I will spend money on food, wine, and books. I've only worn real make-up for weddings...I recently bought a tinted moisturizer (darn thirties kicking in more) and that feels totally odd to me. I do however require more emotional maintenance. I can't define that well. I need validation.
  • I consider myself smart. I know I have a fast brain. This can come across as a "better than thou" attitude. I think, though, that I am really good at understanding different intelligences and fortes. I think other people have better memories, musical skills, social intelligence, and more. I do watch and evaluate people but I am more likely to focus on the characteristics I wish I had than any area in which I might be "superior".
  • Likewise, I know I come of as snobby sometimes. I really don't think I'm better than anyone. I don't like beer or football or slapstick comedy. I don't really understand some things that I don't indulge in. But I don't think any less of others for their own preferences.
  • I have a love/hate relationship with my hair. It stands out. People know me by it and don't always recognize me if it is pulled back. Some days, I do think it is pretty. Others, I wish I could chop it all off (I can't...I'd look like an electrocuted troll doll). It frizzes if it even hears about fog or rain and makes me fear them.
  • I don't sleep well. Until my twenties, I thought it was normal to take a minimum of one hour from "lights out" time before falling asleep. I am jealous of folks who fall asleep when they hit the pillow.
  • I need a good bit of alone time. And truly alone...not hiding in a sports bar among strangers, not even being in the living room when others are upstairs working. I recharge alone. Alone isn't always lonely for me....I often feel loneliest in crowds. Needing time alone is about me, not about anyone else.
  • I have trouble trusting people. Again, this is much more about me than about the other people.
  • I like lists. But hate that they never feel complete. I'll want to edit this. But I'm not going to...

Monday, August 23, 2010

school day hypocrisy

I of my pet peeves is hypocrisy. Which means I get especially peeved when I exhibit it myself. It doesn't fit the textbook definition of hypocrisy, but I still feel like a bit of a hypocrite when it comes to my thoughts on education.

I've been back in my childhood home recently, after leaving for college 15 years ago. I've reconnected with a few people and have also "met" other people who had gone to school with me. It doesn't surprise me when I don't know my former classmates....I graduated in a class of 800...and we were a smaller class than many in the 10-12th grade high school. Further exacerbating the size issue is the fact that the school was VERY tracked, especially at the far ends of the bell curve. I took mostly honors classes which meant I really saw about 80 of the 800 members of the Class of 95 on a regular basis.

I benefited hugely from tracking. I had excellent teachers, many with graduate degrees, and smaller class sizes than the "average" courses. I took some classes at "regular" level to help stay sane and even as a teen noticed the discrepancy in the education provided. My honors classes sometimes resembled college courses in the expectations and content. I got a great education in them (and that's on top of being in a high-quality school district).

But I feel conflicted because I see that tracking can be so dangerous. It limits the educational opportunities of so many, including students who could really shine if given the right teachers (I am NOT saying there aren't GREAT teachers at all levels...totally generalizing here folks). I also know that tracking begins very early and becomes self-fulfilling. I took an education class and observed a first-grade classroom where the advanced reading group tended to be female and white, while all the minority boys were in the lower group. I worried that those labels would stay forever and that the children would be limited by them. I joke that my educational fate was determined because I was good at blocks and it just evolved from there (okay, no idea if I was good at blocks...but you get the idea).

So, I worry about tracking and labeling and object in principle. But I know that I was it's beneficiary. I also think that one of the greatest dangers to our public schools is that informed parents opt-out of the struggling districts, either by moving or by using an alternative school (private or charter). This leaves a more vulnerable group of children in schools where the parents are not as equipped to protest. Again, generalizing here...many of those parents are limited by economic and social factors from forcing a major change. I think flight is the biggest factor hurting our public schools....but I also know that if I were a parent I would put my own child's welfare above my philosophy and flee if I thought it was necessary. Which totally would make me part of the problem. And my mom definitely had my education in mind when we moved before 4th grade....because she knew it was important and had the economic ability to choose.

I'm not being overly articulate today. The battle between philosophy and practice (benefiting myself and a theoretical practice of my own) bothers me.

I'm darn good at guilt.

Monday, August 16, 2010

more ramble ramble rattle rattle

I confess...another series of rambles are rattling around my head:
  • I learn a lot from news stories. Clearly freedom is only for those we deem worthy and the actions of the few can be ascribed to the many. As I recall, two white men were responsible for the Oklahoma City bombing. Therefore, white men should not be allowed to build in Oklahoma. Right?
  • I get jealous of the people in ads for active senior living communities.
  • My body and I are fighting again. Endo pain and migraines, the latter of which haven't been this active in years. It gets pretty draining to be battling inside yourself all day long.
  • In college, the bookstore had a tee shirt that read something like: "Any money I get, I buy books. With what's leftover, I buy food and housing." Make it "Food and wine" and I think you've got me.
  • My eyelids are dry. How does that happen? My neck is a bit too but I can blame that on blanket chin-tucking.
  • Two more interviews this video (at a video center of some sort, not Skype) and one phone. Progress is good. Fingers crossed.
  • I've been watching The Middle since I've been back in PA. I enjoy it. I like that the kids are so real and that it is just a simple family comedy...there aren't many of those these days.
  • I have also seen ads for Melissa & Joey. I watched that when it was Who's The Boss. Okay, the new one has other wrinkles, but still... It is a bit dismaying to be the age of the adults this time around...
  • Alex Trebek gets too long of a summer vacation. I'm in Jeopardy withdrawal.
  • I like DVR. While I'm not sure I'd spring for it on my own, I am quite enjoying it while I am here. Project Runway and Gilmore Girls reruns go well with treadmill time.
  • There's a lady at the gym who wears a face mask. I wouldn't judge that decision since I don't know her motivations. However, I will judge the fact that I only see it dangling around her neck rather than other her mouth and nose. I'm pretty sure it doesn't work that way.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

wherein i theorize

I confess...I have a lot of theories. Many of these are based on generalizations and this requires a chat with the PC side of my brain. I think that generalizations can be quite useful, as long as they are confined to the right use. Men are, in general, taller than women. That doesn't mean that Sally can't be taller than Bobby. Generalizations are about groups, not individuals. Okay, now that I'm through with that...

Among my many theories are some about men, women and evolution. One that I'll frequently call up is the generalization that women are better multi-taskers while men tend to sharply focus on one task. This seems a well-developed response to evolutionary roles. Women tended the home fires, raised the kids, grew the garden, etc. Being able to multi-task was a necessity. On the other hand, men were the hunters. It helped to focus on one goal, one beast to slay, and not get distracted by the sidelines. It also helped for men to have a keen sense of direction so they could get home after following said beast.

Another generalization has women bonding over emotions and men over sports. It probably helped women to be able to share tips on child-rearing, gardening, and keeping the hearth. Likewise, it helped men to have a companion to help in the hunt....a team is better equipped to capture that buffalo...and the physicality and goal-focused nature of hunting closely mirrors sport.

Evolutionary impulses also make sense in the world of attraction. It isn't to my own benefit, but it makes sense that men are attracted to curves. Breasts and the curve of a hip help distinguish women from girls, fertility from childhood. Hence even skinny models tend to be well-endowed. Maybe they also require less food...though I think skinny-as-attractive (skinny beyond healthy) is societally taught, not evolutionary. There are studies on women's preferences changing throughout their cycles and I believe these often find that more masculine/testosterone-driven features are favored by fertile women. It also makes sense that women would be attracted to strength...a sign the man can defend the home from bad beasts and slay tasty ones.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

book review: Hamlet's Blackberry

I confess...I'm not quite sure yet where this review is going to go.

Hamlet's Blackberry is a philosophical reflection on communication by William Powers. He begins with some vignettes on the digital age then looks to other times of change in human communication and connectedness through a number of specific characters. He closes by pulling advice from those stories and sharing his family's solution to the dilemma of over-connectedness.

I agree with many other reviewers that the middle section...the portion looking at historical figures dealing with technology of their the strongest. I also do appreciate the fact that he doesn't suggest we should completely run away from our "screens" forever and that he has even found a few exceptions when he broke his family's own self-imposed disconnected periods.

This isn't a book I'd have picked up on my own (I got a reviewer copy from Harper Collins), but I did find it interesting. I tend to read before bed and this didn't fit that timing, but that's more a comment on the nature of the book than the quality. I think it is an interesting read, particularly the middle portion. I'd look to it more as a history/review of man's reaction to connectivity and communication tools than I would as a guide to the current digital world (which is how it seems to be billed). I think it is a worthwhile read for the right audience but that the audience is probably a fairly limited one.

Monday, August 9, 2010

where i'm at

I confess...that I've said it before and will say it again, I like habit and routine and "normalcy". Although I've found some day-to-day routines in the past month, I'm still off-kilter and I don't do well with that.

I'm continuing the job search. I have several pending applications and two upcoming phone interviews...all of which are wins in themselves in this economy. I have focused on a few job types, but I'm still pretty open which in itself can be a's much harder to plug "unsure" into Monster! I do have a few ideal job types and skill sets I'd like to use (so if you stumbled on this in vetting is EXACTLY what your opening is), but it's still hard.

I'm struggling too on the weight front. I've had pretty awful "off days," including a "bonus" one last week. I really felt best at 115 but knew I might not be able to stay there and be healthy. I did, however, promise myself not to go back over 120. I'm more often in the 125 area now and I just feel blubbery and icky. I feel the need to put a disclaimer in when I talk about weight...I judge myself much more harshly than I judge others. I have no doubt I'd think another 5'4" gal would look great at my current size. I know I see myself through cloudy eyes. The rise in numbers (scale and jeans size) don't lie though and I just don't like it. At the same time, it is a huge struggle to stay on track, even on my "good days". I hate being a walking contradiction...wanting to have my cake (okay, wine and ice cream is more accurate) and my jeans size too.

I did spend the past weekend with part of my family I hadn't seen in many years. It did create a bit of a funny mental moment. I probably met my step-sisters on my dad's side about 10 years ago. They are close to my age and very nice but I haven't lived in the area so don't know them very well. They are both married (with kids). The laugh-in-my-head moment was realizing that they were all popular and social kids back in high school and it felt kinda surreal for me (quiet, bookish, studious, Saturday night studier) to be hanging out and chatting with them. And to feel comfortable doing so and feel welcomed and wanted.

Other "updates"....(bullet style, b/c it is nice and organized looking),,,,
  • I have a horrid fear of highway driving, especially merging, but managed to drive the 2 hours to Lancaster and back (including the turnpike and another "merging needed" road. I still have the tension in my back and did it at very off hours (Friday at 1, Sunday at 10:30..) but survived which is good.
  • I named my GPS Wilma. Get it??? The car is Betty and the GPS is Wilma :) It was between Wilma and Veronica. I amuse me (and likely only me...).
  • I'm still reading a lot...just did a re-read of a long book to avoid insane book bills. I also am almost finished another HarperCollins review book.
  • I need to buy more face moisturizer...I know, very exciting.
  • I got my car insurance squared away. It is effective 8/15. Then I need to get the car re-titled, tagged, etc here in PA by the end of August. I also will need a PA license since mine expires at the end of the year. Ain't moving fun?
  • I was highly amused that the jeans that fit me best at the Gap were "Curvy" style. I am so not curvy.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

it's all in the fine print

I confess....I'd blame the lawyer-side for my interest in small print, but I'm pretty sure it was there before. In college, I took a class called Narratives of Adolescence and my final paper explored two contrasting young men I knew. The paper was fine, but it was the totally tongue-in-cheek, utterly hilarious (I know, too modest) footnotes that made the paper. I got a 4.0...and a recommendation that I explore my unexpressed anger issues with someone (ummm...I'm totally in touch with my anger, thank you).

Anyway, I like to read footnotes (when they aren't just citations) and I also like to read disclaimers. Which is really what I'm thinking about. Let's look at some of my favorites:
  • FREE (well, not so much)! -- The obvious example is which explains in the fine print that getting said free report requires joining a subscription service...which they'll kindly bill you for directly on your credit card. I'm more amused though by the education ads that tout a "free viewbook"...okay, so you'll send me an advertisement at no cost? Yeah, what a deal.
  • 4 IN 5 (not counting the other 90)! -- It seems like everyone has a study touting how some form of expert prefers their product. The fine print offers a bit more explanation that the numbers only include those who expressed a preference. Which means, the 95 polled who weren't in the pockets of the company probably said "I don't care which sugarless gum you chew."
  • DON'T KILL YOUR BABY (let a stranger do it) -- Okay, this is really the one that made me want to write. There is an ad (either a PSA or for a vaccine company) urging parents to get vaccinated against whooping cough with the cataclysmic warning that most infants catch the disease from their parents. The fine print on this one clarifies that it only applies "when a source is identified." Okay, it seems to me that makes sense...if the parent has it, the source is easy to identify...if not, it seems likely to be much harder (maybe day care, but they seem focused on new babies when a good deal are still in parental hands). Mom is easier to identify than "the guy who used the grocery cart before I stuck the car seat in the top."
  • BE LIKE ME (no promises) -- This one runs the gamut. Ads tout a weight loss success, the amazing healing powers of a medicine, or the skills of an attorney. The fine print then tells you that "prior results do not guarantee future performance" or "your results may vary." Okay, so the ad is essentially for a lottery ticket...maybe you'll win, maybe not. Yes, I know this is a legal issue in many cases. I did stay awake in most of law school professional responsibility and there are LOTS of rules on lawyer ads, as is also the case for meds. I'm still amused.

Stay tuned for the next blog update. That will come whenever I feel like it. And may amuse you. Or may make you think. Or may make you say "I'll never get those five minutes of my life back!" or "couldn't she proofread this before posting" (I ran spellcheck, isn't that enough??).