Wednesday, December 26, 2012


In the early evening of December 13th I was trying to balance a retirement party for a dear acquaintance and former colleague, and dinner with my future mother-in-law. A meeting at work ran late and I decided to skip the retirement party, rationalizing to myself, "I'm terrible at big parties (which is true) and I can make a date to see my friend later."

The person whose retirement party I missed had a heart attack the following day, on Friday, December 14th. He was hospitalized, and died eleven days later, on Christmas morning. His name was Peter Lee.

I never sent Peter a card.

I'll never have the opportunity to catch up with Peter one-on-one afterwards.

He wasn't a close friend. But I'm pissed that I didn't stand up for myself and leave that work meeting when I said I would leave the work meeting. Instead, I let the slow-talking consultant take an extra 25 minutes of my time, when I had made it clear I didn't have the time, to reiterate points to the assembled group that I already knew. I did this because I had been arguing with the consultant about the soundness of his practice and his inability to define his deliverables and his timelines ahead of time. Because I felt bad about being firm with him on the phone, I politely acquiesced when he took extra time at the meeting on December 13th.

And now I've missed the opportunity to tell Peter Lee how much I appreciated working with and learning alongside him.

I'm pissed at myself for once again letting my work relationships get in the way of my life relationships.

Friday, December 21, 2012

The Phone and I

The worst time to reach me by phone is weekdays from 4:00-6:00 PM
Dear loved ones,

The best time to reach me by phone is weekdays between 6:45 AM and 7:30 AM. This is a true story.

This is when I am most awake, with the most uncluttered brain, and the most energy to be present with you. I'm an introvert and need to be prepared to engage on the phone. And to be prepared I need to be awake and decompressed. I get up nearly every weekday morning at 5:00 AM. By 6:45 I've read the paper, had at least one cup of coffee, showered, and am on my way to work. 

The worst time to reach me by phone? Weekdays between 4:00 PM and 8:00 PM. This is when I'm commuting home (often in the middle of Boston Harbor), and trying to decompress from my awesome but intense job. I might be hustling to catch the boat, making dinner, running errands, napping, or exercising. Also, I suck at the phone. Seriously suck at the phone. 

I KNOW I was once notorious for calling between 4:00-6:00 PM, during my car commute, to chat with my family. There is something about being in the car that goes together with talking on the phone. So I get why you persist in calling me during this window. I really get it. But please realize, dear loved one, that it is likely I'll never answer the phone. I'm sorry.

Don't want to call me at 6:45 in the morning? Maybe because you aren't a morning person? Try me on weekends in the afternoon 2:00-5:00 PM could work. 

I WANT to connect with you. I love you. But I'd rather see you than talk by phone. If I can't see you, I'd rather communicate via IM, email, FB messaging, or Twitter than talk by phone. If you insist on talking by phone please know I will be tough to reach. It doesn't mean I don't want to talk with you. Its just that I suck at the phone. I'll keep trying. 


Tuesday, December 18, 2012

My Socks Created a Blood Clot, Because I'm Fat

I haven't exercised in nearly a month. I was sick, then my mom came to visit, then I got sick again, and now it feels like all of my spare hours are joyfully spent on holiday prep.

So the fat girl inside of me is feeling REALLY fat.

I have a pair of trouser socks that have ALWAYS squished my legs. I've had them for two years, they have always hurt me, and I persist in wearing them. Why? Because to concede that the socks hurt must be an admission that I'm too fat to wear socks.

So, yesterday, while my fat self is feeling particularly fat I accidentally pull the tight socks from my drawer. And I wear them, because I have to wear them, otherwise I'm admitting I'm fat. By the end of the day my fat socks made my fat right leg physically hurt.

And today there is a mild bruise around the top of my right calf and I feel as if I have a blood clot behind my knee. My leg hurts and I'm afraid to say or do anything about it. Because I'm too fat to wear socks.

Spinach Balls

For at least 30 years I've enjoyed my mom's recipe for Spinach Balls, a "back of the box"-style appetizer that combines frozen chopped spinach with cheese and packaged stuffing mix into a delicious cocktail party snack.

While my mom was visiting over Thanksgiving, we made a triple batch of spinach balls, which I promptly froze. Every time I'm invited to a party where I'm due to bring a food to pass, I defrost a ball of spinach balls for the appetizer table. And every time I bring spinach balls to a party, I am assaulted by guests with chopped spinach dangling from their teeth mumbling, "These are delicious! Can I get the recipe?"

So, here's the recipe.

1. Heat the oven to 375-400 degrees.

2. Mix together:

  • 2, 10 oz packages of chopped frozen spinach, cooked & drained well
  • 1 cup of grated cheddar cheese
  • 6 eggs, beaten
  • 3/4 cup of stick margerine, softened
  • 1 box of cornbread stuffing.

3. Form into bite sized balls.

4. Bake until golden, about 15 minutes.

5. Enjoy!

They can be baked and frozen in advance. Consider vaguely undercooking them if you plan to do this (so they don't dry out when you reheat them).

There is nothing healthy about spinach balls. Except maybe for the fact that they'd be even less healthy if made with meat. Which is why I'm thinking about adding chopped, cooked bacon the next time I make them.


Wednesday, December 12, 2012

The Liz Lemon Effect

Did you see "30 Rock" last week? Liz Lemon and her true love, Criss Cros, get married because they want to speed up an adoption process ostensibly stalled because Liz is technically single. After deciding to get married for bureaucratic reasons, Liz rails against the "wedding-industrial complex" for causing women to lose all sense of reason in their pursuit of their "special day."

Liz shows up for her city hall nuptials wearing sweats and carrying a Duane Reade bag filled with toilet paper (hey, she needed toilet paper and the Duane Reade was on the way). Experiencing all the other couples enjoying their modest weddings causes Liz to, ironically, lose all sense of reason. Why? Because deep down inside a special part of her wants to be a princess and have a special day. She never thought anyone would want to marry her, so she sublimated this desire and chose to deride weddings as a coping mechanism. I call this the Liz Lemon Effect.


Jeff asked me to marry him today. I'm wearing a platinum and diamond ring he had specially designed to look like the fake engagement ring he gave me six years ago.

I've been shaking for nearly an hour.

Because I suffer from the Liz Lemon Effect.

I'm 42 years-old. I'm of average build and looks. I bite my nails, come from a wacky family, and work way too hard. There is a tiny and yet enormous part of me who identifies as an unlovable fat girl.

And yet I'm wearing this beautiful ring on my finger. Which proves that someone loves me. And wants to marry me.

Maybe when I stop shaking I'll start crying. And when I stop crying I'll start grinning from ear to ear. And then we'll plan a wedding.

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Fat Girl is Afraid to Go to the Doctor

This Fat Girl is afraid to go to the doctor.

My body is getting older. As my body gets older I find myself with aches and pains. I can't process foods like French fries or alcohol as seamlessly as I was once able. I'm sure I have an ulcer, or, worse, gall bladder cancer (that's a thing, right?). I occasionally feel tightness in my chest, which seriously could be heart disease. My feet ache nearly all the time, which is probably arthritis.

But I won't be honest with my doctor.

Because I'm afraid. Afraid that my doctor will tell me the reason my feet hurt is because I'm so fat that I've created undue stress in them. Or the reason my heart aches is because I'm so fat that every one of my arteries is clogged and I'll likely have a heart attack and it is my own fault so there is nothing they will do about it. And the problems with fatty food? "Well," I imagine her saying, "you shouldn't be eating fatty food anyway, because, in case you hadn't noticed, you're FAT."

Getting bifocals after I turned 40 was not a problem. Nor was the semi-annual schedule of mammograms because of irregularities on my baseline films. There is no way my brain can make the case that poor vision or calcifications in my mammary glands are the result of being overweight (maybe there is hope for me yet).

But these other issues, I can't be honest with my doctor about them.

Because I'm afraid they're my fault, which will cause me shame, which could result in anxious overeating, which will only reinforce those feelings that I'm a Fat Girl.

If you need me, I'll be in the corner quietly googling my health concerns, keeping your health insurance premiums low through my underuse, and wishing I could eat a cookie.

Fat Girl

I'm the miserable looking one in the plaid shirt on the right.
I'm a 42 year-old woman who grew up thinking of herself as a fat girl. Correct that. I'm a 42 year-old woman who often still thinks of herself as a fat girl.

I've had nearly 20 years of therapy through which I've come to understand my relationship to myself, my childhood understanding of my parents' divorce, and the class struggles that affected my confidence and sense of place. Through therapy I've coped with my irrational personal organization that bordered on OCD, explored why and how I became bulimic, made the transition to four different jobs over a period of 17 years, and ended one and started another long term relationship.

And still I think of myself as a fat girl.

To be fair, I'm on the heavy size of average. After losing 65 pounds back in 2000, I've lost and gained the same 15 pounds over the last six years, and my clothing size has bounced between 10 and 14 over the same period.

My point? I'm not actually fat.

But I sure do think I am.

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Every Day is Turkey Day

There are many things I love about the sleepy hamlet in which I live. Fifteen miles south of Boston, I have the benefits of being near a major city, but also live within five miles of three beaches.

My house is at the end of an unpaved road, considered a "private way" by the town so they won't have to claim responsibility for paving and plowing. We have a wooded area to the right of the house, separating us from a neighbor. A small pond in the woods to the left of the house is used by neighborhood kids in the winter for outdoor ice hockey games. This helps to make the neighborhood feel idyllic.

What I love best about my neighborhood, however, are the two enormous rafters of wild turkeys that roam the streets. Few things are more delightful to me than espying movement outdoors, poking my nose outside, and seeing fifteen hens, toms and poults grazing under the birdfeeder.

Friday, September 28, 2012

The Difference Between Men and Women

(Or at least the difference between me and BMG)

I planned to be home from work earlier than my usual 5:30 today. I am staffing a charity bike ride all day on Saturday, and expected to spend most of the day at the ride site leading a crew of seven volunteers who stuffing 1,500 "Goody Bags" for the cyclists.

BMG texts me at 1:00 with one word, "Plan?"

I text back immediately with a picture of the volunteer crew with the words, "Almost done- expect we'll be wrapped up by 2."

30 minutes later he switches to Twitter to communicate with me. If he thought for just a microsecond he might have remembered that I was leading a crew working on an assembly line, and might not be checking Twitter. "I'm starved! Might have to go hunt down some McNuggets...."

30 minutes after that he tweets at me again, "Heading to bank and then to get McNuggets, unless you have better idea. ETA? 2:14?"

I've told him I'll likely be done at 2:00. He knows I'm 45 minutes away. So the guesstimate for my arrival? 2:45 at the earliest.

As it happens, I'm done at 1:30. I leave, with my intern in tow, and head to the nearest red line station to send him to his home before I return to the Tiny Seaside Suburb. After I've dropped the intern off, at 2:15, I call BMG.

"Whatcha doing?" I say.

"I'm running around downtown. Did you get my tweets?"

"Yup. Di you go to the bank and McDonalds?"

"Bank yes, but not McDonalds. I've been waiting for you."

"Uhm, you said you were going to get lunch. It is 2:15. I've already eaten lunch. Go get your lunch."

Annoyed, he hangs up.

And this, dear readers, is the difference between BMG and me:

  • He tweets in my direction with a vague pronouncement of hunger and a desire for lunch. Not hearing my reply, he automatically assumes that I am on board with his plan to get McNuggets at 2:14 PM.
  • I, on the other hand, would do the opposite. If I had heard nothing via Twitter, phone, or text from BMG about my Internet proposal for a midday meal, I would assume I was on my own and go get my own damn lunch.

So would you characterize BMG as an optimist, an extrovert, or a narcissist? And what would you call me?

Message from god

I subscribe to a Facebook service called "God wants you to know." This app occasionally sends me an inspirational note, ostensibly from the big cheese in the sky.

Here's my message today:

"You may think you have challenges, but you have so many blessings. Sometimes it takes only a moment of conscious effort to recognize those blessings. Once you focus on the gifts instead of the problems, your whole perspective will change and you will see blessings everywhere."


It has been a rough couple of weeks and I've let work run roughshod over me. This is a helpful reminder on a Friday to stop and smell the proverbial roses.

Thanks god!

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Talking to Strangers can be Good for You (or how I met my friend Barb)

Boston is famously inhospitable to strangers. But not in my experience. I know one of my closest and oldest friends as a result of our respective willingness to start a polite conversation while standing in line together.

"My Sister Gerri" is the name of the documentary film broadcast at Boston's Museum of Fine Arts in Fall 1993. As an introvert who was new to Boston screwing up the courage to go to a movie solo, took considerable work on my part. The film, which tells the story of the woman whose lifeless body became a grotesque icon for the pro-choice side during the early 1970's iteration of this national debate, was premiered. Arriving early I took my place in the growing line of well-heeled ladies who lunched, the Planned Parenthood donors who didn't need to work and instead spent their days in meetings for their important causes.

I was 23, a full-time secretary in a juvenile prison, and a part-time graduate student at the BU School of Social Work. I felt alone and conspicuously out-of-place.

I wish I could remember the self-talk that reverberated in my head as I waited. I'm sure it went something like this,

Says the tortured devil on my shoulder: "What are you doing here? You don't belong here."

"I paid my money, I can be here if I want," spouts the brave angel who gives me precarious balance. 

"Where will you sit? Who will you talk with? Does anyone even know you are here sad, fat alone girl?" came the retort.

And so on, and so forth. 

But, this time, the angel on my shoulder won out over the tortured devil and I stayed.

Not only did I stay, but my angel gave me the chutzpah to strike up a conversation with the stranger
next to me in line. A young , professionally dressed woman, also alone. "What brings you to see this film" was the likely start to our polite and reserved repartee. However, through our discussion I learned she was considering applying to the same graduate program I had just started, was living and working in Washington, DC, where I had lived during college, and was familiar with the parts of Central NY. We sat next to one another during the movie and both stayed for the talk-back with the filmmaker. As the event wrapped up this stranger handed me her card and we parted ways.

But that wasn't the end of it. While face-to-face interactions with strangers take an enormous amount of effort for me, I'm great with the written word. And I love a good handwritten note. So I dropped the stranger a note in the mail, thanking her for sharing the movie with me and wishing her luck with her graduate school decision. Letter dropped in the mail, I promptly forgot she existed.

That is until the following fall when I attended the new student breakfast reception on campus. Still largely alone at school (it was a hard program to do as a part-timer), I may have been chatting with an acquaintance when a woman approached me. She had been searching for me in the crowd because she wanted to thank me for helping her to make and achieve her graduate school goal.

"Huh?" I'm sure I said.

The stranger reminded me of the movie at the MFA and told me the note I'd sent to her later moved her to finish her application to the program she herself was now starting.

The stranger became Barbara and we became fast friends, sharing stories about our transition to Boston, bonding over classes and field work, and considering our professional aspirations as we moved through the professional training portions of our education. 

Our band of buddies grew. Eventually there were five of us living in one block of nearby Central Square in Cambridge, and two more who would join our crew we called Stitch and Bitch. Long after we marched the stage to receive our diplomas we continued to meet weekly for happy hour beer and curried French fries. 

Because we were both willing to talk to a stranger, Barbara met her now husband, and I was introduced me to my therapist. Barbara had a wonderful cat to love as her own when a move forced me to give him up. And I had the privilege of receiving the first afghan she ever crocheted from start to finish. 

Because we were both willing to talk to a stranger, we've experience the comfort of having a friend bear witness to our respective heartbreak, job loss, physical ailments, and family traumas. We have shared the joys of new love, new homes, new children, and many new years.

It has been 19 years since Barbara Charton Lambiaso and I first met. Just this week we shared wishes for a new year, and made plans to go to a lecture together. I am so touched by this friendship with my Gal Pal Barbara. Touched by the longevity and depth of our connection, and touched with the knowledge that we still love each other as much as we did when we first met, and at least as much as we will when we are old women.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

The Art of Partnership

Are you good at negotiation? I'm not. And it seems as if no one in my personal circle is either.  Let me share two examples from literally the last four hours of my life.

In scenario one I'm planning to head to NY to visit my family, including four fantastic nieces and nephews. It has been two days since I've sent a potential schedule of activities for my short trip to the four adult members of my family - after several days of cajoling from them. In my note to them I suggest on the first night the kids might head to my hotel for picnic and swimming. Getting no feedback from anyone, I then text a sibling to suggest that maybe a picnic that first night at her kids' favorite playground might be better. Eight hours later, still nothing. (Eight hours is a long time to respond to a text given the speed with which people communicate nowadays, particularly when the other conversant is one who was eager for "a plan.") So then I call. This is how it goes (excerpted to reduce boredom).

Me: Did you get my text?
Sibling: Yeah. It has been really busy at work. I can talk a few minutes now.
Me: So what do you think? About picnic in the playground?
Sib: Well, I'd already told the kids about the pool (me - didn't really we had decided that - it was a suggestion) and they're really excited to see their cousins.
Me: Would your kids like some one-on-one time with me?
Sib: They're pretty excited about the pool and their cousins.
Me: So they don't want one-on-one time? Okay. And if they want to go in the pool we need to figure out how to do it so they aren't trooping in and out of our room. BMG has to do a three-hour conference call that night.
Sib: Well, I guess we can go to the park. I'll have to talk to the kids about it to adjust their expectations.
Me: I didn't say they COULDN'T go in the pool. I just said we'd need to do it in a way to prevent trooping in and out of the room.
Sib: They've never done that. (me - we once spent an entire day at the hotel pool, trooping in and out of the room. I've had her wet kids in my bed. not an issue, just not for this trip) I just want to talk with the kids before responding to you. I'm sure we can go to the park.
Me: Sib, are you listening to me? The pool is fine provided that BMG's call isn't disturbed.
Sib: OK.

In scenario two I'm following up with BMG on an offer he made to do very easy video editing for me at work; I need to have a title page and end page added to a video produced by colleagues at work. I've given him the movie file and asked him to try to get to it within the next 36 hours. I've moved on in my life, made dinner, washed dishes, started laundry, had a glass of wine, chatted with the neighbors, watched some TV. I've come back into the living room after being in the basement. The TV is on mute and BMG is staring at his computer (his usual pose).
BMG: What did they do this video in? Three frame, four frame?
Me: Huh?
BMG: This video what did they do it in?
Me: Are you talking to me? (I seriously thought he was video chatting with the guy who is his partner in a nascent - and awesome - video production company.)
BMG: YES! I'm talking to you. What did they do this video in?
Me: I don't know. Are you working on this now?
BMG: Yes. Come look at this.
I sit down.
BMG: So what do you need?
Me: Branding at the beginning and the end. I didn't know you were working on this right now. I can get you the stuff you need.
I head to my computer, six feet away.
BMG: So what do you want it to say?
Me: Are you typing? Didn't I just say I'd get it to you? I need a minute to get my head in the game. I didn't know I was going back to work right this moment.

In the first scenario both my sister and I assume at different times that simply because someone made a suggestion that suggestion needed to be the decision. This is so frustrating to me. In most cases I crave  discussion about things like family plans. I crave the discussion because I want to hear what makes the hearts of my sisters, brother, mother, nieces and nephews go pitter pat. And I want to find a way to make the most people the most satisfied with our family time. To have one person's suggestion become the plan - sans conversation from others - means I (a) miss out on learning more from my siblings, and (b) we don't find a way to try to get what we all want. A child of divorced parents, I know I felt as if I had to do whatever my mom wanted me to do in order to keep her from leaving the family too. So my modus operandi is "Do whatever the other person says, no matter what. The risk is too great to counter with a different idea." Pretty sure other siblings operate the same way.

BMG knows this about me. And he has a very dominant personality. Not a classic alpha male, but he takes up an enormous amount of space - usually joyfully. But the second incident is a classic between us - he is ready to do what he wants to do right now and I (a) need to know exactly what he's doing, and (b) ready to ask "how high" when he says "jump." So my family background is great for him.  In the midst of pulling the video content so he could finish his quickie for me (for which I am grateful), I actually sat at my desk and whimpered.  I wished BMG had said, "I want to work on this now. I need X, Y and Z from you to get this done. When can you get this to me?" And then I could have said, "You're awesome! Thank you so much! Give me 20 minutes to pull it together starting right now." Instead, I was caught off guard, felt as if I needed to rush because the video editing boat was going to leave without me, and, worse of all, was jolted back into work mode when it is SO hard for me to wind down.

I crave a feeling of partnership with all of my loved ones, a feeling of collaboration that comes from a spirit of adventure.

So...what would you advise to help me get to this place, besides taking a daily dose of Xanax? Seriously. I need help here.

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Liberty and justice for all

Settling down to a lunch of kielbasa and cauliflower yesterday (we really need to go to the grocery store), I thought to myself, "My love for sausage is proof that I am German."

I looked at the clunky leather shoes on my feet, worn on one of the hottest days of the year. "And my love for awkward footwear. Yep, that's proof that I am German."

"This body of mine, custom-made for a dirndl, no doubt I am a German."

But it is 4th of July here in the United States, the time when we celebrate the essence of being an American. So, what, I wondered, makes me an American?

I'm distrustful of patriotism in all forms. You'll never see me fly a national flag outside my home. I wear our nation's colors to the Independence Day BBQs that are prolific in my community because of fear of being labeled a traitor to the U.S., not because I want to "show my colors." I haven't recited the pledge of allegiance in years, in spite of having worked for a local government where the pledge kicked off every public meeting I had to attend. If you were to compare my unvarnished sociopolitical views to those of the vast majority of other Americans I'd clearly be labeled a commie liberal.

So, what is the proof that I am an American?

The pilgrims, who set foot on this land mass we now call the United States of America a mere 40 miles from where I sit typing, left Europe in search of religious freedom. In 1692, religious freedom was defined within the context of varying Christian denomination; religious tolerance is much more broadly defined now many communities in these United States can boast claim to sects of Jews, Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists, Wiccans, Christians, Mormons, Jains, and Animists in their midst. I am committed to exploring and protecting diverse religious and spiritual expression, and preserving the separation of church and state, restricting religious persecution where no one is being hurt by the religious expression of others. This, I believe, makes me an American.

I love voting. LOVE IT. Whether casting my ballot for local selectman or choosing the best name for Snooki's baby, I love to vote. I love having the freedom of choice associated with stepping into the ballot box. I feel great responsibility to at least know something about what I'm voting for, even if that means taking five minutes to skim the referendum guide mailed to my home in advance of town elections. And I feel enormous, righteous pride when I get my little sticker after I've cast a ballot. This, I believe, makes me an American.

What really makes me an American? I confessed being loathe to recite the pledge of allegiance. This is not because I don't believe the words, but rather because I feel too much like a mechanistic sheep incapable of independent thought when I say the words with tens, hundreds, or thousands of other people. And this, I believe, makes me an American. 

I have a deep and unwavering respect for liberty, or the power of choice, and freedom from obligation, control, interference and restriction. I know the words to the pledge of allegiance, and I want to say them when I want to say them - not because I have to say them. (I won't recite the Lord's Prayer, Apostle's Creed, or other responsive reading in church or temple for the same reason.) This extends beyond liberty of speech and thoughts, to liberty in action, lifestyle, and personal expression (provided they aren't restricting the liberty of another individual). 

And the steadfast belief in and protection of liberty is what defines justice for me. I deeply believe that every person should have the opportunity to pursue their choices.  This doesn't mean I have to adopt or even understand their choices. Mormonism and cross-dressing are both confusing mysteries to me. But I understand they are meaningful to other people. And because they don't hurt me, so I have an obligation to respect, and when necessary, protect the right of Mormons, cross-dressers, and others who are both like and unlike me to express themselves. This, I believe, is what makes me an American. 

The essence of my Americanism is less overt than my cultural heritage. You can't see it in what I wear or what I eat. But you can hear it in what I say, read it in what I write, and see it in my work and my treatment of other people.

On July 4th, you won't likely find me on the local parade route - wearing red, white and blue, saluting veterans and waving a flag. Look for me under a tree in my backyard, reading a book of speeches by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. If I'm not there I may be taking a walk on a nearby beach watching the waves roll in thinking about all of the people who have made their way to this country seeking the same freedoms I love and cherish to my core.

Happy Independence Day.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Grounds for dismissal

I walked away from Starbucks this morning because their decaf was filled with grounds, and they didn't yet have a fiber-free cup of decaf available to me. "I'll make a cup of coffee in the Keurig at the office," I said when told the wait would be two to five minutes long.

As I walked out of my tiny Starbucks, I thought about going back and saying, "I'll take a cup of coffee with grounds - on the house." Because I really wanted a coffee from Starbucks. I like the feel of the warm paper cup in my hand, the heft of a 20 ounce cup of coffee, and savoring the faux caffeine to its last lukewarm drop.

But I thought better of it. "I'm not so desperate that I can't make a coffee at the office. And I deserve better than a cup of coffee filled with grounds."

So imagine my surprise when I walked over to the office Keurig after hearing its last, distinctive rattle, signaling the end of the hot water stream into the ceramic mug, and found this:
Are you kidding me?

Must be that the universe wants me to eat coffee grounds this morning.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

The Red Dirt Cave: An office parable

Once upon a time, a pile of tiny ants struggling to make their way in the world, found a giant morsel of food in a soft and beautiful gray field.
They called their friends from near and far to join the party.
And so they set to work gobbling the food, licking their ant lips as they enjoyed what they thought was saucy protein.

What they didn’t realize was that this was a trap.

Imagine their surprise when a powerful blue ammonia cleanser rained down on their picnic.
They stumbled in all directions trying to be free of the damp pool of stinging fluid.
As they made their way to the far reaches of the cold mountain at the edge of the beautiful gray field the ants breathed a collective sigh of relief,
As they joyfully celebrated making their escape they heard a distant rumbling.
“Huh?” thought the ants, just as they were violently sucked into a dusty tunnel.
They landed with a thud.
Stunned from the force of their journey, the ants looked around and asked “Where are we?”
Amidst the crumbled bodies of their sisters and brothers they saw paper clips, bits of tissue, and packing peanuts.
It was then that the ants then knew they had been forced to make the journey to the red dirt cave.  
The red dirt cave was a place of legend. Not one member of their tribe had ever returned after being forced to make the trip to the red dirt cave.
They were doomed.

Save an ant’s life. Please try to be extra mindful of dropped food in the “kitchen.”

Monday, May 14, 2012

How to spend a windfall (or yet another way my childhood shaped my life)

My best friend and next door neighbor from childhood, Cindy Scott, and I practically shared a birthday. Mine is June 4 and hers is June 6. We also shared friends, so it was natural that we'd share birthday celebrations.

What we didn't share was socioeconomic status. I was raised by a practical and powerful, single mother. My father was the prototypical deadbeat dad, and our financial situation fluctuated wildly. By contrast, Cindy's parents remained married until her mom's death in 2005, and they were solidly middle class. Her family had Oreos, and bought cold cuts from the deli counter, which was proof to me that Cindy's family was in fact, rich.

Which leads me to my story.

One year, right after Cindy and I turned eight, we were going through our birthday loot. Me? I got $5 in a card from my Gramma. And Cindy? More like $20. In the spirit of continuing our shared birthday celebration, Cindy's mom offered to take us both to the local K-Mart to spend our birthday money. My mom agreed and told me to buy socks. Little did she know that Cindy had generously agreed to share her money with me. So, in 1978, with $25 and our eight year old desires, we headed to the Big K. And we came home with Sean Cassidy posters (dreamy), giant DIY color by number posters with lux markers, and handfuls of other impulsive and age-appropriate shwag. I remember feeling unfettered pleasure and the sense of having everything I could ever want.

But the feeling did not last long. Because I got into trouble for squandering my windfall on something I wanted rather than something I needed. (My mom would say she was trying to teach me responsibility rather than introducing me to self-denial and guilt, which, nearly 35 years later, continues to dominate my financial life.)

And now my current dilemma.

I recently won a $50 gift card to my favorite store in the universe, Wegmans.

So what do I do with it? Spend it on a treat, or save it for something I need?

What would be a treat? Take out from one of their on-site restaurants for me and my friends, a fancy cake and fixings for a nice dinner for my upcoming birthday, or a flower arrangement for myself.

What are more practical uses? Snacks and supplies for my next family gathering in upstate NY, supplies for baking and wrapping Christmas cookies this year, birthday and other cards to have in hand for sending to loved ones, or supplies for the house after the renovations at completed.

What would you do?

Saturday, May 5, 2012

Top ten list of my least favorite things about my home

What are the features you wish you could change in your home?

We're getting ready to gut The Tiny Bungalow in a very expensive dwelling do over. Here is my top ten list of the qualities of our seaside suburban home I won't miss:
10. The wood that is rotting off the back of the house
9. The entry room that serves no functional purpose but takes up a LOT of space
8. The permanent rot under the bathroom floor
7. The grease stains on the kitchen ceiling
6. The baseboards that start and stop in random places
5. The "pantry" (aka closet in the kitchen) with three foot deep shelves
4. The fireplace island coated with creosote on the inside of the three sided glass insert
3. The slider under the eave that has no gutter and, coincidentally, an enormous amount of mold
2. The stove that has only one functional burner

And the #1 thing about The Tiny Bungalow I won't miss?
1. The laundry that is accessible only by walking outside and around the side of the house.

What would be on your wish list of things to get rid of if you could do your home over?

Saturday, April 14, 2012

10 things I learned from my mother

I didn't shower today. I spent the day in my gym clothes; I cleaned the house and and went for a hike. At about 8:00 PM I headed into the bedroom to fold clothes and remembered it was clean pajamas day. And then I realized I could NOT put on clean jammies without first taking a shower. I learned this from my mother. Saturday was the day we changed sheets in my childhood household, which meant we all got baths on Saturday, so we didn't crawl into our fresh sheets with dirty bodies.

Here are ten more lessons I learned from my mother:

 1. It is a waste to throw away moldy food or bruised produce. Try scraping the mold first or cutting out the bad part before sacrificing the food.
 2. Sticking your finger in hot candle wax is a federal offense, because it can burn off your fingerprints. And everyone is required by law to have fingerprints. (This is similar to the "Swallowed gum is never digested; if you continue to swallow gum it will eventually pile up in your body and pop your head off" lesson.)
 3. One isn't *really* sick unless one has a fever or is bleeding from the head. And then it is SERIOUS.
 4. Snickers are the most delicious of the commercial candy bars.
 5. Conformity is not admirable (neither are ostentatious displays of wealth).
 6. Charity - real or perceived - is admirable.
 7. Never pack a cooler for a day trip. Lunch meat, cheeses and other items get unappetizingly soaked.
 8. Be conscious of what underpants you are wearing under what article of clothing; patterned panties under light clothes is tacky.
 9.  Polite slang for a penis is a "horn." (You interpret this. My mom can't explain it.)
10. Homemade cookies are more delicious and virtuous than store bought. In fact, homemade anything is more delicious and/or virtuous than store bought.

Monday, April 9, 2012

Bucket List, you're mine!

I have a vaguely defined goal of seeing all of the 58 official national parks in the U.S. So far I've seen eleven. And, by the end of June I think my life list will jump to fifteen. BMG and I are planning a stateside driving vacation in June - from Miami to Boston. Here is the list of parks we think we can hit:

  • After exhausting this national reserve, we hope to drive inland to hit the most popular park in the system, the Great Smoky Mountain National Park, which offers beautiful vistas of eastern Tennessee and the western Carolinas.
  • Shenandoah National Park - Classic forests in the Eastern US just south of DC - geocaching for geologic treasures is a featured activities.

From there we hit the metropolitan Washington DC region, which is rife with national monuments, landmarks, historic sites, battlefields and other locations that are dedicated to permanently sharing the natural history of the continent, and telling story of the America as she was settled by Europeans. Thank you President Wilson for creating the National Park Service.

If we can get through this itinerary, I can bring my national park list list to more than 25% of the parks (and all of the parks on the eastern seaboard). Bucket list, you ARE mine!


Have you been to any of the parks on the June to do list? What do you recommend we see?

Any parks you've been to that are not yet on my tic list. Which do you recommend I definitely make time to visit. Why?

Sunday, April 8, 2012

I hate religious hypocrisy

I am not an actively religious person. I am an atheist on most days, and deeply and sincerely respect the religious beliefs of others. My religious experiences have been largely Christian, Jewish, and Unitarian Universalist. I deeply embraces the values embodied in all gods and goddesses - loving kindness, respect for others & self, reverence for the power of people and the planet.

This preamble is intended to set the backdrop for why I was so INCENSED today - Easter Sunday - when someone on Twitter positioned himself as too respectful of the holiness of the day to have an honest discussion about a multi-year grudge he is holding against someone else. THREE tweets later (apparently not too holy a day to ignore me) this self-proclaimed righteous Easter celebrant said the reason he couldn't forgive was because the offender never apologized to him.

Hello hypocrite. Do you know the Christian message of Easter? Surely even the twice a year Christians remember the Sunday School lessons that taught us that Jesus died for our sins. And in so sacrificing His Son, God was forgiving us for the wrongs we had done to Him and each other. The very point of Easter is the spiritual wiping of the slate. No questions asked. All Christians have to do is accept Jesus in their heart and...voila! Forgiveness! God doesn't require an apology to forgive his believers. So this person's Twitter proclamation of it being in poor form to discuss another's sins against him - on Easter of all days - merely tells me this person is 100% missing the point of the holiday.

I'm not in a position to comment on the multi-year grudge - I don't know the back story. But simultaneously claiming religiosity AND a fundamental misunderstanding of Easter makes me wonder what other points the grudge holder is feeling.

That is all.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

(Please don't die.)

BMG's surgery is tomorrow. I don't want him to die.

If I'm blessed and he doesn't die, I also want him to be completely cured of what ails him.

That is all.

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Woof woof!

If I were a dog I think I'd be a Tibetan Spaniel. Or maybe a pug. I may just be saying that because I love pugs, but maybe I love pugs because I could be one. The American Kennel Club describes pugs as "multim in parvo" which means "a lot of dog in a small space." That COULD describe me. Look at this cute dog. They are longer than they are tall, have fluffy chests and bottoms, and described as intelligent and aloof. I COULD be a Tibetan Spaniel.

I've been thinking about this because I've had a body image breakthrough.

I haven't done any interviews, but I'm pretty sure that greyhounds don't ever wish they were chihuahuas. Because that would never happen. A greyhound is a greyhound and a chihuahua is a chihuahua. Period. They are both dogs, but their bodies are constrained by their breeds. Dogs can't change their diet, exercise more, or have a procedure done to become a different breed.

I think there should be different breeds of the human species. If there were I think it would help people like me, people who struggle with trying to make their bodies look like something they are not, understand that there is a limited range within which their bodies can change. That's not to say that a person can't be more or less healthy within her breed, but an apple shaped woman will never look like Kate Moss, and a woman of short stature will never look like Charlize Theron.

Unbeknownst to my parents, my experience of my childhood cultivated in me what I once thought was an inherent and permanent hatred of my body. In the beauty of my middle age I know this isn't the case. But it sure is easy to slip back into the old patterns of self-loathing.

I'm buoyed by the notion that I'm the human equivalent of a Tibetan Spaniel. Now when I see a person whose hair or abs or nose I covet, I assign them a breed. And when I do this I tell myself that I admire the breed, but I'm a Tibetan Spaniel and I'll always be a Tibetan Spaniel.

It helps.

What dog breed would you be if you were a dog? Visit the American Kennel Club website to learn more about dog breeds, and share your thoughts in the comments section below.

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Diving Down a Ladder

I'm swimming with people who are as familiar to me as my closest friends, but are in fact known to me only through work. We are swimming in a pond in the high desert of Utah or Colorado. Red mud as dry as stone surrounds the base of the natural pool and the water is warm. The area is deserted and our cries of delight echo off canyon walls that surround our swimming hole. One of the women in the crowd enters an opening in a nearby cliff wall, and emerges from a cave one story up and perhaps 15 feet from the edge of the pond. Unfurling a brilliant royal shawl she yells, "We need more purple!" and prepares to dive from the cave into the pool.

Sensing danger I yell, "I can do a back flip!" And I do a back flip in the water, elegantly arcing my back and dipping my body back into the water. The force of my reverse dive is tremendous and I feel my self continue to sink towards the bottom of the pond. I keep sinking. And sinking. I start to panic. "Does this pool have no bottom? Oh my god what if I just keep going? Will I reverse course and begin to float back to the top before I run out of air?" I try to physically alter my path but the momentum of dive forces me to keep moving downward rather than upwards. I am frantic and try to soothe myself by saying, "No one has ever dived forever. You will eventually slow down. When you do you can get to the top. You will be fine."


This is the second anxiety dream I've had in the last week that involves a panicked response to diving into what is, unknown to me, a bottomless pool in a desert.  It is a beautifully transparent anxiety dream, so transparent that it delights me. It also takes place in a location I consider to be a peaceful and tranquil space, the high desert of the Western U.S. I love that my subconscious is thoughtful enough to transport my sleepy manifestations of stress to a place that soothes me, to a place that compels me to slow down. And, if that weren't enough, a part of my who is witnessing the panic has the presence to use words to help me calm down, to recognize my own power, and simply say "You will be fine."

This new dream is a sign of growth. My anxiety dreams USED to involve climbing up and down wooden ladders. Any kind of ladder. I remember a long ago dream about climbing rigging on the exterior surface of a submarine in the dark. There was another than involved racing back and forth across a hotel atrium and six story glass windows, and eventually climbing to the top of one and not being able to get down. I was often with strangers in strange places taking unexplainable actions - all fraught with fear of falling, fear of what I would find when I finished my steps down or trip up the ladder.


What do you dream of when your psyche needs to be rid of negative energy?

Saturday, February 11, 2012

#Fail (or my 2012 flower buying adventure), by Clownface

For sentimental reasons, BMG and I decided to send flowers to his mother for Valentine's Day this year. (We picked out the flowers BMG's dad gave to his mother last Valentine's Day, which was their last Valentine's Day before he died.)

I gullibly decided to take advantage of the WBUR offer to make a donation in exchange for having Winston's long stemmed roses sent to BMG's mom. I haven't donated to this public radio station in a while, so it seemed like a win-win.

After four failed attempts to make a donation through the radio station I quit. Instead I ordered flowers through my credit card shopping portal. 1/2 the price, and zero the hassle.

Here's how it went.

Try #1 - Thursday night, on my computer at home
I enter my "MIL's" address into their portal to validate it - a required step in the donation process. Alas, I make a mistake (unbeknownst to me) and they won't validate the address. Although I am given the option of proceeding anyway, I am afraid the flowers wouldn't get to their final destination so I abandon the process.

Try #2 - Friday night, using 3G in a restaurant bar
I pull up the radio station's web address on my iPhone, using the Safari browser/app. I am directed to their news portal immediately. No obvious link to their "Support us" portal on the mobile site. At the bottom of the page, in tiny print, I find "Switch to full site" link. So I switch to the full site. I find a "Support us" button and am redirected to a portal where there is no option to order flowers through the radio station. I abandon the process.

Try #3 - Saturday morning, using my wireless iPad at home
I click on the radio station's app on my iPad. I click the "Support Us" button and am redirected to a page promoting their Fall 2011 pledge drive. I abandon the process.

At this point I remember the radio station send me appeal letters to the home I share with my boyfriend of five years, addressed to me and my ex-boyfriend. Afraid, through the power of databases, that the flowers sent through the radio station to BMG's mom might come "from Clownface and her ex-boyfriend" I decide to call the radio station to make the pledge/place the order. "If I talk to a person I can make sure my name is changed in the database," thinks I.

Try #4 - Saturday morning, using a telephone
After nosing around the public radio stations website, I find a phone number (again, small print). I call. The phone room is noisy and the person who answers has an accent indicating she may not speak English as her first language.

She asks for my name.

I say it.

"Would you like to spell that for me?"

"No, but I imagine YOU would like me to spell it for YOU."

I spell my first name - eight letters. She reads it back using the military phonetic alphabet. Two errors (25%). I correct them.

I spell my last name - six letters. She reads it back using the military phonetic alphabet. One error (18%). I correct them.

Realizing this interaction may not have the desired results of efficiently placing the most correct donation/pledge, I abandon the process.

And then I visit my credit card's shopping portal. In under 10 minutes I browse several arrangements, choose two dozen pink roses, and complete the order online. The cost is 1/2 of what the radio station donation would have been, I get an extra benefit on my credit card, and I feel good about the gift for BMG's mom.

Sorry public radio. Sorry philanthropy. Your ability to meet my needs using four available technologies all failed.

Monday, January 16, 2012

This is why you're fat dot com

If I weren't on Weight Watchers AND if BMG weren't home I just might drink the leftover Hollandaise sauce I made for our breakfast of Eggs Benedict.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

"I have a question for all you parents..."

"Other parents: how did you handle yada yada, if/when it occurred?"

If your friends are anything like my friends this is a question you've seen a gazillion times on Facebook.

And...I find it annoying.


Not because parents are asking for help. Goodness knows we can all use more help with nearly everything we do. And I have great admiration for the work parents do - work they do with inconsistent role models, no instruction manuals, no training. Nope, that's not it.

This is annoying because it presumes that those of us who haven't gone the parenting route don't have any experience that might inform their question.

Let me make myself clear.

  • I'm trained in social work and public health. I spent four years studying and doing work in the field of mental illness, infectious disease management, human behavior change, and human and organizational development.
  • I am a sexuality educator who has been trusted by complete strangers to help their pre-teens as they navigate the world of sexual and gender identity, sexual expression, and love of self and other.
  • I worked in public education for nearly six years. In my work I regularly talked with families about their hopes and dreams for their children's education and aspirations. I also talked with teens about their experience of school and their aspirations. I was a generalist and was required to know the current trends and literature about the PK-12 educational process, special education, school choice, art and music education, recess and school lunch politics, PTA/PTO organizing, the college prep process, etc.
  • Prior to this job I worked for nearly four years for a nonprofit that helped people of tremendous wealth come to terms with their financial circumstances. Many of these people were parents who sought to find ways to help their children have balanced and generous lives because of their circumstances. In my work I listened to them and directed them to resources to help them realize this dream.
  • And now? Now I work for a nonprofit that helps parents of young children develop, practice and maintain habits of reading together as part of healthy individual and family development.
  • I am an auntie to six little people on my side, and six on BMG's side - now ages two through 16. I've observed five siblings and their five partners parent twelve children. I've listened to each one work their way through the "disposable versus cloth" diaper debate, home school versus public versus independent debate, you name it, I've heard it. 
  • I also offer my own unique and supportive relationship to each of my nieces and nephews, as well as (although to a lesser extent) the children of my friends.
My point? I know a shit ton about kids, families and parenting. I don't know any of this from the experience of being a parent, but it doesn't make my knowledge and opinions any less valid.

And, because I don't have kids, it is highly likely I have more time. Time to read your questions and thoughtfully respond.

And, because you are my friend and you have kids, I understand that much of you life centers around your children and your ever evolving role as a parent. Being excluded when you pose your Facebook questions just to other parents doesn't inspire me to learn more about the person you are as a parent.

So, when people direct Facebook questions about their parenting journeys exclusively to parents they are discounting all the experience people like me - who aren't parents - can bring to question with which they are grappling.

Dear friends. Keep asking questions. And please don't exclude me. I want to be involved in your life and I just may have a perspective that helps.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

INTP (or why I try to avoid medium-sized chit chat parties I'm not being paid to attend)

I was reminded today that few things make me more uncomfortable than a medium sized party where I know only the hosts.

A medium-sized party is not small enough to lend itself to deep conversation, nor is it large enough to comfortably abstain from interaction while merely observing the crowd. At a medium sized party most people already know one another fairly well; there are fewer tagalongs who are socially unanchored than there might be at a larger party and the setting isn't intimate enough to make it easy for a new person to insert her/himself into a pre-existing conversation.

The wizards at Myers-Brigg Type Indicator recently reminded me that I'm both Introverted (I) and Intuitive (N) (I'm also a T and  P). This means I am most gregarious in situations where I know the people well or where I know what to expect from the conversation. In other situations, I'm extremely shy. 

So the medium sized party this afternoon? Where I (essentially) knew only the hosts and BMG? Where I perceive most guests were parents (where I am not)? Within five minutes of being there (and two minutes after anxiously slugging down a can of seltzer), I knew I needed to leave.

So I did.

Many people are shocked when they learn I'm introverted. "But you are so good with people!" they exclaim. I am what my friend Rita once referred to as a "socially adept introvert." A potentially uncomfortable social event where the immediate purpose is clear to me is a challenge I can rise to. Like the office cocktail party where I'm meeting new donors? Obviously no problem. And the networking event BMG asks me to attend to help him chat up a new client? Being an "INTP" means I'm a unique and original thinker; being charming and interesting can come quite naturally. And in these situations, where I overcome my natural inclination to be introverted? I nearly always have fun and meet people I hope to know for life.

But today's party, where there was no obvious role I needed to play or purpose to my being there? I couldn't do it. As I politely fled I felt guilty, felt like I had let BMG down, and that I was being rude to the hosts. But, I also remembered that when I turned 40 I vowed to take more control of my life, to stop doing things I didn't have to do that didn't make my heart go pitter pat, and to be unapologetic about it. 

So I left.

It doesn't mean I don't love the hosts, or wouldn't enjoy the company of any of the people there. It just means that size party with that many people I didn't know was not an environment where I could be my best. And I prefer, when I have the choice, to choose environments where I can be as close to my best as possible.

So, if you want to spend time with me, consider inviting me to a dinner party with eight people, or a drink after work, or a Sunday afternoon coffee date. If you invite me to go on a pub crawl with 40 of your closest friends, don't be surprised if I say no. But I will say no with grace, and suggest an alternative activity for you and I to do together that speaks to my INTP self and to our friendship.