Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Lumbering man beasts

Misogyny in advertising is nothing new. Sex (as in sexy women, of course) is used to sell everything from shampoo to vodka. But if you watch many commercials, you may have noticed that men aren't exactly presented in the best light, either. Let my beloved Sarah Haskins explain it to you:

Monday, November 9, 2009

Square pants

Let's be perfectly honest: Despite what Huey Lewis may think, it's never, ever been hip to be square. And I am hopelessly square. Don't believe me? The evidence:
*I listen to Billy Joel unironically. I especially love "Allentown," and sing along to it loudly and cheerfully, as if it weren't about a depressed blue collar steel town.
*I think Twilight may be the worst book ever written. And Robert Pattinson is not even remotely attractive.
*I didn't watch Titanic until four years after it came out, after everyone else on the planet had seen it. Hated it with a burning passion (although I thought Kate Winslet looked great).
*I've never watched a Mad Men episode.
*I don't have the slightest clue who "Kings of Leon" are.
*The Halls commercial with the mom and her son's roommate suckin' down on shared mouth drops makes me laugh every time, although apparently some people don't find it so funny.
*That last one reminded me: Can we stop calling older women cougars? It's insulting and stupid.
*Even though I use them -- grudgingly -- I absolutely hate Twitter and Facebook. But all the cool kids are doing it, so...
*All my favorite films were made before 1950.

I could go on, but I think my point has been made. At 35, I'm no longer considered hip by the people who decide these things and even when I was young I had the taste of a much older person (I've been a Pink Floyd fan since I was 6 years old and sang "Another Brick in the Wall" to my horrified first grade teacher. We don't need no education, indeed.) Of course, I also play WoW and watch cartoons, so I obviously have the taste of an older person who lives in her parents' basement.

I wish I could say it didn't matter to me that I am hopelessly uncool, but sometimes I wish I wasn't quite so contrary. I wish I enjoyed Lost as much I enjoy Mythbusters. I'd like to be included on the conversations about the latest music or whatever the hip crowd is reading (as for me, I'm reading Pullman's "His Dark Materials" trilogy. I think that might be cool in some circles, though). Sometimes, I'll admit, it's not even that I don't like these things or don't understand them so much as I don't want to, since that would make me a follower. I'm very averse to tagging along with something because everybody else is doing it or likes it. It's a stupid reason to not even learn about some things, and I think I veer dangerously into self-righteous territory when I sniff, "I don't watch vampire movies that don't feature Nosferatu and/or subtitles."

Perhaps the problem isn't that I'm hopelessly square, but hopelessly snobbish. 

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Weighty matters

I seem to be fighting an eternal battle with weight loss. After being at a healthy "fighting weight" for several years, I started gaining again about two years ago. Not to make any excuses, but I'm pretty sure my on again/off again relationship with anti-depressants (and finding the right one in the first place) plus an extraordinarily stressful job plus suddenly getting migraines for the first time in my life were factors. Getting laid off in February meant I didn't have nearly as many places to get dressed up and go to -- and lot more reasons to lie on the couch and watch endless episodes of NCIS.

I've lost count of how many times I've gained more than 20 pounds and had to struggle to lose it. I'll be 36 in January, and this stuff just isn't melting off like it did in my twenties. To make matters worse, I am starting pretty much at square one again with fitness, when I used to spend three hours a day at the gym. Yeah, it was a bit excessive. But I ran, and easily did 200+ lbs. on the leg press machine and took step classes, Pilates, kickboxing and burned up the elliptical for at least an hour a stretch. It was exhausting, and I was hungry All. The. Time. I was in the best shape of my life, but holding on to it was almost impossible.

Now I'm doing like 30 minutes on the treadmill, and about 10 minutes of Pilates. I feel like the biggest couch potato. I'm trying to ease back into it, avoid injury and not go overboard. I'm still in the beginning stages of my plan, but I've found some great motivation and advice from other people who've gotten back into shape in a realistic way. Here are some sites I'm finding helpful right now:

On Losing Weight, Slowly
7 Rules
Couch Potato to Gym Rat
Cranky Fitness
Does This Font Make Me Look Fat?

Friday, November 6, 2009

On goal setting

To the three people who read this, thanks for dropping by! As I said in yesterday's post, I'm just not feeling inspired to blog, probably because I'm busy writing about childhood trauma (just kidding, Daddy, who is one of my three readers) for NaNoWriMo. But I've committed to blogging every day this week, and I'm happy to say that I have so far.

I've never been a goal setter. I'm a list maker, which is different. I make endless to-do lists, which never get done, but still I make them obsessively. It's a strange habit, especially because I seem unable to stop doing it. Mild OCD? Anyway, this week I thought I'd try setting some goals -- easy ones, so I wouldn't set myself up for failure -- and I posted them on a giant Post-It on the wall next to my computer. My goals this week were to blog every day, exercise every day and take a multi-vitamin every day. These are things I need to be doing, and can't seem to do with any sort of consistency. I wrote down my goals, and under them drew little boxes for each day this week. Then I checked off each day if I kept to the goal.

I didn't make my goals super specific -- like, "exercise for 30 minutes every day" -- for a reason. To get into a habit, I think you need to give yourself as much leeway as possible in the beginning. Changing behavior and adopting new habits is difficult. By beginning with some easy goals, I gave myself every chance to succeed and didn't set myself up for failure with too lofty goals. This way, I was psyched every day when I was able to check off another day. It kept me motivated to be consistent.

Next week, I'll keep going with these goals, and add one more. This is such simplistic stuff that I'm a little embarrassed to be writing about it. Most people that I know seem to be able to do these things without the prodding of a bright yellow sticky. But if you've been struggling with a new goal -- whether it's working out or eating right or whatever -- write it down. I find it a lot harder to weasel out of a goal if it's in my face reminding me every day.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Pithy title here

Now that I'm working feverishly on my "novel," I don't seem to have a lot of juice left for blogging (I couldn't even think of an appropriate title for this blog post). I'll spend some time this weekend thinking of something to say. Meanwhile, I'm up to 6000 words for NaNoWriMo, and boy is it getting tough. I'm writing about my first marriage... I'm still pissed off about some stuff. This is so much cheaper than therapy!

Wednesday, November 4, 2009


Jeez, I'm feeling uninspired today. I wrote a little for NaNoWriMo, but coming up with an interesting blog post was just beyond me. Unfortunately, one of my goals this week is to blog daily -- and I am all about taking  my goals seriously right now. So... how about some cat pictures?

This is Benny. He weighs about 18 pounds. (He's much prettier than this, and has amazing green eyes but my husband takes crap pictures.) We got him about four years ago. My brother found him outside a convenience store, sick and starving, and kids were throwing rocks at him. My mom called me and asked if we needed a kitten ... and yes, we did. I was going to get Benny from my parents in south Mississippi on Labor Day weekend... but then Hurricane Katrina hit on August 29. For over a week, I couldn't get in touch with my parents, who had lost power, water and phone service. Is it wrong that, while I was worried about my family, I was sick with worry over my tiny (seriously, he was little then) kitten? As you can see, he not only survived, he thrived.

Here's Niblet. Poor, poor Niblet. Until about two weeks ago, he had this thick, luxurious coat that was strikingly beautiful -- and almost impossible to groom. I was sick when his grooming appointment rolled around so Royal took him -- and you can see the results here. Not his proudest moment, is it? (Royal's, not Niblet.) Can you believe what he did to my baby?! He looks utterly ridiculous and knows it. What you can't see in this picture is his tail, which makes me choke with laughter every single day. It's the classic lion cut "puff" and he is definitely not the breed for this particular cut. He tries to wrap his anemic little tail around his body for warmth, so we've taken to covering him with a corner of the blanket when he sleeps on the bed. Niblet is already a strange, strange cat (climbs walls, cries like a baby at random and you can never figure out what he wants) but this haircut has not helped his self-esteem one bit.

Fred is one of our new babies that we "rescued" from Laurel's frat boy neighbors. This is another bad picture (dang it, Royal!) but isn't he cute? He has a twin brother, and we named them Fred and George, after the Weasley twins in Harry Potter. Yes, we're nerds, why do you ask? Fred likes to dry nurse me, but only me, and he likes to be carried around like a baby. He's not quite as gregarious as his brother George, but he is so sweet and affectionate. I need to upload a better picture of him so you can see his fox-like face. He's really adorable.

I'm sure you can guess why I saved this one for last. Yes, he fell asleep on the toilet lid. Doesn't your cat? Totally normal. George is quite rambunctious, so we had to wait until he was sleeping to get something that wasn't a complete blur. He did not disappoint in his choice of sleeping area. His absolute favorite place to sleep, however, is snuggled up to his surrogate mother, Benny. Benny is resigned to this fate, and will even acknowledge his presence with some half-hearted licking on occasion. We think George is going to be a handful -- he already is -- and he is the reason I sometimes question my need for four cats. But what a cutie pie! I wouldn't trade any of them for well-behaved, pedigreed cats. All my kitties are rescues -- if you need a furry baby, visit your local rescue organization. Every kitty needs a warm, safe home.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009


Yesterday, I signed up for National Novel Writing Month, or NaNoWriMo. I've thought about doing it for years, but would forget it was going on until, say, November 29. Since you need to write 50,000 words and most days I'm lucky if I write 200, this is a huge challenge for me.

The impetus to sign up was mainly from reading Art and Fear by David Bayles and Ted Orland. Seriously, this book is an ass kicker. If you're a creative sort, you will either be completely astounded by this book or you are already so awesome that we cannot be friends. It's the kind of thing you read and think, Of course! and feel stupid you never thought of it before. But it's truly life changing for someone like me, who is such a perfectionist that I can barely get anything done.

One particular anecdote in the book has completely changed my view of writing.There's this pottery class, and the teacher divides the class into two groups. Group A will only be judged on the quantity of their work, while Group B will be judged on the quality of their work. At the end of the semester, the teacher will weigh Group A's pots, and they will receive an A for 50 pounds of pots, a B for 40 pounds, and so on and so on. Group B only has to produce one pot -- but it must be perfect. At the end of the semester, something surprising happens. Group B has barely produced anything -- and certainly no perfect pot -- while Group A has created many perfect pots. I'm not exaggerating when I say this was like one of those Oprah lightbulb moments, when everything comes into sudden focus and I see what I'm supposed to do with perfect clarity (and no, I'm not starting a girls' school in Africa). I immediately put the book down and ran to my computer to start writing. Ok, maybe not ran, but walked with a renewed purpose.

Are you laughing at me yet? Right, this is elementary stuff. The more you write, the more likely you'll write something worth reading. It's practice. Just like, when I studied piano, I didn't expect to be able to play Rites of Spring* until I practiced and practiced and learned the easier stuff, I can hardly be expected to write The Great American Novel while writing 3 or 4 tweets a day, and maybe a Facebook update. (*I never learned to play Rites of Spring. Are you shocked?)

After running walking purposefully to my computer, I remembered NaNoWriMo and signed up. And I must say, it's going beautifully. I am writing the most shit-filled, mind-bogglingly awful stuff I think I've ever written. And I couldn't be more excited about it. Because, surely, once I get all this crap out, there must be a jewel in there somewhere.

Monday, November 2, 2009

My (un)sentimental journey

At book club last week, the conversation turned to childhood – what was important to us, what we kept and these kids today!, etc. etc. Many of the women still had dolls they received as Christmas and birthday gifts as girls. Some of them still had papers and artwork from elementary school, poems they had written at the tender age of 6 and letters from first loves.

I contributed very little to this conversation – except to lament the passing of my beloved Charlie's Angels treehouse, which my little sister sat on and destroyed not long after I received it – because I never kept anything. Neither, to my knowledge, did my mother. I don't have old love letters or report cards or newpaper clippings or even photos, for that matter. I have an album with some photos I took in high school with my own camera, but hardly any of me before age 15. I don't have stuffed animals or dolls given to me by friends, family or boyfriends. (Actually, Royal made the mistake of sending me a stuffed teddy bear for some reason in our early stages of courting. I was touched by the underlying emotion for the gift, but quickly informed him that I was not a 9-year-old girl, and from now on all gifts should be chocolate-related.) In fact, I don't have a single thing in my current house that shows I even existed before the age of 30 or so.

I'm fine with not having these things. I don't have them for many reasons, one of which is that I don't like clutter. But another reason is that I'm just not that sentimental. “Stuff” holds no emotional value for me. Here's the problem: Should I be more sentimental? I think it says a lot about me that I'm not attached to things, but maybe it's not a good thing. Are people who hold on to old mementos living a richer life, or are they stuck in the past?

I have wondered if my opinion might be different if I had lost one or both parents, or even my grandparents. Would I have kept that awful music box with the ballerina that my grandmother gave me at 27 if she had passed away soon after? I know the answer: no. Besides being a little insulted that I got the same gift as my 12-year-old cousins, simply by virtue of being the last single woman in the family over the age of 18, that music box didn't represent anything to me. It was just a thing. It didn't cook a pot of chicken and dumplings for me, or let me eat all the cheesecake I wanted or hold me in its lap on the front porch swing. Those were all things my grandmother did for me growing up and I'd never, ever forget them. Same with my parents or friends or husband or anyone else I've ever loved. I don't need a letter or a teddy bear to remember why these people or certain experiences in my life were important to me. The best thing I can do, to make sure I continue to remember, is to write it all down. Every wonderful, awful, exciting, life-changing episode so I can remember it always.

Maybe I am a little sentimental -- I just don't measure it in stuff saved, but in words.