The Rescue

I have a space between the stove and the wall, just wide enough for things to fall from my counter in that space, which because the wall is painted red (on the right), kind of looks like Hades:

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Recently the pepper shaker fell down that dark forbidding chasm. There is no way to move the stove, so you have to go in from the top. I half thought to leave it there. I don’t use it because I have a pepper mill. But it’s part of a set, and the weird thing about me is on occasion I can have sudden onset OCD. Most of the time, I really don’t care where things are or aren’t, and my desk at work looks like a stock photo for the “before” picture of a decluttering coach. But the set being separated started to bug me; that and the set came from a Yankee swap many years ago, one that I still go to every year. So I’m attached to it and you never know when you’re going need a last minute Yankee swap regift.

Operation Pepper Shaker Rescue began.

The pepper shaker was too heavy for duct tape lowered on a string. So I had to get creative. Luckily I have a set of orange Tupperware measuring cups from the 80s that have holes in the handles. Perfect for tying a string to. Or, I guess hang them up, if you’re weird. My Pampered Chef measuring cups would be useless for this.

I lowered my rescue measuring cup, and used a broom to sweep the shaker into the cup. I am absolutely positive I did not look odd squatting on top of my stove, holding a string and manipulating a broom. Perfectly normal activity.

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Now, much like saving minors from a collapsed shaft, I had to pull up the cup, carefully. It was horizontal, and the shaker could have fallen out at any time. I mean this is really tricky business.

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Oh my god, is the string fraying? Will I lose my shaker to the Hades abyss? Or is it camera trickery and my love of a cliche technique used in pretty much every drama from the 70s?

Just  little more, and we’re there…

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Success!!

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But wait, who is this running, er sliding, to happily greet the rescued pepper shaker?

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Awwwwww. See? I couldn’t leave the pepper shake down there.

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Sure, I’m weird, but you read til the end.

Everyone’s a Winner, or Are They?

Periodically, I get letters from my utility companies, comparing my usage to my neighbors. These little slices of peer pressure have been on my list to make fun of, mostly from the angle that I don’t give a flip how I compare to my neighbors, so you just wasted a stamp and some trees. Also, I always end up “good,” so really, what is the motivation to change? I guess they think they can push my buttons by showing me the remarkable performance of my “efficient” neighbors. But again, I don’t care about what my neighbors are doing. That’s why I live in a city, where ignoring people is built in to the fabric of our community.

The most recent report caught my eye. There I am in blue, once again getting patted on the head and told I’m “Good” with a little yellow smiley face.

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Do these things really work on anyone? Do people open them up, exclaim, “Look I got the yellow smiley face!” And then take action of any kind, other than throw them away? Or save them for a blog post?

But then I looked at that green flat line along the bottom, the usage of the alleged “efficient neighbors.” Notice the flat line, like the line of a patient whose heart just stopped.

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Soooo…what exactly is this? You’re telling me that my “efficient” neighbors manged to use 4 therms of gas per month through the entire New England winter? It was zero degrees Fahrenheit pretty much every other day.  What kind of crap is this? Suddenly, I’m very interested in how I’m being compared to my neighbors. Because it’s a damn lie! 4 therms maybe keeps your pilot light on in your stove.

Dear Gas Company: I’m only a lowly blog writer, not a utility engineer, but even I know that people who only use 4 therms of gas during a New England winter are:

  1. Dead and have no friends or family who care enough to check on them, and the heat has been cut off for nonpayment.
  2. Little princesses who can’t stand the cold and go to a warm place all winter and turn their thermostat down to 4 therms a month. P.S. They will also have frozen pipes and flooding, wasting water.
  3. Total cheaters who have another source of heat. I don’t think their electric bill says they are “efficient.” More like “Godzilla of usage.” Alternately they are burning away the ozone with all that wood smoke getting spewed in the sky in the name of not using gas heat. Forget solar. Only 6 people around here have solar panels.
  4. All of the above.

So, Gas Company, who are you really comparing me to? A bunch of freaks who don’t use gas heat? How is that a fair comparison? And how do you know where I actually fall on the spectrum, if you can’t even eliminate the outliers from your data? And for that matter, is the “Using more than average” data right? How will I know? And if it is, isn’t the bar a little low? Like any amount under average is “good.” What is this, a soccer participation award?

Now I have zero confidence in anything you tell me. And I actually think you may be a part of some conspiracy to, I don’t know, turn me into a 4 therm using zombie while you distract me with false praise and bad data.

Or this is in the top 5 of bad marketing campaigns.

Just to be on the safe side, I’m going to Google how to prepare for the zombie apocalypse/live on 4 therms month.

 

 

 

 

Happy Pride, for Reals

What a difference a couple of years makes! Context truly is everything. Just a few short years ago, my friends and I went to the Gay Pride Parade and complained that it had become too commercial, too long. And where were the outrageous drag queens and the lesbians dressed only in shorts and with duct tape on their nipples? Assimilation comes at a cost, and what happens to a culture when the outsider group, that defines itself as an outsider group, becomes accepted? You have to sit through a 4-hour parade of banks and churches and schools. Like straight people. I’m straight and I couldn’t even take it.

We were so young and foolish then.

Now? Just going to the parade has become a form of protest. This year the weather was perfect.  I called it a Pride Miracle, because we have not had 3 days of beautiful weather in Boston strung together since last year. 2-0-1-8. WTF!?

And there was something about the weather, like a gift, and the long parade, that felt more like caring than commercial. I watched with my friends, Mike, Jonathan, and Ron. After a couple of hours we grabbed lunch and then started walking backwards along the route towards the end. We were now nearly 4 hours into this thing. But the groups just kept coming. We went past the official parade start and there were still groups coming. And Mike summed it up perfectly.

“I’m feeling very moved by all these groups and the support. I feel very safe.”

Nothing is permanent, the acceptance of hard-earned gay rights or the Cheeto flea. But Saturday, under clear blue skies and a warm, welcoming sun, many of us felt safe, and hope.

And PS to the asshat straight men who want their own parade. I will say to you what I said to my son who, at 7 or 8 years old, complained that there is a Mother’s Day and a Father’s Day, so when is Kid’s Day?

I answered, “Kid’s day? You want to know when kid’s day is? Every damn day, that’s when kid’s day is.”

So stop being such craybaby princesses and enjoy your every damn day.

 

That Ain’t Yoga

I love yoga, but this shit is getting out of hand. The “hot” yoga has been around for a while, and in an attempt to not be such a yoga princess, I tried it a few years ago. People gush about how the warmth makes your muscles stretch more easily and you can go much farther in a pose, which is sort of anti-yoga. It’s about “practice” people, not “finish.”

But whatever, I get it. Western culture generally has a super hard time just doing things for the sake of doing them, and if you don’t have a goal — lordy, well, you are totally doing it wrong. I can do my yoga next to you unperturbed by that idea, except if it’s damn hot. I’m used to doing yoga for an hour and a half, but 45 minutes in, I hit the heat wall and had to lie still on my mat. I felt like you do sometimes on a hot humid summer day when the heat is so oppressive all you can really do is drink cold alcoholic beverages in the shade until you can drink more comfortably later in the day. Also, I’m a sweaty person, so even before I hit the wall, I was slipping around on my mat like a kid on a Whamo-O Slip ‘N Slide on said hot summer day. Not ideal for engaging my core, but a perfect way to pull a few very warm muscles.

Then someone asked me if I heard of goat yoga. I thought they were making fun of me. But, no, it’s an actual thing. I won’t call it a real thing, cuz that ain’t real. It’s just another obsession around entertaining ourselves. Seems like it started in California. Because, of course it did. Need I say more? Hey,  yoga is great and all, but this down dog needs a little, I don’t know, pizzazz, a little razzle dazzle. I know! Let’s add goats! Yes, I need some little goat headbutting my ass while I’m trying to extend my spine, stretch my legs, and turn my triceps toward each other with my hands planted. If you need goats to do yoga, then maybe you need to try something else, like artisan goat cheese making or exotic animal farming. I’m sure there is another activity for you. Just stay away from my yoga, deal? 

So, how can you top that, right? Well, I just got an email from a yoga studio where I took the hot yoga class — I really need to unsubscribe. They were promoting the “Wim Hof Method,” and there is a photo of a white (of course) man sitting cross legged, eyes closed, with the ocean in the background. I love yoga, but the teachers can have weird names, and they love to invent new kinds of yoga and name it after themselves, so I thought this guy was Wim Hof. That was odd enough to keep me reading. I soon realized the photo was Samuel Whiting, alleged expert of the Wim Hof Method: that’s WHM for all you non-hipster yoga people, who aren’t even hip enough to do yoga with goats. If it’s got an actronym, it must be real.

This part caught my attention: “Discover how you can utilize breathing and cold exposure to optimize body & mind, and learn about the underlying physiology.” Wait, wha? “Cold exposure?” OK, I’m not a big fan of passing out in a sweaty pool on the yoga mat from heat, but at least I can intellectually understand the idea of warmer muscles. “Cold exposure” makes me think of, well, me all winter long, tensed up while battling the winter wind, snow, and sleet. I need yoga to uncramp me from that. At room temperature. What “cold exposure” optimizes is my crabbyness, and the underlying physiology is, it’s effing cold, get thee human ass to a heated building.

But wait. There’s more! “Cold-water immersion in the form of an ice bath can boost metabolism, optimize your nervous system (re program your relationship to stress), strengthen your immune system and build mental fortitude.”

For the record, I find an ice bath extraordinarily stress-inducing.

What fresh hell is this? Boot camp? The Whamo-O James Bond training program? Ah, according to that fund of maybe-it’s-true knowldege Wikipedia, Wim Hof , “also known as The Iceman, is a Dutch extreme athlete noted for his ability to withstand freezing temperatures. He has set Guinness world records for swimming under ice and prolonged full-body contact with ice, and still holds the record for a barefoot half-marathon on ice and snow. He attributes these feats to his Wim Hof Method (WHM), a combination of frequent cold exposure, breathing techniques and meditation.[1] But skeptics question whether or not his identical twin brother’s similar brown fat composition shows that Wim’s tolerance of cold is mostly a result of his genetics.[2][3]”

What did I tell you about people naming techniques after themselves. Oh, this is getting rich. And I thought the goats were bad! At least it’s the idea that’s bad. The goats are, well, just being goats. Actually they are particpiating more in the spirit of yoga and just being themselves more than the humans are doing.

And then this: “Hof is the subject of The New York Times bestselling book What Doesn’t Kill Us, which tells the story of how the investigative journalist Scott Carney took an assignment supposedly to debunk the WHM but ended up learning Hof’s techniques.[4] He is also the subject of the Vice documentary Iceman in which journalist Matt Shea learned the WHM.[5]

I will stop there. As a practitioner of yoga since 2004, doing various poses on a mat, with no extra heat, or cold, or Guinness world records and simple props like a belt, a block, or a bolster, I can say with great certainty, yoga should never be paired with these phrases: “Extreme athelete,” “full body contact with ice,” and “kill.” Although if you want a Guinness after holding down dog for 3 minutes, I say, go for it.

I’ll just put it out there, that this feels a tad outside of the intention of yoga. And maybe a teeny tiny bit ‘o male ego thing. Yah?

In my humble female opinion, yoga is not meant to “build fortitude” by withstanding a super spy James Bond/Wim Hof ice cold shower/bath. If you want to see how manly you are by jumping in icy water, go right ahead. But why to do you have to drag yoga in it? The polar bear swimmer people already do that, join them. To build mental fortitude, I seem to only need to hold a pose for longer than I think I can, pushing the limits of my body in a quiet, yet challenging way. Breathing in slowly and when my monkey brain says, “OMG, we can’t possibly do this for one second longer,” I tell myself, panting and sweating, that we’re OK and we can hang on in the pose for 10 more seconds, 20 more seconds, a minute. And if all else fails, “We can have extra wine later if you hang in now!” Both the yoga and the wine translates to my life, to help me hang in there/go to the liquor store when I think I can’t take it anymore. But, I also don’t do yoga well with goats, so after 15 years, maybe I just don’t really understand the point.

And, maybe, a hot goat in Wim Hof’s ice bath will fly out of my ass.

An update: Today there were a few little ants in the studio where I do yoga. So I was inspired to invent Ant Yoga. It broadened my practice and outlook to barely see them running around the floor, doing, you know, down ant and cat/ant. I’ve already made plans to move to ant country, and buy a studio and an ant far. I am also writing a book. It’s going be huge, baby, huge!

Photo credit: Goat yoga book

New England Girl in the Desert

The kid and I are out in AZ for a few days visiting a dear friend from college and her hubby, who is also dear to me. We also went to a night time program at the Kitt Peak National Observatory. It was awesome and among other things we got to see Jupiter and 2 of its moons and more galaxies than you can shake a stick at. You can get a description of our night from the Kitt Peak blog. We also encountered strange things like seguaro cacti — those are the ones out of western central casting — warm temperatures, and dry air. Barely a week ago, Boston was 40 degrees and pelting me with ice pellets, so right now warm and dry is weird.

The last time I was in this state was 30 years ago on a road trip across country, where we creeped up on a landscape mile by mile, rather than land in the cactus-rich desert.

It’s disorienting, but maybe that’s a good thing, especially when you have good friends with a pool, a love of cooking, and a well stocked bar. Get a different perspective, another view, a better understanding of things that I don’t know much about.

Or that’s just wicked dumb jet lag talking because I don’t want to understand rattle snakes, cougars and coyotes in my yahd, never mind the desert animals.

See ya back in Boston!

We Interrupt This Programming to Breathe

Just as I was taking a brief rest — Cheeto flea’s ridiculous shenanigans hadn’t escalated to the OMG WTF? level lately — here comes an oldie, but goodie, abortion banning.

Another time I will tell you a story from a long, long time ago, in the 80s, when I spent many hours putting up flyers for pro-choice rallies and hanging out with NARAL members, mostly angry lesbians who cared a lot about the issue, which I was more at risk for than them. I don’t think I ever thanked them (I was young and sheltered and they kind of scared me), so thank you!

I have a thousand other things I want to say, but everyone is already saying them or ignoring them or arguing about them, so I’ll just say this: I have been learning more about racism as a system problem, rather than an individual asshat problem, and that has increased my understanding a lot. If I think it’s an asshat problem, I can say, I’m not an asshat, he’s the racist asshat. He’s the problem. And I can feel good that I’m not an asshat and go on my merry way. But if I can see it is part of a larger system that so big and widespread, I’ve missed it (because I’m only focusing on individual asshats) then, yeah, I can better understand my part in the system and that the system functions outside of my asshatness. Then I can figure out how I am allowing it to happen and how as a white person I am benefiting from it. If that doesn’t make sense or you’d rather have the non-asshat version, read Robin Diangelo’s book, White Fragility. She’s more eloquent about it than I am.

Her book has encouraged me to see the abortion issue in the same light. I could see it as talking about my right to choose or whether a fetus has rights, but that seems to miss some of the point. Regardless of whether you think it’s killing a baby or I think it saves a women’s life, isn’t it weird that a man’s role rarely comes into our discussion? It takes two to tango, doesn’t it? Even someone who only drives the getaway car in a bank robbery is considered an accomplice and can get sentenced; a man’s role in creating a baby sure as hell is a little more involved than that. I know some people don’t give a crap about facts, but I can’t help myself. It is a fact that a man is just as responsible, even culpable if that’s your flavor of viewpoint, in creating life (or a biologic process of cell multiplication). So why aren’t there any penalties for a man who creates life outside of whatever circumstance pro-life people find acceptable? I think that’s kind of a big huge asshat legal blind spot, don’t you? I mean if you’re punishing people for accidentally creating life and then regretting it, and the people who perform the procedure, why stop at the women and clinicians? Why do you think that’s where these bans stop? How might men benefit from a system that only holds women accountable and punishes them for the outcome of sex?

Wait, unless is really isn’t about individual women and men, but more about a system created to do some nasty things to a specific group of women.

An abortion ban mostly controls certain groups of women. Sure, you ban abortion across the board so you seem like you’re being *ahem* “fair.” But the reality is women of means (most of them white) will still have access to an abortion if they need one. And women in the snowflake states will march and use their votes to fight back, keep access, and kick your ass if you come here with your pro-life placards, just sayin’.

So who is left to control? This ban cherry picks women who are poor, women who are Black, women who live in rural areas. These women already have a hard enough time getting access to regular health care to stay healthy for crying out loud. Nevermind, trying to get an abortion.

Now that is a lot of women, don’t you think? You can call them names if you wish to make yourself feel better, to feel like they deserve what they get. But can they really all be asshats who deserve to be punished? All of them? As much as it pains me, even I have to admit that it is statistically impossible for all those white women who voted for Trump to be asshats. Statistically speaking at least 2 or 3 of them must have some good qualities. So an abortion ban ends up specifically targeting certain women, and absolutely 0 men. It hurts and, yes, can even kill these women, whether they are asshats or not.

If you want an abortion ban, then you also have to understand you are also part of the system that is controlling and hurting this vulnerable group of women. You are also turning a blind eye to men’s responsibility in this. You can’t be for an abortion ban and be free of the consequences of how that systemically plays out. I get it, it’s easier to call out a blatantly racist asshat than admit I’m a racist who has been upholding and benefiting from systemic racism by not seeing it. Tracking men folk down who have sex is difficult, if not impossible. It’s easier to just blame and punish women, who have to deal with the reality of pregnancy and who already conveniently come with labels like irresponsible, hussy, and loose. But, see, that is a really asshat thing to do.

Don’t be an asshat.

For my fellow pro-choice snowflakes, let’s breathe together; here are some actions you can take, from a great, well-researched website called Americans of Conscience. Created by Jen Hofmann, it’s a weekly checklist of to dos for people who value democracy, equality, voting, and respect.

▢ Action 9: Support reproductive rights. [h/t Planned Parenthood]

Spread the word: Abortion is still legal in Alabama,Georgia, Ohio, Missouri, and everywhere else for at least six months until newly enacted bans and limits become effective, allowing for legal challenges as is happening in Ohio.
Donate:
Alabama Women’s Center: One of only three abortion providers in the state and the only one providing services up to the state-mandated limit of 20 weeks.
Yellowhammer Fund: Provides financial help for AL residents seeking abortion services.

▢ Action 10: Advocate for women’s equality and health. [h/t MomsRising]

Call: Your one House rep (look up).
Script: Hi. I’m calling from [ZIP] because I believe menstruation is a normal body process. However, the many who lack access to hygienic menstrual products often suffer indignity, miss work or school, and even contract toxic shock syndrome from using makeshift products. The problem severely impacts Incarcerated women. I’d like [NAME] to co-sponsor the Menstrual Equity for All Act (H.R. 1882) to improve access to these essential items.

We now return to our regularly scheduled programming.

Photo and item credits: Etsy

Muthahs

In 2015 I wrote a Mother’s Day post about finally getting over a Mother’s Day thing that happened when the kid was 4.  What can I say, I only have one kid, so I hold grudges, sue me. Then I had a run of Mother’s Days focused on my mother and mother-in-law, crossing state lines with the mother-in-law and kid in tow. These were mostly logistical events to endure. However, in that post, I finally just had a nice day with me and the teenager. No meltdowns over pancakes, no on location Oscars-level ceremony logistics, just movie and ice cream on the beach.

Then the kid went off to college, and it was a rough ride, and this time last year, he was in a bad place. Mother’s Day was only a reminder that I am always a mother, for better or worse. And this was definitely on the worse side. We had an intense summer, patched him back together and hoped for the best last fall.

The wheel of life and Mother’s Day keeps turning and here we are a year later. Now, it’s my almost 90-year-old mom who needs more attention, so my road trip included her, and then I went on to see the kid at his school. I’ve been a more attentive mother this year / feeling guilty and making up for it, so I knew he was in a better place, but let’s just say the kid has never been happy go lucky. Being in a good place can just mean he’s not miserable. That’s pretty much what I hope for. Not miserable.

And at first that’s pretty much what I got. I was there to pick up some of his stuff since he is coming home in a week. There was a lot of silence as he packed up, but it was cool because he didn’t look miserable. Mission accomplished. I wasn’t on mother red alert like I was last year. He finished and we went to lunch. I’m used to his silences, and I was tired from the trip to see my mother, so I thought it was all going pretty good.

And then he started to talk.

I went very still, like when a wild animal approaches you, and you know if you make any move, you’ll scare them off. So I held back my mother inclination to respond, and kept very, very quiet. And he continued to talk, mostly about the music he is listening to. He seemed to be comfortable, so I finally allowed myself small responses — you know that woman thing we do to encourage the speaker, which men don’t really need, but I’m a muthah, so I can’t help it.  “Wow, that’s interesting!” “How cool!”

It lasted pretty much the entire lunch. You could have knocked me over with a feather, and I wasn’t even drinking.

He apologized for not getting me a card, but he had been busy studying. I told him I didn’t want or need a card, and he had given me a great gift by sharing his music with me. Even that blatant, embarrassing show of affection didn’t seem to throw him off.

Being a mother has made me learn a lot of crap I’d rather not, but it does have its moments. And sometimes they can even be way better than not miserable.

Photo credit: https://thegraphicsfairy.com/10-free-vintage-mothers-day-images/