Tag Archives: opinions

Unexpected Baby Shower Gifts (You Should Totally Buy)

When everyone you know is having babies, and you’re invited to a hundred baby showers, it gets a little overwhelming navigating baby registries to find the right things to buy for the parents-to-be. It’s tempting to go off-registry, especially when the only things left on the list are big-ticket items. But off-registry shopping usually results in Mom having a 14-year supply of sleepytime bath wash and lotion, a dozen copies of Goodnight Moon, and enough newborn sleepers to clothe triplets… until they get bigger. Want some ideas for unexpected baby shower gifts that might actually be useful and well-received? I got some!

Towels

No, not baby towels. Those are pretty terrible and everyone gets a hundred of them because they’re so cute. I mean grown-up towels. I know, towels don’t seem very baby-showery. That’s why these are unexpected baby shower gifts. Really, a gift of giant bath sheets to the mom-to-be is a great idea, because as that belly expands, normal-sized bath towels may as well be hand towels by the end. Bath sheets are big enough to wrap all the way around and are incredibly satisfying. Depending on the season, you could also get huge beach towels with fun prints – same size, same idea, but could double as actual beach or pool towels for future summers.

Bath sheets for pregnancy

But I also recommend getting a stack of cheaper normal-sized bath towels in a darker color. Mom can throw them on the couch when nursing, to avoid regurgitated milk stains on the microsuede. throw them on the floor for tummy time – easier to wash than the fancy play mats. Later, when kiddo is older, lay them on their bedroom floor as puke catchers on sick nights.

Snot sucker

Yes, it’s gross. And it takes nerves of steel (and sometimes a second set of hands) to use it properly on a howling infant. But no product in the world works as well on a stuffy baby nose. There are fancier models meant to be used with replaceable filters, but you can also find ones that use regular wadded-up tissues as a filter – much cheaper in the long run.Baby snot suckerIf you’re giving this as a gift, add in a squirt bottle of saline to go with it, because loosening up the snot with a small squirt of saline makes it so much more suckable. Just be careful to buy something that’s indended for babies – there are adult saline sprays with a much more powerful spray that could hurt a baby’s teeny nose.

You may worry that sucking snot directly from the baby’s nose will guarantee that the parents catch every cold the baby gets. That’s why the little rubber bulb “aspirators” are on everyone’s list and come packaged as part of every baby toiletries kit. But, look, germ transfer is going to happen anyway, because babies are designed to leak every possible fluid all over everyone. All germs are shared germs once baby arrives. Some folks may be put off by the snot sucker and want to return it right away, but I know so many who swear by this thing that I absolutely recommend it to everyone who’s either having a baby or buying for one.

Stretchy Car Sun Shades

All new parents have car sun shades on their baby registry. But most of them have selected the wrong sun shades: the sun shades that roll down like old-fashioned blinds, and are held up with flimsy suction cups. They fall off, kids can reach them and yank on them, and they only cover a small section of window. The cling film sun shades aren’t much better. Most of them are packaged all folded up into a tiny square, leaving creases that never quite smooth out. They’re all pretty fiddly to stick on, and peel easily.
stretchy car window shade
These stretchy ones fit over the whole window, frame and all, like a stocking. They block every possible inch of the window, so baby won’t be squinting and screaming. One size fits most cars, and even if kiddo yanks it up, the stretch design means that the outside layer will keep blocking the sun. The only downsides are that they flap in the breeze, and they affect visibility once it gets darker outside. They’re washable, easy, and fantastic. I recommend these to everyone looking for a baby shower gift.

Reusable Water Bottles

These are a great gift, especially if you know that the new mother is planning to breastfeed. She’ll need to stay super hydrated, and she’ll often be trapped with only one hand free. A collection of water bottles she can keep filled and ready is extremely useful.

reusable straw water bottles

Even better if they’re the flip-up straw kind, like these BPA-free Contigo bottles: easy one-hand operation, and less mess if it gets knocked over. For extra credit, add a straw brush set for cleaning these – she’ll need one for sippy cups down the road anyway.

Autoseal Coffee Mugs

Same idea as above: sleepy new moms need their coffee, but an open cup of hot liquid is dangerous around baby. Spill-proof travel coffee mugs are a must. I highly recommend the Contigo autoseal ones, because they require you to press a button in order to open them enough for a sip.
spill proof travel mugsWhen baby’s older and mobile and grabs the full mug when nobody’s watching, they won’t be able to accidentally dump it all over themselves and the floor.


Any of these gifts might get you a funny look at a baby shower as it’s unwrapped, but once the new parents are in the trenches they’ll realize that these were spot-on gifts. I know that every one of these has made my life easier as a parent, and I appreciate their existence on a very regular basis.

Happy shopping!

 

 

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Penguin coffee mug

Find Your Happy-Makers

It’s been a long month or two around here. And out there. Pretty much everywhere I look, really. Everyone’s spread too thin, not getting enough meaningful sleep, not finding time to recharge. It’s hard to find time for the things that make us happy, and it’s easy to overlook the little happy-makers floating around in our lives when we’re jumping from crisis to crisis.

Today I’ll let someone else write the pep talk and deliver bulleted lists of simple action items to take down the patriarchy and the white supremacy and the authoritarian fog that’s slowly blotting out the sun. Today, I’m going to write about some insignificant little things that help to make me happy.

Lemon Pledge

I can squirt some Lemon Pledge on a paper towel, half-heartedly swipe at a couple of wooden side tables, and my house smells like I’ve somehow managed to squeeze in some housework. Fake it till you eventually have time to make it, right? This also works with lemon Lysol spray and citrus-scented surface-sanitizing wipes.

Outside Teatime

If I can find ten minutes to sit out on the porch with a cup of tea and watch the birds or the rain or the sunset, it does something very good for my brain. Even if it’s freezing out and I need to bundle up. Oddly enough, this only works for me with tea. Coffee doesn’t work. It has to be tea, Earl Grey, hot, with a pinch of sugar and the spoon left in.

Coffee

Speaking of caffeinated beverages, I finally bought a burr-style coffee grinder, after being on the fence about the expense for ages. A month later, I can confirm that it was $45 well spent. I’m not super picky about my coffee, other than a preference for darker roasts, but grinding the beans just before making the coffee makes for better coffee. Friends have been trying to convince me of this fact for ages and now I have been converted. Even when I ran out of my favorite Mayorga Cafe Cubano beans and had to resort to a slightly-past-date bag of whole-bean Starbucks coffee I found in the pantry, the results were noticeably better. Any coffee wakes me up, but good coffee makes me happy to be awake.

Petting a fluffy thing

Preferably with the fluffy thing’s consent. There are studies out there that say petting cats and dogs can reduce your cortisol levels and help to lower blood pressure. This also likely extends to chinchillas, hamsters, ferrets, and rabbits, so please make the attempt to pet and/or snuggle your domesticated fluffy thing ASAP. Please proceed with caution if attempting to pet wild fluffy things, or domesticated non-fluffy things. The author is not legally responsible for her readers’ raccoon bites or hedgehog-quill impalements.

Cat beside shower

Pencils

I’ve recently gone back to making my to-do lists and shopping lists in good old-fashioned pencil instead of in pen. The scratch of the lead dragging on the paper is SO incredibly satisfying, as is the scritch-scritch of the little pencil sharpener. Maybe it’s reviving quietly happy childhood memories? Not sure what it is, but it feels so good to write with pencils right now. If I could write this blog in pencil, I would.

What little things are bringing you joy? Are there any small things you do for yourself to ease your stress? If you look around at your life and habits, can you uncover any small joys hiding underneath your stressors? I’d love to hear about them.




Bendy Straws

Every Little Bit

Every little bit counts. I have to believe that.

Even though my carefully-written letters to my political representatives go unanswered. Even though those representatives are already doing all the things I’d be asking them to, and supporting all the resistance that makes sense. It feels odd to write to them, knowing that their minds are already made up and they’re already on my side in the fight. But I have to believe that my calls and letters end up tallied on a spreadsheet somewhere and make a row or column just a little more impressive, make someone nod to themselves and say yes, yes I am doing right by these people.

I’m not changing votes. I’m not going to be the one who saves the ACA or finally gets the president’s tax returns into the light. I can’t give Trans kids the protection they need and I can’t keep states from shredding apart abortion rights. I don’t have the power to overturn immigration bans. The people whose minds need changing on these issues aren’t my representatives and aren’t listening to me.

But I did get an unexpected response this week from a local Islamic school, thanking me for my letter and expressing comfort in the knowledge that so many in the community reached out to them.

I’ve been reading Washington Post articles without the pressure of a paywall, and feeling good that a journalist is getting paid for their hard work today. Maybe one more stone will be turned, and one more important article will be written.

I received an email from my professional organization, thanking me for my engagement and informing me that they have written to the president and issued a public statement condemning the immigration ban.

Someone saw the Black Lives Matter pin on my coat, and asked where they could get one.

Maybe it’s okay that our actions are small and feel insignificant. Maybe it’s okay that all we have are straws. If we can get together and concentrate our efforts on the right camels, maybe the straws will be enough, in the end.

I have to believe that every little bit helps.

Get out there and find a camel to put your straw on.




This Month In Resistance And Accountability

I’m writing this today because I need to keep track of how I’m resisting the efforts of this administration to undo the hard work that’s improved health care and the economy and equal rights for so many. It’s not enough to talk about the fight: we need resistance and accountability. I need to make lists of my efforts so I’m not just telling myself that I’m fighting for equality and for access to health care and public schools and clean water and other basic human necessities. Talk is cheap. What have I done to back up my intentions?

Accountability

I have called or emailed (often both!) my Senators and my Congressman daily. They have already made their disagreement with Trump’s agenda very clear, often putting out public statements against his nominees and his hasty and bigoted Executive Orders before I’ve even had a chance to ask them to speak out. I call anyway, to thank them and to share stories about why their votes matter to me and my family.

I contacted my professional organization, asking them to make a public statement condemning the immigration ban.

I have been sharing the This Week in Autocracy spreadsheet on Facebook, hoping that others can use it to investigate news stories and find new ways they can safely protest and resist this administration.

I’ve followed more voices from minority communities on Twitter, so I can try and learn to listen, and to understand how I am helping – or hurting – with the choices I make.

I wrote a dozen letters to local Islamic centers and mosques, telling them that they have friends here who will fight for their rights and freedoms.

I signed up to volunteer for Lawyers for Good Government, who have been fighting the immigration ban and providing legal counsel to those who were detained in airports across the country when the ban was enacted. I haven’t been contacted yet, but at least I’m on their list if they need me.

I contacted my county executive, asking him to reconsider his veto of a local bill which would have made my area a “sanctuary” county where police couldn’t harass or detain people on suspicion of illegal immigration status. I also contacted my representative on the county council and thanked her for voting for the bill even though she knew it couldn’t pass the veto.

I bought Organizing for Social Change after writing to my local library asking that they purchase copies for their collection. And I’ve been reading it, and I’m examining my budget to try and make it possible for me to attend a related workshop in Baltimore next fall. It’s a longshot, especially trying to collect enough vacation time for the week-long event, but you never know.

Am I doing enough? Oh, of course not. I should be attending local meetings, doing more research into local and state politics, and planning to attend rallies and protests. I should be donating more money to groups doing the hard work. But I’m human, and there are only so many hours in a day and only so much energy in my body and money in my wallet. I sometimes need to remind myself that even little things count. I am small, and my actions are only the tiniest of ripples in this ocean. But ripples can make waves. We are many, and our actions are more powerful together.

Tell me: what are you doing to resist? How are you finding ways to fit activism into your life without completely sacrificing your mental and physical health?




Activism For Beginners

Millions of people took part in marches in cities across the country this weekend, their voices raised for equality, justice, and kindness. Among their number, and watching at home, were thousands of brand new activists just waking up to the reality we’re in and the power we hold to change it.

Whether you were able to attend or not, I hope that stories about the event have awakened the activist within you. Because this is only the beginning. This march was a message to those in power: we’re important, we’re many, we’re watching, and you’re not going to get away with evil. How do we take this spirit and push forward with it to create change? Because marching isn’t enough. We’ve got a long road ahead as this administration works to sell outright lies to us while dismantling our rights.

There are so many activists out there who know a lot more than me, and who are already writing better posts than this one about what to do next. I’m new to this myself, and have so very much to learn*. But I’m hoping that maybe hearing some of this from a friend might make it less intimidating.

Here are some steps that we all need to take in the next few weeks. And once we’ve stepped those steps, we need to step’ em again. And again and again. Then more steps, and bigger steps, until we see results. And then? Keep going.

Activism for Beginners: Baby Steps

Get Familiar With Your Bias and Privilege

We’re all biased. It’s the way the brain gets wired through years of experience with the world, cultural expectations, exchanges with others in the community and outside of it, and consumption of media in all its forms. Everyone, to some degree, holds preconceived notions in their heads about groups of people, even if they aren’t consciously aware of it. You can test your implicit bias through Project Implicit, even though there’s a good chance you’ll be uncomfortable with the results. I know I was uncomfortable with mine. The important thing is what you choose to do with that discomfort. It’s easy to want to dismiss it, saying there’s no way it can be accurate, because you’re not racist or ableist. You’re a good person! Yes, you probably are. You probably try to do everything right and treat people fairly, but it’s important to know the ways in which your brain may be making decisions for you without you even being aware of them. Look at your results. Know where you may need to be exerting a little more conscious control over situations and choices. Just be more aware.

Once you’ve had some time to sit with your biases and pledge to work against them, look at your privilege. Privilege doesn’t mean you’re rich and happy and have never had it tough. It just means that there are some things that you have never had to experience, simply because of the different circumstances of your existence. Acknowledging that other people’s lives and experiences can be very different than yours is important: it’s a way to train yourself out of getting defensive when someone calls you out. The fact is, if you’re white, you’ve had it easier than every other group out there. You owe them the space to tell their stories, and you owe them some difficult homework in understanding and working towards equality.

Get Educated

Open up your eyes and mind to some new perspectives by following some activists on Twitter or Facebook, or subscribe to their blogs or the publications that they contribute to. This is the easiest possible doorway to activism. Just read. Read the words of Black women. Read the words of Indigenous women. Read the words of Trans folks. Read the words of disabled folks. Read as much as you can from people whose lives are different from yours, and who have more to lose in the upcoming political horror show. Listen, learn, and try hard to understand how your actions may need to change in order to stand behind these people in a meaningful way.

And I do mean listen. Don’t interrupt, don’t get defensive, don’t make the conversation about you, and don’t ask for citations to back up their words. If they bring up historical facts you don’t recognize, make a note to go home and put in the work researching and understanding where they’re coming from. If they make you feel uncomfortable, examine those feelings and try to get to the root of them so you can work on being a better and more empathetic person.

While you’re reading, why not support good journalism by subscribing or donating to sites that are doing a good job out there getting actual news to the people? Fight the clickbait economy and support them with your dollars. I’ve subscribed to Mother Jones, the Washington Post, and Teen Vogue (no, seriously), and I’ve donated to the Guardian. If we want good journalism, we need to make it possible for these places to pay good journalists.

Teen Vogue website

Yes, this is a screenshot of Teen Vogue’s site on Saturday.

Get Political

Yes, start calling your representatives in the federal government about all the things going on that you disagree with. Tell them how you’d prefer that they vote on matters that are important to you. Then, afterwards, call to either thank them for voting that way or tell them you’re disappointed that they didn’t. But this isn’t just about the federal government. There are state governments and local governments that speak for you, too. Do you know who represents you when everyone meets for votes in your state capital? Who is on your local board of education? Who’s your mayor? What do they stand for? What important matters are coming up for votes? These people all have offices and phones, and they need to hear your voice.

Do your research and figure out what’s going on closer to home, and then get involved in whatever ways you can, from letters to the editor to attending public meetings to running for office yourself, if you’re qualified (and brave).

Get Involved

What causes matter the most to you right now? How can you help them? Whether it’s time or money, see what you might be able to donate to organizations that are doing some of the hardest work in this fight. There are big ones, like ACLU Planned Parenthood, and Campaign Zero, but don’t forget to act locally, too. Food banks, domestic violence shelters, job centers, children’s groups: find them, and ask them how you can be involved.

Even everyday interactions can make a difference. With so much hate swirling around, and actual Nazis among those in charge of the country, plenty of people have reason to worry for their safety and well-being. Smile at the veiled woman on the bus. Tell the Hispanic barista you like her earrings. Tip the Black waitress a little extra. Speak up when you hear someone say something that is not okay. Fight the normalization of hate speech. Normalize kindness and tolerance. Model good behavior and hope others catch on.

Get Prioritized

Do you need more help prioritizing your energies while your outrage meter keeps overloading with every fresh news story? I’m right there with you. I highly recommend signing up for regular emails from Indivisible and re:act, which contain simple weekly action items, including telephone scripts you can use when calling your representatives. The group behind the Women’s March is rolling out an action plan. Many other national groups, like Planned Parenthood, Moms Demand Action, and the ACLU are also giving out useful information about ways to participate. Sign up for their mailing lists, and follow them on Facebook and Twitter to stay up to date on what they need you to do.

It’s so easy to feel overwhelmed. The list of horrible things we need to fight against keeps growing, and no one person can possibly manage to work against all of it, every day. Rage burnout is a real thing. But every little bit does help, and it’s okay to choose only a few points for your action list. I make a list every weekend, using the mailing lists above as a guide to urgent priorities like hearings or votes. I have a regular slot in my calendar for calling my elected officials over my lunch break.

Get Loud

There is power in numbers – just look at how many turned out for the marches this weekend, and how much it shook the administration. We need to keep people engaged and involved so that the movement continues. Share your hard work in ways that might inspire others, even if it’s just on Facebook where your conservative aunties might see it. See if a coworker wants to volunteer with you. Write letters to the editors in your local papers. Forward links to activist mailing lists to friends who may want to do more. If you’re more extroverted and feel up for it, maybe get a local discussion group together in your neighborhood so you can plan to act as a group and reach more people. Go to town hall meetings and ask your representative important questions, so their answers will be recorded by local journalists for all to see or read.

Beginner activism is still activism. It still counts and can make a difference. Don’t let your inexperience stop you from trying, failing, learning, and trying again. Listen when you’re given feedback from folks who have been fighting this fight longer than you. Share what you learn. Most of all, keep going. Even if we can create change, we need to sustain it, as this election has shown us all too well.

 

*I’m still learning, and I understand that I’m unlikely to get any of this completely right on the first try. Please, let me know if I’m missing important things here, and I’ll do my best to edit this post in response.




The Greatest Generation

I had the highest of hopes for the Greatest Generation podcast when the Maximum Fun network picked it up and brought it to my attention. I’m a huge fan of other Max Fun podcasts, so I felt like if they were backing and promoting a Star Trek podcast, it would probably be a good one. Unfortunately, three episodes in, I’m done. I don’t feel like I can continue listening, and I absolutely cannot recommend the Greatest Generation podcast to any Star Trek fan.

It should have been a huge red flag to me that the hosts are so embarrassed to be hosting the podcast that they spend a little time in each of the first three episodes contemplating using pseudonyms so nobody knows they’re involved in such a nerdy project. Their premise is “A Star Trek podcast by two guys who are a bit embarrassed to have a Star Trek podcast.” Maybe that should have tipped me off. But it’s a comedy podcast, and I guess I figured they were playing to their audience, many of whom probably had to (or still have to) hide their love of Star Trek in order to avoid being mocked and bullied. Most geeks understand the impulse to stay quiet about what they love, in case someone comes by to tear it to shreds. So I let that slide, and decided to give it a few more episodes to see how it evolved.

It didn’t.

I thought I was going to hear a podcast that would poke fun at the silly things in TNG (and goodness knows there’s a whole harvest of silly pickings in season one alone). There’s some of that, to be sure, but there are also far too many Picard-the-closet-pedophile jokes for my liking, and I often found myself wishing they’d hurry up and talk about something else so I could stop squirming in discomfort. I’m glad I stopped at episode three, because @lakeline on Twitter tells me the sexual assault jokes get worse, and they go into weird Cosby territory around episode 8.

To be honest, though, that part doesn’t even bother me as much as it probably should. Those jokes have been made before, and there is a fair amount of casual sexism inherent to the show itself. Maybe the hosts are saying all that stuff ironically. Maybe.

Because they certainly don’t seem sincere. And that lack of sincerity gives an air of mean-spiritedness to the fun they’re poking at the show I love. If it ended there, I’d just have stopped listening and walked away without writing this post. I’d have just accepted that this podcast wasn’t for me and moved on to other things. But it’s not just the show they make fun of. They make fun of the fans, too. And that hurts.

I’ve spent enough of my lifetime taking crap for loving science fiction and other nerdy things – I will not put up with a podcast that jokes about holding up nerdier nerds to use as human wedgie shields. The hosts are careful to tell you over and over that they’re not super nerds, you guys. Yeah, they’re doing this podcast thing (don’t worry, they’re embarrassed about it) but there are waaaay nerdier fans than them out there. You know, those dorks who dress up and immerse themselves in the fantasy, and who try to recreate Klingon recipes with Earthly foods.

Dorks like me.

I love TNG. I was only a kid back when it premiered, but I watched it every week, without fail, while it was on the air. It’s what I compare all other science fiction to. I idolized Captain Picard and I was in love with Wesley. I wanted a friendship like the one between Geordi and Data. I wanted to check out the holodeck and work in sickbay as Dr Crusher’s assistant. I came to this podcast hoping to hear people geeking out about one of my favorite things. I wanted to connect with other nerds who love this same thing. Instead I feel vaguely ashamed for loving Star Trek as much as I do.

Why are they punching down? Why create levels and classes of nerds so there’s always someone to look down on? I’m genuinely confused about the audience they’re trying to reach with the show. It seems like it should be people like me, but then why would they insult me? Maybe this podcast is only for the super cool TNG fans who only watch it ironically on Netflix.

I’m especially disappointed because the other shows I enjoy on the Maximum Podcast network are so inclusive. I listen to Judge John Hodgman where “people like what they like” is settled fake internet law, and One Bad Mother where everyone’s parenting journey is equally valid and we’re all doing a good job. I guess maybe I thought that other shows on the network would share that welcoming atmosphere.

I’m not saying the hosts of the show are bad people. And maybe the show does get better in the second season, just like TNG did. But I can’t invest the emotional energy to continue listening.




My Third Favorite Cake

Cake with cherries

Image credit: Erich Ferdinand, CC BY 2.0

I have a friend – a good friend, mind you, not just a friend I made up for the purposes of this post – who likes to ask people what their third favorite kind of cake is.

And that makes me crazy.

First of all, being asked about cake makes me think about cake. About at least three different types of cake, all of them proud medalists in the cake Olympics of my mind. So, the BEST cakes. She always asks me this question when I am at work and nowhere near cake. It’s torture. It’s not like being presented with a golden fork and a table full of cakes and being asked which of the delicious soon-to-be-fork-stabbing-victims is your third favorite. That’s high-calorie heaven. But being subjected to a cruel thought experiment where cake only exists inside your head? Inhumane. I think there’s a footnote in some UN document about it.

Cruelty aside, I hate the question because it’s impossible for me to play favorites with cake. I can tell you what cakes I don’t like. That’s an easy question. Like fruitcake – that’s not even real cake. And vegetables aren’t dessert, so you’ll never sell me on carrot cake (although I may pout and lick off the frosting). But there’s a reason it takes me twenty minutes to choose my dessert at the Cheesecake Factory.

I love so many kinds of cake. So many. Chocolate, vanilla, marble, yellow, funfetti, almond, lemon, pumpkin spice. Coffee cakes and cheesecakes. Buttercreams and cream cheeses and whipped cream frostings. Sprinkles! Chocolate shavings! Obscenely large frosting balloons!

Taking out the cakes I don’t like doesn’t do much to simplify the problem. Infinity minus ten is still pretty much infinity. I stare into the abyss and infinite cakes stare back at me.

I love you all, my sweet children. Every layer and every crumb. I love you all. I can’t play favorites.

 

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Not a real green dress, that’s cruel

Losing lottery ticket

Image credit: Mark Turnauckas via Flickr under CC by 2.0

I did not win the huge Powerball jackpot.

That’s probably because I didn’t buy a ticket. It’s not that I don’t approve of lotteries or gambling; I’ve rubbed the edge of many a penny over a scratch-off ticket, across the table from my Grandmaman, and I’ve carefully picked out special numbers for the Quebec 6/49. I like the fun of dreaming, and holding a little slip of maybe in my hand. Before the numbers are picked I’m not a winner or a loser, and possibilities are endless.

But some possibilities are more possible than others. Statistics are mean. They’re even meaner when everybody in the country is buying a dozen tickets each for a 1-billion-dollar jackpot. So, since the chances of me winning were almost the same whether I played or not, I saved myself a few bucks and dreamed about the jackpot anyway.

If I had a billion dollars (if I had a billion dollars)…

I’d buy me an exotic pet. But not like a llama or an emu. Just another cat. Or two. And I’d build an extension on the back of the house so they could have their own room full of sun and windowsills and great views of bird feeders. I would also buy bird feeders. The kind that defend the seeds by spinning squirrels off into space. The cats and I would all enjoy that quite a bit, I think.

I’d have a bunch more kids, probably, because I could hire a Fraulein Maria to come and governess them and teach them music and make them clothes from the drapes. And I’d buy super nice drapes for their clothes. Good thread count.

I’d go back to school and learn a bunch of things that I want to learn, and pay absolutely no mind to whether or not the courses would be applicable to real life and a good job. I want to learn more medicine and history of science, and literature. And maybe learn German. German is cool. I’ll need a big study to do all this learning in, of course, so I’ll add one of those to the house (over the new cat playroom). One wall would be all windows, and the other three would be floor-to-ceiling bookshelves, with those sweet rolling ladders so I can get to the top shelves. And a comfy chair, and a big imposing desk, and a giant globe and a telescope and microscope and maybe a full-size Dalek just for kicks.

I’d drink better coffee. I know, I know, life’s too short to drink lousy coffee, but the nice stuff is like 50c a bean, so I’m keeping the family budget in check by drinking Kirkland’s Columbian in bulk. So if I had that billion dollars, I’d definitely drink the really expensive coffees via a state-of-the-art espresso machine (Maria would also know how to work an espresso machine and draw narwhals in the perfect foam on my cappuccinos).

Image credit: Marc Smith via Flickr, CC by 2.0

Not many foam narwhals in the image banks, folks. Image credit: Marc Smith via Flickr, CC by 2.0

And yeah, I’d travel and fix up my house and make sure my family was all set for their futures, but that stuff isn’t nearly as much fun.

You’d rather hear about how I’d sign up for a while bunch of thing-of-the-month clubs so I’ll get new wines and bacons and cheeses and pies sent to my door regularly. Because I totally would. And Maria would bring me a slice of my April pie and my narwhal cappuccino and take the children out to the park in their drapes, and I’d spin my globe, poke my finger down to stop it, and see where we should visit next.

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An Open Letter to the People Who Make M&Ms

Dear M&Ms people,

Why would you put an odd number of M&Ms in a fun-size package, when the only acceptable way to eat M&Ms is in pairs?

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I’ll allow you the necessity of a random selection of colors, even when that means I’ll be forced into a panicked on-the-spot decision about whether yellow or brown is a more acceptable mate to green. Multicolored candies are kind of your thing. I understand that the machinery is set up to dump a colorful mix into every bag with no consideration given to those like me who need to eat things in an orderly fashion. It’s just business. But I know you’ve got an extensive quality control system set up. Every bag of M&Ms, fun-size or otherwise, is allowed an exact number of grams of candy with no tolerance in either direction. I just want to know why you’re monsters and set that limit such that an odd number of M&Ms meets your release criteria. You have the power to change this. Do the right thing.

Sincerely,

Me.

It’s my party; I won’t cry if I don’t want to.

When is a moody bitch not a moody bitch? When she decides she doesn’t want to be.

I was at home enjoying a snow day when I saw folks on the Today Show talking about a new self-improvement/pop-psychology book. The interview annoyed me so much that I yelled at my TV. Then someone shared this CNN article with me, and I yelled at the internet.

The book in question is titled Moody Bitches: The Truth About the Drugs You’re Taking, the Sleep You’re Missing, the Sex You’re Not Having and What’s Really Making You Crazy, and it’s written by a psychiatrist who has apparently never ever been held back in any way by being labeled irrational, moody, or hormonal. She doesn’t think mood swings are a problem at all and that women need to embrace them instead of fighting them:

“Women have this idea that we are supposed to not be moody and we’re supposed to tamp down that moodiness,” said Julie Holland, author of “Moody Bitches” and a psychiatrist who has practiced in New York for 20 years.

“It’s like a problem to be fixed and really, I think it’s our greatest asset. It’s certainly our greatest psychological asset.”

“I hate to see us medicating away our sensitivity and emotionality for the comfort of other people in the workplace. I think it’s a big mistake.”

Sure, it’s nice to say we shouldn’t have to suppress emotions because of someone else’s discomfort at work. But it’s not realistic. Until we can get everyone into training seminars about how women are equals and totally competent even if they cry or snap at someone once in a while, we have to try to keep our emotions level. To do otherwise is to risk being labeled and pushed aside. You’re expected to leave your personal life and issues at home – and this goes for the men too – and focus on work. Being emotional at work is a liability, not an asset. Nobody is going to promote you if you’re sobbing at your desk all the time.

It’s not that women “have this idea that we are supposed to not be moody.” It’s an idea that prevails in almost every workplace. There’s a very sticky stereotype that women are irrational and emotional and aren’t as good as men under pressure.  That we’re hysterical and that we can’t be trusted to make assessments and decisions without letting our girly soft feelings drip all over everything.

Men aren’t immune from criticism about “emotionality,” of course. But it’s not quite the same – at least men are given more freedom to be certain kinds of emotional. They’re not supposed to cry, because that makes them wimps, but they can be pushy or aggressive or confrontational and nobody is going to dismiss them as “moody.” It seems like women are screwed no matter what kind of emotions we show. When we get mad or assertive, it’s because we’re on the rag, and if we show enthusiasm and joy, it’s because we’re flighty and stupid.

“After all, our empathetic nature helps us understand nonverbal babies — and not-always-the-most-communicative husbands and partners”

This is the sort of thinking that keeps women out of science and math and engineering. Out of higher management positions. Keeps them from making the same salaries as their male colleagues in neighboring cubicles. Enough people see women as “moody bitches” already. It’s no surprise that women who want to advance their careers and have the respect of their coworkers feel the need to rein in their emotions as much as possible.

I know that this empower-your-true-self, don’t-let-the-bastards-change-you stuff sells books. LOTS of books. And gets you on TV. I can see how it can get women fist-pumping and saying “yeah, I’m going to be me and if they don’t like it they can go to hell!” But the reality is that we women have to be a different “me” in different contexts, or risk consequences.

The author suggests that too many women are on antidepressants (1 in 4 women vs 1 in 7 men) and many of them don’t need to be. They’re getting depressed looking at Facebook and comparing themselves to others and deciding they must not be happy enough, so they go to their doctors and get medications to help. Let’s ignore for a moment how dismissive the article is about women’s real and serious mental health concerns and focus on that medication for a minute. Why blame the patients? Shouldn’t the doctors be able to differentiate between “real” depression and a Facebook funk, and keep the prescriptions for those who actually need them? And since many women who don’t necessarily fit the clinical labels of depression/anxiety/etc nonetheless feel they need help in controlling their emotional outbursts, shouldn’t there be better access (and insurance coverage) to therapy, anger-management classes, and the like? If you’re going to decide that medications aren’t the answer, you need to find something that is the answer. And “let it all out, you warrior princess of a woman” isn’t going to cut it.

I would love a world where I can be a moody bitch when and where I please and nobody will think any less of me for it. But we’re not there yet. I’m glad to know women who embrace the “fuck it” attitude and let their bitch flags fly, but it’s just not possible – not yet – for all of us to follow their lead. So many of us risk careers and relationships if we stop suppressing our natural mood swings. We just don’t live in a world where we’re allowed to feel freely, and I think that it would be much more helpful for us to be discussing ways we can get there rather than reading self-help books that tell us to pretend we already are.