You've Got Male

Friday, April 30, 2010

Will someone please explain to me the expectations of a man? Wow, loaded question. I have little understanding of that psyche that at once believes a woman should be the traditional nurturer and caretaker at the same time as she should also be the modern working woman. I enjoy my work and could never be a full-time, stay-at-home mom. That's just me. However, after days filled with meetings, deadlines, sales tactics and problem-solving, I revel in the chance to head out the door to the arms of my babbling bundle. I do not, however, enjoy the thought of plundering through an overflowing sink, curing grime-tinted floors, and reviving carpet from cat puke. But somehow, those roles have been delegated to me.

I understand the deep-seated desire for the traditional home cooked meal and clean house. I too enjoy the aroma of simmering stew and all those other smells that enveloped the childhood home. I just don't want to be the one who has to don the apron and create them. The magic disappears. The crumbs left over turn me into a grump and the dishes...oh, the dishes.

I have this theory that boys just don't see things like crumbs on the carpet and dog spit on the walls, which gets them out of cleaning them up. They've been programmed to "miss" the growing piles of envelopes, dust bunnies and weeds. Am I the only one in this house who ever picks up around here? Picks up what, dear? Alas, I give up.

It seems that the expectations we have of women are soaring while the expectations we have of men remain largely the same. While I believe wholeheartedly in equality, it is now increasingly difficult for a woman to catch a break while men are resting their feet on our polished living room tables.

Don't even get me started on the classic argument about how I work in an office and he works in a factory so therefore I should do more grunt work at home. Is my time put in worth nothing? Is kicking ass to put myself through college all on my own (and coming out with $0 debt, thank you very much) not enough to warrant me a little bit of respect and rest? Honey, you could've done what I did too and you wouldn't be working in the factory today, now would you?

After all the child-rearing, grocery shopping, interior decorating, itinerary making, snot chasing, budget writing, order taking, nursery-rhyme singing and full-time working, the modern woman sometimes wants to feel taken care of, after so long bearing the responsibility of "caring-for."

Bad Eating Habits

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

There was a time when I had breakfast (um, pregnancy), a snack at 9am, a snack at 11am, lunch, a snack at 3pm, maybe another snack at home, and dinner. Wow! And I really didn't think much of it, but in writing that sounds like a train wreck. The thing was, I'd have an apple or banana for morning snacks and a granola bar in the afternoon. It didn't seem harmful. Once I got to adding up all those noshes though, I was amazed. How could fruit be sabotaging my diet? Well, it wasn't.

It was all those extra little bites of things here and there. I'd get home and grab a stack of Pringles and then grab a few more (because once you pop...). Dinner would consist of a pile of meat and plenty of sides. I'd sometimes drink several glasses of milk with meals. And all meals were topped off with at least a little bit of sugar for dessert. This all added up to way too much.

I started slowly, removing a snack here and there until I was comfortable enough to go between breakfast and lunch, and lunch and quitting time, without snacks. Then, I added those apples and bananas to my meals so my plate was more full of healthy fare instead of things like fries. I eliminated most of my liquid calories except for about two glasses of lowfat milk per day. That was the trick!

It's difficult though to remove all those snacks once you've gotten used to eating them every day. But that's the thing! The only reason I ate all those snacks was because I was used to them. I'm not famished in between meals now and I still snack when I'm feeling a little too hungry, but the desire for those constant snacks disappeared once I got used to not having them. Now, tea and gum keep my taste buds satisfied when I feel like I just need something in my mouth, not necessarily nourishment. It can be smart to spread 3 meals into 5 smaller ones throughout the day for some people, but it's crucial to keep those portions pared way down and not let all that snacking get out of control.

Breast Cancer Care Package

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

In an unfortunate turn of events, two of my dear friends are undergoing treatments for breast cancer at the exact same time. From an outsider's point of view, it is difficult to know what to say, offer, or do in times like this. Some friends drop off the planet because they don't know how to approach a sick person. I strive to not be one of those "friends". I want to offer as much support as I can from my position. I've done some research and soul-searching and come up with a few ideas for care packages that I thought would come in handy for someone going through a double mastectomy or even any medical treatment:

1. Lipstick, perhaps along with a copy of "Why I Wore Lipstick to my Mastectomy." I remember reading a clip from this book in a magazine, celebrating femininity and encouraging a sense of hope in anyone fighting this disease. Once a woman begins wearing lipstick again, she's on the road to recovery.

2. Nail polish, neck scarf or bold jewelry. Same principles as above apply. A woman is a woman no matter if her breasts are attached or not. She can still celebrate her inner and outer beauty in other ways. Let your loved one know that her beauty and value as a woman is most definitely not attached to her chest.

3. Form pillow. Women going through painful treatments can use as much creature comforts and padding as you can give them.

4. Cashmere socks (or socks infused with aloe like I found). Keeps her extremities warm and pampered at the same time.

5. Handheld games, magazines, and other reading material. This sort of thing helps pass the time and entertain her when she's in another waiting room or receiving treatments.

6. I found a book called something to the effect of "200 Foods That Will Save Your Life." You have to be careful with this one. You don't want to insult your dear friend or violate any diets her health care provider has recommended. But if she's talking about overhauling her diet and lifestyle, something to help her along in the process is always appreciated. This book explained each superfood's health benefits and provided a recipe for each.

7. Journal. Whether she wants to vent, hope, or write letters to her children, a journal provides a woman with a wonderful creative outlet.

8. Daily devotion book. You have to be careful with this one too because of varying religious beliefs, but if you know your friend's beliefs, this sort of spiritual reassurance can help heal her soul and instill her with a sense of peace.

9. Comedic relief. A comic book, funny movie, or handcrafted book of goofy pictures helps revive joy in an otherwise morose circumstance. Laughter truly is medicine. I've even read studies about laughter and how it reduces pain and helps the healing process.

10. Hot/cold pack. I found a nice pack that can be both heated up and frozen for whatever sort of relief she needs.

11. If she's up for it and you can manage it, one of the best things you can do is just to be there for her. Provide moral support during treatments, lighten her load, provide her and her family with dinner, or stop by and hold her hand for awhile. It's always reassuring to know you have people who love you and want to take care of you.

12. A cancer buddy/weapon/curer. Find a trinket that reminds you of your friend. Maybe a healing stone, a plush stuffed lion or a fake sword that she can bring with her to the hospital. There should be some significance attached to the object of course, such as a "cancer weapon" sword, so that your friend is not only reminded of the love of her friends each time she sees it but also gives her courage in her fight.

13. False eyelashes and nails. Chemo treatments can leave a woman without eyelashes and healthy fingernails, and a woman always loves to feel gussied up and pampered.

14. Do a 5k in her name. Find a race in your area that benefits cancer research and scout out donations. Progressing the search for a cure has to be one of the most productive ways you can help your friend (and the rest of humanity that faces cancer risk).

New Take On MBT Shoes

I just love to find new and improved ways to workout or ways to make working out more efficient and fun. Today, in my Daily Candy newsletter, I found a video clip of these fun shoes that look like a cross between Rollerblades and mini trampolines. They're called kangoo jumps. Basically, when you're taking a jog, these boots take the bulk of the stress off your joints while giving you a great workout. They literally put a bounce in your step. The price tag is a little high for me, but if I could rent them or something, I certainly would give them a try. Looks like the contraptions elicit a lot of gawking as well.

Vintage Stealers

Friday, April 16, 2010

Does anyone else feel a little bit ripped off when people sell "handpicked vintage" items? I guess in a way, it makes a little bit of sense. The "pickers" find labels and styles that are highly saleable and buyers don't have to do the dirty picking work. However, for people like me, with little cash to spare and a love of all things thrift, it seems like stealing to buy a $1.00 dress at the thrift store and turn around and sell it for $30.00 in a boutique. My potential to buy and recycle an old piece of clothing is now gone and I'm looking at price tags that rival brand new clothes with vintage-inspired designs.

I see this quite often now on ebay, Etsy, and those little vintage boutiques that are popping up everywhere. A vintage designer label or valuable antique is a whole different story--they deserve a little more respect and reverence. But cute handmade skirts, children's storybooks and quirky glass cups, please don't take them out of the reach of the rest of the recession-strapped population. We would love them!

How to be Popular

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Remember those agonizing days growing up when you wanted so bad to be part of the "in-crowd" you practically researched how to be cool? It even physically hurts to write that. With my nerd flag flying high, I checked out books at the library with titles like "The Popularity Plan" and "How to be a Star." The first was actually a novel, the second was a book about acting with pictures of Fred Savage on the front. Oh boy! Of course none of those ideas worked, and probably made me even more of the brunt of jokes than anything.

There was one summer when my biggest dreams came true and the popular girl invited my best friend and I to her house for a sleepover. Just us. Just the two girls that were endlessly mocked and outcast and left out. But, to our defense, we were also the two smart girls. Witty, observant, and persevering. Finally, it seemed as though our perseverance to be cool had paid off. We spent the entire summer with this girl. We would stay at each others' houses for weeks at a time, go shopping together and explore local attractions. We practically studied this girl's movements, clothing choices, and body language. We finally thought we would be actresses in our own movie where the unpopular get magically transformed into the most admired. Finally, all of our tireless work to become cool had paid off.

Once we went back to school in the fall though, the pressure of being friends with us was put to the test and ultimately the friendship went sour. Little things that we did at each others' houses became ammunition for mockery. I once used the girl's dandruff shampoo because that was all that was in her shower. So, the other kids tortured me for non-existent dandruff. I was shell-shocked. We thought we were bonding. We thought we were going to be cool kids. We thought we had finally elbowed our way to the top only to come crashing down further than we ever had before. Now our private secrets, something that were sacred and secret before, were now in the most vulnerable of positions.

I still have dreams every now and then about being the most hated girl in school. Sometimes it's powerful enough to even put a damper on my adult self-esteem. And sometimes incidents at work or in my social life bring those feelings back up to the surface. It sort of brings fear for my son to the surface too, although I'm pretty sure Catholic school girls are much more cutthroat than public school boys.

Next year there will be a 10-year high school reunion. I'm not sure whether I will go or not, but I do know that I am very proud of how far I've come since those agonizing school daze...I mean days.

Gym Rookies

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

I've heard people who are so self-conscious of their weight that they will forgo a gym membership just for that reason. Heck, I was probably one of them. Well, I actually thought gyms were for hardcore weight lifting men with excessive muscle. I had no idea that the gym was a regular place for regular people and their regular fitness routines until I joined one.

The first thing to remember is, some of these people started their fitness journeys in your same shoes. They may have been overweight, hesitant to join, and completely unsure of themselves in that new place. They know exactly how you're feeling and can sympathize with your uncertainty. They are much more likely to be internally rooting for you rather than judging you. They're more likely glad that you're there, taking care of yourself, than not.

Second, everyone is really probably only thinking about themselves. People are very self-conscious when they're grunting, sweating, and struggling in front of other people. They're all worried about themselves. It's actually sort of comical if you watch people for awhile. They all check themselves out in the mirrors around the gym. Don't worry, they're more worried about their own sagging skin than your cellulite. Or they're busy focusing on their workout form.

Third, I've noticed, especially with runners, there is a sort of unspoken comaraderie among people who run. It doesn't matter if you're an elite athlete or a slow beginner. Runners cheer each other on. I have never seen so much enthusiasm or experienced so much encouragement as when I'm out running, especially in road races. At the gym, you're doing something that most of the population disregards, and you can take pride in the fact that you're there instead of glued to the tube.

The easiest way to acclimate yourself to a new gym is to take a tour, take the gym up on their free personal training sessions, or try out a group fitness class. Just getting accustomed to the lingo, equipment and faces let you dip your feet without drowning. Read up a little bit on fitness equipment before you head in and print off a few workouts you can try. Take a friend with you for those free weekly trials so you have a buddy in this unchartered territory. I also find that reading or listening to music helps me fall into my own little wonderland where I don't even know what's happening around me.

Happy Lifting!

Not All Opposites Attract

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Here's a little insight into the differences between someone who is healthy and someone who is not. Some of them might be overgeneralizations, but really, the habits between the two groups are significantly different. And in no way am I trying to be insulting, because I myself have been on both sides of the equation and know all too well the upsides and downsides of both. Here's my experience with healthy vs. not-so-healthy.

1. Enthusiastic about each opportunity to walk instead of drive/Moan at the thought of having to cross a parking lot to reach a neighboring store.

2. Find little ways to incorporate activity into everything, even lunch/Barely leave their desk and would rather not even take the stairs.

3. Find time, no matter what the circumstances or how many kids they have, to work out several times each week/Offer an extensive list of excuses as to why exercise just isn’t feasible.

4. Take pride in trying out new fruits and vegetables and have a recipe collection for common favorites/Most fruits are ingested in juice form.

5. Knows what most fruits and vegetables look like/Not sure where to find an eggplant.

6. Pantries and fridges are full of healthy fare from the perimeter of the grocery store/Boxed meals and prepackaged goods usually make the cut.

7. Maintain a healthy lifestyle long-term/diet on and off; regularly sign up for different weight loss programs and quit after a short time.

8. Thoughts of the deep-frying process make you a bit nauseous/Thoughts of keeping down Brussels sprouts makes you turn up your nose.

9. Take charge, research and implement healthy living strategies/Wait for some miracle cure, supplement or equation to take all the guesswork out and require the least work possible.

10. Comfortable being uncomfortable for healthful gains/Huffing and puffing are avoided at all costs.

11. Have at least a basic idea of how to read nutrition labels and eyeball a serving size/Likely eat much more than one serving and think labels are way too scientific to even bother with.

12. Barely watch television and sometimes work out during commercials/Have at least 2 or more shows each weeknight that they catch on a regular basis.

13. Work at healthful habits one step and small goal at a time/Use an all-or-nothing approach and go all-out only to come crashing to a halt days later.

14. Small setbacks don't completely derail the healthy lifestyle/A minor slip-up might completely sabotage willpower.

15. Enjoy small indulgences every once in awhile/Try to completely eliminate certain foods, label foods good and bad, and/or go overboard on portion size.

The Sweetest Dreams

Is it wrong to rue that day when nap-time comes to an end? It hasn't happened yet, but I have this awful fear about how time flies too fast and this good thing will come to an end. For those three sweet hours, that 24-hour parental responsibility seems a little bit more manageable. Little tasks that prove impossible with a mommy-reliant Little One toddling about are completed, novels are revisited, marriages resurface and the house is again quiet.

I love love love being a mom. But sometimes that nap-time respite is required for sanity and retrieving my bearings. They leave mommy feeling rejuvenated and remind mommy about her valuable roles outside of mommyhood.

So far, my son likes to sleep. The 20-month-old drifts into REM for a solid three hours most of the time, on top of the 11 straight hours at night. I only get to enjoy these three hours on weekends because of my dear friend, Full-Time Work. So, my "me time" is limited. But this heaven-sent, built-in babysitter does all the work for me. I get to bring my own sweet dreams to realization when those little peepers are closed. I just can't leave the house.

Come Fade Away With Me

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Ever have one of those brilliant ideas that fade into vapor, never to be reached again? Oh, I just had one of those last night. I know, I know, I should always keep a pen and paper by my bedside. I think I had a dream where a story idea came to me, and I consciously remember thinking that I needed to remember the idea. I'm pretty sure I fell back asleep or never really fully roused myself to begin with, sending the idea back out into oblivion. Perhaps I can train myself in the art of lucid dreaming and attempt to retrieve this idea. Alas, I think it is gone.

This is one of three very memorable occasions upon which I have lost seemingly-significant ideas. One was driving in the car on my way home from work at midnight. I think I saw a shooting star and "just like that" the celestial sighting overshadowed the idea and when I went back into my mind to retrieve it, it was long gone.

The second instance was also in bed. I woke with a full set of lyrics and tune in my head. I had never really considered songwriting, but this song seemed, at least to my REM-induced head, complete. I remember getting up and writing one of the most important lines of the song on a piece of paper. To this day, I have no idea which piece of paper I used or where it ever ended up. Of course, by the time I woke the next morning the tune was also washed away. Even if I would've remembered it, I have absolutely no talent for translating tunes in my head into real music.

I need to think of some sort of strategy to harness those ideas so I won't lose out on that Pulitzer. (Funny, those ideas probably weren't that great to begin with, they just seemed crucial to remember after they were gone.) Either that, or I need to invent idea insurance.

Impulsive Behavior at the Dinner Table

Monday, April 5, 2010

You know you've eaten too much during Easter when:

1. You're seriously considering a crazy detox diet. Ok, I don't really believe in this, but I keep joking about it because of all I've eaten. And really, the only thing that looks good in the fridge is the fresh produce. That could be a good thing.

2. You have absolutely no cravings left in your system. Maybe this is a good thing too. There's no way I could have any vitamin deficiency as of right now!

3. You eat breakfast the day after Easter and feel really really full. Even though it's the same type of breakfast you ate before Easter and it barely left you fulfilled until lunch.

4. The sound of your favorite food ever (cake! beef tips!) makes you feel a little queasy. Gosh, I wish this lasted for longer. I know by the end of the week, cake will tempt once again.

5. Your fridge will be full of leftovers for a good week. Yes, there really was that much food at our dinner table even after seconds and thirds.

6. You had Easter brunch at 11:00am and your normally healthy appetite still isn't asking for anything at 8:00 at night.

7. You fear the wrath of the little dentist devil sitting on your shoulder.

8. You spent just as much *gasp* on one meal as you have been spending for entire weeks' worth of groceries.

We had quite a few far-reaching family members at home for the last three days. After the Chinese buffet, two family potluck dinners and other out-to-eat meals in between, I think it's safe to say I am FULL! I think these splurges are important every once in awhile and that it's important not to feel one morsel of guilt for it, though I don't recommend this for three days straight. The important thing is to get back on track Monday morning or the very next day, or the very next meal for that matter. One weekend won't ruin everything unless you let that lapse continue. So, I'm licking the remnants from my lips and starting today fresh.

Mining Happiness

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Some of the best things in life right now:

1. Pink lemonade in spring
2. The warm crook of a baby's neck
3. Those first days you can open your windows
4. An unexpected greeting card
5. Special occasions to dress up for
6. Songs that answer what you've been thinking
7. Purrs
8. A cute clutch
9. Anything with frosting
10. A fleeting whiff of hyacinth
11. Candid images
12. The first glimpse of spring flowers
13. Sitting with your knees to your chest with a friend
14. Clean sheets
15. Kitten heels
16. Church bells
17. An unsolicited hug
18. Early morning sunlight
19. Clean floors and bare feet
20. The sound of an acoustic guitar
21. A perfectly set table
22. Girl talk
23. Fresh chives from outside the back door
24. Watching the person in front of you breathe
25. A crisp, colorful magazine in the mailbox
27. Fresh-swabbed ears
28. A casual, swinging skirt
29. Travel plans
30. Fingernails all at the same length

A Broken Muse

My muse is broken. My muse comes in human form. My muse has left me due to distance, circumstance and irreconcilable differences, or something like that. No, my husband is not my muse, although that would be rather convenient, wouldn't it?

This human had a way of bringing out the charisma, the passion, the impulsive spirit of my creative talents. She somehow vitalized me in a way that hasn't been replicated before or since. It was nothing she really did or said, it was just her aura and her arousing spirit that somehow affected me to the soul, took my muse by hand, and opened her up to the sunlight.

I read a quote that had me thinking about that elusive muse. I get the Daily Om newsletter which had a quote today that struck me: "If you surround yourself with people who support you, keep a pen and paper handy, immerse yourself in culture, and brainstorm frequently, you will soon reconnect with your muse." I love this idea! Immerse yourself in culture? It's so true. Whenever I am surrounded by art and ideas, I myself start to bud new little ideas. Some of my best work was woven between the demands of full-time work, full-time college and other extra-curricular activities. All that responsibility is actually fuel. Stories seeped through the textbook chapters and the backs of all my notebooks were scribbled with snippets for songs, short stories and poems.

Surrounding yourself with people who support you is 100% essential as well. On the other hand, people who don't support you will stifle the poo out of you. That's one of the worst characteristics of a friend or family member, when they don't support you, because there's no excuse for stealing someone's spirit.

So, as I go in search of a new muse, I will give these tactics a try. Perhaps I can take the proactive approach and create the muse with my own two hands, figuratively speaking. (I guess that means I should leave the cliches in the wind!)

As a side, I'm writing about chocolate before lunch--someone help me!