Sorry I’ve been MIA, but this is what I’ve been up to lately.

In other news, this blog will migrate to another site in the next few months. At that point I may update more regularly. No promises, just hoping to get back into it.


The Summer of Zoey and Trixie

Zoey relaxes at home

It hasn’t been quite three months since we said goodbye to Sophie and frankly, we weren’t sure if we wanted to bring another cat into our household. So many well-meaning friends suggested that we “replace” her with another pet but of course she is irreplaceable. Any loved one–human or otherwise–cannot be replaced.

But then another person suggested that a new pet might “enhance” our life, not replace Sophie. And poor Trixie, she seemed so lonely and needy in a way we’d never seen her before.

So, finally, we visited the SPCA and fell in love with a little gray three-month-old kitten. One paid adoption fee later, she was ours. We were able to bring her home the next day after she got the requisite spaying.

After just 10 days it’s as though this little three-pound baby was always a part of this family. We named her Zoey but she already has so many nicknames, the poor thing is probably going to have some serious identity issues. Among our myriad terms of endearment for her: Bear Cub, Zo-Bird, Baby Bear, ZoZo, Smokey the Bear, Smoke Monster and the Veep.
The term “Veep” is bequeathed to her by Trixie who, in turn, has been promoted from her role as second-in-command to Sophie. With Sophie’s passing, Trixie is now the Boss.

Trixie, the Boss

The rest of the summer will be spent trying to convince our home’s two rulers that they should work (and play) together for the better of all mankind. Or at least this family’s personal happiness. It’s actually going surprisingly well – some hissing, yes, but also a little bit of playing and lots of obsessive stalking on Zoey’s part. She’s absolutely in love with Trixie and follows her everywhere. On Friday I caught her sitting outside of the  litter box staring at poor Trixie who just wanted to do her business in peace.

In any case, it’s true that Zoey has hardly replaced Sophie — I miss that little orange cat more than ever — but she’s also oddly exhibited some of Sophie’s habits and there’s a part of me that’s convinced that, in passing, Sophie gave her a checklist of things to do so that she could enhance our life.

I’m not teaching this summer so, in addition to trying to facilitate kitty peace, I’m also hoping to revamp this blog (details, new site info TBA), write, learn to sew, cook more, read more and generally enjoy life in a way that’s so far escaped me for much of the year. The first half of this year was really, really tough in ways that I didn’t expect and those difficulties came at every possible juncture–work, family, home, friendships. Now, I hope to have a productive but fun summer. I want to finish a book. I want to write more poetry. I want to eat fresh fruit and enjoy the summer sun and ride my bike and go for walks and listen to amazing, new music and swim in rivers and go camping and wander through fairs and bask in the evening breeze.

2010 is nearly half-over but it’s not too late to make it turn out alright.

The F Word

I was feeling pretty uninspired this week and so I ended writing a column about how much I love “30 Rock” even when it occasionally annoys me.

Elsewhere, I wrote about being a 40-year-old feminist. At first this was a really tough essay to write. I hadn’t thought about what it meant for me to be a feminist for quite a while. It’s not that any of my convictions had changed or that I thought, perhaps, the equality had finally shifted to the center and that we didn’t need to think about it anymore–it just wasn’t, at this point in my life, an all-consuming issue.

But then when I heard that one of our contributors who, if you connected the dots of her ideology is most certainly a feminist, claimed she didn’t identify with the movement, didn’t want to be called that F word. That got me thinking about my own beliefs and how they formed.

My feminist beliefs were, most certainly, formed first and foremost by my mother although, to be honest, I don’t know if she’d use the F word to describe herself that way either. My mom is a mix of old-school ladylike and modern toughness which meant that even as she advised me not to bite my nails so that my hands would “feel nice as you hold a boy’s hand” she also pushed me to think beyond any society-imposed gender boundaries when it came to thinking about a career.

I wasn’t allowed to call boys but I also wasn’t allowed to take shit from boys.

I couldn’t dress provocatively or wear too much make-up but she thought the school was absolutely ridiculous for sending me home for wearing knee-length shorts.

I could watch “Charlies Angels” but she subtly encouraged me to  like the Kate Jackson character best of all because she was smart and resourceful.

I’d better not sleep around but if I did I had options, I had choice.

I don’t know if I ever heard her use the word “feminist” and I know she never participated in a single protest, rally or group but, to this day, she is insanely independent, smart and resourceful and I admire her and aspire to live my life as such.

So, maybe it’s not a big deal that young women don’t want to use the F word – maybe it’s outdated, maybe its connotations don’t resonate, maybe there’s another word that better defines what it is we are and what we do.

That’s not to say I won’t still call myself a feminist — I am one, I always will be one, even when I don’t think about it all the time.  That said, I won’t get freaked out when some woman 20 years (or younger) my junior speak a different cultural language of change (maybe it’s similar to how I cringe at the word “lady” or “ma’am” in certain contexts) at least not as long as she’s actually out there living the life.

Shyness is Vulgar

I’m a big fan of Penelope Trunk’s Brazen Careerist blog because it’s an interesting and brutally honest mix of career, love and life advice.

Trunk is a newspaper columnist who gives weekly career advice and also the founder of three start-up companies including Brazen Careerist, a social networking-styled “career management tool for next-generation professionals.”

She also has Asperger’s Syndrome.

Asperger’s Syndrome, if you’re not familiar with it, is  an autism spectrum disorder. People diagnosed with Asperger’s typically exhibit difficulties with social interaction. These difficulties usually manifest in behaviors that cause the person to appear at best, aloof, disinterested or merely awkward and, more commonly, inappropriate and rude.

Trunk, who frequently writes about her autism,  is aware of how others often view her but that doesn’t mean she can easily change her behaviors. After all this is the woman who set off an Internet firestorm after she infamously tweeted her miscarriage

The tweet in question: “”I’m in a board meeting. Having a miscarriage. Thank goodness, because there’s a fucked-up 3-week hoop-jump to have an abortion in Wisconsin.”

Reaction, not surprisingly, was intense.

Here’s just a snippet of Trunk’s response to the vitriol.

To all of you who said I should not be happy about having a miscarriage: You are the ones short on empathy. Any woman who is pregnant but wishes she weren’t would of course be grateful when she has a miscarriage. Yes, there are many women who want the baby and have a miscarriage. I was one of them. I cried for days. I get it.

But if you have ever had an abortion, which I have, you would know that a miscarriage is preferable to an abortion. Even the Pope would agree with that.

And what is up with the fact that just one, single person commented about how Wisconsin has a three-week waiting period for abortions? It is absolutely outrageous how difficult it was going to be for me to get an abortion, and it’s outrageous that no one is outraged.

Go read the rest of that post, please.  It’s honest in a way that’s both cringe-inducing and admirable. I only wish I had the guts to be so forthright.

In November, she wrote a post about how to “leverage the advantages to being an introvert at work.”

As someone with Asperger’s, Trunk wrote, it’s often difficult to have “normal” workplace relationships–she has to try much harder than most to fit in – even at the company she founded:

The workplace is set up to reward extroverts. The bias against introverts in American society is well documented, including research that shows that a spot on the cheerleading team foreshadows career success much more reliably than a spot on the honor roll. Also, workplace catch phrases that annoy everyone are especially annoying if you’re not an extrovert: Toot your own horn! Your career is only as strong as your network! Let’s do lunch!

I’m not autistic but I am extremely introverted and I know this has, at times, affected everything from the kind of projects I work on and what kind of support I seek to my overall job satisfaction.

The first time I worked at the News & Review I had the luck to fall in with two smart, extremely talented women – one is something of an extrovert, the other more reserved, like me. We formed a tight-knit group within which I felt confident and happy. I believe this affected how I related to others and, as a result, I was a little more extroverted.

My next job was at an online music magazine in New York. The building was in a Wall Street high-rise, everyone wore designer clothes (seriously), partied late into the night and hobnobbed with famous people. They were nice to me and polite but I had trouble connecting with even one person on anything but the most superficial of levels. This came as a blow to me after the SNR and I know it affected not just my happiness but the job itself.

Subsequently, I’ve learned that one of my challenges is to push at my own social boundaries, to reach out to others, to initiate conversations. Of course, that’s easier said than done. And it’s even more difficult these days because I work two part-time jobs. I’m an adjunct professor — which means I’m part-time, have no office and am only on campus for a few hours each week. I also work part-time at the SNR and I’m typically in the office for about 10-15 hours a week; the rest of my work happens at home or in the field. Sometimes if I’m working on a cover story I’m there even less which means I have to try that much harder to build and maintain those relationships.

Trunk’s advice, however, is  to try — but not by completely negating what makes you you.

“Introversion is an important thing to have in a workplace – the trick is having introverts that understand why they’re so valuable,” she writes.

Among the advice she gives introverts is to “take control of your work” and “have confidence in your knowledge” and, perhaps, just as important, “give 10 minutes than go”

“Make a  connection, really contribute to the conversation, and then ten minutes is enough. …. (E)xtroverts often have anxiety that they cannot get access to the introverts in their life – because they are always leaving to be alone. Introverts can alleviate this problem by being fully attentive for a short time and then leaving.”

With that in mind, sometimes I think I got lucky with my choice of profession. Being a journalist and now a teacher forces me to regularly interact with people. It’s nearly beside the point that I dread the seconds before an interview or the moments before I step into a classroom. Once I’m there, especially if I feel confident with what I know, what I want to ask, what I want to say, then I find it easier to talk and forget why I was so anxious to begin with. Journalism in particular has been such an asset to my life in this way – I say, only half-joking, that I wouldn’t have any friends were it not for my job. It forces me out of my shell, it gives me the confidence to talk to others, hell, it’s how I met my best friend and my husband.

Which isn’t to say that my shyness still doesn’t present a struggle but the advantage of growing older, I guess, is that I recognize this and can at least endeavor to make small changes or,  better yet, sometimes give myself the freedom to just not give a shit if someone thinks I’m weird for sitting at my desk with headphones on, working in my own little world.

Happy New Year – Whoa is Me?

The other day I received a message in my Facebook in-box. It was from somebody named “Jennie Her” and it read: “Are you a lesbian? You’re so wo is me. It’s a turn-off. People don’t like that.”

I pondered over that message for a few minutes. I don’t know this Jennie Her and when I tried to look at her Facebook page, I couldn’t see anything except her photo because she’d set up her profile to “only share certain information with friends” although apparently Facebook deemed it OK for her to share insults with anybody.

Cory thought it was just a spam message and although I marked it as such (and so it disappeared forever from my in-box)  I couldn’t stop thinking about that whole “wo is me” part and how it related to the idea that I may or may not be a lesbian and how this was making me less desirable to the world at large …

Wo is me…what did “Wo” mean? Did she mean “woe”? That would be the most obvious, of course and she wouldn’t be the first to tell me that, sometimes, I can be a bit too “woe is me,” a bit too mired in the misery, too down, too fixated on what isn’t going right. I can see how people might not like that trait but how it relates to being a lesbian is beyond me. Is woefulness a same-sex preference characteristic?

But then I thought, maybe she meant “whoa is me” – that perhaps I’m just too laid-back. Maybe I’ve been Spicoli-ing my way through life and people are finally tired of my stoner ways, they want me to stop, it’s such a turn-off.

Again, though, how does this possibly make me someone who is so out-of-touch with her own sexual preferences that she’s been living a marital lie for 10-plus years?  Dude, I’m so confused.

I do know this, however: wo, woe or whoa I don’t really care what people like or don’t like about me or what does or doesn’t turn them on.  And by “people” I mean those I don’t know or with whom I’m not already friends. My friends and family know me and, last time I checked they liked me. Oh sure, they occasionally tell me to (take your pick) snap out of it, get over yourself, lighten up, et al…but they do it with care because that’s what friends and family do.

So, sitting here at the dawn of 2010, sipping coffee and listening to the Jay Farrar & Ben Gibbard record, I’m struck with the idea of how my life has seemingly shaped up to be what it’s supposed to be.

I have goals and resolutions for this coming year….some are the usual (lose that 5 pounds, read & write everyday, cook more, buy less, be more adventurous), some are deeply personal, others are just seedlings of inspiration, ambition and desire.

Wo, woe or whoa, I’m eager to see where and who I am at the end of this year’s journey – but I’m also ready to enjoy every little step it takes to get there.

My guess is that 365 days from now I’ll be just as wo, woe or whoa as ever and I probably still won’t be a lesbian although I do understand from first-hand observations that these things can suddenly change in mid-life and if that does happen I’ll be very sorry for Cory’s sake but, you know, shit happens….

So fuck you Jennie Her – whether you’re real or a spambot — and to everyone else, a very Happy New Year …..

Friday Night Lights

Pacers 4 Life

I’ve spent the last five weeks of my life immersed in this Grant High School football story. The Grant High Paers won the 2008 CIF championship. It was the first time any Sacramento-area team won a state football title.

At first I wasn’t exactly sure of the story’s focus; generally I thought it would be a look at how that win did–or didn’t–change the team. But ultimately, although that idea lingered, it also shifted as I got to know some of the players. Running back Devontae Butler – the undisputed star of the team– and his best friend quarterback Glenn Deary were both nice enough to talk to me, answer my stupid questions about football and, more important, open up about their lives and their ambitions. Along the way, I learned that Butler and Deary have been best friends since age 6 and are now thinking about playing ball for the same college team. These are two extraordinary kids, on and off the field and I really enjoyed getting to know them.

It probably goes without saying that, along the way, I became extremely invested in these kids. No journalistic non-bias going on here, at least not when it came to hoping that they’d go all the way to the next bowl game.

But life happens and that win was not meant to be. It was difficult to walk out on the field after Rocklin’s win and see 16 and 17-year-old young men crying.

A heartbreaker but I think that with the support of family and friends, these players – Butler and Deary in particular– will  do just fine. I hope so. I never really kept up with local high school football before this story but researching it I learned of the many former Grant players who started out strong only to stumble —Tommy Hall is the worst recent example.

That cliche “It takes a village ….” ? Never more true. These kids are smart and talented but they’ll need the whole damn neighborhood to succeed. But, really, don’t we all?

Revolution Snuggie

Snuggies let me raise the roof
Raise the roof in your snuggie

Yikes, I didn’t realize it’d been so long since the last update; the last two weeks didn’t get away from me–they clobbered me. Papers to grade, holidays to hold, cover stories to write. It feels like I’m only just now coming up for air and still the semester isn’t even over yet. Anyone want to grade final papers for me? I’ll pay you in cookies (kidding LRCC, kidding…).

I’ve basically been in survival mode the last few weeks, grading and writing non-stop, not seeing much of friends, my only downtime coming late at night when I finally head to the couch and Cory pours me a glass of wine and I try to bring my breathing down to something normal, something that will let me approach sleep.

As it’s finally and blissfully cold, this ritual also includes the nightly donning of fleecy pants, hoodies and slippers (sexy, right?). Lately I’ve been joking about how I want a Snuggie— you know, the fleecy “blanket with sleeves.” It started when Cory and I were trying to figure out our Halloween costumes and nearly settled on the laziest costume of all time: Snuggies. Seriously, how rad would that have been? Well, I thought it would be anyway–cozy, drink-friendly, cheap and effortless.

That didn’t happen but, still I joked and then, spurred on by a suggestion from Becca, I decided to write my column about Snuggies.

I didn’t tell Cory this so imagine my surprise when he came home from work on Monday–just hours after I filed my column–with a gift: My very own forest green Snuggie!

I opened it that night all set to get as snuggie as possible….but ….

Well, here’s how the Snuggie web site tries to sell you on this fleecy invention:

The Snuggie is perfect for:

* Traveling in the Car
* Night Time Pub Crawls
* Chilly Office Buildings
* Sporting Events
* Cold Movie Theaters

Here’s what they don’t tell you about the Snuggie:

* It’s constructed for an NBA player – seriously it’s long enough for me to wear while standing on Beno Udrih’s shoulders
* It’s got extra long, baggy arms, it kind of looks like you’re wearing a Hogwarts robe — one constructed for Hagrid
* It looks like it was constructed in one of Kathie Lee Gifford’s sweatshops — yeah, it’s that bad.

And yet I wear it. I wear it on the couch, I wear it while typing, I wear it while I’m napping. So far, however, I think I have too much of a personal sense of shame to ever–ever–wear this damn thing in public. If I ever do, stick a fork in me, I’m done ….