Category: ponderosa

Proving that he’s mine

I have such admiration for these friends and their words. Bravo, Amy.

(Simply)Laugh

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This week I took Jamie to his 18 mo check-up. I had heard great things about the doctor. I did everything I could to have information there ahead of time. I even talked with them on the phone beforehand. Needless to say, I was prepared.

I got there early for the appointment to fill out paperwork. After completing all of the paperwork, I brought it up to the receptionist. As she was thumbing through, I mentioned to her in passing that the reason I didn’t fill out some of the medical history was because my son was adopted.

This got her attention and she asked for Jamie’s adoption paperwork. I was a little stunned. Legally, Jamie’s mine. His birth certificate shows us as his parents. He has a social security number that would also list us as his parents. This was not something our previous doctor had requested, so I…

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On Good Girls and Sexism

Woot! I get a wave of excitement when something I write actually makes it into the blogosphere. Here’s part of a new piece I just wrote for Huffington Post, Why Do I Have to Be Nice to Everybody?

“I grew up in the South, and nurtured habits die hard. I was once grounded for saying “damn” to my sister. I wore white gloves and bonnets to Easter mass and crossed my ankles when sitting in skirts. I didn’t know what the word “horny” meant until one of my girlfriends took pity on my naïveté in eighth grade. (Sexuality is inherently tied to a woman’s value and virtue, you see).

“Even today, I wear slips under dresses and send hand-written thank you notes. I don’t discuss bodily functions in mixed company and consider it an honor to be asked for a recipe after a dinner party. I smile even if I don’t like you and am one of four people on the metro who says, “Pardon me.” In sum: I was raised a good girl.

Read on and tell me what you think!

F*#! You, Rape Culture – via Jezebel

As an undergrad I proudly served as a member of R.E.S.P.E.C.T. – Rape Education Services by Peers Encouraging Conscious Thought . I sigh for the youngsters who thought that the clothing a girl wore had some correlation to her rape, and that if a woman didn’t say ‘no and really mean it’, it wasn’t rape. Oye.

Today’s article in Jezebel is worth sharing:

Fuck you, rapists. You were all over the fucking place in 2012, to the point where Barack Obama had to explain to Jay Leno that “rape is rape,” in case there was any confusion.  Repeat: the president of our country had to make time to appear on national television and reiterate that rape is always a crime.

Here’s an alphabetical list of the rape-related insanity we’ve had to put up with in 2012:

A is for rapey advertising. There is a thin line between “dark humor” and “offensive bullshit,” one which companies seem to have a hard time figuring out, especially when it comes to making light of sexual assault. Some lowlights: Belvedere promising to make the ladies “go down smoothly,” Bar Refaeli’s bizarre app, one bar’s “stay away if you’re not D for the D” ad. Advertisers: let’s reconsider the LOL-rape ads in 2012, kay?

B is for basketball players. When will we stop pretending that college athletes can’t be rapists?

C is for rape culture on college campuses. From Amherst to BU to the University of Missoula, we could write an extra-special rape alphabet listing college sexual assault scandals and the administrators who don’t take rape seriously enough.

D is for different kinds of rape. Here’s a guide, for people (and uteri) with bad decision-making skills.

E is for emergency rape. Only women who have been “emergency raped” deserve emergency contraception, Republican Linda McMahon explained last October. Thnx, Linda.

F is for rape fatigue. Sometimes there’s just no anger left. Hopefully you’re not suffering from rape fatigue yet, because we’re only on the letter “F.”

G is for God. Because sometimes He gives you the gift of rape! We wouldn’t want to be in Richard Mourdock’s house this holiday season. (Or ever, for that matter>)

H is for the Sanctity of Human Life Act. Remember that time Paul Ryan sponsored a bill that would allow rapists to stop their victims from aborting? Now you do! You’re welcome.

I is for inane rape analogies. No, having a baby out of wedlock is not just “like” getting pregnant from rape. Weren’t any of you politicians English majors?!?

J is for rape jokes. Here’s how to make a good one.

K is for Kym Worthy. The Detroit prosecutor and rape kit advocate kicks major ass. What, is this some positive news in the midst of a sea of rape-related batshittery? It is. don’t get too used to it, though; it is “Fuck You” week, after all.

L is for “legitimate” rape. Presented without comment: “If it’s a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down.” — Republican Senate Nominee Todd Akin, 2012.

M is for military rape. It’s a huge fucking issue!

N is for Nice Guys. Nice guys don’t rape, but “Nice Guys” definitely do.

O is for Obama. Who, as previously stated, told Jay Leno that “These various distinctions about rape don’t make too much sense to me, don’t make any sense to me.” A man who understands us.

P is for Pennsylvania House Bill 2718. It’s that recent super-shitty bill that would require low-income women to prove they were raped in order to qualify for welfare. America!

Q is for questioning rape victims. It’s something we do way, wayyyy too often instead of questioning, you know, THE RAPISTS. What were you wearing? Do you have a boyfriend? Why were you out so late? Why were you by yourself? Why did you invite him back to your apartment? Why didn’t you run away screaming the second he penetrated you? Why did you text him after? Did I ask what you were wearing?

R is for Redditors. They sure do love chatting about rape.

S is for spiders. Recently, a lawyer called an 11-year-old gang rape victim “the reason” that twenty teenagers and adult men raped her, like “the spider and the fly.” More like “the child rape victim and the dickhead lawyer without a case.”

T is for Team Rape. Hey, they lost big this election season!

U is for underwear. Wouldn’t it be cool if Victoria’s Secret had a line of consent-themed panties? They don’t (duh), but here’s how one feminist group envisioned it.

V is for victim-blaming. Rape without victim-blaming (a.k.a. slut-shaming, “she was asking for it,” etc etc) is like peanut butter without moldy, rancid jelly!

W is for Wisconsin’s Roger Rivard. He once said “some girls rape easy.” And some politicians lose reelection!

X is for X-Rated. It should go without saying, but sex workers can be raped — and deserve legal protection from sexual assault — too.

Y is for YES! Say it with us! Ask him/her to say it before you initiate sex! It feels so good, we swear.

Z is for zzzzz. Is she unconscious? Here’s a bright idea: don’t fucking rape her.

In conclusion: FUCK YOU, rapists, rape apologists, and all you politicians, comedians, advertisers, lawyers, and internet commenters who think it’s soooo hard to take the time to make sure someone actually wants to do the sex with you. Fuck you guys. Fuck all of you. Consensually, that is.

Thanks, Katie J.M. Baker

Neil deGrasse Tyson: 8 books every intelligent person should read

I heart books – how they smell: a musty mix of mold and dust, leather, ink. Next to sleep, they are the easiest way to lose track of time and location. I’ve definitely missed metro stops with my nose in a book and stayed up all night to read “just one more chapter.” But I’m not opposed to e-books; I read the entire Hunger Games trilogy on my Android.

Books can be powerful and life-altering; they can also be plain crap or lighthearted fluff. For example, I enjoy Dirk Pitt novels and admit to reading the Twighlight series — neither of which will ever win a Pulitzer. In the spirit of appreciating book recommendations from friends, I thought I’d pass this list of suggestions along.

A Reddit.com user posed the question to Neil deGrasse Tyson: “Which books should be read by every single intelligent person on the planet?” Below, you will find the book list offered up by the astrophysicist, director of the Hayden Planetarium, and popularizer of science. Where possible, they have included links to free versions of the books.

“The one-line comment after each book is not a review but a statement about how the book’s content influenced the behavior of people who shaped the western world.  So, for example, it does no good to say what the Bible “really” meant, if its actual influence on human behavior is something else.” -NDTyson

1.) The Bible (eBook) – “to learn that it’s easier to be told by others what to think and believe than it is to think for yourself.”

2.) The System of the World by Isaac Newton (eBook) – “to learn that the universe is a knowable place.”

3.) On the Origin of Species by Charles Darwin (eBook – Audio Book) – “to learn of our kinship with all other life on Earth.”

4.) Gulliver’s Travels by Jonathan Swift (eBook – Audio Book) – “to learn, among other satirical lessons, that most of the time humans are Yahoos.”

5.) The Age of Reason by Thomas Paine (eBook – Audio Book) – “to learn how the power of rational thought is the primary source of freedom in the world.”

6.) The Wealth of Nations by Adam Smith (eBook – Audio Book) – “to learn that capitalism is an economy of greed, a force of nature unto itself.”

7.) The Art of War by Sun Tsu (eBook – Audio Book) – “to learn that the act of killing fellow humans can be raised to an art.”

8.) The Prince by Machiavelli (eBook – Audio Book) – “to learn that people not in power will do all they can to acquire it, and people in power will do all they can to keep it.”

Tyson concludes by saying: “If you read all of the above works you will glean profound insight into most of what has driven the history of the western world.”

If you’d like to read some of what Neil deGrasse Tyson has written, you’ve got options. He’s also on Twitter.

This piece is courtesy of Open Culture.

4 Books to Read if you Have Ovaries

Every female has her flavor of womanhood, her ‘brand’ of femininity. There’s no one right way to be a modern woman, but we make
decisions that serve us and enslave us – for better and for worse.

After my first year of college I posed a question to my older sis that had been vexing me: “What does it mean that I like to cook and bake and play hostess? I like my room to be in order. Does that make me a bad feminist?” My wise older sister paused, replying, “No, it doesn’t mean that at all. Feminism is about choices. You absolutely can enjoy cooking and cleaning and keeping order. Feminism just means you no longer have to do those things just because you’re a girl.”

In addition to my older sister, the following four books indelibly influenced my thinking about what it means to be a woman. In different ways, they cut through societal expectations and lift the veil of structural inequality and power imbalances. But these books don’t pummel you over the head with femi-nazi rhetoric; they serve up thought-provoking ideas with humor, insights, stories from their lives and examples through their characters.

1)  Marry Him: The Case for Settling for Mr. Good Enough, by Lori Gottlieb
Because pleated pants have nothing to do with whether he will clean up kid vomit.

Before you pick this book up know that it’s written from the perspective of a 40+ educated, single mom looking for a husband. Also, it’s not nearly as inflammatory as the title wants you to believe. Even if you don’t want marriage and a family–or don’t know if you do–this book is surprisingly insightful about women in the dating game. Taking advice from life coaches, matchmakers, friends, pop culture, and dating services, Gottlieb provides a reality check for those still waiting for a man that meets every criteria on their list of ‘ideal husband traits.’

The point: whether he wears sport socks with sandals, is balding or stands three inches shorter than you—these ‘faults’ say nothing about his quality of character or quality of life partner. I’d rename the book “Dating Smarter, not Harder – since it’s about getting everything you NEED, which may not be everything you WANT. Read this when you’re tired of meeting men at bars.

“What matters is finding the perfect partner – not the perfect person. It’s not about lowering your standards – it’s about maturing and having reasonable expectations. There’s a difference between what makes for a good boyfriend and what makes for a good husband.”

2) The Second Shift: Working Families and the Revolution at Home, by Arlie Hochschild
Because running a household is work, and like any good business, the load must be negotiated and shared.

The first class I stepped into for my undergraduate education was “Sociology of the Family,” and this book served as required reading. It changed my world. Have you ever wondered why women send all the family Christmas cards and buy the birthday presents? Why Pinterest is angled at weddings and hairstyle and entertaining children? Why dads “mean fun, but moms mean business?” (Yes, that’s a quote from Honey I Shrunk the Kids).

As Hochschild points out through her work with couples and families, if you add the time it takes to do a paid job plus housework and childcare, women work roughly 15 hours longer each week than men. Over a year, they work an extra month of 24 hour days. Most women work one shift at the office and a “second shift” at home. This book isn’t about man-bashing, though; it explores the assumptions we make about who is supposed to do what in relationships. Read this when you set up a joint household.

“A twenty-six-year-old legal secretary, the mother of two and married to a businessman, said, “[My husband] empties the garbage occasionally and sweeps. That’s all. He does no cooking, no washing, no anything else. How do I feel? Furious. If our marriage ends, it will be on this issue.””
3) The Edible Woman, by Margaret Atwood
Because your worth isn’t determined by anyone but yourself.

While pouring out my heart to a dear friend, herself divorced and pursuing a rewarding new relationship, she recommended this book. Already a fan of Atwood’s from The Handmaid’s Tale and Year of the Flood, I was open. Atwood is largely known for the female protagonists who represent “every woman” struggling with victimization and marginalization by gender and politics.  Or, as a friend recently phrased it, “Atwood’s a pretty hard-core feminist and all-around kick-ass person.”

In The Edible Woman, a young woman gets engaged and finds that she’s unable to eat. She grows increasingly concerned that consuming food mirrors how her fiancé is consuming her identity. This book pre-dates eating disorders and the feminist movement, which makes it ring even more authentically. The plot is less of the point than how Atwood handles a young woman facing the loss of her individuality into coupledom. This isn’t a book about spiritual enlightenment or quick solutions; it’s a book to make you think. Read this when you have time to mull on it, perhaps with a glass of wine and a piece of cake.

“You’ve been trying to destroy me, haven’t you,” she said. “You’ve been trying to assimilate me. But I’ve made you a substitute, something you’ll like much better. This is what you really wanted all along, isn’t it? I’ll get you a fork,” she added.”

4) How to Be a Woman, by Caitlin Moran
Because life is too short to feel guilty about not being a perfect woman. Let’s get real.

Caitlin Moran is wicked funny and painfully, awkwardly truthful in this book. Rather than harp on the theoretical implications of modern feminism, Moran skips the arguments and says simply, “Feminism is having a vagina and wanting to be in charge of it.” Ding ding!

She manages to address the horrors of childbirth and the joys of parenting, the conundrum of naming of vaginas, and the unnecessary discomfort of women hiring domestic help – all with a deft hand and abundant use of italics. As an added bonus, you’ll learn a fair amount of confounding British slang.  A girlfriend gave me this book, and I continue to pass it forward. I wonder what amazingness would occur if every girl received this book on her 15th birthday? We could all save ourselves so much time, effort and angst! Read this book now, then give it away.

“No one has ever claimed for a moment that childless men have missed out on a vital aspect of their existence, and were the poorer, and crippled by it. Da Vinci, Van Gough, Newton, Faraday, Plato, Aquinas, Beethoven, Handel, Kant, Hume, Jesus. They all seem to have managed [childlessness] quite well.”

What books influenced your thinking about what it is to be a modern female?

A Fallow State

fallow: (adj) A crop field left uncultivated for a period of time, so as to regain its productive capacity.

In Margaret Atwood’s Year of the Flood, which is a spin on post apocalyptic world – minus zombies or nuclear fallout. There’s a crazy semi-religious sect called the Gardeners, who have some insightful perspectives irrespective of their hypocrisy and questionable hygiene. There’s a passage about how they describe depression that resonated with me. Naturally, I can’t actually copy and paste the section but you can read the page on Google Reads. Oh, wait, I can do the old fashioned thing and just retype it:

“The Gardeners would never say depressed. The Gardeners believed that people who acted like Veena were in a Fallow state – resting, retreating into themselves to gain spiritual insight, gathering their energy for the moment they would burst out again like buds in the Spring.

I’m feeling in a bit of a fallow state of late. Not bad, not amazing, just quiet, introspective, with limited expectations; attempting to renew my energies and goals, wrap my head around a few issues; and just sit with all the feelings knowing that I am okay.

Our Own Worst Enemy

“Very often we are our own worst enemy as we foolishly build stumbling blocks on the path that leads to success and happiness.” – Louis Binstock, American Rabbi

“Forgive yourself for the blindness that put you in the path of those who betrayed and disappointed you.” – Rob Brezsny, American astrologist and author

Cooking Be Damned

Sure, cooking can enjoyable and fulfilling, connecting me to food and expanding my creativity. But not of late; it simply feels like a ton of effort. After I finished a workout this morning and felt hunger pangs urging me on, I tried to get excited about making pesto

Topped with salt and pepper is my favorite option

scrambled eggs and wilted garlic spinach. Fail. I ate a banana, whole wheat cinnamon raisin bread (you can make your own! I bought mine) with peanut butter and half an avocado.

I recently read a phrase about how to be successful in your life pursuits, be they work, fitness, relationships, whatever. It suggested that the best thing you can do for yourself is be honest about your weaknesses so that you can plan around them.

The alternative is what Joan Didion calls “magical thinking.” For those of us who are perpetually late, magical thinking goes something like this, “Of COURSE I can get there in 10 minutes. I did that one time, you know.” In reality, 99% of the time it takes 25 minutes, but we prefer to think that magically what we want to happen will actually happen. Basically, it’s our successful self delusions.

For instance, I can say, “Tomorrow I’ll get up early, go for a jog and feel great all day! Woo-yah! ” In truth, I love sleeping far too much to get up for a morning workout. I can count on one hand the number of times I’ve succeeded in rising with the alarm with nothing but my willpower driving me. This is a

Planking – of the fitness varietal.

weakness that I can choose to ignore and then feel guilty every single time I hit the snooze button. Or, I can find a trainer and PAY someone to kick my ass 4 days a week, knowing there’s a group of fit ladies that I want to compete with. When the alarm sounds, I remind myself that I paid good money for this, that the trainer is waiting, and when the Super Spartan race comes around, I’m going to be so glad I did those 4,000 lunges and hours of holding plank position.

#29 on the list is a favorite

Same for cooking. Part of me WANTS to cook a wholesome, flavorful meal that I can sit and enjoy, and happily pack up leftovers. But truthfully, if I’m cooking for one, I just want to make something relatively healthy in 10 minutes or less with minimal decision making or brainpower required.  Enter one of my favorite fallbacks: New York Times’ 101 Simple Meals Ready in 10 Minutes or Less. (This came out in 2007? I’ve been using it for 5 years? Feelin’ old now). Though I’m not sure “Boil a lobster” is an easy option in my definition, there are some winners.

In sum: self-delusion is out, self-reflection is in. And cooking be damned.

I am Fortunate

One of the nice things about life is the ability to learn – to learn new things as well as learn from mistakes and grow from experiences. When my heart is heavy and the future feels bleakly uncertain, I have a list of activities that I fall back on to lift my sagging shoulders, including:

Going to Ground. I literally sit on the floor. I sit to eat dinner at the coffee table, when talking to family on the phone, when outside; I sit to craft and pet my cat and make lists. The solidity underneath me is comforting.

Saying Yes. Apparently there’s a book about this (and a poorly interpreted movie) called, fittingly, Yes Man, by Danny Wallace. When a girlfriend asked me on Saturday afternoon if was around for a drink, I said yes, even though it was not convenient per se. Who cares if the laundry doesn’t get done today? People are important. When I was invited to an impromptu brunch while still streaming sweat down my face from a spin class on Sunday, I said yes. Join you and your mom for an opera? Sure. Try yoga on the mall? Okay. Talk to a stranger at the grocery store about my banana purchase? Why not? I am more open to experiences when my heart is hurting, and saying yes is a way I stay connected.

Drinking Less. I know, I know – this is apparently antithetical advice for a breakup. But really, I don’t enjoy drinking by myself as much as I do with others. Feeling buzzed alone doesn’t result in more fun, laughter, jokes or silly antics; it results in me feeling light-headed, sad and lonely – and then promptly falling asleep in my clothes on the couch. Giggles are best shared. Why else do you think karaoke is synonymous with drinking? (This guy is an apparent exception to this rule, as he seems very, very happy to belt out Bohemian Rhapsody while drunk as a skunk in the back of a police car).  

Remembering my Fortune. Not in a Pollyanna, everything-is-wonderful-all-the-time kind of way, but consciously thinking about the good things in my life. A reminder of how fortunate we are, from Danniel Dennet’s Freedom Evolves:

“Every living thing is, from the cosmic perspective, incredibly lucky simply to be alive. Most, 90 percent and more, of all the organisms that have ever lived have died without viable offspring, but not a single one of your ancestors, going back to the dawn of life on Earth, suffered that normal misfortune. You spring from an unbroken line of winners going back millions of generations, and those winners were, in every generation, the luckiest of the lucky, one out of a thousand or even a million. So however unlucky you may be on some occasion today, your presence on the planet testifies to the role luck has played in your past.”

And if all else fails, I keep in mind something my Mom says: “This too shall pass.”