Tuesday, December 7

Disaster strikes!


This, among other biohazards, is what happens in sweltering San Antonio when the water heater in your closet attic leaks while you're out of town for a month. Farewell, once-beloved open-waisted Doc Marten Mary Janes. You're probably alive enough to walk yourselves right out of the landfill.

Monday, November 1

Accomplishments

(Before I get started -- apologies to anyone who commented a while ago on some other posts. I had enabled comment moderation on old posts to reduce spam but I failed to ensure I would be notified of them. Oops! I have read and published them all; thanks for sharing and sorry I'm a lame blogger.)

Now back to our regularly scheduled programming...

A while ago I tagged along with Mark to a small gathering for some medical students and residents. I'm pretty sure I was the only non-medical professional (or soon-to-be one) there. Anyway, we were sitting at a table with three of his classmates, all of whom we've come to consider good friends. Several residents approached and one of Mark's classmates -- we'll call her Jane -- proceeded to introduce all five of us to the residents.

Jane is kind and sensitive. She is one of those people who is always looking out for everybody else. She has always been very sweet to me. I like her a lot.

She started with the other two students. "This is Jim and he's going into cardiology, and this is Jen and she's going into orthopedics. I'm Jane and I'm going into pediatrics, and this is Mark, and he's going into pediatrics too." Then she got to me. "This is Mark's wife Dani, and she's a mom," [slightest of pauses] "and that's an accomplishment."

My gut reaction to this introduction of me was to say something snarky, but the first thing that came to mind was rather crude and not exactly what I was going for in the first-impressions department. So I just smiled and said hello to the murmurs of "nice to meet you" going around.

I do not consider my motherhood to be an "accomplishment," and that word kind of trivializes what motherhood is anyway. Besides, for all I knew, some of those residents might be mothers themselves.

This experience didn't upset me or even ruffle my feathers, but it did prompt a lot of thinking. I assume that Jane's intent was to make sure that I didn't feel bad about being the only one without a "and she's going into neurosurgery" tag line, and "accomplishment" was probably just the first word that came out -- I doubt she considered all the connotations of it that I mulled over that evening.

When I'm in similar medical settings and we're doing the introductions thing ("I'm So-and-so and I'm a third year," etc.), I prefer to just say, "I'm Dani, and I'm not a student; just married to one." I guess my message is Unlike everyone else here, I'm not going to relate to you on the medical level -- I'm here because I'm attached to that guy over there. It seems like a good introduction for the context. I've used this same introduction regardless of whether I was unemployed, at a job I disliked, loved, or, like now, not working by choice. I figure if you want to know more about me we can take it from there.

I understand why vocation is so often included in an introduction. After all, the whole point of an introduction is to get to know a little bit about someone and start a connection. And part of what forms who you are is how you spend your time, and most people spend a lot of time at their vocation, so that seems like a reasonable thing to know about someone. And for lucky people who are on the career path of their choice, occupation is a good get-to-know-you because that choice says something about them. But if you happen to not love or be proud of your job, or if your job title doesn't sound cool or glamorous or lucrative, maybe telling people where you work when you introduce yourself is torture.

I'm not really sure where I'm going with this. I have no qualms about my choice to not have a paying job, even in a crowd of professionals (many and sometimes most of whom are women). In the time I have to myself when I'm not actively meeting the needs of my child, I have my fingers in a lot of different pots, many of which I could use to identify myself. Or I could just say I work in Human Capital Development; that sounds pretty highfalutin, doesn't it? (I know I'm not the first one to come up with fancy corporate-sounding names for mothering. Sue me.)

Anyway. I guess the bottom line is that I don't feel inferior to people who get paid to work (nor do I feel superior), so I don't feel any need to defend or justify or apologize for being "just" a mom.

Friday, October 15

Some lists

Things bugging me for the first time lately:

  • mean people commenting mean things on news stories
  • raccoons fighting (or...?) loudly in my back yard at 2:00, 3:00, and 4:00 a.m.

Things that have always and continue to bug me:
  • mosquitoes, fire ants, prickly grass, and other hindrances to being outside
  • traffic and lack of sidewalks in San Antonio

Things I'm in love with lately:
  • fresh mushrooms (in a parallel time dimension my younger self just died.)
  • this blog. In one day it not only revolutionized my understanding of same-sex attraction but recharged my lazy spiritual engine. Check it out.

Things I've been in love with for a long time:
  • chacos
  • this face:

Friday, September 3

Floored

I have just had amazing customer service from a mammoth online merchant. Mark, bless his soul, ordered a rather pricey textbook last week from amazon.com and wondered why it hadn't arrived yet (it was due on Tuesday). When we checked the order status it had indeed been delivered on Tuesday -- to our old address 4 hours away. (I do not recommend one-click shopping for people who move every year.)

Unhappy forehead slapping ensued.

Mark was concocting plans to write a letter to our old address and plead for help from the new tenant there, whoever he may be. I decided to call Amazon to see what they could do for us.

Not only was it amazingly easy to find their contact information, but I was talking to a human within one minute. And that human happened to be not only articulate but competent and generous: he worked some magic and refunded the old book and told us to go ahead and just order a new one. I asked if we needed to do anything to retrieve the old book. "Don't worry about it," he said. "It was an honest mistake."

!!!

So here we are, no worse for the experience than a few days delayed on the delivery. I'm still shocked.

Tuesday, August 31

Purge

For those of you anxiously awaiting the end of the Dani-reads-The Hunger Games-saga, I'm done.

Phew.

I'm ready to get back to real life.

I think taking longer than 24 hours to read Mockingjay will make you go crazy. I did it in in like 20 -- sandwiching eight or so hours of restless, Peeta-dream-filled sleep -- and three hours later my mind's still spinning and I'm hoping a stream-of-consiousness blog post will settle things down so I can get something done for the first time in several days.

So obviously this book is totally engrossing. Engrossing is an understatement..."consuming" might be better. I liked Catching Fire the best, except for how it ended leaving you dangling on a precipice waiting for the next installment. I'm just glad I read these when I did and not sooner. But back to Mockingjay...

**Alert: spoilers below**

First, what I loved. Mostly I loved Peeta (though not his name -- too close to pita bread). Not really like a character-crush, but like an aching for someone you care a lot about. At one point I felt like he was too good to be real, but I think his character gets rounded out enough to be painfully believable.

So I should be happy with the ending, right? At first I was. I almost cried. I was certainly relieved. Initially I was satisfied. Satisfied but depressed (like you said, Debra). But...

I needed more. More ending. I needed more...what did I need more of? I think I needed to see more of how Katniss changed, how she came around, how she recovered. Because two pages and a short epilogue weren't enough to counter the seemingly endless time(s) she spent in a drug- and/or grief-induced haze. And I wanted to see her final rebirth. There are so many times where she pulls through just to be crushed again, and each time we see her emerge stronger. But this time...she's down so long, longer than any of the other times, yet it takes just a few paragraphs to pull her out and suddenly we're supposed to see her living (mostly) happily ever after? The ending left me remembering her at her weakest, even though I was told she came through and learned to be happy again. I guess I wanted to see that.

Aside from that -- which I think is what's leaving me stomach-tied still (unless I'm catching a bug or something -- or wait, maybe I haven't eaten today?) -- I have a few other issues to process to try to purge it all from the forefront of my consciousness.

The last half of this series (half of Catching Fire and all of Mockingjay) is a rollercoaster. I started to feel manipulated. Like the plot twists begin to depart from plausibility and are there just to jerk your heartstrings in a new direction. [The torture/brainwash, for example. I almost couldn't take it. I thought, Seriously?] It's like a primetime drama-turned-soap opera (ER comes to mind), every episode has to be more intense, more incredible than the last. Just when you think things are on the up-and-up...crash. Again and again. Then all the battles and barely-introduced characters getting killed off and Katniss getting knocked out...it all started to blend together and I was tired of it, ready for the book to just end. Just tell me how it ends and let's get it over with. Yet I was anxious with the anticipation. It just felt drawn-out. It was...draining.

And yet some aspects felt almost too hasty...Coin's villainy, Prim's death, the Gale resolution, Peeta's recovery...

So I guess the bottom line is that I think...I think it was a great series. I still think a lot of it was contrived and sensational. But still, it engulfed me, and more importantly, really moved me. And I think that counts for quite a bit.

...

Wait.

It just hit me. The reason that the ending left me wanting more, plot manipulations aside. Katniss is impulsive, hot-headed, and even vindictive. But more than anything else, I think her biggest flaw is that she's selfish. She often fails to see the bigger picture or the view from someone else's perspective, and instead she sees only how things affect her. And we never really see her grow out of that. And that -- that maturity -- would be what makes her worthy of someone as good as Peeta. But do we see her grow in that way? I don't remember anything that would seem like we did.

What do you think?

Monday, August 30

Catching Fire: A humble review

Balalhalhfalalalalla!!!!

Contrived still? Yes. Violent? Yes. Cruel to use a chapter-ending cliffhanger to end the book? YES.

BUT.

So, so good. SO good.

What else is there to say? There's the satisfaction of being one step ahead of the protagonist, the exasperation at the stupid things she does because you know (or are pretty sure you know) more than she does, the exhilaration of flouting the oppressive authority, the trepidation of just who might die next, AND the confusion over which boy she should choose (assuming one of them doesn't get killed off)!

Am I really still hungry after a big lunch or is my stomach tied in knots?

Wednesday, August 25

You will probably disagree with this, or "I liked it but it bugged me"

So I just finished The Hunger Games (I know I'm like two books behind) and my feelings about it are on my mind. And since I'm the sheriff 'round these desolate parts I'm going to put it out there.

And if you're in my book group and haven't read it yet, maybe save this blog post to read for later.

...

The Hunger Games irritated me.

It was entertaining—gripping even. Perfectly paced, with some well-rounded, likable characters. I enjoyed it. I really enjoyed it. I binged and read it in two days. I was anxious to know how it would end (though I hoped for a little more resolution than I got). And it wasn’t even all that predictable.

But.

It was just so…contrived.

I was engaged until Collins turned the romance on strong somewhere in the last third. (Disclaimer: eye roll.) Then I started thinking that this whole book was just an excuse to tell this sort-of, does-she-or-doesn't-she love story. The author doesn’t really ask us to think about the politics or the economics or the social questions raised by a hegemonic government that pits 24 teenagers in an arena to kill each other on live TV (not to mention the plausibility issues with this premise). Our heroes don't even really struggle against the system. This twisted dystopia was just a venue for girl to nurse boy back to health and snuggle up to him in a sleeping bag and have him brush her hair away from her face. (Which I would guess is the most popular aspect of this book anyway.)

And that’s the irony. The Gamemakers manufacture this grisly event for the morbid pleasure of the unquestioning Capitol citizens (whom we should detest), and the leaders then manipulate the rules for maximum romance-drama to keep the audience engrossed and coming back for more. Which, when you think about it, is not that different from what Collins does to her readers: we take the killing in stride, we root for our favorite character(s) [who, thanks to the first-person narrative, we know won't die], and we gobble up the gooey stuff.

Maybe Collins was trying to make that deeper point after all...but I doubt it.

(all of which does not mean I won't be reading Catching Fire sometime soon)

Wednesday, June 30

At least you have your teeth

Makes me laugh every time.

(A.M., this post was for you)

Saturday, May 15

Friday, May 14

I don't get it

I've been teaching the Old Testament to 17-year-olds since January. You've really got to wonder about those Israelites, grumbling about how rough life is while munching on some miracle manna. Their Achilles' heel seems to be those pesky foreign gods, but honestly I'm puzzled at the allure of worshiping shiny, inanimate, man-made objects. How can we even relate to these people?



Tuesday, March 23

Celebrity Crush

I'm totally head-over-heels for Prince Naveen. We maybe watched The Princess and the Frog twice in 24 hours. I'm still laughing.

Thursday, March 11

Hope springs eternal

I'm an optimist.

I manage to hope that even after a decade of dermatologic distress, my acne will clear up. I'm always optimistic that tonight will be the night I get eight (or heck, even six or seven) uninterrupted hours of sleep. I like to believe that I will have time for the many projects I want to work on, or that today I won't waste a single second mindlessly surfing the internet.

None of which ever happens.* (That last one may have an effect on the second-to-last...)

So that should explain why after several banana bread fiascoes (all different recipes), I thought tonight's endeavor would surely succeed. I fully anticipated two plump, mouthwateringly moist loaves of bread emerging from my oven.

How disappointed I was.


"Moist" is an understatement; the interior was entirely gooey and the whole thing was utterly inedible. (We tried to choke it down; I hate to waste.)

I think the culprit of our baked goods woes is the questionable age of our leavening agent. Anything in my kitchen marked with an H was donated by a generous roommate many months prior to my marriage. In a moment of unusual culinary insight, I considered that perhaps baking powder loses potency over time.


Indeed. With a recommended shelf life of just 6 months, I don't think my "Best by May 2005" Clabber Girl can bubble up quite the way she used to. (This is my totally inexperienced hypothesis.)

Tonight's treats were donated to the birds who frequent a neighboring field:

video

Baking powder is on the grocery list, so hopefully next time my bread is worthy of being delivered to the human neighbors.

*After years of various face washes and prescriptions (including two rounds of Acutane) and a cruel cycle of being acne free for periods barely not long enough to let old scars heal, I finally seem to be making some headway -- and just by changing my pillowcase every night. That's right. It's been that simple and that cheap. I'm hoping it's a permanent improvement -- hope springs eternal, after all.
(Of course, just about the time my skin started clearing up I developed this strange eczema around my eyelids. So now instead of looking like a pimply teenager I look like I've contracted the bubonic plague. So much for my aspirations at cosmetics modeling.)

UPDATE:
After many commenters have pointed out the age of their baking powder, I'm worried that I can't blame these cooking catastrophes on an old ingredient, but that the fault lies elsewhere (like with my incompetence.) Any help from my expert bakers? Charly?? Jan???

Sunday, March 7

Writer's block

I've mulled over many post topics in my head, but when I sit to write them out, apparently none of them are worth pursuing.

So here's a picture of my kid instead.


...

For the record, the topics I've been chewing on:

cycling
South Texas
acne
metablogging
"identity boxes"

Boring all. But I may squeeze something out of them yet.

Saturday, January 9

Irony

It was 27 degrees this morning and our heater's not working...making it 58 in the house (or colder; I don't think the thermostat registers anything lower than that).
I guess I got what I wished for.

Brrr.