Make Good Memories

A college friend of mine is facing a tough time right now. In a couple hours his sweet, elderly kitty is being sent to the Rainbow Bridge. My heart breaks for his family today, because that’s a loss I know all too well — I recently lost three of my six beautiful cats in an eighteen month time-frame. I hope that in the remaining hours of his life they are able to make good memories. That someday they’ll look back at today, not with tears, but with joy for the time they spent with him.
Making good memories is something we should focus on daily. Not just with animals, but with our family and friends. Time has a way of passing by quickly and precious moments, once gone, are lost to us forever.


I have a whole lot of good memories of my furry babies.

I remember when Sandy came to my house as a tiny kitten, filthy and covered with fleas, she stood outside my house and screamed at the top of her lungs until my sister-in-law brought her inside to her forever home. We gave her a bath and introduced her to my other kitties. We claimed we were going to find her another home, but we ended up keeping her.
She was so tiny. Fully grown she weighed only five pounds, and was about as big around as a 12 ounce soda can. Sandy had a huge personality though, she was part Siamese and had a loud penetrating meow. We called it a “scream” and loved to hear it. I’d scoop her up in my hands just to hear her meow. My favorite memory of her is of her ‘insta-purr’. You see, she’d start purring before I scooped her up and the screaming was just her expressing joy at being held. Sometimes, just looking at her was enough to trigger her insta-purr. She was a mischievous kitty and a very happy one.

I also remember saying goodbye to her in March of 2013. Her breathing was labored, due to fluid in her chest cavity. She wasn’t purring and was just miserable. With tears streaming down my face, I signed the piece of paper giving my vet permission to put her to sleep. I watched as they injected the liquids into the iv she had, and kissed her goodbye as the light faded from her eyes. She took one last breath and slipped into that sleep that lasts forever. That was the first time I’d ever seen my husband cry. David gave me a hug and we sobbed as we held each other. I look back at that day with sadness, but there is also peace in knowing that I relieved her of her pain. There’s joy in knowing that I enjoyed the company of one of the best kitties in the world for five too-short years. There are memories of a life spent in happiness.


Baby Kitty was a rescue from a friend. I adopted him in April of 2001, after the death of my childhood cat, and saved him from a sad situation. He was only a year old and had been through a really rough kitten-hood. He and I lived with my parents for a few more months, until I got my first apartment. He stayed with my parents for a year and a half, because the complex didn’t allow pets. After some changes in management made it clear that I needed to find a new residence, I made sure to move to a complex that allowed pets. He was suffering from seizures brought on by Hartz flea medication, and I had to give him medicine twice a day. Every eleven o’clock he got a syringe full of phenobarbital. He eventually stopped fighting me and let me give him his medication twice daily.

Even though Baby Kitty was supposed to be my kitty, he bonded with David and was really a Daddy’s Boy. He would “puppy cat” (follow) David around the house, and hours upon hours would be spent with Baby Kitty curled up next to (or on top of) David on our couch.

Eventually though, Baby Kitty grew old. Last year we took him to the vet for a checkup and we found out that he had some kidney failure. We tried special food, which no one ate, and eventually progressed to trying sub-q fluids. Unlike the phenobarbital, he fought the fluids when we tried to administer them at home. He started to drool — a lot — so when I took him in for fluids I had them look into that. He had a tumor growing under his tongue and an x-ray discovered a larger than usual kidney, possibly cancerous. So, in June 2014 I signed the paper giving my vet permission to send him to the Rainbow Bridge again. He slipped peacefully into death and I kissed his head and told him how much we loved him.

I look back at his life with few tears, even though I miss him tremendously. He had a good, long life and we had time to say goodbye.


River was my girl. White, fluffy, beautiful, sweet and not too bright. That describes my River Bear. She was given to us by my brother and sister-in-law, and was utterly charming. She had a way about her that made everyone love her. She was friendly to strangers, rubbing on their legs and purring. My favorite thing about her was her forgiveness. You see, she didn’t like being held that much. I would love to irritate her by picking her up for cuddling. She’d wiggle and meow and try to jump down. I’d put her down and she’d run away. Then I’d call her name. The tail would spring up straight into the air, she’d chirp at me, and run right back into my waiting arms. This game of ours never got old.
In November 2014 she started to hide, which is never a good sign with a cat. I found her one morning and took her into the vet. They couldn’t find anything wrong with her, so they gave her some fluids and sent her home. The next day she wasn’t any better, so I took her in again, this time they hospitalized her. She spent two days in the kitty hospital and wasn’t getting any better. She started turning yellow, according to the vet, so they opened her up to see if there was an obstruction in her abdomen. No obstruction, but fluid. My dear, sweet River had wet FIP. FIP is a silent killer, but it’s always fatal.

I got the phone call with the bad news when my husband and I were headed up to see his brother. It was decided over the phone that the best thing to do was to put her to sleep. This time I couldn’t say goodbye, so I asked the vet if she’d give my Bear a hug and tell her I loved her. She assured me she would, and I believe she did. My vets are incredibly kind people.

My dear friends tried to donate to my River’s final vet bill, but I had thwarted their plans by paying it already. Apparently they said really good things about me, in their email to the vet’s office. I was, and continue to be, quite touched by their gesture.

A couple of weeks later I got a letter in the mail from the UC Davis vet university. These friends donated to their FIP program in River’s name, and UC Davis wanted me to know about it. I kept the letter and will treasure it always.
I dearly miss my little River Bear. I miss her demanding attention, her chirps, and her super silky fur. I miss not having been there to say goodbye, but I was an hour and a half away when she passed, waking her up from surgery just for me to “have closure” would have been mean.


I know that cats have short lives, compared to us, and I know that eventually I’ll say goodbye to my three remaining cats. I dread those days, and hope they are a long time in coming. I’m still grieving the loss of my three babies, and my house feels empty without them.

I try to be mindful of that knowledge when they decide they want attention in the wee hours of the morning. I want to make good memories.

Happy F’n Mother’s Day

This is quite likely the hardest day of the year for me. My Facebook feed is filled with cheerful images and words celebrating good mothers ’round the world. I’m happy for my friends. They deserve every bit of love from their mothers and their children.

Not only do I not have a great mother, I’ve made the choice to not be one. Most of the time I’m more than okay with my choice, it was — and continues to be — the best choice I could have made, but it does make today hard. I treat my cats as though they were my children, but they’ll never be able to tell me they love me and give me handmade cards.

It’s also hard for those women who can’t be mothers due to infertility. My own maternal pangs come and go. I can only imagine how hellish today must be for the women who want children all the time. How devastating it surely is to those who have lost a child, that heartbreak never leaves and must be even more raw today.

Let’s celebrate anyway.

To those who have had a crummy mother. May today a be a day of joy and peace. Know that you are not alone.

To those who have lost a child. I hope that you find a way to smile through the tears. Life is worth celebrating, even ones that are cut too short.

To those who can’t have children. Surround yourself with love today. Get a mani/pedi, if that’s your thing. Drink a glass of wine and have some chocolate. Spend time with your partner or friends.

To those who have great children and a wonderful mother. Take care of them, for you are truly lucky.

To all the women in the world. Happy Sunday. Practice some self-love today, for you’re worth it.

Review of My Books!

My good friend Katie Lawson was kind enough to review my books for the Cannonball Read.

From the Cannonball Read’s About page:

Welcome to the seventh Cannonball Read (CBR) honoring Amanda “AlabamaPink” Amos, our fierce warrior queen who lost her battle with cancer in 2009. She was a true Pajiban, filled with eloquence and sass. Cannonballers since that time have read over 8,000 books in her memory. This site has become a virtual book club where participants read what they want, write what they want, and say what they want. We invite you to visit us often, even if you aren’t planning to register.

CBR got its start in September 2008 on the pop culture website, Pajiba, as a battle royale between AlabamaPink and Prisco (aka Brian Prisco). The race was on to see who could read 100 books first within a year’s time. Other ‘Jibans wanted in, so they opened the competition to all who were willing to take up the challenge. Sadly, our Warrior Queen left us before she could complete the race, but Prisco and other participants forged on.

You can read her reviews here.

There were some interesting ideas and the author clearly respects the power of language and knows how to leverage the same in creating sound plot structures and narratives. – Katie Lawson, 4/27/2015

There is a very personal feel to the setting in Mirror; this is a place the author knows and loves, evident in the care taken in crafting this story. Whether she’s spent a lot of time there in real life or in her imagination isn’t important really, it just feels fully inhabited and will be enjoyed by fans of tv’s Supernatural. – Katie Lawson, 4/27/2015

The third and final story, Hamburgers for Thanksgiving?, was my favorite of the three. As someone whose adventures in the kitchen do not always go as planned, I felt a lot of sympathy and empathy for the intrepid, if naive, heroine. – Katie Lawson, 4/27/2015

Please consider buying my books through the Cannonball Read website (or by using their affiliate link here). All the proceeds from that go to support cancer research. Pajiba has lost several of its beloved members to cancer over the years, and this is an issue that is very dear to all of our hearts.

What’s It Like Having a Mom Who Loves You?

On Facebook today I saw an ad for mother/daughter bracelets. The bracelet had a charm on them that said “I love you to the moon and back”.

What is it like to have a mom who you could share a bracelet like that with? The entire concept is foreign to me, and not just because of my religious upbringing that says wearing jewelry is a sin.

My mom may or may not love me. I really have no idea. Words can not express how much that hurts.

Growing up the words “I love you” were uttered rarely by any of us. Birthday or Valentines cards might say “Love, mom”, but often they just said “mom and dad”. I never heard declarations of love between my parents, and I can’t remember hearing any times when my mother said that to me. I remember my dad telling me every once in a while that he loved me, but not my mother.

Instead of messages of love and acceptance from my mother, I got messages of worthlessness and inferiority. If I did something well, it was not acknowledged by more than a grunt or a nod. However, she’d brag about how smart and accomplished I was to her friends, but rarely give me the praise I so desperately craved. I’ve always been a large girl and I remember once when I was about fourteen or so, my mom and I were shopping at Goodwill and she said I needed to find some size 18 pants. I protested and said I only wore a size 16. Mom’s response was that I’d gain enough weight to need the 18s by winter. I’ve always wondered if parental expectation is one of the reasons I’m so fat today.

I do remember one compliment she gave me, she said “You do have nice legs” completely out of the blue one day. Even now I can hear the underlying messages of “the rest of you is fat and ugly though”. I don’t remember hearing many other compliments from her, just that one. I don’t know if that means she didn’t give me any more or if I just have a poor memory, but given that I remember so much random information I doubt it’s just my memory.

My mom tried to teach my brother and I the piano. My math dyslexia also means I have no sense of rhythm and timing, so music is not my forte. However, I dutifully practiced and learned a few pieces on the piano. Once again though, her critical ear and voice were everywhere.

I tried playing a song differently than written, until I heard this, “Marlene! That’s not how the song goes, play it right now.”

Creativity: Squashed.

I still can’t play that song without hearing my mom telling me to play it right. I can’t play any instrument while I know someone else is listening, not even my husband. My husband is a bit overly critical, but he rarely turns that criticism on me and has never done so while playing music. I always expect him to start lecturing me, in the same way as my mom did. My therapist says it’s because everyone I’ve ever loved has turned on me, I’m spending all my time and energy expecting him to do the same thing.

My mom was a big proponent of “children should be seen and not heard”. When I misbehaved, I was frequently lectured before being given my “real” punishment. These lectures would take anywhere from thirty minutes to an hour. I was never allowed to give my side of the story, because that was “talking back”. My only recourse was sit and cry – silently of course, because I had “no reason” to be crying. To this day I can’t hear criticisms of myself without crying, very embarrassing when it happens at work.

Then, to make matters worse, once the lecture was over, she’d wait a few minutes and start the whole process again. I learned that if she went to “her” room after the lecture was over, that I’d better spend some time in the living room or kitchen until she forgot about the lecture. See, her room was also my room. If I dared to walk in there to get a book to read, or something to do in the living room, the lecture would start over again and I’d have to sit there and cry again.

It seemed I got those lectures at least once a week. According to my mother I was the worst child in the word. I was “moody”, or “PMSing”, or “too bitchy” to live with. Really, I was trying to walk on my tiptoes around her trying not to set her off again. It’s a sad day when your own family calls you a bitch, and means it. I’m really not a bitch, I have a kind and sensitive soul, but there are callouses on my soul that will never go away.

Things are better now that I live in my own house away from her. I no longer get lectures about my behavior, I think she knows that I wouldn’t put up with them anymore – now that I have the power to walk away or hang up the phone. I do take her to doctors appointments still and run errands for her, but I’m just waiting for her to go into a nursing home so I can cut ties altogether. I know how that sounds, but she’s exhausting and I will be glad when I don’t have to take care of her anymore.

I don’t have any children of my own, and probably never will, but I can’t imagine treating a child like she did. Part of the reason I choose not to have children is my own upbringing, I didn’t want to risk treating my children the same way she treated me.

Brandy: The Worlds Dumbest Dog [Guest post]

This is a post from an internet forum I frequent. The post is several years old, and you have to register an account to see it (so I can’t just link to it). I do have permission from Lorelei to share this story. Every time I read this account I laugh so hard I cry.

Marlene

—————

Now for the World’s Dumbest Dog story, which is much more pleasant, if long.

My childhood pet was a beagle, and I am starting to suspect that beagles tend to be functionally retarded at the best of times. Adorable, big brown eyes, eager to please, total doggie derps with not two brain cells to knock together inside their empty little heads, beagles may be the canine world’s Inbred Jeds. At least they are sweet-tempered beasts.

Charlie Brown’s dog, Snoopy, was a beagle. Snoopy is a damn lie. Snoopy is portrayed as being creative, smart and clever. I know Snoopy is imaginary because he is a comic strip character, but still, it is false advertising. I can count the number of beagles I have met on one hand (with fingers to spare) that showed any sign of intelligence.

Brandy, our family dog when I was small, was the least smart of them all. Now, Brandy was sweet, and loving, but her total lack of smarts used to drive us crazy. I actually saw her walk into a wall, look at it accusingly, as if to complain that it shouldn’t have jumped out in front of her like it just did, back up, and then promptly walk right back into it again. This is a dog with normal eyesight who wasn’t senile. She was just that mentally challenged.

Brandy was also fucking LOUD. Hounds have a special kind of bark-howl that non-hound-owners are unfamiliar with. Brandy would greet us enthusiastically with ear-piercing howls of joy whenever we came home. Alas, she was so incredibly dim that she interpreted someone leaving the room and coming right back as a signal to cue Joyous Homecoming Arias.

When the family moved into an apartment complex, we were so used to Brandy’s enthusiastic and high-decibel greeting style that we were shocked when neighbors started pounding on our door, trembling with outrage, and threatening to tell the ASPCA that we were beating our dog. We’d have to spend an annoying length of time explaining that no, we did no such thing, we loved the fucking dog, though sometimes we wondered why, and if the neighbor seemed the least bit dubious, we’d only have to open the door and go back inside, neighbor by our sides, to cue Brandy’s bark-howls of ecstacy. We’d be twenty feet away and she’d still be howling like an air raid siren and about to wet herself with delight. No one ever complained twice.

We tried for five years to train the dog. The only command she mastered semi-successfully was coming when called. She didn’t always put two and two together and realize we were actually talking to her, but if you made eye contact, she would lumber over most of the time for some petting and ear-rubbing. The dog was just retarded beyond belief. I have owned smarter gerbils, and a typical gerbil has a brain the size of a frozen English pea.

Beagles, like most hounds, live to eat. In addition to being a typical beagle with an insatiable appetite, Brandy was incredibly lazy. You didn’t take Brandy for a walk, you took her for a slow drag, or an even slower inch by inch inspection of every blade of grass in the yard. My brother and I would try to think of things for the dog to do that might induce her to get some exercise. We’d walk her up and down staircases, up and down off curbs, and around and around the neighborhood, and she’d eat anything she could get into her mouth while trudging along half-heartedly behind us.

She was too stupid to play fetch. You’d throw a ball, and she’d decide that it ceased to exist once it flew over her head, and would just sit there, stupidly, wondering what we were going on about. We tried to get her to fetch sticks. If she managed to clue in that we wanted her to go get the stick, she’d occasionally manage to find it by accident a half hour later, and settle in for a mid-day snack and eat it. Every scrap.

By the time the dog was a year old, it was obvious that she wasn’t plump from puppy fat, she was just fat. By the time she was two, she looked like two beagles glued together. By the time she was five, she was a barrel supported by four tiny furry toothpicks. We were baffled. The dog was on diet dog food, exercised, and she still ballooned in size. The Goodyear Mutt. Meanwhile, the cat didn’t seem to ever gain much weight. Clever detective work revealed that the dog was just bright enough to wait until there were no human witnesses before eating the cat’s food and then her own.

We started to feed the cat on top of the clothes dryer in the utility room. The dog started to eat the plastic dishes her food and water were served in. We switched to ceramic, and she managed to break and eat chunks of those, too. We finally moved on to thick metal bowls, and she was thwarted, but only for a while. She found other things to eat.

I could write a book about the bizarre things the dog managed to consume. We always considered it a miracle that she didn’t ever eat our cat. Socks was a lot smarter than Brandy, however, and that may have been what saved her.

(On an ironic note, I was in first grade when we got the animals, and, being an advanced reader, I’d already read a lot of Beverly Cleary books. Socks was named after the book (what else) Socks. Brandy was originally going to be called “Ribsy”, after a dog in another Cleary book, but my mother loudly vetoed that idea and named her (I suspect) after a particularly wet top-40 song she had once liked about a fine girl who would be a good wife, if only her cheatin’ tramp of a sailor boyfriend could stop dicking around and leave the Navy (or whatever) once and for all and settle down.

Calling this dog “Ribsy” would be the equivalent of calling a really big, tall, fat guy “Tiny,” or referring to George W. Bush as “Einstein.”)

First of all, Brandy was a coprophage. Many dogs are. She was a dedicated coprophage, though, and would harass the cat while she was in mid-poop, just to get those delicious cat brownies in the cat box. On the plus side, we didn’t have to change the cat box very often. Brandy would not only eat the poop, she’d eat most of the pee-soaked litter. During shedding season, we never had a problem with fur getting on anything, because the dog licked all the shedding fur off of herself and the cat.

One fine day the dog found a box of crayons, one of those enormous 128-color boxes, the largest size Crayola made. It had been left unattended for ten minutes while the child coloring with the crayons went to the bathroom. When the budding artist (me) returned, the crayons were gone. Accusations of sibling theft flew back and forth, a brawl broke out, every corner of the house was ransacked, parents were prevailed upon to restore order (and the crayons), all to no avail. This huge box of crayons was just gone.

The next day, and for the next several days, the dog’s crap came out in a rainbow of colors. Red and yellow and pink and green, purple and orange and blue, she could shit a rainbow, shit a rainbow, shit a rainbow, too. On day five, the crayon sharpener that had been built into the box emerged, jauntily perched atop a perfect sky-blue-pink turd swirl. The mystery of the missing crayons had been solved.

The dog discovered that my mother used old-fashioned Kotex pads, and wrapped them in toilet paper and put them into a straw wastebasket. Used Kotex pads were apparently a delicacy, because the dog ate them, ate the other things in the wastebasket, and half of the wastebasket itself. More than once.

The dog ate a dead lightbulb.

The dog ate the air fern my mom had been fussing over that sat in a prominent place in the living room that you would never believe a fat dog could reach.

The dog ate entire rolls of toilet paper plus the toilet tube and the toilet roll spindle.

The dog ate bottles of lotion, shampoo, conditioner, toothpaste.

The dog ate several fuzzy bathmats.

The dog ate stinky “OdorEaters” insoles and orthopedic arch-supporting cookies our of shoes, if for some odd reason she chose not to just go ahead and devour the entire shoe.

The dog pried up chunks out of the wooden parquet floor and ate them.

The dog ate two rubber doormats made out of recycled tires.

The dog ate toilet cakes and the little plastic baskets they dangled down from.

The dog once ate a metal Hot Wheels firetruck. It was never seen again.

The dog ate several hundred pot pie tin pans that we used to feed the cat, as occasionally one would get nudged to the edge of the clothes dryer.

The dog ate toothbrushes, hair brushes, and entire tubes of lipstick (which emerged whole, cap still on, days later).

Our dryer never had a chance to eat our socks, the dog would eat them first. Brandy was also fond of underwear, pants, shorts, t-shirts, and anything else that she could scavenge out of the laundry hamper.

The dog ate most of the Tinkertoys, Lincoln Logs, plastic toy vehicles, stuffed animals, Barbies and books she could find.

The dog pretty much ate everything that wasn’t nailed down, and then started in on the nailed-down stuff, too.

It was after it was estimated that the dog had eaten approximately $5,000 worth of household goods, clothing and toys that my parents decided to confine the dog in the kitchen at night. The dog ate two square feet of linoleum, chewed up and ate several baby gates, ate the legs of the kitchen table, ate several legs of the kitchen chairs, dragged the new wall-to-wall carpet under the babygate and ate a hole three feet wide and two feet long out of the carpet and underliner, and ate knobs off the cabinets.

Again, the vets could not find any physical ailment to explain the voraciousness, and just said that “all hounds do that.” I don’t know…I’ve known a lot of hounds, and they do eat whatever they can, but they tend to prefer actual food items.

Please note that I’m only giving you the highlights, here. The dog ate things that no one would ever believe could be eaten, and she did it on a nearly daily basis. We weren’t untidy people, and some of the things this four-legged furry Jell-o mold managed to find, acquire, and then eat had to have involved doggie teleportation or telekinesis.

The most infamous episode of inappropriate eating occurred during a posh cocktail party my parents were throwing. My mom slaved for hours making a huge sherry-infused cheeseball, rolling it in sliced nuts, and baking it in the oven so it was approximately 500 degrees Fahrenheit right before the guests arrived. She popped a maraschino cherry on top, stuck it on a cutting board with crackers and toast points, and as she set it onto the coffee table, the doorbell rang.

As my mother let the first guests in, everyone heard agonized yelps coming from the den. Everyone ran to see what the horrible noises were, and there was the dog, eating six pounds of piping hot molten cheese, and crying out in pain because it was burning her mouth, throat and stomach, and the dog was too stupid to figure out that perhaps eating a boiling hot cheeseball was a bad idea and to STOP.

Her craps that week became an epic event for all the neighborhood kids to point at and marvel over, so prodigious was their size and length. She was pooping dachshund-sized landmines everywhere for days. I don’t mean poops equivalent to poops a dachshund might poop, I mean poops that just needed legs, a collar and a tail to be mistaken for actual dachshunds. How her butthole didn’t go on strike, I don’t know. It is a mystery. It was a hot topic of discussion even at the neighborhood bus top–“those kids’ beagle made the biggests poos in the world, it might be a Guinness Book World Record-sized poo, the poos were almost as big as the dog, but that dog might well win a record for being the fattest dog ever to roll into a backyard to drop a load”…you get the idea.

How the dog managed to fit six pounds of cheese into her belly was a mystery to me, as she also ate four pairs of pants (crotches, mostly), one sock, a left shoe (all but the heel), six pairs of underwear (including elastic), and the covers and most of the chapters from two textbooks (which had foolishly been left on top of my bed) the same night.

It was at this point that I threw my hands up and disowned the dog.

Just to prove that ignorance is bliss and only the good die young, this dog lived a looooooong, loooooong time, eating new and bizarre inedible things of greater size and strangeness, and finally ended up dying peacefully of old age. Not once did her crazy eating habits cause her any gastrointestinal dismay.

I may sound like a bitch, but even though I loved the dog, I don’t miss her one bit. I no longer worry that when I come home, something expensive will have vanished into Brandy’s voracious and indestructible maw.

The Patriarchy is Icky

Back in the 80s and 90s, while I was growing up, I noticed a trend in board game advertisements. If a boy and a girl were playing a board game together, the boy would always be the one who cried out “I win!” during the commercial. If a group of girls were playing a board game, no one would win.

This was my first conscious exposure to the sometimes subtle patriarchy that colors the western world. I lacked the worldliness that would have told me to recognize what I was seeing, but I understood that it wasn’t fair and that something was wrong. My mother was not the sort that would discuss issues like this with me, so it never even occurred to me to ask her about it. I do remember lamenting how unfair it was to my younger brother, but I doubt he really cared that much. I wonder if he even remembers that exchange.

I consider myself a feminist, because I believe in equality between men and women. I don’t consider myself highly educated on the subject, and part of me is screaming inside my head, wondering who am I to think about discussing this complex subject. I’m choosing not to listen to that part of myself; my therapist would be so proud.

The patriarchy is such an insidious thing. Western children are raised in it, and when they become adults they raise their children in it. I am fortunate to have several strong feminist friends who are teaching their children to not blindly partake in it. I feel confident that their girls will grow up to be strong women who can recognize the patriarchy and it’s influence on society.

I said before that the patriarchy is insidious, it has its claws in virtually every element of society. Women make less than men, women are expected to wear heels in business environments, women are expected to be the caregivers of the children, and a strong woman is often called a “bitch”. Men are affected by this hideous monster as well. While they earn more money for the same work, men are rarely the first one called when a child is sick at school and they rarely gain custody of their children in divorce proceedings, men aren’t supposed to show intense emotion, men are encouraged to be fighters, and strong men are called “leaders”.

The differences in fashion between the genders starts when they are just children. Girls shorts typically have a one inch inseam. Boys shorts have seven inches of inseam. Girls are guided away from super-hero clothes, although a girl in an Avengers shirt is not frowned upon the same way that a boy wearing a pink butterfly shirt is. Women are expected to wear heels, makeup, and have perfect nails. Women carry purses, so pockets in their clothes are unnecessary. Men are expected to wear a tie, but otherwise mens clothes are typically functional and comfortable.

Mattel caught flack some years ago when they released a talking Barbie that claimed “Math is hard”. The patriarchy claims that girls are bad at math and science, that any conventionally attractive female who shows an interest in “boys things” is a fake geek girl. Women are encouraged to leave comic book shops, are sexually harassed if they want to play D&D with “the guys”, and are quizzed with infinitely tiny details in order to prove they are worthy of being interested in whatever they are interested about. Girls should be encouraged to pursue anything that interests them. Be that math, science, comic books, or what is considered the traditional “womens work” of staying home and raising a family.

If you have children, I believe that it is your duty to raise them to recognize these gender roles and teach them that it’s okay to not follow the path expected by our western society. Teach them that it’s okay to follow that expected path too, but only if they want to. They may have to grow up, but they don’t have to get married and have children. They may have to have a job, but they don’t have to wear heels and have perfect hair. It’s okay for the woman to be the bread winner and it’s okay to stay home with the children.

I believe that we can achieve equality between the sexes. It’s the work of multiple generations and we have a long ways to go, but it can be done.

Marriage Still Works: 5 Reasons Why

Recently I read an article (warning: auto-play video) claiming that marriage was an impractical choice for today’s youth. Mr. D’Ambrosio’s marriage failed, which has led him to a perhaps erroneous conclusion, namely that marriage no longer works. I would like to discuss his article and address his claims. I speak from the viewpoint of one who is slightly older than D’Ambrosio with a healthy ten year old marriage.

I met my husband in 1996 when I was 17 and he was 23. We were friends for many years before we started dating and were married in 2003. We enjoyed our 10th anniversary last December, and I attribute that happiness to being friends first and lovers second.

1. There is no sex after marriage

D’Ambrosio’s first reason as to why marriage doesn’t work is that common trope of sex becoming non-existent once the vows have been recited.

I don’t make a habit of inquiring into my friends sex lives, but most of my friends have children that were conceived after marriage. In some cases, the children were conceived many years later. I feel confident that most of my friends have good, satisfying, and healthy sex lives.

If you are struggling with a sudden lack of sex in your marriage, it’s time for some self-examination, a trip to the doctor, and discussions with your spouse. Have your doctor give you a through check-up. Women should be sure to have their testosterone levels checked. There are a number of medical conditions that can lower a person’s libido as well. Be sure to discuss all possible symptoms with your doctor, if there is a medical condition causing your problem it’s best to catch it early and start treatment.

There are also multiple ways to be intimate with your partner. Back rubs, long baths together, enjoying each others hobbies, and just spending time doing things as a pair will increase intimacy and may lead back to having that exciting sex that you had when you were dating or first married.

Tons of exciting sex toys are designed for couples to use together to add a touch of spice to your sexual relationship. Perhaps the two of you should spend some time browsing your local sex toy shop together, or cuddle in bed while viewing the catalog of a sex toy website.

Marriage is not a death knoll for sex. Marriage gives you the chance to know one other person as well as they know themselves. After a while it may not give the warm fuzzies that you got from your first time, but there’s a satisfying excitement to be had just from knowing the other person so well.

Regular intimacy, be it a late night conversation, sex, or simply doing the same things together, is key to a happy relationship.

2. Finances cripple us.

Money is probably the number one reason for divorce. If a couple is not on the same page with regards to money tensions will arise and cause friction.

My husband and I have always struggled with money. In our case, we were irresponsible with credit cards. We both came into marriage with debt. I had $10,000 of student loans from my failed attempt at university, a car payment, and credit card debt. He had credit card debt, a car payment, and no job. I lost my job a week after our wedding. The credit card bills piled up and up and up and up, and we are just now making inroads on them. I suspect we will have paid them all off in five years or so.

In the meantime, things are tight for us. We have strict budgets that we’re pretty good at sticking to these days, and a house that is literally falling down around us. It does, however, mostly keep the rain off our heads.

School prices are outrageous and so is the cost of housing, Mr. D’Ambrosio claims, but that’s not always the case. There are inexpensive universities, they might not have the prestigious name of Harvard or UCLA, but they do exist. You have to be creative.

Community college is a fantastic way to start your education, I graduated from community college in 2008. My tuition was only $2,000 per year, and grants covered most of that.

Countries outside of the United States offer excellent education at a fraction of the cost, or in some cases tuition is completely paid for by the government. These universities offer the same degree programs as American universities, you receive a quality education, and you get a chance to live outside your home country. Opportunities like that are fantastic and one I wish I’d taken advantage of!

Housing prices vary drastically based on where you live. Here, in the Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex, nice houses run $65,000+. New communities of “McMansions” start at $90,000 to $120,000. You may have to settle for a smaller house, or an older one, but houses do not have to cost $300,000 in a majority of places. If your finances allow it, I suggest moving to a place with a lower cost of living. If finances don’t allow moving to a lower cost of living area, perhaps you do have to give up your dream of owning a house for the time being. People live happy and healthy lives in rental houses, manufactured homes, apartments, condos, and duplexes.

This is an area in which communication is vital. Each spouse should have an understanding of all the bills, the financial details of their partners job, and a plan for paying for emergencies. The real time to talk about finances is while you’re dating, the best sex in the world means nothing if you can’t pay for food and housing.

3. Communication is hard, yo.

“Let’s face it, the last time you “spoke” to the person you love, you didn’t even hear their voice.”

D’Ambrosio makes an assumption here that may or may not be true. The last time I spoke with my husband is when he popped his head in the doorway and announced that he was going to play GTA V on my desktop. We didn’t communicate a lot, but I at least heard his voice.

I suspect this is instance of D’Ambrosio using the word “we” when he should be using the word “I”.

It’s true that a lot of communication is non-verbal these days, but I posit that it doesn’t need to be. I stay in touch with my husband over instant message during our work day. It’s a way of staying loosely connected to him, he’s very busy and frequently out of his office, so we don’t have the long intimate discussions we used to have over IM, but it’s a way to make sure that he arrived at work safely and find out when he’s coming home, or just to share an “I love you” message.

My father would leave the house before anyone woke up, and we wouldn’t hear from him until he arrived home at five thirty or so. I don’t miss those days. I like hearing my husbands virtual voice during the day.

I agree that communication with your spouse is vital, but anyone who says that communication has to be verbal in order to be intimate and connecting is wrong.

4) Everyone is an attention whore

D’Ambrosio claims that we’re trying to compete with each other to the extent of ignoring the other person. He tries to paint an entire generation with a very broad paintbrush.

All living things, be they plant or animal, indulge in grandstanding and displays of attention getting. Plants flower to attract the attention of insects. Peacocks have elaborate plumes of feathers that they display to attract a mate. Humans buy a new car and post pictures of it on Instagram to impress their friends and make their enemies jealous.

This is not new behavior and not a valid reason as to why marriages don’t work. If the lines of communication between you and your spouse are strong, then social media can not get in the way. It’s only when the communication falters that outside influences can cause trouble.

5) “Social media just invited a few thousand people into bed with you”

I quoted D’Ambrosio’s thesis for this claim because it is ludicrous. Social media is not Big Brother. It only knows what you tell it. Yes, you can become so entrenched in social media that it causes problems in your marriage. However, social media is not the bad guy, a lack of satisfaction and communication is.

I believe in marriage. I believe it is still a wonderful and amazing thing, to share your life with someone else. I believe that you can still have a successful marriage. Likewise, there is no shame in divorce. If you find that your marriage isn’t working, by all means leave it behind.

Polish Review: Chick Pick Polish (indie)

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Purple polish is Aubergine, green is Oh Christmas Tree.

Oh Christmas Tree is a warm, medium, green creme. It was opaque in one coat, which is fairly unusual – at least in the commercial polishes I’m used to. Application was a dream, and it cleaned up well.

My nails are very ridged, so I use two-three coats of a ridge filler (OPI currently) as a base coat. If I don’t use one, my polish peels off, often the same day I apply it. With ridge filler, I get almost a week or of my polishes. I can live with chips, but not peeling off the entire nail.

Aubergine is a deep purple jelly. Very highly pigmented, and opaque in two coats.

I’m not a fan of jelly polish, to be honest, had I realized this wasn’t a creme I probably wouldn’t have ordered it. I find them finicky to apply, although I love their depth of color. I’m very much an in-a-hurry gal, and prefer not to spend forever getting the coats Just Right. That’s just me, however, and has no bearing on the quality of the polish.

Having said that, I really did enjoy this jelly. I love the color and the depth of it.

She has just come out with a collection of my personal weakness, multichromes. I want them all, and when I collect them all, I will review them here.

Kari’s shop can be found at http://chickpickpolish.com/ and right now, all her polishes are on sale for $6! An excellent deal!

Polish Review: Chick Pick Polish (indie)

image

Purple polish is Aubergine, green is Oh Christmas Tree.

Oh Christmas Tree is a warm, medium, green creme. It was opaque in one coat, which is fairly unusual – at least in the commercial polishes I’m used to. Application was a dream, and it cleaned up well.

My nails are very ridged, so I use two-three coats of a ridge filler (OPI currently) as a base coat. If I don’t use one, my polish peels off, often the same day I apply it. With ridge filler, I get almost a week or of my polishes. I can live with chips, but not peeling off the entire nail.

Aubergine is a deep purple jelly. Very highly pigmented, and opaque in two coats.

I’m not a fan of jelly polish, to be honest, had I realized this wasn’t a creme I probably wouldn’t have ordered it. I find them finicky to apply, although I love their depth of color. I’m very much an in-a-hurry gal, and prefer not to spend forever getting the coats Just Right. That’s just me, however, and has no bearing on the quality of the polish.

Having said that, I really did enjoy this jelly. I love the color and the depth of it.

She has just come out with a collection of my personal weakness, multichromes. I want them all, and when I collect them all, I will review them here.

Kari’s shop can be found at http://chickpickpolish.com/ and right now, all her polishes are on sale for $6! An excellent deal!

“It’s good to have you with us, even if it’s just for the day” – The Killers

My brother-in-law’s well pump died on him last week, so my husband and I went up to help him pull it out of the well and replace it. I’m recovering from a major knee surgery, so I wasn’t able to actually help but I did keep my husband company on the trip up to Decatur (an hour and a half or so away from Cleburne) and I watched my darling niece, Syrena, while her parents worked on the well.

My little niece is about a year and a half old and is quite possibly the cutest little baby in the world. She’s got beautiful blue eyes, long curly lashes, and these little half-dimples. Syrena is also such a cheerful baby. There is almost always a smile on her face and she loves to laugh. I absolutely adore her. Spending time watching her navigate and learn about the world around her is amazing.

Navigating the stairs into their house was a load of fun. My knee is still quite weak and I’m using a crutch to walk around right now. I was very thankful that they only have two steps up to their porch. I will be very happy when my knee is back to normal. I’m going to physical therapy three times a week to learn how to bend the knee again and build up strength in my muscles again. Physical therapy has been amazing so far, it’s not been as painful as I expected and I’m progressing nicely. I will probably be in therapy until after the first of the year. I am doing well, but I have a long ways to go.

I discovered Scrivener yesterday and I am in love. It is exactly what I needed to finish my novel, Accidentally Immortal, I was constantly referring back to various places in my Word document and wished there was an easier way to keep track of all the little details I needed. Then I heard (again) about Scrivener and tried it out. I was blown away. I spent several hours yesterday getting things just right and today I plan on cranking out the words.