Sunday, December 28, 2008

Fat Again, Naturally

I don't remember where, but I once read that most women will spread out around the middle at some point during their 40's or 50's even if they don't actually gain any weight. I felt very dismayed to imagine that I could successfully maintain a nice low weight but still end up looking fat.

Well, it's happening. I spent Christmas Day enjoying the incredible buffet and dessert table at the Lockwood Restaurant in the Palmer House Hotel (downtown Chicago), but it will be my final indulgence for a while because it's time to get serious. Again.

Seven years ago I was working as a secretary (administrative assistant, yeah, yeah) at Arthur Andersen, doing the deskjob SPREAD. Regular goodies around the office had me on a path to obesity and I was doing as the Romans do. When that job eventually went down the drain (thank you, Enron. Thank you, David Duncan), I took stock of the situation and realized I needed to lose about 15 pounds to get back to a healthy Body Mass Index (BMI). At that point I was 36.

Over the next two years I increased my weekly exercise time, stepped up the workouts, cut down on the sweets, increased the fruits and vegetables and other healthy stuff, and committed to only eating when actually hungry. I worked with a personal trainer and also my doctor because adjustment of my anti-depressants was also necessary.

After two years, I achieved my goal: I got rid of those 15 pounds and I've kept them off. I think this confirms for me that the most lasting change is often the most gradual. I didn't lose those 15 pounds in three months or even 12 months. It took a full two years. I guess that's my weightloss speed.

Now I'm 42 and proud of having maintained my workout schedule, my fewer sweets, the increased healthy foods and my healthy BMI.

But the spread is upon me. The weight is the same, but my body is redistributing it. I carry less on top and more on the bottom. Way more on the bottom. My jeans are so tight, they're barely comfortable. When I sit down, about three rolls of fat fold up along my middle. Saddlebags of extra flesh sit on my hips. My torso is enfolded in a butter-soft layer of pale, rippled, cellulite-skin. From my waist to my rear, my body is a wider pear-shape than it's ever been without a gaining a pound. It's kind of horrifying. With my clothes on, I look the same size as always, but I know what's going on underneath: I'm carrying five or ten pounds around my torso and hips that have got to go.

So, it's time to undertake another two-year fitness project, although at this age I'm sure it will be harder. Maybe it'll take four years to lose the next chunk of extra fat; it doesn't matter. I have to start. I'll shake up my workout routine, maybe hire another personal trainer, keep counting calories and stick even more closely to a healthy diet.

Actually, one important eating tip that I've only recently considered is what a big difference corn syrup and processed sugar make on the size of my appetite. I thought that as long as I appeased my sweet tooth with a peppermint hard candy (27 calories), I was ahead of the game. It turns out that if I have that hard candy, I'm starving within the hour and need to eat again. But if I appease the sweet tooth with raisins and nuts, the starving feeling doesn't happen. It's such a clear correlation, I'm surprised it took me this long to notice. So cutting out the corn syrup and processed sugar as absolutely much as possible is one more change I'm making to how I eat. I can't fool myself that I'll ever be able to eliminate it, but it's time to learn that real food is always better than anything processed with sugar.

It never ends, I guess. I just have to keep adjusting, especially since I plan to live a long time. I just hope there are enough healthy eating tips to keep me ahead of my body's willing weight-gain.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

A Blackhawks Christmas


It's holiday season 2008, in cupcakes. Next to the pastries with the colorful wreaths and candy canes, I found this (for Bob). He says they're having a good season.

Thursday, December 04, 2008

Christmas with too much free time

It’s the Christmas season when everyone’s calendar fills up with family gatherings and visiting friends and various holiday activities, plus all the Christmas shopping and/or baking and/or cooking, all on top of our usual routine of work, errands and family. What’s supposed to be a wonderful, fun time of year becomes overwhelming and stressful as everyone tries to do everything. That is, everyone except me.

I have carefully lived my life in such a way as to avoid ever having too much to do. My career choices have not involved overtime or taking work home or being reached outside of business hours or being challenged too much in any way. I live far from family and the rounds of those social gatherings. I don’t have children, do volunteer work or have any hobbies that take large amounts of time (or that even take me outside of the home). I married a man who works a crazy amount of hours, including weekends, and whose workdays expand during the holidays (restaurant people get NO time off at this time of year). I’ve cultivated a safe, low-demand life.

It leaves me with a lot of free time, even in December. And I think I’m finally tired of it. I have lots of friends, but I guess they don't have the parties and cookie exchanges that might keep me busier (I hope they aren't because otherwise they just aren't inviting me!). I can't demand more invitations, but there must be activities I can find on my own that won’t scare me and make me feel overwhelmed, which I always fear. There must be volunteer opportunities I could try out, opportunities that would fit into my schedule. My Saturday nights tend to be free (Bob works late). For that matter, my Saturday days tend to be free, too. Maybe I could… I don’t know...do something that would have me interacting with others or at least get me out of the apartment. I’d love to spend more time with other adults doing an activity that’s meaningful to us. Maybe it could lead to new friends and fascinating conversations. Maybe my calendar would fill up and I’d become so busy I’d have to start weeding things out.

Maybe.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

White meat, dark meat or frosting?


From Whole Foods market, $2.99 cupcake. I love elaborate decorations made of buttercream!

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Our Tree Is Up!


Yes, Bob and I are big Christmas people. BIG Christmas people.

Gift Cards Are Now an Even Worse Idea

Yesterday NPR broadcast that, with businesses folding right and left, gift cards are not the the way to go this year. By the time your recipient gets around to using that card, the business might no longer be accepting gift cards (yes, they can do that) or could be gone completely.

Bob and I received a Circuit City gift card quite a while ago, but never got around to using it. Last month I heard that Circuit City was going to be closing 20% of its stores in an attempt to avoid bankruptcy and I knew what I had to do: within days we were at a Circuit City in Skokie. It sat across the street from an empty Bennigan's, giving the street the feel of a horror movie, halfway through. There were more employees in that Circuit City than there were customers and I almost felt bad that we weren't there to spend real money. (Actually, I think we did spend about $50 over the value of the card, which was $200 so I guess we did need a few things.)

This experience reminded me of an important gift card approach: when you get a gift card, use it as soon as possible. I have lost gift cards in the past and I rarely feel more irritated than when I've lost free money. But also, now gift cards often lose value over time. They can lose a flat dollar amount or a percentage of their value every year. For those two reasons alone, why would you hold on to a gift card? Spend it on anything!

But now we have an even more compelling reason to spend gift cards immediately, or better yet, to not deal with them at all: the store could fold up completely and then what do you have? A bookmark that cost someone $25 or $100 or more.

NPR relayed the story of an employee who took her annual bonus in the form of a $1,500 gift card which she planned to use to buy her boyfriend a telescope. But then she put off that purchase. And put it off, and put it off. That gift card was for Sharper Image. Yeah. Now she's got nothing but a handful of plastic and the very strong wish that she'd used that gift card immediately.

I could rant all day about how gift cards must be used immediately (use it on anything, whether you need it or not. You can exchange it later), but I know that human nature is to procrastinate on this kind of thing. Why should I get myself down to The Body Shop for a bunch of overwhelmingly fragranced products I don't even want? Or even if it's a store I like, say Victoria's Secret, what's the rush? Victoria's Secret isn't going anywhere.

This is why my pitch today isn't to those of who get gift cards; it's to those who give them. Don't give them. These days gift cards make even less sense than they did before. Between the cards getting lost, losing value or just becoming useless after the business disappears, it doesn't make much sense to give them. Too many businesses are disappearing, seemingly over night. Think of everyone who was holding gift cards for Mervyn's, Linens n Things, Sharper Image, Bennigan's and Whitehall Jewelers when they all bit it.

But there are a couple of reasons that people will still buy gift cards and I realize they probably outweigh all the reasons not to: gift cards are convenient and get you out of having to come up with a real gift. And maybe that's all right since purchasing a gift card is becoming the same as making a donation to the store. In this retail season, that counts as an act of Christmas charity that isn't all bad.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

O, California...

I was born and raised in California and it has always struck me as a legislatively bizarre place. It can be the first state to pass legislation that, say, bans cigarette smoking in restaurants and bars and it can be the first state to make English its "official language." It's a state that has nurtured San Francisco and Orange County. It produced Jerry Brown and Richard Nixon.

Sometimes California makes me proud, for instance when its Supreme Court recognized same-sex marriage as a right of all citizens, and sometimes it makes me very, very disgusted. Right now I'm disgusted.

I know that people I'm related to, who shall remain unnamed, voted for Proposition 8 and I don't understand them. Besides wondering how the personal lives of people they don't even know could possibly affect them, I'm stunned at their willingness to alter the California consitution, eliminating a right that had been granted. Changes to constitutions usually broaden people's rights; I don't know if a change to an American constitution has ever limited them.

I'm also disgusted by the media framing this as a black-white issue. While African American voters' support of Proposition 8 was important (about 70% voted yes on it), they weren't nearly as important as Christian voters who are a much larger bloc and two thirds of whom voted to limit constitutional rights. African Americans only made up about 10% of the voting population in the California election, but Christians made up nearly 25%. (By the way, only ten percent of voters with no religious affiliation supported 8, so hooray for atheists!) In fact, the biggest voting bloc responsible for passing this legislation was white Republicans who favored it by a ratio of more than 4 to 1. Republican party members made up nearly a third of votes.

This is not a black-people-versus-white homosexuals dynamic. There weren't enough black voters to control this one and they certainly weren't behind the big bucks. That would be the white Christians. It's true that more African American voters came out to the polls this year, but more significantly, more Christian voters, many of whom happened to be black and Hispanic, but most of whom were white, cast their ballots in favor of Proposition 8.

I guess it was just too soon for California to see the light. I believe they eventually will, but by then they'll have $%^-ed up their constitution. Most of the people in my family are solidly left of center, politically, but on this proposition, certain members voted to the right of Arnold Schwarzenegger. Yeah.

Friday, November 07, 2008

Representing

Last week I felt the beginnings of a cold. I made it go away because I was heading to Iowa to canvass for the weekend. I felt the symptoms again on Tuesday, but tried to ignore them as I headed downtown. Over two hours of standing and watching CNN election results on a huge screen with thousands of others had me feeling not great. I limped off from the crowd to a less populated place on the grass where others were sitting on blankets.

I pulled my hood over my head against the chill. I looked around and couldn't believe some people were out there in t-shirts without sweaters at all. I saw that it was almost 9:30 p.m. and wondered why I wanted to stay. I was thirsty and in pain. I wanted to go home and watch the rest of it on tv. I knew if I called my husband, he'd encourage me to come home. So I called my friend, Robert, in New York.

Robert didn't argue with me. He just said, "Regina, you have to stay!" I whined, but I knew he was right. I hung up with Robert and lay down on the ground, hoping that a cat nap wouldn't leave me unable to warm up again.

At a few minutes before (after?) 10:00 p.m. CST, Obama was projected the winner. I scrambled to my feet and didn't have any trouble staying on them for the rest of the night. I had my second wind.

There are many things I didn't realize until later (such as, that I should have stocked up on t-shirts and newspapers), but one that's finally sinking in is how many friends and family find it important to know someone who was in Grant Park on election night: me. I had no idea that I was also there for everyone who couldn't be, but who wants to be able to say that their cousin/sister/friend/etc. was.

Oh.

Well, then I'm even more glad I stayed. I probably would have stayed anyway, just from inertia, but thanks for the pep talk, Robert.

Thursday, November 06, 2008

YES, WE DID

I was in Grant Park on Tuesday night, not in the actual event, but standing with thousands of people just outside of the fenced area. When CNN called it for Obama, everyone started yelling and cheering and hugging each other. I stood there stunned for a minute before I began to clap and cheer also. Couples embraced, people cried, including me. The huge jumbotron showed the words "Obama" and "president" and it was an incredible moment.

Maybe you saw the images of Chicago's Grant Park. Everyone was just celebrating. We quieted down to politely watch John McCain's concession speech, applauded him (I thought it was a really good speech) and then waited for Barack.

We had to wait through about five piped-in songs (maybe he was talking to Bush?), before he came out. Barack Obama. Our home town guy. It felt amazing to be watching a presidential acceptance speech in my own city. I was also happy to be surrounded by thousands of people who supported him, many of whom had worked hard to get Obama elected. I hadn't attended any rallies and hadn't yet felt that energy.

Afterwards, we spilled out onto Michigan Avenue where vendors hawked t shirts, buttons, and hats. I bought a couple of buttons, but didn't get my favorite shirt that I saw: "Yes, we did." I greatly regret not buying anything but two buttons because I realize I should have stocked up.

Energy was high and I think people were reluctant to go home, even though we all work in the morning. There were MANY police officers out, very prominently. Even when I got back to my neighborhood, Rogers Park, which is an hour train ride from downtown, there were several police officers standing in the train station, which is the end of the line.

But I haven't heard of any incidents at all. We were just happy.

Amazing night. I got three hours of sleep and that's why I didn't blog yesterday.

Monday, November 03, 2008

Election Eve

I'm downloading NPR podcasts about the election and carrying them around on my iPod. I'm also carrying a radio that I plug in when I want more immediate news. When there's no election coverage on the radio, I go back to the iPod, on which I listen only to election discussions. I've also got my BlackBerry and an actual paper copy of Newsweek for when I feel like reading instead of listening.

More news. I want more news.

Tomorrow night I'm considering going down to Grant Park in Chicago even though I missed out on tickets. I live in Chicago. This is where It's Happening.

I already voted. I can't believe there are people who chose not to vote early because they prefer to vote on election day. If the lines were hours and hours long for early voting, why does anyone think they won't be there for hours on election day? I think the polls are going to be a nightmare tomorrow. Any of you who restrained themselves from voting early, let me know how long it takes you to vote tomorrow.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

I guess there's also Canada...

Maybe the same way that my husband sort of disappears during a ballgame, I have sort of disappeared on him during election season. I get completely absorbed by election coverage on the radio or TV. I spend hours every week at the Democratic Party headquarters of Evanston, Illinois, making phone calls to get others to volunteer in Illinois, Florida or Indiana. One weekend I disappeared to Iowa to canvass for Obama. I'll disappear again next weekend. My friend Ceece and I will drive down to Cedar Rapids on Saturday, canvass, stay at a motel, canvass on Sunday and drive back. I will go to work as usual on Monday and on Election Day itself, but I will do so with the peace of mind of having put in a few hard days' work.

I spent several weekends canvassing for John Kerry in 2004. I canvassed from summer to fall. I lived in Wasau, Wisconsin for the last five days of the election, staying at a motel, walking neighborhoods, making sure every Democrat got to the polls, eating pizza and fried chicken out of boxes set up on office tables and working myself to exhaustion. I canvassed like my life depended on it, which it did. The coincidental Halloween holiday made it kind of fun to be out there. On Halloween night, I joined the costumes and the decorations and enjoyed knocking on doors even more. That day, part of our volunteer meals consisted of little candy bars.

It was fun; it was noble; it sucked. On election night I crawled into the large hall room the Democratic Party of Wasau had rented and laid down to watch the returns. As I settled myself, not caring how odd it was to be spread out on the floor when everyone else was sitting at a table or pacing, I already knew we had failed. I didn't need the returns or the concession speech to know that it had all been for nothing.

If we fail again, I don't know what I'll do. I'm married now, so killing myself feels selfish. I guess I'll have to kill us both.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Now you see me, now you don't

Last weekend I travelled to Iowa and canvassed for Barack Obama's campaign. I ended up being assigned a pretty Democratic neighborhood of elderly people. About half the people I talked to were either supporting Obama or were leaning towards Obama. Only a few said that no, they weren't supporting him.

I gave out handfuls of "Iowan for Obama" buttons and even wore one, so as to seem more familiar. The bus on which I travelled had only a few people of color. Most of the canvassers from the Democratic Party headquarters of Evanston, Illinois were white. I wonder if it matters to people, the color of the person who is asking if they support Barack Obama.

In general, I think some people see me as Latina and some people see me as white. At least one of the elderly white Iowans I talked to assumed I was white. I believe this happens because many Americans boil down the whole multi-cultural America thing to black and white. Some people look at me and figure that since I don't seem black, I must be white. Hispanic doesn't seem to enter into it.

It's very strange to me because at other times, people will say to me, "Where are you from?" When I tell them I'm originally from California, they ask, "Where are your parents from?" When I tell them my parents are from Texas, they realize they need to ask a more direct question, but every time I have one of these exchanges, it confirms to me that I don't look white. At least, not all the time. But since at other times, people do think I'm white, I guess it's a matter of context. It's the kind of white privilege that comes and goes, the kind of ethnicity that is sometimes there and sometimes not.

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

Some of Bob's photos

I wore a button that said "Latinos for Obama" every day I was there.


Tuesday, October 07, 2008

Ugly Election

How many people are discovering previously unknown bigotry in their friends and family as a result of this election? How many people are finding themselves in discussions with parents, co-workers or friends that are revealing levels of fear of a black president that are leaving you stunned? How many people are horrified to find that your own parents are unable to support a candidate they believe will only look out for other African Americans, leaving them out in the cold?

How many people are looking back at the household in which they grew up with new eyes, like viewing the ground in which your vegetables were grown and realizing how much of it was manure?

Sunday, October 05, 2008

Why Women Shouldn't Marry


On the first day of our honeymoon, my husband and I wandered into a bookstore. I happened to notice one title, Why Women Shouldn't Marry: Being Single By Choice and I picked it up. I was a spinster for too long to not find this book irresistible. My new husband indulgently carried it to the checkout counter for me.

I appreciate Cynthia S. Smith and Hillary B. Smith's book. It acknowledges all the great reasons to get married, but asserts that too many women marry for bad reasons. With chapters like "The Soul Mate Myth," "Why Divorced Women with Kids Shouldn't Marry" and "Why Widows Shouldn't Marry: You've Been Through Enough," they have a lot of opinions I agree with. Their book rips into the cultural beliefs that a woman who isn't married is less valuable and that marriage improves every woman's life. I love the numerous stories of women who live independently, staying true to what they want out of life and refusing to let a man ruin their balance and stability. Also fascinating are the many examples of women who gave up their freedom for stifling marriages that left them much worse off than before, emotionally and financially. Of course, a chapter is included about having children without a marriage partner or not having them at all, "The Motherhood Option: Non-Mothers and Single Mothers."

But the most riveting chapter for me was the one called "Closet Singles," a category into which I think these authors would have put me until recently. This chapter described single women who live successful, independent lives full of friends, activities and dates, but who just can't seem to find the person we want to settle down with. These women constantly talk about wanting to be married and are endlessly searching for their husbands-to-be, but the dynamics of their lives really don't accommodate a partner. I'm guessing Smith and Smith would have called me a "Closet Single" because I spent years dating and being 100% certain I wanted to be a wife, while dismissing potential partner after potential partner. I believed I was inherently flawed or cursed or maybe the world just hated me. Being single wasn't a choice at all. I was desperate to be married. I just couldn't make it happen, no matter how hard I tried.

What "Closet Singles" identify as bad luck or a bad dating scene, Smith and Smith see as a lack of true desire to be married. They assert that deep down, "Closet Singles" are content with our lives as they are and unwilling to give up our freedom. That's probably correct, but what Smith and Smith don't fully address is the bitter self-loathing into which this leads people like me. Certain that I was worthless without a wedding ring, I hated myself for my independent freedom and peaceful solitude, but just couldn't bring myself to give it up. It was a horrible trap to be caught in.

Why Women Shouldn't Marry fully understands the horrible strength of the belief that single women are inferior to married women. Over and over again, Smith and Smith offer alternate ways of viewing the single life as peaceful, content and free of the burdens of taking care of a man, all the while knowing how hard it is to override convention. They know we are brainwashed into believing IF I'M NOT MARRIED, I'M A FAILURE and they work hard to show all the evidence that this is not true. I love that this book works hard to give women all the arguments we need to reject traditional, oppressive roles. Smith and Smith are basically saying that marriage can be great when you marry for the right reasons, but can be awful when you marry for the wrong ones.

Unfortunately, I can testify that even though I am a feminist, raised by a feminist, who came of age in California in the 1980's and who has known my whole life that women are the equals of men, even I have labored under the belief that until a man marries me, I am inferior to everyone who has ever been married, including those who are now divorced. All the feminist ideology in the world (and I've read plenty) and all the women-are-powerful arguments I've tried to plant in my head and all the Oprah shows have not supplanted my deep-seated belief that I was a failure in life until Bob made me his wife last March (who failed here?).

That is how I know Why Women Shouldn't Marry is not for me. Even when I was single, I was not the audience for this book. This book is for women who have self-esteem. This book is for women who believe in themselves enough to need only hard, cold evidence to reject societal pressures.

I guess it would take another entire book to address the depth of self-hatred that leads women like me to use society's expectations to pound ourselves down. I'm married now -- finally, at the age of 42 -- and I actually love my husband and don't feel sick of his company even after a week of being with him constantly. I consider myself very lucky to finally be in a marriage I actually want to be in. I endured years of being a lonely, desperate woman who was unable to commit to anyone for more than a few months at a time, before finally deciding I wanted to marry this one. I think my self image will now begin to improve because now I know that, even I'm divorced next year, at least I turned out to be capable of marrying (I didn't develop much self-esteem when I was growing up, so yes, I'm actually serious).

I recommend Why Women Shouldn't Marry if only because it is such a spirited, good time. Yes, it gets shrill. Yes, it gets emotional and judgmental, but then it's trying to counter centuries of society's pro-marriage emotion and judgement. Although it gets a bit heavy handed in its illustrations of how awful marriage can be when you marry only because of social pressure, I think it gives single women reason to take heart against that pressure and good arguments to oppose it. And with relationship story after relationship story, I couldn't put it down. What it doesn't do is help women like me stop hating ourselves for being manless failures (or for taking so long to land a man), but maybe that's beyond the scope of any book.

Saturday, October 04, 2008

Oregon, man, Oregon








Here are some honeymoon photos taken with my little camera. This was my favorite rest area ever!







Cool plant in the rocks on the shore.











View from the road, between Waldport and Corvallis, Oregon (which is pronounced OR-uh-gun)











Bob standing just outside of our honeymoon suite. The beach was right there!








Bob loves taking photos, so many of my photos are of Bob taking photos.

















I love Oregon! (The final syllable of which rhymes with "gun" not with "on!")

Coming Home

Honeymoon was fabulous (still waiting on my husband to download his photos), but now it's time to get busy on the Obama campaign! This is the real event of the fall. The Biden-Palin debate was fine: Joe Biden came off as polite and knowledgeable and I loved that he kept the focus on McCain, not Palin's views and experience. Palin did a great job and totally redeemed herself, securing her future in the Republican party.

As I type this, I'm at a hotel outside of Portland, Oregon with a flight back to Chicago at noon, but next Saturday, I'll be in a neighborhood in Iowa.

Thursday, October 02, 2008

Honeymoon in Oregon

Oregon is turning out to be the perfect place for us. I love mountains covered with pine trees and redwoods, Bob loves ocean and we can see both from the same vantage point, all up and down the coast. We're staying at the Overleaf Lodge in Yachats, Oregon which I chose (with Bob's input). This place could not be any better located (on the beach), better run (the place is beautiful and beautifully run) and our room is a full suite with a whirlpool bath for $250 a night (off-season)! I chose it based on the recommendation of a Oregon travel website and I totally got lucky. So there's my recommendation for the year (actually I think it's my first blog recommendation ever): if you're heading for the coast of Oregon and you want an absolutely gorgeous room in a totally cool hotel (artistic wood-carved decor, eco-friendly everything, homemade pastries for breakfast), stay at the Overleaf Lodge. It even has its own spa where we have made massage appointments.

We're in the middle of small towns and miles of amazing coastline. It's the perfect vacation for Bob because we just got him a new digital Nikon camera (I guess this is the product-placement post) and there's plenty to take pictures of here. I love that we're far from noisy urban areas and it's the off-season. I'm sure this area was teeming with tourists just weeks ago because it's amazing, but for us it's nice and quiet. Bob and I are not inclined towards sunny places and warm climates. When we take a vacation, we like to go north, I guess because Chicago just isn't chilly enough for us.

Yesterday we visited the Yaquina Head and Yaquina Bay lighthouses and, even better, the Heceta Head lighthouse. There's a great climb up to this last one, through redwoods and ferns, with glimpses of the rolling Pacific Ocean along the way, until the trees break and it's all sun and sky. I knew Oregon was beautiful, but it's really relentlessly incredible.

Lighthouses are some of Bob's favorite things. I like that he's a photographer because taking pictures bores me, but he's documenting everything. Unfortunately, I haven't been able to upload anything through Blogger this morning, so maybe that will have to wait til I'm back in Chicago.

Oregon, man. Oregon.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Debate

Okay, maybe THIS will be my last post before I go on my honeymoon. I watched the debate last night and felt discouraged by how well John McCain did characterizing Barack Obama as "not understanding" anything, how well he did diminishing Obama by not looking at him or once calling him by his first name (Obama said "John" many times) and just generally coming across as a better debater. McCain led the conversation, pushed his issues, made his points and came off as an experienced old guy who's humoring this young upstart who doesn't know what he's talking about.

Now I'm leaving the state for a week. I wish I'd at LEAST planned our honeymoon in a red state, but no - we'll be in Oregon, of all places. I blew it. When I get back, I'll hopelessly begin my political volunteering in earnest.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

A Real Honeymoon

This weekend, Bob and I celebrate our recent marriage with some friends downtown (dinner, toasting, CAKE, etc.) and then leave for a weeklong honeymoon. The real honeymoon. Finally. I doubt I'll blog again until, well, probably October.

But I feel very distracted by the election. I really wish I had planned this better. When I picked these dates and imagined the whole thing, I forgot it was an election year. I hate tying up TWO SATURDAYS when I could be down in Iowa canvassing for Obama. I'm toasting my new husband and running off for a vacation when I could be making phone calls and registering voters.

Obviously, I'm not canceling the party or the honeymoon so I can help Barack Obama get elected, especially since he doesn't seem to need that much help AT THE MOMENT. And chances are that by the time I get back, the campaign will have changed again so that Obama volunteers are more needed then than now. And although it's not strictly true that "you only get married once," I shouldn't shortchange the experience.

Still, I screwed up. I should have gotten this honeymoon thing over with before now or waited until November!

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Volunteer for Obama

I did a lot of canvassing for John Kerry in 2004. I swore I'd go to Wisconsin and work my tail off to make that state go blue (vote Democratic). And we did it! Wisconsin went blue. But it wasn't enough.

My heart was broken and I still haven't recovered. I liked Obama as a candidate, but just haven't been able to bring myself to commit that kind of time and energy again. Why kill myself just to lose another one? In 2004 I donated to John Kerry's campaign, held fundraisers, made phone calls, canvassed on Saturdays and even lived in a hotel in Wasau, WI for the last five days of the 2004 election, knocking on doors, facing down angry Republicans and eating pizza and fried chicken for every meal. In 2004 took everything I had and I threw it into getting a Democrat in the White House. There was nothing I wouldn't do. And it wasn't enough. Do I want to do that again?

No, I don't. And at this point of the election, after what I've heard and what I've seen, I don't believe in Obama, the Democratic Party or the political process. It's all crap. It's just a big ugly game that allows people like me to drain and exhaust ourselves cycle after cycle.

But I'm discovering that I'm much more driven by guilt and fear than I realized. Here's my discovery about myself: what's worse than working SO HARD and having the GOP win? Sitting around doing nothing and having the GOP win.

I can't live with myself if I don't act. I just can't. I want to save my time and money and spend my weekends with my new husband and enjoy a cozy autumn with him, but it's a f#$%-ing election year and I just can't do nothing, even though I don't believe, even though I feel nothing for Barack Obama, even though I know the Democrats suck and all I can do is spin my wheels with them.

My husband thinks political action makes me happy. It doesn't. He thinks I believe political action makes a difference. It doesn't. He thinks I believe that tomorrow will better. It won't.

This is what I get out of volunteering: the temporary abatement of the guilt of just standing by while the Dem's lose another one. So here I go.

For those who live anywhere near me in Chicago: WE NEED TO SWING IOWA. The GOP barely won this state in 2004. They're ripe. Who's with me?

There are organizations all over the Chicagoland area organizing buses and carpools on weekends to go down to Iowa and knock on doors. It's a 3 1/2 hour drive each way and in exchange, they feed you tepid meal, but we have to do it. For those of us in the blue state of Illinois, going down to Iowa is the most important thing we can do for the Obama campaign.

And here's the BIG PUSH: Sat. Nov 1 - Tue. Nov 4 (Election Day). Can you go to Iowa then? Donating money is great, but Obama also critically needs people on the ground in Iowa during those final days. Please email me at reginamrm at yahoo dot com for help finding an organization near you that you can hook up with. I'm working with the Democratic Party of Evanston (www.dpoe.org). We also need volunteers to make phone calls on Monday and Thursday nights to recruit others.

I have little interest in trying to persuade anyone to vote for a candidate I'm lukewarm about, plus I have no hope and know we're doomed, but this is still my election year motto:

The worst possibility isn't the Republicans winning. The worst possibility is the Republicans winning after I didn't do everything I could to stop them.

Thursday, September 04, 2008

The Election

At least one person tells me she expected that I'd have a post about McCain and Palin. I hesitate to blog about John McCain choosing Sarah Palin as his running mate because I'm aware of how easy it is to -

1. Sink into anti-right wing vitriol.
2. Stumble into sexist expectations of what women can or should do.
3. Descend into sniping at her personal choices.

I don't have a strong opinion about Palin because I'm too consumed by my fear of the right wing winning this election. I'm unable to evaluate her as a vice president because I'm absolutely consumed by feverish desire for a Democratic president. I can't discuss her experience and qualifications because my powers of discernment are paralyzed by my terror that the Democrats might lose this one, too.

I believe most of the country is similarly blinded by the driving fear that "the other side" will win and that has tainted our election discussions, public and private. I believe many people are discovering for the first time new things about people they've known their whole lives. I'm discovering things I didn't know about my own family that never would have surfaced without this particular election between Barack Obama and John McCain. It's ugly. This whole election is very ugly.

People are saying Palin is the perfect maverick sidekick to support McCain's anti-establishment style. They're saying she's an irresponsible mother for putting her teenage daughter (and her incipient husband) in the national eye. Some say she has way more executive experience than Barack Obama. Some say there's no way they'd accept her as the person who's a heartbeat away from the presidency. Almost everyone who says good things about her is a McCain supporter. Almost everyone who says bad things about her is an Obama supporter.

This is not a real dialogue. It's just a hysterical exchange. I think this election has, in large part, been a hysterical exchange. Maybe they always have been.

But there's no way to break out of it. The only way we could have a real discussion of Sarah Palin's (or anyone else's) qualifications for office would require that we first get rid of our fear of each other and that's just not going to happen. We are all afraid of each other. It's just human nature. We're all afraid of people who look different or raise their children differently or take our parking space or ask us for money or want to open another Wal-Mart or think everyone has a right to carry a gun. We are all afraid of people who do not agree with us. We are afraid of people who are different from us, and especially afraid that those who don’t agree with us are going to take over and force us to live by their values and beliefs. This fear drives most of our interactions.

I really don’t see how we’ll change this state of our country. I’m right there in it, too. No matter your party affiliation (or lack thereof) if you are supporting John McCain, then I believe you're a destructive idiot. I really do. And that’s just wrong, but I don’t know how to stop believing it.

After decades of left-leaning people only living near other left-leaning people, right-leaning people only living near other right-leaning people, and everyone sorting themselves out by school district, precinct, suburban neighborhood and bohemian enclave, we can’t stand people who don’t think the same way we do. Our country is pretty evenly divided between right and left, but we are not all mixed in together. We carefully live far from those who don’t share our beliefs and political views. This leaves us entrenched against each other. Each side, right and left, loathes the other and that has led to an election devoid of real debate that is saturated with fear and hate.

So I have no opinion of Sarah Palin. I only know that I’m terrified of her.

Sunday, August 31, 2008

Hurricane Gustav

I think it's very creepy that the Gulf Coast is getting ready for another big hurricane, just as it was three years ago. Actually, I hope it's not preparing in the same way as three years ago and I have faith that it's not. Is anyone else with me on this or am I being unrealistically hopeful that the Bush administration can learn from its mistakes? Maybe? No?

I remember that after the U.S. government let its people starve and drown in New Orleans in 2005, this country receive offers of aid relief from the rest of the world. This is from one of my blog posts of September 2005:

So the following countries have offered relief aid for the survivors of Hurricane Katrina: Canada, France, Germany, England, Australia, the usual U.S. supporters. Austria, Japan, Russia, Switzerland, the Netherlands and Greece have sent offers, too. But did you know that the great big rich United States is receiving offers of assistance from Mexico, Israel, Hungary, China, South Korea, Colombia and Venezuela? Now it's getting embarassing. Honduras, Colombia and Jamaica have also offered to send relief aid to help OUR U.S. citizens. We've even received pledges of relief funds from Sri Lanka. Sri Lanka. And the Dominican Republic. And El Salvador.

I'm imagining Switzerland turning to the Netherlands and saying, "Hey, over in America thousands are suffering from having no drinking water. We'd better do something!" I'm imagining El Salvador turning to Honduras and saying, "Can you believe it's been four days since the hurricane passed and those people still have no food? We'd better get busy. I've got five dollars in my pocket, how much do you have?"

Jesus Christ on a stick...


It won't be that way again. It can't be.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

There are only two choices

1. I like Joe Biden. I think the Obama campaign made an excellent choice. Joe has several things Obama doesn't have, one of which is a sense of humor that plays well to large crowds! He's funny. I haven't noticed Barack Obama being funny, but I think that's because he too careful to be funny, like the way some people approach first dates. Joe's funny. I like funny.

2. If you're planning a wedding these days, I think you can pretty much name your price for services like photography, catering, etc. The economy is bad, no one's spending any money, and the wedding industry is hurting, too. I cast out a few emails to some wedding photographers for our party in September (this is our big chance to get some really good, professional photos of ourselves as a new couple). And then I couldn't get rid of these people! I kept getting emails and phone calls from these photographers who kept saying I should book soon before their schedule filled up. That line works once, but after the fifth contact attempt, you look desperate no matter what you say. This seems to be the right climate in which to be planning a big party. Just name your price.

3. Chicago had dry weather all week. Our company picnic was scheduled for Friday, 11:00 a.m to 2:30 p.m. I worked on the picnic committee for weeks and we anxiously watched the weather forecast, which predicted rain for Friday and Saturday. Rain on Friday, after a whole week of mockingly dry, clear weather? Finally, that morning, it dawned bright and humid. Yay! It had never rained and the ground was perfectly dry. We'd have our picnic!

I signed up to play the first games, which were all physical: three-legged race, egg-in-spoon relay, pass-the-sand. Incredibly, I was on the winning team each time! People started to say that Regina was the secret weapon. Is it because I work out every day and not everyone does? Was it my picnic enthusiasm and joy that the weather had held? I don't know, but I was on fire. In the raffle, I even won the prize I had my eye on: an overnight stay at a local hotel. What a great day. And there were more game to come.

Then, at 12:30 p.m, as I finished my first bowl of ice cream, the rain started. At 1:00 p.m. the thunder joined in and we had to abandon the picnic. In a full downpour, we dejectedly took down all the games, packed up all the prizes and slumped back to work.

Then at 2:00 p.m. -- too late to matter -- the rain stopped, the sun came back out and it went back to being bright and clear. It never even rained on Saturday, the other day it was supposed to rain. It was clear skies before the picnic and clear skies after the picnic. The only hour it rained all week, was that one hour it took to ruin our picnic.

Unbelievable. I was so disappointed. Does this confirm that it's a godless, random universe or that there is a "God" and he's a rotten b@#$%^?

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

More women are having fewer children, if at all

Here's Newsweek's article, "More women are having fewer children, if at all," with my comments in brackets:

More women in their early 40s are childless, and those who are having children are having fewer than ever before, the Census Bureau said Monday.

[Yay, us!]

In the last 30 years, the number of women age 40 to 44 with no children has doubled, from 10 percent to 20 percent [I'm 42]. And those who are mothers have an average of 1.9 children each, more than one child fewer than women of the same age in 1976.

The report, Fertility of American Women: 2006, is the first from the Census Bureau to use data from an annual survey of 76 million women, ages 15 to 50, allowing a state-by-state comparison of fertility patterns. About 4.2 million women participating in the survey, which was conducted from January through December 2006, had had a child in the previous year. The statistics could be used by state agencies to provide maternal care services, the report said.

[I recently heard on NPR that part of the hope for the future of the planet is if the wealthiest nations, such as some European countries and the US, have fewer children. Those of us that suck up the most resources per person, that is, some European countries and the US, need to reduce our populations in order to reduce the burden on our global resources. But maybe we don't need a population control policy if we women can just keep moving in the right direction here!]

The survey found that in 2006 women with graduate or professional degrees recorded the most births of all educational levels. [No way!] About 36 percent of women who gave birth in the previous 12 months were separated, divorced, widowed or unmarried.

Unemployed women had about twice as many babies as working women, although women in the labor force accounted for the majority — 57 percent — of recent births. Only a quarter of all women who had a child over the past year were living below the poverty level.

Coupled with fertility data collected biannually, the report also revealed longer term trends, including how second-generation Hispanic women are having fewer babies than their foreign-born grandmothers and first-generation American mothers.

[Oh, yeah, I support that data. By the way, if my grandmother was born in Mexico and my mother was born in the U.S., am I second generation or third? I thought the first generation was the generation that immigrated, making me third. But this article suggests that I'm second generation. Anyone?]

Friday, August 15, 2008

Always a bride, never a bride-to-be

Bob and I are sort of doing this whole getting married thing backwards. We got married in a civil ceremony last March, then we flew to Houston so he could meet my parents and family at a celebration in August and now I'm getting ready to have a similar party with Chicago friends in September. Because of pressure from others, I'm finally establishing a traditional bridal registry. Get married, meet family, do a bridal registry. This is my life.

I'm doing my registry at Macy's since that's easy for me. They've got lots of stuff and I can maintain the registry online. Note: Macy's gives you a nice red tote bag just for sitting down and saying, "I'd like to set up a bridal registry." It's great. You also get free gifts just for registering certain brands, but you have to be registering for hundreds of dollars worth of merchandise. It's the first chance I've ever had to get a free gift just for indicating that I'd like others to buy me stuff.

A friend of mine who got married 14 years ago said she kind of envies me because she'd love the chance to set up a registry all over again. She was 25 when she did hers and she chose a lot of things she's never even used. I'm imagining towel warmers and espresso makers, but I think she's also talking about dishes and flatware that really aren't her style. She got them because they matched the china she was inheriting and had the traditional style she thought she was supposed to own. Now she's old enough to know what she wants, but there's no one lined up to buy her bedding and houseware now.

So there's one advantage to getting married for the first time when we're in our 40's: Bob and I know what we like and what we really need. We're not clouded by visions of cooking exotic meals together with our Calphalon wok. We know exactly what our kitchen needs and it's not cookware (it's glassware).

As I sat there with my Macy's registry consultant, I saw another consultant helping another party. They were a young woman, an older woman and a young man. I guessed this was a (very) young bride with her mother and her (very) young husband-to-be. The guy sprawled in his chair, lounging in an orange t-shirt and dun-colored shorts. He looked like he belonged in a dorm room. The woman and her mother sat stiffly, focused on every word of the consultant's descriptions. I felt very glad to be there alone. I feel sorry for young brides whose tastes get dominated by a mother who thinks she knows what her daughter should want. Actually, what I believe is that many brides sacrifice their weddings to their mothers. The mother ends up deciding how everything should be, the bride doesn't really get what she wants, and then the cycle repeats when that bride grows up and has a daughter. It's as if each generation needs to create the wedding they didn't get to have because their mother took over their wedding. Actually, as I read over my theory I can see that it describes an extreme that probably doesn't describe every wedding. I guess it's possible that there are nice mothers, too, who let their daughters choose the kind of event (and life) they want. But I doubt that's the majority.

Later, as I wandered through the forest of stemware displays, I spied a different young couple. As the young woman evaluated wine glasses, the (very young) man picked up a heavy glass paperweight, shaped as a golf club head. He playfully held it up to her. She unsmilingly glanced at it and moved on. Poor kids. He was trying to make this boring task fun while she endured the pressure of having to outfit an entire household flawlessly when she doesn't really know what she wants or what she's doing. I'm so glad to be an old bride with no one accompanying me.

I was sure that Bob and I really didn't need anything anyway, but it turns out that he's ready to replace a lot of our bed and bath stuff, plus he wants drinking glasses that match. We each lived alone for a long time before we met, but because neither of us ever married or lived with anyone, we continued to use the mismatched stuff you accumulate when you start your temporary life and then never update. In our 40's, we're kind of living as if we're in our 20's and just moved in together.

On Saturday I will go back down to Macy's and get my bridal registry going in earnest. I've been married for almost five months. It's time to start acting like a bride-to-be.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Whiny

I just re-read what I posted yesterday and it sounds whiny and defensive. Now I'd like to apologize for that. It's entirely reasonable for a readership to expect regular postings from a blogger who has previously always posted regularly. I didn't mean to come off as defensive.

I will try to post again before the end of the weekend. It does strike me as funny, though, that two of the people who have requested my return are bloggers who have sort of abandoned their own blogs (Yes, you, Obesio and Modigli). But I thank everyone for their interest in my continued blogging. I have NOT abandoned my project.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Trying to blog

I apologize to everyone for abandoning my blog, but what can I even blog about these days? I don't have time and focus for politics. The job hunt is over. Married life is going well and I don't even have anything to complain about. To write about the process of introducing my new husband to my family is too dangerous to do publicly (that's where we've been for the past three days because I don't say, "Mom, Dad, this is my new boyfriend." I say, "Mom, Dad, this is my new husband."). Writing about the process of getting ready to host a gathering at which I'll meet many of Bob's friends is also un-politic and I'm not comfortable doing that publicly, either. You see, everyone I know and am related knows about and reads my blog. I'll never put anything on here that will get me in trouble because I know that my audience is the entire planet (unlike those delusional bloggers who keep their identifying information off of their blog and think they're safe to spill it all. No blog stays anonymous and if you post stuff that you want certain people to never see, you're an idiot).

I haven't noticed anything going on in the general culture that has caught my attention and evoked a response. And this week I'll be be busy for the next three nights after work. My job goes from 9 a.m. to 5 pm. and there is no time at all for blogging on the job (those days are over). So what can I blog? When can I blog? I'm afraid this is it for another week. At least.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

42

I have nothing to blog, I just wanted a post with my birthday on it.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

I Might Like My Job

Has it been 12 days since I last blogged? That's terrible.

I don't know why working 37.5 hours a week as a waitress left me so much more time to blog than working 37.5 hours a week as an office worker, but I guess it did. Or maybe my level of unhappiness kept me writing more often. Whatever the reason, I really don't have a lot of free time these days.

But it's not bad because I'm beginning to suspect that I might genuinely enjoy my new job. I mean, it's possible that I've managed to not only be in the right place at the right time, but to actually be in the right place for me, at the right time. Here are the things I like best about my job:

1. Being in charge of the department email box - the polio eradication division of the not-for-profit that I work for has its own email box. I answer emails asking for statistics on global polio cases, PowerPoint presentations, fact sheets, bumper stickers/pins/buttons, information on donating and fundraising, etc. I get to check and answer emails all day long! It's great. And this is in addition to my own email box, which is where all my real work comes from.

2. Interacting with others - I talk to people all day long because I need stuff from them or they need stuff from me, and, so far, they're all pretty cool people. I have a great boss for whom I don't mind doing things (another big part of my job). I love people. I need to be around people all day long.

3. Typing - Today my supervisor needed a document that was undownloadable from the Internet (any suggestions anyone? I could not copy any part of it). So I had to sit there and type four pages of highly formatted text from online. It took about two hours and I worked through lunch (for the first time) because she needed it urgently. I love typing.

4. Breaks - I always eat away from my desk (except for today). This has always been a strong rule for me. I hate eating at my desk and you'll rarely see me do it. We also get two 15-minute breaks a day. I actually take those, too.

5. Words - I enjoy updating documents, editing information so it's clearer, explaining a detailed conversation in an email, etc. If I'm working with words, life isn't bad.

6. Cupcakes - I've been baking cupcakes or cookies or brownies and bringing them in. I love baking and I didn't have anyone to bake for before (Bob doesn't eat sweets). People seem to like it.

7. Committees - I'm on the Coordinator's Professional Development Training committee and the Picnic committee and I'm also in the Book Club, although that isn't a committee and is just for fun (we meet at lunch). I love being on committees because they lead to --

8. Meetings - I think being in a room with a bunch of other people focused on one conversation is the next best thing to a dinner party. And they're even better with snacks.

9. Training - There are so many classes and training sessions I can take! I'm learning to be an expert at Word, Outlook, email, Excel. I'm also taking a Fred Pryor seminar on Document Retention and Destruction (Arthur Andersen jokes are appropriate, since I worked there when it went down). In the future, I'll be taking training in time management, business writing, "managing up" (I think that's when you actually know better than your supervisors, but have to manage how to convey that to them), conflict management. Oh, it'll go on and on!

10. Saying "good morning" - I'm surrounded by all these nice people who act like they like me. Maybe I'll never be lonely again!

I have little free time for blogging because on weekdays I get up at 6:00 a.m to go to the gym and be at my desk by 9:00. Some days I go to a book club or writing group or discussion group after work and get home around 8:30 or 9:30. At that point I just go into the kitchen, pack my breakfast and lunch for the next day, talk to my husband a little and go to bed (I rarely buy food when I'm at work). If I come straight home after work, I usually don't feel like sitting in front of another computer screen. Oh! That's probably the real reason right there: as a waitress, blogging was totally different from work. Now my body wants OUT of the sitting down position by day's end. So, I'm not blogging a lot.

But I really want to. Maybe I can work on it. The last time I had a desk-with-computer job, it was 2004 and I was working at a job that required me to do so little that I surfed and blogged and wrote emails all day. My blogging took place on the job, no problem. This job is not like that at all, but I like it so much more.

Sunday, July 06, 2008

Having Kids Does Not Make You Happy

My favorite part of Lorraine Ali's Newsweek article (July 14, 2008) about the effects of children on happiness is this:

In Daniel Gilbert's 2006 book "Stumbling on Happiness," the Harvard professor of psychology looks at several studies and concludes that marital satisfaction decreases dramatically after the birth of the first child -- and increases only when the last child has left home. He also ascertains that parents are happier grocery shopping and even sleeping than spending time with their kids. Other data cited by 2008's "Gross National Happiness" author, Arthur C. Brooks, finds that parents are about 7 percentage points less likely to report being happy than the childless.

I also like the part that says that Florida State University's Robin Simon, a sociology professor who's conducted several recent parenting studies and has drawn similar conclusions, has "received plenty of hate mail in response to her research." I'm sure people who are raising kids hate being told that they have walked into a less happy life than those who have avoided the responsibilities of parenthood. But maybe spreading such news far and wide ("Good morning, Mrs. Hernandez. Did you know that parents experience lower levels of emotional well-being, less frequent positive emotions and more frequent negative emotions than their childress peers?") can start to make up for all the judgement that the childless have had to take.

I know that I'm a a bit odd for having made a decision to never have kids. I'm especially odd for having specifically chosen, at the age of 41, a husband who also doesn't want to have kids. And I'm even odder for being a Mexican American woman who doesn't want kids.

Actually, I spent my 20's giving not a single consideration to marriage or children, but then at the age of 30 (imagine) I suddenly panicked. I began to worry that if I didn't get on with the process of marriage and children, I'd miss out. I began to think about motherhood in a very focused way. Then I took a job as a part-time nanny to an infant.

My first day on the job, the little boy was seven weeks old and it was the mother's first baby. Along with her, I figured out how to discern his needs, distinguish his cries, handle his little body, keep him entertained. Oh, he needed a LOT of entertaining. How do you engage with a tiny human? I did a lot of carrying, a lot of walking and a lot of singing.

My hours eventually settled at 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. He was mine all day long. At six months of age he began regularly having fits for no reason. Had he suddenly realized that his mother was leaving him with a stranger three days a week? Maybe. I was at my wits end and often wanted to quit. This wasn't MY kid. Why should I put up with this screaming stress? But I hung in there.

I took care of that child until he was three and a half years old and began pre-school. I was pretty good at feeding him, keeping him safe, keeping him engaged, making sure he had everything he needed for those 24 hours a week he was in my care. I even spent the night with him one weekend when his parents had to be in two different cities. That really taught me why parents are so sleep-deprived!

With that experience, the strong desire to have children left me. My maternal instinct had been exercised and satisfied and I moved on to other interests. I wasn't against having kids, but the baby fever was gone. I dated men who were uncertain about having kids, but I also dated men who definitely wanted them because at that point I was on the fence about it. Did I want to be a mother one day? Uh, sure, maybe. I wasn't really certain.

I spent the rest of my 30's in that state. I figured if I wasn't sure about the children question, I'd better stay uncommitted. In the meantime I gathered anecdotal evidence from family and friends that having kids didn't have a net positive effect on your life. In fact, one friend was award-winningly candid when she said that having kids had brought an equal amount of positives and negatives into her life. Really, the hundreds of day-to-day changes that kids brought, added up to a big push. But when she considered the overall, gestault, big picture, she was glad she had kids.

Okay.

It wasn't until I reached my late 30's that I looked motherhood square in the face and decided to pass. I knew that the extremely high maintenance of infant-care was not for me. Nor was the extremely high energy of toddler care. Nor was the discipline and patience of childcare. Nor the - well, you get the idea (Ali's Newsweek article estimates that raising a child from birth to age 17 costs between $134,370 and $237,520. And that's without school or college tuition).

Early in our dating, I made absolutely sure Bob didn't want kids either. Unlike me, he had grown up imagining himself with a family one day. His dreams of fatherhood had died some time during his 30's, as his search for a life partner dragged on and on. By the time he met me, in his 40's, he knew he no longer had the energy and patience for raising children. This was good news for me. No baby discussion for this couple, although I did make absolutely sure Bob really didn't harbor any remaining fatherhood-longing. Nope. He insists (at the age of almost 46) he's fine with DINK-hood ("dual income, no kids").

I shared this article with him and he found it interesting. We know we've made the right choice.

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Just wondering

A very good employee has a perfectly fine performance record. One day, she becomes aware of a task that needs to be done at her company. It's a money task and she wasn't hired to handle money. Maybe she mentions it in passing to her supervisor, who takes no action. So she decides to take on the task herself and starts doing it. Let's say it involves tracking and handling some of the outstanding bills that people owe the branch of the company in which this employee works.

After a few years, it occurs to the owner of the company to wonder how the outstanding accounts are doing in that department. When the employee is asked about it, she shows her work. It turns out she's done a pretty bad job of it. Now there are several thousands of dollars that customers never paid and some of the bills are years old (five figures). The employee insists that she was doing the company a favor by taking care of this important job that had fallen through the cracks. She stepped up when no one else did and she did her absolute best to accomplish it. If it turns out that money has been lost, it's not her fault since it wasn't her job to begin with.

Does the company have a reason to terminate or at least reprimand/punish the employee? Or is the company at fault for failing to keep track of its own finances? I lean towards placing more blame on the company. How could no one have checked up on outstanding bills for years? The company shows a great deal of mismanagement.

Then again, I also don't think the employee did a good job of assessing her skills and recognizing when she was in over her head. Having taken responsibility for a big pile of money like that, how can she say that screwing it up isn't her fault? I think she should have gotten more guidance from the supervisor, who also bears some of this responsibility.

So, disciplinary action? Termination? A handshake?

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

The opposite of me

In my never-ending movement towards becoming a bigger and bigger geek (at 5 feet, two inches tall, I can only get bigger in this kind of way), I have completely become a National Public Radio listener. It's really my husband's fault: he bought me an iPod for Christmas, a device I never asked for, and instead of using it for music, I've begun downloading NPR news shows, interviews and "Wait, Wait, Don't Tell Me."

An interview with Bill Bishop really caught my attention. He's a journalist and author of The Big Sort: Why the Clustering of Like-Minded America Is Tearing Us Apart.

According to Bishop, Americans are increasingly interacting only with people who think like them. For instance, people have an increasing tendency to move into neighborhoods of people who vote similarly, live similarly and see the world similarly. We tend to have friends that all agree on values, goals and in what direction the country should go. Of course, people have always done this, but not to the extent to which we do today.

He points to this social pattern as the reason that our presidential elections have become so bitter. If one in two people is a Democrat and the other is a Republican, you might think that would make our country pretty well balanced, and yet we've had two of the most polarized elections in history. According to Bishop, this is because, while our population is pretty evenly divided between left and right, we have moved into tighter and tighter huddles. Since it's been proven that, over time, people who think alike tend to reinforce either others' thinking, the more time we spend in these clusters, the fewer ideas we have in common with people we see as "other." So, the farther and farther apart we get, physically as well as ideologically.

Apparently it's worse in urban/suburban areas. In rural areas where there aren't as many people, you tend to take the neighbors you get. There might be a mile or more in between homes and people don't come and go as much. Whoever ends up living near you becomes someone you find a way to get along with, regardless of their personal beliefs. In the city, with its dense, highly mobile populations, people look for markers that indicate that this is a neighborhood that will welcome them: coffee shops, people wearing Birkenstocks or lots of dogs being walked for some; for others the markers might be houses with large lawns and nice cars.

So I'm thinking about my friends and the people I'm close to and I'm realizing that I am totally one of these people who only likes people who are like me. I have almost no Republican friends and certainly no friends who are outspoken about conservative beliefs. I'm part of the problem.

I ask myself: am I content to be part of the splintering of America? Or would I like to try to be part of the healing? If I were to try to be part of the patching-up process, what would that entail? Maybe it's time to get some Republican friends.

I'd been considering doing some more volunteering with the Obama campaign, but maybe that's going in the wrong direction. Maybe I'd like to volunteer with the MCCAIN campaign just to take myself out of my usual sphere of social interaction. I wonder how that would be: meeting conservative Republicans, finding the things we have in common, making peace with those who think differently from me.

Making peace with those who have different beliefs and finding what we have in common. Am I brave enough? Is anyone?

Thursday, June 12, 2008

I HAVE A JOB

Finally!

I finally have a job! A real, permanent, full-time, salaried position at an international, historical, stable, not-for-profit organization that exists only to do good in the world. My job? To support the staff of the polio eradication division.

I'm supporting the staff of the polio eradication division! At a not-for-profit whose total reason for being in existence is to help others. This is the real-est job I've ever had. I actually have a sense of how my daily tasks have an impact on the greater world. We're wiping out polio. It's that direct and simple.

It's not a writing or editing job, but there are writing and editing tasks involved. It's basically an administrative support job, but that's what I do well. So, it's not the dream job, but it's the next-best-dream job. Not the happy ending, but a happy ending. Bob and I are finally a two-income couple, which is how it should have been from the beginning. I've been dreaming of reaching DINK* status and now we're there.

I'm so happy! I'm so grateful. I'm so RELIEVED. I just happened to be in the right place at the right time: a temporary work assignment turned into a permanent job. This is the third time this has happened for me in the past 15 years and it's the way to go. I have always enjoyed jobs I got through temp agencies.

After three years of sweaty waitress uniforms, sore feet and holding my bladder through the dinner rush (which on Saturdays went on for hours), I'm back in a putty-colored cubicle with a sleek black computer and every weekend off. I have co-workers to whom I beam "good morning," an employee ID I want to proudly wear to bed and oh, so many cupcakes to bake. There are staff social events and a 401k plan and an employee discount in the cafeteria. There are piles of papers to handle, emails to read and candy dishes to hunt down. I will nod my way through long, tedious afternoons, muscle my way through Mondays and serve on committees. I'll find myself working late too often and wonder what the hell is happening to me.

It's life in the hive and I'm home.

*DINK=dual income, no kids.

Thursday, June 05, 2008

Married and Lonely

Getting married two months ago was great, but I've noticed that this winter and spring it has been very hard to get my friends to spend time with me. I understand that they are busy. Everyone's busy. And many of them have boyfriends or husbands or even children. But I still remember that for the past several years it's been pretty easy to throw open the front door and get people to come on over to my place for dinner or get a bunch of people to meet at a restaurant for a couple of hours.

What's going on? Why does it feel like no one will come out and play with me? I've invited and I've invited, several times over the past five months, but I've received mostly responses saying they can't make it this time, maybe next time. This has happened with very good friends, but also with new friends that I haven't even spent time with yet, so it can't just be that I'm so unpleasant to be with!

I'm newly married and I'm lonely. I need more people in my life than just my husband, as wonderful as he is. I've discussed this with him and he supports me trying out some new activities so I can get more contact with others. I'm lucky that he doesn't take personally my need for others. He doesn't have the same friendship needs.

I'm married and lonely. What happened to all my friends? I have carefully made sure to stay in contact and not start ignoring them just because I'm married, but what's going on on their end?

Sunday, June 01, 2008

Thank you, N/A!

A second anonymous person has sent us a wedding gift and it's the bedsheets we've been needing. Thank you, Whoever you are!

I am my mother


In case anyone has ever wondered, "What did Regina's mother look like when she was 41?" here's a photo to help you out. I took this picture of myself yesterday because I realized that I have now become my mother: it's the hair, the mouth, the expression, the shade of lipstick. I am my mother.

What parts of you look exactly like your mother? Or your father?

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Little things make me happy (also big things)

My friend Donna was one of the many people to whom Bob and I sent a marriage announcement in March. She recently moved and it took a very long time for her to get it. But when she did, she dashed off this email message:

Guess what else I finally got? Your wedding announcement! It was very clever, and it is now posted on our refrigerator.

That meant a lot to me and was all I was really looking for. Thank, you, Donna!

It's not about wedding gifts, it's about knowing that people are happy that this spinster and this bachelor finally got hitched. It was big news to us and I was really hoping to get more of an email (or any) response from the people who got a mailed announcement.

To be fair, I've realized that most people have the best of intentions, but let their busy lives determine their priorities. Many probably thought a marriage announcement deserved more than an email, so they were waiting until they got a real card or whatever, but then their lives took over and that card has yet to happen. We also did this very unconventionally and maybe it's hard to figure how to handle an elopement. End result: I heard nothing from most people and felt hurt that they didn't care.

Am I full of it? Do most people take that you-have-a-year stuff seriously and I should be more patient? Please let me know and I'll suck it up and stop whining about this. At any rate, this should be my last post on this particular topic.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Thanks, N/A!

Someone sent Bob and me an anonymous wedding gift through our online registry: the twelve-inch everyday pan. Since you didn't leave your name, I can only hope you read my blog (and I'm guessing it was someone who reads my blog since I posted the info about our online registry on my blog about a week ago). Thank you very much, Whoever You Are! We really needed that pan!

Friday, May 16, 2008

San Francisco's Top Court Legalizes Same-Sex Marriage

Yesterday California's Supreme Court declared that same-sex couples in California can marry.

Finally! It almost makes me wonder what I'm doing in the midwest whenever San Francisco shows its brave, progressive side like this. Gay and lesbian couples that are residents of any state, not just California, will be able to actually GET MARRIED, not have a civil ceremony. I hope we're done with that separate-but-equal crap. I think either everyone should be able to get married or no one should be able to get married.

I don't say it often, but thank god for California.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Always a vice-presidential nominee, never a presidential nominee?

The TIMING of John Edwards' endorsement of Barack Obama really does sort of deal a death blow to Clinton's campaign. Edwards waited for his moment, didn't he? Was this his plan all along? To step forward at the critical moment, when his announcement would be most likely to put an end to HIllary's nonsense, since he must have seen along ago that she'd never withdraw reasonably? He's like secret weapon, finally unveiled.

I almost feel sorry for Clinton. She was really trying to make her West Virginia win yesterday seem like momentum. She was REALLY working it, working hard. And Edwards just wipes it out. Yes, actually he did (sorry Clinton supporters, but not really).

This is a great time. We must enjoy it. How much good news have we had in the past 10 years? I commit to resisting every natural instinct I have and allowing myself to feel optimistic about the 2008 presidential election!

Are we really going to do this?

Sunday, May 11, 2008

"Spring," Part II

Another Chicago spring day: 49 degrees at 7:30 a.m, gray and drizzling. Temperatures today are expected to top out at about 56 F and it should rain all day. Hah! Happy Mother's Day! Maybe a sundress and hat?

Addition: At 10:30 a.m. it's 47 degrees, raining quite well and very windy. Maybe a mini-sundress.

Big Wedding Favor

Just ripped a pair of bedsheets recently and the situation is a bit dire. Donations?
MyRegistry.com
Name: Regina Rodriguez
Password: bobreg.

How's that for a shameless plug for wedding gifts, Obesio? Or just have fun looking at our wedding gift registry.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

"Spring"

Today on the far northside of Chicago, it was completely overcast and right around 60 degrees. At 6:30 pm, it's 57 degrees and cooling fast. Shall we slip into mini-dresses and sandals and go clubbing without sweaters?

Sunday, May 04, 2008

Chicago's coldest month

During the fall and winter months, we expect Chicago to be cold. Our landlords and building managers (reluctantly) run the heat and we all bundle up and keep our scarves and gloves handy.

But around this time of year, everyone begins to ignore the weather forecast, and starts dressing according to their own expectations of what the weather should be doing. This is stupid. For instance, a few days ago the forecast was for temperatures in the high 40's/low 50's, yet I saw many people dressed in light jackets, sweaters or no outer wear at all. And they looked cold.

Why do Chicagoans do this? I actually hear people insisting that "It's May," as if the weather should warm up on principle. May in Chicago is not a warm month. I've lived here for 15 years and I have only experienced one, ONE Memorial Day on which people did not need to slip on a sweater or jacket by mid-day. Memorial Days in Chicago are chilly. The temperature on that day is always just a little bit too cold to comfortably spend the entire day outdoors. By "comfortably" I mean that at no point do you wish you'd brought an extra pullover. Or ski jacket. That's just how it is, year after year.

This is our coldest month because it's the month during which there is the biggest discrepancy between the weather and the way people cover up. We're cold in February, but we also keep our heaviest clothes on. In May, many people slip into flipflops, switch long pants for light skirts and shorts and prematurely store their jackets. And then they freeze and spend the whole month complaining about how cold it is.

A friend of mine told me there's a Swedish saying that there's no such thing as bad weather, only bad planning. In the spring, most Chicagoans plan horribly. At the risk of sounding like a northern California jerk, maybe it's because I'm originally from the San Francisco Bay Area that I don't put away my long coat until June.

Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Hi, I'm...

Intersection:

1. A month ago I got married, anticipating my new identity as "Regina Rodriguez-Martin."
2. This week I began a new temporary FULL-TIME job (yay!!) and am reminded that until I have a new social security card and driver's license, I am legally still "Regina Rodriguez."

So which one do I go by? Should I change my email and signature back to "Rodriguez" while I wait for the government to process my paperwork? Or am I allowed to go ahead and be "Regina Rodriguez-Martin" even though my drivers license and social security card indicate that I'm lying?

When do married women start using their husband's name? After they get their new driver's licenses, however many months that takes?

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Take five minutes to KNOW you're a good person

It turns out that having my friends sign the back of my driver's license four years ago, to witness that I want to be an organ donor, is now worthless. If I want to at least be useful AFTER my death, I have to re-register online. As an Illinois resident, you now need to RE-REGISTER in Illinois' NEW organ/tissue donor registry, established by the Illinois Secretary of State's office last year.

In 2007, the national donor waiting list surpassed 100,000 people. I don't know how many people die every day, but surely it wouldn't take long to work through the donor list if everyone were willing to be used for parts. Why would you NOT register at www.IAmAreYou.org? I think each state has their own list, so if you don't live in Illinois, you'll have to research the website for your state.

Just think: if you died tomorrow, you'd leave hundreds of things undone. You can at least try to save a life (literally, seriously) in about five minutes. Illinois people, I know our website takes about two minutes.

I just wanted to pass this along. It's got to be the easiest way imaginable to think of yourself as a giving person: "Hey, you can have everything! Just wait til I'm dead."

Monday, April 21, 2008

How to Get Job Help from Your Friends

The text of an email I sent to most of the people for whom I have email addresses:

Hey, everyone -

After launching a job search in October, leaving the waitressing job in January, taking a long-term temporary assignment in February and becoming very discouraged and lax in my job searching, it's time to get busy again. Bob and I have been trying our best to live on his salary (my very-underpaid-earnings go straight into savings) but two people need two incomes. I have GOT to find a job.

Does anyone have any contacts at non-profits such as the American Dental Association, American Student Dental Association, MacArthur Foundation, Dermatology Foundation, Posse Chicago, etc.? Or contacts at any colleges or universities such as Northwestern, Loyola, DePaul or any of the city colleges?

My new job criteria:

Executive assistant or general office administrative position (corporate, academic or non-profit)
With writing and editing tasks (please)
Salary in the 32-40K range
Downtown, northside, southside, I don't care anymore. I'll commute anywhere (but for no longer than an hour one-way).

I'm also open to teaching jobs (adult ed), entry-level publishing jobs, other writing/editing jobs and anything that requires strong Internet, communication and interpersonal skills.

My resume is attached. I'm open to feedback, including plain old hang-in-there encouragement. Thank you, all!

reg

Friday, April 18, 2008

Stress

I feel stressed out by my continuing unemployed state. I'm still temping, but there's only a month left of that job. I've been in and out of unemployment my whole life and have never had such a hard time finding a job. It might seem good that I just got married because at least I'm not sweating the rent, but it turns out that my feelings of guilt and failure to my new husband more than take the place of the old sweating-the-rent fears. Which is worse for me: being unemployed and having no one else to lean on financially or being unemployed and dragging someone else down by my lack of earnings? I don't know. My capacity for guilt is huge. My new husband, of course, says not to worry, it's all right, everything will be fine, but my capacity for guilt is huge.

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Tough times

I guess it's just really tough times for people right now because the morning of March 25th we sent out 75 mailed announcements to let friends and family know that we just got married and we've heard from a surprisingly low number of people. We did get a couple of gifts and a few emails and phone calls and I was delighted to receive them. But I expected a few more responses from 75 friends and family members.

I know we did this very non-traditionally and it might be the height of tackiness to include online registry information when we didn't even have a proper wedding at which we fed our guests. But I really just hoped our announcement would feel like good news to people and they might send an email or a card. Maybe I didn't do things right or maybe getting married just isn't that big a deal to people when you're doing it so late in life. I don't know. I'm chalking it up to the crappy economy.

Saturday, April 05, 2008

Okay, hospitality it is.

Now that I'm past the initial flush of wifehood (wifedom? wifitude?), I'm turning my attention back to my job situation. For five weeks now I've been working at a temporary job, cleaning up the frequent diner membership database at a restaurant company. Yes, I was trying to move from the restaurant industry into publishing or any position that would use my writing skills, but so far it hasn't happened. I'm still ensconced in hospitality.

Not that I've give up (yet). I've been in contact with the communications group that still might use me as a contracted proofreader. They just haven't had work for me. And I've continued an unenthusiastic job search, but it's hard when an enthusiastic job search yielded nothing. Why waste time on a failing job search in an increasingly suckifying economy? I know people have successfully found new jobs in the past few months, but I'm not one of them. I'm discouraged.

Today I'm figuring that if I'm going to stay in the restaurant industry, I might as well find the best job possible there. With this goal in mind, I'm submitting my resume to the company I just came from. It's startling to find myself re-applying to the corporation I waited tables for, but they're a good company with plenty of desk jobs for which I might qualify. I like their corporate culture. I like rules and procedures. I also know how good the management, benefits and working conditions are.

As I've worked this temporary job for the past five weeks, I've also realized that I have some expertise in the restaurant industry. It's a good thing for the people pushing papers around a desk to know what the staff on the front lines are going through. I have valuable experience for this work. I've also really liked the people I've worked with in this field. It's a fun environment. (Heck, I married one of them.)

If I'd realized how hard it would be to change industries at this time, maybe I never would have left my previous employer. I could have seamlessly shifted from waitress to administrative worker with no break in income, health insurance, etc. How I wish I'd known.

Saturday, March 29, 2008

Married


The 41-and-a-half year-old spinster and the 45-and-a-half year-old bachelor are finally legal.

On Tuesday, March 25th, Bob and I went down to city hall in Chicago with a few friends where a very nice judge did the ceremony, which was surprisingly quick. We were aiming for a 10 a.m. ceremony, with plans to jump in the car afterwards and try to make Wisconsin by noon or so. But since we all got there early, we were walking out of the judge's office by 10:05 a.m.

Afterwards, we stood on the sidewalk, outside of city hall for a little while. It was just another Tuesday workday for the people who very nicely walked around us as we snapped photo after photo. I loved getting married on a regular day with the bustle around us. It was kind of like sharing the excitement with the whole city.

By 10:25 a.m. my brand new husband and I were in the car, heading north to Lake Geneva. Bob loves Lake Geneva and spent a lot of time there when he was growing up. He took me there for the first time a year ago and I never wanted to leave. It was February and the lake was frozen solid. We could see (crazy) people sitting on it and fishing. Winter is my favorite season and Bob's too, so it made sense for us to head to where the temperatures are even colder than in Chicago.

Our tradition when driving to Lake Geneva is to have lunch at The Brat Stop ("restaurant, bar and cheese mart") in Kenosha, Wisconsin and this time was no different. Bob and I shared our first meal as husband and wife at the bar: brats, fried shrimp and coleslaw. A nice couple next to us bought Bob's first beer, the bartender bought his second (and Bob bought his third). After we ate, Bob went to the car and brought in the cake I'd ordered: white with white frosting, lemon filling and red roses. It said, "Congratulations, Bob and Regina." We took great pleasure in sharing it. The bartender brought extra plates and forks, I cut pieces and Bob handed them out to the nice couple, the waitstaff and other patrons sitting nearby.

He walked up to the hostesses: "I just got married."

"Congratulations!"

"And you get cake." It was fun. It was just as I'd imagined it: our wedding lunch at a bar, sharing cake with strangers.

I have always hated spring and March in particular. I've also never liked Tuesdays. I chose to get married on a spring Tuesday in March just to take the curse off these things. I love the fall and winter holidays and spring has always been so dreary to me (with its pathetic little Easter). I've often felt that the only good thing about March is that it's only nine months away from Christmas. I wanted to put something good in springtime, some special day I could look forward to each year. This should do it.

Because winter lasted so long this year, I got to "have my cake and eat it, too": I got my springtime wedding date and a honeymoon in the snow! Lake Geneva was still frozen solid, the weather was chilly and as we drove back to Chicago it snowed. It was beautiful.

We spent Tuesday and Wednesday nights at The Geneva Inn (I LOVE the Geneva Inn) and drove back to Chicago on Thursday. It was just a quick honeymoon, just long enough to practice being married. That is, I practiced saying, "Did you hear me?" and Bob practiced saying, "What?"