Saturday, October 31, 2015

Holidays without parenting

We Americans grow up with kid-focused holidays such as Halloween and Christmas where everything is for kids: candy, decorations, special clothes, parties and games. Christmas traditions in the U.S. were originally established primarily to celebrate childhood (and make as much money as possible off of it). For decades Halloween was for kids and it's only in the past several decades that it's become popular with bars, nightclubs and other adult-only spaces. And as children we reveled in such traditions.

Then you have children and you have to shift out of the child role and take the grownup role. At Halloween, it's now on you to provide your child's costume, make sure they're safe, provide treats and chaperone parties. Christmas is even worse with the financial burden of buying presents. You no longer get to simply consume Halloween and Christmas. You are now part of the production of them.

But if you never have kids and don't take on the responsibility of creating fun for others, you can keep having fun yourself. This has been my strategy. My face still lights up when I see Christmas decorations because I know FUN is coming. I won't be baking hundreds of cookies or running up my credit card on toys and games or weighing the moral consequences of perpetuating the Santa Claus lie. I'll just decorate my apartment exactly the way I want to, buy presents for exactly three family members (from my family of origin), go to as many Christmas parties as I'm invited to and soak in the season wherever I go. I'll have my own Christmas party for grown ups where we'll stay up as late as we want and not worry about paying a babysitter.

On Halloween and Christmas (and other such occasions) I don't have to worry about unrealistic expectations or feeling like I've disappointed my kids by not doing everything well. People say that Christmas is for kids and it's just not the same without them, and that's true. There is magic in experiencing such things through the eyes of a child. You can relive a bit of your childhood when you steward your offspring through such holidays. Or you can relive a bit of your childhood all on your own, by continuing to occupy the role of the wide-eyed consumer, delighting in festivities that someone else provided for you, and all you have to do is be there.

Happy Halloween!

Friday, October 23, 2015

Jesus, Cubs fans...

On Wednesday night, as the Chicago Cubs baseball team struggled with a score of 6-0 with the New York Mets in the lead, I tuned into WGN radio. Matt Bubala was on the microphone at 8:15p, sitting in for the usual host of The Download, and he was halfheartedly covering the Cubs game. For a few minutes.

Matt spoke to someone named Sam who was reporting from Wrigley Field, where the disappointment was taking place (this was the game that determined that the Cubs wouldn't advance in the playoffs). Sam mentioned having the city of Chicago pray for the Cubs. While I wasn't surprised that Matt shot down that idea, I was surprised by the rest of of his response: "The Cubs don't need prayers. Prayers aren't going to help. They need positive energy. How's the energy there? Are the fans being positive?"

First, what does Matt think prayer is but positive energy? Second, if religious action can't help the Cubs, what makes him think "positive energy" will? Third, it sounded like more sports fan superstition to me. Serious sports fans believe their attitude and attention has a material effect on how a team does.

Since moving to Chicago, even this non-sports fan has learned a bit about sports fans. They're a superstitious lot, but perhaps none more so than Cubs fans. Maybe it's because the reasons the Cubs lose are completely beyond the power of the fans: bad management and owners that are unwilling to pay for outstanding players. Fans can't do anything about those things, but they can wear their lucky shirts, do whatever activity they were doing the last time the Cubs won, go through their rituals for good luck and, for god's sake, think positive.

When Matt Bubala asked Sam if the fans were staying positive, Sam hedged. Matt pressed, "Have any of them left yet? Have you seen people leaving?" Sam admitted that he had. Matt made a disappointed (maybe even disgusted) sound. I think he wanted to blame those early quitters, at least in part, for the Cubs bad performance. I ranted at my iPad (through which I was listening), "This guy thinks it's the fans' fault that the Cubs are losing? He doesn't think prayers do anything, but positive energy can? Is he really putting this on the fans?" After that, Matt turned to the topic of Chris Rock hosting the Oscars, and didn't return to the Cubs game.Talk about quitting early.

I think superstition is what's left for people who feel powerless over the real circumstances. It's all they believe they can do, so they grip it with both hands. Of course, there is another course of action for Cubs fans: stop going to the games. Stop sinking money into an enterprise that has become all about money and not winning games at all. Cubs fans are a strange cult. Stuck with a team whose management has prioritized profit over pennants, they continue to believe their team can magically become winners even though the team is never given the resources to do that.

How do other baseball teams in other cities function? When they suck, fans stop coming to the games. Management responds by improving team performance and then the fans come back. With those teams, there's a correlation between fan attention (and revenue) and team performance. With the Chicago Cubs there's a much weaker correlation. Cubs cult members -- I mean, fans -- come to games no matter how the Cubs play. It's a big party. When you go to Wrigley, you haven't really experienced the game if you haven't eaten a hot dog and drunk at least one beer. People who don't even care about baseball go to hang out with friends (I've been one of them). They fill the stands and the wallet of the team's owner. As long as the owner is raking in the money, what incentive does he have to buy better talent?

So the Cubs languish, decade after decade. The Chicago Cubs are a cult of personality and tradition, and the fans pour into their home stadium, Wrigley Field, whether they do well or not. Cubs fans could stop spending their money on the Cubs games until the Cubs truly improve, but they don't. They're caught up in a cycle of emotion and masochism.

If I had a friend who complained to me about someone disappointing her year after year, I'd get tired of it. I'd tell her to ditch that person or set some boundaries that will improve the friendship. I'd tell her to stop doing the same thing over and over again since it's obviously not getting her what she wants. When she failed to do anything about her situation, I would run out of sympathy and ask her to find someone else to complain to. I'd just stop listening to it and getting pulled into the emotion and that's what I'm going to do with the Cubs and their congregation -- I mean, fans. Your faith is tiresome and counterproductive. Wait til next year? For what?

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Watching the Cubs game, or not

I'm impressed by people who will be able to watch tonight's Cubs game. I can't do it; the Cubs are just too much an emotional drain for me. Back in the 1980s I witnessed my then-boyfriend reacting to a Cubs' loss from his campus in Michigan: he said he had a sick feeling in the pit of his stomach. While he had a physical reaction to the disappointment of not winning, I remember staring at him blankly. What did I know? I wasn't interested in sports and John's response was my first experience with a Cubs fan.

Twenty years later being married to a man I sometimes called "Mr. Chicago" taught me a bit more about sports fans. I'd watch my then-husband get all worked up about how a Cubs game was going and I would marvel that he could watch it at all. Cubs fans talk about having their hearts broken season after season, which seems both sad and insane to me. Why do that to yourself? Why not just turn it off? But marriage taught me how much sports fans feel compelled to watch, no matter how much it might end up hurting. I realize that not watching an important game can feel like letting down the team. Fans truly believe that their attention influences action on the field. For instance, a fan might notice that every time they're out of town, their team wins, so then they feel obligated to go out of town for each game thereafter. I once assembled Ikea furniture with my then-husband while we listened to the Cubs win. Sure enough, Bob suggested that we always assemble furniture while the Cubs played. Sure, it's a joke and fans 99% don't really believe it. But that 1% is always there. 

Sports fans feel like they are a part of the synergy that determines how a game turns out, so how could they turn their backs on a team just because things might go badly? They can't. And that's how a lot of Cubs fans will feel tonight. They'll be biting their nails and wringing their hands, but they can't turn away. For someone like me, watching would feel like following the most heart-wrenching, suspense-filled, true drama. I can't do it. But for true fans, watching the game is lending their spirit, their energy and the emotional support that just might put the Cubs over the top and on to the next game.

So: go, Cubs.

Friday, October 16, 2015

Happy National Boss's Day

For those of us who have never managed others, Boss's Day feels like an unnecessary holiday because don't those people have the advantage every day? They're already the boss of us, what other perks do they need? I realize this is unsympathetic because from talking to friends who have managed others, I know being the boss can be just as big a nightmare as being the underling. Still, when I worked in a regularly structured organization with a supervisor, I felt no inclination to recognize a day for my boss.

But now I'm my own boss. I'm in charge of my own company, Welcome Dialogue, and I make my schedule, decide my hours and call all the shots. So on October 16th, 2015 I celebrate National Boss's Day for the first time ever because now the title of "boss" includes me.

Thursday, October 15, 2015

Cubs in the World Series 2015?

To get into the spirit with the rest of the Chicago northside, and because I don't drink alcohol, I'm making this big statement:

I hope I'm not setting myself up for a hangover...

Friday, October 09, 2015

Cue miracle music

I'm amazed to blog this, but after a year of struggling with horrific cramping, today is day two of my period and I'm not in agony! Four ibuprofen every 3-4 hours has kept me comfortable, as in PAIN-FREE. Oh, my god. I'm so, so grateful. I can hardly believe it. 

I'd like to thank my chiropractor/acupuncturist Dr. Ashley Frer, my specialist in hormonal imbalances Dr. Emily Lindner, my EFT tapping circle, my hypnotherapist and EFT practitioner Lili Betancourt, and Dr. Joe Dispenza, my meditation guru (although he'll never know it). They were ALL absolutely necessary in getting me through this past year of clean eating, breaking my sugar addiction and suffering the horrible pain of menstruation every month as it gradually (so goddamn gradually) got better each time. They helped me stick to dealing with the pain primarily with diet, and helped me stay away from surgery, opioids, going back on The Pill or using other hormonal drugs. And now I'm actually GOOD. 

I'm finally able to stay ahead of the pain with ibuprofen! And if I forget and let a little too much time go by, I'm able to get the pain back down with ibuprofen plus heating pad. I can live with this. Getting my period is no longer the monster in the closet. I no longer have to hope fervently that menopause comes soon. I can go ahead and plan regular activities for the weeks when I expect to get my period. No more clearing my calendar in anticipation of days spent in bed with a heating pad, swallowing pills and crying (joyous and slightly hysterical laughter)!

It's possible that what made the final difference was cutting out wheat (100% no cheating) which is apparently the most inflammatory thing I can eat. Goddamn wheat, man. It's my new nemesis, worse for me than dairy, worse for me than other grains, even worse than sugar. No, I don't have celiac's disease or an allergy to wheat. Wheat just makes me hurt.

Monday, October 05, 2015

Defense against multiple assailants

Most sexual assault (93%) is committed by a single criminal, but in case you want to be ready for multiple attackers, here's the self defense course for you.

IMPACT Defense Against Multiple Assailants
October 17 & 18 (Sat/Sun 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.)
Knapp Center
3145 W. Pratt
Chicago, IL 60645

IMPACT Chicago offers this course every other year to provide practice with strategies, techniques and attitude to deal with two or more attackers. It builds on what IMPACT graduates already know (using voice, fighting spirit, adrenaline management, etc.). That means you have to have already taken the IMPACT core self defense course they offer throughout the year, so I encourage you do to that, if you haven't already.

Contact their registration coordinator, Tara Brinkman, at to discuss a payment plan. Go to the IMPACT Chicago website for information on other self defense courses. I live alone in a violent city, but I don't worry because I've had training from IMPACT Chicago.

Gun control: the Rivera proposal

Of course I'm upset about the slaughter at [insert most recent event here], but I don't even bother to blog anymore about mass shootings because there's nothing new to say. After each incident people offer "thoughts and prayers," gun control advocates and gun lovers scream at each other, and President Obama wishes he'd taken more action back in 2012 after the Sandy Hook slaughter. Anyone who's not numb to another pile of dead bodies feels angry and afraid of what might come next: gun advocates fear having their guns taken away while the rest of us worry that the next bullet will hit close to home.

I believe there's no reasoning on this topic. We won't get anywhere by pointing out how many more people die by gun violence than by terrorists, or the ridiculous number of guns in the U.S. compared to other developed nations, or the fact that guns have no purpose at all but to kill humans (unlike cars, knives, etc.). None of those arguments matter because guns are central to the American identity. 

Unlike any other nation, the United States -- in just a few hundred years -- was founded through self-loving, idealistic, self-righteous, manifest-destiny violence that worked very well. Full of hubris and entitlement, early Americans staked out land, slaughtered native people, battled England's armies and wrote a constitution to guarantee that America would never have to answer to anyone else ever again. And unlike countries that took hundreds or thousands of years to form, we did it quickly. We thus impressed ourselves as highly capable, have-gun-will-travel people who aren't afraid of anything, as long as we have our guns. Guns were part of our confidence and bravery from the very beginning. The technology of warfare was on our side and we have embraced such technology ever since. 

Because guns are part of the very core of American identity, to ask us to give up our guns is to ask us to be less American. For someone like me to point out that the U.S. is alone among its peers with its high rates of gun violence only evokes responses such as, "That's because we're Americans, not pansy-ass Frenchies or Swedes." 


I believe these views mean guns will never be more regulated than they are now, but it's still just possible for us to reach a limit of how much innocent bloodshed we can swallow. If we reach that point, we might allow more gun regulation. So, if we get there, what would the plan be? I'm glad to present a proposal created by my cousin-once-removed Gregory Rivera of San Antonio, Texas. He has a ready answer for the question, "Well, what's your solution?"

Greg proposes that we set up legislation that allows a person to exchange any single gun manufactured after 1900 for two of their choice: a muzzle-loading, single-fire musket; a muzzle-loading, single-fire rifle; or a muzzle-loading pistol. For each bullet you turn in, you receive two muzzle-loadable steel balls. You could hunt and defend yourself with your weapons. You could own as many of these as you want.

Greg suggests a five-year period to swap out existing firearms, during which manufacturers would adjust their assembly lines to meet demand. After that, the law would require a 20-year sentence for anyone caught with any other kind of firearm. The exceptions would be military personnel who would only be issued modern firearms while on active duty, and law enforcement who would turn in their weapons at the end of each shift. Yes, some criminals would have the upper hand for a few years, but once guns, gun parts and bullets are almost impossible to find, modern arms will become useless to most private citizens. 

What I like about Greg's proposal is that it honors the spirit of The Consitution, which addressed musket-type firearm technology. The creators of that document had no way of knowing how deadly household weaponry would become or how often citizens would use it against each other instead of to oppose a tyrannical, foreign enemy. I'm sure the founding fathers weren't envisioning a nation of neighbors armed against neighbors, and family members slaughtering each other during domestic disputes.

We can consider ourselves safe from Queen Elizabeth, so I think Greg's proposal makes a lot of sense. How about you?

Muskets: the Rivera proposal lets you stock up.

Friday, October 02, 2015

The Halloween Whopper

This was just too ridiculous for me to ignore. First, I LOVE Halloween and foods that are black, like jelly beans and olives. Second, I still like hamburgers, even though I now eat them without the bun. Third, the idea of a scary hamburger made me laugh out loud. A scary hamburger! Excellent.

I brought my burger home and unwrapped it.

Actually, I did feel a little scared now that it was no longer on a poster but on my dining table. Did I really want to eat this? Inside the Burger King store, the description had said the bun has A-1 flavoring, which is a flavor I'm not fond of, but I can be a good sport. I still felt determined to make this my lunch. I took the next step of my ritual with burgers and opened it.

At least it looked the same on the inside. I tasted it.

Along with the usual Burger King meat, cheese and mayo, there was a smoky flavor to the sandwich, which I guess was the A-1 bun boosted by a sauce which wasn't just ketchup. I'm pretty sure the sauce was specially flavored because the overall taste of the burger was sweeter than a regular Whopper.

I finished my lunch without the rest of the bun. It was okay. I recommend The Halloween Whopper if you like your burgers spiked with fake smoke flavor and extra sugar, or if you just can't resist the over-the-top campiness of it. I enjoyed my little pre-Halloween celebration, but I won't order this sandwich again.

UPDATE TWO HOURS LATER: I have to warn you about this side effect that happens if you eat the bun. I discovered it by googling "Halloween Whopper," but I had already avoided it with my wheat-free lifestyle. Ha, I win!

UPDATE FOUR WEEKS LATER: On October 30th I stopped in that same Burger King, noticing that the Halloween Whooper poster was gone. The woman serving at the counter said they had stopped selling that item about a week earlier. The Halloween Whopper didn't make it to Halloween. Sad, yet no mystery considering the side effects of that black bun...