How a Single Childless Blogger Rails Against Feminism

I don’t know if any of my blogging buddies follow Jason Cushman at the Opinionated Man, but that guy is weirdly fascinating.

He blogs multiple times a day and has about 58 billion followers, a practically hypnotic feat to the rest of us trying to light up our miniscule grains of sand along this massive blogging beach.

Okay, it’s more like 58 thousand, but it may as well be 58 million to those of us trying to break a few hundred daily views.

At any rate, he blogs often enough it’s tough to keep up with him. But today, he reblogged a post  entitled Seven People That Need Punching in The Crotch and I just had to click.

Maybe it’s because the title sounded so similar to People I Want To Punch In the Throat, a hilarious blog I love, but I was intrigued.

Turns out, it was a post from a forty-something woman, called Skinny and Single. Her first crotch-punching-worthy listed group were those calling her a feminist.

I just had to read on…

She says she’d actually love to let some guy make all the money while she cooks, cleans the house and takes care of the kids. Alright…

#4 ended up being “actual” feminists, who want the same pay for the same jobs, despite their inability to move heavy tires as fast as many men. #6 was about “stupid bitches” who want access to men’s only areas. And #7 was about “stupid women” who want time off work for their periods.

She concluded by assuring us she was neither a feminist nor a “social justice warrior” (a phrase loved so much by the MRA that it’s often used in abbreviated form). She despaired for the legacy of future generations, since these feminists types care so little about their feminine instincts that they’ve supposedly shucked their motherly responsibilities to spend time hating on men.

Wow.

Baffled by her rant, I couldn’t help but read some of her other postings. Turns out, she’s a single woman who doesn’t want children (because they’re all brats), who loves her freedom as well as the sense of accomplishment gained from fixing her own car and solving mechanical issues about the house.

Her lack of interest in raising children, of course, doesn’t stop her from proselytizing about the downfall of the modern family unit or telling everyone else how they should be raising their kids.

The most baffling thing, however, is how she seems like such a nice person. She’s funny, and yet I can’t quite how reconcile her outspoken hatred of feminism in light of her lifestyle choices it made possible.

I find it ironic that I consider myself a feminist, despite being a stay-at-home mom with girly tendencies, while this single woman, who boasts about her independence and rails against potentially having kids, rejects the idea wholesale.

It makes me wonder how we define feminism these days. Because for me, it means equal opportunity and equal choices. In a pre-feminism world, for example, she’d be considered an unnatural whore for rejecting her primary role as a mother and homemaker.

I support her choice not to have children, just as I expect society to accept mine. I believe the wage gap is a systemic problem… women still typically take on the chief responsibilities of parenting within a system that offers primitive parental leave options and no subsidized daycare. Not a conscious effort on the part of employers, per se, but a societal framework that doesn’t take families into account.

And whenever it makes sense for fathers to become primary caretakers (because of their individual natures or the type of work that they do), I support it entirely. I think stay-at-home fathers are great, believing paternity leave is also an important issue in a culture that used to deny fathers the respect they are clearly due.

I’d assume she was simply taking feminist movement gains for granted, except that she’s older than I. Not young enough to forget everything feminists fought for, to assume that proudly announcing her desire for an independent career over children could be anything less than a basic right.

If this woman, who is single in her forties, doesn’t want children, and prides herself in her independence, rejects feminism… then what do people now think feminism means?

Forty years ago, women had to include photos on employment applications. They had to report their weight and height, say whether they intended on having children and when they usually had their periods. Applications were color-coded in blue or pink, so employers would know instantly whether they were dealing with women or a men.

Nowadays, discrimination still exists though it’s less conscious. For example, when researchers at Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences sent employment applications to chemistry, biology, and physics labs differing only by the gender of applicants’ names,  employers considered females less competent, less hirable, less worthy of mentorship, and offered them lower starting salaries.

Our biases may now be subconscious, which is far tougher to legislate than overtly discriminatory practices, but a handicap just the same. I don’t know the best ways to address it, but I’m guessing that promoting MRA arguments won’t help.

Maybe we’ve reached the point where all but the most extremist feminists will identify accordingly. Only the most irrational, angry, hostile-towards-men will still openly recognize any biases. I’m saddened by this, out of fear that anyone working toward equal opportunities will be summarily dismissed as a man-hating harpy.

So, I’ll just go ahead and declare myself a feminist, a stay-at-home mom who loves her family dearly and has no issues with the average guy. No group, whether male or female, black or white, rich or poor, holds a monopoly on righteousness, but that doesn’t make systematic discrimination any more fair.

And she can continue to reject the idea of marriage or family, brag about her independence, and make fun of feminists. They sacrificed quite a lot to give her the choices that she’s now making, but if she tries hard enough, perhaps she can roll society back a few decades and make her lifestyle obsolete.

After all, we don’t move heavy tires as efficiently.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Advertisements

My Daughter and I Invent the McDonalds of Nightmares

The funny thing about kids playing make-believe is how their wild imaginations half convince them they’re in a real scenario.

You know how you sometimes wake up from a vivid dream half-confused for a moment about whether the dream really happened, even though you know you’re in your own bed? I’m guessing the kid pretend world feels something like that.

My daughter Brontë has been acting out owning a McDonald’s lately. She comes to take my order, walks off into the “kitchen” to fix it up, then comes back to serve me food and ask if it’s any good.

I take bites of invisible food, tell her it’s delicious, and she seems genuinely pleased.

This was fun for the first fifty times or so, but today I just had to flip the script. I couldn’t resist the temptation to mess with her head any longer…

Brontë: Okay, I got a McDonalds, mama. What do you want to order?

Me: Marshmallow snake juice.

(Brontë stops, stares into space, then gives me a crazed look.)

Brontë: That’s… NOT good. Why would you order that? I bring you chocolate milk instead.

Me (pretending to be disappointed): Psh… alright.

Brontë: Okay, chocolate milk. Now, what do you want to eat?

Me: Poop cake.

IMG_3678
Okay, mom’s finally lost it… what do I do?

Brontë (furious): Well I don’t… HEY, I NOT make POOP CAKE, mama! Why you want to eat poop cake!?

(She sighs while trying to figure out how to deal with her ridiculous customer.)

Brontë: Okay, look… maybe I make pee cake for you. But it’s not really pee, it’s made of coconuts. That’s what you eat, okay?

(She runs off and pretends to make a cake before walking back and handing it to me. I pretend to take a bite of invisible cake as she watches intently.)

Me: EWW, It tastes like pee!

Brontë (laughing while prancing away): It tastes like pee, but it’s really coconuts! I’m a good cook.

 

Okay, that was fun. It even seemed to inspire greater creativity.

I’m just crossing my fingers that she won’t take me seriously someday.

 

 

My Buddy Thinks Game of Thrones is Sexist Against Men, How About You?

So, I’ve FINALLY gotten on the Game of Thrones bandwagon and want to talk about it.

I’d heard all about how awesome it is from friends whose opinions I respect, so about six months ago, I gave it a whirl. I knew the show was violent, but figured I could handle it since I liked The Walking Dead and Breaking Bad.

frozengirl.jpg
This doesn’t bode well

Still, the pilot ended up being more than I could stomach. When a show starts off with frozen children, you know you’ve got a real challenge in store.

But I still wasn’t prepared for all the sexual exploitation and violence toward animals and kids. I don’t want to post spoilers, but trust me, it’s nothing pretty.

My husband and I decided to give it one more try, however, since people keep going on about it. This time we watched a few episodes and before we knew it, we were hooked.

Why? Because it’s a great story with well-developed characters in a fascinating make-believe world. Even if I have to occasionally avert my eyes while watching it.

Thing is, I’m far from the only one having a rough time with its content. The show has been repeatedly slammed for gratuitous sexual violence and its brutalization of women.

A friend of mine recently reacted to all this criticism by posting a long rant about it on Facebook. He’s a bright guy who isn’t shy about sharing opinions I don’t always agree with, but that always make me think…

Like this newest one. His counter-rant pointed out that while, yes, GoT undeniably includes loads of violence against female characters, there is EVEN MORE violence against men. Men are routinely tortured, humiliated, and killed in the goriest of ways… yet no one seems to care about that.

He makes an interesting point. One about which I have mixed feelings.

maincharactersOn the one hand, GOT‘s brutalization of men means women aren’t being singled out. The show depicts a world that is nasty in general. It’s not as if all the guys are all having a wonderful time while the women get crushed. It’s a dog-eat-dog place where “you win or you die”  and female players just aren’t being handed a pass.

On the other, I don’t think it’s true that no one cares about tortured male characters. We’re upset by it too, especially when we like the guys being brutalized.

But I do think it’s fair to say there’s been more public uproar against female exploitation. The question then becomes, is that wrong?

Whether of not these attitudes are more sexist than fair,  I can’t shake the sense that they’re natural. Even inborn.

Why? Because most people respect basic notions of fair play.

We all have the capacity for violence, however repressed. We HAVE to, out of our self-preserving instincts from a centuries-long race for survival, if nothing else. Few of us, if it came down to it, wouldn’t pull a trigger to save our own lives or those of the people we love.

But we call that self-defense, a form of violence we find acceptable. Even necessary and praise-worthy at times.

Most of us are okay with self-defense, but only sadists feel good about the unwarranted exploitation of defenseless innocents. That’s considered bullying, which violates the rules of the game.

So, violence is okay when the cause is just and the victim is fairly matched. We feel better, for example, about two guys squaring off than we do warriors beating up blind, unarmed children.

By this rationale, it makes sense to be less horrified by whatever happens to strong men, armed and warrior-trained, who have voluntarily stepped into battle. They hold most of the power, anyway, and seemingly have the most to gain.

Whether or not it’s fair, women seem relatively innocent and unfairly matched.  Most women in the show aren’t fighters, aren’t armed, and are used as political pawns against their will (at least at first). Whereas the men fight other men in self-defense or to gain territory, they exploit women to appease their fetishes, a cause neither essential nor sympathetic.

sansa.jpgNow, I’m not saying there aren’t evil female characters in the show. Far from it, but that doesn’t overrule our basic notions of fair play. We’re more horrified when women are hurt for the same reasons we’re more horrified when children and animals are hurt: there’s a sense they’re unlucky innocents, unfairly outmatched.

A telling comparison might be made with Tyrion the dwarf, a male character physically limited by his size. He’s such a likable guy, though, that it’s hard to decide whether his smallness earns him any extra sympathy points.

What do you think? Do you find the greater public uproar about female violence sexist, or do you think it’s natural?

It’s an interesting debate, either way.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Are You A City Person or a Suburb Person?

Sacramento-at-night-e1436871084946
Sacramento’s Tower bridge, or the “Golden Kitty Cat” bridge, according to my daughter

Seven years ago, I lived in a one-bedroom apartment in Midtown Sacramento. I owned six pieces of furniture and all of my clothes and shoes could fit into one of them: a wooden IKEA wardrobe with guitars and fencing sabres piled on top.

I could walk to work in thirteen minutes, bike to the grocery store, and go for weeks without using my car.

My future husband lived a few streets over, in a fancier TWO bedroom apartment. Our courtship involved lots of margaritas and backgammon, plays and quirky coffee shops. River walks, museums and running around the city  until 4…

We got married a few years later and found out I was pregnant a month after that… Surprise! With a family on the way, we figured it was high time to become conventional grown-ups. Time to settle down and buy ourselves a house.

suburbia
The American Dream

And conventional wisdom says you should raise families in suburbs. Bigger houses, better school systems, less crime…

So we packed up our belongings and moved into a suburb roughly half an hour away. We found a big, beautiful house we could’ve never afforded in Sacramento and were incredibly excited about this new chapter of our lives.

But as time wore on, we couldn’t help wondering if we’d made a mistake. Especially after our car was vandalized, eventually stolen, and houses around us were broken into several times (so much for lower crime).

And now, four years later, we know that we did. Our house is lovely, but we’re isolated and bored. We feel it harder every time we visit Sacramento and will be putting our house on the market by the end of the month.

Which raises the question…

Is it better to to raise a family in the city or the suburbs?

I don’t think there’s a right answer.

Or at least, the right answer depends entirely on you.

Who are you and how do you define a good quality of life?

While the suburb I currently live in and Sacramento don’t necessarily represent all cities and suburbs as a whole, I’ve lived in a variety of cities and noticed some common differences. To help define priorities,  I’ve come up with five telling questions I think anyone considering the leap should maybe ask themselves first:

1. How do you feel about your car?

the-tech-meme_104621.jpgWhen living in Sacramento, I usually walked to work. Instead of fighting traffic, scrambling to find parking or investing in  passes, I’d listen to music while getting fresh air.

My monthly gasoline bill was a less than a hundred bucks.

Since I often came home for lunch, I had an hour of free exercise automatically  built into my day. So, no need to join a gym or find time to work out.

That may have been an ideal situation, but city people generally live closer to work. Walking or biking are feasible options, unlike for suburbanites, who mostly face long commutes in unpredictable traffic.

Since my husband still works in Downtown Sacramento, moving back means two extra hours in his day. Two more hours to spend with his family, play outside, or just get extra sleep. We both consider that time invaluable, even at the price of higher property rates.

How about you?

2.  How do you feel about your stuff?

stuff.pngWhile having two kids means I’ll never live as streamlined a life as I used to, now the pendulum has swung too far the other way. More space means accumulating more stuff… more stuff than we’ll be able to keep after moving back into a smaller house.

It’s great to have lots of  things, but there’s also some downsides. While I used to tidy my apartment within thirty minutes, now I’m endlessly scrubbing a house that’s never completely clean. A bigger house means higher heating and cooling costs, every nook and cranny an ongoing entropy challenge…

They say the things you own start to own you, and I believe that’s true. I wrestle daily with wanting to get outside to DO something while simultaneously not wanting to live like a pig. We have stuff we forget we own and space we barely ever use… that nevertheless needs be cleaned, organized and maintained.

Plus a giant lawn to keep presentable so our neighbors won’t assault us with pitchforks and burning sticks.

Of course, that’s just MY opinion.  We have a finite number of waking hours and I’d rather not spend half of them maintaining a bunch of stuff.

But others may feel differently, wanting nothing more than to build a gorgeous domestic palace, a vast receiving house for guests with a lush green lawn and extra bedrooms.

Whether you find this idea appealing or suffocating depends on you.

3.  How do you feel about going outside and talking to strangers?

City people spend more random time outside. Everything is closer, often in walking distance, so you tend to get out of the house more when going about your day.

Not that suburbanites don’t get outside, but it tends to be more organized: soccer or swimming practice for the kids, working out at the gym or spending the weekend doing sporty things.

Even restaurants and shops are smaller in the city. You’ll be closer to the next table over, which means you’re more likely to strike up conversations with random people next to you. I’ve had strangers offer to let me try out their bikes in Sacramento within ten minutes of saying “hi.”

It’s not that suburbanites are unfriendly, it’s just more awkward to talk to folks from twenty feet away. Suburban areas are spread out, so everyone has more personal space.  You’re less likely to transact with people unless you’re buying something or already know someone well.

Cramped city life, on the other hand, means people are relatively “in your face.” You have to deal with them, for better or worse.

And whether you like that depends on your comfort level. Are you a homebody who would rather keep to themselves, staying indoors to watch TV or read a book? If so, you might just want a bigger, nicer room to read it in.

4.  How do you feel about familiarity vs the unexpected?

cody-pirates-and-mermaids-1Not only will more city people talk to you, they’re more unconventional than folks in the ‘burbs.

Or even kinda weird. For example, my family attended a festival run by Sacramento Pirates last week.

And I mean PIRATES. They dress like pirates, talk like pirates, and run around doing pirate-y things (except for, of course, actually marauding ships).

Would that make you uncomfortable?

Personally, I think it’s great. The Sacramento Pirates are people who know what they want. At some point in their lives, they asked themselves what made them happy and decided, “the Hell with what anyone else thinks, I want to be a grownup who runs around acting like a pirate with my friends.”

That takes a lot of guts and I respect it.

The kids had the time of their lives, being incredibly popular amongst pirating folk. The pirates gave them loads of attention and make-believe gems. They even let them hold their parrot and lizard pets.

My kids also collected wheel presents from members of the Sacramento Chapter of Official Mermaids, longtime buddies of the pirates, of course.

My kids carried these gem and shell offerings in little buckets for hours, later hanging out with folks in the Sacramento Beard Society, a bunch of guys who grow unusual facial then run around wearing bowler hats and Victorian vests.

IMG_3643
My 2-year-old settled immediately into pirating life

People dress weirder and are weirder in the city, which, depending on your personality, can be either creepy or liberating.  Creepy for unsettling your expectations, but liberating because it means YOU can be weirder too. With fewer social penalties.

So, do you like living a conventional life with clear expectations, surrounded by people who behave in familiar ways? Or are you cool with bizarre hair colors, piercings, tattoos, and perspectives outside the comfortable norm?

I’m always surprised by how much culture and social rules can vary across a distance only thirty minutes away.

5. What kind of culture are you into?

Speaking of culture, what is yours? Do you love sports, football players and cheerleaders?

Are you a committed, born-again Christian who loves to socialize with other members of your flock?

Because if you are, suburbia may be the place for you. At least that’s how it is around here, where impressive mega-churches dominate the landscape and folks are gunning to get Donald Trump in charge.

Which is fine (some of my best friends are extremely religious), but it can be isolating for Unitarian Universalists like us. There’s a massive churchgoing element to socialization around these parts and not being born-again Christians, it can be hard to connect.

Some people worry about un-Christian influences facing shaping their kids once they start attending school.

Me? I’m more worried about them coming home insisting the Earth is just 10,000 years old. Or that other kids will shun them if they don’t

On the other hand, if museums and art galleries are more your speed, the city may be the place for you. It’s littered in theaters, concerts, bookstores, and writers’ groups. Not that museums don’t exist in suburbia, churches in the city, but it’s a question of proportion and saturation degree.

In the end, it comes down to your personality and priorities. Do you want a nicer house for your kids or more things to do?

And for me, it comes down to where you feel an emotional connection.

I love Sacramento. I love the people, the vibe, and its one-of-a-kind restaurants and historical spots. I love Corti Brothers, an Italian family-owned market that includes a full-time butcher, a wall of pasta, and 80 year old Scotch locked behind glass.

Our suburb includes lots of great chain stores and restaurants, but for me, nothing with Sacramento’s unique, irreplaceable charm.

I love Old Sac with its 200-year-old underground city, reading Joan Didion’s thoughts about growing up there and picturing Mark Twain on a Riverboat nearby.  The underground flashlight Halloween tours offered for when you want to check out 19th century brothels, remains of the Gold Rush or old Pony Express.

I’ve  lived in Los Angeles, Monterey, and San Francisco, but have spent more adult years in Sacramento than anywhere else. Now I’ve spent four years in suburbia feeling like an outsider, like I’m on a vacation that’s gone on too long.

A vacation that needs to end so I can return to Sacramento.

Because it’s home.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
This stuff happens here

Where is your home?

Because in the end, that’s the most important question of all.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

How to Make Kids Turn Into Bats

I found my daughter Brontë in my bathroom today,  clutching her Minnie Mouse blanket around her like a straightjacket.

IMG_3671

After staring at the floor for a moment, she flung it open while she made a crazy face.

IMG_3663
She glanced at the bathroom mirror to see what effect she was having.

Disappointed, she regrouped into straightjacket position and tried it again.

 
Meanwhile, her baby sister Bridget stood nearby with a blanket over her head, saying “Ah AH AHHH ” whenever Brontë opened her cape. Like the Count from Sesame Street.

I watched this routine play out several times before curiosity finally got the better of me.

IMG_3668Me: What are you doing?

Brontë: I’m practicing my vampire moves. 

Me: I see. Are they getting better?

Brontë (sadly): No, not yet.

Me: Well, can you turn into a bat?

Brontë (sighing): Not YET. I can’t because I IMG_3662don’t have the right food.

Me: What kind of food do you need?

Brontë: I need… milk, spinach, cheese, and pasta. Grandma eats that before turning into a bat. Then she hides in your medicine cabinet. 

Me: Really?

Brontë: No. 

 

Pants-Crapping Goes Viral in Europe

See what I just did there? I made you look.

I didn’t exactly pull that title out of thin air, but it probably doesn’t mean what you think it means.

I’m talking about the post I wrote last week, the one called Memorial Day Weekend Hilarity. The one that starts off with my husband prancing about in my four-year-old’s purple princess dress to get a rise out of her and ends with my daughter screaming the S-word after crapping her pants at the zoo.

You see, this thing didn’t make a huge splash right after publishing, but gained traction in the past several days. Out of nowhere, I was suddenly seeing hundreds of views. Hundreds became thousands…

And it’s still going strong. It’s quite popular in Western Europe, particularly in the U.K. I’m guessing that’s because they speak English there.

People are actually reading this thing in the Isle of Man. The ISLE OF MAN.

Never in a million years did I expect folks in the Isle of Man to be reading about my toddler’s accident at the Sacramento Zoo, about her screaming, “Sh*t, looks like I just crapped my pants!” It’s rather surreal.

For all I know, the Queen of England is checking it out too.

queen-elizabeth.jpg
She did WHAT?

Okay, I’ll admit that’s highly unlikely, but it’s still a really fun idea. I picture the Queen shaking her head while clutching her gin & tonic, then wondering how these silly colonists ever won the war…

Right before she scrolls through a bunch funny Youtube videos. Really tasteless stuff, like guys jumping off of buildings and landing on their crotch.

And for that, my fellow Americans, I should probably apologize. Stories about me running out of a bathroom to laugh because my toddler started swearing about crapping her pants isn’t the best PR for American parenting. I’m prepared to take full responsibility for casting us in such a ridiculous light.

Thing is, I was nervous about posting it in the first place. On this mommy blog,  I’ve walked the constant tightrope of writing about things a large segment of our society find offensive, especially in a parenting blog… things like farting and pooping and kids that insult their parents before overturning furniture in a rage. Things that don’t fit into our collective picture about the acceptable kind of mommy blog, which includes helpful tips, greater sensitivity, and an impressive mastery of crafts.

And there’s nothing wrong with that kind of mommy blog, but it’s already been well covered. That’s not who I am, not the kind of mommy I am, and I’m guessing non-parents might actually be curious to hear the real story about life after kids.

You know, in case they’ve been spooked by the idea that parenthood sucks out your soul and replaces it with a crafting automaton. 

It’s a constant balancing act between boring and monocle-popping offense.

Yet this zoo post unexpectedly caught on, at least in Europe.

This baffles me. I’ve kept this blog up for roughly a year now, which makes me neither a complete beginner nor a seasoned pro. I’ve learned some tricks of the trade along the way, but there’s still so far to go.

Like the old adage about the only way of getting to Carnegie Hall being to practice, practice, practice… I’m guessing the only real way to improve your writing is to write, write, write.

Which I’ve done religiously, for better or worse. I churn this stuff out like a madwoman, hoping to bust through any barriers and build creative muscles like an Amazonian. Maybe greater forethought in editing would be prudent, yet over time I’ve improved a great deal.

And it’s been hit-or-miss in mysterious ways. Sometimes, for example, I’ve been sure I knocked posts out of the park. I stayed up until four in the morning perfecting them and was completely baffled when views barely trickled in.

Then out of nowhere, a seemingly random post will take off like lightening. Maybe I didn’t think it was anything special, but suddenly thousands of people are viewing it and I’m getting new followers every day.

Like this one, about watching preschool boys and girls. This post was incredibly popular and convinced me to explore gender issues more. Yet later posts on the topic went absolutely nowhere.

You’d think success would build on itself, right? Once thousands of people checked out my post, they should be interested in whatever I came up with next. But it didn’t work like that. Every blogging day is like a newborn phoenix that must prove itself yet again.

I’ve tried to figure out the formulas, but it’s always three steps forward, two steps back.

For example…

It seems logical that if you want to collect a bunch of views, you should write an eye-catching headline, because why would anyone read it if they’re not interested in the first place?

Still, “Memorial Day Weekend Hilarity” hardly seems like click-bait. More like an afterthought when wanting to move on. I can only assume someone read it then recommended it to their friends.

So, I carry these endless experiments on further by writing a click-bait worthy title and seeing if anyone bites. Titles are our first impression in a sea of endless data, after all.

Next, we wonder how real we should allow ourselves to be. Do we stick to social acceptability or write something that marks itself out from the pack?

According to conventional wisdom, our best bet is writing a click-bait title then following up with a numbered list of eye-catching truths. I’m sure many of us have tried this then watched our efforts dissolve into virtual death. We try and try to do the conventionally best thing, then wonder why it’s going nowhere.

Stephen King once said that to really become a writer, you have to give up respectability, and the guy must know what he’s talking about. Because whatever your feelings on King’s creative genius may be, you have to admit he’s “arrived.”

He talks about 20 rules for writers in the above link. Twenty rules that are undoubtedly extremely good advice, rules whose tenants I’m undoubtedly breaking as we speak.

But he also talked about finding your unique voice. About not being a pale imitation of anyone else.

And how can we do that unless we experiment?

I’m convinced, deep down, there are tricks of the trade that guarantee writing success. There’s a magical equation that works for anyone savvy enough to employ it. I happen upon it accidentally when something I’ve written gets popular, though I’m grasping at straws to figure out why.

I’ve already broken the rules, for example, about blogging in a very specific niche. I write a mommy blog, yet the rest of life keeps sneaking in.

Maybe that works for marketing or real estate. But writing is a different, creative animal. We worry about sounding too chipper and formulaic, about selling out our creative souls.

Or not. Maybe some folks have the formula down pat and are cranking out successful blogging week after week.

It’s still a mystery to me.

But I’m on it. Persistence is the key to success.

 

Biking Adventures With Extra Diablo Sauce

I’m gonna go out on a crazy limb by saying time management can be tough with children.

Everything you do suddenly involves additional complications, like kids who constantly lose their shoes and move REALLY SLOW.

kids.jpgKids are also unbelievably messy. What used to be, say, quick Chinese take-out now involves long periods of post-meal rice grain patrol. Because toddlers are tiny bombs exploding your house 30+ times a day.

And it probably gets even harder once after-school activities and school projects enter the picture. I don’t want to even think about that yet, though. My husband and I are still scrambling to master the whole toddlering deal.

Like lately, ever since we started biking every evening. It’s been awesome for everyone, but throwing our schedule for a loop. Last week, for example, we ran out of  food and had to choose between getting to the grocery store and going for a ride.

We chose the ride and stopped at Taco Bell on the way home. I felt awful about it, because feeding my kids properly is an ongoing goal. They deserve a home-cooked meal at a proper family table, not some dollar burritos at some fast-food joint. The kids, on the other hand…

LOVED IT.

My four-year-old talked about it all the way home.

But that wasn’t all.

The next night, after an hour-long ride, we were returning home when we passed by Taco Bell. My two-year-old, Bridget, who was riding in her seat between my handlebars, suddenly got excited and started waving her arms in mad baby panic, screaming:

“TACOS! TACOS! EAT! PLEASE MAMA, EAT TACOS!”

catbook
What, you thought I was just a cat?

I was taken aback, because Bridget is the kid who never talks. So this taco-eating thing was clearly important to her.

Actually, when your kids finally start talking, it’s a little startling. Other people are USED to the idea that people talk, but parents…

Well, you’ve been taking care of this little being who’s only been grunting or crying for well over a year, so when they start using words out of nowhere… it’s a little like your cat walking up to you one day and giving you a bunch of opinions.

I told Bidgie we were going home to eat dinner, but she seemed so disappointed that I promised we’d eat at Taco Bell the very next day. We didn’t have proper dinner plans anyway, flying, as we were, by the seat of our pants in this newfound cycling madness.

And the next evening, when we passed by Taco Bell, Bidgie asked me “Tacos?” and was thrilled when I gave her the nod. We went inside to order and the kids ran up to the same table we ate at days earlier. It was OUR table now.

That’s when John noticed the Diablo sauce.

Maybe it’s a testament to our lack of Taco Bell familiarity, but we’d thought Fire sauce was the hottest you could get. Maybe they’ve had these options for years, but John’s been grabbing Fire sauce for me when picking up Taco Bell for ages.

This Diablo sauce was a revelation. He grabbed a handful of packets for me to try.

At this point, it’s worth noting that I’ve already devoted an entire post to Bridget’s spice tolerance.

It’s epic.

gum
What evil sorcery is THIS?

I, too, love hot food. But at HER age, I couldn’t even handle cinnamon-flavored gum. So I don’t know where this kid gets it, but she once ate an entire packet of red peppers from a pizza takeout joint out of nothing but sheer sisterly spite.

 

We were all eating our food. I was enjoying a Mexican pizza doused in ample Diablo sauce when Bidgie started getting curious. She pointed to the sauce and began insisting, “Too! Too!”

I squirted out some Diablo sauce next to her food. I didn’t want it ON her food, in case she hated it and we ended having to throw everything away.

She dipped her spork tines into Diablo sauce and tasted it. Then she made this face:

IMG_3660.jpg
“I’ve just seen the face of God”

I initially interpreted that face as “Wtf have I done?”

But I was wrong, because after a moment, she dipped her spork tines in again then tasted it.

And again.

And she started dipping quicker, almost with compulsion. She dipped faster and faster as we stared in amazement, occasionally grabbing a napkin to wipe her flooding nose.

She just kept sporking that Diablo sauce, nearly blurring into a frenzy while abandoning her food like yesterday’s news. Given Bidgie’s amazing appetite, this was an impressive turn of events.

Finally, she cut through the middleman by tearing open Diablo packets and drinking them straight. She finished whatever packets were left on the table before taking a huge swig of apple juice and letting out an enormous sigh.

Then we got back on the bikes and from between the handlebars, she baby-farted in my face the entire ride home. But she suffered no apparent ill effects other than that.

I have no idea what to make of this. I’ve never heard of two-year-olds liking spice so much. I was always under the impression that kids have more sensitive tastebuds, that they like blander foods because they taste them so hard…

Well, not MY kid. She takes a hit of hot sauce then stares blankly into space before hitting it again. I assume she’s talking to her Spirit Wolf during the intervals.

I’m thinking maybe Bridget’s a natural thrill seeker. Maybe normal food just isn’t enough anymore. If she’s pounding hot sauce at age 2, maybe she’ll be climbing mountains and snorting moon rocks by 18.

In the meantime, I’m not sure whether to discourage these spicy experiments or see where they’ll finally top out. I’m tempted to cover something in Sriracha sauce and see if she likes it.

The funny thing is, big sister Brontë completely FREAKS at the faintest hint of spice. It just goes to show how every kid is different, even when they grow up in the same house.

Does anyone else know of a kid liking spice this much? I may have the next pepper-eating champion on my hands.

 

 

 

 

 

Six Word Story Challenge: Insult

Someone just called me “Ma’am.”

Again.

 

That’s my entry for this week’s Six Word Story Challenge at Sometimes Stellar Storyteller. This week’s theme is “insult.”

And I’m thinking other women know what I’m talking about here, that moment when your Ma’am to Miss ratio starts getting lopsided.

Unless you live in the South, that is, where “ma’am” just sounds charming.

I’ve heard some men say they feel the same about “Sir.”

Either way, these weekly challenges are loads of fun and anyone can participate. Why not throw in an entry yourself?

How to Fry Bananas in Your Panini Press

miniondiet.jpgWhenever my jeans start feeling tight, I make some minor changes so I won’t have to do anything major down the line.

For example, cooking more vegetable sides with dinner.

Also, actually cooking dinner instead of living off pizza and cheeseburgers.

Snacking on as many fruits and vegetables as you can stomach is also effective, since they end up displacing cheese, chocolate and ice cream.

Now, I’ve argued with people about these strategies before. One time, a coworker told me my free carrot stick policy was reckless, since carrots are high on the glycemic index and people will abuse open-ended carrot privileges by eating far too many.

bunnymemeThat seemed crazy to me, though. I’m skeptical that anyone, anywhere, has ever gotten fat because of too many carrots. Maybe cows or bunnies, but I have a hard time believing carrot-crazed people could be anything but temporarily orange.

The real problem with carrots, and veggies in general, is their blandness in the absence of fatty add-ons, which makes fruit the more obvious choice for mindless snacking. I’m convinced we digest produce differently, regardless of what their calories may suggest.

At least in my experience. I’ll routinely eat four or five bananas in a row whenever dinner didn’t quite cut it, for instance, a habit that’s never come back to haunt me on the scale.

But, I’ve started getting really tired of bananas. 

So I’ve been trying to get creative lately. I’ll freeze bananas for smoothies. I’ll cut them up, sprinkle with cinnamon, then fry them in spray-oil until they caramelize. Makes them sweeter and “dessert-y.”

It’s worked well, except sautéed bananas tend to get rather soupy. Dredging them in flour before deep-frying them would kinda defeat the purpose, however.

Then one day, I had an epiphany…

A panini press can make awesomely crispy sandwiches without any butter at all. Just a little spray-oil and you’re all set for crunchy goodness. Maybe it could do the same for a banana?

I checked the internet to be sure, but found… nothing.

Really? No one’s tried this?

I decided to turn culinary explorer, to embark on an exciting dietary quest to answer the question…

Can you successfully fry bananas in a panini press?

cast iron grill pan water is gross
Aaaaaaaaaaah!!!

And the answer is:

No. No, you can’t.

Well, technically you can, but you’ll end up with burnt banana soup cooked into every last groove of your panini press, hoping and praying your model includes detachable plates.

So, how do you fry a banana with a panini press?

In between two slices of bread. This is the only way.

You’re welcome.

 

 

 

 

Why Kids Are The Best Biking Accessories

I used to bike a lot, though I never called myself a cyclist. Mostly because I biked, in normal clothes, just to save college parking pass money and stay in shape. Not pretend I was in the Olympics.

“Cyclists,” on the other hand, ride bikes costing thousands of dollars while wearing expensive spandex pants and shirts that look ready to have brand logos slapped all over them. They wear this stuff into Starbucks, apparently hoping people will think they’re taking a coffee break mid-Tour de France, then spend all their time talking about gears and personal equipment setups.

These are the guys that scowl at you from under their cycling helmets before attempting to pass. Many seem permanently peeved.

armstrong
These guys

Maybe it’s because they have to share the road with so many drivers that hate their guts.

 

And their bad attitudes made drivers hate MY guts too.

I was always surprised by how many drivers made a point to visibly roll their eyes while speeding around me while I was minding my own business, riding in the designated bike lane. It never make sense, because I wasn’t one of those fancy bike jerks. Cars could get around me. I even hopped onto the sidewalk whenever a parked car was in the way.

Funny-Bicycle-Meme-Rides-Extremely-Slow-In-The-Middle-Of-The-Road-PictureYes, I know you’re not technically supposed to do that, but there were never any pedestrians on the sidewalk. We Californians love our cars. I figured detouring around the sidewalk was better than weaving in and out of traffic, at any rate.

Fast-forward several years and I’d dropped the biking habit entirely. Post-college life wasn’t nearly as bike-friendly, what with all the employment, freeways and fatigue getting in the way.

ibert.jpg
Ibert child seat

But when Brontë was nearly two, my husband and I decided to give biking another shot. We did some research on child bike seats and eventually outfitted my bike with a green Ibert front-carrier. I slipped her into it one day and took off…

 

She was amazed by the experience, singing and waving her tiny arms in the air. I imagine it would be pretty exciting, picturing it from her point of view. She was waaaaaay above the ground, flying by at a speed uncommonly fast for babies, feeling the breeze blow back her curls and wondering where we were heading next…

Unfortunately, I was pregnant at the time. We only managed to bike around the neighborhood a few more weeks before every time my thighs moved up a couple inches, they’d slam my belly and crush my ribs.

Dena-Donnell-8-mos-IMG_0313
WHATEVER, Superwoman…

We moved the bikes back into the garage.

 

Until a few weeks ago, when John and I grabbed our kids’ hands and led them back to the bikes.

Brontë was THRILLED. “We gonna BIKE?” she shouted while beaming. She asked for her kitty-cat helmet and I was amazed she could remember so much about something that happened so long ago. You never know what kids will remember.

Only now, the kitty-cat helmet belonged to Bridget, along with the green Ibert chair. Brontë got a new Minnie Mouse helmet and a child seat that went in the rear.

“I LOVE IT!” she screamed.

It was all new to Bridget, but she quickly got on-board, ringing my purple owl bike-bell over and over and giggling at her newfound sonic powers.

Since then, we’ve biked nearly every evening and the kids couldn’t be happier. I’ll ask them if they want to ride the bikes and they’ll drop whatever they’re doing to run away, returning with their bike helmets slapped onto their heads and yelling “GO! GO! GO!”

IMG_3626 (1).jpg
They seem okay with the idea

 

My husband and I take them to a park outside the neighborhood so they can play for a while and wear themselves out before getting back on the bikes and returning home. Sometimes we grab dinner while we’re out, either take-out or something fast.

It just goes to show that you don’t need to spend much to make your kids happy. Really, spending time with you is all they want.

I’ve also learned something about biking outside our neighborhood with the kids:

Remember how I said drivers tend to be hostile to cyclists? Well, not when kids are involved.

Something about having a smiling, waving baby with a tiny pink helmet between my handlebars has completely turned people around. I’ve suddenly gone from Annoying Cyclist, plaguing the road, to Awesome Mom, doing right by her kids.

biker-asshole.jpg
We’ve gone from this…

 

Now, cars give us a wide berth. They motion us forward, even when I was waiting to let them go first. Drivers hang their heads out to smile and wave at Bidgie, who yells, “HI GUYS!” in the most adorable way.

babybike
To this

I guess I can’t blame them. Bidgie is pretty dang cute when she she rings her bell and shouts “BYE BYE!” to the passing folks. Brontë waves too, from behind her dad, before telling him again how strong he is for biking so fast. They’re finally getting a chance to hang out together and talk, and it’s bringing them closer. She used to hate his singing and now she asks him to sing.

 

And I think we’ll be riding for years to come. Especially now that I know kids are a biking superpower.