Category Archives: Health

5 Ways Having Kids Makes You Fat

Dieting SUCKS, so there’s usually some triggering event that convinces someone to start eating better.

For a friend of mine, it once was getting thrown out of a roller-coaster line by an attendant twice her size. For me, it’s been arguing with my five-year-old about not actually being pregnant. Because she insists that the last time my belly got SO BIG, she ended up with a baby sister.

the-only-honest-people-in-the-world.jpgShe doesn’t mean any harm. It’s just that toddlers are painfully honest without any grasp of the social ramifications. Like how she keeps playing with grandma’s upper arms because they’re so “fun and squishy.” Or like the other day, when my daughter grabbed a handful of my postpartum belly and asked why it looked like that.

“Because you lived there for year,” I told her. “Your sister too, before you’d even taken down all the staples from your posters.”

She was understandably confused, and I’ll admit leaking a twinge of bitterness into my response. Even though I should know better, because kids say ridiculous, rude things all the time.

It touched a nerve, though, because my jeans are indeed getting tight. I can still CLOSE them, thank you very much, but it’s not super comfortable and results in some sideways flare-out. My husband looks mildly panicked every time I frown at my muffin top, because it could mean all the chocolate is about to vacate the house.

The weird thing is, I actually lost the baby weight from both of my pregnancies within six months. You see, I’d grown up hearing countless women talk about how they used to be so skinny and had such fast metabolisms until they had children and then never managed to regain their pre-pregnancy figures again.

Since I didn’t have a fast metabolism to begin with, the threat of permanent explosion seemed imminent. So I hopped right onto a diet and exercise program as soon as I recovered from childbirth. I knew I had to unleash a Tony Horton-style dictatorship onto those rioting hormones before they swallowed me whole.

And I conquered it LIKE A BOSS. Why? Because I was prepared to fight that estrogen-soaked battle of making people, but knew nothing of the parenting lifestyle’s insidious creep.  It turns out, you still can’t let your guard down once pregnancy is over, because having kids makes it really, really easy to put on weight.

So I’ve been thinking about why this is, and have decided to warn prospective parents about what they’ll be up against:

1-  Kids have really small bodies

Once you have children, you’ll never take a normal, grown-up step again.

See, most of your free time is spent in their company. That means if you walk anywhere on foot, you’ll have to take them with you, usually while holding their hand.

And kid bodies are very small, which means their legs are really tiny. They can’t walk at a grown-up pace. If you try to walk like a normal person, the child will trip on the sidewalk, smack their face on the ground, begin screaming and make everyone stare at you in horror like you’re a monster who won’t wait for your kids.

So, you’ll have to start walking at the pace of someone with ten-inch legs. It’s slow, even without accounting for them being mesmerized by the mysteries of sidewalk grooves or the life-freezing eurekas of passing thought, both of which will occur approximately every 15 seconds because kids really don’t care about getting somewhere on time.

Clearly, strollers would seem to be the obvious answer here, except they mean sacrificing the exercise your pent-up toddlers so desperately need. I’ve seen far too many √ľber-fit moms pushing grumpy, pudgy 8-year-olds in strollers to think strollers are a good idea once the kiddos can walk.

2.  Kids take ages to get through everyday activities

90624-children-with-guns-meme-Walkin-rdE1
You’ll take seven hours to cross the street and LIKE it!
Things that used to take 30 seconds now take 10 minutes, if not half the morning. Things like just putting on shoes and walking out of the house.

You used to just grab your keys and walk out the door, but now you’ve got to clean up, change someone, and lace their shoes up, assuming that locating shoes doesn’t become it’s own drawn-out detective saga, or that said child isn’t naked, which are both wildly optimistic assumptions when parenting.

Remember how I said kids get mesmerized by sidewalk cracks? Apply that same principle to eating a meal or exiting a vehicle…

You’ve unsnapped their car seats, you’ve opened their door, and  you’re now standing on the side of the car while they stare blankly into space. “Okay sweetie, time to get out of the car,” you say.

So they take a step forward and start messing with the parking brake. Thirty seconds go by and you’re telling them, “Don’t mess with that, sweetheart. It’s time to get out of the car now.”

And then they step onto the doorframe, hold the back of the front seat with one hand, then stare at the ground with all the intensity of someone trying to solve the Palestinian crisis. They just keep standing there, as you look at your watch.

It’s all you can do, at this point, to not scream, “GET OUT OF THE DAMN CAR,”  except you’ve read about how vitally important it is to never, ever rush a child through trying to do something. Because rushing your kid means being impatient, which makes them feel incompetent, eventually destroying their self-esteem and leaving them sobbing in the women’s bathroom a decade from now, right after their pole-shifts, wondering where it all went wrong.

If only frustration burned calories.

3.  Because kids want to eat garbage

Before I had kids, I used to go to the farmer’s market to find fresh, seasonal produce with which to make elaborate meals from scratch. In fact, my insistence on unprocessed food was once a bone of contention with my Hot-pocket-eating boyfriend (later my husband).

I assumed I’d keep my lifestyle up after the kids were born, neither envisioning how much less energy I’d have, nor my frustration at seeing a thousand carefully-prepared meals splatter against the wall.

Or how desperate I’d be to keep the kids from rioting. Ideally, I’d love to feed the kids healthy food, all the time. I do still try, but it’s hard to keep throwing money and time at meals that end up in the garbage when literally every television channel and store display is flashing cartoon utopias of brightly-colored garbage that’s so much easier and cheaper.

You’ll also find yourself in the grocery store with a wound-up kid and a dozen reproachful eyes, just waiting for the looming meltdown, while knowing you could either put a stop to it all with a 50 cent treat, or hold your ground through yet another public episode of overwhelmed-mom-with-the-tantruming kids.

The struggle is real. And sometimes I cave.

4.  Because kids don’t eat much

You know how you finish your lunch because you paid for it and you don’t want to throw your food away, only to get hungry an hour later and have to pay for something else?

Yeah, kids don’t worry about that. They don’t care what you just spent on their dinner when you’re eating out and will push it aside then literally start throwing a fit about being “so hungry,” 20 minutes later.

You’d think a few rounds of “Well, you should’ve eaten your dinner then, because I’m not not getting you any more food” would fix that, but they’re surprisingly stubborn. Because kids always plan roughly five minutes ahead of wherever they are now. They don’t remember how hungry they ended up being last night and won’t apply that lesson to this evening. Sometimes I’m amazed the human race is still around.

Even when they DO eat, it’s frequently only a tiny bit. I’ve watched my daughter suck the chocolate out of a croissant, pick the croutons out of a salad, lick the parmesan off pasta, and pick the Shake-n-bake coating off pork chops before loudly declaring that she was done.

My husband cleans up our kids’ leftovers like a champ. It just sucks too much to spend your hard-earned money on a meal that ends up only two tablespoons lighter, so my husband takes one for the team by polishing off the rest. Problem is, I’ve noticed him pushing the kids to order something he really likes an awful lot.  Which makes sense, because you may as well order something you like if you’re going to end up eating most of it… except it’s a slippery slope from being thrifty to eating an extra, fatty meal because you “have” to.

Most of these meals, I notice, involve a lot of melted cheese. On the plus side, he’s really been leaning on our 3-year-old to practice her silverware, because who wants to polish off a meal someone’s massaged with booger-hands?

5.  Your own habits start to backslide

So… you find yourself ordering increasingly empty-caloried garbage in hopes that your kids will possibly eat it, then polishing off said garbage so you won’t feel like you just set your wallet on fire.

You find yourself keeping a few more boxes of cookies around too, because it’s so helpful to have little rewards handy for when your kids finally pick up all their Legos and use an appropriate receptacle to pee into.

And after a while, that kale & quinoa salad isn’t looking so appetizing to you either. I’m not sure it ever really did, but it’s a lot easier to lie to yourself without all this peer pressure.

You get used to meandering along, taking 45 minutes to do what used to take you 10.

caillou.jpg
You’re the reason my pants don’t fit, you little bald monster!
Plus, you may be eating a few more chocolates now, because it’s the only vice you’re still allowed. I mean, after you’ve put all that drinking, swearing, and watching violent movies aside, what else can you do?. Who doesn’t want to stuff their face after 300 hours of Caillou?

Either way, these are some of the health pitfalls to watch out for after you move into a lifestyle with kids.

It’s tough, but I’m sure we can overcome it: start following an exercise program and letting the kids get hungry enough to choke down some well-balanced meals. Remind my husband to stop ordering out for pizza or bringing home fast food before we’re shelling out for whole new wardrobes of pants…

Wish me luck ūüôā

Advertisements

Getting Fat and Dealing With French Condescension

I haven’t been keeping up with my blog for the past few weeks and ho boy, did¬†the comments, postings and emails blow¬†up. It’s like that old episode of I Love Lucy where Lucy lets everything pile up on the chocolate factory, only I wasn’t seeing the chocolates threatening to avalanche because it was all happening in the mystical, invisible¬†land¬†of the internet.

lucy.jpgSo, today I literally tackled 4000 emails. They weren’t entirely my blog’s fault because I also spent half the day unsubscribing from various marketing assembly lines, which was a dragon whose slaying was long overdue.

I mean, what else was going¬†to happen to an openminded, very curious (likely undiagnosed attention-disordered) ¬†woman like myself? SURE, I’d love¬†to learn about the world of cycling and how runners should eat. How about the mysteries of ancient civilizations and Abraham Lincoln’s private letters while we’re at it? Of COURSE, I want to hear about whenever your breakthrough mascaras that will change my life forever go on sale (shockingly perfect¬†eyelashes -> ? -> perfect life!) And WOW, you’ll tell me whether I have a fire, air, earth or water personality¬†with your free quiz if I just enter my email that you promise not to share with anyone? (So weird, because Six Flags over Georgia keeps telling me about their promotions, though I’m almost positive I never asked).

frenchsnob.pngAaaaand on top of that, I started taking a French class with my mom and working out early in the morning, which screws up my powerfully creative middle-of-the-night writing time more than you’d expect. You see, mom and I thought I would be nice to do something together, like take a French film class. Except she’s a retired French teacher and I… well, I learned some French from hearing her speak it when I was little and later studied it in school, but I haven’t used it in quite some time. Picking a class that would neither bore mom¬†to tears nor be ridiculously over my head was a true¬†challenge.

So, I took a placement test and according to the Alliance Francaise, I’m an Advanced Intermediate, but it hardly feels that way when I’m watching French war films from the 60’s, paying extremely close attention to everyone’s body language in the desperate hope¬†¬†of figuring out a gnat’s wing of context, and reading out French dialogues in class while feeling about as ashamed as I’d imagine feeling after¬†just peeing on the public floor. (Why do they have to talk SO FAST!?)

The entire class is in French, including the instructions, and while I understand about 87% of it, I nevertheless¬†have to hear myself answering the teacher in cavewoman grunts while watching her look at me with that pained, patronizing expression that means she’s pretending that I don’t sound like an idiot so I won’t get discouraged. When it’s just too rough, I occasionally break into English again, whereupon she looks mildly startled by my capacity for abstract reasoning, as though she’d assumed¬†my aching attempts at normal French conversation reflected my general aptitude. This must be how blind people feel when others shout at them in slow, simple language. Or immigrants, when natives assume that their fractured grammar represents how¬†their whole brain operates.

Eh, I complain because it’s entertaining, but I’m actually enjoying this class a great deal. I like being forced to learn something new. You see, I spend most of my time around toddlers, and while I love my kids to pieces and cherish the time I spend with them, it’s not exactly an intellectual challenge, right about now. For example, I spent the bulk of¬†today’s¬†afternoon helping my 3-year-old practice writing her name, which consisted of her randomly scribbling on a paper then looking really proud of her alphabet mastery. Essentially, she was me in French class, except she’s blissfully unaware of how far off she is, whereas I can’t help but catch every micro-condescension in my French teacher’s eyes.

But in addition to taking the French class, I’ve also started waking up early to work out. You may be wondering why, given my obvious night-owl tendencies…

You see, I decided to start exercising more and eating better after my five-year-old started asking me if she was going to get a new baby sister.

“No,” I told her. “Daddy and I are happy with two girls. We aren’t going to have another baby.”

“But your belly is sooo…¬†BIG. Like when you were making Bridget.”

Sigh.

“No, I’m not having another baby.”

“But it’s getting BIGGER and BIGGER!”

Frankly, I think she’s being a bit of a weight Nazi, because I’ve only put on around ten pounds or so.

Maybe 15. Okay, maybe it’s 15 and I happen to think 15 pounds from skinniness is a little premature to start asking your mom whether she’s¬†pregnant. Still, I read something about how only yoga pants and toddlers tell the truth and figure if your belly is getting big enough for your kids to notice it, it’s probably time to jump on it before it becomes a larger issue.

And it could be worse, given that¬†she’s also been asking her dad if he’s making her a baby brother, since she assumes¬†women make girls while¬†men make boys. Which makes primitive sense, assuming¬†you don’t fully understand the process.

So, I’ve recently embarked on a P90x exercise routine in the mornings, because doing it anytime later throws off my entire¬†day, as well as a bold attempt at eating better. The whole process has made me reflect on how much easier it is to get fat and out of shape once you have kids.

I plan to talk about it in my next posting.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Should Couples Sleep in Separate Rooms?

usCoverIf you’ve been on the internet today, you’ve probably read the shocking news about Donald and Melania sleeping in separate rooms.

It’s everywhere right now: NO PILLOW TALK FOR PRESIDENT! His marriage must be hanging by a thread!

Well, maybe it is and maybe it isn’t.

But I wouldn’t pin it on whether or not they keep separate bedrooms, because my marriage is doing just fine and my husband and I…

… have our own bedrooms too.

shocked.pngI’ve hidden this fact for a long time, for reasons the current media explosion is making obvious: I didn’t want people whispering about how my husband and I were probably having marital problems and were maybe even headed for divorce.

Because sleeping in separate bedrooms is strangely taboo. It makes people think your marriage lacks intimacy.

So I kept it quiet until the day I moved next door to the kind of neighbor who would march through your house, taking inventory, until she couldn’t help noticing two master rooms with giant beds in them.

She’s exactly the kind of neighbor I’ve desperately needed. The kind who knows everyone in the neighborhood: where they live, what they do, how they’re currently fixing up their house and what kinds of BS problems they’ve been having with the school district. The kind whose confident, direct approach could be the perfect Yang to my Yin-like ballet of barely grasping what color car anyone drives and fretting about how anything I might say could possibly offend someone. (Did I say ‘hi’ wrong? Did they just give me a weird look?)

Well, I respect that kind of of forthright honesty and couldn’t bring myself to counter it with a bunch of lies. We were going to be living next door to each other for a long time and I could tell we were going to be friends, so why start out with some Three’s Company-style charade?

That’s John’s room, and mine is upstairs…

She looked at me sideways until I told her, “He snores, and I’m an insomniac.”

And that’s pretty much how it happened, how I came out about our separate bedrooms deal.

How it all began

My husband and I never intended to sleep in separate rooms. We slowly evolved this peaceful arrangement after our bedroom had turned into a nightly battlefield.

You see, I’m a hardcore night owl, chronic insomniac and very light sleeper.  He, on the other hand, is a champion snorer who can wake you up through three closed doors, from a different story of the house.

He also considers his sleep utterly sacred. “Like a religion,” to quote him exactly, which makes him prone to extreme grumpiness whenever woken up in the middle of the night by my tossing and turning or because, say, I needed him to roll on his side because my ears wouldn’t quit bleeding.

I used to stare at him at 4:30 in the morning, irrationally resenting how easily he could just drift off like that and reminding myself how wrong it would be to shove a pillow over his face right now.

I felt horrible about being mad at him for something he couldn’t help, but I was just…

so    t i r e d.

insomnia cat
(My sleep-avenging insomniac superhero fantasy self)
We tried everything. Earplugs, nose-strips, even sinus surgery. None of it worked. Turns out, they’d have to reset his entire jaw to fix the problem and it wasn’t worth the risks.

It finally all came crashing down one night when I was pregnant, in that brutal late period of pregnancy where nothing is ever comfortable and you find yourself overheated, aching and flipping into broken starfish positions across your bed, trying against hope for a few sweet hours of oblivion as your baby keeps digging her foot into the underside of your ribs…

It was during these painful hours of sweaty exhaustion, when his spoon-in-the-garbage-disposal snore was pushing and pulling two inches away from my ringing ears like Satan’s own accordion, that I finally snapped:

“I’m sorry, but you have GOT to GO.” (Before I kill you, darling.)

Either pitying me or fearing for his life, the poor guy relocated to the couch.

Well, the couch kept happening until it turned into a futon that turned into the office converted into another bedroom. Then we ended up buying a house with a serendipitous second master bedroom and could finally stop pretending that this sleeping apart thing was a temporary deal.

Some unforeseen perks

Although my husband and I started sleeping in separate rooms for purely practical reasons, we’ve discovered the arrangement offers real  perks beyond being able to get a decent night’s sleep.

You see, one of the coolest parts of being single is having complete dominion over your own territory. Being married means companionship, but you can sometimes lose all of your personal space, which is probably why couples tend to carve out man caves and femme dens.

On the other hand, having your own room means:

 

unicorns
(My room)
You can express your decorating style without having to compromise with anyone. My bedroom involves a bathtub with peach curtains and chandeliers. I keep fresh flowers on my coffee table, next to a tea set and whatever fluffy indulgences make me happy.

My two daughters call my room the “girl clubhouse” and like to hang out on my flowery bedspread with all of our cats, purring in harmony around the throbbing pinkness of my rose-strewn monument to glittery estrogen. The whole place reeks of vintage movie stars and unicorn magic.

Meanwhile, my husband can put up that monkey-drinking-booze poster that that he finds hilarious without me giving him crap about it. His place is one big Testoster-oni treat of electronic wires, open closets, spread-out zombie comics and tiny hair shavings.

He can leave his underwear on the floor or refuse to change his sheets until they don’t bend anymore if he wants to and I don’t have to care, just as he doesn’t have to deat with having a thousand throw pillows in his way.

 

Screen Shot 2017-03-23 at 5.40.32 PM
“Hold on… I need a sec before we get started”
We don’t have to watch each other clip our toenails or nose hairs, because we have separate, private places in which to do these things. Kind of like when we were dating and didn’t have to watch every nasty step of each other’s transformation. We can still pretend to just wake up like that.

Having separate bedrooms doesn’t mean we can’t still visit. Or even stay a while.

But it’s not a given. You’re on boy or girl territory with a temporary visa.

Maybe that sounds cold, but it’s actually fun. It keeps you courting… you can’t juse scratch your butt before Dutch-ovening your partner while knowing they’ll have to put up with it. Unless neither of you minds, I guess.

Keeping a little mystery can bring dating excitement back to the marriage. You still have private territory. Your own identity. Your own refuge to think or read or do whatever without having to entertain anyone else. 

Maybe we should rethink the separate bedrooms taboo. It may not be right for everyone, but it doesn’t obviously mean a marriage is falling apart.

So stop being so judgey, people. You just made me defend Donald and Melania Trump.

 

 

5 Ways I Like To Pretend I’m Filthy Rich

“Gratitude is riches” -Doris Day

Let’s say, for the sake of argument, that you’re browsing your Facebook feed when you come across a bunch of photos of your friend Alex deep-sea diving in New Zealand. Why look, the whole family is there… all bronzed and smiling.

vacationYou’re happy for Alex. Really. Because Alex is¬†your buddy and you think it’s awesome to go to¬†New Zealand, just like it was awesome when he went to¬†Copenhagen a few months back.

Not that you’d know, having never been to either place yourself. (You start counting the years since you’ve been on vacation…)

And then, before checking your bank account to make sure the Netflix charges cleared, you read about¬†how Gwyneth Paltrow believes in steaming her hoo-ha before¬†¬†advertising $900 casual slip-dresses made for 5’9” models with 32” chests on her website Goop, like¬†these would be¬†reasonable options¬†for any¬†normal person¬†to consider.

Does it bug you? Does it bug you that it bugs you?

Well, don’t worry, because it’s completely normal. You see, researchers have found that money doesn’t buy happiness after all… unless¬†we have more of it than our¬†friends and colleagues do. We care most about how we’re doing compared to everyone else around us.

Which makes sense.¬†I mean, if everyone in the village has two goats and your family has FOUR, then you’re probably feeling pretty successful and respect-worthy until someone in the village¬†builds a skyscraper.

But that skyscraper family needs love too. Look,¬† I’m not trying to be intimidating, but¬†I’ve¬† got some pretty impressive resources myself. I have assets¬†that have only been available to an elite percentage of lucky¬†people…

That is, as long as¬†you’re counting all the people who have ever lived since the beginning of time. Which I am.

Laugh at my adorably child-like imagination if you must, but comparing myself to people who lived hundreds of years ago makes me feel a whole lot better than reading about the Kardashian sisters’ weekly armpit-bleaching (I may have made that last part up, but you get my drift).

Plus, it means feeling filthy rich every time that I:

1. Eat Oranges

My darling mother-in-law from North Carolina recently visited, seeing our new house for the very first time.

She was most gracious about it, but what seemed to truly impress her most was the orange tree we have in our backyard. Imagine seeing an orange tree through your bathroom window, she sighed wistfully.

Now, growing up near towns with names like “Citrus Heights” has left me somewhat oblivious to my¬†backyard citrus privileges,¬†but seeing her perspective helped¬†me realize how unusual it actually is…¬†Oh yeah, people used to receive¬†oranges in Christmas stockings, back when they were an enormous deal because non-local goods were really expensive.¬†

In fact, Marie Antoinette, who’s the very symbol of whimsical¬†decadence¬†if anyone is, had orange trees from Spain and Portugal wheeled into the gardens of Versailles in planter boxes every morning from their warming rooms, as a statement of her fabulous access to luxury goods.

And here I am, staring at oranges from my bathroom window. Like a BOSS.

2.  Drink Hot Chocolate

History-of-chocolate-franceThe-Family-of-the-Duke-of-Penthi√®vre-tasse-du-chocolat-jean-paul-charpentierI like to start my day with a nice cup of hot chocolate, like it’s no big deal at all.

But this habit would’ve once pegged me as a pampered aristocrat.

 

Because chocolate used to be unbelievably expensive. The Aztecs believed it was a divine gift and used it for currency.

It first appeared at the French court of Versailles in 1666, during the wedding of Louis XIII and Anne of Austria. Versailles, of course, was world-renowned for ridiculous self-indulgences and nearly pornographic levels of luxury at the time.

And even THEY were impressed by chocolate. After¬†Louis XIV’s married Marie Th√©r√®se of Spain, who loved the stuff,¬†the king granted¬†the first chocolate manufacturer in France, David Chaillou, a monopoly, which kept chocolate unbelievably expensive for a very long time.

Yet here I am, starting each day with a heaping cup of chocolate, the 17th century equivalent of breakfasting on Beluga caviar sprinkled in gold dust while setting hundred dollar bills on fire.

3.  Pepper My Food

Black pepper (Piper nigrum) is the dried spice everyone keeps in half of their salt and pepper shakers. Nowadays, it’s the bare minimum of any spice collection, something found on every table at¬†any truck stop in any random¬†backwater town.

But it used to be something only insanely wealthy people could afford to use.

In fact, the Dutch still¬†use the expression ‚Äúpeperduur,” which means¬†“pepper expensive,” to refer to outrageously costly¬†things. It’s a holdover from earlier times, when pepper was literally more valuable than gold.¬†It’s rumored that Alaric I, King of the Visigoths, and¬†Attila, who ruled the Huns, both demanded ransoms of black pepper in exchange for stopping their attacks on Rome during¬†the 5th century.

4.  Salt My Food

What-Salt-Bae-MemeThe word “salary” is actually derived from the word salt, coming from the Latin “salarium,” or¬†“money to buy salt with.” Apparently, people used to picture incomes in terms of how much salt they¬†could buy.

Salt is vital. It preserves food and makes it taste good. People care about it so much that salt taxes lead to revolutions… like how the French Gabelle led to the French Revolution, or how Gandhi’s¬†defiance of the salt tax led to Indian¬†independence from Britain.

Salt is sacred. Greek, Jewish, Catholics, Buddhists, Tibetans,followers of Shinto, Southwest Native Americans, and other religious groups historically involved salt in holy rituals.

And yet, I can boast an embarrassing wealth¬†of saltiness. I have table salt, Kosher salt, and two kinds of sea salt at my disposal… I can throw salt into my baths, as well as on my food. I can buy a HUGE amount of salt, more salt than I could use in years,¬†and I don’t even run around bragging about it.

5.  Flip On the Air-Conditioning

For most of human history, we’ve had to live¬†in the elements the best that we could.

If it was snowing, we could build shelters, sew thick clothing, wrap ourselves in furs, or build a fire.

But if¬†it was blisteringly¬†hot, there wasn’t much we could do, except not wear a bunch of clothes (I’m talking to you, Victorian England).

Or we could buy ice.

Thing is,¬†ice harvesting used to be extremely dangerous–huge blocks of ice could accidentally slide onto the workers and crush them–yet incredibly profitable. Ice merchants got rich during¬†the 19th century, reaching peak competition in¬†the 1860’s when the industry pulled in $28 million ($660 million in today’s terms).

Before that, there wasn’t much people could do to deal with the heat, apart from jumping in the lake or making someone wave a fan at you.

So whenever I flip on the air-conditioning, it’s basically the new world equivalent of filling the room with expensive ice cubes or having a team of servants waving a bunch of ostrich feathers in my¬†face.

I should probably be reclining on a couch and eating grapes whenever I do it.

Don’t Hate

These are just a few of the ways I like to pretend I’m a powerful empress in the ancient world. Just think about how impressed medieval people would be if they travelled forward in time to behold the splendor of my lifestyle.

But don’t be jealous. You’re probably an aristocrat too.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Let’s Call A Truce For International Women’s Day!

It’s International Women’s Day, but you’d hardly know it from the way¬†endless arguments about women’s choices keep¬†exploding the internet.

In fact, many women are on strike today, which will undoubtedly receive ample criticism in the days to come.

Why? Because we keep shaming¬†each other like it’s an Olympic event. Both the left and right accuse recent women’s marchers of showing their privilege, Adele fans are¬†fighting with Beyonce fans, and Emma Watson made¬†everyone clutch their pearls¬†at her topless¬†Vanity Fair¬†cover, many demanding that she hand in her feminist card.

And the mommy wars haven’t stopped either….

officers-celebrate-at-captured-german-canteen.jpg

Hey, we all have to make tough choices in our lives, each¬†involving unique hardships and challenges. So instead of fighting, I’d like to take a moment today to appreciate all the other women out there.¬†Especially the ones who are typically at war:

Child-free Women

You guys are bucking the trend, facing criticism from everyone who believes any “normal” woman’s primary focus should be on¬†having children. You’re changing¬†ancient¬†stereotypes about¬†women being¬†walking uteri¬†while creating more¬†independence and career opportunities for future women everywhere.

old maid.jpg
If only you had the right lipstick…

We don’t ALL need to have kids, and I thank you for bearing with those of us who are trying desperately to calm ours down at the restaurant or grocery store. Your taxes help pay for the next generation’s education too, so I thank you for being team¬†players who are contributing to the group at large.

 

Plus, there didn’t used to be many options for women who didn’t want to focus on being moms, and that’s unfair. Our wages were pitiful, we were locked out of many career tracks, and were eventually viewed as old maids¬†trying our best to scrape together something resembling a life after clearly being unable to land a man.

Thank you so much for helping to change this.

Single Moms

You guys have it ROUGH. You’ve got the pro-life crowd demanding you see every pregnancy through, regardless of circumstance, while experts demand you leave¬†dysfunctional relationships or marriages, and then your morality is considered questionable after following everyone’s advice.

I have a hard enough time raising kids with a supportive partner, so I can’t imagine dealing with a screaming kid for hours, day after day, all by yourself… no one to shoulder the burden for a bit, while you regain your sanity. I honesty don’t know how you do it, but I’m impressed as hell that you keep it together the way you do.

Stay-At-Home Moms

Kids are a nearly-endless pool of energy and irrational desires. It’s DRAINING to take care of kids all day, Sisyphean at times… you slave over¬†meals they refuse to eat or even throw on the floor. You clean out¬†bodies and butts that get dirty five minutes later. You spend hours trying to either figure out why they won’t stop yelling, dumping out every jar in the house, or trying¬†to stick silverware in the light sockets, only to relive the cycle again and again.

Trying to keep¬†a house with little kids in it clean is like trying to file a huge stack of papers in front of high-powered fans. You can spend the entire day on your feet: chasing kids, putting out high-priority fires, and never getting a break, only to feel like you’ve accomplished nothing at the end of it.

And meanwhile, everyone’s rolling their eyes about how you’ve probably been eating bon-bons and watching soap operas all day, while assuming you’d undoubtedly be doing something more important (i.e. better paid) if you had the skills for it. It’s tough to be¬†a SAHM in a society that equates work with identity, but you’re still doing important work. Otherwise, we wouldn’t have to pay other people to it.

Working Moms

You guys are troopers, taking on a full work week during¬†the day, then spending your evenings raising your kids. While SAHM’s don’t always get to take breaks, they do get some control over their own schedules, whereas you’re locked into a sunrise-to-sunset grind from the moment your alarm first starts screaming.

The American workplace doesn’t accommodate parenthood nearly as well as the rest of the developed world. You weren’t necessarily given much maternity leave, if any at all, and may have a brutal time reconciling your work schedule with the needs of your family without either shortchanging your kids or damaging¬†your upward mobility. It’s a constant tightrope walk.

Meanwhile, you’re being¬†shamed about letting strangers raise your kids, as if it were always a choice. Keeping a roof over their heads and food on the table is probably a higher priority, right?

And even if it is a choice, what’s wrong with being invested in your career? Maybe you’ve worked long and hard to get where you are and didn’t stop caring about it the moment¬†you had a baby. Why doesn’t anyone question working fathers like this?

Breastfeeding Moms

bf.jpgEven though it sounds like the most natural thing in the world, breastfeeding can be incredibly challenging. The technique is tricky to master, it HURTS for the first few weeks, and it’s very easy to get discouraged and give up.

It also takes an enormous amount of time. You have to breastfeed babies every couple of hours, which makes it tough to do much else. Doing so in public makes many people uncomfortable, which means you’re either living under house arrest for the better part of a year, or suffering lots of uncomfortable stares from people who find it disgusting.

But experts now recommend it as the healthiest way to feed your infant, so you’re working hard to do right by your kid. Good luck, and keep your chin up.

Formula-feeding Moms

food-drink-world_of_cow-cowtoons-forumla_milks-baby_formula-cow-01238016_low.jpgSince experts now strongly encourage¬†breastfeeding, moms who use formula also face loads of social disapproval, even the unspoken suggestion that they’re¬†lazy or don’t care about their¬†baby’s health.

And that’s an incredibly painful judgment, especially if you really wanted to breastfeed but couldn’t build up enough milk or had a baby with¬†latching issues. Beyond that, there’s a good chance you had to go straight back to work, which makes it exponentially harder.

Pumping enough milk takes more time than I can imagine being available to you at a full-time job, even with breaks, and women who try are looked down upon by their coworkers. It’s also much tougher to produce milk for a machine than a baby. Many moms smell their baby’s clothing or look at baby pictures when they try because the right mindset helps. I have the deepest respect for¬†any working moms who manage it at all.

It’s easy to feel like a failure when you feed your baby formula, but don’t. Many, many generations of healthy babies were raised on formula and your kids will be¬†absolutely¬†¬†fine.

Liberal Moms

It’s a bad time right now for liberals in America. Our side lost, and the entire government is packed with members of the other team.

And now we’re fighting amongst ourselves as we scramble to understand how it all happened. There’s a lot of finger-pointing going on, many calling another subgroup the weak link in the chain as we splinter into warring factions. Was it racism? Was it elitism? Was it the failure to focus on the economy or the failure to do what we were doing even harder?

I don’t know, but I hope we don’t cannibalize ourselves in the process. We’ve got to keep our heads in the game, guys. That win margin was awfully narrow.

Conservative Moms

I may not be on your team, but I’m friends with many of your teammates.

In other words, we may not back the same horse, but we often have similar values. I think most of us want to live in a world where people don’t fear for their safety, where they can be productive and take care of their families, and where our kids can grow up with a good education and ample opportunity.

We both want less crime, fewer unwanted pregnancies, healthy people, and a healthy economy where we can live comfortably after putting in a hard day’s work.

We both want these things, even if we have different ideas about how we can get there. Maybe it’s naive, but I’m really hoping we can both learn to start talking to each other instead of demonizing the other side. I think we’ve probably got more in common than we realize, because it’s usually the extremists taking up all the air in the room.

Besides, we’ve kind of been forced to pick teams in the grand Super Bowl that is American politics. I’ll bet most Americans aren’t 100 % strict adherents to EVERY last position and theory spouted off by their political camp.¬†¬†Most are probably more moderate than that, which means we have some common ground to logically hash out some of these issues.

In short, I think we’d all do well to recognize that while we face some hardships, everyone else has hardships of their own. We’re all doing the best we can with what we’ve got, so maybe we could put down our arms and try to understand someone else’s perspective, while giving ourselves a break at the same time.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Bubbles and Beebots In the News!

Yesterday¬†was Bridget’s 3rd birthday. She spent¬†the¬†daylight hours indulging¬†in cookies, cat-stalking and sunshine in the¬†kind of present-moment-savoring paradise that¬†most adults wish they still had the freedom to enjoy.

She was playing on¬†the porch swing when her big sister Bront√ę put one of Douglas’s dog toys in her mouth, barking and crawling around on the ground.

Oh gross, I chuckled. Bront√ę, put the dog toy down!

She did. We later went inside to start the birthday celebrations, the girls forgetting all¬†about the dog toy incident… until a startling discovery the very next morning:

 

That’s right.

A photo of Bront√ę with a dog toy in her mouth splashed across the front page of the The Sacramento Bee¬†today, visible from every newspaper stand in town.

I’ll admit to being a little¬†bit mortified.

And it’s not that I don’t believe most little kids have had far worse in their mouths at some point (kids chew on everything); it’s that random snapshots of our lives can create unbalanced impressions. I didn’t want people thinking I routinely let my kids chew on dog toys that have been sitting outside in the dirt because that’s not usually how we spend our time.

This idea didn’t bother Bront√ę at all, however. She was too busy being thrilled by¬†her joke making the local news. She grabbed a paper and spent the next couple of hours running up to strangers to point out her featured photo. “It’s SO FUNNY,”¬†she kept telling them. “They put it IN THE¬†PAPER!”

img_4936
My girls become local celebrities.

Now, you may be wondering how this all came about…

Months ago, I wrote a blog post called Americans Are Too Damn Clean, inspired by parents who get rid of pets during pregnancies or use hand sanitizer before handling infants from what I consider to be good intentions gone awry, encouraged by our national tendency toward germ paranoia.

In it, I bring up scientific studies showing how kids who grow up around pets actually have fewer allergies, lower rates of asthma and eczema, and better gut ecosystems. No need to get rid of your pets.

Apparently, the Health Reporter for The Sacramento Bee came across my article and was intrigued. She called me for an interview and to set up an appointment to take photos of my girls being natural kids in a laid-back environment around a mom who would let them get dirty.

img_4850
Wondering how this will all be spun.

And Bront√ę, being the natural performer that she is, supplied the piece de resistance by chewing on a dog toy for the cameras, which ended up being¬†a teaser on the front page. Oh, and she also grabbed the camera from the cameraman when he wasn’t looking and snapped some photos of me. Luckily, he was a really nice guy who has twin 8-year-old girls of his own, so he completely understood.

Fortunately, the article didn’t portray me as a filthy lunatic, just a mom who wasn’t convinced that disinfecting everything was the best idea. It was on the first page of the section section and the online version is here: Are Your Kids Too Clean? Microbiome Research Reveals Dangers of Killing Germs.

The only real bummer is how the reporter promised to mention Bubbles and Beebots in the article, which would’ve been great press in a nationally-known newspaper… especially since I live just outside of Sacramento, talk about the area from time to time, and since some of the studies mentioned in the article came straight out of my blog post. There’s a link included on¬†the online version, yet¬†the actual newspaper only¬†referred to me as a parenting blogger.

Dang. Well, maybe the editor cut it. You never know.

At any rate, I think it’s pretty cool that Bridget’s birthday will be forever remembered as the day before she appeared in the local paper. She seems to think it’s pretty cool too.

img_4944

 

What Do Our Family Values Really Mean?

As anyone who follows my blog probably knows, I like to talk about the funny side of raising kids. That’s why I started it: I want to remember these wonderful things, years from now, after sleep deprivation and everyday life would’ve made¬†me forget.

Plus,¬†in a world of constant political debate, I figure the hilarity of parenting brings people¬†together. No matter what side of the aisle you’re on, we all love our kids. So¬†I mostly try to keep things light.

But tonight, I need to get something off my chest.

A fellow blogger recently wrote a piece about our health care system. She’s a hospital student intern trying to figure out who qualifies for Medicaid waivers and who doesn’t… struggling to navigate our complex health care system and deal with turning people away.

And her piece really struck a nerve.

My husband works for the State of California, which means we have health insurance. Unlike 13 percent of pregnant American women, we were lucky enough to have access to prenatal care when we found ourselves suddenly dealing with an unplanned pregnancy.

I had regular checkups, blood tests, and ultrasounds, for which we paid nothing.

Proper prenatal care reduces the incidence and severity of a staggering number of complications. Luckily, I had a healthy pregnancy. Unlike many American families, we have enough means for me to eat properly, do prenatal yoga, and otherwise take good care of myself.

img_0504I also didn’t have to work right up until delivery, or get fired for trumped-up reasons because my employer didn’t want to deal with maternity hassles, leaving us in dire economic straights just before¬†facing parenthood…

Even so, we found ourselves in a life-or-death situation when Bront√ę was being born.

Most first-time moms have long, protracted labors that take hours upon hours to complete. Not me.

No, by the time I realized I was in labor, I was screaming in the car while my husband desperately tried to drive us to a hospital in time.

By the time we stumbled in the door, it was too late for an epidural. They could feel our baby’s head as I was collapsing on the floor.

Something was wrong.

I knew something was wrong because¬†the blur of doctors surrounding me felt¬†panicked. They told me they couldn’t hear the baby’s heartbeat right before slapping a mask on my face that knocked me into total unconsciousness.

Twenty minutes later, I woke up in indescribable pain to see my baby next to me.

Her eyes were wet and shining. I clawed the air around her, trying to grab her, until they pumped enough drugs in me to make it possible.

As I held her on my chest for the first time, the doctors told me she had been turned backwards, that every labor contraction was slowing down her heart and they had to perform an emergency C-section before she went braindead.

If we hadn’t made it to a hospital, or got there fifteen minutes later, she would have died inside me and I would have probably bled out.

img_4278And I try not to think about that when watching her beaming 4-year-old face as she teases our kitties or perfects her Silly Dance. Because thinking about it means breaking into choking sobs, imagining her tiny eyes being cold and dead instead of blinking and shiny.

I know I’ve made cracks at the expense of women who love the idea of natural childbirth or having babies at home, but there’s fear behind these¬†jokes.

Fact is, many American women resort to having their babies at home because of our staggering medical costs. America is, by far, the most expensive place to have a baby. Bills range from $10,000 for a complication-free, routine delivery to well over $100,000.

Of course, that doesn’t take into account the complications that might’ve been prevented with proper prenatal care.

Which is perhaps why we have embarrassingly bad maternal and infant mortality rates. Despite the high cost of delivery, the US has a far higher infant mortality rate than any of the other 27 wealthy nations studied by the CDC.

Our babies are three times as likely to die as those¬†born in Finland or Japan.¬†Even though we’re the wealthiest nation in the world.

And if I wasn’t lucky enough to have access to health care, I’d be part of that statistic too. Even as a married, educated woman of reasonable means, who appeared to have a healthy pregnancy.

We ended up being okay, by the skin of our teeth, but change one sliding door in our path to parenting and it all would’ve ended in tragedy.

As it does, all the time, in our wealthy country where people don’t have access to healthcare.

This is wrong.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

7 Dark Confessions of a Suburban Momma

Hello everyone, hope you guys all had a great Labor Day weekend!

We spent ours cold chillin’ in middle-class suburbia, wearing our gangsta yoga pants and showing our house to potential buyers. A couple deals have fallen through, the new school year is upon us, and it looks like we may be staying here for a while yet… may as well represent.

Meanwhile, I found out about the PostSecret art project. Have you guys heard about this?¬†People write their secrets on anonymous postcards then send them in where everyone can read them.¬†It’s weirdly fascinating.

Some secrets are really sad, while¬†others are just quirky and adorable. Either way, it’s¬†probably therapeutic for everyone involved. Participants¬†get things¬†off their chests and everyone else gets to see our fellow¬†humans¬†being vulnerable.

It got me thinking about the stuff I’m hiding too. Stuff that’s been secretly nagging at me. ¬†Stuff that doesn’t comport¬†with my tribe.

And I finally figured I’d feel better if I just came out and said it.

So here goes:

1- I’ve always used those vinegar-and-water mixes or cleaners with essential oils to clean my house. They smell pretty and won’t hurt the environment and the non-toxic ingredients pose no threat to my kitties or kids.

Then last week, my husband mopped the floor with buckets of PineSol and it looks brand new. Our house has never looked better. Natural cleaners are crap.

i-need-to-start-eating-more-healthy-ecard.jpg2- I’ve always been big on the benefits of eating whole, unprocessed food. I spent the last decade cooking all my meals from scratch, using olive oil (never butter), fresh produce from farmers’ markets and I never ate sugar or boxed, processed food.

But this¬†past year, I’ve snapped.¬†¬†I started eating donuts for breakfast and have had WAY too many frozen pizzas and Cool Ranch fiesta tacos. I just had a physical and not only have I lost thirty pounds, but¬†my cholesterol has dropped from borderline high to fantastic.

Apparently, calories DO count.

3- I’ve always loved natural medicine and have tried using chamomile tea, melatonin, and valerian root¬†to deal with my insomnia issues.

And… they’re mostly useless. They’re the mad ravings of a bra-less hippie vegan¬†who uses crystal deodorant in her pits. None of them come anywhere close to¬†a good hit of Ambien. Long live prescription drugs.

 

Pregnant-Meme-Natural-Child-Birth4- Natural childbirth sounds doesn’t sound like a beautiful natural experience to me, just an endless, nightmarish torture that makes you beg for the sweet release of death.

Lots of women tried to talk me into natural childbirth while I was pregnant, but they sounded like that evil puppet-master mean girl in junior high who would talk you into asking out your crush just so she could watch the preteen jungle kill your self-esteem. Kill it with fire.

Seriously, when I got to the hospital in heavy labor and was told¬†it was too late for epidurals, I honestly¬†considered ramming my head into the wall until I¬†knocked myself unconscious.¬†I also thought about attacking the hospital staff so they’d be forced to give me drugs.

5- I really feel like I’m the kind of person who should like indie labels, but whenever I try to get into indie music, I get angry¬†about¬†how¬†whiney and boring most of it sounds.

And then I end up rocking out to happy, top 40 pop songs, or the kind of screaming¬†rock you’d expect a 90’s frat guy to like.¬†Shut up.

Wake_up_responsible_Funny_Meme.jpg6- I hate waking up early and nothing will ever, ever change that.

7- Whenever I see people jogging at 5 AM or biking up incredibly vertical hills, I wonder why they hate themselves so much.

Maybe they’re¬†just trying to get in shape, but I’m picturing someone with a guilty conscience trying to balance the cosmic books via pain. I’m wondering what they did that made them feel biking around San Francisco was somehow warranted.
Whew… that felt good. Kind of an Emperor’s New Clothes deal.

What about you? Is your life experience making you question some of the¬†theories you’e held onto? Some of the sacred cows of your social set?

Sometimes it’s fun to just say it out loud.

I’M REPRESENTING LIBERAL MOMS IN MIDDLE-CLASS SUBURBIA AND YOU KNOW WHAT? KALE TASTES LIKE CRAP.

 

Do Bubbles Really Cause Obesity?

Every once in a while, we long-suffering bloggers check our WordPress stats and are thrilled by a sudden explosion of new views or followers.

That’s probably the most awesome thing that can happen to bloggers when checking out our stats,  but a close second has got to be finding out the search terms people used to find our blogs.

Because those can be downright hilarious.

bubbles
Don’t do it, kid! Save yourself!

Like tonight, when someone inadvertently navigated to my site after asking the internet whether bubbles cause obesity.

I just… can’t make heads or tails of this idea.

I mean, I get the logistics of the search results (my blog has “bubbles” in the title and I guess I’ve talked about dieting and obesity a couple of times), but what’s really throwing me is the idea that someone, somewhere, is genuinely wondering whether bubbles may be responsible for their weight problem.

What kind of bubbles are they even envisioning? Spit bubbles? Soap bubbles? The kind of bubbles you played with as a kid?

Is there some kind of granola-hippie nut job  out there suggesting that chemicals in children’s bubble formulas are responsible for the obesity epidemic in America today?

Have you tried losing weight only to watch each diet fail, time and time again? Well, stop torturing yourself, my friend! There’s no need to feel guilty…  you’ve been a victim of the Great Bubble Conspiracy. Once released from the nefarious bubbesphere, you’ll see pounds melt off effortlessly, without changing your lifestyle or spending countless hours at the gym!

I seriously doubt bubbles have anything to do with gaining weight, unless the bubbles in question are the bubbles in bubble tea. Because those have a startling number of calories.

Sheesh, these weight-loss gimmicks are getting weird.

 

 

 

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.