Sunday, December 19, 2010

Don't Ask Don't Tell

So it looks like the US is set to overturn the highly controversial Don't Ask Don't Tell Policy that was made law in 1993. I distinctly remember being a junior in high school and not understanding why the policy was necessary. Did people think that gay people hadn't served in the military before? Why why this policy suddenly needed? Everyone in the military has served with gay people, whether they were out or not, did they think that there would be less gay people because of the policy?

The only thing the policy did was reinforce that gay people were less than straight people in this country. That it was OK to be gay if you hid it. That when a bigot killed a person they suspected of being gay it was that person's fault for acting gay. If you have a problem with gay people then you are the one who should be punished and kicked out of the military. By kicking gay people out because ignorant people were uncomfortable with their presence you are telling gay people that they will be held accountable for the stupidity of others. That we can't expect people to be tolerant of people that are different from them.

The arguments from the people who didn't want the policy repealed are very similar to the arguments against letting blacks and women having equal rights. There are still people who kill people because of race and sex but we don't tell the victims it's their fault for being being black or female. We shouldn't prevent people from living free lives because it might make some people uncomfortable. There are people who stare at my husband and I when we hold hands. People who are blatantly rude simply because we are an interracial couple. It bothers me that these people exist but it doesn't make me let go of my husbands hand.

About an hour north of Syracuse, is Fort Drum Army base. This morning they interviewed three different people who lived at the base to get their opinion of the policy. They picked three people who represented the most ignorant arguments that I have heard against overturning the policy. New York is a very liberal state, particularly upstate New York where I live. It was distressing that the three people that they chose don't properly represent this state.

The first person was an older veteran. He had a long beard, a leather vest and a bandanna (very biker look). He said that when he was in the military there were homosexuals and those people got sent to the hospital; that's just how things went sometimes. I'm happy that this person is too old to serve in the military. But you know that person, and people like him, raise ignorant kids who have the same views or disown their kids when they come out to them. It wouldn't be a surprise if this person wore a sheet on the weekend and burned crosses in front of people's houses.

The second person was in his early 20's and he said that he didn't believe in "it" because that's how he was raised. OK, so you are against homosexuality as a lifestyle. What does that have to do with some one's ability to serve in the military? That person isn't going to stop being gay just because they aren't in the military. Gay people are still going to exist. You cannot force the entire country to live life based on your personal religious or moral bigotry.

The third person was also in his early 20's and he said that he was okay with it as long as "they" didn't hit on him. That's right because every gay person hits on every straight person. Because gay people are obsessed with having sex and cannot control themselves when they are around people of the same sex. Because when you're hunkered down in a foxhole with someone trying to avoid enemy fire their only focus is on getting into your pants. Don't flatter yourself.

When I was in college there was a big deal made of a woman trying to join the Citadel. The administrators at the southern, military school said that she would be a distraction to the other cadets. That they could not guarantee her safety and that their facilities were not set up to accommodate women. In the end she won her lawsuit and opened up the Citadel to women. She didn't graduate because the harassment was too much for her to handle. But many other women have gone on to attend and graduate from the Citadel.

A woman attending the Citadel is not longer such a novelty. Future generations won't be able to imagine not serving next to female class mates. I hope that is how we look back on gays in the military. That we think of the 17 years when we kicked 13,500+ people out of the military simply for being suspected of being gay as a dark time in this country's history. That it is grouped together with other major civil rights milestones.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

More Amazing Race

Season 17 just ended. At the beginning of the season my husband and I thought all the young coupled teams were weak. There seemed to be drama and a total lack of partnership from the very beginning. We both thought this would be the season when a female team won. We were expecting the doctors (who would make a great couple) and the volleyball players to do well and had high hopes for the gay best friends who all seemed very fit. Of course the volleyball players were super cocky and went out early and the gay best friends went out the first episode. But the doctor's did win! They frustrated us by winning a leg and then almost losing the next leg but we loved them as a team and felt like they really cared about each other. And it was nice to see someone with diabetes living such an active life without them hitting you over the head with the diabetes story. We totally fell for the father daughter team of Gary and Mallory and the HSN hosts Brooke and Claire. They were much stronger than we expected and we'd love to see them on an all-star season.

Season 16 had our favorite team of all time: The Cowboys. They were great competitors. They had great personalities and didn't fall into any of the childish games that the other teams played. We also liked the cops, Louie and Michael, and loved to hate the lesbians Carol and Brandy. There is nothing more frustrating than the "alternative team" making a bad name for other people who live an alternative lifestyle. We were surprised by how well Brent and Caite did despite their stereotypical dumb model moments. It was painful to see Joe and Heidi kicked out early with a U-turn but he was an ass so I guess it was karma. They could definitely win if given another chance. We couldn't stand Dan and Jordan, the brothers and eventual winners. Why do so man 20-somethings act like they're still in high school?

Season 2 had our second favorite team of all time: The Miami Diva Gays aka Danny and Oswald. They had the best attitudes. They were hilarious. They kept their sense of humor, they maintained a great friendship and when time allowed they went shopping and got spa treatments along the race. I would love to hang out with them. We had high hopes for Shola and Doyin, the twins, and were hoping they would last longer. Cyndi and Russell, the married pastors, were a team we wanted to hate but they did have a great attitude and a really sweet marriage. It's always nice to see older people that can compete. The former roommates (Gary and Dave) and the separate couple (Tara and Wil) were annoying. We went in and out of liking the uber fit brother and sister team (Blake and Paige). The grandmothers were inspiring but we didn't have any hope for them. We were happy when Chris and Alex, the best friends won, but only because we liked them more than the other teams in the final three.

Season 3 is the last season that we watched before season 17. This season featured the most annoying competitor and worst winner ever. Based on this season all of the rules for future seasons should be set. One team member should not be allowed to complete most of the tasks. Zach and Flo won the race. Flo complete 1 road block. Zach did the other 9. Flo constantly quit the race and Zach often had to physically carry her because she was too lazy to try. I hope he took his half of the money and never spoke to her again. Terri and Ian, the older married couple, started as another couple with a bossy husband and submissive wife but during the season he seemed to realize how important she was and she started to assert herself more. We found ourselves rooting for them more and more as the race wore on and were happy to see them finish second. We liked the brothers, Ken and Gerard, from the beginning but feel like they would have gone further if they didn't get caught up in all the alliance drama. We were hoping than Team 911, Andre and Damon would do better. We also rooted for John Vito and Jill but they often got caught up in the high school b.s. with the other teams jealousy towards the wonder twins, Derek and Drew.

So we've watched 9 seasons of the Amazing Race in 14 months. Eight more past seasons to catch up on and an All-Star Season coming in February. It seems like in recent seasons CBS has skimped on the production of the show. There haven't been 2 hour specials. There haven't been fake pit stops that were actually just the half way point in the race. They have the footage and they definitely have the money. Why not give us a better show like you did in the earlier seasons? They need to stick with making sure each teammate does an equal number of roadblocks and stop equalizing the field at the beginning of every leg. There should be multiple flights. There shouldn't be one team sitting around for 12 hours before a place opens to let all the other teams catch up. I know they have to do it sometimes but if they do it every time it gets annoying.
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Monday, December 13, 2010

The Joys of Marriage

There are many days when I can't believe I ever managed life as a single person. The obvious perk is companionship. Always having a date to weddings. Someone to go with you when you check out that new club/restaurant/play you've been dying to see. A warm body in bed. An ear to listen to you complain about your crappy day. Someone to hold your hand at the doctor's office. A partner in life.

In my marriage I also have the benefit of having a husband who is very handy. I don't have to worry about who's going to cut the grass, snow blow the driveway, clean the gutters, etc. Not to mention all the minor repairs I would have paid a professional to complete that my husband can do.

I hope that my husband thinks of me in a similar way. I do most of the shopping, plan and cook most meals, manage the money, do the laundry and provide most of the care for our pets. When he was single there weren't pets to deal with but I hope that my management of the other household tasks makes up for the additional responsibility of our three pets.

Unfortunately its not all perfect wedded bliss. There are days when I feel like my life is harder to manage than it was when I was single. When it feels like I have a roommate and not a partner. I've had a few of these days in a row and the only way I'm going to get any sleep tonight is to blog about it. Don't get me wrong, I love my husband and there are way more good days than bad days but sometimes he makes me want to scream!

I have the luxury of having a flexible work schedule. I rarely spend more than 24 hours in my office a week. If I have a busy week of traveling and meetings, I can usually take it easy the next week. I work from home as often, if not more, as I go to the office. Sometimes I get cabin fever because I spend so much time in the house alone. I feel like a housewife after too much time alone at home taking care of the pets and the house. I get so excited about my husband coming home and helping out. In my mind, the moment he walks in the door he will notice how clean the house is, how good dinner smells, the pile of clean laundry in his drawer and the fully stocked pantry and be so grateful for this that he will offer to take the dogs out for a long playtime while I enjoy a hot bath. After that he will carry me to the bedroom and make sweet love to me while telling me how much he appreciates me.

Okay, that's not really what I expect but a little bit of that would be nice. My husband works a very physical job and is usually at work 45+ hours a week. When he comes home he sits down and eats dinner and then watches TV until its time to go to bed. The next morning, he might watch another 2-3 hours of TV before getting ready for work. I try not to say anything because I know I've got a really cushy job most days and I recognize how tired he must be. A lot of times my expectation of the relief that I will have when my husband gets home doesn't match up with reality and get frustrated with him. I know it's not fair for me to be angry with him for not living up to my daydream but it's also not fair for him to expect me to give him a free pass in this household.

I recognize that he's not going to be ready to jump up and do something the moment he gets home but after a few hours it starts to get to me. I think that if he sees me doing something productive that will inspire him to do something productive and he will get off the couch and help. That's how my brain works but it's definitely not how his works.

Sunday my husband left the house at 8:45 am and returned home at 8:30 pm. Someone had called out of work so he ended up working later than usual. We sat down and watched TV until 10:30 when he went to bed. This morning my husband's alarm went off at 7 am. After an hour of snooze and sleep he came downstairs made his coffee and sat on the couch to watch TV. He stayed there until it was time for him to take a shower and get ready for work. He left at 10:15 am.

While he was sitting on the couch I took each dog outside for a separate play time and then played with them together inside the house. Then I did the dishes. After that I was a little pissed because I'd been telling him off in my head for the past 15 minutes. I went to sit down and read a magazine to cool off and relax before going to work. About 5 minutes into reading, my husband comes into the bedroom being all cute and kissy face and I'm thinking to myself "Are you f-ing kidding me?". That's not what I said. I didn't say anything. I kissed him back and pretended like everything was okay but if he was paying attention it would have been obvious to him that I was pretending. So not only are you not going to help me but you're going to interrupt the only private time that I've had all morning?

I had meetings after work today and didn't get home until 11 pm. My husband was getting off at 4 pm. Before he left for work this morning I asked him to stop by the pet store and pick up dog food on his way home because otherwise there wouldn't be enough food for the dogs to have dinner or breakfast the next morning. The pet store is literally in the same parking lot as his job. A pretty nasty storm rolled in this evening so on my way home I stopped at the grocery store to pick up milk and a couple of other things we were out of. It was white knuckle driving the whole way home because of the black ice and blowing snow. When I walked in the house I found a sink full of dirty dishes and a note on the door that says "Sorry forgot the dog food, guess I'm a bad husband". My husband is asleep because he has to be at work at 7 am. So there is no chance of him planning on doing any of these things in the morning.

Forgetting the dog food is one thing. Being at home from 4 pm until 10 pm when the pet stores close and not going to get any food is another thing. Not sending me a text message or an e-mail is an even bigger thing since tomorrow I will likely have to drive in a blizzard with several inches of snow on the ground. That's why I picked up the necessities tonight in case we got snowed in. But that's not his problem. I'll go to the pet store tomorrow and get their food. I'll deal with whatever digestive issues they might have from eating a different diet for the past couple meals. I'll get dog food in the morning and then come home to make sure it's here before I leave for work and another late night of meetings. As always, it will be my problem to deal with and not his.

My husband and I have had this argument before so I'm not even going to deal with it. What usually happens is that I get upset that he forgot something or that he isn't helping out. Then he reminds me of how physical his job his and how easy mine is. So then the implication is that I should do more because I have more free time. That he needs more time to decompress after work because of how demanding his job is. Then I usually get the "You know I'm not a dog person/I told you if we got another dog I wasn't going to pitch in more" speech. Then I usually remind him that I'm only asking him to take an hour out of the five hours that he spent on the couch to help out. This sort of passive-aggressive argument goes on for about an hour until we are both sick of it. Then we have an awkward truce where we watch TV and go to bed still frustrated. There might be an apology the next morning or more discomfort but there is never any resolution.

So what tends to happen next is that I become even more obsessive compulsive about making sure everything gets done. I am already a control freak but after one of these incidents I feel like if I don't do it, it won't get done. Then my husband gets frustrated with me for second guessing him all the time. Eventually I let my guard down and ask him to do something and the whole cycle starts all over again.

Tomorrow morning my husband will be all kissy face and act like nothing has happened. I will spend the night tossing and turning and having an argument with him in my head. I might be short with him in the morning but he either won't notice or we'll have an argument about it. Then I'll spend the day stewing every time I do something that he could've done while he was home.

I think the worst part of it is the expectation that he was going to do something. At least when I was single I knew that it was all on my plate and I never relied on anyone to help me out with anything. Marriage gives you the false impression that you have a partner in all aspects of life but that's not the case at all. You have more help in some areas and less help, but more work, in others. What I'd really like to do is go upstairs and take a bath to relax after this long day but I can't because the dogs would run upstairs and play and wake up my husband. So I'll just sit down here and stew because I'm being considerate of his needs even though he clearly doesn't return the favor. F that. I'm taking bath and turning on some relaxing music.

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Sunday, December 12, 2010

My Amazing Race Obsession

My husband and I just started watching The Amazing Race (TAR) in October 2009. We were relaxing in a hotel room after spending the weekend visiting family and flipping through the channels. There was about a month of season 15 left and we were instantly hooked. We spent the next week catching up on all the old episodes from that season. When the season ended we suffered from TAR withdrawal and sought out every other season.

Over the past year we have watched a lot of TAR. With the season 17 finale coming up tonight and an all-star season coming up next year, we started going through all the seasons we had seen and listing our favorites. I figured if I'm going to go through the effort of looking through the old seasons I might as well blog about it.

During season 15 we fell in love with the Globetrotters team and wanted them to win. We also rooted for the interracial couple, Ericka and Brian, even though we found her pageant queen personality annoying and him too passive. Meghan and Cheyenne, aka the Blondes, were so perfect it was annoying. They were beautiful. They were great racers. Even when they made bad decisions, they had luck on their side. It was enough to make you vomit. So of course they won. We were sad that Zev and Justin lost their passports and got kicked out early. It would have been interesting to see how Zev's Asperger's affected them throughout the race. We were also pulling for Matt and Gary. There is something very engaging about a father and son team who clearly have very little in common and are getting to know each other during the race. We absolutely hated Sam and Dan, the twins. They were sneaky, backstabbing jerks and whining babies. We didn't like Maria and Tiffany, the poker stars who couldn't finish a mission without help from other teams, and Lance and Kerri, the worst husband ever and a completely miserable couple. It will be interesting to see who they pick for an all-star season. Fan fave, almost winners or most hated?

The next season we watched was Season 1. From the very beginning we liked Joe and Bill (life partners) and Kevin and Drew (fraternity brothers). It only took a couple legs to realize that Joe and Bill were overconfident jerks. We couldn't believe that Margarita and Frank had ever been married since he was such an a-hole. This was one of the best finale's ever because Frank was so sure they had won the race. He bragged endlessly about how well he knew New York and re-directed the cabbie onto what he thought was a shorter route. It was great seeing the shock on their faces when they realized they were second. It was also great to see the life partners told when they still had a day of racing left that someone had won the race. Nancy and Emily were a surprisingly strong team of granddaughter and grandmother that we found ourselves rooting for. We were happy when the lawyers, Rob and Brennan, won but we weren't really emotionally invested in them.

It was at this point that we realized that CBS had only released 2 of the 15 seasons on DVD (Seasons 1 and 7). You couldn't buy any of these other seasons or get them off Netflix. Fans of TAR have written hundreds of letters to CBS requesting that they release the previous seasons but CBS has not budged. It is not clear why they wouldn't release all of the seasons when they could make millions of dollars. Luckily a lot of the more recent seasons can be found on You Tube and other similar sites and some industrious folks have made money selling DVDs of older seasons that they saved. Thanks to technology and pack rats, my husband and I will have no problem catching up on the rest of the seasons.

Next up was season 7. We loved Lynn and Alex, the gay team, and Meredith and Gretchen, the old couple. Both teams were often frustrating but definitely made it entertaining to watch by both reinforcing and breaking stereotypes that people had about homosexuals and older people. The best moment was when Gretchen busted her head open during the cave challenge and proceeded to spend the rest of the leg with a giant bandage on her head. Rob and Amber were the team that you loved to hate. We have never watched Survivor but it seems like winning a million dollars on one CBS show should take you out of the running for competing for a million on another CBS show. Kelly was another annoying beauty queen and her boyfriend Ron realized she was wrong for him half way through the race. Patrick was a whiny child who frequently brought his mom Susan down. Ray another jerk who treated his wife Deana like everything was her fault. We wished that Ryan and Chuck, the hillbillies, made it further along. We were so excited when Uchenna and Joyce won. It was the first time that our favorite team, and a team we were rooting for the whole time, won the race. They were a great couple with a great story (failed fertility treatments and a desperate desire to have children). She had to shave her head in India and they had to beg for money at the end to finish first. It was an epic season.

In general we think CBS has a fantastic show. We hate the seasons when they don't make each team member complete an equal number of road blocks. There is nothing more annoying than watching a team excel because one person is doing all the work (the worst offense of this came in a future season). We also don't like it when they take away all of a team's money and belongings and make them beg for money to keep continuing the race. Watching Gretchen and Meredith go through that was painful. That sort of humiliation should never be part of the race.

Season 14 was next. Mark and Michael, the short stuntmen, were a great counterpart to Jen and Kisha, the tall college athletes. The brother-sister dynamic was a great part of this season. Tammy and Victor, the brother-sister Asian team, were the most engaging of the three sibling teams. Their relationship grew the most during the trip and you were happy to see them win in the end. Margie and Luke were the most annoying team yet. The fact that he was deaf didn't have to be the focus of this team but it was because he was such a petulant child and she was his enabler. If anyone criticized him or called him out on his bratty behavior they were being prejudiced against deaf people. It was ridiculous. Mel and Mike were a great father and son team who didn't really seem to have a chance but were great to root for. Linda and Steve were an interesting couple because she was so out of shape and he was not supportive. It would be nice to see them come back and compete after some time with a personal trainer and a shrink.

Season 13 was next (I know, it's disturbing that we've watched this much in a year). We knew the hippies, Arthur and Anita weren't going to make it very far. We were amazed by how negative Dan was towards his teammate Andrew and how out of shape these young college kids were. Terrence was a creepy guy who constantly needed to be validated by his girlfriend Sarah. We hope she broke it off and got a restrianing order against him after the show. Tina, the mean wife for a change, to her too forgiving husband Ken (we know, he cheated on her once but if you're going to make him pay for it every day of your relationship then just end it). Nick and Starr, very fit, sometimes fun, sometimes annoying brother and sister, won it all in the end. Toni and Dallas, a little too close mom and son, did better than we expected and Mark and Bill, the Mythbusters look-a-likes and nerdy team, didn't do as well as we hoped.

Okay, taking a break now. Will finish up another day.

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Thursday, December 9, 2010

Is it time to jump ship?

I voted for Barack Obama, like the majority of this country. When I voted for him I felt like he would address the problems that I had with the previous administration and make us look better to other countries. I have always felt that we are behind many other developed countries when it comes to civil liberties and basic human rights. Over the past several months I have become concerned that the aggressive goals the President set during his campaign were just empty promises that he made to get elected. It is becoming harder to support him as more time goes by without any real change.

Politically I am extremely liberal. I am registered independent because the traditional policies of the democratic and republican parties do not appeal to me. By definition, I am probably a libertarian but the people who run on that platform in this country do not have the same politics as I do. In my lifetime, the democrats running for major office have been liberal and the republicans running for office have been conservative. I'm sure there are liberal republicans and conservative democrats out there but I have yet had the opportunity to vote for/against them. I have always voted for democrats for high office not because I consider myself a democrat but because of their liberal policies.

I wish that some of the "socialist" policies that other counties have would be adopted in the U.S. The most import of these policies is universal health care. The fact that we live in a country where someone can go bankrupt and/or die from a treatable medical condition because of the amount of money they make is disgusting. Health care should be a basic human right. If you make more money and have a high-end medical insurance policy then good for you. No one should be able to take that policy away from you. That "Cadillac" coverage is a perk of your employment or an expense that you have chosen to pay for. If the government decided to provide this high-end coverage for the entire country the deficit would be even worse than it is now. But that's not what's being proposed. What's being proposed is basic coverage for everyone.

I'm happy that a health care plan passed this year. I am happy that a lot more Americans will get coverage that didn't have it before. But I am unhappy that there are still people who will be left out in this plan. I am unhappy that obscene prices are charged for medications and procedures because health care is a for-profit industry in this country. I am unhappy that the greed of drug companies, lobbyists and insurance companies fuels the medical industry.

Gay marraige, the economy, immigration, energy, education, gays in the military and the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan are all items that the President promised to address during his term. I understand that we are only 2 years into his presidency and that the republicans in congress have made it their personal mission to challenge everything that President Obama proposes. I also understand that he has made some progress on some of these issues but to a much lesser extent than was expected.

I don't think that I'm angry that the policies didn't pass. I'm angry that the president gave up before he even really tried. We all came out and voted for him because he proposed radical change. When he decides not to put controversial policies up for vote he is giving up. He is telling his supporters that its not worth the fight. So we are left wondering if that is really the case or if he never intended to implement those policies in the first place.

So the republicans weren't going to support continuing the Bush tax cuts if they didn't include the wealthiest Americans. Fine. Put that policy up for a vote and let the republicans be known as the party who made life more difficult for millions of Americans who were already struggling financially. Expose them to be the selfish children that they are. By proposing to extend the full tax cuts you are not only appeasing the republicans but increasing an already growing deficit. You are postponing the inevitable. In 2 years, when these tax cuts come up for renewal again, you will be facing re-election. Are we really to believe that you will chose to propose such a controversial policy at that time? At some point, the rich people in this country are going to have to stop getting coddled and made richer by ridiculous policies. If you're not going to stand up to the republicans on this issue then there is not hope for the really controversial topics.

My husband and I will likely be included in those Americans who make $250,000 or more as a couple in a few years. I fully expect to have a bigger chunk of our salaries withheld at that point. And I hope that tax money will be used for the greater good of the country and not to continue with more asinine policies. If not, I'm going to have to vote for someone who really does stand for change and doesn't just give great speeches.
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Thursday, November 25, 2010


Today I am thankful that I am a straight woman. I am thankful that I wasn't born pre-disposed to love someone of the same sex because my life would be very difficult. I could not marry the person that I loved in most states. If I died, my partner might not be allowed to received death benefits. If my partner and I had children and she died her family could take my children away from me if they didn't approve of our lifestyle. I could get kicked out of the military if someone found out I was gay no matter how nobly I served or how many times I had risked my life to protest the lives of others.

I live in a country where society as a whole allows gay people to be discriminated against. Where there are government policies that discriminate, or at least don't equally protect, gay people. Why are people surprised that so many gay children and young adults are killing themselves? What are we as a society giving them to look forward too? What message are we sending them about their lifestyle?

I know that things will get better, because they always do. There was a time where I couldn't go to college, marry my husband or go to certain places without fearing for my life because I am black. I hope that gay kids that are born in the next decade can look back at the early 2000's and be grateful that they weren't born then, the way I look back at the late 50's when my mother was born. I hope that we as a society realize then, how ignorant we were as a society and how un-American it was to discriminate against 10% of our population because they were different.
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Monday, November 15, 2010

That Girl

Once upon a time I was "that girl". The obnoxious one who spoke her mind. The athletic one who inspired people to work out. The funny one who was the center of attention and so on. One part of my brain is sad that I'm not that person any more and feels like a phony when anyone who knew me back then still treats me like I'm her. Another part of me feels incredibly jealous when I go into a situation where someone else is clearly "that girl". I'm jealous of her for being what I'm not but, at the same time, I hate her for taking the spotlight that I could have potentially held. Pretty messed up right?

Not too long ago I had sunk into a deep depression where I hated myself and the rut that I'd let myself get into. Over the past several months I've been climbing out of that hole and rebuilding my self esteem and my spirit. I feel good about myself a lot more than I used to but there are still times, in social situations, where I feel insecure because I'm around someone who clearly has herself together. In my mind everyone is noticing how confident and wonderful she is and comparing that to how uncool I am. I know that this happens in my head and not in reality but that doesn't stop the thoughts from entering my mind.

So now I'm in a position where I can take a huge step at becoming the me that I want to be. I can take over as a fitness instructor at a huge gym in my area. Yes, I became a fitness instructor a couple months ago with the hopes that it would encourage me to get in shape so I could inspire other people to get in shape. I thought I would have months to lose weight and develop my routines. I wasn't expecting this job opportunity to fall into my lap. But I'm a total hypocrite if I don't at least put in an application.

The best part of becoming a fitness instructor is seeing all the different types of people who are also instructors. There are people of all ages and sizes from all backgrounds. I was so nervous that I would be "the fat one" when I walked my size 16 butt into training and that people would question why I was there. What I found was a lot of people my size and larger who were active and great instructors. I didn't think for a second that one of these people weren't suitable instructors because of their weight so why would I think that anyone would do that to me?

I run regularly, I do yoga, I have a black belt in karate. Am I at my ideal weight right now? Absolutely not. Should I put my life on hold until I reach my ideal weight? Absolutely not. But I can get in front of a class and give people a great workout. I can suprise people who might judge me by my appearance by showing them how fit I actually am. I can inspire other people who are insecure to work out because I'm not some size 2 skinny girl who can't relate to what they are going through. I can do this.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Guilty Until Proven Innocent

Normally at this time of year I'm complaining about the lack of a championship in college football and the ridiculousness of the BCS and all the meaningless bowl games. I'm still hopeful that I will see a college football playoff in a few years but what's really got me pissed off is the whole Cam Newton affair. Yes, I'm biased. My husband went to Auburn, his family lives there, he has a relative who is a professor and we frequently visit. But my problem with this situation is more about the way the media is handling all the accusations against the quarterback and not the team that he plays for.

Cam Newton and his family are accused of asking for and taking money from Auburn University in exchange for him playing football there. There is no physical evidence of this. There are several people who talked to other people who claim to know someone who heard the Newton's ask for money. There is no paper trail. There was no sudden shift in the Newton's lifestyle when Cam transferred to Auburn. Despite the lack of evidence, people are saying that Newton should be suspended. That he doesn't deserve the Heisman trophy. That he is a disgrace to college football and another Reggie Bush-type player only looking out for himself on his way to the NFL.

It seems like anyone can accuse any famous person of being guilty of breaking the rules without evidence. The media obsesses over these stories because we are so hungry to see our celebrities fail. Because in this age of reality TV we are more concerned with who Snooki hooked up with on The Jersey Shore than the recession.

Maybe Cam Newton is guilty. Maybe in a few years there will be physical evidence to back up all the accusations. Maybe Auburn will have to forfeit the wins that they earned while he was a starter and he will have to return his Heisman trophy (a la USC and Reggie Bush). But unless we have a crystal ball we cannot punish someone for something that may prove to be true.

How many athletes have been accused of being some baby's daddy only to find out a few months later it wasn't true. When the athlete was accused it's front page news but if they're proven innocent it's hidden on the back cover. I know plenty of college athletes take money. I know lots of famous people break that law and get away with it because they're famous. I also know that the bad ones get a lot more press than the good ones and that we can't punish an seemingly nice kid until there is evidence that proves that he deserves it.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Lawyers are Evil

In my job I have to deal with lawyers on a regular basis. This is, without question, the worst part of my job. I have not had a lot of experience with lawyers outside of the environmental industry. I'm sure there are great lawyers out there that are fabulous people. I'm not writing about those lawyers. I'm writing about the a-holes that I have to deal with in my very narrow area of interest.

Lawyers, even environmental lawyers, are not technical people. They do not have a understanding of remediation technologies, state laws, geology and a number of other factors that affect site cleanup so they must depend on engineers, like myself, to be their technical experts. Unfortunately, even in areas that they are not experienced, lawyers are incapable of listening to anyone else's opinion. When they don't understand the science behind your recommendations, they attack your proposal based on how the case will hold up in court. But not until after they've asked you to explain to them for the 50th time your reasoning only to shoot you down and end up at the same conclusion they had before talking to you.

If 100% of your decision is based on what you could save in court costs then you don't need any technical people advising you. When you make me sit through hours of worthless conference calls where I might say 4 words. When you have me in meetings as a "technical expert" to give a 30 second answer to a question that I have given you in dozens of previous meetings and that is clearly stated in the hundreds of pages of historical documents that I have sent you. You are wasting my time and insulting my intelligence. I know its hard for you to believe that I have better things to do than sit on the phone while you talk at me for hours on end but I do. I am not a paralegal. I am not a secretary. I am not a legal assistant. No, I didn't go to law school, but my engineering degree doesn't make me uneducated or in some way subordinate to you .

The problem is that every time I talk to these lawyers I get stuck in their trap. If I could only turn my brain off and agree with everything they say I could avoid a lot of this crap. But I try to reason with them and they beat my down. My face gets hot, my hands shake, my blood pressure shoots up, my heart thumps so loudly I think other people must hear it, there is a lump in my throat and my day is ruined. When I get home I have a headache and a brain full of all the things I would love to say to them but never will.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

What happened to my shows?

I fell in love with Glee from the pilot episode. I loved that there was a running story line and great covers of songs. It was a like a mini Broadway musical every week with combined with a teenage soap opera. There have been a couple of bright spots this season but, for the most part, it's not living up to it's own hype this year. The story lines are all over the place and there is almost no connection between the different episodes. They seem more focused on having a "theme" episode than on good writing. I hope that this is just a slump and the smart, original show that I fell in love with last year will come back.

The Soup is another show that has lost it's way. It used to be a compilation of the best clips from shows on TV from the past week mixed with witty commentary and surprise special guests. A lot of the clips aren't very funny any more. It seems like Joel Mchale, the host, is trying his hand at stand up (not good) and depending on his jokes and not the clips to get a laugh. The special guests are completely scripted and are on to promote their latest project rather than add to the show. It's like one big commercial.

I know good TV doesn't last forever but I had hoped these two shows would. Sigh

Sunday, October 24, 2010

What I Should Have Said

I often find myself having imaginary conversations with people days (OK sometimes months) after an encounter that upset me. I never seem to be able to compose myself enough in the moment to say what I really want to say when someone says something ignorant. I think I'm just so shocked at the things that people do and say that I'm at a loss for words.

Q: Are you the first person in your family to go to college?
A: No.

I used to get this question a lot more in my 20's. I am happy to say that I only get asked every once in a while these days but it still aggravates me. It is either a demonstration of how ignorant people are about the history of black people in this country or that they are racist and assume that black people aren't educated.

What I Should Have Said: How old do you think I am? Do you know that some northern colleges were admitting black people in the 1700's and shortly after that historically black colleges were established all over the US? By the time slavery was abolished in the late 1800's black people had been going to college for more than 100 years. The Civil War ended in 1865. It's almost 2011.

Yes, black people's rights and opportunities were still very limited in some geographic regions until the 1960's and 1970's when the Civil Rights Movement worked to change that but that doesn't mean they lacked the desire to become educated and strive for a better life. A person's
ability to go to college is generally driven by their socioeconomic status more than anything else. Yes, by percentages, there are more poor black people than any other race but that doesn't mean that all poor people are black or that all black people are poor.

Depending on what study you believe 50-60% of Americans have attended college but only 27% leave college with a degree. According to the federal government, 57% of white students who enter college earn their degrees compared to 44% and 39% of Hispanic and black students, respectively. Not great odds when you compare us to other countries.

So 1/4-1/3 of all people that you meet don't have a college degree, regardless of race. Are you asking everyone you meet if they are the first one in their family to attend college? If you are, I'm sorry I was offended by your comment. I thought you were asking me because you're one of those people who watched shows like The Cosby Show and thought they were the exception and that few, if any, successful black people exist in the world.

You're the guy who asks me for more towels when you see me walking down the hall in a nice hotel or the lady who asks me to find a shoe in her size while I'm shopping at a fancy department store because you can't fathom me being able to afford these things. You're the mother of several of my friends growing up who were surprised that I was black the first time they met me in person because "I sounded white on the phone". You're tiny, ignorant little brain can't imagine that a black person could have the same, or gasp, a higher level of success and income that you.

I wish that I could say that all the people who ask me these questions are very old but they are usually late 30's to early 50's. I struggle to tell someone that they've got snot hanging out of their nose. I can't imagine walking up to a complete stranger and asking them anything like that. As I've gotten older, I've tried to let these comments go but I am rarely successful. I'd be lying if I didn't say that every moment of ignorance against me is burned into my memory with no hope of being erased.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Me and the PE Exam

Next Friday I will take the PE Exam for the third time. The PE Exam is the professional engineering licensing exam. This is the third time I am taking it because I am not a studier. My success at school was related to my ability to absorb what the professors said in class and take good notes that I could reference during exams. The problem is that this exam covers a broad range of topics, most of which engineers do not use in practice.

About 75% of the material on the test is related to topics that I have not studied since college or have never studied at all. So I have to remind myself of things that I once new and teach myself the things I never knew about. This is an open book test where you can bring in as many reference materials that you like. But that isn't helpful if you don't have your reference materials marked and don't understand the concepts required to solve the problems.

I was never one of those kids who spent hours at the library. Every time I tried I ended up getting bored and putting my head down for a nap. But that is exactly who I need to be for the next 9 days. I need to come home from work and put in a solid 4 hours of studying every day. I need to do in 9 days what many people do for the three months leading up to the test. I know that if I do this, I will retain the material well enough to pass.

The PE exam is an optional exam. It doesn't make you more of an engineer than other people. It just means you were willing to torture yourself and sit through two 8-hour exams and spend a lot of money to get licensed. But it does mean that you get to review plans and reports and stamp them as a professional engineer. It means that you can review reports for other companies that don't have a PE on staff and charge them $120+ an hour for the service. In a lot of companies it means you get paid more than someone who's doing the exact same job.

For me it means that I'm as much an engineer as the person who I hope to one day replace at my company. I feel like it will give me more validity and confidence when I go into meetings and people assume I'm the secretary because I'm young, female and black. It makes me more marketable in my career and gives me the opportunity to make a little extra money on the side or as a part-time job in retirement.

In my business, a lot of people who didn't get engineering degrees in school call themselves engineers. So even though I did earn my bachelor's degree in engineering and have been working in the industry for almost 10 years, there is nothing that separates me from them in a lot of people's minds. Maybe that's shallow but it's my motivation. If I don't pass this test it will be because I didn't try hard enough and failed myself yet again.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Lucy, I'm Home

I remember thinking how strange it was that Lucy and Ricky slept in separate beds as a kid. It seems like a lot of old sitcoms had married couples sleeping in the same room but in different beds. This seemed completely insane to me....until I met my husband.

My husband occasionally has to work an early/late shift. Sometimes he has to be at work by 4 am. Other days he might not leave for work until 5 pm and will return in the wee hours of the morning. My husband is a very heavy sleeper and a big snorer. He could fall asleep during an earthquake. Noise, light, television, etc. Nothing bothers him.

I am a very light sleeper. I set my own work schedule but I try to get up at the same time every day so that the pets and I are on a routine. I have been an insomniac for as long as I can remember. While some white noise seems to help me sleep, too much keeps me awake. The dogs and cat and my husband frequently wake me up during the night with very insignificant noises and movements that most people can sleep through. I have tried sleeping pills, teas, warm milk, etc and nothing has worked for me.

Initially, my husband and I only slept apart when he had to work an odd schedule. Then when our old shepherd starting having mobility problems and couldn't walk upstairs I started sleeping downstairs with him regularly. Sometimes when I was sleeping with my husband I would have problems falling asleep that were remedied by me moving into the guest room. Over the past few months, this sleeping arrangement has become our permanent routine.

At first I was embarrassed that we didn't sleep together and then I found out that a lot of people our age were doing the same thing. We never go to bed or wake up at the same time so it's not like we miss anything from not being in the same bed other than lying next to each other. When we do sleep together my husband is completely unaware of when I get in/out of bed because he sleeps through the whole thing. We do have plenty of cuddle time where we talk, relax, etc. but this time has never been part of our bedtime routine.

We have friends that have completely separate bedrooms in their house. They have been together for several years but never even entertained the thought of sharing space. They have a child and seem to be pretty happy together despite, or maybe because of, the sleeping situation. I even heard on Oprah the other day that home builders are putting two master bedrooms in new houses because so many couples are sleeping separately. I don't think I would ever go this far because I enjoy sharing space when my husband when I'm awake but if it works for other people, good for them.

We are currently saving up to buy a king-sized sleep number bed so that we can see if that will allow us to sleep together without disturbing each other. I am also going to go to a sleep center to try to work on my insomnia. But if it doesn't work out I'm pretty comfortable with the arrangement that we have now because our sleeping arrangement is not due to friction in our marriage. And really, we seem to enjoy our awake time a lot more when we've both had a good night of sleep.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Ouidad, I love you

For those of you with naturally curly thick hair, maybe you've already heard of Ouidad. I didn't hear about it until recently and then spent the better part of a year debating on whether or not I was going to go through with it. Last week I finally gave in and I'm so glad I finally did. For the first time that I can remember I am in love with my hair.

Ouidad is basically a way of cutting thick, curly hair that thins out the volume of it. So your curls hang loser and your hair is much more manageable. You're going to have to go to a pretty nice salon and pay a pretty penny for the initial cut but it's totally worth it. My hair moves when I turn my head but doesn't get dented when I lean on it. While it has been thinned out it is still very thick and has plenty of volume and shape.

It was nice to go to a stylist who knew how to do my hair and was able to show me how to do it at home. Yes, they try to get you to buy all the products, no you don't have to buy them all to have totally awesome hair (I bought about half of what they recommended I buy). I have friends who use the products and didn't get the cut. Either way, these Ouidad folks definitely know curly hair.

I would like to respond to some of the negative press on the Internet about Ouidad:

1. The style gives you "the wet look".

This is totally untrue unless the stylist weighed you down with too much product for the thickness of your hair. I sat under a dryer for 20 minutes to make sure I liked the way my hair looked when it was dry. They used a lot of product but once it was dry it didn't look wet at all and my style lasted for 3 days.

2. You're hair will be butchered with some sections cut down to the scalp and some very long. You will not have any variation in your style because of how it is cut. The hair cut is high maintenance.

The stylist didn't cut any sections of my hair down to the root. She would pull out a section of hair and then cut some bulk out of the middle of it. I have not had any problems when I changed the style of my hair with any thin patches. My stylist said that she has heard of other stylists using the wrong type of scissors or doing the cut on people who's hair wasn't thick enough. I think the key is researching the stylist before you go in for an appointment.

There were great reviews on the salon on "curly" web sites and blogs. Once I picked the salon, I sat down and talked to the stylist who was going to do my hair before I made the appointment. She showed me before an after pictures of her other clients and reassured me that she knew exactly what she was doing. You do have to go back for maintenance cuts every 4 months or so but I don't think that's excessive. Yes, you will use a lot of product in your hair but if you have naturally curly hair, you're used to this. Every curly girl I know has a ton of hair care products in her bathroom. Pick and choose which, if any, of their products you like and stick with any others that you've had success with. This is not an all or nothing thing.

3. The Ouidad cut is for white people and will not look good in your hair. You will probably have to see a white stylist who doesn't know how to do black hair.

The Ouidad cut is for people with thick hair. People of all races can get this cut. Depending on where you live, your stylist might be white (mine was) but that doesn't mean she doesn't know how to handle black hair. Don't be afraid to ask a salon if they have a stylist who can do black hair. You don't have to go to a black hair salon to find someone to do your hair.

Personally, there are no black hair salons in the Syracuse area that specialize in natural hair. Every time I have gone they have encouraged me to go back to relaxing my hair or blow drying it straight. I generally see a stylist that knows how to do black hair at a salon that is not a "black" salon. I always call ahead to see if they have someone who can do my hair before I make an appointment. It seems like this is less of a problem in major metropolitan areas but, in my experience, relaxers and blow-outs are still the standard in black salons and I never leave them happy.

I read this girl's blog a couple weeks ago about what a great hair cut she got from her new white stylist and I was disgusted with how many people gave her crap for going to a white stylist. The comments ranged from "you are taking business away from black people" to "I would never let a white person touch my hair". It is disappointing that people were more focused on their own bigotry and not on how great this girl's hair looked.

I have had my hair messed up by black stylists in the past and had great hair styles from white stylists. I do not discriminate against either because I have had good and bad from both. Half of the celebrity stylists I see doing black hair are white. I know that it is the training and experience of a stylist, and not his/her race, that determines their ability. I'm just happy that I know this and that I know have an awesome hair cut that I can finally maintain. Let it go people! You want your hair to look as good as people on TV? Find yourself a stylist who knows how to do your hair and go with it. It might be the best decision you ever make (for your hair).

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Stop Lying to Me Internet

You search the Internet for a dog trainer, you fill out a job application online, you send an e-mail to someone looking for people interested in a running partner in your area but no one responds. That little "Contact Us" link in the corner has sucked you in. It has lead you to believe that these are Internet savvy people who regularly check their inbox or at least who have an auto-reply system that will send you some depressing form letter. I am so sick of these sites but I continue to hit the link or send and e-mail to the person I'm supposed to e-mail to get information.

Here' s a tip: If you have not intention of ever responding to anyone who e-mails you, don't set up a website. It pisses people off. What horrible, false advertising for your business. Hundreds, if not thousands, of dollars have stayed in my pocket for services that I was ready to pay for from companies that never responded. I hope that they all are bankrupt now.

I am happy that I am married and that I have a job. I have heard some horror stories from my friends about the hundreds of job applications they have submitted without a response or the 6 months on E-Harmony without a single glimmer of a date. Those E-Harmony and commercials make me so angry because those people are totally the exception and not the rule. It's like advertising that you have a great chance of winning the lottery and should totally buy a ticket! Grr....

Tuesday, September 28, 2010


Almost 2 months ago, I posted a blog titled The Dream. In this blog I listed all the things that I wanted to accomplish in my life. The second thing that I listed in this blog was becoming a fitness instructor. I am happy to say that I have achieved this goal (well sort of).

I started studying karate in 1995 after my freshman year in college. I instantly fell in love with karate and worked hard to achieve the rank of second degree black belt. For almost 10 years karate was a regular part of my life. I loved working out and teaching classes and I loved being fit. When I moved to Syracuse, I couldn't find a karate school that suited me. There weren't any schools in my style locally so I stopped practicing regularly. Over the past 5 years I have tried new styles and have traveled 90 minutes away to the nearest dojo that taught my style. None of these worked out for me so I decided that, for now at least, I wasn't going to be able to practice karate. But I needed something to satisfy my spirit the way karate used to.

Last July I started taking Zumba classes. Zumba is latin-inspired dance fitness. If you like to go out dancing and you like to sweat a lot, I would highly recommend it. When I first heard about Zumba I thought it would be perfect for me. I love to dance and miss having people to go out dancing with. I have been taking aerobics classes since I was a kid and love group exercise. I studied abroad in Spain and Puerto Rico in college and earned a minor in Spanish because I love the culture. Well after one class I was hooked. It's like a dance party where you just let go and don't even realize all the calories you just burned (usually around 700 calories for an hour class according to my fitness watch).

This summer I started thinking about becoming a Zumba instructor. I already knew a lot of the dances by heart because I went to class so much and being a fitness instructor would inspire me to get back in shape. This weekend I attended training and officially became a Zumba instructor. I left the training feeling so inspired that I haven't been able to sleep at night because I keep planning my future in my head. I need to do a lot of work to learn the choreography well enough to teach it to other people but I know that I can do it.

Aside from the training being totally awesome I met a lot of fitness instructors who weren't Barbie-doll skinny and looked like normal people. It was really comforting to see that some of the women looked a lot like me. I felt really good about myself for the first time in a long time. My husband was so happy with my new found confidence that he decided to get back on the workout wagon and start going to the gym with me. Which of course means that I'll be more likely to go to the gym because there is someone else there to motivate me.

I have also found myself wearing cuter workout clothes this week. I'm not talking about anything inappropriate but there is no reason that I should be hiding my body in baggy t-shirts and sweatpants just because I'm overweight. I have been wearing clothes that show off my shape in a way that shows me that yes, I need to lose some weight, but that I can still be attractive at my current size.

I plan on working on my resume this week and applying to health clubs that don't have Zumba currently. I have been working on the choreography every night on my own and plan to continue attending my weekly Zumba classes as well. In a couple of weeks I think I will be a force to be reckoned with!

A couple of weeks ago I came to the realization that I weigh about 60 lbs more than I did when I graduated from high school 16 years ago and I felt really bad about myself. Now I'm focused on being healthy and loving myself. I'd love to lose a ton of weight but I'm not going to obsess over it and let it run my life any more.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Out of the Closet..Sorta

So I was listening to Macy Gray's newest album, The Sellout, this morning while I was getting dressed. It's a really good album; if you liked her old stuff I would recommend it. But I was a little surprised to here her singing about her man in one love song after another. Earlier this year I heard an interview with Macy Gray where she was talking about how she had gone crazy for a few years because she felt like she was living a lie. She came out to the world and introduced her girlfriend. She said it was liberating and allowed her to write some of the most honest music that she had written in years. So why does she still feel like she needs to hide behind the stereotypical love song about a man when she doesn't have one and never will?

I watch Ellen periodically and I love how open she is about her wife. She frequently refers to things that happen to her and her wife Portia. She talks about their life together like any other married couple would. The only difference is that she is a lesbian and her partner is a woman. Ellen doesn't present an agenda or talk about anything political, she just talks about her life and her audience accepts her.

Years ago when Rosie O'Donnell came out on her show she became very political after being extremely family friendly for years. Her viewers didn't respond well to this and eventually her show was cancelled. The same thing happened on The View. When she became too political and combative they kicked her off the show. It was too much for the conservative housewife crowd to take. I love Rosie and listen to her radio show all the time but I am not a person who would watch The View. I hope that she goes the way of Bill Maher and gets a show on cable where she can be herself and doesn't have to censor herself.

So back to Macy Gray. 5% of the population is gay (pretty well established statistic at this point) and 60-70% of the people who listen to R & B music are female (not sure how reliable this statistic is but it seems that more women than men listen to R & B). So if you guess that 5% of the 60-70% are gay then as many of 40% of the people who listen to Macy Gray are thinking about their woman and not their man. So why hide it?

Hearing that someone is gay isn't a big deal (at least not to my generation) at this point. There is something very sad about knowing that someone is gay but is still living in the closet in some ways. I couldn't function if I hid who I was and who I loved from the world. She already came out to the world; that was the hard part. I just hope she realizes that people who love her music won't love it less just because she's gay.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Black Like Me

I watched this great documentary today called Off and Running. It's part of PBS' P.O.V. (point of view) series. If you haven't checked it out you should!. Well this documentary was about a white, Jewish, lesbian couple and their three adopted children. The three children were: a 17-year old dark-skinned black American girl, an 18-year old light-skinned Puerto Rican/black American boy and a 10-year old Korean boy. All of these children were adopted as babies and were raised under the traditional Jewish traditions of their family.

They were almost always the only non-white children at their Jewish school but they didn't view themselves as different until someone else pointed it out. The main focus of the documentary was the 17-year old girl. She seemed to be confident in who she was as a person until she started attending a predominantly black high school and got her first real exposure to black people and black culture.

It was so frustrating to watch this confident girl doubt herself and turn on her parents because her new friends joked about her family. You know that when she's an adult, the girl will look back at the documentary and realize how ignorant her friends were and how she disrespected her family. The girl was blaming her parents for being different. For making her less black than her friends could handle. Suddenly the fact that these women had raised her and given her a great life didn't mean anything.

The girl ended up dropping out of school, moving out of her parents house and getting pregnant before she pulled it together at the end. In the end she got her GED, started talking to her family again and was accepted to a historically black college. I hope that she finds her identity in college and realizes that black people come in many different colors and personalities but I worry that she will continue to let the ignorant people control her.

I really associated with this documentary because I have been this girl. I distinctly remember being one of only a handful of black kids at my private school and almost always the only one in my class. I remember how uncomfortable I was when teachers asked me what I thought of prominent black politicians and entertainers. Like some how I was representative of the entire race. Or when I went to a friends house for the first time and their parents were surprised that I was black because I sounded white on the phone. Or when some of my relatives made fun of me because I talked "white". I remember how difficult the transition from private school to public school was when it suddenly became very clear that I was not like many of the other black kids and that kids of both races had a problem with this.

I use to daydream that my dad had other children that I didn't know about. That my father (who was very light skinned) had children with a white woman and that these children were light skinned like him. I thought that one day I would meet these kids and suddenly have people who understood what I was going through. Like somehow the existence of light-skinned brothers and sisters would validate the experiences that I had as a dark-skinned black person. I felt like I couldn't have these feelings because I didn't look the part.

I read in Essence magazine that the average black American is 22% European. I have always been very interested in genealogy and where my family came from but it seems like a lot of black people don't share this desire. They appear accept the title African-American that society has labeled them with. I guess its better than negro or colored but its still not correct.

It's so frustrating to me when people describe white people as Italian/German/Mexican/etc. American but all black people are just African American. And I'm not talking about 1st or 2nd generation Americans, I'm talking about my peers. People who were born in this country and whose family has been here for many generations just like mine. I'm so tired of everyone else being asked the question and not me. I am not a statistic or a stereotype. I am an individual and I'd like to be treated as one.

When I was younger I would go out of my way to tell people that members of my family were biracial and light skinned because I felt it was the only thing that would justify these feelings that I was having. After watching this documentary, I realize that my fake biracial siblings would probably have been just as confused and conflicted as I was. They probably would have faced even more prejudice than I did because their appearance would make it even more difficult for them. I have witnessed this prejudice from biracial friends and classmates and do not wish it upon anyone.

I would like to say that as an adult I have overcome these anxieties but that wouldn't be true. I still have family members that make fun of me for the way that I talk, my friends, my husband and the music and hobbies that I have. Complete strangers continue to judge me because I dont' fit into the box they think I belong in. I have a white friend from college who likes to joke that she's blacker than me because she dates black men and listens to rap music. I am better at defending myself and not letting all of these people prevent me from living my life but it still gets to me.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Rescue Dog Dilema

My mother recently lost her 15 year old Akita mix. She is looking for a new dog to be a companion to her 6 year old Maltese, Belle. She makes $45,000 a year but a big chunk of that goes towards her long commute to work. Another chunk goes to her dog walker. Every day that my mom works she has someone come to her house to feed, play with and walk her dogs. The dogs aren't left in the house alone for more than 6-8 hours at a time. She is not perfect, but she is definitely an above average pet owner.

She found a very sweet 4 year old dog available from a local pet rescue group. She filled out an application, provided vet and personal references and started to get excited about getting a new dog to keep Belle company. Her application was approved in less than a week but she was surprised that the adoption fee for this sweet little mixed breed was $350.

I understand that rescue groups need donations and adoption fees from the public to operate but pricing the dogs out of the price range of most of the people in your community doesn't seem like a good idea. By comparison, the Humane Society in my mom's semi-rural, lower middle class town charges $40 for a neutered dog. They adopt dogs out very quickly and have the space to take in new animals weekly. They only euthanize dogs if they have behavioral or medical problems which are beyond treatment. Even the heartworm positive dogs are treated and re-homed.

Most of the jobs in my mom's town pay $7-$10 an hour. That's why many people commute 2 or more hours to better jobs in other states. If I made $10 an hour, spending what probably amounts to a rent payment on a dog would be unthinkable. I think annual vet check ups, vaccinations, Heartguard and flea and tick preventative only costs a little more than that for an entire year for a healthy dog.

Many of the dogs from these rescue groups do seem to be in foster homes so they are living "normal" lives while waiting for their forever homes. But if the rescue group isn't spending money to house these dogs in a kennel, then why are they charging so much? What are those fees covering? I know the foster parents don't get paid. I understand that there are vet bills but usually they have a vet that provides these services at a discount or for free. It seems like a lower adoption fee would lead to more homes for dogs in a shorter period of time.

I did pay a total of $400 for my two rescue dogs. One came from a breed specific rescue and was living in a shelter before we brought her home. The other was transported from a high kill shelter down south and then lived in a foster home. The purebred cost less than 1/4 of a what she would have cost from a breeder and I can't imagine any circumstances where I would purchase a dog from a breeder. The time and love that the chain of people who caravaned our boy from Louisiana to New York to save his life are worth the fee that we paid. I can't imagine the fee covered their gas for this trip.

I get that you can't make dogs free because then completely unqualified people might take dogs home. But the dogs should be reasonably priced for the community that you serve. If you find that you are keeping dogs for 4-6 months before you find them a home and other groups are placing their dogs in weeks then maybe you need to make a change. Because there are obviously plenty of people in the community that want to adopt dogs. For the meantime, my mom has found another animal rescue a couple towns over that charges $100 a dog. She has an application in place and Belle should have a new friend soon.

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

The Pit Bull Problem

We adopted a new dog yesterday. The rescue group listed him as a hound mix, which he might be, but once you meet him in person it is clear that he is a pit bull mix. Rebel, our new dog, has the sweetest disposition. He is good with our other dog, he is good with our cat, he is also apparently good with rabbits and birds. He is a love bug and I can't imagine anyone not adopting him after meeting him. I can't for the life of me figure out how this dog had been without a home for so long.

But with every non-dog person that I tell about our new dog, I get the awkward silence when I mention that he is a pit bull mix. The comments are usually prefaced by "I know not all pit bulls are violent and mean but...". Well if you know that then what is the but for? Do they really think that I would go out and adopt a dog that would endanger my life and the life of my pets? Or that a rescue group would even put a dog like that up for adoption? There are shelters that put down all pit bulls when they are rescued because they are worried that someone will turn them into a fighting dog. Innocent dogs all over the country are killed everyday because people can't be trusted.

I have friends with pit bulls and I've never had a problem with any of them. I have had problems with rottweilers, dobermans and chows in the past. They have bitten me, my dog or someone I knew. I'm sure that poor dog ownership had a lot to do with these incidents but it has still formed a bias in me. When I was looking for a new dog, I skipped over all dogs that had any of these three breeds in them. I do cross the street when the chow walks by because the hair on my dog's back goes up the moment she is within eyesight. It might be a coincidence (there are other dogs that she doesn't like for no apparent reason as well) but my dog's discomfort also justifies my bias.

But most people who have a bias against pit bulls have never even met one. They see these horrible videos on the news of teenage boys who trained their pit bull to kill the neighbors cat or who turned on people and they immediately blame the breed. These people seem to have convinced themselves that pit bulls are mean naturally; that they come out of the womb as blood thirsty killers. When the reality is that pit bulls are incredibly smart, loyal and hearty which, unfortunately, makes them the a great dog for these awful people.

Rebel has learned to sit, lay down, touch objects and walk through an agility tunnel in the 24 hours that we have had him. He follows me around the house and comes to check on me if he hasn't seen me for a couple minutes. When our German shepherd gets up to bark at something, he is immediately by her side ready to defend the house against whatever imaginary predators she has created. Rebel likes to sleep on the back of the couch. He fell off last night and hit the wood floor. He got up immediately and shook it off and didn't seem at all phased by it.

No take these same traits and think if I would have asked Rebel to attack another animal. If I praised him and gave him treats for doing something completely against his nature. His number one priority is to please me. I am his pack leader, the provider of his food and shelter. I am the person he doesn't want to disappoint. If he got hurt doing something I asked him to do, he wouldn't blame me; that's not how dogs work. He would shake off the pain because I would praise him for doing so. I would use his high pain tolerance and sturdy body to turn him into a fighter. He would learn very quickly what things made me happy and do those things whenever I asked. He would try so hard to please me that these actions would become second nature to him.

Unfortunately, that is why a lot of groups euthanize dogs that have been rescued from a fighting background. There are a lot of groups who focus on the rehabilitation of these dogs but the time and expense involved is a lot more than you can ask the average county SPCA that is already strapped for funding. Often these dogs can never be rehabilitated but there are hundreds of success stories. I have read several happy endings about the Michael Vick dogs. Yes, some of the dogs will have to live the rest of their days in sanctuary but the majority of them are normal family pets, living in homes with other animals and kids.

I hope that other people read these articles too and changed their thinking about pit bulls. I hope that the good that comes out of Vick's horrible crimes is that a lot of people have been educated about what great dogs pit bulls are and what great efforts people are making to rehabilitate fighting dogs. I know that some people will never change their minds. For example, my mother saw a pit bull on the cover of a magazine last month and immediately said "I don't like them, people shouldn't be allowed to own them". I must have given her a dirty look because before I could say anything she said "I know its the owner's but...".

As far as I know, she has only met one pit bull. It is owned by someone in her neighborhood that doesn't leash the dog so he runs free. He likes to run up to my mom and her small dogs to say hello when they are out walking. He doesn't show any aggression but he is very excited to say hi and much larger than her dogs. There haven't been any incidents where this dog has attacked my mom's dogs or any other dogs in the neighborhood. I would categorize his behavior as consistent with a dog who hadn't received any discipline or training but his breed has nothing to do with this behavior.

Year's ago, Chale was attacked by a yellow lab mix. I knew the dog was going to attack based on his body language. I didn't think to myself "Oh he's a lab, I'm sure he's a sweetheart". I observed the dog and made a decision 100% based on his behavior. Chale only suffered one minor bite on his rear end. If I would have been more lax about it and not been prepared for the attack, it could have been much worse.

When I walk dog the street with my German shepherd and my pit bull, I know some people will cross the street to get away from us. But I also know that some people will want to pet them and ask questions about them. During this time I will let them see what great temperaments they both have and tell them they are both rescue dogs and absolutely amazing. I don't blame the rescue group for not mentioning that Rebel was part pit bull on (I told my mom he was a hound mix too); I just wish they didn't have to do it.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Where is that Wagon?

So in the past month, I've put down my dog, lost my grandmother and lost another acquaintance to suicide. Before this happened, I had already fallen off the health and fitness wagon when I was a bridesmaid in yet another wedding. But throughout all of this tragedy, I have really let myself go.

I am torn between being one of those crazy chicks that works out all the time and can eat whatever she wants (I used to be her) and making serious changes to my diet so that moderate exercise will be enough to keep me at a healthy weight (did that with nutrisystem for a couple months). Yet another death by diabetes in my family reminded me that while I'm relatively healthy now, I'm obese and at risk for getting really sick if I don't stop this before I get completely out of control.

I would like to find a happy balance between psycho workout chick and rabbit food but I'm not sure if it exists to me. I've always been an all or nothing girl and pushed myself to unbelievable limits when I was feeling healthy or wallowed in self pity for weeks when I wasn't. When I have sought out professional help in the past, I have faced horrible doctors who made me feel even worse about myself.

Of course I know there are great doctors out there and that I could have found another specialist who might have helped me. But in true me fashion I wrote off getting any professional help because of how crappy the help was when I tried in the past.

My husband is very supportive of me and wants me to get fit. He also has a family history of diabetes and admits that he could probably stand to lose a few pounds as well. But he is 6'4" tall and is in pretty good shape. 30 extra pounds on him doesn't really show that much. On me, it's my size 16 pants which were too tight for me this morning but fit great last year.

I have been lucky that I have maintained a lot of my muscle tone because of how much I worked out in the past. I don't even want to think about how fat I would be if this were not the case.

I think I'm at the point where I need to give myself an ultimatum: get your shit together by this date and if you don't see a change, you need help. I've told this to my husband and he agrees. So now I'm just trying to figure out exactly what my plan is so I can pull it all together. I need something of a regimented schedule but not too strict. I need a reward system in place but it has to be for little accomplishments and not just the big ones. I think I'm just going to have to try to figure this out as I go along.

I don't want to put something on paper without really thinking about what I want to achieve in the end. Another post is coming once I figure all this out...

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

The Other Shoe

Years ago, I heard someone say that deaths always happen in threes. Over the years this has proven to be true more times than not. Three weeks ago, I found out someone I used to know committed suicide. Once week later I had to put down my dog. This week, my grandmother passed away. I sincerely hope this is the end of the tragedy for a while.

I seem to get inspired to take control of my life every time I lose someone important to me. Or, at the minimum, I am inspired to start a new chapter or move in a different direction. Death is not something to be celebrated but it usually marks the end of one chapter (illness, pain, suffering) and the beginning of another.

My father died 12 years ago. He had been suffering for several years. While his death was difficult for my family, it marked then end of a very rough period in our lives. One week later we adopted a 3 year old dog from the ASPCA. My family hadn't had a dog since I was a kid. Whenever my brother and I asked, my mom would always say no. I imagine the burden of being a caregiver for your spouse on top of having 2 kids and a dog would have been too much for her. But she supported the decision to get a dog and seemed as excited about it as we were.
Focusing all of our attention on the new dog didn't take away the pain of losing my father but it kept us from wallowing in it. We had this little life that depended on us and that life helped us move forward with all of our lives.

On the day we put Ezra down I found out that 2 people that I care about are expecting new babies later this year. While his death didn't directly spark life, it was nice to associate that day with something other than sorrow. It was a little reminder that life will go on without him. No matter how much a part of our lives he was.

I lived with my grandmother when I was a kid. Both of my parents were still in school when I was born. My grandmother helped raise me so they could get their degrees. She had this great German Shepherd named Rex. He had floppy ears, which just added to his cuteness. He was a great dog and the reason that I have gravitated towards German Shepherds my whole life. So when our local rescue group contacted me to ask if I was interested in a young German Shepherd that they just rescued whose name was Rex and who had floppy ears I couldn't help but think that fate was at play again. I told them that I needed a couple more weeks and that if he was still there at that time we would love to meet him and see if he works for our family.

The more I think about it, the more it seems like a new dog, whether it ends up being Rex or not, will mark a new chapter in our lives. After the loss of Ezra and my grandmother, a new dog to be a companion to our other German Shepherd will definitely be a happy event. Maybe this summer can be remembered for the 2 dogs we rescued (one in May and a new dog likely at the end of this month) and all the adventures that we will have with them rather than all the loss that we experienced.

Friday, August 6, 2010

Because the Deaf Kid Might Be a Jerk

My husband and I are currently watching season 14 of the Amazing Race ( and youtube are great if you missed prior seasons of some of your favorite shows). One of the featured teams is a deaf kid and his mom. Initially we were rooting hard for this team but we aren't liking them so much any more.

The mother totally smothers the kid (who's like 20 by the way) and refuses to accept that he might not be perfect. The kid is completely whiny and totally gossips on other teams. Well in the last episode (8 or 9 I think) the deaf kid pushed a female member of another team twice to try to get the clue before her. It was very clear the deaf kid started it and was being physical when it wasn't necessary. So of course when he is confronted him and his mom pull the deaf card.

All of the sudden they're bitching about how he's had to struggle his whole life with people making assumptions about him because he's deaf and they should be ashamed of themselves, etc. Last I checked, being deaf doesn't turn you into a saint. If this kid weren't deaf all the other teams would be calling him out for being physical when he didn't have to. But sadly I think its going to go the other way and the deaf kid will prevail.

My father was physically handicapped for my entire life. He was paralyzed, had slurred speech and was blind. There was nothing mentally wrong with him; he was one of the smartest people that I ever met. But my dad had a temper. His father was physically and emotionally abusive and a total drunk. Like a good Catholic, my dad never talked about this so he had a lot of pent up anger. My dad was an asshole sometimes. There is no doubt about it. And if he was acting like an asshole I hope someone told him that he was. I know my mom did. She wasn't disrespecting his disability. She was pointing out that he was being a jerk and rightly so.

It pisses me off that every time there is a "special" person I'm not supposed to expect anything from them. Isn't that worse? Aren't I supposed to treat them equally? So deaf people, blind people, people with kids, old people, people in wheelchairs, morbidly obese people and anyone else who thinks you get a free pass in life because it hasn't been all roses and sunshine in your life: watch out. I'm all about equal rights and if your an asshole I'm going to treat you like every other asshole out there.

Monday, August 2, 2010

The Dream

The combination of losing my dog and starting "Eat, Pray, Love" in the same week has made me want to get my sh*t together and stop procrastinating so much. So I tried to sit down and figure out what I really want from life. If I could build my dream life, what would it look like? Here goes:

Career- I'm actually okay career wise. I'd like to move into a position with more authority and less interaction with lawyers, property owners and state regulators but I like the basics of my current job. I make a good salary and have great benefits so I'm not really focused on money. I'd like to maintain the same flex time schedule that allows me to work from home and/or go to the office at my discretion and has most of my co-workers located in different cities from the one I live in. I never want to go back to the big office type of job where you don't get any work done because people are always in your business.

Fitness and Wellness- I will become an aerobics instructor so that I'm not so tempted to skip my gym workouts. I used to thrive when I taught karate and I feel like there isn't anything that can replace that feeling except for teaching. I have registered for a class that takes place next month and should be able to start teaching classes in October.

I give a lot of free advice to people (even though I don't necessarily follow my own). I think being a life coach and/or personal trainer would allow me to help more people get their lives together. This is probably a few years down the road, once I get myself together.

Neither of these jobs would provide me with the cash flow to be a full time job but I think it would provide me with a sense of purpose in life and interaction with people that is missing from my "real job".

I will get back into good running shape so that I don't injure myself every time I run a big race. If I could get back down to 10 minute mile pace, that would be great (I'm probably 12:30 right now) but I'm more focused on not feeling so crappy after I run.

Social Life- I will keep being active in my meetup groups because they do provide a great opportunity to socialize with people even if I don't develop any big friendships outside of the meetups.

I will find a way to speak Spanish on a regular basis. I have studied Spanish since I was three and studied abroad in college. I was almost fluent at one point but can barely communicate now because I haven't had to speak it in years. Maybe I will find a conversational Spanish group or join a Salsa group.

I will join a local orchestra. I started playing the flute in 6th grade and was a very accomplished flautist at one point. I know I'm not good enough to be in a symphony orchestra or anything but there are several community bands and orchestras that I have seen advertised that are open to new members. Music has always been a big part of my life and I'd love to get back into that.

A group of people that I can go out dancing with. I love to dance but that's definitely something that I can't do alone. Birthday parties, superbowl parties, going out to bars, dinner at each other's houses, and all the great stuff that comes with having a core group of friends.

I will challenge myself (and my husband) to try things that are out of our comfort zone. While I love our weekly dates to the movies, I think we might be in a little rut too. Plus, excitement in our social life could lead to a little more excitement in the bedroom and who doesn't want that?

We will buy an RV once we get rid of our credit card debt. I never completely relax on vacation because I miss my pets and my routine. I love the idea of an RV because I'm traveling but I still have many of the comforts of home. We rarely travel for more than 4-5 days at a time because I don't feel comfortable leaving the pets for that long and get frustrated with the hotel/friend that we are staying with. An RV would allow us to take longer vacations because we could take the pets with us but we wouldn't have to worry about staying in hotels or with relatives. We could really enjoy our RV life once we retire but I think we would really enjoy it now too.

Dream House- A ranch house with large rooms and lots of windows. Brick or stone construction. A very green house with recycled rain water, solar panels, etc. At least 2 acres of land. No cookie-cutter subdivisions with neighbors in your backyard. An old barn where we could have an arts and crafts studio and an indoor pool (really, this is important because it gets cold in Syracuse). A garden where I could grow herbs and vegetables to cook with. Not too far away from parks and lakes or a city. Lots of opportunities for hiking, kayaking and other outdoor activities close to home but less than an hour drive if we want to go to a concert or play. A wrap around porch with a big swing and a wood rocking chair. A gazebo in the backyard where I could read and write in peace.

Retirement- I'd love to own a bed and breakfast that caters to travelers with dogs. Over the years I have frequented these places and they have made my travel much easier but there are not enough of them around. I would become certified in canine massage so that I could provide a service to the doggie guests as part of their package. This would be a relatively small, intimate place that catered to only a few guests at a time.

So that's it.

Friday, July 30, 2010

The Worst Day of My Life

8.5 years ago I adopted a skinny German shepherd dog from the Humane Society. He was about a year old, had been living on the streets and was very weak. But, despite having a difficult start to life, he had the greatest disposition and made friends every where we went. This week I said goodbye to him.

Chale has always had medical problems but I was always able to manage them so that he had a pretty normal life. Because of all of his medical problems and his large size (max 116 lbs) I knew that 10 years was probably his expected life span so it was not surprise when he started slowing down over the past few months.

I am happy to say that he didn't suffer. He started acting sick Saturday. By Tuesday he didn't want to eat at all and couldn't stand up or support his own weight. It was sudden but that made our decision much easier to make. If we had seen a glimmer of the silly, attention-loving boy during those last 2 days we might have considered surgery or some other aggressive treatment. But his spirit was gone. He was miserable.

In the past, when Chale was sick, he would still want to go for a swim in the pool and would never turn down a meal or a treat. When we put him in the pool the last time he drank water constantly and "paced" around the perimeter of the pool. No desire to fetch sticks or bark at his sister while she ran along the edge of the pool. Then no desire to eat his dinner despite only eating a couple bites from his breakfast and us putting all sorts of stinky goodies in this food. My husband and I looked at each other and knew it was time.

We carried him to the car on the comforter from his bed, fed him leftover bacon on the drive to the vet and then let him go. The only thing I can compare the pain to is the loss of my father 12 years ago. My father was sick my entire life so I had accepted that I was going to lose him years before it actually happened. But something happens when you get that call from the hospital or you look into your dog's eyes and realize that it's time. In that moment you feel all the love that you've shared with him during your time together combined with the pain of knowing there will be no new memories.

I know that we made the right decision for him. I know that it was his time. But I still feel guilty for making him share me with a new dog for the last two months of his life. I feel bad for thinking about what the new dog that we will adopt to be a companion for our other dog will be like. I feel bad for not missing the expense of acupuncture treatments, hydrotherapy, prescription and holistic medicine and all of the other expenses that kept Chale going.

The truth is, that managing Chale consumed me when he was at his worst and that there will be a big hole in both my daily schedule and my bank book where I had reserved so much space for him. The ease of getting up and just walking out the door with a young, healthy dog is something that I haven't known for a very long time. My days are easier than they have been in a long time and there is almost a sense of relief from the burden of Chale's needs being lifted from my shoulders. It is this guilt that fills my head at night keeps me from getting any sleep. Granted, I've been an insomniac for my whole life but I am currently experience a level of sleeplessness that I know is unhealthy.

I suspect that we will be a one dog household for no more than a month. Our 3 year old shepherd is nervous and needs the guidance of a confident dog in her life. She has made great strides during the 2.5 months that we have had her and I know that is because of the excellent example that Chale set for her during the short time that they spent together. Plus the joy of saving another animal's life and watching him/her blossom under your care is something that cannot be matched.