Saturday, February 21, 2015

New Cat on the Block

There's a new cat in town, and his name is Oscar.

Sorry it's a little blurry, but he's still in that always-on-the-move stage.

After a month and a half of living cat-free for the first time in nearly twenty years, I decided I couldn't take it any longer.  Yesterday, Kiddo and I went over to Greenville County Animal Shelter to see if we could find a new feline family member.  This was my first visit to GCAS, and I was really impressed (understatement.)  The facility was spotless and modern.  And most importantly, the staff was wonderful.  I have never been to a pet rescue facility where the staff was so invested in the well-being of the animals.

My fuzzy red blanket has magical cat-attracting properties.

So, back to yesterday.  We arrived at the shelter and headed into the cat building and followed the little blue paw prints to the adoptable cats.  I'm not sure if they had any kittens because we were looking at adult cats only.  Adults are much more difficult to re-home, but they make wonderful family members.  If you're thinking about getting a cat, please consider adopting an adult kitty.  (End of commercial.  And no Sarah McLachlan songs.  You're welcome.)  Every few minutes somebody was offering to help us as we met so many beautiful cats.  I finally called my husband (who works very nearby) to come and help with the search.  It wasn't until he arrived that we found Oscar.  Search over.

Is the coast clear? (Translation: Where's the dog?)

Oscar had been at the shelter since December, so long in fact, that some kind person had paid his adoption fee in hopes of increasing his chances for finding his forever home.  Everyone in the cat building was so visibly excited about the prospect of Oscar finding his forever home, that they nearly threw us a parade.  Seriously, as we walked out with him in the carrier, people were peeking in and asking, "Is that Oscar?" and then cheering.  It was so touching.  Also, for the record, we paid it forward with Oscar's adoption fees so that some other cat in need will benefit.  I didn't know this was something you could do, and I may have to go again soon and sponsor another cat's adoption fees because what a great thing to do for a homeless kitty!

He always dresses for dinner.

The original plan was to give Oscar a new name, but after hours of discussion and debate, nothing felt right.  We decided that we were overthinking it, and the reason we were having so much trouble was that he was just an Oscar.  So his name stands.  We're still learning about our new housemate, but here's what we know so far:  He's an adult male cat of unknown age, though if I had to guess, I'd say three or four.  He's very cautious but not fearful.  He's crazy curious.  And most importantly, he seems to be able to hold his own against the Big Dog.  (Not that Sam would do anything more than sniff him, but Oscar made it very clear to Sam that he was not okay with that.)

So what has Oscar been up to since his arrival yesterday afternoon?  Well, aside from biding his time under our bed, he's done significant exploring, including a middle-of-the-night excursion across our pillows, pausing for a quick pat and scratch.  I also caught him unrolling the toilet paper in our bathroom.  When I called him on it, he poked his head around the door as if to say, "Who me?"  He thoroughly investigated Kiddo's room and bed and has now claimed the landing at the top of the stairs as his own personal perch.  Oh, and did I mention how much he loves my fuzzy, red blanket?

There was some kneading going on shortly after/before this photo was taken.

Just now, Oscar is enjoying a little peace and quiet before my husband and Kiddo return with groceries and lots of new cat toys and treats.  Perhaps I should warn him.  Or maybe he already knows and is conserving his energy for the catnip-laced toy orgy that is about to ensue.  I'm battening down the hatches.

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

[Get Out of My] Cabin Fever

I officially have "Get Out of My Cabin" Fever.  This particular illness differs from the more traditional, Cabin Fever, in that it requires every else in the house to leave and enjoy the outside world, whilst I remain home in my cozy nest, alone.  Except for the dog.  He can stay.
He's the strong, silent type.

We've been hit hard the past two weeks.  First there was the scourge of mothers everywhere....head lice.  There was treating and combing and laundry.  Lots of laundry.  And then there was more treating and more combing and more laundry.  If you see a kid at preschool running around in a swimming cap, that's going to be my kid.  We are NOT risking this madness again.  Also, I had to go three days without washing my hair or using any kind of hair product.  Yeah, there won't be any pictures of that.  Or maybe that's not really a photo of Sam above.  Needless to say, there has been quite a bit of homebound time during the Lice Debacle of 2015.

Everything but the Xanax

And then, just when I thought we couldn't have any more togetherness, there was the ice storm.  And no, it was nothing like the movie.  Here in the South, the world shuts down whenever any sort of frozen precipitation falls from the heavens, so we've been home now for three days with no preschool (Presidents' Day was thrown in just for fun.)  I have taken to hiding in the back of the house as soon as my husband gets home and takes over as Chief Question Answerer/Admirer/Edifier/Entertainer.  We say things like, "Mommy is taking a bath," which is code for, "Don't bother Mommy while she watches Star Trek:Voyager in peace."

Lest I sound like the biggest villain since whoever cancelled Arrested Development, allow to me clarify that we did celebrate Valentine's Day as best we could as a family, and I made pancakes with Kiddo this morning just because.  I also allowed my husband to join me in the back of the house to watch the mid-season premiere of The Walking Dead (yes, we're an episode behind.)  So I have my moments of soft-heartedness.  Only moments though.

Back to zombies, however.  What is the deal with the second halves of seasons on this show?  Last year we had to wade through at least six episodes of the separated group whining, I mean, wandering through the woods and a whole lot of not much else.  The first half of the current season was action-packed and ended with a BANG (literally.)  And now, here we are again in the Slough of Despair, directionless, whiny, and killing off one of the only currently interesting characters.  I am so sick of Conflicted Rick with his Furrowed Brow, and now it seems (at least as far as the mid-season premiere went) that he has passed this disease on to the perpetually hopeful Glenn.  Anyway, fingers crossed that the second episode is better tonight.  Also, on a side note, there is a special place reserved in hell for people who post spoilers on Facebook.  Ever heard of a DVR?  Or a ROKU?  Official Facebook pages for shows, this goes for you too!  (You'll notice that I was VERY careful to word my complaints about the show in very non-specific language above.)

While I'm in such a sunny mood, I'll also post a mini-review of Lena Dunham's Not That Kind of Girl, which finally came in on my reserve at the library.  (There were something like thirty people ahead of me.  This is not hyperbole.)  I added my name to the list, pretty much as soon as it came out -- you know, somewhere between the release announcement and the shitstorm of accusations that followed.  I've seen Dunham called all kinds of unrepeatable things -- not the least of which were that she was a child predator -- online and in print by a whole herd of angry people.  So when the title finally came in to my little library with my name on it, my excitement was tinged with curiosity from reading so much negative press.  I read the book in two days, so obviously, it was entertaining.  Reading this book convinced me of two things: #1 - Lena Dunham is awesomeamazingsupercoolsmartfunnycleverkindredspirit.  #2 - All those KneeJerks (as I am henceforth dubbing them) didn't actually read the book.  Now there's a shock.  

So what is their (the KneeJerks) problem with Lena Dunham?  Is it really that she was curious about what the human body looked like when she was very little?  Is it the fact that she talks about what she actually thought and felt as a young person in a completely honest, open, and straightforward way?  Or is that she is a woman who is comfortable in her own skin, at ease with own thoughts, and unapologetic about her personality and temperament? Perhaps if she showed some sort of shame about her not-so-Hollywood body they could forgive her being smart, funny, and a woman.  I am so over the dismissal of powerful women as bitches or perverts, as if being a woman in charge is somehow unnatural. 

Ok, I'm getting riled up, and this isn't the day to risk that.  So we'll move on.  Before we do, though, on a semi-related note, here's a link to a great Salon article on the power of female nudity. Do yourself a favor and read it with an open mind.

Well, Kiddo has had all the alone time she can muster, and there is a little face at my door every couple of minutes now with some manufactured reason why I need to be interrupted.  And I just used the words "unless you're on fire or dying" in a sentence to her, so yeah, I'd better go.  Plus, there are still papers to grade (only five, so that's not too bad.)  Tomorrow it's back to school.  FOR EVERYONE!

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Books, Bugs, and a Busted Weekend

Greetings on a Wednesday, aka the first time this week I've had any one-on-one time with my MacBook in a week.  Life has been hairy the past week or two, and I am ready for a breather that's probably not on the horizon.  I've really been feeling the mommy squeeze lately.  Apparently, Kiddo's fifth birthday flipped some sort of I-need-your-undivided-attention-ever-waking-moment switch that has left me feeling frayed and frazzled, and I've lost some of my downtime/writing time to my class schedule (not that I'm complaining about teaching, but more about that later.)  So the weekend was looking promising with a church-planned Daddy-Daughter Dance on Friday evening, a lie-in on Saturday morning, and drinks and books with my best friend on Saturday night.  The solitude and adult companionship was soothing, but I was still feeling overwhelmed and overstimulated come Sunday morning.  A quiet morning alone was required if my sanity was to remain intact, and my husband was very accommodating, not returning from church and lunch and shopping until late, but any ground I might have gained in the sanity department was about to slip away come evening.

We are officially the scourge of preschool.  Kiddo got lice somewhere, and we discovered this lovely fact Sunday night.  Cue hours of frantic cleaning, laundry, treating, and combing.  Somehow, my husband and I managed to avoid the infestation, but Kiddo was not so lucky.  She's been a trooper through all the bad smelling shampoo and hours of combing, but I am so totally over the whole drama.  I did somewhere between eight and ten loads of laundry in twenty-four hours, all while still running the household, making meals, and helping Kiddo handmake fifteen Valentine's for her preschool party.  I am so over being Mommy at this point that after one too many pokes and prods and tugs Monday afternoon, something snapped and I actually said, "Stop touching me!"  Of course, Kiddo thought this was hilarious and a game of Poke Mommy ensued.

Okay, not really, but it felt good to say it.

Not all is bleak and buggy, however.  I am now halfway through week two of my Comp 101 class, and it is going so well.  I have eighteen wonderfully smart and engaged students that make me happy every class period.  Their first outlines were due yesterday, and I was so pleased with their work that I feel nothing but anticipation for reading their first papers (due tomorrow.)  I imagine this enthusiasm will flag a few papers in as nobody WANTS to grade eighteen freshman comp essays, but nevertheless I remain optimistic and grateful for such a respectful, well-prepared class.

Gold stars for everyone! (Except you.)

All of this drama and hard work has seriously cut into my reading time.  I'm still only, like 300 pages into 1Q84 despite it being an amazing read.  I did, however, manage to finish A Year of Biblical Womanhood: How a Liberated Woman Found Herself Sitting on Her Roof, Covering Her Head, and Calling Her Husband Master.  (As a library book, it got priority.  It's .20 a DAY now for late charges. Yikes.)  I really, really loved this book.  I recommend this book.  Read this book.

Rachel Held Evans writes books about faith and doubts and women and equality and all those things I find so important and interesting and some other "i" words that I haven't thought of yet.  She does write from a progressive perspective, so don't go into her work expecting Donna-Reed-Joins-the-Women's-Ministry.  I love what she has to say about so many things (here's her blog) but I have to admit that after reading the introduction to this book, I was a little skeptical.  Sure I agree with what she has say and how she views women and their roles in the Church, but that doesn't mean I want to read an entire book mocking the beliefs of more conservative women.  The idea of someone outside of the evangelical tradition (though she grew up in it) participating in all of kinds of ultra-conservative practices and roles seemed problematic at best, and cruel and mean-spirited at its worst. Yet, she somehow manages to avoid having any of those issues.  She honestly and openly explores fundamentalist (and even some Orthodox Jewish, Mormon, and Catholic) definitions of "Biblical Womanhood" and spent a year trying to live these different principles, whether she agreed with them or not.

Honestly, I'm not sure how she managed to write about calling her husband, "Master," or refusing speaking engagements, or many of the other things she tried while still managing a mostly neutral (and definitely respectful) tone.  The book was definitely funny as she attempts things like cooking her way through a Martha Stewart cookbook and making her own clothes, but her humor is always self-directed.  With the exception of the cooking, she's just so bad at most of the things she tries.  Her self-deprecating tone lightens what would otherwise be a very serious book.  (If you are a fan of Half the Sky -- the book or the film series -- this book is for you, as well.)  Women are suffering.  Women are being told they are second-class citizens.  Women are being kept out of positions of leadership in the church and undervalued.  Women are being abused and killed and sold.  But throughout the book, Evans just keeps emphasizing that women are not the problem.  Women are the solution.  How can you not love that?  

So, overall, I'd put this title right up there with my favorite, Jesus Feminist.  Okay, Jesus Feminist is still my favorite, but this one is a close second.  Now, I just have to find copies of some of Evans' other books as our library system only has this one book.  In the county-wide whole system.  Don't get me started.

Here's hoping this week calms down and gets better (and quieter.)  I've managed to get caught up on my Downton episodes (I was two behind), and we watched the new The Walking Dead last night, so I should be free to read my little heart out tonight after Kiddo goes down.  Tomorrow is going to be a big day, so I must rest up for the sugar-induced frenzy that Kiddo will be in when I pick her up from her Valentine's Day party at preschool in the afternoon.  But for now, my dryer has beeped, which means Kiddo's sheets are clean and ready to be put back on her bed (again.)  After that it's on to lesson plans, errands, and just being mom.  If you need me, just DON'T.

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Good News, Bad News #LikeaWriter

Good news first, okay?  Yesterday was my first meeting with my new class of freshman comp, and it was great.  Sixteen really wonderful ladies who seemed engaged and eager.  What more could I ask for?  Also on the good news front, I got two more sections lined up for the fall semester.  Really excited about all the time to work once Kiddo is doing the kindergarten thing.  Just have to get her registered on Friday (also exciting.)
On the not-exactly-bad-news-but-not-so-great-either side of things?  I got my hair trimmed yesterday.  (Yay!) Unfortunately, I wasn't very specific about how much I wanted off, and it came out a little shorter than I imagined.  (Bummer.)  Oh, well.  Hair grows.  At least she cut it the way that I like it.

This is as much of my face as anyone is allowed to see today.  Made for an awkward morning.

Now for the actual bad news.  Like much of the bad news out there, this little doozie started as good news.  Sunday night on the testosterone fest that is the SuperBowl, Always aired a shortened version of their #likeagirl campaign commercial.  One commercial about the female empowerment in a sea of beer, trucks, and sex.  One.  Now, allow me to preface my impending rant with this little qualification: I am not a fan of retail companies using things like feminism/girl power/whatever-you-want-to-call-it to shill a product.  (I'm looking at you, Dove.)  But as far as girl power commercials go, this one was pretty good.  The only reference to the brand at all was at the very end of the spot and was simply a flash of the name Always.  And the message was spot on.  From doing things "like a girl" to more R-rated insults like, "pussy," being told you do things like you have two X chromosomes is almost never intended as a compliment.  Where as phrases like, "Man up" and "Grow a pair" imply a need for testicles in order to be brave or assertive, or even skilled.

So what I'm about to say now, is nothing that you can't read elsewhere.  There are lots of writers/reporters/bloggers/pissed-off-women out there writing their fingers to the bone about the Twitter backlash to Sunday night's commercial, the super-original #likeaboy.  Yes, from sofas and recliners everywhere, hordes of brave men went online to demand a menstrual product commercial of their own, one that demands that we all stop using the insult "like a boy."  Oh wait.  You've never heard anyone say that in a derogatory fashion? (Or seen a man menstruate for that matter.)  The closest you've ever come is the old chestnut, "Boys will be boys," always said with a wink and a nod to their charming rascality?  Yeah, me too.

Here's the thing.  There is nothing I can do about the basement dwellers and frat bros who participate in Twitter trends like, #likeaboy and #NotAllMen.  Arguing with them, pointing out the inequities between men and women's status in this country is an exercise in futility.  What I can do is plead with the men I know and love to stop and think before posting another mindless rejoinder to Twitter with one of these hashtags.  Does what you're about to type build up women?  (Or humans in general, for that matter.)  If not, then don't post it.  A television commercial that celebrates being female is not an assault on men or manhood.  In fact, it has NOTHING to do with manhood, and until men start making less than women for the same work, struggling with advancement because they are perceived as baby machines, objectified in every form of media (including ads for products marketed to them), harassed on the street and told to smile about it, published less, had their bodies criticized and analyzed more, mocked by pundits for their hairstyle and makeup, and basically told to go home where they belong, I'm not worried about you being marginalized by some smart little girls with confidence.

My suggestion to all the men out there who have amazing girls and women in their lives?  Go to Twitter and post about that.  Tell the world how your daughter won the science fair #likeagirl.  Your wife kicked ass in a marathon #likeagirl.  Your mother fought cancer valiantly #likeagirl.  If you don't know any women or girls out there doing things #likeagirl, then I suggest you leave your house/office/men's-only-club/panic room/fallout bunker and mingle with the other half of the world's population.  But be warned.  We take no prisoners, just #likeagirl.

Monday, February 2, 2015

Obsess Much?

Have I mentioned that I am a nerd?  Not in a Oh-My-Gosh-I'm-Such-A-Dork-Because-I-Once-Watched-an-Episode-of-Buffy kind of way.  I am a full-on socially inept obsessive.  I get way too excited when somebody brings up something I feel passionate about (Battlestar Galactica, anyone?) and talk way too fast and morph into this slightly scary fangirl that frightens away whoever brought up the topic.  Fortunately, I had the foresight to marry an even bigger nerd, so my crazy rants about my recent "Rewatch Every Episode of Star Trek: Voyager" project don't even faze him.  Heaven help our five year old.  She doesn't stand a chance at a normal life.  She's already adopted her daddy's recent fixation on Guardians of the Galaxy (I mean, do you know another five year old who's #1 party trick is doing the Baby Groot dance?) and is well on her way to becoming another compulsive reader like her mother. 

Sorry, Internet, this is NOT a nerd.

Like every good, self-respecting nerd I take everything I love in big, obsessive doses that leave me good for nothing much beyond more of the same.  So I thought in today's post I would spend a little time sharing my current obsessions, and if they overlap with any of your personal manias, let me know!

Last night I spent a good portion of the evening bingeing (I just spent an embarrassing amount of time researching the correct way to write this word) on YouTube videos, a pastime I share with my husband -- even if our tastes in videos differ a bit.  We both enjoy Russell Brand's The Trews (short for "True News.")  If you like irreverent political and social commentary, check it out.  As for my personal YouTube favorites, there are always lots of good videos to watch on Geek & Sundry's channel.  Another favorite of mine is Stuff Mom Never Told You, which is a fun web show that delivers exactly what the title says, quick lessons on everything from "How to Wrap a Present" to "Why Do We Kiss Under Mistletoe?"  The woman who hosts is hilarious and smart, and I love to waste a few hours watching her explain absolutely everything.

But last night my Roku YouTube app was cranking out the Book Riot videos.  In particular, I binged on the videos that featured Amanda Nelson, managing editor at Book Riot.  Her videos are thoughtful and funny and very smart.  I lost track of how many I watched last night, but I will recommend her videos on difficult to pronounce author names, finding good Christian non-fiction, and reading outside your comfort zone.  If you're a compulsive reader like me or even just a little bookish, check out the Book Riot channel on YouTube.

As I mentioned in an earlier post, I am currently on a Murakami bender, so reading 1Q84 is my current reading project.  I am, however, really excited to swing by the library on the way home today to pick up my two current reserves.  The first is a book that I've already read but want to skim again (somebody just buy me this book already), Jesus Feminist, by Sarah Bessey.  I'm hoping I find things I missed on the first reading and have more time to spend on the associated scriptures and such.  The second title that has come in at my local library is Rachel Held Evans' A Year of Biblical Womanhood.  I'm really excited about checking out this book (see what I did there?) as I have heard a lot of good things about it.  Will let you know what I think very soon.  

Let's see what's left for this post?  So little time and space and so many obsessions.  I supposed I'll wrap things up with what's playing on my tv (and movie) screens.  Last year I discovered the British (of course) show, The Bletchley Circle, a historical mystery/drama about a group of woman who worked at Bletchley Park during WWII decoding encrypted messages from the Nazis and helping the Allies to victory.  After the war ended, these women were sworn to secrecy (upon threat of treason charges) and left to return to quiet lives as underestimated wives and mothers, so of course, they must solve crimes.  I'm always a sucker for stories about smart women, so this show is right up my alley and a definite must-watch for fans of suspenseful stories full of code-breaking and mystery solving.  

I've been dying to see The Imitation Game, not only because of the Bletchley Park connection, but also because of the great and wonderful and amazing and...oops, I'm gushing, Benedict Cumberbatch.  Finally got to see this Oscar contender over the weekend with my best friend (my husband was stuck seeing Paddington with Kiddo), and it definitely lived up to the hype.  (The Imitation Game, I mean.  Can't speak for Paddington, though admittedly, Kiddo dubbed it "AH-mazing.")  Cumberbatch did not disappoint, and Knightley's performance was, arguably, the most nuanced of her career.  There were lots of puzzles and code-breaking and people (women included) being smart, and aside from the repetition of one overly pithy and precious catchphrase (think Spiderman's great power/great responsibility chestnut), it was beautifully written and well-paced.  The acting was superb across the board, and the film's handling of Turing's conviction and persecution for his sexual orientation was respectful and powerful.  So that's my commercial for that.  Go see it.

Well, I've once again clicked away an hour at BN cafe, and there is still much work to be done (class starts tomorrow) and hot chocolate to be drunk.  Must dash!