Thursday, June 30, 2011

Kansas Abortion Clinic Laws

Bill brought this one to my attention: new Kansas laws that mandate certain room requirements for abortion clinics. This is fucking absurd. And, I'm just ranting here, I'm tired of this kind of bull shit. Honestly--can anyone even answer what world we are even living in?

"Kan. Planned Parenthood receives abortion license":
The new rules from the Kansas Department of Health and Environment tell abortion providers what drugs and equipment they must have on hand, how big some of their rooms must be and the specific temperatures allowed in procedure and recovery rooms. The department is imposing them under a new licensing law that takes effect Friday.

The licensing law is part of an unprecedented surge of anti-abortion legislation that has advanced through Republican-controlled legislatures in many states. Collectively, the measures create an array of new obstacles — legal, financial and psychological — for women seeking abortions and doctors performing them.

Kansas has three abortion providers, all in the Kansas City area, and two of them haven't obtained licenses and can't legally perform abortions until a federal court intervenes. A hearing in a federal lawsuit involving the other providers besides Planned Parenthood was scheduled for Friday in Kansas City.

I'm sorry to dwell on the negative, but we also live in this world: "$100 Million ATM Receipt Found In Hamptons, Said To Belong To David Tepper"
The Wall Street tabloid site on Wednesday posted a June 18 ATM receipt from a Capitol One Bank in East Hampton showing an account with an available balance of a whopping $99,864,731.94.

The receipt is reported to have been left in the ATM after the account holder withdrew the cash.

DealBreaker later identified the account holder as David Tepper, a hedge fund manager and founder of Appaloosa Management. The site reports that Tepper joked after withdrawing the money that he "hadn't used an ATM since Lehman."

And we live in this world: Eric Cantor. That's all I want to say about that ass.

My tolerance for nonsense is just completely depleted right now. Some days I can muster it up, but honestly--I just wonder where some smart, compassionate politicians reside. "I want to go to there."

Monday, June 27, 2011

The Lottery

I watched the documentary, The Lottery, this evening. I'm just venting my concerns (which probably makes me sound unintelligent) because I need some space to talk. I welcome any feedback.
A. I kind of think it's irresponsible to use individual kids and family situations to make emotional appeals. As much as like hearing people's stories, I didn't like following the lives of these four kids and their families to see whether they would get into Harlem Success--it felt too much like a competition and I was rooting for these kids (these teams) to win. Additionally, by showing those that didn't make it in to the charter school, it almost seems to take away any agency they might have when they go to a public school.

B. Maybe that's the thing that makes me the most frustrated. I do think certain schools teach better than others, but no matter where you're at, you always have the option to learn. And I'd like to think that if you're a concerned parent and you can't get your child into the best school, that you can still do a lot in your life to promote learning.

C. The movie did make me think differently about the teachers' union, and I fell in with their track of criticizing the union. I felt myself falling into what I think the movie wanted me to believe: that charter schools are helpful and that they do promote success. And that they have more latitude to do so because they are not bound by union rules.

D. I felt the passion of the educators involved in Harlem Success, and found it inspirational.

E. But I get very tired of hearing that a college education is the ultimate marker of success. It isn't, and that's a rather short-sighted goal, I think. I don't mean to sound glib about this point, by any means, because I know it's complicated by race and poverty issues. I just mean that I'm very concerned about raising another generation that believes a college education is going to solve it's problems. Not that it isn't helpful or wonderful in and of itself--it's just not going to solve anything, especially if we're just training people for more of the same.

F. So I guess I'm left thinking that I don't think I have a problem with charter schools. I am left feeling critical of the teachers' union. I am also left really missing my kiddos and wishing that I could be a good teacher! We need good teachers!

A Visit To Adultland

Is it just me or is somebody going to the doctor tomorrow? And it is just me is or somebody going to the dentist on Thursday? And is it just me or are both of these trips covered by real, live insurance?


Tomorrow I get some testing done as my first step on work's wellness program. I've been losing weight, and really want to lose 50 pounds from where I'm at now. I keep saying, "This is my year!" And then I visit Beamy's beloved dentist on Thursday. This is, for sure, going to be a long journey, and I'm frightened about what they are going to dig up in there. But I am so excited to go to the dentist and to start to get caught up on ye olde oral hygiene.

And not only are these body concerns being addressed, but my financial state is being addressed, too. I'm digging my way out of debt, which has been a source of shame for me, and my credit card company just offered a really nice payment plan. It's interesting to me how they are completely unforgiving when you need them to be, and then they make you a deal that is actually better than what you wanted when you wanted a break in the first place. I know one should "neither a borrower or lender be," but that's just not the way I've gone in my life. I've been ashamed at the numbers of my weight and the numbers of my debt, but it's also interesting that they are only numbers and that they do provide a definite marker by which to measure.

The good news to all of this is that none of this would be possible without my new job, which I am thoroughly enjoying. So here's to good jobs!

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Movies, Curiosity, Body Image, and Humor

Bill and I watched two movies this weekend, The Trip, and Super 8. I enjoyed both of them, and discovered that I would tweak each of them just slightly. It's fun to be an amateur movie critic! The clip below is--I think--so funny. And it pretty much is all I heard from Bill all weekend. Indeed.

As an end-of-school-year present, the principal gave me seasonings from the Tulsa-based company, Convenient Cooking. I used the Mexican spice tonight by baking chicken, green pepper, onion, and potatoes; it was delicious. I just saw that you can order their spices online, and I will probably do that soon!

I picked up a book called Curious?: Discover the Missing Ingredient to a Fulfilling Life, by Todd Kashdan. I skipped right to his chapter on anxiety and curiosity, in part because I feel like a know-it-all as far as these psychology/self-help/meditative books go. Kashdan used a really helpful metaphor when describing anxiety and exploration. He said to picture two dials, one for anxiety and the other for exploration. When your anxiety dial is up, there's basically nothing you can do to change it, but you can start dialing up the exploration dial. I found this helpful because there were a couple moments this week where I felt really anxious and could reason that there was nothing bad happening. But I still couldn't break out of this anxious state, and I did start making it worse for myself. I felt myself close up. And one thing Kashdan talks about is how we can still be pursuing our best lives even in the midst of such anxiety--you don't have to solve the problem of anxiety in order to go forward. I think this is important. I think it's interesting to get older and see how I've used my anxiety as a way to judge when to get out of a situation, and how I've used it as a way to hold myself back from situations. It's interesting stuff.

I read an old article on female desire in Psychology Today that I actually found very helpful. Apparently I am like most women in that I find the thought of sleeping with someone new very desirous (although not now, just for the record. I think new relationship dopamine is still flowing through my brain and body.) and that my body image plays an integral role in my sex life. I've felt for a while that if I could feel good about my body that sex would be a different type of experience. And it's hard to convey that to a partner and it's a lot like being stuck in an anxious state--there's no where to go and nothing/no one to blame because you know it's all in your head. And you know that nothing anyone says is going to make it better.

According to the article, women are more disconnected from their bodies than men. To rectify this, they offer a meditative exercise. They say to look at your naked, non-aroused body in a mirror without judging it. Whenever your mind wanders or you start judging yourself, then just come back to the moment. After, build into a state of arousal and then look at your body again. The point is just to notice your body and start to connect how it feels when you're aroused. I tried this exercise and it made me feel better about my body than I have in a while. It's all, of course, related to mindfulness. And I found a lot of connections between this exercise and Kashdan's book--a lot of what we can do is just notice whatever it is that we are feeling and experiencing. So much can happen just by noticing, instead of trying to stuff away. That's so much what I've been trying to do in my life, but sometimes I just need these reminders; I think it helps me to go a little further into life.

On a different note, Bill and I watched the season premier of Louie>, and I freaking love this show. I wish I could share what he was saying about marriage and divorce, but I can't (I tried)--suffice it to say that it was so funny!

Saturday, June 25, 2011

"It's a good day for it!"

The other day I was jogging and got hopeful that soon autumn would be around. I found some brown leaves that had fallen to the ground, and there are some yellowing leaves on one of Bill's trees--yes! hooray! because it is hot as anything these days (where "hot as anything" is "99 degrees F").

That said, there was a breeze this afternoon, when I went for my jog. Jogging has been slow business these days, and I blame that on the heat. Today's jog brought a couple of things: the first person, a young man asking I had seen a tree growing any small peach-looking things. He had a grocery sack and looked like he was forging for the fruit. I didn't want to engage him because sometimes I get weary of people who seem to want attention for doing something out-of-the-ordinary. And I feel very defensive while I'm jogging because I'm by myself and if I get tired, I get worried that I won't have energy to fight away any attackers. That's just what I think about--stranger danger--when I'm jogging and see men that aren't also jogging (bikers, walkers, fruit-pickers--I'm nervous about them all).

The second person, an older man who had stopped at the water fountain at the top of the trail, taking a break after jogging. I watched him while I jogged, up the hill, towards him. Someone I know (whose name rhymes with "swill") is afraid of developing low-testosterone-induced boobs that men tend to get later in life; this man had the beginnings of such boobs. They weren't unsightly, but just something to notice about bodies as they get a little older. We exchanged smiles as I jogged by, and he said, "It's a good day for it!" I smiled back, thinking how miserable I was jogging in the heat, while also enjoying the freedom to sweat during a sanctioned time (as opposed to the unsanctioned time of any other time my body is in the heat); it's a neat combination of hating being outside and panting and loving moving my body that I possess.

I loved this man's comment, and I couldn't tell if he really thought it was a good day for jogging. Since it was so hot, I thought maybe he was making a joke and commiserating with me. Or, maybe, since he had been jogging, too, he actually thought it was a good day for jogging! Either way, we we either making fun of ourselves or praising ourselves--and it felt really nice to be in that kind of positive space with him, unexpectedly!

He made me think that any day is good day for whatever we do! Otherwise, why would we be doing it? I just really like the phrase; I think it helps to alleviate anxiety and promote patience. And it's a good day for that. (Heehee.)

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Baby Birds

After a number of weeks roosting on the balcony post, a mourning dove welcomed two babies into this world earlier this week! The babies are large and so cute! I'll post a picture, but it's difficult to see them--I am hesitant to get a closer picture because I don't want to startle them. I'm excited they're around!

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Mark Your Calendars!

Quite a number of things are going on, namely my sister, V., is about to give birth again! And we are entering Birthday Season, where everyone decides to have a birthday right after each other. Also, we are one month from the third annual Less-Is-More Day! So it'd be awesome if everyone got rid of some crap this next month! I have some books I don't need, some dishes no one seems to want, and some craft projects I could easily finish. That, along with shredding some old papers, is what I'd like to get rid of in honor of the day. I'd love to hear anyone else's actions for Less-Is-More Day. So, please, give it a thought and get ready to report in a month! Thank you so much!!

Not Impatient, Just Music-Deprived

As a follow-up to last night's post, I realize tonight that the thing I was missing was music--not patience!

I had a lovely conversation with a new coworker about music today at lunch, and tonight Ryan came over for an overdue guitar lesson. (Two week hiatus due to my car woes, which are now wonderfully and expertly solved by Surfside. Go there, should you live in Tulsa and have car troubles; I highly recommend them.)

My coworker mentioned a few pop and hip-hop artists that I wasn't familiar with or hadn't kept up with, so that gives me a few leads to go on, should I decide to listen to either genre anytime soon. (That's a toss-up right now.) He doesn't appear to be the type, but he goes to bars and clubs and dances each weekend. He mentioned how he likes to watch a shy person get taken by the music and start dancing without worrying about being watched. It was lovely to listen to him describe such a person.

One area I disagreed with him, in only one sense, was when he described a person listening, singing, and dancing to her music in the car, "This person is lost in her own world."

I disagreed because it seems that whole world happens when we are lost in the music--nothing else matters, and so you aren't lost, but actually just are (for once). I know I actually agree with my coworker, but something in this shade of difference led me to a realization about my job.

I realized that it's kind of an uncomfortable environment only in the sense that I care very much about my performance. I want to understand everything that I'm coming across, and that's simply impossible at this point; it's going to take time. I realized that there's an interesting mix of people watching your every move and people not giving two shits about you. It's like you are under a microscope and ignored at the same time. Which sounds to me very much like how it feels to sing and dance to music in the car. No one, and I mean no one, can watch me as I belt it out along Sheridan. Yet it can also feel like everyone is watching me (and why shouldn't they? I kick ass at singing mainstream music from the 70s, 80s, 90s, and today. And sometimes I throw in some arm waving, head bouncing, and steering wheel drumming to boot.).

(So, just an observation that being at work is like singing in the car.)

Tonight's lesson with Ryan was invigorating! And I was a little intoxicated, which is why I felt courageous enough to play the electric guitar. Ryan and I were ranting about religion and curiosity. He holds a position I once held, but no longer have (that is, if I'm understanding him correctly); and it's interesting to argue with him because I'm not trying to be right, but to see what he thinks of my ideas. So we decided to riff a little and see if we could create a song about our conversation. And, of all weird things, I came up with a "gnarly"* chord progression. Ryan came up with some pretty good opening lyrics. So we have a start of something that we both created. It felt fun to just let loose for a bit; I haven't really done that in our lessons before. And the electric guitar is amazing because you don't actually have to be able to play it--the distortion makes anything sound awesome. I love this instrument. And I love it with an unreal type of love.

In other music news, it had been far too long since I checked out anything new from the library. I rectified this last night by picking up Rodrigo y Gabriela, David Bowie (in part because I so much miss my old college friend, J.), Led Zeppelin, and the Editors (I have never heard of them, but I like their name and the name of their cd).

So that's what I'm listening to and that's why I feel infinitely better than I did a day ago. (Another reason why I feel better, too, is because I read The Little Prince last night; I hadn't read it before and I really enjoyed it. But speaking of things I'm reading, I'm about to get really cranky with my sister, E., who likes Jane Austen, whom I've never read before. It's taken me two weeks to read 50 pages of Emma. And do I give a single shit about this book? No, no I do not.)

*By my account, "gnarly" a positive quality; one worthy of pursuit

Monday, June 20, 2011

"Rome wasn't built in a day. Be patient. (in bed)"

So read my fortune cookie the other night. Actually, come to remember it correctly, so read Bill's fortune cookie the other night; he promptly said, "This one is yours" and tossed it my way.

That really gave me cranky face because a) I hate when Bill acts like he knows me so well (unless he sees a completely flattering trait) and b) I didn't really think I needed patience.

I need tons of patience, though. And for what?! Why?! All of my hopes and goals aren't going anywhere! All of the things I'm trying to improve are being improved either slowly or not all. (And in the case of the latter, I'm trying to find different tactics of improvement.) Things are fine; I just feel restless, though. And when I say "things are fine," I mean that they are far better than fine. I just have a sense that I'm doing anything with myself. I wonder what it's about!

Monday, June 13, 2011

A Bit About the New Job

I am still in the training phase of my new job, but I am slowly working into the field instead of just hanging out at the call center. I got to take some calls on Friday and shadow other employees today. It's amazing to me how sometimes people just need to talk. We just need to tell each other our woes. It amazes me how many people I'm not and it amazes me how life just deals people different situations and people will attach certain meaning to some things and not others.

In working with people, I've heard so many stories. I learned what dystonia is and how one young lady contracted it through medication for irritable bowel syndrome. I've heard from a 20-year-old man who has been diagnosed with HIV. All sorts of people have attendance problems. Some people have trouble doing the basic tasks of their job. One man with a mental handicap couldn't read the form he was given saying he was walking off his job. Some people are liars and can tell a story without blinking. Some people never thought their current reality would ever be their reality. Many women can't dress too well, but still many of them have lovely hair. I'm noticing a lot of scabs on people's legs.

With some people you sense that "things are going to get a lot worse before they get worse." With some people you sense that they are going to be ok. And in the midst are all these children! All these children everywhere! And these people who are aging--what about them? Job and work, job and work--that's all so many people do. That's one thing, and that's a fine thing.

I worked in a shipping facility one summer before going to college and a woman, in her 60s told me, "You don't want to end up like us!" And it seems that's what's many people have told me over the years. But today I realized that part of what separates us from others isn't the job we do or the jobs we're capable of doing, but the extent of our imagination and heart. My education and potential and station does mean something, but it doesn't make the difference between me and my former coworker. What is different is that I have wanted to try something that I didn't know about, and that I had support to try those things. And we all have those kinds of tries in us, but not everyone understands that. And I realize today that imagination is a true gift. The ability to dream and to see something beyond the stagnant waters we're in is not something I should have been taking so lightly!

I didn't know dreaming was in such short supply; I always thought it was brains that were lacking, but I was completely mistaken! I tried my best at brains, but that's not the bit that excites me. The soul excites me. Connecting--and, of course, not connecting--with all of these different souls is something new to me. It occurred to me today that I think the best we can do is to learn to soften our hearts. To soften our hearts and keep them inside our own chests; I think that's a worthy task.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Education Reform

I'm researching education policies and reform in the US during the past handful of years. It's a big topic, so I've limited myself (right now) to books I found at my nearest library branch. I've been reading through this article, and just wanted to mention it here--it's the NYT Room for Debate topic, "Testing Students to Grade Teachers." I haven't read all of it yet, but I am struck by Paul Thomas' point on the role of poverty in education.

There are so many angles from which to approach the problem of education in America.

In my research today I found a book (in the catalog, but not on the shelf, where it should have been) called, The Lost Soul of Higher Education: Corporatization, the Assault on Academic Freedom, and the End of the American University by Ellen Schrecker. The title alone basically does it for me. I think of our nation's heritage of slavery and men and women seeking personal literacy at the cost of their lives. According to one fact I read, today's black twelfth grader has the equivalent of a white's eighth grade education. And because our educational institutions have "lost their soul," it makes it even more difficult to argue that there is value in learning for its own sake.