Wednesday, February 27, 2008


Recently I spent some time in the local E.R. (That’s Emergency Room for those who don’t watch the NBC drama that is inexplicably in its hundredth season…) Of course, like most people, I would have rather been anyplace else in the known (or unknown) universe. No one wants to have to go to the hospital, unless you are insane. If you are, I mean no disrespect, I just happen to be one of the sane masses who spend time and energy to avoid the emergency room.

Allow me to set the scene… It’s Sunday night. I have just lost our group Oscar pool for the first time ever. The taste of defeat is bitter in my mouth. (Not really – I actually only saw two of the Oscar nominated films this year: Ratatouille and Sicko – but I still hate to loose.) My fiancé and I walk in the door. I sit down at the computer to attempt to get motivated enough to finish a tiny bit of homework when I hear him say “Huh.” It was the most matter-of-fact sound anyone could make. Simple, sincere, confused. “Huh.” When I asked what was wrong, my fiancé showed me his middle finger.

Normally, I would respond in kind… however, it didn’t take an idiot to realize that he wasn’t making an obscene gesture. His middle finger was swollen to roughly two times its normal size. That, believe it or not, was one of the more terrifying things I have ever seen. My reaction was instantaneous. “Why the hell didn’t you mention this when we were at the party?”

Aren’t I the most nurturing soul?

Actually, I was scared. And, we had just left a party attended by a good friend of mine who happens to be a doctor. I was sure that he could calm my nerves and tell me something I wanted to hear. Something like, “Actually, this is a good thing.” Of course, we weren’t at the party any more, so I did what any sane rational person would do at 11pm. I called my mother, the nurse to get her advice. Her groggy advice was to go to the hospital, immediately.

You see, it’s not that I won’t seek emergency care when it is necessary. It’s just that I have this insane fear of all things hospital or emergency related. Bad things happen at hospitals. People die there, sometimes while waiting for care. Of course people also get well there, but my rational mind ceases to function when it is scared. Seeing an appendage of a loved one swell for no apparent reason will scare the best of us.

So we went to the hospital. After I had sufficiently armed myself with knowledge gleaned from Web MD. OK, armed, alarmed, what’s the difference?

When we arrived, a very nice woman told us to sit down and someone would be right with us. I have discovered that “be right with you” is a relative term. For the person waiting, you might expect someone to come out to help you in a few minutes. To the person helping, “right with you” means that they will add you to the bottom of their growing list of things to do and people to see. In our case, I was shocked that we were called back to the triage unit relatively quickly (about 20 minutes after our arrival.)

My fiancé was checked in and the nurse examined him, taking his blood pressure, temperature and whatnot. After poking and prodding at his poor swollen digit, she instructed us to go back to the waiting room. Someone else would presumably be right with us, just as soon as a room opened up. This time the wait was longer. I started watching the movie playing on the 19” TV bolted to the wall. I still don’t know how the unnamed David Spade movie ends, but to be honest, I probably wouldn’t have watched it at all if we hadn’t been in a hospital waiting room. At one point during our wait, I looked over and saw someone mopping the ceiling on the other side of the glass partition. I have to tell you, that added just a touch to my anxiety. What could have gotten on the ceiling? How could anything have gotten on a 12’ ceiling? What could it have been? Did a giant come through with a massive head wound? What could have happened?

I was so engrossed in my contemplation of the mysterious ceiling stain, that I missed several apparently key moments in the David Spade film, because it stopped making any kind of sense when I turned my attention back to it.

Finally, they called us back. We were lead through a maze like mice to a corner. I was wondering which of the numerous empty rooms would be ours. Imagine my surprise when we were told to “sit here” and the nurse pointed to a gurney in the corner of the hallway. That’s right, the hallway. Hallway H, actually. Our hallway had a name. The nurse left, saying that the doctor would be right with us. Awkwardly we both sat down and waited again. No TV this time, and reading my book seemed quite rude to my fiancé who sat staring silently forward, cradling his finger to his chest.

Now, I have to tell you, this isn’t the first time I have been in a hallway at a hospital. I was involved in an auto accident a few years back, and when they decided to take an x-ray of my neck and head to determine the extent of my injuries, they left me in a neck brace on a gurney in an abandoned hallway by the x-ray room. I laid there in an incredible amount of pain for more than an hour before a janitor found me and alerted someone that I had apparently been forgotten.

Of course, keeping that in mind, I was a little apprehensive about our odds of someone getting right with us right there in that hallway, but I kept faith and tried to keep my fiancé calm. If anyone is less suited for a trip to the hospital than I am, it is him. We are quite the pair.
After some time, a nurse came by and took his blood pressure. It was, for some reason, higher than it had been before. Maybe sitting in a hospital hallway in pain was doing something to him. Someone would probably be right with us to find out.

When the nurse left, she assured us that the doctor would be right with us. How unexpected.

Eventually, after time had lost a certain amount of meaning, the doctor came to see us. He poked around, asked a couple of questions and told my fiancé that he had an infection. Antibiotics and pain pills were his suggestion. Fabulous, now I can just collect the prescription and we can get the bleep out of this place, right? Right? Hello? Why am I still sitting here in this hallway? The doctor told us that the nurse would be right with us. Of course she would.

Oh, have I mentioned that I have been removed from the relative comfort of the gurney to a non-padded chair? Michael is now laying on the gurney, his middle finger comically in the air. It looked like he was expressing his opinion on hospitals and the idea that someone would be right with us. I would have laughed if he hadn’t been in so much pain.

Another undetermined amount of time went by. I amused myself by watching the corner of a television in a nearby room and describing the scenes to my poor battered fiancé. He has had his blood pressure checked and rechecked, but still nothing for the pain or swelling of his finger.

During this time, you can hear screaming from one room, arguing from a drunk in the corner, silent sobbing, and the laughter of distant nurses. Somewhere a heart rate monitor was keeping its beeping time. The earth cooled, the dinosaurs came. A meteor struck. Mammalian life evolved. Monkeys began walking upright and using tools. Ancient Rome fell.
And the nurse eventually came back.

This time she put my love on an antibiotic drip and gave him a couple of Percocet. She would be right back with us to check on us. Call me a cynic, but I was beginning to doubt that she would be right back. We were destined to live out our lives here in Hallway H, grow old and gray. Our children and grandchildren could play on the IV stand as a makeshift jungle gym. We could put up a fence and get to know our neighbors. Cook-outs in the nurses’ station would be a blast. Race you to the watering hole – or as the locals call it, the puddle in Hallway I.

Just before I started picking out drapes, the nurse did come back. Michael’s IV was just about done, and we were free to go home. She bandaged him up, put a splint on his finger, and gave us the prescription from the doctor. In just under 5 hours, we were able to secure antibiotics for the infection. Not bad. Not bad at all.

Then the nurse asked me the most ridiculous question I have ever been asked:

“Do you know how to get out?”

What? Five hours ago I was lead through a maze of hallways looking for a room. After spending a small eternity in the warm cocoon of Hallway H, I have no idea that an outside world exists. Of course, if she put a small block of cheese at the end of the line, I might be able to sniff my way out. I have become aware of a gnawing hunger in our time here. Seeing the look of utter disbelief on my face, the nice lady takes pity on us and leads us down the hall, around a series of corners, and out into the waiting area from whence we came.

Hallelujah! We are free. My stomach hurts, my butt is numb, my back is stiff, and my eyes are having a hard time re-adjusting to the blinding light of the exterior waiting room from the dim hallway, but we are free. My fiancé smiles at me and starts to sing… I think the goofballs finally kicked in. I doubt he feels the pain in his finger. I could probably kick him in the face and he wouldn’t feel it. Instead, I think about how wonderful it is to be in the fresh, albeit freezing, air of a Colorado February night. I can worry about food later. Right now I am just happy that Hallway H is a memory, and that the initial scare turned out to be minor. Michael was holding his hand up, his middle finger sticking up thanks to the splint. I turned and mimicked his one fingered salute of the Aurora Medical Center before getting in my car and driving away.

Now I have to go to the pharmacy. Don’t worry, someone will be right with me.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

If it’s not one thing…

It’s my mother…

I have been dealing with a lot of emotions lately. First of all, I am getting married. There is a lot of joy involved in that. The planning is all but done, the dress purchased, we have the rings… I am deeply in love with my fiancé.

But for some reason I don’t feel special.

Isn’t that the line? All brides are supposed to feel special? Well, I don’t. I don’t know how to describe the feeling, except to say that I feel largely inconsequential and I know that shouldn’t be.

Before anyone laughs me off as a Bridezilla (ever seen that show? Fascinating…) let me assure you that I am not. I did not demand anything, and I still don’t. I found a dress that makes me happy, but it will not break my heart if I don’t wear it. I made my own invitations and asked for no help (and didn’t complain – except once when my dear fiancé accidentally spilled soda on one exterior envelope…) I browse the web when I have time, have idly made a list of songs I want to put on my iPod for the day (no DJ here…). My maid of honor is actually my brother (probably shouldn’t call him a maid…), and I have told him he can wear whatever makes him comfortable. I will walk down the aisle to whatever the chapel plays, carrying the bouquet that they provide. I am getting married in Las Vegas, because I want people to have a blast and a mini break. I am about as easy going as any bride has ever been.

And I would know. You see, aside from an avid fan of shows like “Bridezillas”, “Who’s wedding is it, anyway?”, and “Platinum Brides” (I am, after all, fairly girly) I also spent several years as a wedding photographer. I have seen what becomes of seemingly normal women as their wedding day approaches. I have been yelled at, chastised, cried on, and laughed with, all by the same woman on the same day. This woman will sit with a pretty little smile on as I take here photo and two seconds later starts screaming at her best friend about an imaginary spot on her dress. I have learned to avoid these women.

I have seen it with my own friends too. Self-possessed women suddenly become wedding-headed when a diamond ring is slipped on their finger. One girl I knew in college, who had good taste up until she became a bride-to-be, actually dressed me in a pepto-bismol pink sheath skirt and strapless corseted top. There was a giant bow across my ass, which emphasized its enormity in the grand scheme. Her own dress, by contrast to her columned bridesmaids was comprised of all the tulle that was in existence at the time. It had to be, because this girl (big to start with, big-birds of a feather flock together?) appeared to be twice the size of a city bus. I could have made a fortune selling advertising space on her dress. (I’m not kidding, it was so big, that her tiny father was almost covered from the waist down in his daughter’s skirts as they walked down the aisle. The result from the altar was a strange two headed creature approaching to the strains of Handel, one head dressed in a tux, the other in the rest of the dress.) She went nuts when she became engaged. It’s as though something inside her snapped when she realized that she got to plan a wedding. She should have been stopped. Of course, we didn’t say a word. She was the bride, and this was her moment.

I’ve lost track of her over the years. But I know that on that day and the days leading up to that day, she glowed. She was special. She was The Bride.

So why, now that I am The Bride, do I not feel special?

You might think I exaggerate, and part of me agrees. The larger part of me, however, realizes that perhaps I don’t feel special because no one else in my life seems to recognize that (for a little while at least) I am supposed to BE special.

To be fair, most of this feeling has come from my dealings with my mother, ever since I got engaged.

I want my mother to be a part of this process with me. I almost need it on a base level of my being. I value my relationship with her, but lately I’ve started to question it. She doesn’t want to be involved at all, and when I have finally been able to get her to take a day to go, oh, dress shopping, she finds ways to sabotage it. She denies this vehemently, and tells me that it is all in my mind. But I can’t shake the feeling that she is actively trying not to spend time with me.

For example, dress shopping. I asked for weeks for my mother to come dress shopping with me, finally getting her to agree to come one Saturday a few months back. We started out at a coffee shop. I wanted to bond with her. As soon as we sat down, my mother launched into a monologue about a woman connected to my family. (It’s actually a messy story that I don’t want to get involved in here. I don’t like this woman at all, and prefer that she not be mentioned, much less discussed around me. She is an awful human being who has done nothing but bad things for and to my family. ‘Nuff said.) My mother knows that I won’t talk about this woman, and knows that I prefer not to. I have told her as much, and she respected that right up until dress shopping day. For three hours, I listened, disgusted as my mother dwelt on every aspect of this woman’s life. My coffee cup was empty, my stomach had started to growl, and I was really wanting to hit at least one shop before they closed. When I finally started to say, “Let’s go,” her phone rang. It was my father wanting lunch. My mother rushed home (or more precisely had me rush her home) to fix him lunch. I sat in my parents apartment for another two hours before finally realizing that shopping that day was a lost cause.

Take shopping attempt number 2. After a couple of weeks, I got her to agree to go again on a Saturday. I keep picking Saturdays because 1) my mother goes to church on Sundays and 2) Many of the shops I wanted to check were high end consignment stores, closed on Sundays. I called to verify what time I should pick her up the night before, and she informed me that we were supposed to go shopping on Sunday. You understand, she had made plans to go visit my brother on Saturday. She couldn’t possibly go shopping with me that day. Later that afternoon (much later – shops would have been closed later) she called and said that she was now ready to go shopping. I told her we would reschedule.

Attempt # 3 was called off because she forgot we were supposed to go that weekend and went RV shopping with my father instead.

Attempt # 4 was ruined because she wanted to bring my 9 year old half-brother and didn’t see a problem with that. We didn’t get past the book store at the coffee shop.
Attempt # 5 didn’t happen because she “couldn’t leave her roast”.
I didn’t try for #6.

Do you want to know what the loneliest experience in the world is? Shopping alone in the mall for your wedding dress. I have never felt so out of place and so abandoned in my entire life. I actually had to get a pretzel to keep myself from bursting into tears.
I decided to buy a gown on line. At least then I could shop from the comfort of my own home.

It isn’t all about shopping for the dress either. Originally, we were planning a wedding here in my home town of Denver. I wanted her to go with us to look at some of the sites. She put us off or refused or said “I’ll see it another time.” Like when? The wedding day? I wanted to get her opinion on flowers. “Whatever you pick will be fine.”

Finally, we decided to move the wedding to Las Vegas. My mother despised this idea and wasn’t shy about expressing it. Of course, when the wedding was in town she couldn’t be bothered. Move it to Vegas and suddenly it cheapens a sacred moment. Everyone else was on board, so my Mother was out-voted. My father actually reminded her that when they got married, she wanted to elope to Las Vegas.

The other weekend, after asking if she could help me put together my wedding invitations, I brought the materials over to her place. She took the one I had addressed to her and put it aside. No exclamation can sufficiently express how disappointed I was. I was proud of my work. I made a beautiful, professional-looking invitation, and she didn’t even want to open it. When I pointed this out to her, she did open it, but tossed the insert aside with the garbage. I had to point this out to her too. When we sat down to actually do the assembly, she kept getting up and wandering into her kitchen. Ostensibly, she was checking on her menudo, but I will tell you as someone who cooks a hell of a pot of menudo – no checking is necessary until the tripe cooks. You can’t taste the broth until then anyway, so why worry. And it takes hours to do so. I could tell by the smell she had just put it on. She knows this. She’s the one who taught me to cook it.

She couldn’t care less. And that frustrated me and angered me and hurt me. The only time she perked up was when I finally gave in and told her that even though the guest list was small, she could invite her brothers and sisters. (For those who think me callus, allow me to explain. I don’t know my mother’s brothers and sisters, because they never visit or call or sent letters. I grew up in Denver, they lived in Boston, and if my mother had never brought us across country to see her family, I might have never known about them at all.) We were supposed to keep the guest list to under 30 people to keep costs down. My mother is the youngest of 7 that means that half of the entire guest list would be my mother’s relatives that I do not know… who never called me to say happy birthday, merry Christmas, feel better after your auto accident, or congratulations on your impending marriage. Who was my fiancé supposed to invite – no one? Are we supposed to tell our friends, sorry –we’ll send you a post card? What about my father’s even larger family that he insisted we NOT invite so as to have room for our closest friends???…. As soon as it was something she wanted to do, she became excited and animated. I have never seen this side of her.

Then the final straw. I brought my wedding dress out for her and my brother (of honor) to see. Remember, I picked it out all alone… I changed my mind about what to wear at least a dozen times, but now that I have my dress, I love it and any one who doesn’t can kiss my grits.

I put on my beautiful ivory gown, complete with necklace and earrings hand crafted especially for the occasion, and stepped into view. While my brother said “very nice, Dawn,” all I received from my mother was a disinterested “oh.”

Oh. That’s it. Her only daughter is getting married and all I get is “Oh.” Not hmmm, not OK, just Oh. One lousy syllable that spoke volumes about her indifference to my wedding, my dress, and my life. I went back in to change, heartbroken, and came out, only to hear my mother discussing that same woman whose conversation ruined my first dress shopping trip.
Well, that’s appropriate, I suppose – full circle. I can’t fault her consistency.

When I finally was able to get more than a monosyllabic response out of her, nothing nice was said. The color (ivory) wasn’t appropriate for my wedding. She thought I was going to wear green. The shape did nothing for me. I need something to cover my arms (I know that, at least. I stepped out of my brother’s bedroom with the explicit instructions to ignore my arms which will be encased in shawl). She kept dwelling on the color green (looks awful on my btw) and basically told me that I looked awful. She asked if I could have the dress dyed or otherwise altered. I made her get out of the car at the book store.

I called my fiancé and cried. We were supposed to go shopping for shoes. I was looking forward to having my mother involved in this one aspect of my life, but she has made it abundantly clear that she doesn’t want that at all. As a result I feel lower than low, and depressed. I even started smoking again, briefly, but starting is starting all the same.

My fiancé thinks I should uninvite her, but I just can’t. I still want her to feel that this day is special.

I am probably, to quote my father, farting in the wind on this one.

But it doesn’t stop me from wanting to try.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

If I had a million dollars… it wouldn’t be enough.

Allow me to explain.

A very sweet girl I know just found out that she is losing her job at the end of the school year. She teaches the third grade. She is good at what she does. The world, and this town especially, needs good teachers. But she is still losing her job. This frustrates me to no end.

Then I think about my fiance’s best friend. He just lost his job too. The company eliminated his position, gave him a pittance of a severance, and sent him on his way. The economy is down, you understand, they didn’t have a choice.

Sure, he worked for a big giant corporation whose CEO probably earns seven or eight figures. Probably has one of those golden parachutes. Probably has a company car to boot. But that small job, that is the one that needs to be downsized. Good bye, and thanks for your loyal service. Here’s an extra paycheck just to show that we are good people. See?

My company is also in the process of downsizing. The best part about this is that I have lost count of the number of overpaid executives here. They don’t get the axe, or even get asked to take a pay cut. No, it is much better to lay off the little guy who makes the company run, thus destroying the morale of anyone left and ensuring that your underpaid rank and file staff are over worked.

Yeah, Capitalism! Give me a C! Give me an E! Give me an O!

Give me a break.

At this point, I have literally lost count of the number of people I know who have lost jobs or homes, or, God forbid, both. These are good, solid, hard working people. They aren’t evil. They aren’t lazy. They aren’t anything other than ordinary citizens struggling to make ends meet, then falling flat on their faces when the ends get moved, or taken away entirely. Why? Why do we have to face joblessness and homelessness in this country? Aren't we the richest, the biggest, the most compassionate land on earth?

Most of us.

You see, I have been doing a great deal of research on the subject as of late. My own impending lay off notwithstanding, I believe that there is one thing, one cause that we can point to in this ever changing world that remains constant. There is one condition that deserves, I believe, the blame for most of the problems we find ourselves facing today, and throughout history: Greed.

That's right.

Good old fashioned greed is to blame. Power corrupts. Greed is corruption. Greed is sin and vice and folly all rolled into one hungry little monster. Greed is a deadly sin by his other name, Envy. Greed changes people. It infests them. It poisons the mind and soul. Greed damns us and all around us to suffer in its wake. Even if you aren't the greedy one, your boss, your parents, your neighbor may be. Greed covets. Greed destroys. Greed thrives in the worst of us. Greed dwells, hidden in the rest. That's the worst part.

Here goes Dawn the Liberal again. Another rant against capitalism. Au contraire, mon amis. I am an entreprenuer at heart. I need capitalism and a free market. I am an American, I believe in those things very deeply. They drive this great land, and each of us in turn to be smarter and better. With competition we thrive. It's when Greed rears his ugly green head that we suffer.

Allow me to elaborate.

In 2004, the average CEO earned 240 times more than the compensation earned by the average worker. That's in America. In other industrialized countries, CEOs earned about a third of that amount. CEO pay increased by 14% average between 2003 and 2004. The average worker's pay increased by just over 2%. If inflation is taken into account, real spending power acutally fell by just under 1%. We are earning less, things are costing more, and the leaders of our corporations are getting fatter and richer. (By the way, all of these figures are available on the web. I checked the Wallstreet Journal, and the Bureau of Labor Statistics)

I wish I had a 14% raise last year. Of course, I actually earn less because of the job I am in, but that's no big deal, right? Because surely my company loyalty will be rewarded. Right? Right? Anyone?

Why are you laughing?

Perhaps it is because you and I both know that at the end of the day, profits and shareholders hold all the cards (forget if some companies actually lay off shareholder employees... they don't mean that much to begin with...) When it comes time to figuring out how to save a buck, you and I are the first people on the chopping block. Imagine you, typical Joe earn $35,000.00, living paycheck to paycheck. You don't have a savings, you are lucky to have your health plan(which you pay for), you have a modest home, a running car (thank goodness) and your health. Imagine the CEO earns 240 times that number in total compensation - That's 8.4 million roughly. That's a lot of dough. He probably lives in a slightly larger home (mansion) in a slightly more prosperous neighborhood. He drives a new Mercedes (or BMW or Hummer - let your imagination soar). His health plan is 100% company covered. He has a hell of a savings, an IRA, Stocks, Bonds, CDs, and a Swiss Bank Account. He takes a vacation to Europe once a year. You saved up for three years to drive across country with your kids in your car and go to Disneyland for a couple of days. You stayed at the Holiday Inn, which you consider a splurge. Going out to eat, he is 5 star, and you are value meal. You exist in different worlds. Nothing wrong with that. You work hard, and you just know that your bosses know that. You are honest as the day is long. You pay your taxes. You don't speed. You only drink socially. You love your wife.

Let's say now that the company has hit some hard times as has been known to happen. Now the company starts loosing money. They need to save 2 million right away, every year. Where should they look to get that money? Most companies, unfortunately, decide to cut jobs. Not upper level management jobs. No, Mid management and below. The first people on the chopping block are those at your level. You can save them $35,000 a year. You and 59 of your closest buddies will be out the door. Just to prove that the company isn't all bad, they are going to give you one extra paycheck. They don't have to give you anything. You take it and leave.

Now, if you are like me, and millions of others like us, you start to panic. I don't know about you, but my paycheck is 100% accounted for before I even get it. I know where every penny has to go. I have rent to make. I have bills to pay. I have to have power and food and shelter. That extra paycheck will keep you in your house for another month. You had better find something by then.

On your way home, you notice that gas is ten cents more a gallon than it was when you left. Should have topped off the tank. But you didn't know. It was an ordinary Friday, just like any other.

Did you know that most companies lay people off on Friday? That's so you have the whole weekend to stew about it. Great. Sure, by taking a pay cut in his ridiculous pay (say he now only earns 6 million, poor baby) he could save those 60 jobs. Save 60 more heads on the unemployment line. Save 60 more families from desperate times. From losing their homes. From losing their hope. But why would he want to do that. Afterall, he deserves it. Serves the rest of us right for being workers instead of queen bee.

Now, I have been told that I am being ridiculous. That these CEOs deserve their millions of dollars and stock options and golden parachutes. The shareholders, afterall, are willing to pay for it. The CEOs aren't really taking advantage of the system.

Bullshit. I'm sorry, but the more I think about it, the more angry I get. Minimum wage hasn't gone up in years. Most employees are making LESS in real dollars than in previous years. People are loosing their jobs because of downsizing or sending jobs to third world countries where labor is cheap and exploitable (hard facts, sorry). Many companies no longer provide health insurance. Some reduce vacation and holidays to the bear minimum. We are told that the company wants to help us. Then it lays us off. And the CEOs and the shareholders and the board of directors get rich in the process. On the backs of the worker.

I am not trying to incite a worker's revolution here. That is not my point. I am just frustrated by the lack of equity. I had a wholly frustrating discussion on this topic earlier today. I don't believe that we are all worth the same compensation, but COME ON! You cannot tell me that a CEO who leaves his company on the verge of bankrupcy after making BAD decisions is worth 240 times more than the hard working schmoe on the front lines who does his freaking job well. (Merrill Lynch, for example). If a ship starts to drift off course, do you toss the crew overboard, or do you demand answers and performance from the captain. Incidentally, just because some boards are willing to pay ridiculous salaries to these men (and they are largely men - white men at that - I am not talking all, just majority) doesn't mean that they are actually worth that. It doesn't make it right, or just, or moral.

And afterall, are we not a moral and just society?

So you see, I cannot possibly accept as little as a million dollars. I am worth way way way more than that. Hell, I am worth more than I am getting paid now, but I am at least smart enough to realize that it could end at any minute. They could find someone in Timbuktu who is willing to do my job for a nickle a week. That is net gain of a few hundred dollars to my company. Problem solved. Here's a lovely pink slip, and as your parting gift, a loss of dignity and security. WalMart is hiring. I believe they pay minimum wage.

Until something changes within the mindset of the American people, it will go on like this. I will continue to feel anger and shake my fist into the sky demanding answers of a system that seems capable of robbing most people of their sense of self and worth. A system that throws away people because they weren't lucky enough to be CEO material. Sure, we can improve ourselves, but there are always going to be people at the bottom rung of the ladder. Society cannot stand without them. And I have always believed that you can judge a society by how she treats the lowest of her citizens. I don't want to be rich, I just want to be comfortable and not be afraid that someone is going to decide that I am worth more as an erased expense than I contribute to the company. Like it or not, I depend on money to survive. Survival, at its heart is the most basic right I know.

Of course, I could be wrong. Survival could be a privledge reserved for the rich, we just don't know it yet.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Find the Band

This is fun.

Go through the picture and find as many names of bands as you can. I will post answers as soon as I find them all. (Click on the photo for a larger image)

Have fun.

Monday, February 18, 2008

For what I'm worth...

Ah self esteem…

On fragile wings of gossamer toward the light
Love, youth, and beauty gave us fair flight.
From a quiver of words, his aim is true
Doubt intrudes, his dark shadow blue
Down we fall towards the sea of sorrow
Hope leaves us cold until the morrow.
-Dawn the Sad

What a load of crap. Forgive my language, but it’s true. All the flowery speech in the world can’t help when we fall victim to the worst kind of fiend – self-doubt. Oh, what an evil character this creature is. He dwells in shadows and waits for the perfect opportunity to strike. Do you know how he finds us? He listens and waits for the right words, then as if magic, he appears.

“Is that what you decided to wear?” Poof! You can’t dress.
“You’ve looked better, you know.” Poof! You look like shit.
“I wouldn’t have chosen that particular color.” Poof! You don’t know how to dress yourself.
“Didn’t you wear any makeup today?” Poof! You look old.

We are supposed to be able to build up an immunity to such cheap shots, but as I have learned (over and over and over again), you are never really immune to nasty words and self-doubt.

Ego is such a fragile creature, that when we do meet those who appear to have it in spades, we label them vain and continue on our dour but merry way. We act as though it is virtue to feel down about ourselves: our physical appearance, our accomplishments, our lives. Bullshit. The virtue is being able to accept a compliment, or being able to feel good about yourself no matter what anyone else says to you or about you or around you.

This weekend, I suffered a wound to my own esteem, and I find that I am still trying to recover from it. I have been trying to figure out why. What is wrong with me? Why can’t I ignore comments meant to put me down? Why am I hung up on what someone else thinks of me? I have never really been one to let outsiders dictate who I believe I am or what I believe I am capable of. Why now, does one comment throw me into a tail spin and send me crashing down from the highest of highs to the lowest of lows?

Does the fact that the words came from my mother’s lips have anything to do with it?

Partially, but first, I think I need to see what else caused me to be susceptible to a single comment in an otherwise good week.

Let’s start with the media.

“Oh, of course. Another feminist rant about media and negative stereotypes of women,” you’re thinking. Well, yes and no. Yes, I will rant about the media, but no... I don’t think that a group of magazine photos, no matter how provocative, can truly shape our idea of self-worth. Bear with me.

The media (movies, magazines, and television) make their money selling ideals of youth and beauty. Super-skinny women with amazing bone structure, taller than most men, who wear a size 0 - size 2-4 if they are on the *larger* side - pose with their pouty lips in shadows for high fashion magazines. Hollywood women are valued for their beauty to the point that if one of them takes off the makeup for a role, her “versatility” is praised. Tabloids profit from showing celebs in the raw: no air-brush, no stylist, no makeup and hair, just people out on the town. We as consumers eat these things up. “Look at the beautiful people,” we say. “They look just like us.”
Well, duh. Isn’t it amazing how people all look like people when the glam factor is turned off?

So why do we buy this media-fed idea of beauty? Do we really want to look like the model on the cover of Cosmo? The average American woman is a 5’5” and a size 14. I am slightly shorter and heavier than average. Shouldn’t I want to see women who look like me in the magazine? Wouldn’t that boost my ego?

Maybe. The media is pushing its current standard for perfection. This idea is fluid and changes over time. Have you ever seen a painting by Peter Paul Rubens? The women portrayed in his art would be scoffed at today. They would be going to Weight Watchers meetings, hiding their bodies under mounds of fabric. However, to Rubens and his contemporaries, these women portrayed the very ideal of feminine beauty. What about the Venus di Milo? Her athletic form might find its way onto the cover of Shape, but she will never grace the cover of a high fashion rag like Cosmo. She is too meaty, too short, and too shaped. The women who are “beautiful” by the media’s standards today would have themselves been chastised in another society for being too thin, wasted, alien, too tall, now the shoe is on the other foot.

This must have formed a sub-conscious foundation in my mind. Mabye my value system has been skewed by these images without my knowledge. Maybe I am weaker willed than I had thought. Maybe I have bought into these physical ideals and maybe, just maybe I berate myself for not being the tall skinny version of perfection that is paraded about on glossy pages or red carpets.

Or then again maybe not. I don’t really read many fashion magazines. As for red carpets, I love watching pretty gowns and sparkly jewels. (I’m a girl, so sue me…) I don’t really judge myself based on what these other women look like. So what is it?

What about the double standard? Male versus female? Do you remember the movie “About Schmidt”? There is a very memorable scene where Jack Nicholson is in a Hot Tub and Kathy Bates decides to join him au natural. For months after that movie opened, I kept hearing about how Kathy Bates was naked. I kept hearing that she was brave from one camp and stupid from the other. People commented on her body, her shape, her weight. People were kind and ruthless with equal veracity. During the whole incident, I never heard one comment about Jack Nicholson. Kathy Bates is an older woman with the body of an older woman. There is no escaping that fact. Jack Nicholson is an older man. His body is in no better shape than Kathy Bates, however not one media personality or fashionista or celeb crazy reporter mentioned his flabby frame. (Sorry, Jack.) Why was Kathy Bates the subject of such scrutiny, and Jack Nicholson escaped it entirely? Why as women do we have to maintain “perfection” even resorting to surgical alterations in some cases, while our male counterparts do not? Women grow old and men grow distinguished. True, the gap is narrowing. I can imagine that a whole lot of Metro-Sexuals will be seeking the botox clinic at first sign of forehead creases, but on the whole, women still out-number men nearly 8 to 1 when seeking to maintain the body and face of their youth. Are we really such fragile creatures that we are willing to go under the knife to maintain youth? Do we fear age and mortality, or do we fear rejection?

Am I more susceptible to wounds of the ego because I am a woman?

I thought about that long and hard. I am an emotional being, sometimes overly so. I can (and have) take a comment and dwell on it. I examine innocent (seeming) remarks for hidden agenda or meaning. I have a hard time taking a compliment. Maybe I was so wounded this weekend because I am a woman and thus more susceptible toward cutting remarks.

Then I remembered my brother.

My brother is a sweet boy (man) who is about a year younger than I am. We grew up close, and are to this day, good friends. That is not to say that sometimes he doesn’t piss me off, because he does. I am sure that I make him mad too. That is the nature of siblings. It is a love-hate-love relationship.

The reason I mention him now is because he can help me illustrate the difference between male (his) and female (mine) perspectives on beauty and body image. Surely he as a man will have a stronger ego. Surely he will be able to objectively view himself in the mirror without all of the baggage that comes with being a woman. Surely, he can help me out. I went out to talk to him, specifically to find out how it is that I can be so wounded by mere words. I wanted him to teach me his ways.

What I learned from this conversation was that my brother is as susceptible to self doubt as I am. I never even got to ask my question. He launched into a litany of complaints about his own body image, how he was too this or too that. How he needed to loose weight or gain muscle or somehow improve himself so he didn’t feel so bad about himself. He actually was a little harder on himself than I am. So much for the idea of male vs female.

Well that didn’t exactly do what I had expected, but it did bring something to light. We were both raised by the same mother. My mother is perhaps the most self-abasing person I know. I don’t mean that in a good way. I went out with her this weekend to go shopping for shoes to go with my new wedding dress. She repeatedly apologized for not having on any makeup. (Neither did I.) And repeatedly apologized for not having done her hair (neither did I). And repeatedly pointed out her own flawed body shape as a reason why she could never wear this outfit or that shoe. (Let she who is without flab cast the first rice cake…) I didn’t really pay attention to it, because that is just how she is. She has her issues, but my mother is a kind sweet lady, most of the time.

Most of the time.

She made a comment that hurt me, regarding how I looked in my wedding dress. Immediately I went from feeling like a princess to feeling like a toad. I felt fatter, plainer, and shorter. I went from elated to deflated in .07 seconds. It was amazing how quickly I could be brought from smiles to tears. I found out later that she didn’t mean what she said, but I still feel that same doubt. I have driven my fiancé crazy by repeatedly seeking reassurance that I am pretty enough to get married. How crazy is that?

So now I understand a little more about why I am the way I am. My ego (and my brother’s) is so fragile because it was installed by a fragile woman. I don’t know if media affected her, but if I had to guess, I would say that my grandmother did the damage to Mom (after all, I do know both of them.) Does this cycle have to be self-perpetuating? Can one generation learn the signs and break out of it? If I have a daughter will I instill in her the self-same doubt and fragility? Will I teach her to love or loathe who she is and what she looks like? God, I hope not.

For the time being, I suppose it is good that I can recognize the symptoms and fight for my own self worth.

For what it’s worth.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Mr Visa and Mrs Citibank request the honor of your presence...

I am getting married, and I will admit that I have gotten swept away with the planning on more than one occasion. There seem to be a million details, not the least of which is what will I wear? Finally yesterday, the perfect dress arrived, after months of searching. I was so happy I wanted to wear it for hours. The best part was how much of a bargain I got. What I didn’t know was that my bargain (great for any outfit, trust me) was way more than I had imagined.

You see, I learned something new today: The average cost of a wedding in the United States is $27,000, with the average bride spending just under $4,000 on her outfit.

That will stop any would be bride in her tracks. Four thousand American Dollars. That is roughly eight times the cost of my first car, and a little less than a third of what I paid for the car I am currently driving. $4,000 is a fifth of a down payment on a house. (And if you really think about it, $27,000 would be a heck of a down payment for the couple’s first home…). $4000 is $3,900 more than I have ever paid for any outfit for any occasion for any reason, and way way way more than I paid for my own humble dress. Upon reading that statistic, my jaw dropped and I was literally at a loss for words. Me! Unable to think of anything to say.

Then it hit me… Our priorities are screwed up. Capital Screwed.

Why on earth is every young woman hell bent on having a blow-out wedding that literally breaks the bank? How smart is it to start of your married life deep in debt, or to put your aging parents deeper into debt for one day? This is a fabricated desire bred in the wedding industry, and fed at the teat of the media. Glossy books called “Bride”, “Modern Bride”, “InStyle Weddings” and “The Knot” beckon the weak with full color spreads of shiny things and too-thin brides smiling beatifically as if to say, “Don’t you want to be as happy as me?” This is one of the symptoms of our growing materialism. It used to be that weddings were about the love, now they're about the couture, haute or otherwise.

Don’t get me wrong… if you can afford (easily) a lavish wedding, then by all means, flaunt it. Do it, and enjoy. Perhaps think of us little people and save me a slice of designer cake. The rest of us, however, need to take a big fat step back and re-evaluate every aspect of getting married and get to the base of what we really want or need.

Let’s start with the ring.

You found him: The One. You are head over heels in love. You know it, he knows it. You have discussed the big “M”, it’s only a matter of time before a question gets “popped”. One day, you go out, everything is perfect. Your man gets down on one knee. Your heart is in your throat, because you know what’s coming. He waxes poetic about your beauty and your life, and opens a tiny box… Magic, right?

Apparently not for everyone. Apparently that magical moment that every little girl has dreamed about can be ruined by one thing… The RING! Who knew?

My fiancé proposed without a ring. He was very cute and romantic. I am so in love with him, that saying yes was never a question. I didn’t even ask for a ring. I just wanted the question. Silly me. Naïve girl that I am, I thought that the question was the whole point.

That’s not to say that I didn’t get a ring, I did. My soul mate said that he wanted us to pick the ring out together. That was one of the best shopping trips of all time. I immediately went out showing everyone who would look my new beautiful sapphire ring. Some of my friends were shocked. Where was my diamond? Isn’t it a little small? Do you think I could exchange it?

What? First of all, let’s ignore the fact that I actually got to pick out my ring and it is perfect. It even has a hidden heart that you have to look for, which, in my humble opinion, adds to the overall romanticism of my ring. Say that my fiancé had taken himself to the jewelry store, had looked at all the rings and picked out one all by himself just for me, would I scoff? Would I nit-pick over every detail? Would I ask him to return it for something bigger, smaller, more or less traditional? No! I would not. He loves me, and the ring is just a symbol of that love. I found out that a lot of women are unhappy with the initial ring that they get and insist on a trade in. The number one complaint is that the diamond is too small and the setting “looks too cheap”.

My question is, who are these women and why are these men still marrying them? Hello, matieralism? Phone call line one! I want to find one of these “diamond-too-small” girls and tell her: “Hey! Just because J-Lo has a diamond the size of her fist, that doesn’t mean you should too.” Some of these girls see their Hollywood heroes with big stones and think that this is the only way to be, that somehow it means you are more loved. Remember people, the folks in Hollywood are rich rich rich, and chances are, you are not not not. All political unrest and speculation about the diamond industry aside (because I do like shiny things – remember my sapphire?) bigger is not necessarily better. The size of the rock doesn’t equate to the size of his love. Or yours. If in your mind it does, please put getting married on hold and get thee to a psychiatrist.

This need for a large, expensive diamond ring as the only acceptable symbol of love does not bode well for budgetary concerns for a future life together, much less for the wedding itself. How haywire can the wedding plans go? Remember the $27,000 figure?


Now you have the ring (assuming that the one he gave you was acceptable – or you have traded it in for some baffling reason), you’ve set the date, you need a dress. This is where Big Bridal comes in. They have years of experience duping young girls into spending thousands more than they have on a dress that they will wear once – and not even for a full day. You want to look like a princess, don’t you? Remember Princess Grace? Remember Princess Diana? Remember their gowns?

Well, yes, but these women were ACTUAL princesses, not just brides. They were supposed to look like princesses because they were. Now, using their images, gown designers and magazine publishers hope to convince all women that you have to look just like that. Royal and rich.

Except that most of us are neither. I want to look beautiful on my wedding day. I would be a filthy liar if I said that I didn’t, because I do. I want my dress to be special, and it is. I want my new husband to see me at my best, and he will. I don’t want to bankrupt myself in the process.

I started like all young women – looking through bridal magazines and on the internet for the perfect gown. For the most part, these are very ordinary dresses with a few sparkly beads thrown on to confuse already overwhelmed women. Most of them, let’s be frank, 99% of the population would look horrific in. Strapless? Honestly, unless you are a buff bride, hitting the gym and hard, you should probably cover up. Ball Gown style skirts? Crinolines? HOOP SKIRTS!? You have got to be kidding. On more than one occasion I found myself thinking, “Fiddle-dee-dee, Miss Scarlet will be angry that they took her gown.” The other extreme is the pencil silhouette which leaves one to wonder why Morticia Adams would allow someone to bleach her dress. How are you supposed to walk in those? How do you fit in a car with the other kind? No wonder we need limos to get around. Our dresses are three times our normal size. Is that flattering to the average American ass? Really?

So I looked, and I found one or two that would be acceptable for me and my own understated style. Then I researched the price. The cheapest dress I had liked was $800.00, without alterations or undergarments or shoes or veil. Total cost of the ensemble with everything attached = $1200.00. Good Golly Miss Molly, that sure cost a lot.

My entire budget for this affair is around $3k (you heard me... 3K, not a penny more...) I cannot justify spending almost half of my budget on a dress.

The other dresses I had picked out just went up from there. The most expensive award belongs to my favorite dress – it was ivory satin empire waist, rouching in the bust, fully lined, $2300. Yes, two thousand three hundred dollars. For twenty-three hundred dollars, I could repurchase both computers and my TV. I could go to Europe or Hawaii for a honeymoon. I could buy a large plasma TV for my fiancé and a sound system to boot. For twenty-three hundred dollars, I could buy an entire wardrobe and get clothes a lot nicer than I have now. No way was I going to spend this on a dress.

When I called salons in my area, they scoffed at me. That, you understand is what dresses cost. After all, this is the most important day of my life. Didn’t I want to look like a princess? The most reasonably priced dresses I found were at David’s Bridal, which seems to be the discount superstore of the industry (WalBride). There, I found a dress for $400.00 on their website. (By the way, the $99 dollar sale doesn’t apply to their plus size gowns, I checked, being a plus sized woman. That means that since the average American woman is a size 14, and wedding dresses run small, the average American woman will NOT be able to find a dress at David’s Bridal on sale in her size…) I called to make an appointment and was treated so rudely that I decided it would be better not to go at all. After researching this bridal chop-shop on the web, I am glad I didn’t. I had a really bad experience there once before when getting dresses for my friend’s wedding, so I was tempting fate with my own… But I digress…

I looked everywhere for a reasonably priced dress, finally turning to my old pal, eBay. What I found there was a virtual Mecca of bridal supplies. Dresses, under-things, shoes, veils, tiaras- all at super cheap prices. The only problem is sorting through hundreds of knock-off listings from Chinese manufacturers… (Not that I don’t trust the Chinese, but buying my dress directly from the sweatshop seems somehow less honest…) I found that a lot of women, probably desperate to recover some of the small fortunes spent on their weddings, are willing to sell their dresses (I guess daughters don’t wear their mother’s dress any more…) as well as a bunch of bridal shops selling samples and overstock. Cheap dresses abound. The world was my e-Oyster. All hail competition and the online marketplace! The gown of my dreams was at my fingertips. The daughters of these women were going to miss out, and I was going to cash in. (Cue evil laugh…)

Then I thought of my mother. She got married in 1970 in what I like to call the world’s smallest wedding ceremony. She, her mother, my father, his mother, My uncle Ralph, and two friends. My mother wore a short white dress with bell sleeves that she got from Penny’s, my father wore his blue suit. They were married without all of the pomp and circumstance that most people assume is necessary. They said their vows quietly in a church, had a piece of cake and took their wedding party out to dinner afterwards. My mother didn’t get an engagement ring. They had simple gold bands. They have been married for 38 years.

That was the deciding factor in the rest of my planning. The wedding is just a ceremony that legally binds two people together. Our life is where the value is. Forget the wedding. Forget the dress. Forget the blasted ring. If you love your partner, that is all that matters. The wedding and reception are a way to celebrate that love with your nearest and dearest. Period. I have a handful of people who will be sharing our day with us in fabulous Las Vegas Nevada. We are having a reception, because I want to party for a while in a place that doesn’t have slot machines… but other than that, I just want my friends and family around me to share my joy. After all, that is what it is supposed to be about.

My dress? It arrived yesterday. I found a closeout from one of my favorite brick and mortar stores listed at no reserve on eBay. The brand new lovely ivory satin empire waisted number (fully lined) cost me less than $100 with undergarments and shipping – they even threw in a veil. I will look pretty because of it.

I will feel beautiful because of the love surrounding me on that day.

Monday, February 4, 2008

Since politics makes for strange bedfellows, how about a little romance first?

I read an article regarding the upcoming US elections here:

My fiancé sent this to me as he received it from a friend of his. He wasn't angry about the content so much as he was angry that the writer was a Canadian. Even more disturbing to the love of my life was the fact that the writer failed to mention even one time that his interest in the presidntial elections is purely academic, and wrote his article as though he was himself an American citizen. I read the article, keeping an open mind, and finally felt compelled to reply. I post my response for your reading enjoyment.

I believe you make some valid points. I feel that the US has indeed fallen prey to big corporations and their unique vision of what the world is. I agree that people are under educated and most do not believe that we have to maintain constant vigilance against any sweet talking politician who wants nothing more than the power of the office. The old adage is true – power absolutely corrupts.

Having said that, however, I have a real problem with what in the end turned into an anti-Obama rant. What makes Barack Obama more of an issue than Senators Hillary Clinton or John McCain? Each of them tells us what they want us to hear. I have come to expect that from any politician. As an American, there are several things that I worry about with each of them. John McCain is just the old guard dressed in new clothing. What about the completely distasteful idea of dynasty that seems, at least on it’s surface, to spell the beginning of the end for a free society? In my lifetime, there has been exactly one administration that didn’t have a Bush or a Clinton on the ticket – and I was far too young to remember anything about Jimmy Carter. These are all things that we have to be mindful of when selecting our leaders.

Do politicians lie to obtain office – most assuredly. I expect it, as do most people I know. We will never be able to have someone in office who didn’t lie through his teeth to get there, of this I am convinced. Something in the nature of the beast precludes it. One of my favorite quotes about the matter comes from Mark Twain – I will paraphrase – No one capable of getting elected to the office of president should ever be given the job. I find politicians distasteful, but necessary, and I am willing to throw my hat in with the one who seems to me the most capable of steering this great nation toward a bright future. Having said that, I was never fooled by the likes of George W Bush, I spent hours knocking on doors and calling voters to keep that man out of office only to see that hope hang by a chad in Florida. I watched Bill Clinton before him with a certain amount of bemusement, because I couldn’t figure out the people who didn’t see the womanizer in his slick politician’s smile. I voted for him all the same, because his plans more closely fit with my own world view. Sometimes we are forced to choose the lesser of two evils.

So I read your blog, and I was confused and confounded regarding why Senator Obama was in effect demonized for being the more romantic of the choices for office. He is, as you pointed out, a brilliant speaker, and as I watched his speech at the 2004 convention, I felt moved. I haven’t felt that in a while, especially from a politician. I come from a generation jaded by political scandal, who has spent most of her adult life watching political opponents spend more time trying to bring down one another than actually doing anything for the country. Part of me thinks that a slightly rosier view of our politicians might not be such a bad thing after all.

Then I realized that you were Canadian.

Please forgive me a moment of American indignation. I certainly have been accused in the past of having a slightly Amerocentric view of the world, especially from my Canadian friends. I have been repeatedly told that we here in the US tend to focus too much on our own issues and seem to think that everyone else in the world should be concerned with our politics when the truth is that not everyone cares about the US’s views. I suppose on one hand, the title of your article is accurate – you won’t be fooled again because presumably you weren’t fooled the first time. Unless, of course, you watched with glee as the second Bush took over the nation and thought, “Gee this sure will be good for Canada”. Or, there is always the possibility that you run across the border to vote on the first Tuesday in November every four years for president. Or perhaps you are an American expatriate living abroad who is watching this latest election with a bit of trepidation, unsure of whether to come home – though I didn’t see where you eluded to that possibility anyplace on your site.

This leads me to the conclusion that you are simply put, a Canadian citizen, interested in the election in the US in a neighborly way. Which is fine, to a certain extent, I do believe in freedom of speech after all. However, your article gave the impression that you were a fellow American concerned with the election of how our country is shaping up.

Well, sir, I am an American, and though we are often thought of as brash or uneducated, we are thoroughly proud. We have a foreign policy right now that needs fixing, but I will tell you this. Most of the issues we are concerned with have to do with our unemployment rate, our border security, our involvement in an ill-though-out campaign in the middle east, our lack of a health care system, and the overall health of our nation. I understand wanting to know what happens with a neighbor nation, I watch with interest what goes on politically in both Canada and Mexico, but I have never passed myself off as a concerned Canadian or Mexican citizen when speaking of or writing about the happenings in a neighbor country. I found it irresponsible and questionable at the very least.

You may be uncomfortable with the idea of Senator Barack Obama taking office here in the USA, but as a Canadian, you don’t have a say in that. I do, as do my compatriots. We here in the US have the chance and the right to vote. I may want a little romance in my candidate and back in my president. I want my leaders to have passion and be self possessed and to be able to formulate a coherent thought. I want to cast my vote for the man or woman who best fits my own passions about my own country. That is the power of citizenship and that is how we as Americans maintain our vigilance. We have to hold our leaders accountable and watch their every move. We have been far too lax about that with the current administration, I will admit, but as an American, that is my responsibility, my duty and my right. I will go out tomorrow and caucus for the best candidate in my opinion and take part in the great system that was put in place by the forefathers of this nation, and come this November, I will once again wait out in the cold for my right to help choose my leader. I hope that as you watch the returns, you realize that for better or for worse, we make our choices in this nation based on the freedom to do so as Americans.