Tuesday, November 30, 2010

If only women wouldn’t be so darn uppity

So this lovely gem of an article popped up on my google news ticker today: \http://www.nytimes.com/2010/12/01/world/europe/01iht-letter.html?_r=1

First of all, whenever an article starts off with a  “Sex and the City” reference, my first reaction is a gigantic eyeroll – does the New York Times really think that women still judge all of their romantic encounters on the basis of that show? Apparently they do, and who knows, maybe I’m in the minority because of the fact that I don’t.

Anyway, Ms. Bennhold then goes on to state that “there is a growing army of successful women in their 30s who have trouble finding a mate and [who] have been immortalized in S.A.T.C. and the Bridget Jones novels.” Aside from yet another SATC reference, has Ms. Bennhold ever read a Bridget Jones novel? I love Bridget, but I would hardly call her a “successful” woman – at least not in the beginning. And, if memory serves, as she becomes more successful, the more she learns about Mark Darcy, and he’s never threatened by her success; in fact, he’s the one who helps her make a name for herself.

After the pop culture references, we read about several couples in which the woman makes significantly more than the man, but who feels the need to have her partner carry on the impression of “man-as-provider.” The men in these relationships apparently wield the credit cards and/or car doors in public but allow their wealthier wives/girlfriends to pay for things in private. Normally, I really don’t care how other couples handle their finances. But this article seems to perpetuate the stereotype that someone in a relationship must wield the power, and that power is all financial.

This totally goes against my beliefs about relationships. Seems to me that committed relationship is about partnership – pooling resources, talents, preferences, and all the rest to make something that is greater than its parts. Of course money plays into that, but everything becomes “ours.” Each couple has to work this out for themselves, of course, and if separate accounts keep the peace in the home, that’s fine. But you have to be united as a team in terms of goals and mutual respect; otherwise the relationship just won’t work. Swiping a credit card or holding a door won’t hold the relationship together if one partner resents the other’s success.

And rather than saying that women shouldn’t settle for a partner who doesn’t respect them or their success in life, Ms. Bennhold quotes some sage dating advice from one of her interviewees: to “find your life partner in your 20s, rather than your 30s, before you’ve become too successful.” Yes, because the key to finding a successful partner is to reel him in before he has a chance to feel intimidated by you! That’s the key, right there…

Nothing like some great anti-feminist propaganda to get me fired up on an otherwise boring afternoon!

Monday, November 29, 2010

Trusting Myself...Or Not

One of the things that was drilled into me as a fundamentalist child is that women can’t be trusted. Aside from the women-have-PMS-and-therefore-shouldn’t-be-President “jokes” (har-d-har-har, amirite?), women in general couldn’t be trusted because they’re “emotional” and thus can’t make good decisions. In that world, women are told that they’re weak, that they’re easily led, easily influenced, and that they can’t trust themselves or other women and must, instead, trust God by trusting the man (husband, father, pastor).

It was essentially a re-packaged version of the old idea that Eve is to blame for everything. Only they’d figured out that modern women - even devoutly religious modern women - don’t like being blamed for a “sin” that may or may not have happened somewhere around 6,000 years ago (give or take a couple thousand years). So they made a “kinder” version where they blame women’s “emotions” for perceived shortcomings, rather than Eve and the apple. (Don’t even get me started on the fact that these same churches ran on the backs of women’s contributions and labor. That’s a rant for another day).

So, I grew up thinking that emotions were bad, because they forced you to make bad decisions. And they made you cry, and that made men uncomfortable. I figured that having emotions/feelings made me unhappy because I had to deal not only with the feeling itself, but also with the judgment for having the feelings in the first place. So I told myself not to feel anything. It sort of worked. Sometimes I’d crack, but it didn’t happen often – and I was glad of that. It made my life easier. For a while, anyway.

Then I left religion and started therapy and had to re-learn to trust myself and my feelings. I’ve come a long, long way since then and I’m glad. But I’m realizing – I still don’t trust other women. I don’t like being around women, I don’t like displays of affection between women, and I loathe anything that even hints at female bonding. I am afraid of the messages I think other women are sending – through body language, clothing, whatever. I am afraid of their judgment. I don’t want to get sucked in to the female world.

At the same time, I love reading the words of smart, sassy women – on APW, on Shapely Prose, on Already Pretty and the bazillion other blogs in my reader. I absolutely believe in feminism and equal marriage rights for our lesbian sisters. I like reading books by and about women. Currently, I’m reading Barbara Walker’s Restoring the Goddess: Equal Rites for Modern Women and in it, she suggests the idea that the Goddess as embodied in all women would create a kinder, gentler world than traditional patriarchy, not only for humans but for animals and the planet as well. I’m having a hard time wrapping my head around that idea. I think it’s mostly my own religious skepticism; I can’t really buy into the idea of yet another deity, female or not. I just can’t fathom a nurturing, kind world. I want to believe it. I’m pretty sure that if Kate Harding were President, the world would be a better place. But I’m not sure I’m ready to trust women as a whole yet.

Anyway, in thinking about all that, I sort of shocked myself, because I realized that in not trusting women, I’m also not trusting myself fully, either. I still doubt my feelings and perceptions because they might be “tainted” by my femininity. Sure, I might be emotional sometimes, but that doesn’t mean I’m wrong!

Yet another thing to work on…because I don’t have enough, right?

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Shopping and Knitting

Seems like everyone and their mother is writing about "Black Friday" and I guess I'm jumping on the bandwagon. I'm getting annoyed that one of my most favorite holidays - Thanksgiving - is being treated as a "warm up" to Christmas. To me, Thanksgiving is about counting our blessings and being together as a family. According to the TV, though, it's just a fueling station before the real joy of the weekend - shopping. Call me Scrooge, whatever, but there is nothing that I want so badly that I'll get up at 4am to obtain. I did not participate in Black Friday this year, I'm happy to say. Instead, Dave and I went to a craft fair where he bought me my combo Birthday/Christmas present - gorgeous gold earrings that we bought directly from the artist who made them. So take that, advertising!

I was so happy that my Amused was done - I was planning to wear it to Thanksgiving dinner. Remember how I said I was going to use warm water to block it to hopefully shrink it down a smidge in order to wear it? Yeah, blocking made it about 400x too big for me. It's in the frog pond now...

Yet again, something that I knit is far, far too big for me. At least I'm consistent, right?

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Books

I saw a link to this website today, and I think it’s brilliant: www.fivebooks.com

Apparently, every day an expert posts his/her top five books on his/her speciality subject, everything from Mathematics to Chick Lit.

I’m thinking it would be a great place for me to start my foray into sciencey stuff, since I’m woefully lacking any scientific background and wouldn’t know where to begin. I think I will start with the books on Man and Ape and work my way into String Theory.

I have to say, though, the topics of Glamour and Historical Fiction seem a bit more appealing at the moment.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Gifts

It’s that time of year. The time where I have to produce the dreaded Christmas list. I know I’m going to sound like a whiny brat, because I realize that I’m incredibly privileged and spoiled. Some people don’t have money for food or heat or medicine, and I whine about having to produce a list of things I’d like (not need) for my family to purchase for me.

That said, it’s a stressful process. I want to put interesting stuff on there - things I’d actually use or like to have. And I do have a few things - I would like a kleen kanteen, and the new Susan Boyle CD (is it any good, though? I haven’t heard). But...that’s pretty much all I can think of. Throw in family members with vastly different budgets for Christmas (like $10 v $100 or more) and it gets tricky. Very tricky.

In fact, I still have birthday money left over, and I’m not sure what to do with that, either. Dave and I would love love love to take a trip to Scotland at some point, and due to wedding gifts, we have a fair amount saved up. Part of me would like to put my birthday money into our Scotland fund, but Dave’s opposed to the idea - which I understand. He wants me to use my birthday money for something fun for me. In past years, I’ve used birthday money for much-needed clothing, but I’m in a position now where I don’t really need to do that (yes, spoiled, I know).

In theory, gift money like this should be used to pamper oneself, right? So how do I go about doing that??? I really feel like I have enough “stuff” - enough yarn, plenty of reading material, things like that. I’d like to invest the money somehow - not in the stock market sense (it’s not THAT much money), but in the “investing in myself” sense. A class of some kind? Yoga studio membership for a month? Career counseling?

Barring that, maybe I should donate it. There are people who need it more than I do, that’s for sure. And I guess I did donate some of it to the APW pledge drive. I don’t know...it was given generously by my family for me to enjoy, and I really, really appreciate that. I feel like a total brat for not figuring out a way to enjoy it. And at the same time, I feel like an even bigger brat for needing to figure out what to tell these same people to get me for Christmas! Urg, I just can’t win.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Domestic Weekend

One of the things on my life list is to develop more skills in the kitchen, via the great Julia Child. I'm already a fairly decent cook - I feel like I can say that confidently, based on the fact that I like to eat what I cook, my husband likes to eat what I cook, I'm asked to bring things to family dinners, and I've never poisoned anyone. I can follow pretty much any recipe and I've developed a few of my own. That said, I don't have much technical knowledge in the kitchen. So, I'm hoping that by reading and trying some of Julia's recipes, I'll learn a bit and become more competent in the kitchen. Plus, it's fun.

So today I decided to make Eggs Benedict, using Julia's Hollandaise sauce recipe. It worked perfectly, creating a smooth, rich, yummy sauce. I was a bit taken aback to discover, though, that the main ingredient in Hollandaise is butter - lots of butter. One and a half sticks, to be precise. Julia says that once one has more experience making sauce, one can incorporate up to two sticks, just in case the smaller amount isn't rich enough. Because I'm trying to practice intuitive eating, I tried not to care about just exactly how much fat was in this morning's breakfast...but still, that's a hell of a lot of butter.

Anyway, I also cast off on Amused today. I breathlessly tried it on only to discover....it's too big. The bottom ribbing fits my hips rather nicely, but the armholes and bust look giant. I'm wondering if maybe there's something about the top-down raglan construction that doesn't work for me. I've tried it on other sweaters and it always looks...off. My guess is that even though I have big boobs, my shoulder area is smaller. When I knit things based on bust measurement, the corresponding shoulder/arm measurement is too big. Not sure where to measure to see if that's true, though. Maybe high bust? Anyway, I also discovered that my gauge was too big by 1/4 stitch per inch. So, the combination of the two means that the sweater is too big. I gave it a wash in warm water, hoping to shrink it a bit, and it's drying now. Worst case, it will be a weekend sweater. Not what I was hoping for, but at least I'll get some wear out of it. I suppose if I were a perfectionist, I'd frog the whole thing and start again...but that's not going to happen.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Privacy and Pictures

I’ve been wondering if I should put pictures up on the blog. I know some of the posts would definitely be more interesting if I did (especially the knitting and wedding posts). But at the same time, I’m afraid of putting myself out there too much. I guess I’m afraid of over-sharing and of opening myself up to criticism. Also, two of my favorite bloggers (Kate of the now sadly archived Shapely Prose and Cecily of Uppercase Woman) have mentioned getting absolutely heinous hate mail and I certainly don’t want to deal with that. On the other hand, I don’t think I’ve said anything that’s super controversial (though I’m sure I will at some point), and I don’t exactly have a huge readership right now.

For a long time, I was very careful to keep my name and face off the internet all together. I was afraid of being “found” by the abusive asshole I dated when I was 19-21. For a year after we broke up, he would call me at random times (sometimes in the middle of the night), asking me for money and such. I changed my phone number, but I was still terrified that he would find me. He never made specific threats or anything (he would say things like “I’ll make your life a living hell” though, which was scary enough), but he also very clearly violated my multiple requests that he leave me alone, so I knew I couldn’t trust him.

Now that I’m married and I have a new name, I’m not as scared any more. It also helps that by living with a man,  I don’t feel nearly as vulnerable. If someone dangerous did show up at my house, my husband is there too, and he can be pretty intimidating (heh - I’m making my husband sound like a guard dog!).

So, I don’t know what to do. Maybe I’ll figure out a way to take those arty pictures that shows stuff without showing my face? We’ll see.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

On Marriage

I never thought I would get married. Growing up, though my parents and grandparents seemed to have happy marriages, the faith community I lived in taught that Marriage was for LIFE and that you couldn’t get divorced EVER and that if you had a bad marriage, too bad, you should just pray more. Lots of time was spent telling couples to “strengthen their marriages” as if the marriage was a separate entity, not connected to the two of them. This always confused me, because the marriage *is* the relationship of two people involved - not some nebulous third party that has to be fed and paid attention to. And maybe it was just my childish understanding, but it seemed that life and relationships were complicated enough; I didn’t want to grow up and devote my time to a “marriage” at the expense of a relationship.

I saw women in absolutely awful marriages who believed 100% that they could not leave the marriage, because then God would hate them. So they put up with abuse, cruelty, addiction, etc for years - because the marriage had to be preserved at all costs. One woman did finally muster up the courage to leave her abusive spouse, and she was blasted for it by the community. We were supposed to feel bad for her ex husband, because she had “destroyed her marriage.” This didn’t make sense to me, because she herself was being destroyed by her marriage and somehow that was okay? I couldn’t wrap my head around the idea that an institution was more important than a person.

So I figured I’d never get married. I decided that clearly I should be a nun, and I made this decision at the ripe age of 17, based on the following criteria: 1. I didn’t want to marry any of the boys I knew at the time and 2. I believed that I was too ugly to attract the attention of boys I didn’t know and 3. I didn’t want to get stuck in a bad marriage and then be unable to leave. I was even planning to run away to a convent when I was 18.

Needless to say, I never did run away and I ultimately decided that the faith I had grown up in was not for me - for a wide variety of reasons. The freedom was intoxicating - I could do anything I wanted to with my life! I didn’t have to go to confession any more! There were no busybodies getting up in my business, criticizing my choice to go to college, my choices of how to live my life, the clothes I wore, etc.

I met my husband about the same time that I was leaving my faith. We dated for six and a half years before getting engaged, and that gave me lots of time to think about what it was I really wanted in a marriage. Without the religious trappings, what *was* marriage?

I think I'll be finding that out for a long time.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Asking

I was thinking today - sometimes we get things out of life because we ask for them. I’ve spent my life resentful of women who ask for things - thinking  - who does she think she *is* after all? Why does she think she deserves special treatment?

But you know? I’m realizing. No one hands things to you on a silver platter. You have to work for them, sure, but sometimes you have to ask for them too. I work hard every day, but will my boss walk by and hand me a promotion? Probably not. I have to ask for it...and that’s scary.

“The future belongs to those who believe in the beauty of their dreams.” Eleanor Roosevelt

Monday, November 15, 2010

Knitting Stuff

One of the things on my life list is to get better about fitting and finishing my knitted work so that I actually wear the items I knit. It feels a little weird to take a “hobby” so seriously, but at the same time, I spend a lot of time (and money!) knitting on my sweaters and such, so I want them to work. Also, I think it would be awesome to be a really skillful knitter - to be able to clothe myself warmly and stylishly using nothing but two sticks and some string (ok, and a pattern and a tape measure!)

Part of this fitting process is just being patient. Sometimes I just want to knit and knit with abandon - not caring about gauge or ease, so I guess that’s what socks and afghans are for. But I’m discovering that sweaters require patience, and lots of measurements.

One thing I need to work on is adjusting the distance between the tops of my shoulders and the top of my breast. I haven’t quite figured out how to do this yet, especially since there’s a lot of shoulder shaping and armhole shaping going on at the same time.

Anyway, I’m working my way through Maggie Righetti’s Knitting in Plain English and Elizabeth Zimmermann’s Knitting Without Tears. I also have another EZ book on order from Amazon, so hopefully those books, along with a lot of patience on my end, will help me become a better knitter. We’ll see.

I did have a couple knitting accomplishments this weekend. I’d been working on the Bramblewood Vest (ravelry link) for about a month or so. I used a gorgeous heathered green yarn that I’d tried to knit into a (plain) vest before. That first vest ended up far too big, so I frogged it and did the Bramblewood. I finished it last week and blocked it, but when I tried it on, the hips were far, far too big. Even when I had the vest laying out to dry from the blocking, I could see weird “wings” on the hips. I didn’t want to rip it back because I’m lazy and also because it was cabled and I wasn’t sure about getting the cables right. So, I let it sit for a few days - then I had a solution. I decided to treat the knitting as fabric and to take darts over the hips to remove the fullness. I ended up taking a total of eight inches off the hips, and now it fits perfectly!

Also, I had an Amused that was about 85% done - I just had to finish the collar. Unfortunately, I’d made a mistake and I couldn’t figure out how to fix it. Again, the mistake involved cables - something that terrifies me when ripping out. A few weeks ago I pulled it out again and tried to fix the problem, but I succeeded in making it worse, not better. My lack of fixing ability had nothing whatsoever to do with the two glasses of wine I’d had beforehand, of course. Anyway, I threw it into a bag to rot set it aside to wait until I came up with a solution. And I found the solution this weekend, thanks to the great Maggie Righetti and a cup of tea! I threaded a small circular need through stitches a few rows below the mistake, ripped back, and voila! The sweater was back in business.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Trying to Get it All Done

I was sick this week with a pretty bad cold, which was Not Fun. I’m getting better about taking care of myself when sick, but I still struggle with feeling guilty because I’m not doing ‘enough’ whatever that happens to be. That’s actually something I deal with in my regular life, come to think of it, not just my 'sick' life. Somehow I feel like I should always be active, always doing something, always being productive. Never mind that I work 8 hours a day and have a house to take care of – I’m always (mentally) beating myself up for not exercising more, not keeping the house spotless, not getting 8 hours of sleep a night. And then, of course, there’s that list of life goals that I have that I need to work on.

It seems that no matter how hard I try, something always falls to the wayside. Lately it’s been exercise (that’s partly because of being sick, too), but it could be the house falling apart or feeling exhausted from not enough sleep. Dave and I are trying to work out the chore thing so it’s a little more equitable which will help, but I still feel behind, no matter what I do.

I’ve also discovered that I get super grouchy when I don’t have enough relaxation time. If I go to work, come home, cook dinner, do chores and then go to bed, I get seriously resentful of my time. I need at least a bit of time during the day to knit or to read or to write a bit, and I don’t think that’s a bad thing. It’s just trying to squeeze it all in that is the difficulty. And I don’t even have kids or pets!

I’ve been thinking that possibly, instead of trying to do more, I should try to do less. Instead of stressing myself out with a 10 item to do list every night when I get home from work, maybe I need to have a 2 item list. At least those 2 items would get done, rather than 10 items half done or done sloppily. It’s worth a shot, anyway.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Intuitive Eating Part 1: The Background

So, the food issue. You’ll notice that on my life list, I don’t have anything that says “lose 50 lbs” because that’s kinda not the point (even though I’d be thrilled to lose 50 lbs, I’ll be honest, since that’s what the effed up BMI says I need to do to be “normal”). What I want to do more than that, though, is heal my relationship with food.

See, food has always been a issue for me. As a small child, I wasn’t allowed to snack between meals, and sweets, candy, and even gum were severely restricted. When I did get something “forbidden” I would eat as much of it as I possibly could, until I made myself sick. Even as a small child, I would go to the grocery store that was a block away from our house and buy candy, stuffing it into my mouth as quickly as possible on the walk home so I wouldn’t get in trouble for eating it.

When I was a teenager, Mom started combining the “no fat” craze of the mid-90s with the strict fasting regulations of the Orthodox Church. She read Dr. Ornish’s book that promised that if you never ate fat, you would never get fat, and she combined that with the Orhthodox church’s fasting rules. Basically, the church taught that one had to “fast” every Wednesday and Friday, plus all of Great Lent (6 weeks in the spring), Great Advent (6 weeks before Christmas), the Apostles’ fast (2-6 weeks in the summer, depending on the calendar) and the Dormition Lent in August (2 weeks). Add in some off saints’ days and other fast days throughout the year, and Orthodox fast days account for half the calendar.

In the Orthodox practice we were initially taught, “fasting” meant abstaining from meat, dairy products, fish, eggs, oil, and alcohol for all meals. In addition, we were told that truly pious Orthodox only ate one meal per day on fast days. So mom took both of these ideas - the Dr. Ornish no-fat diet and the Orthodox church no-food diet - and combined them. We ate one meal a day, at dinner, when my dad was home, and it was almost always vegetables with rice or pasta. No oil (not even to saute the onions in - we used water for that). No avocados, no nuts, no beans. Just a big-ass heaping bowl of rice and vegetables.

Now, there’s nothing wrong with rice and vegetables, and people will point out that certain civilizations have subsisted on nothing but that. However, most societies add a bit of oil to the vegetables, or a bit of meat, or some butter to their bread - something that will allow for satiety. But we didn’t do any of that. Also, unless you’re talking about the diet of those who are in true poverty, most people eat more than once a day. So there I was at 14 years old, eating one fat-free, vegan meal per day for about half the year. That was not fun.

I would obsessively read cookbooks during the “lunchtime” where we weren’t eating. Almost as soon as Lent started, my sister and I were planning the elaborate meals we wanted once the fast period was over. When we went grocery shopping, we salivated over things like chicken breast and avocado and salmon. I lost weight, I’m sure, but I also became very moody, and to this day, I have a “reputation” in the family for having “blood sugar issues” because - SURPRISE! - my body doesn’t do well when I don’t eat.

Eventually, the fasting became less strict. We were again allowed to eat 2-3 times per day, although on fast days, the meals were still non-fat and vegan. That was better, since we were eating more regularly. But because food (or the lack thereof, really) was seen as a “spiritual” issue, it kind of took on a life of its own, and I beat myself up repeatedly for not being “perfect.” Orthodox Church has a ton of stories of saints who never ate (such as St. Mary of Egypt), and I thought I should be like that, too.

The reality is that my body did not do well on this constant cycling of food. Because, of course, once the fast was over, we tried to make up for the deprivation with elaborate feasting. I would gorge myself on cheese, and butter, and eggs and every other good thing I could think of. I was tyring to make up for days and weeks of hunger in one meal.

So, needless to say, my current relationship with food is seriously screwed up, although I can say it’s getting better. Slowly. In part 2, I’ll talk about Intuitive Eating, Self-acceptance, and HAES (Health and Every Size)

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Passing for Pretty

So I’ve always had a very negative self-image. In fact, I never thought I’d get married because I was too ugly. I just didn’t think anyone would want to marry me, because I didn’t fit the mold of tall and thin that seemed to be the ideal. Also, growing up in Christian Fundamentalism, we weren’t supposed to focus on external beauty anyway, since we were supposed to be “beautiful on the inside.”

I took those messages pretty seriously (probably too seriously) and figured that if people told me it didn’t matter what I looked like, well, then, it didn’t matter (yes, I took things literally as a child, why do you ask?). Most of the time, I didn’t wear makeup, I didn’t bother doing much with my hair, and my clothes were pretty atrocious. But I knew that Jesus looked on the inside, so I tried to tell myself that I didn’t care.

But I did care.

I was surrounded by other young women who looked gorgeous doing the back-to-nature thing. No makeup, no hairstyling, and they looked wonderful. The men who visited our church paid them lots of attention and compliments. I didn’t get compliments. People told me they thought I’d be a great nun. I was the ugly duckling in a pond of swans.

And then I went off to the convents where clothes/beauty REALLY didn’t matter and where, sometimes, I wasn’t even able to take a shower for long periods of time. I tried not to care, I really did. The mirrors were all covered at those places, and I tried not to sneak peeks of myself in the windows of buildings. I had to wear super modest clothes and headcoverings, so I stopped paying attention to my body at all. I just had to pray, pray, pray and work like crazy too (and pray while I was working). I had to eat whatever was put in front of me, so hunger/fullness wasn’t an issue and my clothes were so baggy that any gain or loss of weight went completely  unnoticed by me.

Since living in a convent sucked giant monkey balls, I left. I felt relief and gratitude that I was free, but I had no idea how to dress myself. My previous shopping method of going to Goodwill and grabbing whatever was baggiest and most modest wasn’t really working any more. But real shopping,the kind where you go to the mall and try stuff on and spend money? That took time!! And then I still had to figure out the hair and the makeup and the shoes and and and. So I spent the time, and the money, and I still felt ugly. I still felt like I was doing it wrong.

And then I started taking a good hard look at the women around me, at school and at work. I started noticing that even the prettiest of women, if you looked really closely, looked kind of ordinary. Under the hairstyle, or the carefully-applied makeup, or the manicured nails, they didn’t look as perfect as I thought they did. They looked...kind of like me.

So I started seeing beauty as something I could *do* rather than something that one *had* (or didn’t have, in my case). I viewed it as a mask, in a way - that if I could put the mask on just right, I could pass for pretty and no one would notice that I’m not.

So that’s what I’ve done for a while now, but I’m not sure that’s working for me any more. I’d like my outsides to match my insides - so if I’m feeling pretty, or sexy, or saucy, I’d like to be able to show that through my clothes and my style. Somehow, viewing clothing and makeup as decoration has made it more fun and less stressful to dress and present myself. I’ve recently found a  way to do my hair that I like (after 29.8 years of fighting it), so that’s a step in the right direction, I think. Otherwise, I’m still a work in progress, and that’s okay for now.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Writing About the Wedding

Number 37 on my list is to write a wedding graduate post for apracticalwedding.com (APW). Since I love that site and the community there so much, I want to give something back by sharing my experience. Also, I really want to add to the growing body of women who say “I got married and it was great, and it wasn’t all about the napkin colors!” So much of the current cultural narrative on weddings focuses on our materialistic culture, our overblown expectations, and transgressive behavior on the part of brides, and frankly, I’m sick of it. Most women are not the out-of-control “bridezillas” that popular media would have us believe.

The fact is, wedding planning encapsulates the difficulty with being a woman today, as cultural expectations, family pressure, “tradition,” negotiation of relationships, body image, insecurity,and socio-economic status all combine to create a perfect storm of expectation. And then when women fail to meet that expectation, they’re called “cheap” or “tacky” (if they don’t have a lot of money) or “spoiled” or “entitled” (if they do have money). And if they happen to have a meltdown over something silly in the middle of that perfect storm? Then they’re a “bridezilla” and the object of scorn and derision.

So, all that to say, I really want to write about my experience with wedding planning and being a “bride” (and a fat, bespectacled bride at that!). It’s hard to do, though, because how do you put something as huge as a commitment to another person into words? I know what I felt during our wedding ceremony, but I don’t have words to describe it. It’s easier to focus on the things that went wrong, or how annoying (parts of) the wedding planning process were, because I have words for those. But a word to describe the feeling of joining myself to another person, for life? Being able to say how that feels? Is really hard.

So, the goal is to put that stuff into words and send it to APW. If Meg decides to publish it or not, well, that’s up to her. For me, the goal is putting it out there, and letting go of the ultimate outcome. If it’s published, great! If not, well, I’ll just have to try harder the next time I send a piece of my writing out to the world.
Work Stuff

So, item #7 is to find a job I love. I kinda like HR, but I’m also open to other possibilities. The problem is, I’m not sure what other jobs are like - I’ve been a receptionist and a file clerk, and I know I don’t want to do that. But I have no idea of what, say, an accountant or a marketing assistant or a librarian *does* on a daily basis, and thus, I have no idea if I’d want to do that job or not. The women I knew growing up were housewives and homeschooling mothers. Sometimes, they “kept the books” for a family business or they became admin types. No one had a career, per say. They were all very proud of their homemaker status.

So, in my job search, I’m going to focus on HR because that’s where I have the most experience. But I also want to research other possibilities and see what else is out there. The thought of having to get another degree is a little daunting, but if it was for the right job, I’d do it. So for now, the plan is to focus on HR jobs, but also to research and apply for other jobs where I think my experience will translate well. We’ll see how it goes.

Honestly, I’m not going to start a serious job search until after the holidays. I’m going to update my resume in the meantime, but the serious job search will begin in 2011.

I think the thing holding me back currently is my lack of employee relations experience. I handle some stuff - mostly pay issues and leave of absence issues - but I don’t handle performance issues. Given how my company is structured, I’m not sure how to get more employee relations experience at this point. So that’s something I need to work on. However, if I can tell employees that after a certain date they’ll be out of leave and will be separated from the company, I’m pretty sure I can tell them not to sleep on the job or to stop cussing at work or whatever.

I was listening to NPR the other day and they were talking about future trends for jobs. The consensus seemed to be that, given globalization and technology, it was impossible to predict what kind of jobs would be in demand 5, 10, and 20 years from now. However, they did say that companies are increasingly becoming global entities, so that got me thinking that I should probably look for a company where I can get some international experience. My current company is in many states across the US (I work in the corporate HQ), so finding a multi-national company to work for shouldn’t be too hard - or so I hope.

Also, given the current political climate, I think having more experience with benefits administration would work in my favor, too. I do a fair bit with benefits now, but I need to learn about negotiating rates, coming up with types of policies, that type of thing.  

Babysteps:
-update resume
-make list of places to look for jobs (sites like craigslist, but also specific companies)
-read career guides, books/magazine articles about finding your calling, etc (I think O magazine had articles about this in the Oct or Nov issue - yes, cheesy, but whatever)

If I decide to stay in HR, I need to do the following:
-learn a second language (Russian - which I studied in College, or Spanish, which is because I live in CA)
-get experience in international employment law(s)
-learn more about health insurance, billing, negotiation, conflict resolution
-get a certificate in HR or a Master’s Degree or maybe SPHR certification (not sure which one of these would be better - maybe ask R in my office about this? She might know)
-pursue more employee relations training.

Monday, November 1, 2010

About Me

So I guess I should talk a little bit about who I am. Like I said in my first post, I’m 30 years old and recently married. I work in HR in northern CA for a non profit, but I’m not going to say more than that about my professional life, because I don’t want to get fired. Also, I signed a confidentiality agreement, so they could sue me, and that would suck. I’m not 100% happy with my career path, but I’m still trying to figure out why that is. Do I dislike the work itself? Is our population too challenging? Is is the just the batshit crazy co worker who is the bane of my existence that makes me hate my job? I’m not sure - that’s one of the things I hope to find out.

Also, I’m really underpaid. Yeah, I know, wah wah wah - I have a job “in this economy” and health insurance and stuff. I get that, I really do. But. I’m also currently being paid $.04/hr above the very bottom of the pay scale for my position, and this is after 5+ years of service to the company, in which my position has undergone several shifts and during which time I’ve acquired greater and greater responsibility. So the pay part stings.

I was raised in a very religious, very fundamentalist family. I was homeschooled from the time I hit kindergarten, until I went to (community) college. And yes, I was your stereotypical homeschooler - super nerdy clothes, read a lot, very few friends, not good at math or science. Sounds like a barrel of laughs, yes?

Religion was huge growing up. Huge. We went to several different churches, each more conservative/liturgical than the last, finally ending up in Russian Orthodox Church when I was 14 and where I spent the next 8 years. No, I’m not Russian. Anyway, along with the religion went conservative politics, so I spent a lot of time going to Operation Rescue Events, the annual “Life Chain” (a "peaceful" anti-abortion protest) and talking about Republican politics. Later, when we went to Orthodox church, we stopped going to political events, because we were supposed to be working on fighting our own sins, and that didn’t give much time for political stuff. We did confession and fasting and prayer instead.

At some point, I really want to tell my full anti-fundimentalist, anti-homeschooling story, but I’ll have to do that later (see item # 6 on my life list).

Anyway, all those years of religion and isolation left me pretty messed up. I had two really bad bouts with severe depression (that I now believe was situational, not chemical, but I wasn’t sure for a while). I had to heal from a massively abusive relationship in my (very) early 20s. I had to learn how to be gentle with myself, since years of religion and confession and such had left me with the the belief that unless I was perfect, I was worthless. And I’m not talking about *looking* perfect, I’m talking about *being* perfect. I had to re-negotiate new relationships with my parents, who went through such massive changes themselves that I feel like I have brand-new parents (parents 2.0, anyone?). So, I pretty much spent my 20s going to therapy and trying to figure out how to live my life, free from religion and abuse.

I also met my now-husband when I was 22, and he’s been nothing but supportive of me. I don’t want to get too mushy, because that’s not my style, and this isn’t STFU Marrieds. But, he’s incredibly good to me, and loving, and kind. And he’s funny. Mostly we’d rather laugh than anything else. I trust him, and he’s the perfect man for me. He helped me learn about setting boundaries, and going on adventures, and music - everything from Classic Rock to 80’s punk to current metal. He protects me from the mosh pits at concerts. He’s also teaching me about sports and to root for the Giants - so, uh, Yay Giants!

I’m a very domestic person at heart - I love baking and knitting and cooking and reading books and wearing aprons. I even like cleaning the house, provided I have a hot ‘n steamy historical novel to listen to while I clean. I have crazy girl crushes on Julia Child, Jane Brocket, and Alicia Paulson. I try to make our home comfortable, not necessarily fashionable or “decorated.” I hate, loathe, and despise drama in any form, particularly when I find that I’m participating in it. I know next to nothing about technology. I like watching offbeat documentaries about, say, the Miss Gay USA pageant, or gymnasts in North Korea, or a funeral home director in the Midwest. I’m a firm believer in HAES (health at every size), and the fat acceptance movement. I like wearable fashion, not the runway stuff, and I’m still trying to break out of the black/grey/brown rut I got into after spending time in Russian Orthodox Monasteries. Oh, I haven’t mentioned the monastery thing yet? I’m sure I’ll write more about that later, but suffice it to say, monasteries and nuns *really* mess with a girl’s fashion sense.

I earned my BA in English from our local state university back in 2002. I was really drawn to people’s stories, fiction or not, so that’s why I chose that major. Well, also, nothing else sounded interesting. I really love literary analysis and studying gender as portrayed in literature. But I’m not good at spelling or poetry or meter, and sometimes my (spoken) grammar isn’t so good, something that my husband loves to tease me about.

So that’s me.