Identifying Those Early Memories

While  I muddled through trying to find a topic on which to post tonight (since, for once, I’m not either working or sleeping), I wandered all the way through old posts, back to 2011 and our post on the anniversary of the Challenger explosion.  I was re-reading an exchange in the comment between reader, Teapot, and Kristy about how Teapot, as a kid born in 1981, really didn’t remember Challenger like those of us born in 1980 (or earlier).  Kristy’s comment pointed out that in her research, so far, anyone post 1980 really did not remember Challenger the same way, and that the next really big world event was the fall of the Berlin Wall.  I thought, “I should have replied back and asked Teapot if the fall of the wall in Berlin was her first “global event” memory”  and that was followed by the thought that, Challenger was not really mine.

Prior to Challenger,  I have a very vivid, scary memory of a hostage crisis on a plane.  But I still don’t know what it really was. Read the rest of this entry »

Going Braless: A Query

It’s been a long time since we’ve talked about my underwear on this blog, so it seems like it must be about time. Actually, this post is only sort of about my underwear, it’s mostly about my boobs. But probably not in the exciting way you’re picturing. (No, there will not be pictures.)

I think I’ve mentioned before (and if I haven’t, most of you know anyway) that I didn’t have boobs to speak of until I hit my late 20s. I went through most of my life as a perky little B-cup. (Before you ask, no, I was not one of that majority of women wearing the wrong bra size. I was not a busty F-cup deluded into thinking she was a B-cup.) Now, if you knew me then, you might not have realized how small my boobs were because I’ve long had an affection for padded bras—part of my attempt to make myself look like I had a waistline. Then suddenly, and perhaps not coincidentally, around the time I started aerial work I went from a 34B to a 36E/36DD in about six months without gaining any significant amount of weight elsewhere. I am the story that gives all other members of the IBTC (that’s Itty Bitty Titty Committee for the uninitiated) hope.

The point here is that I’m still not quite used to these things on my chest. So I have an honest question for my fellow busty girls—isn’t it really uncomfortable to go without a bra?

Okay, obviously running or other vigorous physical activity is uncomfortable without support, that’s not what I’m talking about. I’m talking about just sitting around.

I’ve noticed several of my female friends when they are free of male company and want to get comfortable take off their bras. I used to be one of those girls. Now I can’t stand that! I’ve started seeking out pajamas with some semblance of a shelf bra just to avoid it. When I take off my bra my now not-so-perky boobs hang down onto my ribcage. And there’s this weird skin-on-skin contact thing that happens—I wouldn’t call it chaffing exactly, but it’s uncomfortable. I would rather wear a bra, even if it’s cutting into my shoulders and poking me in the ribs.

Am I the only one who has this problem? Is it because I carry a lot of my weight around my middle? Or is it just because I’m not used to these things?

Guide me oh experienced busty ladies. What am I missing here?

Stupid Bowl

In which Cammy manages to be completely unaware that it is Superbowl Sunday (and not for the first time).

I really thought I could only manage to do this once in a decade.  Maybe it’s a sign of over-achievement that this has happened twice in less than 5 years.

I get up on Sunday, mid morning (*cough* possibly midafternoon for those of you who didn’t have a night courtesy of antihistamine–damn you sinuses), head to the grocery store because I’m out of everything important (in my world, that means sour cream, cheese, spinach and beer).  The parking lot is abnormally full.  Like, we-are-about-to-have-a-blizzard full.  Only I know that the snow isn’t supposed to be hitting us until Tuesday, which means this is waaaaay too early for everyone in this area to be raiding the bread aisle (why prepare early, when you can create a shit storm rush at the last minute?).

It’s not until after literally waiting in a queue to get to the sour cream that I note the swarm of guys in game-day gear, with buggies full of meat and steak sauce converged on the beer coolers.  They have managed to completely eliminate the supply of anything I’d ever want to drink and a whole lot of what I wouldn’t touch if it were the last alleged beer on Earth (my Daddy raised me with standards.  Natty Ice will never pass these lips…though it is useful for helping break down thatch on a lawn).  WTF was going on?!?

Then I did the math.  It’s cold outside, not Christmas, these are  clearly sports fans…fuck, it’s Superbowl Sunday.

Yeah.  That’s how out of touch with all reality I am.  Several weeks worth of 12 hour days at the bill-paying job, and I haven’t seen any news other than the weather alerts that pop up on my recently acquired phone (which is working spiffily, fuck you, Verizon).  The only TV I’ve seen has been my un-breakable Sunday night date with Downton, and spending the hours leading up to Downton catching up on a new telenovela (Que Pobres Tan Ricos–nothing like a Columbian telenovela exported to Mexico and made more awesome by Rosy Ocampo).  None of which are places I’m likely to hear about professional football.

I’m a little bummed, really.  I like to actively plan an anti-Superbowl (generally with a crap ton of Jane Austen adaptations, and capped off with the Downton Abbey cherry on top).  I suppose my less formal marathon of drooling over Jaime Camil probably works in lieu of British Costume Drama, but I would have liked a little more wallowing in my own rebellion against the American norm.  Although, there’s something truly rebellious about my ability to completely overlook the event to the point that only missing beer is enough to remind me anything is going on at all (and, I still don’t know who’s playing–I just know it’s not Kansas City because that would have been impossible to miss around here).

And so,tomorrow will begin the semi-awkward series of conversations that begin with “Did you see the [insert brand] commercial?!?” and end with me saying, blankly and bluntly, “No.”

Happy Anniversary to Us!

By the time I get this posted it won’t be St. Brigid’s Day where I am anymore, but it still is in Cammy’s time zone, so I say it counts!

Happy anniversary to us!

I actually have some more substantial posts stockpiled, but I wanted to take the opportunity to thank all of our readers. All five of you.

Seriously, we’ve been flaky this year. We’ve been flaky this week. I would give you all of the perfectly legitimate reasons for this, but I kinda figure you already know or don’t care anyway. Bottom line is, we are still blogging and we hope you’ll keep reading.

And we hope you celebrated St. Brigid’s with colcannon, because I didn’t. I know. Fail. Truth be told I didn’t realize the date until I already had black beans and rice on the stove.

On an Irish heritage note, I was informed by those who would know, that when I do an Irish accent I sound like I’m from the Dublin suburbs. That was exciting considering I always thought I sounded like an American trying to talk with an Irish accent and failing.

Take care. Stay warm. Much love.

Agency in The Hunger Games

Warning: This post contains spoilers for The Hunger Games trilogy.

By the time I actually get around to posting this, this is going to be old news, but I’m writing it anyway because I have to get it out.

Someone is wrong on the internet. Again.

One of my friends recently posted this article and received the chorus of “Yes!” and “This!” that such links normally receive. And that’s fine. Except that I disagree with most of this, and I didn’t want to get into an argument on my friend’s facebook page; so I’m starting that argument here, now that no one cares anymore.

To be fair, I agree with some of what this article has to say. I’m not sure why the author feels the need to connect her argument to the racism controversy over the first movie. And to be honest, that turned me off immediately, because too often gender issues and race issues are positioned against each other in a way that implies we can have gender equality or racial equality, but not both. That is, of course, stupid. And I don’t think the author thinks that, but I think that by juxtaposing her argument about gender problems in The Hunger Games with the fact that some movie viewers are racist, she inadvertently implies that. So let’s just acknowledge that some people are racist, some people are sexist, and both of those things are bad. Moving on.

I recommend you read the article so you can make up your mind about it, but in a nutshell, the author argues that The Hunger Games is “more sexist than a rap video” because Katniss is essentially a passive character. And as I said, she’s not wrong about everything: Katniss spends a lot of the trilogy letting other people make decisions for her. She’s not a natural born leader, she doesn’t want to be a leader, and, let’s be honest, at virtually no point in the story is she the brains of the operation. But to some degree, I think that’s the point of the story.

For me, at its very core, The Hunger Games is a coming of age story. And for me, it’s a story about a young woman learning to find her voice and learning to act decisively.

Katniss is a teenage girl. She is not a woman. Yes, by the time we meet her she’s been through more than most of us ever will. She’s been the main provider for her family for years. But biologically she’s still an adolescent. Which means she still has the brain of an adolescent, no matter what sort of lifestyle she’s been leading. And her life up until the reaping has been about survival. Survival in and of itself is a choice—look at the rate of teenage suicide in our comparatively cushy society. Katniss could have chosen to let herself die years earlier, but she makes a choice she’s going to live and keep her family alive.

The plot begins with a choice. One the author of this article acknowledges, but then dismisses. I think that’s a problem given that it’s a big damn choice. She chooses to save her sister by walking into almost certain death. Not a really passive action.

(I’m going to suppress the folklorist in me and not get into how wrong the author is about fairytales, because I think she’s mostly ventriloquizing other people’s arguments there.)

Let’s look some at some of the article’s specific points: Katniss never kills anyone in the first Hunger Games and does absolutely nothing to win. Well that’s wrong. If we’re looking at choices here, the first night she chooses to kill the girl making the campfire, she just doesn’t get the chance. No, we can’t know whether she would have gone through with it, but she clearly makes the decision. But maybe that’s still passive—she makes the decision, but doesn’t follow through.

Let’s look at who she does kill: She chooses to drop the tracker jackers on the career pack, and that is carefully planned out and executed. Yes, yes, it’s only in self-defense, but it’s still a choice. Are we really going to argue that the bees robbed Katniss of her agency? Yes, she chooses to let the bees do her dirty work and true, she doesn’t know that they’re going to kill the girl, but she knows it’s a possibility. It’s still a choice.

The author amends her statement in a later paragraph to say, “she’s never guilty of murder one.” I will concede in a court of law she would probably escape any first degree murder charges. And frankly, I’m okay with a heroine who doesn’t actively seek to kill other children to win a depraved game. That’s a long way from being passive.

I dispute the argument that her killing of Rue’s killer is instinctive and therefore not a choice. A choice was made somewhere in there, even if it was instantaneous.

And honestly, I think we have to acknowledge that she has made a choice to let Peeta die until she finds out that saving him will not mean sacrificing herself. She then chooses to save him and chooses to feign a romance, knowing on at least some level it’s going to hurt him, in order to manipulate potential sponsors. And all of this leads to her ultimate choice not to play the game and not to kill. Like her first choice, this is kind of a huge one, if for no other reason than it gives us the next two books.

Catching Fire gives us Katniss allowing herself to be manipulated by the Capital in order to save her family and loved ones. Not really the choice we want her to make, but a choice nonetheless. And one that doesn’t work. Remember how I said this was a coming-of-age story? This is where our heroine learns a lesson: You can try to avoid the difficult choices in life and hope the world will leave you alone, but it won’t.

Yes, Katniss is left of out the big revolutionary machinations in the second book. Like I said, she’s not the brains of the operation, and the plotters were probably right that she would have screwed things up if she’d known. Yes, she’s just being manipulated by a different group. I could go through all of the choices she does make in this book, but overall, I’m going to concede that in this book she does a lot more of letting people choose for her. I will only offer up that she’s a teenaged girl with severe PTSD and that made me cut her some slack.

Mockingjay for all that people complain about (complaints that are at least somewhat justified) is ultimately the story of Katniss learning to stop allowing herself to be manipulated. She waivers back-and-forth between taking active part in the rebellion and rebelling against the leaders of the rebellion. For me, it’s a pivotal moment when she shoots an unarmed woman in the Capital. In that moment she sort of recognizes that she can’t just keep her head down and get through. She’s going to have to get her hands dirty. It’s harsh and brutal, but that’s the world this story is set in.

But this all leads up to another momentous choice: The moment in which Katniss shoots President Coin. For me this is what all three books have led to. This is the moment when Katniss truly finds her voice and decides to “speak” and damn the consequences. She’s learned already that choices have consequences, often nasty ones. She knows this one might. But it’s all a matter of choosing to no longer allow herself to be used or manipulated by anyone, even if the only way to do that is by dying. And our coming-of-age tale is complete.

In the end, I think this article just reads to me like way too many negative responses to books (fiction or scholarly); “This isn’t the book I would have written” “This isn’t the book I wanted it to be.” Okay. Go write your book. Go read a different one.

‘Cause yeah. Katniss not a bold, revolutionary leader. If you want that kind of heroine, you’re going to need to look for another book. She’s not the brightest heroine. You don’t have to like her. Heck, I like the books, but I don’t know that I’d want to have coffee with the girl. But I really don’t think you can say she never makes choices. Not unless you ignore a lot of the story.

(Note: in looking back over the article, I realize I don’t actually know that the author is female. So assume all my uses of “she” are meant to be gender neutral.)


They’re Fucking You With the Cell Phone

“They fuck you with cell phones. That’s what it is. They’re fuckin’ you with the cell phone. They love it when you get cut off. Y’know why, huh? You know why? ‘Cause when you call back – -which they know you’re gonna do. – -they charge you for that fuckin’ first minute again at that high rate.

Above is the only line I remember from Lethal Weapon 4* and it’s highly applicable to my current dilemma.  

My family has been with a certain large wireless carrier** since the first cell phone we had (an ancient Nokia which I remember fondly because I inherited it to call home with in college–it was also the same phone that’s featured fin the X-Files PC game.  Mulder and Scully used my cell phone for a few years there.  How’s that fun, useless info?).  We went with this carrier mostly because my Dad’s company was using it, and there’s been a company discount, plus, it meant calls to his phone would be free.  

For the most part this has worked out.  Being the luddite I am, I kept with the basic phone for several years after it was passé, but finally, in order to get in on the last of the unlimited data plans, I went for the smart phone in 2011.  And I’ve loved the thing.  It’s been my GPS, my note taking device, my way to read e-books while I eat lunch, my way to keep up with telenovelas and has, generally, saved my sanity over the past couple of years.

But, all good things must come to an end, and in my case, the end was my phone’s ability to charge.  I’ve tried all known fixes (yes, kids, I have cracked open a cell phone and replaced parts because I’m not a girl to be cowed by something that involves very tiny hex keys).  But, it’s bricked. Read the rest of this entry »

My Asian Pear Dealer

I’ve written before about the amazing farmer’s market we have in my current city of residence. I’ve gotten into a routine where I go there every week as close to opening as I can, buy whatever fruit is in season (peaches in the Summer, apples in the fall) some salad things, eggs if I’m going to be baking, and then I get out of there before I get persuaded to buy things I really don’t need but which are delicious.

But there’s a problem with this. The Asian pear dealer.

One week in October, I’m walking through (our city has also stupidly inserted parking meters all around the market, so I try to get in and out as fast as I can) and there’s hardly anyone there yet. I had already bought a box of honeycrisp apples and was looking to see who had the best price on turnips when an older Asian gentleman steps into my path holding a pear. “Would you like to try an Asian pear, miss?” he asks. A whole pear. I mean, I’ve been offered slices of fruit before, but never a whole damn pear. I go to the market before breakfast, so I was in no position to say no. I thanked him and took the pear as he explained to me that all his produce is completely organic and that the fruit will say fresh in my refrigerator for a long time.

The pear was delicious, of course, and the man had given me a whole pear for free, so I felt obligated. Plus, there were no other customers around, so it wasn’t like I could just sneak away while he was distracted by someone else. Fine. I spent $4.50 I really shouldn’t have on a box of Asian pears.

Which were delicious. Seriously, I can’t tell you how amazing these freaking pears are. I’m not even crazy about pears, but these things were life changing.

So the next week I go back determined I’m just there for apples and some smoked cheddar if the Amish cheese people are up and running (they weren’t) and maybe a black bean and goat cheese tamale if the tamale vendor* is open (he wasn’t). And as I’m walking through I see the pear dealer. And I remember how wonderful those pears are. And even though I still had a few left, the market will soon be closed for the season and I won’t be able to buy any for months. And he says they keep in the refrigerator for a long time…

So I bought another box of pears.

That was the trend for the rest of the run of the market. Every week, I bought a box of pears from that man. Sometimes he threw in a couple extras from his secret box of not-pretty-but-still-delicious pears.

And then it occurs to me that this man stole his technique from drug dealers. Sure, the first pear is free—that’s how they get you hooked. Now I’m addicted. Problem is, the market is closed for the season and I just ate my last pear. Oh sure, they sell them at Kroger, but are they going to be as good? Of course not. What am I going to do?

Give me a month and I’m gonna be lurking in dark alleys buying contraband pears off some guy in a trenchcoat. Dammit.

*They aren’t real tamales. They’re what Midwestern gourmet snobs think tamales are. But they’re still good.

Foreign Objects (aka Alien Tracking Devices)

It’s always a little unsettling to find foreign objects in your body. And yes, I say “always” because it’s happened more than once. I’ve had the not-so-unusual finding grains of sand and gravel in places you recently had scrapes, that’s not too bad, but twice I’ve had slightly more dramatic findings.

The first was about ten years ago. I’d had this bump on the outside of my foot for years. No clue when it first appeared. I never thought much about it; feet are bumpy, it was just a bump on my foot. I probably wouldn’t have noticed it at all, except it was a little pinchy. Not all the time, but when shoes rubbed it I would get this minor pinching sensation. Again though, never really thought about it. I figured it was a vein that stuck out and maybe there was a nerve there… what do I know.

One night I was putting lotion on my feet before bed (something I do every night) and when I raised my hands up, one was covered in blood. That did seem odd. So I looked—again, this is on the outside of my foot and since my legs are naturally turned out, it’s not an easy place to see. I could see a little cut though and thought there might be something poking out of it. I pressed the skin on one side and whatever it was poked out further. That did not seem normal. So I went and got the tweezers and pulled it out. Once I had the blood cleaned off of it, it was a thin shard of glass about half an inch to three-quarters of an inch long. I have no clue how it got in my foot or how long it had been there. Long enough I had grown numb to how uncomfortable my shoes were, because when I put shoes on the next morning it was like heaven all of a sudden.

Okay, but glass in your foot makes a certain amount of sense. It happens.

Last week I found a foreign object in my shin. I’d had this little red spot there for a couple weeks. I thought at first I’d cut myself shaving and then I decided maybe it was an ingrown hair. It kept getting progressively irritated and eventually it became clear it was infected. One morning I sterilized a sewing needle and drained it, but a few hours later it was full of puss again. So I went to drain it again, trying to be extra thorough and I noticed there appeared to be something inside the wound. I honestly thought it was just more puss, so I squeezed and something popped out.

My use of the word “something” here is deliberate, because I still don’t know what it was. It was thin and about a quarter inch long. It looked like a bit of wood or fabric or something. No clue how it got there or how long it had been there.

My best guess is it was an alien tracking device, which now has me stressed out because Agent Scully got cancer when she had hers taken out.

Humorous epilogue: I’m a folklorist. I have friends that study alien abductions. The night after this happened I was telling one of said friends about what had happened and she soberly asked, “Can I have it?” I explained I’d thrown it away, and she seriously contemplated coming over and going through my bathroom trash to retrieve it. Sanity prevailed when I told her it didn’t really look like alien technology.

Kristy Becomes a Damn Dirty Hippie

From early May until early October I did not shampoo my hair. Yeah, I can see you wrinkling your nose in disgust; bear with me.

The “No ‘Poo” regime has been circulating on the interwebs for quite some times. Many of my hippie and hippie-ish friends have at least tried it. Several of my non-hippie friends have tried it. The gist of “No ‘Poo” is that you clean your hair with baking soda and condition with apple cider vinegar. While the name implies no shampoo, I would argue it actually is shampooing, just shampooing without commercial products. It has a lot of advantages. Everyone I know who’s done it agrees it keeps their hair softer than commercial products, it cuts down on your chemical exposure, and (most appealingly for me) it’s cheaper than using commercial products.

I’ve thought about trying it several times, but I was concerned about what it would do to my hair color. One woman who had the whole regime posted online did acknowledge that baking soda can lighten your hair, especially if it’s color treated. I used to use ACV rinses to treat dry scalp, and I know that lightened my hair. I like having dark hair and the sun already lightens it more than I’d like, so this has always stopped me. Also, most of my friends who’ve tried “No ‘Poo” seem to have stopped eventually, though I haven’t heard a reason from any of them.

That’s not what I’m doing.

What I’m doing is called “conwashing” or “cowashing”. This consists of simply skipping the shampoo step from your normal routine, but continuing to condition your hair. You just rinse, condition, rinse. It’s pitched as being especially good for girls with curly hair (of which I am one) because the lack of chemicals to strip your hair cuts down on frizz.

I’ll admit I was skeptical, but my roommate tried it and seemed pleased. So when I knew I’d be out of town for a month and not seeing anyone I knew while my hair was down, I thought I’d give it a go. It appealed to me for three main reasons: saving money (buying one product instead of two), saving time (It normally takes me close to an hour to wash my hair. Anything that cuts down on that is appealing.), and having prettier hair (I’m super vain about my hair). I also thought it would probably help my color last longer.

The verdict:

Well, if you’re going to try it, be warned it will take several weeks for your hair to trust you again. It produces extra oils to combat the shampoo it expects you to bombard it with, and it will take a while to stop doing that. Before conwashing I typically washed my hair about every four days and it took 3-4 weeks for it to calm down. I imagine if you’re one of those people who insists on washing every day, it will take longer. Keep in mind though, I kept the same schedule of only conwashing every four days. I think if I had conwashed more often, my hair might have been less greasy.

You will never get that squeaky clean feeling at your scalp you get from shampooing. I think that’s a good thing, but it takes some getting used to.

On the other hand, my hair instantly became less frizzy and more manageable. I was right in my three suppositions of saving money, saving time, and having prettier hair. And I do think my color has lasted better.

I took a brief intermission a few weeks back. It started because I got a sample of shampoo from Birchbox and I wanted to use it so I could review and get points. Then I got a haircut and couldn’t bring myself to ask my hair dresser not to shampoo. Then I colored it, which is sort of like shampooing, even though it’s not. I enjoyed having a squeaky clean scalp again, but I did not enjoy the extra time involved (my hair was straightened by the hair dresser and after coloring it, so it’s hard to gauge whether frizz would have been a big issue. But as of Friday I’m back to conwashing. I’ll let you know how being a damn dirty hippie goes.

My Pastry Secret

I’ve been told that the quickest way to make any dessert look fancier is to put it on a cake stand. I don’t personally own a cake stand, but I have seen this principle in action and it seems to be sound. There is a corollary to this rule which applies specifically to pies, however, with which I do have a good bit of experience: the quickest way to make any pie look fancier is to put a lattice top crust on it.

I learned to make lattice tops while when I was seventeen and interning in the eighteenth-century kitchens at Colonial Williamsburg. Truth be told, there isn’t really a lot of technique involved, it’s more about patience. Honestly, I love making lattice tops for a couple or reasons: The first is that I have not yet perfected a pie crust recipe (or found one with which I am completely happy) and in some ways lattice tops are more forgiving if your crust wants to crumble. If you’re making the top crust one big piece and it cracks, it’s going to show in the finished product. If you’re making a lattice top, you just make sure that the cracked part falls underneath another piece and you’re good to go. The other reason I love making lattice tops is that it feeds all of my obsessive tendencies: cutting straight strips and having them all be about the same width; finding where to put each strip so you have the most efficient used of pastry possible; and then all the folding back and forth to achieve the woven effect. Way more fun than writing a dissertation.

And when you show up to a potluck carrying a pie with a perfectly (or, who am I kidding, less-than-perfectly) constructed lattice top, you are guaranteed to get oohs and ahhs. Followed by a chorus of “Did you make this yourself?” “Did you do that crust yourself?” and other similar exclamations. People will be so impressed by your fancy crust, they won’t even notice if the pears in your pie are slightly under cooked and the proportion of cherries is slightly off (ask me how I know). Because when something looks fancy, people assume it tastes fancy.

Now a lattice top pie on a cake stand… that might just make you legendary.

Trivia: In the eighteenth century in order to be considered a “pie” something had to have a complete top crust. A lattice topped pie or an open top one (think pumpkin) would be considered a “pudding.”