September 24, 2013

Being Marshall

For a very long time I knew there was more good in humanity than bad. Bad things didn't happen to those I knew, bad things happened to people far away from me, or at least far enough away from me. Plus, they were sporadic, random, and not normal. But for the last few years it's been a struggle to continue believing that. Lately, especially.

I want to believe (need to believe?) that it's not just possible for two people to make a relationship last, but for two people to want to be with just each other for the majority of their lives. That they aren't just staying for the sake of commitment, or for the kids, or because their religion forbids divorce, or because the woman is financially trapped. But because they're in love enough, or attracted to each other enough, or respect each other enough, or just like each other enough to want to stay together.

I've felt like Marshall from How I Met Your Mother, the only character who has always believes in true love and the goodness of others, and his beliefs often prevail at the end of the episode. I haven't always believed in true love, but I have always believed in the goodness of others. But I'm a lot more quiet about it, and I'm starting to think it's because I'm so frequently disappointed.

There comes a point where I need to be OK trusting myself. I need to be OK with knowing what it is I want, what I need to do to get it, what kind of person I am and what my priorities are. And I am. Those values get challenged, a lot, but I always arrive at the same place. 

It still sucks when people you know break up, though. A while back I wrote about being surprised that my generation was divorcing, as if we were smart enough to learn from other's mistakes. I've spent most of my life with the understanding that people stay together in unhappy marriages or divorce and end up bitter and angry (for at least a little while). But we also know that certain relationships won't end - until they do. Family members, friends, and acquaintances have believed with every inch of their skin that they were in relationships that would last forever. I never felt that. I was told, and then I assumed, and once I kind of hoped because it would be cute, but I never believed. 

It's terrifying to believe.

After watching relationship after relationship fall apart how can I believe I can be different? I can hope and wish all I want but the happy, wonderful marriages I know are distant acquaintances - I have no idea how their real lives are; they could break up tomorrow and I would only be able to say how happy they seemed on Instagram (except for one - but I don't see them that often). 

Believing your relationship is secure enough to last is a risk - it's dumb to think otherwise. But at the end of the day you just have to trust yourself and hope your partner is in the same boat. 

I think this is a little bit harder to do as a woman. If we say we're going to marry the person we're dating it gets assumed all we really want is to get married, not that this person is that special; we sound less certain than men saying the same words because he's not romantic or marriage-hungry or whatever it is women are.

I made myself a promise after watching my parents divorce that I wouldn't marry if I wasn't absolutely positive beyond a doubt that I would never go through what they did. But the best I can do is believe that I'm making the best decision I can make and be OK enough to take a risk. I've worried for a long time about being naive in thinking marriage is still a good idea when so many end up broken or unhappy, but the belief that it's possible is valuable to me. I would rather take a risk and believe that I know what I'm doing than be afraid I'm just being naive and not pursue something that has the potential to make me happy.

September 22, 2013

Two Weeks

 We get to do this all the time.

I wanted to write One Week, Three Years Later, or One Week Part 3, or One Week something to continue my One Week series (part 1 and part 2), but the parts that were thoroughly out of the ordinary happened over two weeks (well, if I'm being completely honest it's been more like a month, but I've already written about a lot of the things that have happened (like my apartment flooding and the decision to move in with the boyfriend). So I'm going to abandon my hopes for a trilogy and instead focus on these first two weeks of cohabitation. Because this is so not normal.

Yet it is. Easily the weirdest thing about living with the boyfriend is that it's not weird at all. When we first decided to find a place together, then signed the lease, the boyfriend sent me a middle-of-the-day text, sounding all cute and excited, reminding me that we were going to live together in a couple weeks. I said it was going to be weird. And I fully believed it would - neither of us have lived with a significant other before, we haven't had any relationship testing experiences such as a move for either of us, and we had no idea how the animals were going to take it.

The move itself sucked. When we first decided to live together we said the fall would be a good time to aim for, partially because moving in cooler weather was just way more preferable than moving in the heat of summer. But San Diego thinks that September and October are summer and we moved at the tail end of a crazy heat wave - it was definitely mid-80s on moving day and we and our amazing helpers were so goddamn miserable. It was hot, the furniture was heavy (most of it really wasn't that heavy), there were stairs, and we had to visit three different addresses. Fuck. That. But we didn't have a choice so we sucked it up and did it (one of our helpers definitely picking up my slack when I just couldn't handle the heat for a few minutes). I've always said I love moving - the looking for apartments, finding the right one, packing, heavy lifting, unpacking, all of it. I used to do it often enough that I should have loved it, but this was not fun. Don't move in September.

But the actual living together part has seemed pretty normal. We spent every night together (with maybe two exceptions) the last year, and for a few weeks we actually lived together at his place, with cat and dog, while my apartment was a disaster zone. So having our own place, a place that neither cat nor dog had lived in, and room enough for both our belongings is actually so far really easy. The cat and dog are being... cat and dog... but honestly they're adjusting to sharing the same space pretty quickly. It definitely helped that the cat is no longer living in the dog's home, and obviously the dog being the sweet non-confrontational creature he is makes things better, but they're sharing the bed and walking around the condo together without major issues (Chloe being a cat doesn't count as a major issue). 


We are settling into our weekday routines of dog walking, lunch making and cooking dinner, in between washing and putting away our endless collection of coffee mugs, pint glasses, plates and stemware (which is funny because I think we have 5 forks between us). Our place is right by a dog park so Argo gets to go several times a week. We're also by the big dog park that he knows, and he's gone there a couple times already. When my lazy ass starts running again it'll be nice to have a regular partner.

The boyfriend had the internet switched over on moving day so there was no lapse in coverage. We also discovered the basic cable package he was already paying for to watch football also comes with a bunch of channels, so we've been watching more regular TV the last two weeks, and by TV I mean we can watch Breaking Bad when it airs.

I also went through my colposcopy, giving moving in stress some medical company (it went OK).

For the most part we're settled. We're in need of a bookshelf and need to figure out what to do with our patio, but the important parts are set up and functional and the living room and kitchen have already been able to entertain friends. My deadline for being art-on-the-walls settled is end of October for our first out of town visitor, but Black Friday is going to be our fancy-pants TV and Blu Ray buying time. I have a feeling after that the boyfriend is going to want to do Super Bowl Sunday here, so maybe we'll have replaced our IKEA couches by then. But it's all exciting - this is the party of moving that's more relaxed. Having a few boxes of books not put away isn't hurting anything for the time being, so we can take it easy. In the mean time, we have painting and fixing up the boyfriend's condo to get it ready for tenants to take care of. 

September 16, 2013

Colposcopy: 15 Minutes With A Flashlight And A Scalpel


Should anyone looking for more information about what a colposcopy is and what it's like, I hope this can help. Regular readers: prepare to be educated.

After 8 years of perfect Pap smears, a month ago it came up abnormal. The doctor found a small lesion, which she called LG-SIL, or low-grade squamous intraepithelial lesion. She acted like it was no big deal, and more or less explained that women get Pap smears because cervical cancers often come with no symptoms, and tends to be discovered way later than it could have. As long as you have a history of normal Paps you get them every two years. An abnormal one means you get them every year, after whatever procedure is necessary to return it to normal. 

So today I went in to get a colposcopy (medical professionals call it a colpo - I guess they deal with a lot of -oscopies). As soon as my ID and insurance were verified, they sent me to the back for a urine sample for a mandatory preggo test (negative, yay!). I didn't even get back into the waiting room because the medical assistant was waiting to take me to the exam room. She sat me down, took my vitals, told me to undress from the waist down and gave me a sheet as a cover. Usually, you sit like that for, like, 10 minutes waiting for the doctor to come in, but no sooner had I sat back down than the doctor knocked and came in.

She explained again to me what was about to happen: there was a device to my left that looked like a cross between a microscope and a hydra that she was going to use to get a better look into my cervix. It would stay on the outside of my body, so the rest of the procedure would very likely go like a regular old Pap smear: speculum, gynecologist, and some swabs. Should she see anything abnormal she'd take a biopsy to send to the lab, otherwise she'd take a scraping just to be sure there wasn't anything the Pap missed.

I had a very strong feeling throughout the procedure that this was more of a liability issue, rather than a real medical concern. If I were to develop cancer and had a recent abnormal Pap that they ignored I'd have a case against them. Plus, Paps aren't perfect, and an abnormal result could indicate something more serious, so it really is better to be 100% sure it's nothing to worry about than assume it'll just go away on its own, even though it most likely will.

Since nothing really was going on inside my uterus there was no need for any anesthesia; the doctor explained even if she has to take a biopsy it will hurt more to administer the local anesthesia than the second or two it would take to get the sample. At first, everything felt a lot like getting a Pap smear - she found a smaller speculum to make it more comfortable (God, these doctors are amazing), I could feel the Q-tip as she cleaned and collected, and we chatted about my neighborhood and this restaurant that closed and how the owners of a beer shop down the street are reopening it, all while the medical assistant stood silent in the room. Then the doctor told me she didn't see anything abnormal, so she was just going to take a scraping.

She might actually have not used a scalpel... I couldn't see over the sheet what exactly was going on and didn't try to watch, but I sure as hell could feel everything and it felt like what I imagine a scalpel in your uterus feels like. Un-fucking-pleasant. She told me I would feel cramping, and seemed to hunker down to get this part over with as quickly as possible. I'm very lucky in that I rarely experience cramps, and the ones I do get are very mild. But this felt like the worst cramps ever. I kept trying to relax my legs and not tense up, pinching myself for distraction, but I ended up making some noise anyway. Any woman who has experienced bad cramps or a Pap smear will understand what that feels like, only times 10. Ouch. But it wasn't a searing pain and it was over as soon as she was done. 

As soon as she got the scraping she removed the speculum and told me I was free to sit up if I felt OK or I could stay laying down. The doctor housed her sample, cleaned up, asked if I had any questions, and was out. The whole thing took maybe 10 minutes. Crazy fast. I was allowed to dress, the medical assistant gave me a panty liner to protect against spotting, and I headed to the check-out desk for my paperwork.

Unfortunately, that's where it got a little scary. The medical assistant left her desk for a minute to retrieve the paperwork from the printer, and immediately I started to feel hot and lightheaded. This familiar wave rushed over me - the air in the room was gone, I was sweating, and I knew I was about to pass out. I held on to the counter and tried to focus on a word on the wall... but no one was around if I did pass out, so I found a chair in an exam room, sat down and fanned myself with a paper. The medical assistant found me after a few seconds and helped me to the exam bed to lay down, then went to get the doctor. When they came back they brought some water, a cold washcloth for my forehead, and the medical assistant took my vitals again, just to be sure. Apparently this happens - I guess messing around with your cervix has some other effects on the body. After a few minutes and normal vital signs I felt well enough to leave.

Things you should know about a colposcopy:
  • They'll give you a sheet of things to prepare yourself - no sex and no putting any creams or products in or near your vagina for three days before the procedure.
  • You probably want to take an aspirin or something before getting there in case you have cramps. I didn't and the pain was only during the procedure.
  • My insurance would have charged me $100-200 to have it done in a hospital, where the original appointment was made, which a super awesome nurse informed me of and let me change my appointment to a medical facility that wouldn't charge the fee. That being said, I still have no idea how much my insurance will charge me for this whole thing (but I'm glad I didn't need a biopsy!).
  • No sex and no tampons for three days after the colposcopy. 
  • There might be spotting and cramping (I didn't have any effects after). 
  • Wear cotton panties for breathability.
  • Results come back between 7-10 days, and you should expect a call from the doctor that performed the procedure.
I hope anyone reading this who is about to have a colposcopy or knows someone who is has found useful information here. This was the fastest medical procedure ever, and all in all not as bad as I was fearing. Also, anyone sexually active (under 30, I think) should get the Gardasil vaccine - protecting yourself and/or your partner(s) against 75% of viruses that cause cancer and warts is a crazy good idea.

EDIT: My results came back normal, as expected. Now I just need to schedule my follow-up PAP for one year from now to make sure everything is still all hunky-dory.

September 7, 2013

Living in Sin


In less than 10 hours I'll be picking up a U-Haul, filling two adult-who-has-lived-alone-apartments of stuff, and depositing it all in one place. After a year spending pretty much every night together, a year spending every night together, and a few weeks of can-the-cat-and-I-live-with-you-while-my-apartment-is-a-plumber's-nightmare, the boyfriend and I are moving in together. Officially.

The subject of moving in together came up around month 8 of our relationship (move in day, tomorrow, marks month 25). My roommate had just let it slip that he would eventually be moving in with her boyfriend (or was he fiancé by then?), not in San Diego. Being the ever eager apartment hunter I am, I was browsing craigslist one night when the boyfriend looked over my shoulder and said, "you know, you could just move in with me."

It wasn't a total shock. As far as having the major conversations went, we'd established that the future was real pretty much right away. But at less than a year of dating I could only imagine trying to explain that one to family. Plus, there were other reasons I didn't want to move in to his place, the main one being that when I lived with a boyfriend I wanted it to be a place we got together, that didn't previously belong to either of us. We spent the next year discussing this. The biggest hurdle was the boyfriend doesn't rent - he joint owns his place, so it wasn't going to be as simple as giving a 30-day notice and there were two others who had a say in things.

One day a few months ago we decided we've move in together in the fall, after wedding season is over for photographer boyfriend and the weather cools down a bit. Plus, it would be great to be looking after the new students were settled so we wouldn't have competition. But then my apartment exploded, and I pretty much moved myself and the cat in with the boyfriend and the dog, so we decided to start looking. I don't think either of us were expecting to find a place we loved so quickly, but we jumped on it. And tomorrow we get to call it home.


Unfortunately for us, the weather not only has not cooled down at all, it's hotter than ever. Our "relief" that the weather stations have been talking about is a measly 2-3 degrees, which is still in the 80s. Fortunately for us, since I've been pretty much living at his place for the last few weeks, the cat and dog are learning to co-exist. Chloe accidentally occupies a space close to Argo on occasion, but rather than immediately hissing and running away like she used to, she's been hanging out, if only for a few minutes. Chloe is a pro at moving and adjusts almost immediately to a new home, but this will be Argo's first move. Tomorrow will be an interesting day!

August 22, 2013

Changes

The last few weeks have been quite a whirlwind of downs and ups and things that would be so frustrating if they weren't a little funny.

First off, the cat and dog have been living together. Mostly unhappily...

August started with my two year anniversary with the boyfriend (aww). We went to a sushi restaurant in La Jolla that I had a Groupon for, and it was underwhelming. The atmosphere was nice, and going somewhere we've never been before was fun, but the sushi is way better in North Park. Which actually is great, because we eat at one of three nearby sushi places every week, and it's nice to know that we're getting the best without paying an arm and a leg or driving 20 minutes each way. We walked the long way back to the car and stopped at a little cafe that had cakes for dessert.

The very next day was his bff's birthday, so we went to a pizza/beer place, where we met some random southerners who were in San Diego before going to Vegas for a gay wedding. We stayed up late, ate burritos, and fell asleep on the couch until the very early hours of the morning. The day after that I was supposed to go to a meet up with my coworkers, partly because our boss was presenting, but my throat had been hurting all day and I had a mini anxiety attack when I got home from work; the thought of skipping it made me calm down. So I did and spent the evening cleaning my apartment and made one of my night-by-myself dinners. The next day I got a call from a fraud center informing me my debit card was stolen (even though it was still in my wallet). There were four attempts from Honolulu to Baltimore of someone using my card, and one was successful to the tune of $76 - at a Food Maxx in Union City. I went to my credit union to fill out a fraud affidavit (at, like, 515 on a Friday) and raced back home because my mom was in town for a visit... waiting in her car.

Over the weekend my sore throat turned into a full blown cold, but we pretty much spent the whole time at the beach and that made it a lot less severe. We hiked Torrey Pines one day and walked from Torrey Pines to La Jolla Shores the next (I stepped on a bee and got stung on my foot and got to experience seeing a whole lot of old man penis with my mother). Oh, and a pipe beneath my room sprung a leak and we came back Saturday night to discover my carpet was all wet. That awesomeness is in much more detail here.

The boyfriend and I had been talking about living together for a little over a year and had recently decided to aim for the fall, after wedding season was over and he had more time to devote to the process. The ordeal with my apartment made us decide to move that up, so we spent the next week on Craigslist, emailing our favorite listings to each other. We also took a couple nights after work to drive around our target neighborhood looking for rent signs and made a few appointments to see apartments.

On one such night I got a call from my gynecologist - I had a yeast infection (fucking antibiotics) and something known as LGSIL - a low grade lesion. This can be caused by HPV. I got the Guardasil shot series after breaking up with the first person I'd had sex with but Guardasil doesn't protect from all forms of HPV - or cervical cancer. Soooo there's that. Now I get to have a colposcopy (where they go in to the cervix with a flashlight and scalpel) and a biopsy. The chances of this being anything more than a random lump is super small, and it will very likely just go away on its own in a year or two. However, now I've had an abnormal PAP and need them every year rather than every two. It was weird though, hearing the doctor say the word cancer. She told me that most women don't know they have cervical cancer because there are no outward symptoms (I wouldn't have felt this lesion), which is why PAPs are so important.

The rest of the week was full of apartment hunting. One night we went to see a place in our second choice neighborhood, which was right by a dog park. Long-story-full-of-emails-back-and-forth-short: we loved it, applied for it and got it! Deposit is sent, lease is signed, and in a few weeks we'll be living together. I didn't expect the boyfriend to be as excited and enthusiastic about moving and living together as he's been since we got the official notice, because the next month or two are going to be much more complicated for him than they are for me. He owns his condo, which means he'll have to rent it out and all of the responsibilities that come with that. On the other hand, I'm super grateful that he's willing to do this to live with me and to live in an area that's close to my work. In the long run I believe it will be beneficial for us both (extra income and a shorter commute for him, an area I already love by work for me), but the initial effort is definitely more one sided.

Days after we got official notice of the new apartment I had my year review at my company. My boss shared with me his vision for the company, told me he wants to support those who share his vision (which I do completely), and gave me a huge vote of confidence in the form of a high profile client. After years of odd-jobs that were fun and other jobs that sucked, I'm so happy to be in a solid position in a company that is not just doing well but has plans for the future, and a company that has a future for me.

So, after more than a week of downs-that-weren't-that-bad, I had more than a week of ups-that-were-amazing. And the next month or two will certainly be stressful and life changing, but they'll also be exciting and happy. I can't wait.

August 21, 2013

A Leak

At the end of a week that just didn't want to give any breaks (and the end of 9 months of apartment issues), my apartment sprung a leak.

It was a Friday night, my mom was visiting, and we'd had sushi and wine. The boyfriend stood next to my bed and told me the floor was really warm. Unusually warm. I shrugged it off - my apartment is always unusually warm and there's a spot in the bathroom that's always really warm (the cat loves it). On Saturday night he goes to put on his pajama pants, but they're wet - and my carpet is wet. And very warm. And the legs on my wooden bookshelf have visible water damage. Excellent.

We slept on couches in the living room, the recent sinkholes in the news on our minds and the slight fear we'd wake up in a lake, but in the morning my room was still there and only slightly more damp. My apartment manager came over to inspect and let me know best and worst case scenarios, both of which included excavation. So Sunday night I took the cat to the boyfriend's, along with what I'd need for the next couple of days, and left my apartment.

This happened.



And this.



And this.



The water pipe for my whole complex, which traveled under the concrete in my room and through the footing of the whole building, had a leak. They had to shut off all water for two days and the hot water for one night, giving my neighbors zero notice. It's been 10 days and 11 nights so far for me - I stopped by almost every day to grab the mail and check up on things and ended up talking to the plumbers a few times; I learned this had happened before, apparently in the exact same spot. 


There is some discoloration next to the new concrete, which I think is the evidence of a past leak. Oh, and now I have to clean my tub because they turned on the faucet and it ran brown water and no one rinsed it out.


Also, there was a large dip in the asphalt in the alley, right behind my parking space, that had suddenly appeared. It was annoying but I hadn't paid much attention to it because the whole alley is in desperate need of repaving. But it was deep enough and at the worst angle for getting in and out of my spot that I was a little concerned I'd pop a tire. But no worries, now that's fixed.

My room? 


Still got that little hole. And this is the state of my furniture:


My bed is in three different parts, in three different parts of the apartment. 


This was taken the day after my apartment manager told me I could go back to my apartment. Um, no. Also, it still looks like this 9 days later.

It might come as little surprise, then, that I'm moving! The cat and I have been staying with the boyfriend and the dog for the last week and a half, and I kind of don't even want to go back. There is so much cleaning that needs to happen before I'll feel comfortable sleeping there again, and it'd be far too much effort to clean that much only to move in two weeks. But I will right my bed... it'll be harder to sell like that.

July 20, 2013

Plan B (Or, Better Safe Than Sorry)


What an awesome name. Plan B. So succinct, so simple.

And what a great invention. Seriously. Forget a pill? Plan B. Condom broke? Plan B. Something awful happens to you? At least you won't get pregnant. Just plain wanted to have sex and didn't use any protection? At least you don't have to spend the rest of your life regretting those 15 minutes.

I've always been slightly paranoid about having one of those accidents. I've also always been, like, really in tune with my body so there never was a real worry. The closest I ever got to a pregnancy scare was when The Ex and I spent the weekend volunteering at a family fair for my internship and then went to see Knocked Up, which sparked a conversation about what would happen if I got pregnant... we discovered we had very different plans. I freaked out the next morning thinking my period was late and, despite having used birth control religiously, went to the health center at school to talk to someone. The pharmacist looked at me from above his glasses through the window and asked how late I was. I said I was supposed to have gotten it that morning. He asked if I felt like I was going to get it. I said yes. He told me to wait it out and come back in a day or so if I was still worried. I got my period hours later. I think part of the reason I was so worried even though I had absolutely no reason to be was because I don't fully understand how the little sugar pills in each packet work.

Anyway, back in January I decided to take a little hiatus from hormonal birth control. Turns out, the pill I was on was just not jiving with my body and I've felt way better off it. On the other hand, all that left the boyfriend and I with was condoms. 



And seeing how this post is titled Plan B, you can assume how that worked out.

Back to my not so scary scare story: even though I had no real reason to worry, I still did because the consequences of not taking action were pretty severe. Back then I wouldn't have had an abortion, which would have left me knocked up in college. Awful. Now the first thing I'd do is make that appointment, brave the picket lines, and get that abortion. Slightly less awful, but still not something I'm eager to do. So if there is any real chance I could become pregnant I need to do whatever it takes to make sure that doesn't happen. This is just one of those things I would worry incessantly about. I even had a backup stash of Plan B from a visit to Planned Parenthood a couple years back, but that had expired close to a year ago. So last week I went to Planned Parenthood and bought the Peace of Mind pill. 

And it was OK. I was expecting a lot more to happen... nausea, cramps, pain... nothing. The nurse told me to take it with food, and I could kind of feel something weird going on, but it's been a while now and it was not the experience I was afraid of.

So... good.

Although, I was also warned some changes to my period might be expected. It could come early. Or late. Or be heavier than normal. Or lighter. Or not come at all. Or be exactly the same. So there's that to worry about.

In the meantime, I had to cancel an appointment with a male gynecologist  (thanks UCSD for totally ignoring my request for the female doctor I had spent an hour selecting) because I'm not going to form this doctor-patient relationship with someone who does not even have the same parts, and now wait even longer to get back on reliable birth control. The only thing now is I wish Obamacare had kicked in already so it would be free. I'll have to pay for it for about a year until my insurance "requirement" starts, but at least after that it'll be free.

June 23, 2013

An Absence, A Decision, And The Fate Of My Blog

Well, it's been a while since I've written here. This blog started when I was laid off from my first writing job after college as a way to give myself something to do while I looked for work and to keep my skills somewhat sharp. This was before I knew anything about blogging or internet marketing, so I figured no one would even read it - which didn't matter, since it was a personal project.

But then I learned about both. And I lost the time I had to write the kinds of things I wanted to. And I became a little frustrated that I wasn't doing more with the space on the internet I rent.

So, I made a new year's resolution (twice) to make my little blog a priority. And this year that resolution included buying real estate - buying a new domain, hosting it, and giving it a complete makeover: new name, new look, new focus.

Well, it's the end of June and not only has that not happened, but I haven't even kept up with writing in a few months. At first I was blaming being busy. To be fair, this had some truth to it: working full time, training for a half marathon, and trying to do all the normal day-to-day stuff like make dinner and see the boyfriend and friends, something just had to give. I don't read very much either and honestly don't spend a whole lot of time goofing off on the internet since I spend my whole day at a computer. Blogging just wasn't happening.

But the other reason it wasn't happening – which is related to me wanting a new focus – is because everything I wanted to write about was depressing. I have saved posts, email drafts, articles in Pocket, and ideas in my head... none of which have been published. At the end of my day the last thing I want to do is spend an hour or two writing about the plight of elephant poaching and how I'll very likely watch them go extinct, the plight of women around the world and how it's still our fault when we get raped, the total asshattery of our country and how the people we elect to get things done sit around like 5 year olds arguing over baseball rules ignoring things that really matter. 

But when I think about the focus I want, there isn't anything else I want to write about. I don't like writing about my personal life because 1) it's boring 2) who the hell cares. But what I'm really passionate about is the things that are hard to read about and frustrating to write about. 

So... I don't really know what I'm going to do. I don't want to stop writing, but I also know that in order to do what I want I have to make a much bigger commitment, and I'm not sure I can do that. Now that my writing also includes a food blog (that I do want to grow and which has a lot of potential), I guess I have a decision to make.

March 26, 2013

Why Interracial Marriage Should Be Legal

 This is what my Facebook looks like.

Oh wait, I mean gay marriage. You were probably thinking something along the lines of, "Whaaaaaat? But interracial marriage is perfectly legal! Why would anyone argue otherwise?"

Which is exactly my point. Why would anyone argue otherwise? Why wouldn't interracial marriage be legal?

So, what's the difference with gay marriage? Why would anyone argue that gay people can't marry one another? Why wouldn't gay marriage be legal?

As WTF as this seems now, it's the same thing.

Interracial marriage has been legal since the late 1960s. My parents were alive then. Alive and old enough to know what that meant. That's really not that long ago.

Maybe I'm spoiled having lived my whole life in relatively liberal Southern California, or maybe I'm just a young, flaming liberal who was ruined in college and now likes going against tradition for the sake of being rebellious. But I'm going to be able to marry my boyfriend, who is of a different race/ethnicity/color/whatever feature you want to focus on, and it'll be OK because he's also a different sex than I am. No one will bat an eye at our colors because it won't matter to anyone. 

Interracial marriage has been legal for 45 years; long enough for most people to accept that it is a little ridiculous to prevent two people who love each other from getting married just because they have different skin colors.

Beyonce is awesome.

Here are the most ridiculous arguments against gay marriage:
  • Gay marriage is icky! (Gay people don't think so. Actually, a lot of people don't think so.)
  • The Bible says gays shouldn't marry! (That's nice, but it has nothing to do with the law or my beliefs.)
  • Once gays can marry, pedophiles can marry children! (Children are not consenting adults and therefore cannot make those kinds of decisions about their lives.)
  • Once gays can marry, anyone can marry anything! (Dogs, inanimate objects, and anything outside of a consenting adult is, again, not a consenting adult and therefore cannot make those kinds of decisions about their lives/shelf lives.)
  • Gays can't have kids! (Some straight couples can't have kids. Or don't want kids. That doesn't affect their ability to marry. Or adopt.)
Stunningly, our Supreme Court is dedicating an extraordinary amount of time debating whether or not laws that bar same sex couples from marrying is constitutional. Which seems really silly, doesn't it?

When the United States of America was in its infancy, all sorts of people came here from all over the world looking for freedom (in fact, they still do). They come here because the laws say "all people," "created equal," "liberty and the pursuit of happiness," and no where in any law, any proposition, any part of the Constitution say "except for." Nothing that says "except for gays." Or "except for [insert qualifier here]." It's equality this, and equality that, and freedom and liberty and opportunity and unalienable rights and blah blah blah.

So... since when is it OK to discriminate against gay people? When did that suddenly change? And why is this something that needs debate?


Have a gay day!

March 4, 2013

Vegas For Business

The Strip!

So, February was a whirlwind month. But March 1 sent me to fabulous Las Vegas, Nevada! Vegas!!!

Course, I was only going to give a presentation, with my boss, to one of my clients on Google+. But still, Vegas! And since the company pays for a night in a hotel when traveling for business I got to stay.

Feelin' like a big shot.

It was the first time I was in a plane by myself, too. And not just my first time in the Las Vegas airport alone, but the first time in that airport ever. I ended up going to the wrong pick up area and was trying to explain to my boss, who was trying to pick me up in a rental car, where I was. When he finally did find me we had almost 2 hours before our presentation time and decided we should grab some lunch and settle in and maybe talk about the presentation. But then we thought it'd be better to go to the hotel where the conference was at and get our bearings before doing the lunch thing.

The conference was in The Orleans, a giant hotel that's nowhere near The Strip. It's on the other side of the 15 and looks like it's been there quite a while. To borrow the words of my boss the hotel "is bigger than North Park." We maneuvered the structure (which also has an arena) and found the site of the conference. At the check in area my boss mentioned we were speaking on Google+ and the lady knew exactly which room to send us to. And then she told us we had 15 minutes to go.

Wait... 15 minutes? We thought we had more than an hour to go.

Apparently there was some miscommunication about when we were going on because we'd arrived with exactly enough time to give our presentation. Since we'd planned on getting lunch first and it was clear we now did not have that opportunity, my boss asked if there was food we could have before we started. We were shown to a simple buffet style set up in a massive conference room that had probably two dozen booths set up with information and products to sell, and took about 12 minutes scarfing down lunch. Then we walked in to our conference room exactly on time (but with not enough time or privacy to change my shoes... I went up there in flip flops).

It turned out we had to give the presentation to two different groups: one at 2:30 and one at 3:30 (which probably contributed to the miscommunication). The first half of the presentation was given by my boss, which introduced the concept of Google+ for businesses to a crowded room of 50+ franchise owners. Then he introduced me and I gave my presentation - something I created especially for this group of business owners. There were lots of questions (most of them good ones), which I was glad for because it made me feel there was a lot of genuine interest that might linger until they all got home. My boss helped me with the questions I couldn't answer, which was helpful when the questions and conversation turned away from the points I was making, and a few people came up to us after for more in depth questions.

With just a few minutes of a break we dove in give the presentation again, though our crowd was far smaller the second time around (which was kind of nice). I had thought with fewer people there would be more time for questions, but like with the first group I felt like I talked too quickly and glossed over some very important parts just to try and finish each slide. But there were just as many questions, and again most of them were really good, so people were still paying attention. 

After we finished up my boss had to catch his flight back and he had just enough time to take me to my hotel first, saving me a cab ride. I was supposed to stay at The Orleans because of the conference discount my company would have gotten, but due to a fortunate error with the booking website I was given a room in The Westin, which was just a couple of blocks off The Strip. The hotel had a distinct older feel to it (perhaps because it smelled more like perfume and cologne than cigarettes, which I was grateful for), but it was beautifully decorated and the room was exactly what I was hoping for - clean look and feel, comfortable bed and sheets, and a few nice upgrades. 

I felt really lucky to be in such a fun city in exchange for just a few hours of work (not including actually developing the presentation...). The point of me going was twofold: to inspire my client to take a more active role in their social media and local search presence and to give me a taste of presenting before I have the opportunity to present to a much larger group of peers, which is something my company encourages within the industry. This presentation went well, so I imagine when the day comes to go to one of our industry conferences I'll know a little bit more of what to expect.

January 23, 2013

The Truth Behind Choice: Part 2

In my last post I wrote about two interviews on the 40th anniversary of the Roe v. Wade decision; one with a woman who had an abortion and one with a woman who ran an anti-abortion pregnancy center

I admit that the interviewer, despite being on NPR Fresh Air, was asking very pointed questions at both women and she clearly had a bias. However, I will also say that it would be like interviewing an evolution-denier and trying to find legitimate questions... So I get it.

I remember hearing about the woman in the first interview, a journalist named Carolyn, when she had her abortion in 2011. She and her husband had wanted a second child, but got an abortion halfway through the pregnancy when it was discovered the fetus was severely deformed and would likely die. And while it's commendable that she's so open about her horrible experiences and willing to talk about them in order to change things, her situation is not the typical situation for women seeking an abortion. Medically necessary abortions are (almost) always given exceptions during debates about abortion, just like rape and incest: it's not the woman's fault that she needs one, so she should be allowed. But a woman who simply had sex and became pregnant, which I'd be willing to wager is the large majority of abortions, is something we're eager to debate for decades.

So few women who have gone through the abortion process are willing (or able) to be so vocal. Carolyn is able because she wanted her pregnancy, was hoping and trying for a baby and was crushed when she learned she would have to abort or condemn her child to a short life of suffering. Obviously hers was the logical, loving decision. But a woman who simply cannot afford to care for her baby, or who never wanted children and wouldn't make a good mother, or who isn't ready yet, or who just doesn't want the enormous responsibility of raising a human being is looked down upon as scum. We don't ask why women choose to have children, we just assume they should and that it's natural when they do. But it's the only thing a person will ever do that will forever alter their lives, and when half of all pregnancies are unplanned it seems it should be discussed a little bit more. I'd love for a woman to come forward in such a public manner and talk about her elective abortion. But I doubt that will ever happen.

There were a bunch of issues I had with the second interview, mostly because the interviewer was trying to get a straight answer on a few things and the woman, another Carolyn, was doing her best to paint her practice in the happiest of lights. Her pregnancy center, which counsels young girls and women on everything but abortion, advocates abstinence as the only way to prevent pregnancies. They will discuss other methods of birth control, even after a woman has given birth to her unplanned pregnancy, but tell her that they're not that good or don't do enough to prevent pregnancy. (As a woman who has relied exclusively on one method of birth control at a time for years and has had zero pregnancies I can tell you they work real well.) 

But to tell women they should only be having sex if they want to get pregnant is just ignoring reality, nature, and human habit. No one tells men that they shouldn't be having sex unless they want to get someone pregnant. Plus, these centers don't discriminate against married women, which means that even if you're married they'll tell you not to have sex with your husband unless you're trying to procreate. Which means sex once every few years until you want to stop having children, then no more sex until menopause. This is ridiculous. It stands to reason that if you're not planning on having children you should never have sex. And if you're never going to have sex or have children there's no point in getting married. Or dating. Or falling in love. 

I can't help but put myself in these situations in my mind and imagine being told these things. I don't want to have kids and I'm ill prepared to have one right now. Should I become pregnant now or in the next few years I would be unable to care for it financially, but also make too much money to qualify for assistance. Even if I were poor enough to qualify for government care, telling me I should have a baby because I'd get food stamps is ridiculously irresponsible. Plus, I do want to get married. Just because I don't plan to reproduce doesn't mean I don't deserve to spend my life with someone I love. I thought the point of marriage was to commit your life to another person that you're deeply in love with, not to lock someone else into parenthood.

So, it seems like we're still running in circles around somewhat ridiculous arguments around abortion. Until politicians and ideologists realize that everyone has sex, including the politicians and the ideologists, we can make better decisions about abortion, child care, and health care in general. But until then it looks like we're stuck telling women to stop being whores for sleeping with their husbands and boyfriends. Like normal goddamn people.

January 22, 2013

The Truth Behind Choice: Part 1

Today is the 40th anniversary of the groundbreaking Roe v Wade decision that allowed women in America to legally obtain an abortion. The decision no doubt saved lives (which is slightly ironic) and provided a way for women to move up in society, rather than begrudgingly be burdened with a child she does not want or cannot care for.

You wouldn't know it, however, if you looked at politics today. For whatever reason, 40 years later abortion is a huge issue. People who have not had abortions, especially people who physically cannot have abortions, are trying very hard to dictate what those who need and want them can or not do. The amount of outright lies, in addition to the extreme ignorance surrounding abortions is disgusting. Men (and the women who back them, for whatever reason) who advocate abstinence only and pro-life in every scenario are at the height of hypocrisy: if over 95% of American adults have had sex and 20% of women (just women, mind you) are choosing to remain childless, that points to a bit of an overlap. That means there are women out there who are having sex without the intention of becoming pregnant (gasp!). In this day and age, too. Women are educated just as much as men are (sometimes more), are earning almost as much as men are, and are found in every manly profession. We're getting married later, making more important decisions, and are pretty much real people now. And some of us are having abortions. And those abortions are helping us maintain our status in life, which often is being in a position to care for the children we already have.

Today on NPR's Fresh Air two very different women were interviewed. The first woman decided with her husband that it was time to have a second child and became pregnant, only to discover halfway into the pregnancy that the fetus had a severe developmental problem that would lead to certain suffering. The second woman runs a pregnancy center called Involved For Life, which counsels pregnant women on every option except for abortion. Both women live in Texas, a state that recently made it mandatory for women seeking abortion to undergo a sonogram (women in early pregnancy endure a transvaginal sonogram because it picks up a better picture), wait 24 hours, and listen to government propaganda.

Here's a (pretty comprehensive) summary of both of the interviews:

In America there were more abortion restrictions passed at the state level in 2011 than in any prior year, and 2012 had the second highest number of state level abortion restrictions. This is a country that made it legal in every state for any woman to receive an abortion for any reason 40 years ago, and is now back tracking, making it harder and harder for women to do so. The first woman, a journalist named Carolyn, wanted her pregnancy. Thanks to modern healthcare she was able to plan when she got pregnant and made a conscious decision with the help of her husband to have a second child when they were both ready. When they went in for the sonogram (the "jelly on the belly" kind) that was supposed to determine the sex of the baby, the doctor noticed an problem. The fetus had a major neurological flaw that caused his brain, spine and legs to not develop correctly. The doctor said he wasn't sure the baby would survive. If he did, he would live a life of crippling pain and be in and out of hospitals until he died. He would always suffer.

Carolyn says in the interview that any parent understands the innate impulse to protect your child from any pain. She and her husband realized that by bringing this child into the world they would be causing him a lifetime of pain and suffering. She says that the decision to have an abortion was "a terrible, a heart wrenching choice, but also a simple choice." She wanted to prevent him from knowing a life of pain, which made it a relatively quick decision, an "almost instinctive response." But it was heart breaking.

Two weeks earlier Texas passed a law that required any woman seeking an abortion to undergo a sonogram first, and then wait 24 hours. It turns out that women seeking an abortion due to rape, incest, or medical necessity (as was Carolyn's case) do not have to endure a sonogram, though her doctor didn't know that at the time. But the rest of the state requirements still apply, no matter what reason a woman is seeking an abortion, and these include:
  • a 24 hour waiting period
  • requiring the same doctor to perform the sonogram and the abortion (which can create a scheduling nightmare, which can result in delayed abortions) 
  • the doctor must describe the fetus' characteristics to the woman
  • the doctor must play the heartbeat for the woman
  • the doctor must read a state-written script about the risks of abortion (that includes two parts that have been discredited) 
  • the doctor must read a script describing in graphic detail the abortion process
  • the doctor must read a script that informs the woman that the father is required to pay child support even if he wants the abortion and that the state may pay for maternity care.
Quite a bit of effort, no? Could you imagine going through this if you'd been raped?

Carolyn said having to hear that her baby had 4 healthy heart chambers was traumatizing. It was the only part of him that was healthy and her doctor was required to describe it to her. She said nothing anyone said or could have said swayed her in the slightest - she was making the right decision by not bringing him into a world of nothing but pain and suffering. But she noted that politicians want women to have a sonogram so they can see the life they're about to end. It's completely ideological, has no medical purpose, and does not belong in the doctor's office. After a while she couldn't take it any more - she wanted her baby and was devastated to have to have the abortion, and these state laws were horrible. The nurse in the room noticed her distress and turned up the radio. The doctor apologized for having to follow these new orders - no one in the room wanted to do this. How could someone who has no say in her personal decisions invade her private life, reduce her dignity, and give her such injustice? It still makes her angry, and that's why she writes about it so openly.

Obviously the goal of all of these obstacles is to get women to reconsider abortion. Texas slashed the family planning budget to two thirds of what it used to be in order to try to starve out Planned Parenthood. Instead, 60 small town clinics that served the poorest Texans went out of business. These clinics didn't just offer abortion services or birth control, they provided women who had no other means of health care with breast cancer screening and well woman visits.  State legislators are budgeting for an extra 24,000 births for 2014 and 2015, and need hundreds of thousands of extra dollars in their budget. (That's saying nothing about the cancer cases that won't get caught in time...)

Instead, Texas is giving the funding it used to give to clinics that performed abortions to Crisis Pregnancy Centers, which are usually Christian run anti-abortion centers. These centers claim to provide women in need with alternative options. As if the first thing women think of when they find out they're pregnant is "must...get...abortion." The centers convince women (most of their clients are low income women 15-24 years old) to keep their unborn children rather than have an abortion, telling them that abortions aren't the right decision for them. Medical professionals criticize these centers for giving women incorrect, inaccurate or incomplete information in order to get them to keep their pregnancies.

The state of Texas takes money away from family planning centers and gives that money to centers that encourage more births to women of all ages, abilities and incomes. Oh, and those centers are not required to discuss contraception with women seeking abortion (whether or not they go through with it), and the centers most often do not provide any detailed counseling on birth control options. Seems totally counterintuitive. Abstinence is 100% effective, so anyone not willing to immediately give birth to a child should not have sex at all. Even married women.

The centers, one of which is run by the second woman (also named Carolyn), offer alternatives to abortion, counseling, ultrasound, STD screening and treatment, and parenting classes. They also have mobile sonogram units, which they park in front of abortion clinics, and offer free sonograms to women. The second Carolyn says their goal is to provide nothing but education for women. She says that often women don't know their options (a claim I find impossible to believe), and the centers provide the support these women so desperately need. I agree that women who find themselves unexpectedly and unhappily pregnant do need loads of support... but the misleading half-truths these centers are known for telling are not the kind of support women can rely on once that baby comes. Carolyn says "we do not ever mislead;" they are up front about their unwillingness to perform abortions or even refer women seeking one to a qualified doctor. In fact, she tells stories of women who become successful even after "unplanned circumstances." But a pat on the back and go-getem-girl does not raise a child...

One of the most surprising parts of the second interview was when Carolyn (the second one) said that they have to point out on the sonogram what is a baby. They actually point to the image on the screen (which she says the women say is blurry and not clear in the abortion clinics and hospitals) and tell them that is a baby. And apparently the women are surprised that that's what's growing inside them. If that's the case we need to put a lot more money into Texas schools... Carolyn seems to have her heart in the right place, which is wanting to help women, but her ideals keep getting in the way. She says, "I don't think the Supreme Court had any idea that there would be thousands and thousands of women who regret that they ever had an abortion." Yes, women must regret their abortions. If I had one I know I would. But it would be far more regret that the abortion had to happen, not that I had one. If I were in these women's shoes I imagine I would know it was the right thing to do, not just for me but for the child I would unfairly be bringing into the world. Of course there would be regret... I imagine that's almost unavoidable. But regretting the situation and regretting my actions would probably be two different things.

Carolyn, the journalist, talked about a pamphlet that these centers give out to women called "A Woman's Right To Know" which describes the abortion process in unnecessary, graphic, upsetting detail. Women are told that now that they're pregnant they're already a mommy.

Women may have a legal right to have an abortion, but those rights are being chipped away by the states. Federal funding is not allowed to go towards abortions (family planning clinics that provide abortions are in a pickle), so any clinic or center that does want to provide safe abortions to women must charge for it. Which puts the poorest women at a significant disadvantage. Oh, and birth control funding is cut, too. Carolyn, who runs the Crisis Pregnancy Center, applauds the "progressive" nature of Texas schools that make it easier for young single mothers to stay in school by providing day care, but is this not something that could be prevented with education and access to birth control? Is that not the type of information these pregnancy centers mean when they talk about providing women with resources?

The moral of the story, here, is don't have sex unless you actively want a child; don't get raped; and no matter what don't have an abortion.

Here's Part 2.

January 21, 2013

An Inauguration On Martin Luther King Jr. Day


It really did say something about our country when we elected a black president, especially one with Hussain as a middle name in the midst of a war in Iraq and Afghanistan. But I feel like it says just as much, if not more, that we reelected him. It wasn't without hardship, controversy and a still severely divided nation - and yes, still plenty of racism - but enough of the country believed in his actions and policies to give him the votes he needed to be president again. 

And that's awesome. I haven't forgotten the hate and disgust so many people felt when President Bush was in office and although I see very little of the hate and disgust towards President Obama I do know it exists, and it's strong. But I also have a feeling a lot of that is unfounded racism and prejudice and has little to do with his actions as a leader.

But there is a little extra symbolism in Obama's inauguration today: today we inaugurated a black president in his second term on Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Day. More than 50 years ago Martin Luther King Jr campaigned tirelessly for equal rights for people of all types and on the day we honor his efforts we celebrate the reelection of our first black president. Pretty awesome. (Obama's inauguration today wasn't the first time a presidential inauguration landed on MLK day... Clinton's second inauguration also did.)

You can watch his official inauguration and his speech. Now that elections are out of the way I really hope we'll see even more progress on some of the most important things he campaigned for in the last 4 years. I'm specifically hoping for more environmental reform and equal rights for all types of people. 

January 19, 2013

Ditching The Hormones


The last few years have not been kind to my hormones, so I've decided to protest. 

In an experiment of sorts I'm giving up hormonal contraception. Other than keep me baby-free it hasn't really been helping. I've felt... off... using it lately. I know I'm just on the wrong one because when I was using a different type I felt great and used it even when I didn't need to, but after trying a few of the wrong ones I'm just sick of trying. I know how I feel and act when I'm not using them, so it's time for a good long break.

I took a very brief break a year and a half ago planning for it to be 6 months or so (or maybe even longer), happy to reset my body and give it a rest. Then I met the boyfriend and, well, back to the pills I went (and was incredibly happy to do so). While each type of hormonal contraception has been excellent at doing its number 1 job - keeping me from getting pregnant - they've been using shady tactics to do so. So fuck you, hormones, I'm done.

There is a downside to giving up the pills (or rings, as of late): I'm down dependent on condoms. You know who loves condoms? No one. But now they're necessary again and that's something we need to think about ahead of time and remember. The idea is that this will be a small price to pay, but only time will be able to tell that. 

HA!

The super-awesome-couldn't-be-greater news is that I now officially have health insurance. And my employer pays for it. And contraception, wellness visits (gyno exams), and contraceptive devices are free. Hooooooraaaaaaaaay! The plan seems to have adopted the contraception part of ObamaCare already (a year before it had to, go them) and made it free for us working women. Halle-fricken-luja. Seriously I was so excited when I found that out. Oh, and I can get my tubes tied for free. Free.

So when I'm ready to discuss regular/semi-permanent/ permanent methods of birth control I'll have any option I want and I'm so excited. I can go back to the specific pill that worked for me, I can get an implant, I can get a little snip and be worry free forever. 

It's hard enough physically and emotionally to talk with nurses about how different pills totally fuck with you, spend months on each option to give it a chance to work, and feeling bad the whole time because you know that's not how you normally are. Having options, free options, makes a huge difference. I wish the male birth control pill would be out already so at least I could share the burden...