Sunday, November 26, 2017

Mirror, Mirror, On The Wall

You Don’t Have to Show It All

Staying at hotels is fun, except for the mirrors in the bathrooms.

They all seem to have magnifying mirrors and lighting suitable for an operating room.


Why would you do that to yourself?

Is there a conspiracy between the hotels and beauty companies? Do the hotels get a kickback when people run out and buy electrolysis and/or concealer?

Calling them vanity mirrors seems like a misnomer; insecurity mirrors would be more like it.

Seeing everything in detail on anything is not always the best option. For example, as a near-sighted person, I have discovered that Christmas trees and Christmas lights are best looked at without glasses or contacts. You don’t see the wires and the hooks and the bulbs and the extension cords. You just see what you are supposed to see: lights and colors and shine.

I would argue that the same holds for faces, your own and other people’s. We don’t have to see every pore and eyebrow hair, people.

The New York Times Magazine tends to employ a photography style on their cover subjects that zooms in on the pores on the person’s nose, which is just mean.

I think/hope that what I see in my own bathroom mirror (a regular one, lit by regular light bulbs) is what other people see when they look at me.

Another reason I think people aren’t seeing me in high-def: They are probably worrying more about their own faces than scrutinizing mine.

I’m all for not worrying about this. How about you?

Monday, November 20, 2017


The windows on the top of the
castle are smaller than the
ones at the bottom, to make
it took taller.
I was just at Disney World.

The easiest impulse here would be snarkiness.

In three days, I saw only four people use the stairs rather than the escalator. My husband and I were two of them. I felt like I was on the spaceship in Wall-E, which is a Disney movie.

In one restaurant, I could see 27 television screens from my seat and more screens hung over the stalls in the ladies room.

People have their weddings at Disney.
You can even buy these ears, $25 each.

Our hotel, the Dolphin, looked like it was constructed out of Styrofoam and was topped by 56-foot-tall dolphin statues. They don’t look like real dolphins. They are based on the “nautical dolphins” drawn on old maps.

That’s the thing: Everything is artificial at Disney World. But it’s so well-done. They’ll tell you some of their tricks (on your hotel TV): the streets in the medieval village at the Magic Kingdom are striped with brown. That alludes to how people threw the contents of their chamber pots into the street. At Todd English’s bluezoo restaurant, the lighting looks like the bubble rings of humpback whales.

There’s a word for this: “Disneyfication.”

Disney employees were strikingly nice and helpful. Wikipedia explains this is “emotional labor,” which can be done two ways: by “surface acting,” or faking it, or by “deep acting,” when you actually try to be that weirdly chipper person.

I hope it’s not a terrible job. Glassdoor gives Disney World pretty good ratings as an employer. And according to an entire genre, those attractive college students who dress up like Belle and Tarzan do about what you’d expect in their off-time. I'm glad.

Monday, November 13, 2017

It’s All Made Up

Don’t hate me, but a week or two ago, I was doing some early Christmas shopping.

I went into Sephora, the cosmetics store, to see if I could find a “stocking stuffer” or two for my daughter, age 22.

She doesn’t usually wear make-up but she likes perfumes. (An industrial-design major, she collects perfume bottles.) And she’s not adverse to fun things and silly things, sparkly things and colorful things. Make-up’s fun, I said to myself, though I wear little to none myself.

But it’s not, really.

Yes, it’s exotic and colorful and super-duper expensive. A small pressed disc of colored powder $40, make-up brush extra. What a racket.

But I couldn’t find the fun.

It was all about how you aren’t good enough the way you are. You need to hide all your shameful “flaws.” The make-up I perused was supposed to make your skin look clearer or your eyes look bigger. Those false eyelashes, which you glue to your eyelids, are supposed to replace your own sparse and unsatisfactory ones. You’re supposed to use blush, contour AND highlighter powders to create the illusion you have high cheekbones, the lipstick and other lip “products” to make your lips somehow “better.” A salesperson told me that $30 brush was to use with your foundation. Otherwise, people might see fingerprints on your face. Maybe on her face, on which she had applied about a quarter of an inch of “foundation.”

The sales pitch was: Your face isn’t fit to be seen as it really is.

And that’s sad.

Tuesday, November 7, 2017

Trying Too Hard

That little basil plant in with the mint.
It has always seemed counter-intuitive to me, but there really is such a thing as “trying too hard.” 
There is also such a thing as trying the wrong way.

This came to mind when I was watering my potted herbs the other day. I bought these as seedlings. Why? Because I have never been able to raise anything from seed. I’ll plant a seed and get a sprout, that tiny little filament stem topped by two little leaves. I watch it carefully, water it carefully – and one day, there the little seedling will be lying, wilted and dead on the soil, already turning back into dirt.

But that day as I watered my herbs, I saw a nice sturdy basil plant growing in the mint pot. It landed there by accident. It got through the vulnerable seedling stage without me even noticing it and there it was, a sturdy young plant.

You know what the most common cause of death for houseplants is? Not under-watering, overwatering. This link calls it “fussing your plant to death.”

Sometimes, benign neglect is exactly what’s needed.

And sometimes, you can approach something the exact wrong way. When I was a little kid, my mother tells me, I couldn’t figure out how to jump. I’d stand there, knees bent, face screwed up in concentration, think really hard about jumping and not move. I was always very verbal, but an absolute mess with anything physical. I was thinking the word “Jump!” in my head as hard as I could, but that, of course, didn’t get the job done. There is something distinctly not verbal in physical movement and I didn’t have the first clue how to access that.

So – I am going to try not to try, especially not in ways that don’t work. 

Thursday, August 10, 2017

Sick of Fear

I went through a period of about a year and a half, with an intense stretch of about three months at the end, of health scares.

Suddenly, it seemed, I couldn’t get a routine medical test without it coming back positive, possibly indicating something dire. Literally, at one point, I was standing in line at a doctor’s office, to get a follow-up procedure for one finding, when my phone rang, to let me know of another positive test result that could indicate something else dire for which a follow-up had to be scheduled … in a few weeks.

All I had done was get the routine screening tests my doctors told me I should, the way I always did: mammogram, pap smear, eye exam, etc. But this go-round, they led to, according to my count, a follow-up mammogram, three ultrasounds, four unpleasant gynecological procedures, in which, as my doctor-husband put it, gynecologists got “way up into my business,” a urology procedure, two MRIs, a CT scan, two sets of x-rays, excisions and a skin graft.

I am not blaming anyone. My doctors are very good at what they do, were doing exactly what they are supposed to do and very possibly saved me from something bad.

But, although it was no one’s intention, I cannot think of a better way to push someone, especially someone like me, who’s kind of anxious, right off the fear cliff.

I am fine, for which I feel lucky and grateful. I know I am also lucky to have access to healthcare.

But I also ended up seeing a therapist and getting on Prozac.

(Prozac’s great, so is therapy!)

Maybe that’s a silver lining: Feeling besieged led me to seek help for the anxiety I’ve come to realize has  always been lurking inside my head. J

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

¿Hablas español?

Me, nope.

I have been using my Duolingo app for months and seem to be stuck at 24% fluent, which is, by the way, a very generous estimate of my abilities on the part of the phone app.

The dual-language or language-immersion schools, both public and private, in Houston are so cool.

Wrote about them recently -- which you can find here -- for The Buzz Magazines.

Another fun article. :)

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Mental Blocks

My tire-pressure light.
Yesterday, I had a flat tire. Had to get the car towed (no spare) to a tire store, where I was told it’s really time to replace all four tires. What fun.

Here’s the thing:

I didn’t know I had a tire going flat. A guy noticed from across the parking lot. And he had even told my son, a couple days before. My son thought he said front, driver’s side. So, I looked at the front tire on the driver’s side, which wasn’t flat. Done.

I didn’t even think to look at any of the other tires.

It was the rear tire on the driver’s side.

How weird it is that that guy notices things on other people’s cars, while I don’t even notice things on my own?

Honestly, I can’t even keep in mind what model year my car is. I always have to look that up.

I have a mental block against all things car-related.

“Pop the trunk,” says the mechanic and I’m like, “How do I do that again?”

(Yes, they totally see me coming … Gotta say, though, I don’t think I’ve ever been ripped off.)

My husband patiently shows me how to check the pressure in my tires every time that little light (which looks like a butt to me) goes off. The next time it does, I have no idea how to do it.

I think everyone has mental blocks. Maybe your mind shuts off when someone starts talking budgeting. Or you really don’t want to hear it when the repairman starts telling you exactly how they’re going to fix something. (OK, that’s me again.) Or the person from your health insurance starts talking out-of-pocket and deductibles, blah, blah, blah. (Health-insurance companies are obtuse on purpose, though.)

So, what are your mental blocks?

Sunday, July 16, 2017

Getting Political Again

So, I continue to contact my representatives. Most recently, about healthcare. One of my senators is Ted Cruz, who would like to slash Medicaid and allow insurance companies to sell products that don't actually cover anything.

What I found to say:

Dear Senator,

According to the most recent survey, 61% of Americans oppose the most recent Republican proposed healthcare plan, 65% oppose your proposed cuts to Medicaid, even after they’ve heard your arguments for them, 71% do not want a total repeal of the ACA, or Obamacare, but would rather you work with Democrats to make improvements to the nation’s healthcare. I am joining all these other citizens, as well as consumer groups, patient advocates, doctors, hospitals, addiction-treatment centers, insurance companies, religious leaders, governors, both Republican and Democratic, and your fellow colleagues in the Senate, to urge you not to vote for your healthcare plan to become law.

It is a hot mess.

It is not OK to throw more than 20 million Americans off their insurance plans, some of whom are in the midst of battling deadly medical problems.

It is not OK to slash Medicaid so deeply. Medicaid goes to poor children, poor pregnant women, the disabled, including about 160,000 profoundly disabled children here in Texas, and most of the elderly residing in nursing homes across the country. (42% of Medicaid’s costs come from the elderly living in nursing homes.) Those are the people you are going to take from? No.

It is not OK to allow insurance companies to offer products that don’t actually offer coverage, that don’t cover things like emergency room visits and prescriptions. Such a product isn’t insurance; it’s a scam. Shame on you for attempting to allow it.

This is not a game, Senator. This is millions of people’s health. Quit rushing. Quit trying to simply win political points by insisting on repealing everything we have now just because it has President Obama’s name on it. Look at what we have and fix it. Do it for the good of your fellow Americans, your constituents, and not just yourself.

By the way, I will know that you have come up with such a plan when I see that you don’t exempt yourself and your family from it.

Thank you.

Saturday, July 15, 2017

The Business of Names

On a route I often drive, there is a smoke shop called “Smoke ‘N’ More.”

How many seconds of thought did the owner put into that name?

But honest to God, the first time I saw the sign, out of the corner of my eye, as I drove by, I thought it said “The Smoking Whore,” which would be a totally cool name for a smoke shop. In fact, I’ll go out on a limb here and say, if I ever have a smoke shop, I’m going to call it “The Smoking Whore.”

As I’ve mentioned before, business names fascinate me, also, band names. And dog names.

My family has a favorite Chinese restaurant. It has the word “panda” in the name: Panda Garden. A quick Google search of Chinese restaurants with panda in the name brings back 696,000 hits. There are, according to Google, 18 Chinese restaurants with “panda” in the name in Houston alone. In addition to Panda Garden, there’s Panda Express (admittedly a chain), Panda City, Panda Kitchen, Panda Buffet, Panda Chinese Buffet and Café Panda Garden.

Probably to everyone else’s confusion, when my family refers to our favorite, Panda Garden (remember?), we call it “Fat Panda,” because we like that name better. If I ever have a Chinese restaurant, that’s what I’m going to call it.

I also have a name picked out if I ever have a rock band. It’s going to be “The Big Guns.” My husband’s will be “His Boy Elroy.” If you are actually a rock musician and are looking for a band name, you can take these. After all, neither my husband nor I even play an instrument, so it’s not looking like we’ll be starting a band anytime soon … or opening a smoke shop or a Chinese restaurant.

What business and band names do you have squirreled away?

Thursday, May 25, 2017

Back in My Day ...

I was 12 and I clearly remember going to see it.

I know I’m an old fogey, but how much things have changed since then.

Back then, which seems like yesterday to me, not only was there no internet, there were no personal computers.

No email!

No online shopping!

Not only were there no cell phones, there was no voice mail (or even answering machines, remember those?). All phones had cords -- and rotary dials, which my kids (18 and 21) don't even know how to work. They've never heard a busy signal. Phone book? Pay phone? What are those?

And you actually called people. No texting.

My children did not believe me when I told them cartoons were shown only on Saturday mornings. We only got three channels on our television and those channels turned off, remember the waving American flag?,  at midnight. Never mind recording a show, there was no such thing as a DVD or even a videotape. Wizard of Oz was shown on television once a year, period.

Banks closed at 3. Stores were not open on Sundays. And NOTHING was open on a holiday.

Pretty much every adult smoked and no one ever jogged. (Weirdly, we are fatter now than we were then.)


What have I missed?

Getting Political

So, I haven't been here for a while.

Part of what I've been doing is calling, emailing and commenting on the Facebook pages of my senators and congressman as regularly as I can.

Though I've always voted, I've become, for the first time in my life, politically active. (Thanks, Trump.)

The issue that most concerns me: climate change and how we are ignoring it.

According to The Indivisible Guide, which I highly recommend reading, contacting your representatives is one of the most effective things an ordinary person can do to get their voices heard. The 65 is also good.

Oh, and you'll get busy signals a lot with the phone calls. I've learned that you should call the representative's Washington, DC office but if you can't get through (or, maybe even if you can), call one of their in-state offices as well. And if your congressmen are like mine, Congressman Poe, to email them, you will need those last extra four digits of your zip code before their website will even let it through.

Making these contacts is not hard -- all the contact info is easily available and, on the very rare occasions when you will be able to get through to a live person at one of their phone numbers, their staffers are always unfailingly polite. Their job is to take down your thoughts and pass them on. It literally just takes minutes.

I honestly don't know if commenting on their official Facebook pages is helpful. But one of the things I like about that is, rather than sending your thoughts into the void, where, at best, a beleaguered intern will check off that yet another person is concerned about the climate (though those calls and emails are important too), on Facebook, other people can see the comments. My representatives routinely have thousands of comments on their posts, most telling them to start doing what's right for our country.

I do recommend ratcheting up the privacy settings of your Facebook account; I've been reading the replies to people's comments from pro-Trump people and they can be pretty unhinged and scary. Interestingly, the far-right Cruz has far more venomous supporters than the more moderate Cornyn.

And there is nuttiness. I had an Facebook exchange on another site, actually civil, with a woman who likes Trump because she thinks he is a sign of the end times. "Fasten your seatbelts," she said.

Back in the real world, I like that on my representatives' Facebook pages (Senators Cruz and Cornyn, Congressman Poe), when the representative's staff put up an innocuous post about, say, Texas history, the comments appear immediately and will be, over and over again,  "That's nice, Senator, but when are you going to have a town-hall meeting?"

I don't think what you write, how detailed of an argument you make, how good your writing is matters. What really matters is to make that contact -- repeatedly -- and make your opinions known.

Here is one of the longer emails I have sent to my representatives, just to give you a sense of what someone else is doing:

I am one of your constituents and I am writing to register my horror – there really is no other word for it – and absolute disagreement with your positions regarding climate change.

I’ve read Republican statements about climate change, from Trump’s claim that it’s a “Chinese hoax” to Republican legislators saying they are “open to debate” on climate change, but you all are ignoring the overwhelming facts of the matter.

For instance, Republicans claim they don’t want to control greenhouse gas emissions because you think it would place the US at a “global economic disadvantage.” However, 350 American major companies pleaded with Trump to not abandon the goals of the Paris agreement because it would harm American prosperity.

As one expert said, “President Trump seems intent on reviving a 19th century energy source rather than pursuing the promise of the 21st century.”

And experts, including the heads of coal companies, say that he won’t be able to bring coal-mining jobs back – not because of government regulation but because of market forces (natural gas is already and  renewable energy is quickly becoming more cost-efficient) and because of the increasing use of mechanization in coal mines.

Furthermore, recent headlines proclaimed “US Cedes Lead on Climate to China.” The Chinese know not only that protecting against climate change is the moral thing to do, but that it is also the economically smart thing to do.

43 bipartisan senior military leaders and national security, homeland security and intelligence experts pleaded with Trump to take climate change seriously because it is “a significant and direct risk,” not only to our military forces, but to our nation as a whole.

The science is, of course, overwhelming. Why else would the Trump Administration be so intent on destroying government research data that scientists had to scramble to save what they could? As one Arctic researcher wrote, “Each defunct page is an effort by the Trump administration to deliberately undermine our ability to make good policy decisions by limiting access to scientific evidence.”

And poll after poll shows that the majority of Americans believe climate change is real and want our government to do more, not less, to protect us from it.

Meanwhile, despite all this, you side with climate-change deniers, many of whom have blatantly obvious financial interests for their denial, such as the Koch brothers, whose companies are some of the largest producers of pollution, including greenhouse gases, in our country. And you have slimy financial interests too, when you accept their campaign donations.

How you look your children in the eye is beyond me.

Please reconsider your stance and protect our country from climate change. You are on the wrong side of history on this one.

Thank you.

Monday, January 2, 2017

Why Get A Dog

Missy's available, along with a lot of other adorable dogs
and cats, at Friends for Life. 
I have a snoring puppy in my lap.

My daughter and I found her, running scared and skinny, in the street. She is now registered with Friends for Life, a fabulous animal rescue, and we are her foster family.

I have been thinking about people and dogs.

First, don't even get me started on the piece of shit who dumped our puppy off to die alone.

And I understand people sometimes have practical considerations: they live in an apartment and need someone small or they have a child and need someone super-calm.

But so many have crap ideas. They want a "guard dog." A surprising number think a dog should live outside, loose or maybe on a short chain its whole life. Many think having a dog is like owning a doll.

Never had a dog before? Here’s what you need to know:

They do not make your life easier. You will need to run home to let them out. You will be out in the weather with them, even when you don’t feel like it. You need to teach them manners, which, no matter what the TV shows say, is an imperfect process. Even guide dogs, the most highly trained dogs on the planet, have been known to make messes where they shouldn’t. Dogs chew things, tip over garbage cans, tremble under (or preferably in) your bed during thunderstorms. They have personalities and their own ideas.

Don’t get a dog to intimidate people.

Don’t get one to match your decor.

Or to teach your children how onerous it is to be responsible for someone else.

Dogs are innocent beings who just want to love you with their whole heart.

If you think you can hold up your end in that relationship, then get a dog.