How can I start a trend?

Is the cupcake trend over yet?Cupcakes.  Tattoos.  Honey Boo Boo.  Yoga pants.  Industrial kitchens in suburban homes.  Tom Cruise.  Spray tan.

These are just a few of the things with mass appeal I do not understand.

How do things become trendy?  Millions of people do not spontaneously develop a taste for cupcakes.  Or wearing those ear lobe expanding rings.  How do they seep into popular culture?

More to the point, why are they never things I like?

Why couldn’t baklava have become a hot trend?  Do you know how happy I would be if I could ride my bicycle to a good Greek bakery?  I live an easy ride from at least three cupcake bakeries.  They sell nothing but cupcakes.  Anyone with a kitchen can bake cupcakes.  It doesn’t even need to be a trendy industrial stainless steel kitchen.

I am forever off-trend.  I’m used to it, but I still just wish a good wool skirt was as easy to find as a pair of yoga pants.

When did NOT having a tattoo become a sign of anything?Not long ago, my husband was asked if he was Seventh Day Adventist because he doesn’t have any tattoos. I don’t even know the connection between those two things, but when did not having a tattoo become a sign of anything?

If tattoos are mainstream, does that make those without subversive, counter-cultural types?

Were it not for Facebook, I would never have heard of Honey Boo Boo.  I still have no idea who she is, but I know she has a tv show.  How can it be so popular if nobody admits to liking it?

If the world followed my interests, you would have been spared Honey Boo Boo.  Your friends would be looking forward to the 50th anniversary special for Doctor Who and wondering how a show as fantastic as Awake could have been cancelled.  Well, it wouldn’t have been cancelled if everyone had been watching it and talking about it on Facebook as much as they talk about Miss Boo Boo or Game of Thrones.

People would be startled at the mere idea of an HBO series, because they have not seen a premium channel in decades, and only remember HBO as a channel for rewatching the same movie twenty times in one month.

Books would be as popular as television.  Non-fiction would be cool.  People would read about history, rather than romance novels in the guise of historical fiction.

Jasper Fforde Shades of GreyThey’d be eagerly awaiting the sequel to Shades of Grey by Jasper Fforde rather than reading 50 Shades by whomever.  (I’m not even going to google it to find out.)

They’d leave movies saying things like, “Sure the special effects were fantastic, but the lack of plot and character development made it seem three hours longer than it already was!  Whatever happened to dialogue?”

Naturally pale skin would elicit admiration from friends and coworkers.  After a vacation, they’d say, “You look beautiful!  Great job protecting your skin from harmful UV rays!”  Nobody would ever suggest spray tan as a way of concealing anything.

I’m getting carried away.  What would be different if you were setting the trends?

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Do we have enough tears for this?

Do we need to be able to identify with the victims of violence in order to sympathize with them?

There is so much violence in the world.  Every day.  Are the deaths of children in New England more tragic than the deaths of children in Africa?

Those who do not weep, do not see. ~Victor Hugo  Do we have enough tears for this?Do you know how many people died in in the violence surrounding the elections in Venezuela on Monday?  What about the ones who died in Iraq’s election violence?  Is election violence too alien a concept?  We can’t imagine it happening here.

Is the same true for genocide?  We can’t imagine our government turning on Christians or Muslims as Myanmar has done.

(Unless one can imagine it, and is therefore a paranoid extremist.)

We can’t imagine being a Syrian refugee or a woman in the Congo.  Those people are too different from us; they live so far away.  Things like that don’t happen here.

What about Chicago, where over 500 people were murdered last year?  No, we tell ourselves that those are gang members, not nice people like us.

We do everything we can to distance ourselves from the victims of crimes, even the ones that happen close to home.  That couldn’t happen to us because we don’t walk those streets, dress like that, drink too much…..we’re careful, safe, make good decisions.

We’ve insulated ourselves so successfully that we barely register the distress of millions.  Until, one day, we learn that someone like us has been hurt.  Now we are glued to the news.  This can’t happen to me.  To my kids.  Here.  To people like us.

But it does.  Sometimes, it does.

Could we take part of that outrage and share it with the world?  Do we have enough tears to cry for Asian children and African women?  Can we cry for the persecuted when they don’t share our religion?

If we can’t, what does that say about us?  About me?

If we can, would we ever be able to stop crying?

Making up the rules as we go along

Over the Christmas holiday, I went to the movies twice (thus tripling the number of movies I saw in 2012).  On each occasion, I was struck by the sight of my children eating their snacks during the previews.

Who raised these people?

I’m blaming my husband, who was unabashedly eating popcorn during the previews, and my mom, because she used to take them to the movies when they were boys, and I know she is a preview snacker.

I never eat snacks during the previews.  Never.

It’s a self imposed rule that I made up in childhood so my skittles or M&Ms would last longer.

It got me thinking about a book I read last April, Willpower by Roy F. Baumeister.   Among other things, he discussed how these self imposed rules, these non-negotiables, strengthen our willpower.  By reducing the number of decisions we have to make in a day, we save our willpower for the more important decisions.

As I’ve mentioned before, I don’t consider myself an organized or structured person.  I don’t keep to a cleaning schedule; I don’t set goals or make plans.  I procrastinate; I forget to bring the shopping list to the store.  I’m more haphazard than methodical in getting things done.   Sometimes I put on my socks, then my shoes; other times I put a sock and shoe on one foot, then the other.  (Bonus points for recognizing the reference.)

But, at the movies, I realized that I am also a rule maker.  I have made all sorts of rules over the years.   Some, like No Snacking Until the Movie Starts, have held fast.  Others died an unmourned death.  Some were only for a season of life.  Some I wanted to stick, but they didn’t.

Frustration compelled me to announce a new house rule last week:  the tv does not get turned on at night until the kitchen is clean.  I’ve realized that any rule that requires familial cooperation has a stunningly lower chance of survival, but I’m an optimist.

It’s hard for me to list my rules, because the ones that have stuck are so habitual that I don’t think about them, but here are a few that come to mind.

  1. Put my shoes away when I get home.
  2. Never give in to stop a child from whining or tantrums.
  3. Make my bed every morning.
  4. Change the dishcloth and towel every morning.
  5. No yelling at children in non-emergency situations.

Here are rules that I really liked in theory, but which never became habits.  The failures.

  1. Floss daily.
  2. Don’t say, “I told you so.”
  3. No TV Tuesday.
  4. Fill the gas tank when the gauge reads under half a tank.
  5. No eating after 8:00pm.

What are your small, daily, rules for living?  Your non-negotiables?

Out with the old year, in with the dark haired man.

Do you like the year end lists, the years in review and best ofs?   I do, so I tried to compile a personal Best of 2012 list for you.

I started with Best Non-fiction Book I read.  I could not choose.  How do you compare a holocaust memoir to a book about breasts to environmental disasters to the assassination of a president?  I couldn’t.  So I scratched that off my list.

Similar problems with choosing Best Fiction, so I scratched that, too.

Then I couldn’t remember any movies I watched more than a month ago.

I made these cauliflower fritters last week, and they were definitely the best cauliflower I’d had all year.  So there is that.

But there is no list of Year’s Best from me.  Sorry.  Not even highlights or a year in review.

Instead, let’s talk about Superstitions.  Do you adhere to any New Year’s superstitions?  Or customs?

NewYearsList

My family was woefully lacking in cultural traditions and superstitions.  We don’t even have a traditional meal.  No black eyed peas; no pork in sauerkraut; no long noodles.

I didn’t even realize how many people had New Year’s traditions until I was in my twenties.  Then a co-worker told me about the many superstitions she’d grown up with.  I think of her every year at this time and pray that the new year brings her many blessings.

Her family strongly believed that the first person to cross the threshold in the new year must be a man.  She said none of the women would leave their homes until a man had visited them on New Year’s Day, so all the male relatives had to go from house to house, in the morning, to ensure good fortune for the new year.

It had to be in the morning, both because the women wanted to visit each other in the afternoon and because they didn’t want to risk a neighbor stopping by and crossing the threshold first.

This list specifies it needs to be a dark haired man.  My coworker didn’t mention that, but all the men in her family had dark hair, so maybe she didn’t think about it.  In my family, it would mean my husband would have to visit every household while the rest of us stayed home.  My sons would doom a family to bad luck all year.

NewYearsSuperstions

It’s probably good that we don’t follow that particular custom, but I like the kissing at midnight and not breaking things superstitions.  I’m all for kissing and not breaking things every day of the year, actually.

Does your family have any special customs for the New Year?  Traditional foods?

The Sound of Silence

I love quiet.

My idea of background noise is birds and crickets and children laughing.  I like to read in silence, write in silence, daydream in silence.  I like to talk to my friends with nary a sound in the background.

If I feel like listening to music, I turn on the radio, but usually I don’t.  Not even in the car.

My husband always wants the radio or tv on, no matter what he is doing.  He likes a background of words, spoken or sung, even though he says he tunes it out and doesn’t hear the words.

I don’t know how he does it.  The words invade my own thoughts.  I find myself distracted by lyrics even when I don’t like them, especially when I don’t like them.

(One day he had the radio on while we were working on a project, and after about half an hour I asked, “Is every song this DJ plays about drugs?”  He had not noticed, but sure enough, several songs later, he concurred that, yes, it seemed to be a show entirely devoted to singing about drug usage.  He changed the station for me.)

In the car, I’ll be looking out the window, enjoying a feeling of quiet companionship, and he’ll turn on talk radio to fill the silence.

For me, talk radio is as pleasant as being seated next to a screaming baby on an airplane.  He remembers this after a moment and switches to a music station.

Most of the time, I’m able to tolerate background noise, which is what it is to me, noise.  I know to him, it is not noise.  It is soothing in a way I don’t experience, but I understand that it is to others.

If I find his selection abrasive, I’ll request that he change the radio station.  Sometimes I do sigh irritably and scowl as yet another youtube video invades my auditory space.  Sometimes I just leave the room and find a quiet spot.   Mostly, I try to ignore it.

The only time I find myself feeling indignant is if he walks into the room where I am reading and turns on the radio or tv.  I would not walk into a room where other people were listening to the radio and turn it off.  That would be startlingly rude, wouldn’t it?  But somehow, doing the opposite is accepted as normal.

Why?

I don’t believe his love of background sound gives him greater rights.  I don’t think my love of silence is more virtuous.  They are just different.

My husband and I have accepted that my preference for quiet is no more likely to change than his preference for life with a soundrack.  He’s willing to change stations or lower the volume.  Lately, he often asks if I have a preference in spotify stations; he gets the sound he craves, but I can make sure it is something that won’t grate on my nerves.

It’s a good compromise.  When he is away, I even find myself occasionally thinking that the house is too quiet without him.

How do you feel about tv or radio in the background?  Music or talk radio?

Mo, Empathy, and Campaign Confessions

Confession:  I can’t watch The Three Stooges because I want the bald and curly haired ones to stand up to the one with bangs and make him stop hitting them and poking their eyes.  If he won’t apologize, I want them to find a new friend.  He’s mean.

I realize this is not normal.  Most people like or do not like The Three Stooges, but they don’t actually feel agitated and upset by the smacking and insulting.  I get that.

I have another confession to make: I’m still upset by the campaign behavior. Not the candidates, or either party, or the results, but the behavior of regular people.

When people  do not respect those whose opinions differ; when they refer to those who disagree with them as idiots or worse; when they attack and insult and cannot believe that any intelligent/decent/moral/loving person would have studied the issues and come to a different conclusion – when they behave like that, I do not think of them as being caught up in the politics.  I don’t think they are otherwise nice people who will return to normal after the election.

I react the same way I do when I see Mo smack the others.

I think they are mean or narrow-minded or lacking in self control or elitist or bullies or all those things.  I feel like I have seen a very unpleasant facet of who they are and how they regard others.  Even when I agree with their political position, if they’re attacking those who disagree, I am pained by it.

I think less of the aggressor, because this is part of who I am:  I do not need to be under attack to empathize with those who are.

Even though I try not to pay attention to the vitriol and barbs (and I really do try), I cannot completely ignore everything said -or posted- during the campaign.  After the election, I’ll forget which candidate was being supported by whom, but I’ll remember that certain people were hateful.  That impression will linger.

I am trying to be forgiving.  I remind myself that most people are not like me.  They don’t get upset about Stooges.  Maybe their feelings don’t get hurt by what others say, so they think name calling is harmless.  I really don’t know.

If it takes me a while to recover from the past several months of watching people verbally assault each other, please forgive me.

Embracing Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving was never a big holiday in my mind, primarily because I don’t like turkey or stuffing or washing dishes.  It was one of those obligatory days that I would spend at someone else’s house, following their traditions, and wishing other people accepted that pie could be a first course.  Frankly, it was often a chore, with hungry little kids and a three hours late turkey.

When we moved away from our families, it was just a day.  For several years running, we used the holiday weekend to tackle projects around the house.  We didn’t really celebrate Thanksgiving, and we didn’t miss it.

Then, last year, because my mom had not been feeling well, I flew back east to spend the week with her and my son, and with his girlfriend, my sister and nieces, etc.  I had a blast!  It was without a doubt, my best Thanksgiving ever.

The meal was no different, but we spent days just hanging out, talking, raking leaves, playing games, laughing at how hysterical we think we are, and loving our time together.

This year, I’ve been looking forward to Thanksgiving since July, when I last saw my east coast family.  I’m now counting down the days until I leave – two weeks from today!  This year, I’m taking my daughter, too.

In the meantime, I am being mindful of enjoying my everyday life here.  In that pursuit, I bought a zoo membership in October, so I could spend pleasant hours watching animals do funny things like this tiger who licked a fence and decided it did not taste good at all.

A few years ago, I adopted this resolution, and it has been a great encouragement to me.  Meditating on it helped me to see joy as a virtue equal to thankfulness and to understand that my desire to be happy is not selfish or shallow.  It gives me permission to let my husband buy me a plane ticket home because, yes, that extra week of joy is worth the expense.  It is worth it to me, to my mom, to my son, to my sister, and to my husband, who gets a happy wife and doesn’t have to wait all day for a turkey dinner he never really wanted.

Be joyful always.
Pray without ceasing.
Give thanks in all circumstances.

For this is God’s will for me in Jesus Christ.
(1 Thessalonians 5:16-18, paraphrased)

I wish Disney had bought Lucasfilm years ago.

Say what you will, but Disney knows women.

If this had happened earlier, we would have all been spared the Anakin-Amadala romance.

Because, seriously, if Padme’ had been a Disney princess, she’d have realized he was evil-crazy when he killed all those Sand People.  She’d have married Obi-Wan instead.

Of course, earlier than that, people would have realized that the Jedi system was Doomed to Fail because taking babies away from their families and forbidding them to ever have a family of their own is Just Plain Wrong.

That makes the Jedi the witch in Rapunzel.

Disney would have been better with continuity, too.

Padme’ giving up the will to live while still on the delivery room table?  A Disney Princess does not give up the will to live because her man has gone wrong.  Well, she wouldn’t have chosen the wrong man to begin with, but, had she, she would not have wimped out at motherhood.

Think of Dumbo’s mom.  Did she give up without a fight?  No.

Aurora’s parents were willing to spend sixteen years away from their daughter to save her from Maleficent, but they didn’t die of unhappiness.  They waited.  Ariel’s dad, king of the merpeople, was willing to risk everything for his wayward child.

In a Disney film, if you want a parent out of the picture, you have to murder them outright, like Mufasa or Bambi’s mom, because Disney knows that parents do not give up.

So Padme’ would have kept on fighting the Empire, and died a violent death, allowing Leia to remember her like she said she did in Return of the Jedi.

I am sorry to say, however, that if Disney had taken over earlier, Jar-Jar Binks would have had a larger role in those last couple movies.  It’s a trade-off.  Choose your evil.

I’ll suffer with annoying talking animals for a romantic, but strong female lead.  Like Mulan.

Geek rant over.

Being a stand up kind of girl

Do you spend most of your day sitting down?  I do.

I don’t even have the excuse of working an office job.  I just spend a lot of time lounging around my house.  I read, I knit, I blog, I sit, sit, sit.  So when I read an article last week about the health risks of sitting more often than not, I took notice.

I couldn’t find the exact article, but this one is good.

The gist of it is that even if you exercise an hour a day, which I don’t, your risk of heart disease, diabetes, and, well, death, is significantly higher if you are sitting four hours a day or more.

Four hours of sitting each day is considered risky.

Four hours?  That sounds like someone who has been on their feet all day, doesn’t get to sit down until dinner time, then falls asleep in a chair while watching tv with their kids.

If four hours is risky, is there any hope for a couch potato like me?

Even my bicycle riding is a seated activity.

Momentarily alarmed, I have spent the last three days trying to stand up more often.  I ate standing up, even though this would make me a social pariah in France. (I’ve never been to France, but this is the sort of thing I think about while standing in my kitchen eating a bowl of cereal.)

I paced the kitchen waiting for the dogs to eat or come back inside.
I attended a child’s party and stood the entire time.
I read standing up, for a few minutes anyway.
I did not sit down during an hour long phone conversation with my mom.
I even remained fully upright while brushing my teeth, no leaning.

I made a concerted effort to stand up.  I still spent the vast majority of my waking hours seated.

If you don’t hear from me next week it is because I sat myself to death.

My only consolation is that I would be just as dead if I had been going to the gym for an hour each day.

Why is the pantyliner talking about a bra?

I bought some feminine hygiene products yesterday.  Putting them away at home, I saw the back of one box and experienced several moments of utter confusion.  What had I bought?

They make bra liners?  For athletes?  Oh, I got the ones for sports bras.  I don’t …. would they work in a regular bra?  No, they are different for different bras.  I never knew people needed bra liners.  I guess they’re like the armpit liners.  How did I pick these up by mistake?  Is this one of those new Poise products for menopausal women?

Flips box over to check the front.  Wait, these are pantyliners.  Why are they talking about bras?  I don’t get it.

Whose idea was this to have a pantyliner comparing itself to a bra?

I want bras that defy gravity and aging.

I want menstrual pads that absorb quickly and don’t leak.

They are nothing alike.