04 April 2016

Back on the Treadmill...Also a Perfect Life Metaphor

As part of  "Un-fuck My Life April" I am, in addition to trying to blog more, attempting to get back into working out.  Between walking pneumonia, idiopathic abdominal pain, starting two jobs and all the rest, I have not been really running all winter.  Needless to say I miss it...or at least I miss having my love-hate relationship with it.

Like I always do, I tried to pick a training plan.  The logic here is that if each day has a no-though-required built-in workout, I will just do it and not talk myself out of it.  The problem with this is that "beginner training plans"  are never actually for beginners.  They are clearly written by ultra-marathoner who sprung fully formed from the foreheads of other ultra-marathoners.   Therefore, the plan progression usually goes something like this:

  • Day 1: Run 1 minute, Walk 1 minute for 1mile- OK great, done and done.  Felt good, got back into it, this is manageable....perfect.
  • Day 2: Rest- I am like, so good at this one.
  • Day 3: Run 1 minute 30 seconds, walk 1 minute for 1.5 miles- Whooooo, 30 seconds can really feel like forever, but hey I survived half way to a 5K.  I can totes do this!
  • Day 4: Strength- Sure thing baby, I routinely dead-lift my 68 pound 9 year old, a few curls and squats are no biggie.
  • Day 5-Run 7 miles at race pace alternating 400m sprints with 600m hill repeats doing 6 strides every .75 miles- Wait!? What!!?!? Did I miss a day? Is this printed wrong? Is there a back page?  Do I need a decoder ring?

And that is where things go off the rails.  As much as I love the whole Couch to 5K "8 weeks can make you runner thing"...these all feel a bit overambitious for people who have (for whatever reason, no judgments ever) been sedentary for a while.  It is going to take WAY more than three runs to get someone up to running for 5 whole minutes, never mind adding technical details like "tempo runs" and all the other jargon that runners use to make it seem like running is more than....well, lets be honest...just putting one foot in front of the other.

My issue isn't strictly that I am too out of shape to progress as fast as the calendar says I "should" (though that is a decent percentage of my angst), it is that this is really demoralizing for anyone who does want to try to get into running.  I know so many people who make it to week 3 of Couch to 5K then quit because honestly, if you have not been working out routinely, the jump from running 1.5 minutes to 3 minutes is alarming. Now, I have played this game long enough to not care, to know that (for me, YMMV) some exercise is better than none, and that eventually it will all shake out.  But for people who have not had that experience, this will turn them right off running.  I am sure this plays into the whole dastardly cycle of "ableist-thin-privilege says everyone should get off their asses and workout/get thin, but  goddess forbid a not thin/fit person be made welcome in these spaces thing," but I am too busy sweating into my computer chair to get that sorted.

So I am going to do Day 1 and Day 3 until I don't feel like dry-heaving at the end. Maybe then I will consider adding mileage and longer intervals. April is fighting back, but I think I can take it.

01 April 2016

April Blogging Challenge

Ginger at Ramble Ramble has put out a blogging challenge for the month of April and I am in!  I started today with a knitting update over at Full of Knit.  I want to get better at logging my book reading and my crafting, so this month is a great chance to get on top of that.  Check out the knitting and I promise to get some book reviews and recommendations up here soon.

09 February 2016

2016 Book Report: "Headstrong"

I recently finished Headstrong: 52 Women Who Changed Science-and the World by Rachel Swaby. I really enjoyed it.  Science! and women all in one place? Obviously it is perfect.  My only comment is that I wish there could be a full length book on each and every one of the scientists listed within.

In reading about these scientists, I did notice two major trends.  First, and this is definitely addressed in the introduction, these scientist were really only able to overcome the historical barriers of sexism due to their privilege.  These scientists often had to work unpaid, unfunded and unrecognized just for the chance to work at all.  Given the situation for women at most points in history, only scientists who had some other source of income (be it family money or a supportive spouse) could really pursue research "despite the obstacles."  There has been, as there is even now, a dearth of women of color, women who came from less-affluent backgrounds and women who didn't come from academically minded families.  There is something to be said that this refrain remains the same many years after these women left their mark on science.

The second thing that was a constant theme: women were always willing to work just for the sake of the science.  While men were clutching their pearls about women "invading" the scientific domain, women were making huge discoveries with basically no institutional support.  While men were frantically undermining the scientific progress of women (often while simultaneously adopting the work for their own gain), women worked in closets and unheated garage spaces.  Women worked for no pay, attended classes with no chance of actually being conferred a degree, ran entire departments with no funding and taught themselves curriculum worth of ivy league institutions. In another motif that absolutely permeates science/academics today, while men were fussing about, women were quietly and determinedly getting the science done.  If there is a more perfect symbol of gender disparities in STEM fields, I have yet to find it.

All in all, five stars for this book.  Even though it is non-fiction, and base din some hefty science, it is a very pleasant read.  "Meeting" these women, and seeing how much of our daily lives is owed to their work, is a genuinely enlightening and entertaining experience.

05 January 2016


Last year wasn't a bad year, but somehow I am not sad to see it go.  I can't pinpoint any one thing that made it rough, but I am left feeling like another year rolled by and here I still am....just...keeping up. However, lots of good things did happen:

  • I got my lady-troubles fixed.  Once we overcame Diagnosis: FAT and Diagnosis: Breeder, I was actually able to fix my issue. Turns out, storing fibroids the size of varying sports-balls in your uterus is a bad idea.  Who knew?
  • We got Liz happily into kindergarten.
  • I took a skiing lesson.
  • The kids learned to swim.
  • I got two jobs despite my threats to the contrary. 
  • I am a librarian now, which when I picked the name for this blog was always kind of my dream...so now I really am "The Well-Read Mom."
  • I got the kids hooked on Harry Potter and if seeing your kids devour your fandom isn't happiness, well I don't know what is. 
  • We took more trips, I went to Vegas, the girls went camping, we took a family vacation to VT...travel with kids at 6 and 8 is so much better than travel with toddlers. 
  • Possibly related: my kids finally became human-ish...the days are getting easier in terms of logistics even if harder in terms of personalities, school, social stuff and attitudes.
  • Chris kicked ass at his job, he will even be releasing a computer game he helped develop in the spring.  
Some cruddy things happened too.  I am now sick with some abdominal pain issues that is not my gallbladder, liver or anything at all as far as my GP can tell.  (Probably hysteria am I right ladies?) My sister is dealing with some fertility issues.  She has been a goddamn rock-star about the whole thing, but it has cast a slight pall over the year.  

All in all, more good than bad, but still a bit....underwhelming.  I feel like every year we get geared up for This Great New Year (TM), and somehow, it is all just more of the same.  I mean, that is life. Putting one foot in front of the other and managing the constant onslaught of micro-crises, but I could just use something more.  Keeping that feeling in mind, I am being very careful about my "resolutions" for the year.  I want to keep them chill and centered on things that will bring me joy. Hopefully, this time next year I can say "yeah, I got some of my stuff done, and it was pretty good."

24 July 2015

Working Hard For The Money

While I am sure everyone has seen the amazing article on emotional labour by Jess Zimmerman, if not, please go check it out. Finally someone has perfectly articulated that weird feeling of "being cheated" by my otherwise lovely, and highly privileged, life. It is not that what I do is physically taxing, or requires a ton of higher order thinking (honestly, I could be replaced by a well-trained labrador retriever in that sense), but in that is requires me to provide this emotional labor all day, every day, for everyone in this house, all the time, forever and ever. While Chris and I have had some really beneficial discussions about this dynamic, and we are moving towards a much better balance of providing this resource, this is exactly how one winds up screaming at their partner about measuring cups, for no reason at ALL!


I also highly recommend reading the MetaFilter discussion that the article generated. It is long, but worth a read, or at least a hearty skim. Once you apply a name to all that "feeling stuff" that has to get done, and looks at gender/power disparities in who is doing that "feeling stuff"…well, lets just say lots of other interpersonal dynamics make a lot more sense. The pervasive theme is that women* are expected to provide this emotional labor, both professionally and personally, on demand, for everyone, all the time and ALSO deal with any fall-out when emotional labor isn’t provided.


Basically, it is not the doing of the laundry, it is the constant mental gymnastics required to realize what laundry needs doing, and for whom and by what deadline and then dealing with inevitable emotional fallout if someone doesn’t have their lucky knickers, their blue tie or their swimming uniform on time. See also: the fine line between providing the physical labor as part of a reciprocal relationship and being treated as unpaid life-concierge.


Oddly enough this circles back to something Chris and I have been discussing a lot lately. Namely: me going back to some kind of work outside of "domestic engineer." With Lizzie heading to full-time Kindergarten in a few weeks, it is time to take a look at that and decide what is best for our family.


The situation becomes complicated by Chris’ career trajectory. Without getting into the gory details, several people who are very interested in his work (especially a game he helped develop…that right, now he is a game developer….suck it haters!)are moving into positions with large checkbooks, so he may be looking at having more project offers than he has time. This is great for his professional development, but it means that he will be in no position to support basics like being home for bus-stop duty, taking time off when kids are sick or cutting back on his travel. In a purely logistical sense, me getting a job is 100% my problem to make it work. Reading between the lines, this also means he will be unavailable to provide the basic activities that keep this place going (the handful of household tasks for which he is actually responsible will be foisted back on me) and the real subtext is: he will be unavailable for the emotional labor required to keep a house full of two small kids going. I have no objections to this, our relationship has long been predicated on his career coming first, I am genuinely fine with being the sole provider of logistical and emotional work for the household. However, I am not fine with continuing to do that here and then adding a maximum of 35 hours a week for 44 weeks a year (working between bus-runs, only when school is in session and no kids are sick) slogging through a second set of physical/mental/emotional labor. Basically this:



While I may shoulder all the logistical and emotional labor of keeping the lives of four people running (relatively) smoothly right now that is well balanced with the work that Chris does. I may work 24/7 cleaning, cooking, educating, providing therapy, monitoring HW, monitoring the budget, monitoring clean underpants, but Chris works 60+ hours a week literally writing the policy that protects this country and making the capital we need to feed the machine that is our lives. Right now I feel pretty good about this division. Chris does too, and his emotional labor points are earned by appreciating that what I do is, in fact, vital to our lives, and by extension, his career so he isn’t pressuring me to get a "real job." His emotional labor is understanding that what I do is "real work" that matters. If we want to maintain our current lifestyle, I need to be realistic about what I can add to my list and right now, that list can’t accommodate any additional jobs**.


Thankfully in my life, my emotional labor has value and right now I am trading that inherent value for not having to rush back into an unpleasant work-life balance.


*Granted, the gender lines are not universal, there is plenty of discussion that non-monogamous/non-heterosexual relationship of ten see one person in the roles of emotional laborer while the other partner(s) reap the benefits. There appears to be two flavors of people, Those that provide emotional labor and those who are not so keen to do so. (There does have to be a somebody after all.)

**With the obvious caveat that position of privilege allows me this choice. The uncommon luxury of not immediately needing two incomes is becoming a rarity in this country and I absolutely understand that many women don’t get to make any choice outside of the one that ensures food on the table.



10 June 2015

TV Junkie

Even though we don't have cable, I am still a TV junkie.  Thanks to Netflix, Amazon Prime, Hulu and the library, I can still watch all the TV I want!  For 1/3 of what Cox wants me to pay them for half the access! Friendly PSA: seriously people, the library.  They have all the DVDs you could ever need. Any movie, any show, some library somewhere has it and will let you borrow it...for free!!! So, with the long hot days of summer coming upon us, here are my current TV indulgences.

Bones- I blow hot and cold on this show, right now I am into it.  I like that it features well-educated, assertive and competent women acting just as assertive and competent as their male equals.  My only issue (beyond the inherent racism, trans/homophobia and gross stereotyping that is common in mainstream media) is the way Dr. Brennan is being forced to "evolve."  The over-arching theme is always "Bones says something logical that aligns with her personal belief system, Booth says 'argle bargle, faith, love, humanity, blah blah blah' and in the end she 'learns an important lesson' and capitulates to Booth's worldview."  I guess I resent that her entire character development is based on the premise that she must make herself more neurotypical and therefore "likable" so as to accommodate the romantic sub-plot.  We don't ask this is Grissom (CSI) or Gibbs (NCIS), so why do we ask it of Dr. Brennan? Its a real mystery!

Reign- This one must be watched just for the costuming.  Sure, it hits all the right period-piece buttons of love, sex and high royal intrigue...but really OMG the clothes.  Not historically accurate, but truly breath-taking. Also, this show features women together doing things, but rarely involving activities that don't center on men/children.

Pretty Little Liars- High drama of the criminal cross-double-cross and, again, the clothes.  Mostly this is indulging my commodity fetishism and a chance to discuss the unrealistic portrayal of high-school lives.  Specifically: how do these women have all this time?  There was no getting coffee before school, school started before the sun came up! However, this again is a show that features women together doing things that don't always center around men.

***I should note here that I often watch TV that maybe isn't' considered high art, specifically shows about groups of teen girls doing completely unrealistic teen things. However, much like the Disney Princess phenomenon, these are the only real outlet for shows that feature women doing anything en mass.  This is my only option if I wish to watch shoes that feature more than a token woman filling a classic trope.  I don't like "trashy" TV because it is "trashy," I like "trashy" TV because we label anything that features non-white-cis-male-hetero-heroes as "trashy."***

Hannibal- So freaky, So creepy. So good. If I ever met Hannibal in person I would be dinner in a heartbeat.  Dr, Lecter is one sexy-smart dude, I tell you what.

Sticking with my over-all love of Supernatural, Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. even though I am 100% over Joss Whedon, Agent Carter (because women! Please!), and Grimm (because I will watch anything with a supernatural bend).

Lastly I am getting into  Murder in the First.  A classic cop procedural, but with some interesting twists and turns.  The show plays into every known TV trope ever, but somehow, still works OK.

So these, combined with binge watching Game of Thrones (so much to say here), Trueblood and every Marvel Movie ever made (thanks library!) I should be pretty amused for a while.

What is everyone else watching? Any hot tips for great shows I could be mainlining right now?

04 June 2015

Cringe-Worthy Gym Flirting: A Primer on Not Getting Dates

I saw what was easily the greatest (and by that I mean most horribly depressing) round of flirting at my gym yesterday.  I should add here that there really isn’t a lot of this at my gym.  It is a small, local, family-oriented YMCA.  I am generally there during “working hours” so my crowd is strictly SAHPs and retirees.  One of the reasons that I pay double to go to the Y instead of some other gym (second to the childcare) is the distinct lack of hard-bods/lifting bros.  There isn’t exactly a wealth of young single types, so this was especially exciting.  Flirting millennials in their natural habitat. Good stuff.

The basic gist was guy standing and talking to woman who was stretching on the mats.  They were chatting pretty happily when I walked in.  She was obviously engaged, in a willing fashion, with whatever they were discussing.  Then things went downhill and fast.

Guy: I would totally be down there stretching with you…
Gal: Please do, I would like the company…
Guy: …but that isn’t really my scene. Commence endless droning…something…lifting….blah blah blah…squats…DOMS*….*fart noise*….forever and ever the end.

By the end she is, understandably, over this now.  She was into the conversation, offered an outlet to continue the flirtation, and the whole thing failed to open because he couldn’t stop yakking over her about his workout.  He honestly felt it was so important for the whole gym to hear the intimate details of his lifting routine that he completely missed the green-light.  His need to be indulged as the fittest/smartest/most important person there just flattened his flirting like a round of cinder-block dodge-ball.  Even in trying to engage this woman he felt it was entirely necessary to imply that she was gym-ing wrong, or that stretching was somehow inferior to lifting (as if comparing the two was even a viable discussion point).  Whoops! Probably not the best way to score with other gym people.

So, for all you pick-up-artist types who are confused as to why the “females refuse to be receptive to your genius game-playing” maybe try shutting up.  As in literally, not even joking, shut your fucking word hole every now and then and see what happens.  This guy missed his chance because he was so busy doing his “look at my mad fitness” spiel that he failed to noticed the signals of interest.  Just…don’t be this guy.

*Authors note: stretching something other than your talking muscle will help with this one

03 June 2015

Girl Stuff

My girls are super into things that would be definitively designated as "girl stuff."  Monster High, Ever After High, My Little Pony, LEGO Friends, American Girl DollsDisney Princesses...the whole bit.  At first I chalked it up to the general popularity of such things in their age group.  Additionally, these were media franchises that were available to them despite our lack of cable.  I didn't mind this. While they feature the usual litany of ridiculous beauty standards, the content itself is about girls working together (often with boys as sidekick or as equals) and getting stuff done.

This last point being key.  @Artists_Ali pointed out on Twitter that of course little girls are all over the Disney Princesses, it is the only place they see girls together in groups.

This was a total eye-opener for me.  These franchises really are the only place that girls see groups of girls doing things that do not center around boys.  Which raises the important point: girls may not be into "girly" things by virtue of being girls, but by virtue of those "girly" things being the only venue by which media/toys/marketing allows groups of not-man/boy centered girls to exist. 

Of course, in thinking about this I did come to an interesting realization regarding the Disney Princesses. While the expanded Disney Princess Franchise often features the girls together and doing things that don't directly center around the princes, the movies themselves rarely even manage to feature two women talking to each other. In Aladdin Jasmine never speaks to another woman.  She only interacts with her father who plans to sell her like a commodity, the evil Jafar who wishes to buy her as a commodity, Genie who is a commodity and Aladdin who will save her from it all, presumably with the magic of his penis. Even the freaking pet tiger is a boy.  Belle in Beauty and the Beast (still my all time favorite after Fantasia) only ever speaks to generic townswomen who scorn her for being nerdy and anthropomorphic household goods, one of whom devotes and entire verse of a song to self-fat-shaming. When women do talk to each other in more than passing, odds are one of those women is the antagonist (Tangled, Cinderella, The Little Mermaid).

LEGO Friends on the other hand, is an entire world based on girls.  In most LEGO sets women are seriously underrepresented and are just the occasional piece with lipstick or painted-on boobs.  The LEGO Friends world is all girls.  Girls who are vets, scientists, hair stylists, chefs and so on.  Not "lady-firemen" who happen to be in the set. In all the discussion about parents not buying cross-gendered toys, maybe we have ignored the fundamental fact that kids may not want cross-gendered toys because why would you want a toy that nothing to offer you? Why would you want a LEGO set that in no way represents you, what you look like, or the activities you are into? As an adult, I am not into video games.  Not because I can't play play them, or that I am not interested in that kind of story telling, but because I don't want to spend weeks of my life playing in a world where there is literally nothing there for me.  Much as I don't want to have to role-play as a man in a made-up world where women are sexual commodities, my girls don't want to watch TV shows, read books or buy toys that have no freaking girls in them.

My point here is that I get it, when Monster High and My Little Pony are the only places you can see girls doing anything that doesn't focus on boys/being pretty enough to get boys, they are going to be an instant favorite.  Especially for Lizzie who is not quite reading yet and therefore has slightly more trouble accessing media that appeals to her.  So, from now on, when they want to read another Ever After High book, or see the Rainbow Rocks movie for the millionth time I will try to remember, they are making an important feminist choice.  Even at 5 and 8 they understand that it is not worth consuming media that doesn't speak to their own lives.  Nice job! 

17 April 2015

Song of the Day

My Heart Will Go On as performed by Me First and the Gimme Gimmes

16 April 2015

Song of the Day

Strange Charm by Hank Green

My Great-Uncle was head of CERN for a while (yes, the nerd is strong with this family) so quarks have a very special place in my heart.