Thursday, September 26, 2013

Shopping (again)

As mentioned [a few dozen times] before, returning to the full-time office lifestyle has meant updating and modifying my wardrobe. And since I have developed an aversion to the mall, and I like getting a deal, I've been shopping online- a lot.
Tonight while looking around I came across this pair of shoes-
Now here's the thing.
ModCloth has a few dresses over $100 from time to time. But for the most part everything is reasonably priced between $50-70.
So you can only imagine my surprise when the price on this pair of "Cottontail Twinkle Heels" is $438!!!
Glitter covered, bunny ear, heels.
So I did my research, hoping maybe this was a mistake.
But no, it's true. The glitter covered bunny shoes (properly known as the "Hare Multi Glitter Heels" on the designer's site) really are that ridiculously expensive.
If glitter covered bunny shoes are right, I really just want to be wrong.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013


Is there anything better than a book so good that you stay up all night to read it? A story so compelling that you would rather just keep reading than do anything else?
I'm always on the hunt for the next book that will do that to me. If a book doesn't make me want to stay up and keep reading I may never finish it.
A few weeks ago I read a friend's review of the book "Downtown Owl" by Chuck Klosterman. I read it while I was at the beach over Labor Day. It took less than 10 pages before I knew I was going to love the book and keep reading and reading and reading. And since the only thing better than reading a great book for hours on end, is getting to read that great book on the beach, or in a porch swing in the shade really close to the beach, I had a pretty awesome weekend.
I liked "Downtown Owl" so much that I downloaded another book by Klosterman this past week. Tonight I picked up, "The Visible Man" and read it for about 5 minutes. And immediately had to put it down. Why?
Because I need to get some sleep. And I could tell already that I was going to be up all night if I didn't just put it down and step away!
(What I wouldn't give to have Klosterman's insight and writing style!)
So what book or kind of book does that to you? What book was so good that you lost sleep to keep reading it? I need more books and recommendations!

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Prevent Unnecessary Tragedies and Support Mental Health Reform

The tragedy at the Navy Yard is yet another wake-up call to both citizens and lawmakers that the United States needs legislative reform.

The Navy Yard, Sandy Hook, Aurora, Fort Hood, Tucson, Virginia Tech, Columbine, and several other unnecessary mass murders all had one strong, undeniable detail in common- mental health disorders.

Placing the blame on firearms regulations will not stop mentally ill persons from attacking and hurting others. The root of the problem is the mentally ill, not the tool the person chose for their attack. The real problem lies with sick persons who were not treated for mental illnesses adequately.

The time has come to raise awareness of mental health disorders in the public square and provide more resources to help ill persons. All individuals need to learn and identify the mentally ill among them, and help the sick and afflicted get help. Schools need to be given more resources to identify and serve mentally ill students.

The stigma of mental awareness needs to be lifted so that the ill will not be afraid to admit their sickness and reach out for help.

I urge you to support the mental health funding levels in the Senate FY2014 Labor, Health and Human Services and Education Appropriations Bill (S.1284) and to cosponsor and enact the Mental Health Awareness and Improvement Act of 2013 (S. 689).

There has been a cut in state funding for mental health services and supports of nearly $5 billion over the last three years.  The Senate funding bill includes a roughly $107 million increase for much-needed, critical mental health services at the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) and would fund the National Institutes of Health (NIH) at FY2012 levels. 

S.1284 makes important strides in investing in "upstream services" such as suicide prevention, consumer programs, Project AWARE, etc. to begin to address the treatment chasm (80 percent of children and 66 percent of adults that need treatment do not receive it).

In the wake of the the Navy Yard shooting, the Sandy Hook tragedy, Aurora, and all of the other national crises, bi-partisan legislation was introduced by Sens. Tom Harkin and Lamar Alexander to assist states and local communities in addressing mental health needs ("upstream" services). 

The Mental Health Awareness and Improvement Act of 2013 (S. 689) was passed by an overwhelming vote of 95-2 in April as an amendment to a legislative vehicle that has since been pulled from the Senate calendar.

I urge you to support the funding levels in the Senate FY2014 Labor, Health and Human Services and Education Appropriations Bill (S.1284) in any future spending package or Continuing Resolution and to urge the Senate to have the House consider the Mental Health Awareness and Improvement Act of 2013 (S. 689). These important bills will help address the mental health and addiction needs in our state and communities.

You can show your support for this bill by contacting your Senator (click here to find your senator and her/his email address), and sending her/him the text in bold above.

Share this message on your blog, Facebook, Pinterest, etc. Help spread the word, and encourage everyone to not just "like" the post, but SEND THE MESSAGE TO THE SENATE TO SUPPORT SENATE FY2014 LABOR, HEALTH AND HUMAN SERVICES AND EDUCATION AND APPROPRIATIONS BILL (S.1284) AND THE MENTAL HEALTH AWARENESS AND IMPROVEMENT ACT OF 2013 (S.689)!

You can learn more about this legislation on the Mental Health America website. 

Friday, September 13, 2013

Russia v. US

Vladimir Putin wrote an op-ed for The New York Times regarding the "conflict" in Syria.

This has been met with some very mixed reactions, including one member of Congress to say it made him "sick to his stomach" to read it. 

Putin attempts to remind and school Americans about diplomacy, what the Pope thinks, and almost inexplicably- democracy.

He goes on to say, "We need to use the United Nations Security Council and believe that preserving law and order in today’s complex and turbulent world is one of the few ways to keep international relations from sliding into chaos. The law is still the law, and we must follow it whether we like it or not. Under current international law, force is permitted only in self-defense or by the decision of the Security Council. Anything else is unacceptable under the United Nations Charter and would constitute an act of aggression. "

Vladimir Putin is telling Americans to follow current international law?!?

But before you start to think the man has a point, he then continues on to say that yes, gas was used on the Syrian people, but not by Assad's regime. He suggests the rebels did it to themselves to invoke sympathy.

And then this "former" KGB hack makes this gem of a statement, "force has proved ineffective and pointless."

And don't miss the part where on 9/11 Vladimir Putin in all sincerity asks Americans to recall the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

"The world reacts by asking: if you cannot count on international law, then you must find other ways to ensure your security. Thus a growing number of countries seek to acquire weapons of mass destruction. This is logical: if you have the bomb, no one will touch you."

Be sure to stay to the end, where Vladimir Putin, the president of Russia, former KGB agent, the man who turned off gas to his own people in the middle of a freezing winter, possible Chechnyan war criminal, persecutor of gays, and human minotaur, says in response to President Obama's address to the nation:

And I would rather disagree with a case he made on American exceptionalism, stating that the United States’ policy is “what makes America different. It’s what makes us exceptional.” It is extremely dangerous to encourage people to see themselves as exceptional, whatever the motivation. There are big countries and small countries, rich and poor, those with long democratic traditions and those still finding their way to democracy. Their policies differ, too. We are all different, but when we ask for the Lord’s blessings, we must not forget that God created us equal.

Again, "it is extremely dangerous to encourage people to see themselves as exceptional."

And that, my friends, is what defines the difference between Russia and America.

Now I understand why the congressman was sick to his stomach.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Direct Communication is a Good Thing

A few months ago I found myself surrounded by girlfriends, deep in a late night conversation. Another girlfriend came in, crawled onto my bed, grasping her phone, completely sad and depressed.
She told us she had just found out that the man she had been dating, but was currently on a break with, was spotted on a date with another woman. The other woman was pretty, smart, and basically a real threat.
My friend was heartbroken. She was convinced the man would fall in love with this other great woman, forget my friend existed, and marry the other woman.
She was miserable.
As girlfriends are prone to do, we began to dissect, analyze, plot, and re-analyze the situation. Should she try to get him back? Should she be sly? Direct? Text? Call? Run into him in the hall? Wait for him to call? Just wait and see how things played out with the other woman? Why would the other woman mean anything to him? Girlfriend is beautiful, smart, and talented. There's no way the other woman had more going on than she did!
For hours we talked and commiserated.
My girlfriend spiraled downward. I have never seen someone so despondent. She was so depressed and pathetic!
And finally that's when reality hit me.
If she cared so much about him that she could feel that awful over the possibility of losing him, she couldn't- shouldn't- send a vague text, and run into him in the hall.
So I gave her advice I never thought I'd give. Me! The woman who perfected the art of the male analysis and plotting!
I told her if she felt that way about him, she needed to "man up," go to him, and tell him exactly how she felt.
She listened to me, but the girls on the bed resumed plotting and analyzing for a few more hours. (This part I remember well because it was my bed. I didn't get to go to sleep for a very long time.)
A few days ago my girlfriend posted a beautiful photo on Facebook- a man down on one knee, holding out a ring to her, and the happiest smile you have ever seen on her face.
I asked her for the details.
Much to my surprise, after we talked that night, she bought a plane ticket and flew to see him the very next day. She told him the truth. Three months later he proposed.
Her happy ending has me thinking about direct communication in relationships, and how often the female tendency to overthink/rethink/overanalyze every little detail in a relationship.
I recently stopped and took a look at a relationship with a guyfriend. For a long time I was very good about accepting communication with him at face value. Things were good between us then. But after things started to go south, I started "reading into things." And honestly, things went from south, to the south pole.
I'm going to learn a lesson from my friend, and (oddly) take my own advice- direct communication. No playing games.

Monday, September 09, 2013

Letting Go

Over the weekend I had to make the decision to let go of my past. It wasn't easy.
It may sound obvious, simple, and straightforward to some, but it wasn't for me.
All of my earthly belongings have been in a storage unit in another state for the past 3 years. I've put a lot of money into holding on to that unit. I always intended to go back and get my stuff when the time was right.
But now that the time is right, it was apparent that it wasn't cost-effective to go back for my stuff.
But you see, it wasn't just stuff.
It was all of the things that I had worked hard to procure and collect. It wasn't yard sale stuff or hand-me-downs. It was the physical evidence of the life I had built for myself. It was the evidence that I was once a competent, functioning, productive adult who had her own home, and pretty things.
There have been many nights over the past few years where I would close my eyes and mentally walk through my old home and remember all the little details. The antique lamp on the end table I refinished. The dresser I bought for $10, painted, restored, and put new handles on. The red striped drapes. My framed pictures. The little plaque in French I hung over my bed- what did it say? I can't remember anymore. The kitchen table I saved up for months to buy. The under the sea bathroom decor.
The time had come to fish or cut bait. Pay another $300 on the unit? Or just walk away, and let them auction it off. I tried to come up with an alternative plan (give everything to a friend who lives a few hours away) (if you are said friend, I owe you a much better explanation and apology). But that didn't work out.
Did I want to spend more money to hold on to this stuff I would likely never get to retrieve? I've held on this long. Was I ready to let go?
I won't pretend the decision was easy. In fact, there were a lot of tears over it. Never see my book collection again? (Nothing defines a girl like her book collection!) My antiques? All of my classic, vintage movie posters?
It wasn't just the "stuff." It was admitting that I'm not picking up my life where I left off 3 years ago. And that I have no choice but to start over from scratch now.
I like my job, and I am getting settled into my new life here. But... the move hasn't been completely without its difficulties. Although I have returned to my hometown, I'm still starting over again as the new girl. I have a few friends here already, but they are deeply rooted in their own lives and patterns. I'm a disruption, looking for a place to fit in.
Letting go of my stuff meant letting go of what left of my hopes that I would "be me again."
It meant I had to accept that I am building a new me. Growing, changing, and starting a new life. Not resuming my life where it was rudely cut off so long ago.
(It was all made that much more emotional and complicated by seeing my friends and family from Roanoke over the weekend. I am happy here, but it broke my heart to see everyone and not get to go home with them.)
But I did it. I let the storage unit go. Some storage auction hunter got some good stuff this weekend.
Deep breath.
Let it go.
Look forward, not back.
And accept that I have no choice but to buy a new vacuum cleaner now. My new life is going to be rather stinky and covered in dog hair if I don't do it soon.
So do I get this one?

Or this one?

There is a $70 price difference for pretty comparable "pet hair" vacuums.
Anyone have a vacuum they recommend for less than $150? 
And preferably one that won't remind me of my old life and make me unreasonably emotion when I look at it?
(just kidding. i actually like vacuuming.)

Friday, September 06, 2013

5 guys, 5 minutes. What could possibly go wrong?

Lauren Brooks is in a rut, and her roomie is determined to yank her out of it by convincing her to participate in a local coffee shop's 5-in-5 speed dating event. Once she agrees, it takes her about 30 seconds to realize if there's an oddball out there looking for love, he'll find her. And creep her out. She confronts one weirdo after another until someone she used to know winds up in the same place, and she has to decide what she wants more: to make a break for it, or embrace the possibilities of another chance.

Fun Facts about Arms Wide Open:

Lauren Brooks is based on a real person...a real survivor.

Although the author doesn't name a city as the setting, she imagined it happening in a little shop by the pier in Old Town Alexandria, Virginia.

The eyeball guy, Rico Suave, and the amorous hipster are all based on actual dates the author suffered through.

Check out Arms Wide Open, a novella about taking a chance on love! 

About the author: Juli Caldwell is also the author of Psyched, a YA paranormal novel, and Beyond Perfection, a latter-day romance. She lives near the shores of the Great Salt Lake with her husband, two bookworm daughters, and a dog who sheds too much. She will love you forever if you like her facebook page and follow her on Twitter. Check her blog often for updates on upcoming books, contests, and giveaways from her and other amazing authors!

Slut Shaming Has Its Place (but don't shoot me before you've read my whole post)

If you are on Facebook and haven't seen people linking to this blog post, you must have your eyes closed. Mrs. Hall's, "FYI (if you're a teenage girl)" blog post, an open letter to teenage girls regarding social media, has gone viral and then some.
In short, she says that she goes through her sons' social media accounts and blocks any girl who posts provocative pictures, including duck-faced selfies.
On many levels, I have no problem with what Mrs. Hall says. But then there are several other levels that she just plain gets wrong.
For starters, she comes off as a complete hypocrite for saying all of this, while posting pictures of her attractive young sons, posing in bathing suits on the beach- the exact kind of pictures she says she would block if a young woman posted one of herself doing that.
And she fails to teach her son's to be accountable for their own thoughts, and puts all of the burden and blame on the girls.

There have been dozens of bloggers responding to Mrs. Hall's post. My favorite thus far is "The Questions We Should Be Asking."
Last week the world was all a-twitter about Miley Cyrus' overly sexualized performance at the VMAs. While very few people talked about the fact that Robin Thicke was equally responsible for the performance, and even wrote the song.
But I digress.
Both sides of all these equations are right- women (regardless of age) should not be so anxious to post sexualized photos of themselves online, and men (regardless of age) should be held more accountable for their thoughts and subsequent actions.
What disturbed me the most in all of this discussion was a comment left on Facebook by a younger woman (20ish perhaps), angry at Mrs. Hall for "slut-shaming."
Her exact words-
"Dude selfies help boost self esteem. I post selfies on tumblr all the time, some more flashy than others and I post them because I feel good while taking them and I want to share that with the world. Acting like a girl posting pictures of herself on fb is the end of the world is super over dramatic of this woman. I'm sorry that her precious children are harmed so much by these images but she needs to stop policing women on what they do and start policing men on how they react. END SLUT SHAMING!"
There are so many things here I want to address and I barely know where to start. 
"selfies help boost self-esteem?" Oh sweetheart, I barely know what to say. I want to give you a huge hug, a plate of cookies, and a glass of milk, and sit you down and explain this one to you. Selfies do not boost your self-esteem. It's the artificial "likes" of the anonymous internet that is so-called building your self -esteem. If there is any lesson in life that I wish I could impart to you it is that you should never, ever build your self-esteem around the "likes" of random people on the internet.  
If you want to argue with me that it is the beautiful self-taken picture of yourself that gives you joy to look at, by all means, go ahead. But let me warn you, very little happiness has ever lasted long-term from taking joy in looking at yourself. Build your self-worth on something besides your image or how photogenic you are. 

And if you really want to prove to me that it isn't the "likes," and really is just the image, that builds your self-esteem, don't post them online for others to see. Keep it yourself and that will make it that much more special!
Claiming that you "feel good while taking them, and I want to share that with the world," is a bit... pathetic. You felt good taking pictures of yourself, and you want to share that... If it is your smile, happiness, and joy that you have captured in the moment, and that is what you want to share, share the MOMENT- not the duck-faced, cleavage shot. The MOMENT is rarely just your face. The MOMENT is the scenery, the experience, the people you were with. 
"stop policing women on what they do and start policing men on how they react. END SLUT SHAMING!"
Whoa, girlfriend. You almost got it right. Here is the problem-
We should never "police" anyone. We should teach- with love- accountability for our actions, and this goes for men and women. Men must be accountable for their own thoughts and actions. And women must be accountable for their thoughts and actions as well. 
And one of those actions is how they choose to dress. You can't expect to dress a certain way and not send a message about yourself. You chose the message when you chose the clothes. Take accountability for your choices!
"Slut Shaming" is the idea of shaming and/or attacking a woman or a girl for being sexual, having one or more sexual partners, acknowledging sexual feelings, and/or acting on sexual feelings. Furthermore, it’s “about the implication that if a woman has sex that traditional society disapproves of, she should feel guilty and inferior."
That I do not agree with. We should never make another woman feel guilty and inferior for her sexual choices.
BUT she should not be surprised that people will look at her and judge her motivations and actions if the message she sends is that she wants to be sexualized!  If the message you send is, "I'm open for sex," don't be surprised when the message is received and responded to!
For every word there is an opposite. What is the opposite of "slut shaming?" "Slut promoting?" "Slut proud?"
No, no ladies. Never will I be proud of you for dressing in a way that sells you short and sends the message to anyone who sees you that you see yourself as a sex object.
"But I want to look like a sex object, but be treated and respected for my mind."
Because you only get to send one message about yourself. You may try to send 5, but most people will only take the time to receive one. And the invisible message (the one that says you are smart and have superior brains) will get overlooked and ignored, as the colorful one on the outside screams louder and louder.
Women, you must own up to the messages you send. You must own up to the labels you choose to dress yourself with.
And yes, the men must absolutely own up to their thoughts and actions as well.
Girls, "selfies" are not a beautiful art form. They show no talent, no skill, no worth. I've taken my fair share of selfies. In fact, I consider it to be a tradition to take a selfie when I am on vacation. I've been doing this long before we started calling them "selfies." I have no problem with a selfie when there is no one else around to hold the camera for me.

There is an overabundance of photos (particularly on Instagram and Facebook) of doe-eyed girls staring into the camera, posing for a selfie. Ladies, good for you, you figured out that certain lighting, colors, angles, and makeup can improve how you look in a photo. But I want to stick my finger down my throat and puke every time you lean over the bed, careful to scrunch your boobs together with your elbows to create extra cleavage, while holding the camera above you 'just so,' and then you look deep into the lens and look surprised that, "Oh my! Did you catch me in this compromising, yet innocently seductive pose- with my camera? Oh my!"
I admit it 1,000 times over that I am guilty of too many selfies myself. (This blog is FULL of them.) Sometimes you want a picture of yourself at a special occasion, and there's no one to take it but you. You gotta do, what you gotta do.
Case in point-

But posting a semi-slutty image of yourself, just for fun, just for the "likes," is not enjoyed by others, nor does it do anything to boost your self-esteem, or help make people see the true you, and/or like you.

(Just the first 1.47 minutes of this video will do!)
My point here is ladies, don't sit around fooling yourself that others want to look at selfies of you (in compromising positions or now), or that they somehow make people think better of you. If you really want to look at that many beautiful pictures of your head, get a friend with a decent camera to take you out for a real photo shoot. 
Girls, ladies, women, own up to your own actions. Own up to the messages you send. Oh be wise, what can I say more? (Jacob 6:12)
And men, own up to your own actions. Own up to your thoughts. Own up to the messages you send.
Accountability is what ends victimization, and the immature blaming and pointing of fingers. 

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