Thursday, July 17, 2014

End Times

Guys, it's becoming clear to me that I'm just not in a blogging space lately. I've thought long and hard about it, and I'm going to work through stuff offline for a while. The blog is coming down until I figure out what I want to do with it. Toddler-raising has made me unable to devote writing time to projects that are necessary, and I'm really against the use of blogs for venting purposes only. So, with that in mind, I will be pulling down the metal door on Monday and going on hiatus. Love to all of you that read and send me supportive messages and comments. You've held me up on hard days and made me laugh. 


sweet lady

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Day 7: Personality

A: I don't know why the first day of the project is up after the other days in the project in my blogroll.
B: It's taken a bit to get this 7th day together because my summer has been busy, crazy, and awesome. 

Day 7: Personality

This installment should be about celebrating aspects of my personality that I like and figuring out how to improve those that I dislike.

The Good: "I can totally make that."
I guess in the "like" category is my can-do attitude. My number one thought when an obstacle presents itself is that it is not, in fact, an obstacle. If at all possible, I barrel right through that thing and say hi from the other side. M. often laughs at my favorite refrain when I see something I like that looks too expensive or is somehow inaccessible:  "I can totally make that." Am I good at making things? Somewhat. I can't sew. So when I see a dress that no longer exists that I want, I don't exactly say "I can totally make that." But if I see an old dresser that looks like crap but has the bones of a great piece with some work, or a hand painted rug, or a pendant shaped like a comic book "pow"? Yeah, I can totally do that. Some of it comes from not being able to afford things or to pay someone to do it for me, but a lot of it comes from inner creativity and a drive to learn. Just the other day, I wanted to find a little wooden kid-sized kitchen for Jack, and I found one on Craigslist for $40 in need of rehabbing. It was fine, just dented and stained and stuff. I took it home, cleaned, sanded and repainted it and voila!

I painted the "oven" shelf to look like a rack!

You could buy one of these for a little over $100, but that's ridiculous on our budget. So now he has a custom kitchen that nobody else has, I got my creativity jones sated, and we're all happy.

Other aspects of this attitude is helpful in the case of big problems that we face, because it contains within it a hope that things will be better (or at least alright), as well as a desire to get past the problem. For example, my car recently got totaled. Nobody was in it, and nobody got hurt. The story, however, is crazy.

Apparently some drug addled Floridian ran his rented car at high speed onto a street, running into (amongst others) a Thunderbird, which jumped the curb in the parking lot where my car was parked. It proceeded to land on the roof of my car, and ramble on or into several other cars before it stopped and the shaken driver stepped out.  So my Red Rita was crushed. We'd just put in a new transmission and new tires. Feeling really glad that we didn't do a new stereo system! Still, how crazy is that?! This is a two door coupe that I bought just before I found out I was pregnant. Jack's infant seat fit in the back, but not his toddler car seat. As a result, M took on driving it most of the time. He was at work when it happened and so the other cars hit by the flying Thunderbird belonged to his co-workers. He called me after it happened and I could hear that he was shaken. He said, "Are you sitting down?" 

So now I'm totally freaked out. 


And he explained what happened. I actually let out a sigh of relief because I thought someone died or something. Then, after confirming no one in the accident was hurt, I realized that we had a big problem: our car, our paid off and totally payment-free car was now dead. I could have put my head in my hands and thought, "why me?" But instead I was actually a bit relieved that we could now get a car that the baby could ride in. I saw the future in which we had a better car for our needs. One that, with a decent insurance pay-out, would be better than Red Rita (RIP). It's like the Universe stomped on my car, but, you know, for a reason. I immediately had high hopes and we do have a better car for our needs. He was understandably sad and anticipating a bad few weeks, but I knew it would turn out ok. My used Corolla is a great family car that will be great as Jack grows. I'm the happy camper I knew I would be (thanks in large part to M dealing with insurance and researching cars to buy). 

The Bad: "Ugh, do I really have to do that?"
Sometimes, I talk myself out of doing things. It's not really an "I can't do that/make that" scenario (see previously, wherein I believe I can do/make everything), but more of a "I don't want to do that" scenario.

I am a bad, bad procrastinator. If I don't want to do something, like for instance detail parts of my personality that I dislike on a public blog, I put it off. I somehow believe that not wanting to do a thing, and doing it anyway, will make the thing turn out bad. That I will dislike doing the task so much that I will ruin it or not do it justice. Which is true, but so is doing it at the last minute and not having time to make it good. I put off my dissertation for 5 years. I'm not saying I didn't work on it, but I didn't put my head down and write like you're supposed to and I didn't treat it with the respect it deserved until the end of the process. It could have been a much better project had I sucked it up and did it right in the first place.

The procrastination issue makes me wonder if I could use some kind of boot camp style tough love. Would I work better if there was someone there to say, "you need to grow up and suck it up and get this done like a goddamned adult!"? That person lives in my head all the time, and I ignore her completely and go about my day. Would I sink down even further if that kind of person was in my life? I can see myself defiantly stating my reasons for not doing a thing. "I've had a hard day!"

Would I respond well to a more toned-down, well-meaning, grandmotherly, "honey, don't you think you'd be happier if you just got it over with and revised the article already?" I'm not sure. I went into therapy thinking maybe my therapist would be that person. Someone to tell me when I'm fooling myself or remind me that I'm putting off something important. Mostly "therapy" is a bi-monthly checkup to see if I have any side-effects rather than any kind of emotional inquiry. Should I get a new doctor? How do you ask if your doctor is a hard-ass who'll whip you into shape? Is that a thing the woman making appointments would know? I'm changing insurance in January. I guess I'll (not surprisingly) put off the issue until then. 

In order to work on my procrastination, I went looking for answers as to why it paralyzes me in the first place. I bought books and read online about it, and I know it's related to anxiety over performing well and fear of being evaluated by my peers. So I have been working on this issue for a bit, but I keep feeling like I could do more, be more if I had the drive to get things done. That same drive that I have when I see something in the "I could totally do that" would be nice. I can post my art on a website for millions of people to look at (and buy, and leave feedback!) but I freak out over writing an academic article that maybe 100 people will actually read. WTF is up with that? 

In other news, summer break has been wonderful in a lot of ways. Great beach days with Jack, good date nights with M., a trip to Las Vegas for our anniversary. I've done a lot of drawing and painting. I'm feeling overwhelmed at the end of the day on account of spending 12 hours with a rampaging toddler, but it's just temporary and he's growing so fast! 

He speaks in sentences now (short ones, but still). He is starting to climb and make jokes and do silly things to entertain us. And he says "night night mama" at the end of the day, which melts my heart. The first time I heard it I cried. I'm a lucky lady, all told.

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Real Me Project Day 1

As a little self-esteem/introspection project, I've decided to do a 10 day photo challenge (30 days is way too much for me!). I have mixed several challenges together to form this one, so I'm hopeful that it will do the job. What is the job, you ask? The purpose of these challenges is usually to make you feel better about yourself by having you post pictures of things you like about yourself. That kind of project might be good, but I was more interested in a project that doesn't shy away from the stuff I don't like about myself.

Part of the impetus for doing this is to get to like the parts of me that are not perfect. It's been a year and three months since Jack was born. I definitely have things to work on, but also, I'm changed forever in some respects. So this challenge is going to consist of doubles. Each post will be about something I like/am confident about balanced with something I don't like/am not confident about. The only rule I have is no Photoshop. I can use filters to change things color-wise, and I can crop pictures, but no retouching! Let's start with the list, shall we? 

Day 1 - Body Parts
Day 2 - Habits
Day 3 - Food
Day 4 - Places
Day 5 - Outfits
Day 6 - Hair
Day 7 - Personality
Day 8 - Creativity
Day 9 - Friendships
Day 10 - Loves

So here's Day 1: Body Parts

Dislike: Even before baby Jack, I had a battle with the belly. It's truly the part of me I dislike the most. I didn't get stretch marks, but it definitely got looser. It wasn't exactly tight and flat before Jack. I could stand to lose a few, and I see it daily when I look down. Now that I'm looking at it in a photo, it doesn't even look too bad. Here's the front view in a shirt that isn't billowy.

I have taken to wearing loose shirts and my favorite are the kind that billow out over the belly area. It's hard not to veer into "tent" territory with that kind of wardrobe, so I'm trying to like regular shirts. I long for a flat belly, but even thinking about the work I would have to put into it makes me want to just go take a nap.

Like: The "like" side of the photo is my rear end. I do like it, even though it is quite ample. I didn't use to like it, and for a very long time tried to hide it by wearing only dark pants. I'm still only comfortable in dark pants, but something happened in the past few years and I now own a few pairs of bright colored pants or light colored jeans. There's a trick to showcasing a larger backside, and despite what Nikki Minaj tells you, it's not neon spandex. It's all about pocket placement! Check out this tutorial on how to shop for jeans here. I found it life changing. 

There are things you cannot fake in this world. A nice ass is one of those things. Padding looks like padding, and don't get me started on implants! You've either got it, or you don't. I'm happy I've got it.

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Day 6: Hair

For most of my life, I didn't know what to do with my hair. It's not very curly, but it is not straight. It hangs out between the two in a very Janis Jopliny hippie wave that I dislike intensely. Let's just say that if I "went natural" I'd be very much at home in a museum display about early humans.
"Go forth, young one, and seek out conditioner."

Having "good hair" in this culture generally means having white hair. Straight, strong, sunny beautiful white hair. The term is mostly used in the African American community to describe hair that is more like Caucasian hair than African hair, i.e. not curly, kinky, or wavy. Women pay a lot of money in the US to straighten their hair, whether through chemical treatments or by getting weaves. Tons of products on the market offer you the ability to get straighter, smoother, frizz-less hair. Though I wouldn't go the chemical route, I do buy a lot of these products, and I use a flat iron for special occasions. Chris Rock produced a 2009 documentary called Good Hair about the subject. It's not a great documentary, and he annoyed me many times as narrator, but it does show the way hair is a multi-billion dollar business. Getting us to feel anxiety over not having great hair keeps us buying whatever we can to reach the ideal. I used to think the ideal was Michelle Phillips of the Mamas and the Papas:

I bet she just wakes up this way. Or maybe brushes it out with one of those bristle brushes you'd use on horses just after her shower. You can't really get further from her to my hair.

My mom has always had awesome hair. Check out this amazing mane from her high school senior picture:

Her hair has always been straight but strong and curlable when necessary. She' has always had hot curlers and curling irons, and she knows how to use them to get the ends of her hair to do luxurious soft curls. She did go through a phase in the 80s involving perms, but who didn't? Let's just not talk about that.

My dad is really where I get my hair from. Here are some gems:

His uncontrollable hair was so beneficial in the 70s. He kept it short for much of the 80s, but it still required product to look managed. That's exactly what I'd look like if I decided to be a 70s man.

When I was a little kid, I had straight hair with curly tips:

But when adolescence came, so did the wave. The sometimes uncontrollable waves.

When I first decided to give in an love curly hair, I tried a perm, just to get the ringlets that mean "curly" to me. I wanted to look like Darlene Connor:

What I got was even more frizzy puffy hair. It was also very thick and heavy, so the wave would start at about the ears, with the top being a bit bulky, but otherwise fairly straight. I used mousse, I used pomade, I used gel, and I wore braids when my hair was long enough to do so. I couldn't figure it out. I mean, how do curly haired women get their hair so straight!? My mom would sometimes do my hair, but she used techniques that worked for her hair (how could she know any different). All I got was frizz.

In my 20s, I decided to go with it by getting the Bettie Page 'do. But I also figured shorter equals easier to deal with, and learned about the magic of the flat iron.

Do you know how long it takes to get my hair to do this, even at this length? About 30 mins of drying with a paddle brush or round brush, then another 20 minutes of flat ironing. I get my money's worth at the salon when I get my hair done because they are up there forever getting it flat flat flat.

Once, when I was in my mid-twenties, my hairdresser made a mistake. She cut a huge chunk very short. I had short hair, but she cut it REALLY short. She asked me, casually, if I liked Winona Ryder's hair. That's when I knew things were going south. I had the shortest cut of my life and when I left, I was sweaty and crying. But, after a few weeks, it wasn't so bad. And I learned from it that hair grows back. A bad haircut is a temporary thing, so why not try something new each time you go? Why not let the stylist make some choices.

For a long time, I hated my hair and wished it was stick straight so I could have cool haircuts that required no work. I would be disappointed when I'd get a haircut from a picture and see it, over the next few days, be a puffier version of what I asked for. But in my 30s, I have come to terms with my hair in a big way, and after the baby I have made even more progress. I have gotten a lot of different styles over the past 8 years:

I remember in graduate school, a professor who should have known who I was saw me in the elevator and didn't say hello. After an awkward silence, I finally bit the bullet and said hello and he said, "Sorry, I know who you are, but you keep changing your hair style, so I wasn't sure."

This is my hair in my "embrace the wave" phase:

After having a baby, I found that doing my hair was my least favorite thing in the world. The hair drying would wake him up, so I avoided it. It was long enough for a pony tail, so I just did that. A clip for my bangs and a pony tail. Glamour.

I'd go to the store that way, and come home and see myself in the mirror and realize that I had some kind of ridiculous birds nest situation and feel horrified that people talked to me and had to pretend I was a normal human being. So I decided to get a short haircut again and do my hair as much as I could. I could definitely dry my bangs in like 3 minutes, so that worked. I worked product into the rest of my hair and it curled up somewhat. It's served me well in the past few months. It took a while, but I finally feel like my hair is good hair. It's strong and shiny, and it can be straight or wavy or curly or piled super high. I actually feel bad for ladies like Michelle Phillips now, who have thin hair that can't hold a style, or who have to work very hard for curls that fall flat by the end of the day.

This week, after I submit grades for the semester, I'm treating myself to a new haircut. Here's hoping it goes well! I'll post a pic if I feel brave enough.

Saturday, May 10, 2014

Day 4: Outfits

Real Me Project Day 4: Oufits

This is the fashion entry in my 10 part series on self-esteem and personal growth. I have been trying to think of what my go-to best outfit is. Sadly, everything in my wardrobe is black these days. And not out of gothiness, as in the past (OK maybe partly out of gothiness). No, most of my clothes are black because I got bigger, and black is slimming.

I often find that I will see something nice at the store that isn't black, and I like the color and the shape, and then I see that there is also a version in black and so I take them both to the dressing room. You can imagine which one I choose. 

I've been making a concerted effort not to always choose black things, but it's hard. Especially with the worst fashion experience ever, the swimsuit. I really want to believe in the retro glam swimsuit. I even think these models look great in them!

But I can't seem to see myself in them. First of all, what's with these plus size models that have no bellies!? It's precisely the belly that is my main concern. In my search for a swimsuit, the best I have come up with is a Miraclesuit swim dress:

It's got a tummy control panel, it's black, and it isn't a bandeau top (I tend to buy those because I don't want tan lines, and then I feel like I"m about to flash everyone at any moment and hold my chest when I go under water. who needs that?).  It has a little skirt that hides the cellulite situation just below my backside. I'm hoping it makes me feel cute at the pool when we go on our yearly trip to Vegas. 

I see plenty of curvy ladies in colorful outfits that look great, but I can't see myself in them. I have to learn to get past it, but I don't really know how. I mean, the way to look good, in my opinion, is to A) find clothing that fits you well, B) look and feel comfortable in it, and C) walk and sit with good posture. 

I can find A, I can do C, but B? B is tough to pull off, and it sucks because without B, you don't have the confidence to make people think it's a great outfit. 

A great outfit can die because you killed it with your attitude. Isn't that sad? 

This series of posts is supposed to be about growth and change, so I don't want to just rant on my issues, I want to fix them. Let's think of some ways I can get over my obsession with black-as-the-solution-to-my-body-image thing. So far, my solution has been to buy everything in navy. That, my friends, is denial. So let's see what I can do. At least for now. As we all know, I plan on only wearing black flowy caftans during my later years as party of a witchy Stevie Nicks lifestyle in which I have an herb garden and dispense advice to neighbors using tarot cards. But this is for today's Sweet Lady, so....


1) Work my way up slowly by buying pants that aren't dark. All the pants that I have (except for maybe two) are dark. Dark wash jeans, navy slacks, charcoal suit pants, and chocolate brown corduroy. It's hell looking for a specific pair in the closet in the morning, since they all look the same in low light! I think maybe jewel tones might work as a start. Target has these on clearance for $20:

2) Wear more skirts and dresses. Something about skirts and dresses feels so "dressed up" to me that I don't think about wearing them in a regular, daily way. What's up with that? Dresses are a good way to feel cute and they flow in the belly/hip/thigh area that I find problematic. I've bought a couple party dresses from and they were relatively cheap as well as great fits. They offer the option of tailoring the garment to your specific proportions for only  $7.50 more per item, which I thought was ridiculously cheap. Both pieces that came were perfect fits and under $70 each. They've got stuff like this:

I have a few skirts that I used to love, but now fit weird because of the belly. I should maybe invest in something a little more A-line that sits at the hips, but most A-line skirts are high waisted. If I put on one of those high waisted skirts, because the waist on my body is so much smaller than the hips, it rides up, or the thing spins around all day. Perhaps skirts are going to have to be part of some kind of spanx combo. 

3) Learn to distrust my inner voice when it comes to fashion.  And possibly seek out advice.
This one seems crazy. I have a hard time arguing that I should go against my instincts. I mean, aren't instincts there to tell you when things aren't right? Isn't trusting them something you should do? Maybe if you're a normal person, who sees themselves as they really are, but not if you live in body dysmorphia land and see a whale in the mirror. I could be hot stuff, if I didn't listen to my inner monologue. I could walk confidently if I didn't give in to the fear or the uncomfortable feeling. Discomfort should let you know that something's not right. But in my case it's preventing me from trying to move beyond this very tiny space. I'm afraid of going beyond the comfort zone. So this is really about fear. I should totally shop with my mom. She wears white pants. WHITE PANTS. The thought of owning white pants is so completely foreign to me that I can't even consider it even now, after the bloggy fashion soul searching I just did. Maybe someone like that is a good adviser. 

I think I'm going to go buy those cheap Target pants now. Any advice you all have is much appreciated!

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Day 4: Places

The Real Me Project continues with Day 4: Places

This is about my favorite and least favorite places. 

Favorite place: 

Home is a smallish apartment in Long Beach, CA. It's got two bedrooms, one bathroom, a galley kitchen with little ventilation, and no air conditioning. The building has had several infestations of termites, the plaster on the walls crumbles around anchors I put in to hold up shelves, and there is a growing crackly spot in my bathroom ceiling that seems to be showing black mold coming through. I think about moving all the time, and if we could afford it, we'd be renting a house with a small yard and some breathing room. But we can't afford it right now, so we're in this little apartment for the foreseeable future. Here's why it's good: the complex is small enough that we know some of our neighbors (some of whom are awesome), it's got a gate with an intercom entry so there's security there, the grounds are really beautiful and lush with plants and flowers, and also....'s got my whole life in it. 

It might not be the best place to live, and it may be too small for us, but it has a happy, calm vibe. I love going home, and I'm happiest there. It's soothing just knowing I'm on my way home. Some people get anxious about going home because it's chaotic or messy or the responsibility there is overwhelming, but not me. Clean or messy (never dirty), I love my place, and at night I rest pretty easy.

Least favorite place: 

I tried to think about a really bad place I've been, but mostly those situations were more about bad trips and not at all the fault of the place I visited. Then I thought, if this is going to be a project about working on myself, I should pick a "least favorite" place that I deal with all the time. That way, I can work on why it's so bad and what I can do about it.  

Least favorite place? The academic conference. It's full of potential new information that will be great for me personally and professionally. I used to love them as a graduate student. I should be going to them whenever I can....but I hate them.

Required amenities of the academic conference include the conference program, your ID on a lanyard, and alcohol to numb the psychological pain.

I hate that they cost so much and there's little to no funding for them since I'm an adjunct. I hate that they are full of sneering people who ask rude questions at seminars. And I'm always a little bitter that people who present ridiculously inane or simplistic papers have tenure track jobs and I don't. 

So what can I do about this? Well, my modus operandi at conferences lately (the few times I've actually motivated to go) is to skip everything but the presentations I'm really interested in. I don't go to the keynote, I don't do the dinners or social events. I just get my info and leave. Pretty sad. I should probably man up and do the work instead of thinking of it as not entertaining enough (or whatever). I should probably work on writing during any free time I have so I can present at these things instead of scribbling notes in the audience. I should probably try to make connections with people who are working on stuff that's similar to mine. 

I should.

I wonder, is this a cue for me that this life (academia) isn't what I want? 

Or if that is just a cop out and I should do the stuff that isn't fun because it will be good for me (schmoozing with academics and being more serious about my field). If it's the former, I've got to think about my whole career and what else I could possibly do with my talents, which primarily consist of teaching college students and deciphering academic jargon while sighing. If it's the latter, well, I guess I'm going to have to have some internal pep-talks and get out there.  

I'm really tired you guys. I could use a break. Or a breakthrough.