Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Countdown

It’s four days until departure and I’m FREAKING OUT. It just registered in my head that after 4 years of working from home, I start a 9-5 office job on Tuesday. Tuesday! Three provinces away! What the hell am I thinking, leaving my Trevor for eight months?

I’m scrambling to tie up loose ends for work and ticking things off my massive household to-do list. Okay, that last part is a lie, I haven’t done a thing on my household to-do list. The house is a disaster zone. I haven't packed a thing. I haven't even done my laundry. Shit.

Meanwhile, how do you pack for eight months? Do I pack books? Do I take winter clothes? I can’t get my dog’s brand of food in the prairies, so do I pack an eight month supply? I have to get it right or risk having her fart us right out of my parents good graces. Ack!

Okay, breathe. Breathe. Thank God for a scheduled booze-up tomorrow night with the Corrie Canuck’ers. I be needin’ it.

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Link: The Nice Guy Paradox (Solved)

Interesting. Thoughts?
Most guys know about the nice guy paradox. It’s where they’ve been told since they were young — both by women and by society in general — that women like “nice” guys. And because they’ve been told this over and over, most guys grow up trying this approach only to have reality pee in their faces. Link.

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Sunday, July 29, 2007

Reiki and A Plant

I'm enjoying the last Sunday before I leave. Unfortunately Trevor had to work AGAIN. I took the dog to the beach and then had my very first Reiki treatment, thanks to a gift card. There was a lot of waving and wooshing and sweeping of hands over my body. She put a garnet on my solar plexus and other things in other places.

When we started she said my energy field was about as low as you can get, practically dermal. Towards the end of it she felt around about a foot or two above me and said, “that’s better.” I feel much like I do after acupuncture treatments: lightheaded and very thirsty.

Here is a picture of a plant that I rescued from someone's garbage. It was nearly dead. I have no idea what it is, only that it's the first plant to survive by my hand. I'm better with animals.

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Friday, July 27, 2007

Mall Update 4 - To The Younger Generation

Oh youth of today. Yes, you, the one sneering at her mom. You with the hair and the Tiffany earings. You’re on your cell phone, you’re holding hands with that boy, you’re swinging a nicer purse than I’ve ever owned in my life. You still have a slim bod and that natural colour that I would kill for. Is that natural? Maybe not. You're young, but who knows these days.

But oh my darling. No matter how much you paid for it, you will never be able to pull off ill-fitting clothes. Never ever. I can see your butt crack for gawd’s sake. You haven’t been that size of jeans for a few years, it looks like, and if you can’t walk in them, DON’T WEAR HEELS.

(Note To Self: ditch half of wardrobe, possibly these jeans)

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Mall Update 3 - It's An Epidemic

I just saw a reasonable looking older woman in a power chair drive right past a garbage can to deposit the candy she didn’t want into a potted plant. Her husband actually helped nudge her closer to the plant. The potted plant is fake.

People, I’m worried for our nation’s seniors. Apparently they're sex addicts, vigilantes or litterbugs. What the hell is going on here?

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Mall Update 2 - Breaking News!

Sess Man is a Sess Pervert!!! A different older gentleman wearing a snappy summer chapeau approached me to ask if the "guy with the white hair" had made advances on me.
"I'm keeping my eye on him," he said conspiratorially. "He's been bothering the ladies in the mall for ages now. I'm keeping my eye on him," he tapped his temple.

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Update From The Mall

Oh my. I forgot about that guy. Talker Guy. The older gentleman who spends his day in the mall talking to staff. He has me cornered going on 23 minutes. I know, because I keep looking at my watch and turning to my computer.

He is ranting about the state of the country and how young people only want to get married for Sex, only he pronounces it "Sess". "All they's want these kids is the Sess. Sess. You know what I mean? That's all they want."

Send help!!

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At The Mall

I’m sitting in the middle of a mall manning a booth for work. Don Henley just wrapped up the last notes of "Boy of Summer" and we've eased into an instrumental version of Gnarls Barkley's "Crazy".

On one side of me is a Fruits & Passion. On the other side is a Body Shop. My olfactory senses have completely shut down.

On the flip side, the mall offers free Internet and there’s a Tim Horton’s and an ice cream shop within 30 feet of me. Oh hell, that's probably not a good thing; my jacket button keeps popping open when I bend over.

In honour of my current environment, here’s a little about its inventor, Victor Gruen:
Austrian Victor Gruen is known as the father of the shopping mall. Gruen holds the world record for building the most shopping space in a single lifetime at 44,500,000 square feet. His designs became the mall model and nearly every shopping center in the world bears his mark. Yet in the late fifties and sixties as malls cropped up all over the United States, the great paradox of Victor Gruen unfolded. He looked out at his creation and was appalled. The shopping mall, he concluded, is a powerful evil.
Link.

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Thursday, July 26, 2007

Sweet Jebus, That's Old

The state of the planet worries me. My comfort was that I will probably die before it gets really bad. You know, "I'm sorry about the mess, my future kids. Good night and good luck."

And now this:
“The first person to live to be 1,000 years old is certainly alive today; indeed, he or she may be about to turn 60,” says Aubrey de Grey, the Cambridge University geneticist who has become the de facto spokesman of the anti-ageing crusade. “Whether they realise it or not, barring accidents and suicide, most people now 40 years or younger can expect to live for centuries.”
Link.

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Facebook Messenging

WORKING:
Hey, are you in the new house yet? Why were you at the C--? Can I still borrow / rent / buy your iSight? What is the meaning of life?

JASON:
1. Nope, don't take possession till August 15th.

2. I'm currently cutting two half hours for N---. Finishing the rough cuts this week and then coming back sometime August-September to finish them off.

3. Yes, you can still borrow my iSight. I don't think I have any need for it for a while. No worries.

4. Dictionary.com says the meaning of life (noun) is "the condition that distinguishes animals and plants from inorganic matter, including the capacity for growth, reproduction, functional activity, and continual change preceding death".

Monty Python states that the Meaning of Life is "Well, it's nothing very special. Uh, try to be nice to people, avoid eating fat, read a good book every now and then, get some walking in, and try to live together in peace and harmony with people of all creeds and nations."

I agree with both of those, but I think it is not the meaning of life that most people really want to know, but rather "What is the purpose of my life?". Unfortunately, this is not easily answered as it varies from individual to individual. As well, is our purpose in the grand scheme of things defined on an individual level or on a global one?

I think I personally lean mostly towards a humanist approach. This addresses our purposes on both levels in the form of enlightened self-interest, in which we attempt to enrich our own lives by trying to enrich the lives of others. This comes through our relationships with friends and strangers alike. I believe this is actually what defines the "ideal" that people seek when they get married or have children. I know that my brother had difficulty understanding his purpose until he had a child. Now, his purpose for living is defined through her.

Of course, I may not be the best person to answer this question as I currently don't know what my purpose is or what I need to find fulfillment. But in closing, let me say that perhaps the meaning of life is quite simply just to live and just go along for the ride.

It's like a giant Choose-Your-Own-Adventure book. If you take the south road, you end up at the Ranger Station and tell them that your friend Timmy is trapped in the mine. If you take the north road, you get lost and stumble into a bear den where you're eaten alive. Who could've known that the bear den was there? Obviously, not you. It's sucks that you were eaten but hey, that's life.

Hope that helps.

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Derren Brown - Subliminal Advertising

Via Dead Things On Sticks. He has a very good entry on how this might pertain to the creative process in Canada. Course, he always has good entries.

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I Chopped It Off

It's always a bit scary for most people while trying out a new place. It's best to get a referral from one of your friends or more. Then you can see the work the stylist does. Good luck.
--Facebook message from friend who is a stylist.

Whilst in debt, I often passed by this new salon on our street and gazed longingly into its resplendent window. Such elegant floral arrangements. Such ornate fixtures. Gold and gilt and maroon and roses and big paintings of Victorian boudoir scenes and a fountain. And two guys manning the chairs!
“That is the place for me.” I said wistfully, vowing to treat myself as soon as the debt was gone.

The day finally arrived. “I’m out of debt,” I instructed, “chop it off!” This was going to be ceremonial.

I liked my hairdresser immediately. Tanned, capris, pearl earrings and makeup, not to mention arm loads of gold bangles. He told stories of his 30-year career. He served me tea in a delicate china cup and cookies out of a tin.

Then we started talking about debt. Just in general terms and not for long, but he seemed to get distracted and a bit nervous. It got worse as the hour wore on and by the time he took out the scissors, he seemed downright stressed. It showed in the haircut.
“It’s great!” I said a little uncertainly when it was all over. I looked again. It wasn’t great. He handed me the mirror to check out the back. It was worse. But he had another client waiting and I have big trouble telling people what I think of their work. I tipped him 15%. That's how much trouble I have. So I just left.

For the rest of the afternoon I wore a path in between my computer and the mirror. I told myself to sleep on it. But as the blow-dry calmed down, it got worse, not better.

My former hairdresser had given me a bad cut and didn’t seem to know colours outside of the “mahogany” group. That is why I switched in the first place. But it was never as bad as this. With a mix of panic and reluctance, I called my old salon.
“She’s on vacation. You can see the owner at 4:30,” the receptionist said. Praise God and hallelujah. (I'm not a Christian but something about bad hair makes me pray)

The owner is Euro and thin, all long curls, heels, jeans and cleavage. “Yes,” she said running her fingers through my hair, “you have a natural wave back here. I can see what he was trying to do but it never would have worked.”
“Exactly. I look like my grade three school picture.”
She smiled distractedly and pulled out four different kinds of scissors. “You should have just come to us first,” she said with a laugh but I knew she wasn’t joking.

It’s shorter than I wanted but it’s much improved. Sadly, the whole process cost me a fortune. My get-out-of-debt haircut(s) pretty much put me back into debt.

What is the lesson here?

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Link: Spiderman Meets Planned Parenthood

Yes, it's a very special Marvel Team-Up, with Spider-Man and Planned Parenthood. Christmas came early this year.
Link.

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Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Er, hello!

I just noticed Schmutzie mentioned me and when someone like Schmutzie mentions you, you'd better damn well get something interesting up.

Meanwhile, you caught me in my jammies with a bit of oatmeal dried to my cheek and coffee spilled down my shirt. Yeah, the new design is appropriate.

A little about me: 30-something, living in Toronto, married to Trevor, owner of two cats, one dog and this laptop. The laptop is by far the most reasonable.

What else? I have a thing for Coronation Street. I work in the television industry. We recently got out of debt (the how here and here) People often think I'm pregnant but I'm not. I do actually read Tarot cards as implied, but I have no psychic powers that I know of.

Oh yeah, and I'm about to leave my beloved for eight months to go back home, which is thousands of miles away. Reasons here.

Thanks for stopping by!

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Tuesday, July 24, 2007

I Loved Regina

The Critic has started a new page called "I Loved Regina." The contributors are people returning to Regina after extended absences.

I've written a bit for it. I think the 'inside' perspective would be great, so if you're from the area, feel free to swing by and comment as we make our observations.

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Good Reads

Go join Good Reads. I would like to peruse your recommendations, so be my friend, too! Via Mimi Smartypants.

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Monday, July 23, 2007

Marital Conversations

“I hope you don’t meet someone else while I’m away.”

“Wouldn’t that be funny if after saying that, you’re the one who meets someone. You call me, Hello, Trev? I’ve met another man.’

“That would be funny.”

“And I’d be like, fine, come get your damn cat!”

“My cat? So you mean Kiwi. What happens to Boomer?”

“She’s going to the Humane Society. And then I’m getting a condo downtown.”

“That’s your dream life isn’t it? A bachelor in a downtown condo.”

"Yup.”

“Which makes me wonder how you ever landed in this,” gestures around, “situation.”

Shakes head, “I have no idea. Who was it who said ‘life is what happens while you’re making other plans’?”

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Look At Me!

My web page has a brand new outfit! A Schmutzie original! I love it. It inspires me to post more often, so too bad for you.

I spent the weekend working and reading the latest Harry Potter. I know, I know, enough HP already. But I find the whole thing fascinating. Notice how the media can't talk about her without mentioning how rich HP made her, how much she's worth now? And am I wrong in thinking that it's often said with a tone of disdain? Why is it so awful that this woman wrote a series of books that made her a ton of money? Is that even relevant?

I also listened to The Golden Compass as an audio book this week (debt is gone, Audible is back, the house is being cleaned again!) and while I think it's brilliant (and the recording is particularly well done), I can't say I crave the next installment. It's so imaginative. But not so addictive. Maybe I'll feel differently after the second book.

There's just something about Harry Potter. JK told a good story, simple as that. It's like a jar of Graber olives to me; you may not understand why, but I simply had to consume it to the very end. And I enjoyed every minute.

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Monday, July 16, 2007

Link: Stop Trying To 'Save' Africa

Every time a well-meaning college student speaks of villagers dancing because they were so grateful for her help, I cringe. Every time a Hollywood director shoots a film about Africa that features a Western protagonist, I shake my head -- because Africans, real people though we may be, are used as props in the West's fantasy of itself.
Link.

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Saturday, July 14, 2007

All Blacks vs Tonga

I don't know why, but this really works for me.

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Battle at Kruger

This is amazing. Via So Close.

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Friday, July 13, 2007

Mad About Mad About You

What the hell happened to the final season of Mad About You? I missed when it aired back in I guess 1999, and have been catching up lately. We didn't have a TV until the 90s so those shows were particularly influential to me. Northern Exposure, Frasier, Murphy Brown (I consider myself lucky to have missed most of the television of the 80s).

But that last season of Mad About You, what a stinker! I've heard of jumping the shark, but this show landed on the shark and gave it a noogie. The show runners apparently lost their minds.

The episode where Jamie and Paul let Mabel "cry it out", and Jamie's depression episode were okay, reminiscent of previous seasons. It gave them all sorts of places they could go. But otherwise, it is a completely different show. Even the actors seem to be phoning it in.

Something big must have happened. Maybe the people in charged freaked out and fired all the writers and took to writing the scripts themselves, thinking they could do a better job. Then hired their brother-in-laws to direct.

Whatever the case, I hope someone tells the real story some day.

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Wednesday, July 11, 2007

The How To

Will you provide a Coles notes version of how to do this? We are in the same boat. Exactly how much in debt were you and exactly how much time did it take from day 1 to day finish?
--Jack
Dear Jack,
Our debt was probably the equivalent of half a year of our salaries combined. We were barely making a dent in the principle. Six months later, we are completely out of debt.

We were able to bring in a little extra income, which helped. But the biggest single factor was controlling our spending. We couldn’t have done it without a financial advisor and I just happen to work for one I consider to be the best in the country.

Here is essentially what we did:
  1. We collected six months worth of financial records: every line of credit, credit card, checking or savings account.
  2. We made a spreadsheet with categories, like Cash Withdrawal, Groceries, Restaurant, Transportation, Phone, Cable, Travel, Pets, Sports, Bank Fees, NSF fees, Interest, Insurance, Loan Payments, etc.
  3. We plugged in the numbers from the statements. Every single number had to have a home on the spreadsheet, right down to the $1.50 for ATM use.
  4. We totaled the columns. Divided it by six and we had our average monthly spending in each category. Then we threw up a little.
  5. We gathered the most recent copies of every one of our monthly bills.
  6. We researched our outstanding loan, mortgage and credit card balances, plus their interest rates.
  7. Took all of this information to our financial advisor.
  8. She took a look and showed us where we were bleeding money. She told us we were spending three times more than we made each month. She also calculated how bad it would get if we didn’t do something immediately.
  9. Trevor walked around looking very pale for three days.
  10. She came back with a budget for us broken into two main categories: fixed and variable expenses. Fixed expenses are anything you can’t change: debt repayment, mortgage payment, rent, cable bill, etc.
  11. For debt repayment, she gave us a repayment schedule. We set up automatic withdrawals to pay the minimum payments on all debt, but we set up significantly higher payments on the debt with the highest interest. As each debt was cleared, the money was rolled onto the next highest interest debt. And so on.
  12. We also set up automatic withdrawals of 30% for taxes (we’re both freelancers) and 10% for savings. In savings, 1/2 went to RRSPs, ¼ went to a mat leave fund, ¼ went to an emergency fund.
  13. Next came variable spending, for which she also provided a budget. Variable spending is money you take out in cash each week. It is divided into five jars:
    1. Entertainment,
    2. Gifts and Clothes,
    3. Food,
    4. Transportation,
    5. Misc. (dentist, household supplies, pet supplies). It was our choice how to spend it, if we wanted to move money between the jars. However, once the money for the week was gone, it was gone. No running for the debit card.
  14. We kept track by keeping all receipts. We revisited our spending each week before we replenished the cash. We made very difficult choices about the last $10 in the jar.
  15. The debt took on a snowball effect. That was fun to watch. Our savings also built quickly.
  16. Wash, rinse, repeat until debt completely paid off.

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Aftermath

First of all, thank you for all of the congratulations and phone calls. You can imagine what being out of debt means to us.

Now, if I may address the most common question, how did we not know we were close to being out of debt?

Well actually, judging solely by our loan balances, we weren't close to being out of debt. However, in addition to aggressive repayment of our debt, our financial guru also had us putting a good percentage of our income into savings. These were divided into short (taxes, emergency fund), medium (mat leave, house) and long term (RRSPs) savings.

Yesterday, it occurred to me that we have exactly as much saved in our short and medium term savings as we are in debt. We wondered if it made sense to transfer those savings to pay off the remainder of the debt. If we were no longer paying on the debt and its related interest, our savings will be replenished very quickly. We'd already proven how quickly we could build up savings despite our substantial debt payments, just by keeping control of the spending.

The worry is, of course, leaving yourself vulnerable by spending your savings. Well, we still have a significant safety net in our RRSP's, which we don't touch, and the income stored in Trevor's corporation, which can continue to pay him should there be a job loss. And given that a significant chunk of the next round of paychecks does not have to go to debt, we'll be in the black all the quicker, so long as we don't spend.

So we checked with our financial guru and when she gave us the go-ahead, it was done and done! We are at zero.

The end!

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Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Can This Be True?

Working and Trevor would like to announce that as of 8:59PM, nine months ahead of schedule, they are officially out of debt.

Completely.

Our financial guru has confirmed that we are, in fact, in the clear.

We are completely... just... amazed. It didn't occur to us until today that we could be this close. Trevor and I have been each carrying the weight of debt for about a decade now and I can't describe what it feels like to finally be free.

We know what it's going to take to stay on the road. The next year will be as big a test.

Still, one of the happiest days of my life.

Thank you, Gail!!!!!!!!!!!!

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Monday, July 09, 2007

News

I am going back to Saskatchewan to work for the next eight months.

Now, FAQ’s (can they be called FAQ’s if I've never actually been asked ? Oh well):

Q: Where is home if you’re not at home right now?
A: Oh right. Well, I have been living in Toronto for almost four years. So this really is home. But I still refer to Saskatchewan as “home”, mostly because my massive family still lives there. So does Trevor’s.

Though when I gave notice today I did say, “I am moving back to Saskatchewan” instead of “I am moving home,” just to avoid confusion.

Q: How far is it?
A: Map Quest says 1673.63 miles to my parents’ doorstep.

Q: So why so far?
A: Clearly I need a shake up. As you can tell from my writing, things have been, well, psychologically complicated lately. Then this job opportunity came up and I thought it sounded like the perfect shake up.

Q: What kind of “work”?
A: I’m still going to be in the television industry. I’ll continue to preserve my employer’s privacy and I won’t talk about work on this space. But I will say it’s a job I could get really excited about.

Q: But you have a good job, non?
A: I need to say here most emphatically that I’ve loved my current contract. They have been so good to me. It's a show I really believe in.

But I need to get out of this house. It’s been getting me down. I’m starting to get anti-social and more than a little weird. I’m in the most wonderful city that I don’t even appreciate anymore. I don’t want my work to start suffering from all of this. I need a recalibration.

Q: And what about your husband? Remember him?
A: Well obviously Trevor is a factor. We're both slightly nervous that people are going to assume we couldn't make a go of it after less than a year.

But, and I can’t even joke about this, Trevor is the single most important thing in my life. So much so that writing that just made me tear up. The great thing about Trevor is he took it seriously. He considered it carefully and for a week straight we fell asleep and woke up in this ongoing conversation.

He says I should go; we're committed to the debt thing for the next half year, so we'll just be working our arses off anyway. I'll also be able to get some much needed time with my friends and family.

He says we’ll be okay, that we’ll do the things we know it takes to stay close. We’ve done this before. The minute it’s not working, I’m on a jet plane home, baby.

Plus, we’re buying webcams.

Q: Why isn’t he going with you?
A: Because he loves Toronto, doesn't want to leave it, and besides, mine is only a short-term gig for now. That said, I know what he would do for me if I asked him to. But I don’t need to ask him to do that for me.

Plus, we’ll be seeing each other every two months for minimum a week at a time, including our anniversary and Christmas. And those will be a memorable collection of weeks, let me tell you.

Q: Is it Toronto?
A: No. I am coming back to Toronto when all is said and done. I have a feeling I'm going to miss it.

Q: Is it Saskatchewan?
A: Not so much. I can be just as depressed there, too. But I have a strong support system there that has always helped me to snap out of it when I need to. That means something.

I'm also likely going to get back into training. It kicked my ass into shape once and I haven't found its equivalent out here. I've also hired the services of a Life Coach, someone I greatly respect. And I will be continuing therapy. And drinking beer.

So I like to think of it more like, "momma's going to a 'health spa' for eight months".

Q: What about Kiwi, Boomer and Charles?
A: I'm taking Charlie-girl with me. We pictured her experiencing her first vast, open prairie field and just knew it had to be. Minus forty will suit her just fine.

But don't think for a second I'm not already missing Boom-booms and Kiwi-The-Bat-Cat. Sniff!

Q: So if you're not going to be working from home, your blog title doesn't make any sense.
A: Good point.

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Friday, July 06, 2007

Canal + The March of the Emperor (English Subt.)

Thank you, Shatnerian!

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Thursday, July 05, 2007

Link: Moore's Sicko, As Seen In Texas

Holy cow, am I busy. Way too busy to be depressed. And that's a good thing because for the most part, I'm quite content.

This was also soul-lifting.

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Wednesday, July 04, 2007

Pregnant?

I could just scream.

I mentioned craving a Chai Latte on Facebook and someone commented that it must be because I’m pregnant and "congratulations!".

I'm sure he was teasing. But oh, what timing. In the last week, THREE people have asked me when I’m expecting.

To Do List:

1. Fix posture IMMEDIATELY.
2. Burn that tent-shaped top.
3. Never put my hand on own belly, even if suffering worst case of indigestion ever.
4. Get to the gym ten times in next week, preferably more.
5. Stop eating, possibly forever.
6. Write article reminding people why they should never, ever, EVER ask. Ever.

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Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Link: An Example of Our Culture of Indulgence

Link

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Monday, July 02, 2007

Depression

As soon as I told everyone under the sun that I’m having a recurrence of Depression, it eased. My psychotherapist gave me a prescription. I put on my desk so that I can look at them every day and decide.

So far, not particularly interested.

I’m not against happy pills and I’m not saying I’ll never take them. Just not today. Because while it's been an exhausting week, it's also been very social, exhilarating and mind-bending. And I feel good.

See, Trevor and I just weathered the first Big Decisions of our married life. I won’t talk about it yet due to jinxing. You know how it is. However, we had to really think about what our marriage means to us, how much leeway we have with each other. What are the deal breakers? (note: none of this involves anything remotely sexual so if you're thinking prostitutes or polyamory, you're very cold)

I know, so serious! So heavy! Did I mention I'm Depressed?

“Honeeeeeey?”
“Whaaaaat?”
“Can you make me some tea?”
“But… aren’t you in the kitchen right now? While I’m all the way over here in the living room?”
“Did I mention I’m Depressed?”

“Wanna maybe do the dishes?”
“Naw.”
“Wanna maybe take a shower?”
“Um, no.”
“Wanna maybe hand me that popsicle stick stuck to your face?”
“I’m Depressed.”
“Wanna get sushi?”
“Hell yeah!”
"Gee, that sure perked you up."

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CURRENT MOON