Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Rich Men, Poor Men, and The Best Kind of Men: How to Choose

This weekend, a lovely lady that I know was set up on a date.

She and the man went to a bar. He ordered several drinks while she sipped one. When their bill came, she offered to chip in. He paid for her drink, and said, “No, you can pick up the next tab.”

Then, at the next bar, the man ordered seven appetizers, including a platter of mussels that my friend was allergic to. Then, as promised, he let my friend pick up the tab.

Dudes, the jig is up on this one.

We know this trick. In my single days, it happened to me too.

Unfortunately, a nice girl will pay for “the next thing.” But that’s going to be your last interaction with her, because you’ve just revealed yourself to be a cheap, lousy date.

While we’re on the subject, let’s address “cheap date.” Why would an enlightened feminist like myself care about a cheap date? After all, some of my favorites dates — like a dog walk in the park with my now-husband — were free or inexpensive. 

Because being cheap with someone you’re supposed to like reveals something about you. I dated rich men and poor men, and learned that income doesn’t matter: the best men are generous men.

Ladies, ditch the man who orders shellfish on your tab.

Marry the man who packs your favorite candy for the movies.

He’ll be the one who gives you his jacket when you’re cold. Who carries a cup of coffee up the stairs to deliver it to you in bed. He will save you the last French fry.

This is the man who will love you best.

 It's worth holding out for!


Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Friends are the Family We Choose: My Friend Chris

“Today our model is wearing a charming ensemble featuring corduroy overalls. Look how effortlessly she completes the outfit with a lovely white turtleneck! She ties it all together with a pair of casual sneakers. Ooohh la la!”

            I was 5 years old, and this was my go-to game when my mom’s friend Chris came around. I’d make a grand entrance in whatever outfit my mom had put me in that morning, and Chris would describe my little-kid ensemble as though I had stepped onto a catwalk.
           
            When I was a kid, I thought Chris was one of greatest people in the world. I still do.

            Chris and my mom grew up as best friends and neighbors, but to me, Chris has always been family. Birthdays were always more special when she was around. Even being dragged to the grocery store with my mom became fun and exciting if Chris was coming too. I horned in on as many of their outings as I could, and Chris always made me feel like I was just one of the ladies.  

            Chris showed up when times were tough, too. When I was 15, my grandfather died unexpectedly. His death didn’t really hit me until I got to his funeral, and suddenly, I started crying and couldn’t stop. I stood there, helpless and panicking, while sobs took over my body.

            Suddenly, Chris was there. She whisked me into another room, pulled a Kleenex out of her purse for me, and distracted me. I don’t remember what she said, but it was the right thing. Soon, I was smiling, and even laughing. Chris had rescued me. To this day, she is always the first to step up when my family or I need it.

             Over the years, Chris was always there with a funny joke and a big heart. And she always came up with fun things to do. She, my mom, and I went to Atlantic City, a mountain resort, and even just to the DMV — because even the worst errands were fun when we were together.

            I’m in my 30s now, but Chris still tells me “You’re JUST A KID” every time she tries to pay my way when we do something fun. Now, we fight over who gets to treat. But I wasn’t prepared for what she did two years ago.

            I was planning my wedding on a tight budget. I decided try on gowns at a bridal shop, find my favorite dress, and search for something similar — but thousands of dollars cheaper — on eBay. Since the bridal shop was right in Chris’s neighborhood, my mom and I invited her to join us for lunch.

            Chris came to the bridal shop with us.  As the clerk buttoned me in to my favorite gown — the one I loved the moment I walked in — my heart simultaneously soared and sank. This dress was absolutely perfect. I had come so close, but so far, to finding a dress as beautiful as I'd dreamed of.

            That’s when Chris revealed her secret plan. She’d come to pay for my wedding gown: one of the most special parts of our big day. I couldn’t believe it. Just like that, my dream dress was mine. 

 

            Chris has taught me several things.

·      The time is always right to play a little prank on someone.

·      If you get bored, you can always play a game to entertain yourself and your friends, like, “Which of these weird things would you eat if you had to or else someone was going to shoot you?”

·      It’s usually best to be nice. Except for when it’s not.

·      Always spoil the people you love.
            Some people come from big families with lot of aunts, uncles, and cousins. I come from a tiny family, but I got the best deal. I got Chris.

I love you!



Monday, January 2, 2017

Us, at Home


This is my new favorite picture.

This is a photo of my husband, Billy, sitting on our staircase. I was sitting in my home office, trying to focus on something at my desk. Billy was, as he often is, buzzing with thoughts and ideas and just couldn't stop talking to me. He knew he wasn't supposed to come into my office, so he planted himself on the other end of our hallway, and happily chattered at me while I attempted -- and gave up on -- my task at hand.


He just couldn't stop talking to me, and I am so grateful for it. I can't believe I didn't find him until I was 33, because that enthused, earnest face would have made me swoon when I was a teenager in study hall, too.

I love being his person -- the single human who gets all of him, the play-by-play of his overactive but always interesting brain.

The holiday season is about to come to its official close, and I know that what I will miss most is being home during the day with Billy. We're like two kids in this house. One afternoon, we practiced pull-ups, attempted to weigh the cat, danced around changing all the lyrics to Chritsmas carols to be about our Beagle, and ate lunch in front of Netflix.

Everything is fun with him. I appreciate every moment.

Saturday, December 31, 2016

The Most Wonderful Time of the Year

It sure feels like the end of December, because:
  • Everyone around me seems to be operating in a friendly, half-assed manner. People are staying home from work. No one's scheduling meetings. We've collectively decided to phone it in.
  • With no one going to work, rush hour traffic is a breeze.
  • Stuff's on sale.
  • Basically, after a shitty year, folks seem to be taking it down a notch for one week. 
I think this, the week between the excitement of Christmas and New Years, might truly be the Most Wonderful Time of the Year. This is the time when we get to bask in the glow of Christmas without stressing or rushing to the next relative's house. The decorations are up, deadlines were met one way or another, and all our presents still seem new and exciting. I truly feel like I have everything I need.

This holiday season, I spent time with my favorite people and animals, gave some presents I was really excited about, got some presents I was overjoyed about (like my long-lusted after honeybee flatware from Billy), collected donations for people in need, slept a lot, made my home extra cozy, and tried to enjoy each of my moments.




Part of me can't wait for next year. The other part of me knows that we can't know how this year will go and who will still be here next year. So until then, I'll be holding tight to all the cheer in my heart. 

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Let's Make Hateful Behavior Burn Itself Out

There's a concept in behavioral therapy known as the extinction burst:

When you're trying to remove a behavior, whether it's a toddler's tantrums, or, let's say, xenophobia or misogyny, often you will actually see an increase in that behavior before it dies.

This morning, reflecting on the concept of the extinction burst has brought my only flicker of hope

We have witnessed the most vile side of American behavior. Voters screaming "Hang the n*gger. Men shouting "Grab her by the p*ssy" as though it's a slogan for empowerment. A female presidential candidate being subjected to double standards I once would have considered laughable. 

But something else is happening. People -- vulnerable people -- are talking about this. We are finding support among each other. We are emboldened by each other.

You may see this as a far stretch, but I have seen the extinction burst in action. When Michael Vick was busted for hanging, drowning, electrocuting, and shooting dogs, I worked for an animal welfare organization. 

We'd spent decades trying to, among other things, bust dog fighting rings and educate the public about pit bulls. It took Michael Vick to get the media on our side. Immediately after his ugly deeds came to light, the news, and the public, turned to us with questions and sympathy for these dogs. TV, radio, newspapers and magazines turned to us. We finally got to speak for misunderstood dogs, and in their spotlight, the dogs positively shined. There were animal abusers, yes, but there were also people who came forward to heal and love the victims. 

Our humane officer, who had seen the most violent side of dog fighting, suggested that Vick, a criminal and a bully, might have been the best thing to happen to pit bulls. 

Let this horrible election empower vulnerable people the same way. Let's have important conversations now.

Let us find our voices the way the bullies have. Let's be brave enough to stop hate in its tracks. Voting was not enough. Let us stand up for ourselves and each other. 

It is my greatest hope today.




From the bottom of my heart, thank you Amanda in Hawaii for the wise Facebook post that inspired this post. You were my bright spot in a dismal morning.

Monday, October 31, 2016

I Married an iPod: Marriage and Comfortable Chatter

-->
We just can't stop talking.


I cannot read a book around my husband. I can hold a book open, and look at it, but every few sentences, Billy will have something new to tell me.  After he interrupts me enough times, I give up and chat with him instead. I don’t mind.

Billy would tell this story the other way around, and that’s fair. I’m usually bursting with things to tell him, too. This is most evident in the morning. I wake up before he does, and somehow, I’m always dying to tell him about my dreams, how I slept, and everything I have to do that day.

I try my hardest not to unload my thoughts on Billy until he’s ready. I wait until he initiates conversation with me. This is what I call “opening the floodgates.”

“Morning,” he’ll mumble from his pillow.

This is my cue to tell him all the thoughts I’ve been holding in since we went to bed.

Even when we’re apart, Billy and I tend to tell each other everything. We text each other — a lot. Friends are used to watching me send him pictures of my food and updates about where I am and what's going on. I try to be discreet about it, but if something funny happens, I can’t resist texting Billy the play-by-play.

To be honest, this is what I love most about him. I love his earnest, undivided attention. And I love being the person who gets an unfiltered gaze into his wondrous brain. I was lucky to marry a man who is smart, funny, creative, and wildly unpredictable. His train of thought blazes like wildfire, moving from topic to topic and veering into unexpected directions. Or maybe he’s more like an iPod on shuffle — constantly streaming new songs and new ideas into my eager ears.

I like to think that I keep him on track. When he careens down a path of self-doubt, I reel him back in. And when I need reassurance, a laugh, a fresh perspective, or just a place to put my wandering thoughts, he never leaves me hanging.

Some couples have comfortable silence. Billy and I have comfortable incessant chatter.

May he never run out of things to tell me.

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

The Time a Stranger Grabbed Me Between My Legs

Thirteen years ago, I was riding the bus home from work. I sat near the front of the bus on a bench seat facing the aisle. I read a book.

Suddenly, a man grabbed my thigh. I flinched. He moved his hand into my crotch.

I slapped his hand. He kept touching me. I clenched my legs together. He forced his hand harder between them while I pushed his arm, helplessly.

He grinned.

I don't think I made a sound. I was so stunned, part of me didn't believe it was happening. I looked up and realized that several people, directly across from me, were watching in surprised silence while I tried to push a much-stronger man off of me.

Finally, an older woman came to my rescue. She was small but stern, and had the air of a schoolteacher. She sat down on the other side of me and scolded the man. He reached for me one last time, and she scolded him again. He laughed, then got up and exited the bus.

I only remember one thing about the rest of that humiliating ride home.

A man, directly across from me, grinned at me. I thought he felt embarrassed for not standing up for me. But then he said these words to me: "Come on, honey. Smile."

He told me I should smile.

--

I felt helpless and scared when that happened. But most of all, I was mad. No one should have to worry about protecting their private parts while they sit on a bus. I knew that man's behavior wasn't normal.

That should never be normal

And the thing is, I really thought my fellow women agreed with me on that.

--

Last week, we watched a presidential candidate talk about grabbing women between their legs. He called it "locker room talk," even though he wasn't in a locker room. He dismissed it.

And his supporters, blinded by devotion, or more likely, hatred, dismissed it too.

They compared his behavior to movies, books, and rap songs -- all forms of entertainment. But running the country isn't entertainment. Not even if you put a reality TV star on the job.

I am ashamed of all of these people.

--

When a man talks dirty about a woman's body, that's vulgar. When he talks about grabbing her private parts without consent, that is violent.

Next month, we get to make a choice. We get to decide what we tolerate. We get to choose what is normal.

What you condone, you accept as normal.

If you tell me that sexual assault is normal -- that it's just part of being a man, then I am deeply afraid.

I am afraid to work for you.

I am afraid to ride the bus with you. 

I am afraid of your sons.

I am afraid to live in the country you made.

And I am ashamed for you.





Thursday, September 8, 2016

Why I'm Tired

Midnight: Dog can not find suitable position on humans' expensive Tempurpedic bed. After much flailing, decides to sleep sideways across the middle. Growls when we try to move her.

1am: Cat has decided to grace us with her presence. Snuggles under the covers, but gets mad and stomps around every time I stop petting her.

3am: Dog is dreaming. Kicks wildly. Emits muffled barks until soothed back to sleep.

4am: Cat, fed up with lack of attention, storms off in a huff.

5:50am: Cat, sensing that the alarm will go off soon, jumps the gun and announces to all that it's time for breakfast.
Dog cannot be roused.

10:19am, at my desk: Zzzzzzzzz.

Tuesday, May 31, 2016

The Secret Truth I Wish I Had Known When I Was Looking For Love




I fell in love a bunch of times, in my life.

And then, one day, I fell in love for real.

Oh, it always seemed real at the time. Like when my long-term boyfriend and I decided to move in together. And when I vowed to help my next boyfriend overcome his pain and addiction. Or that time I got dumped and sank into the depths of despair, certain that part of me had died.

I loved with all my heart! This is why, when friends tell me that they love their inattentive, cheating, lying, or just plain disappointing partners, I believe them.

Sometimes, you find yourself in a complicated love story. I have, too.

---------

Then one day, I met my husband.

It felt different right away, and it felt exciting. I'm a lifelong music fan and he's a musician. Suddenly, I was going backstage at concerts and going home with the hot guitar player. Everyone who knew me -- the person who keeps a passport just to follow my favorite band -- said we were perfect together. I was breathless with delight when I told my parents that I was in love.



My dad said something I didn't understand at the time. "Maybe you're in love," he said. "But you'll know it when it gets boring."

I couldn't imagine this hot, exciting relationship ever getting boring. And, I thought my dad was just being a dad ... telling me to play it safe, when all I wanted to do was dive head-first into a fit of passion. Who wanted boring?

But now, whenever I watch people I care about rake their hearts over the coals of bad love, I see what my dad meant.

Good love can be exciting, sure. But more than anything else, good love is easy.

---------

By the time Billy proposed to me, I was madly in love with him. Our courtship and wedding were a dream. Billy was -- and still is -- unlike anyone I'd ever dated, for a million different reasons.

But to my surprise, that became even more clear after we were married. When the excitement became routine, and suddenly, we were faced with:

A mortgage. Taxes. Chores. A tragic accident that killed our dog. Grief. Ailing parents. Work. Traffic and brutal commutes. Bad days. PMS. Stress. Surgery. Anxiety. Mistakes. Shitty moods. More bad days.

Our love was this naked, vulnerable thing that could only crumble under the weight of it all ... or ... shine brighter than everything else.

It was when I was at my worst that Billy showed me true love.

---------

I thought I was good at loving because I was so used to offering up my heart. But Billy taught me about good love.

Good love is when making your partner happy makes you happy.

Good love is when you trust your partner to do the right thing for you -- and your family -- every time.

Good love is comfortable. 

Good love is mutual.

Good love is something you protect and honor. And when times are tough, you draw strength from it.

Good loves makes a murky situation clear: you do right by your partner, and everything else falls into place. 

---------

When I look back on past loves, they feel very, very different. I had love that made me feel comfortable (like a bad habit). I had love that made me feel excited (sometimes, despite my best judgement).

But those love stories came with twists and turns and false starts. They were difficult. They weren't right. I wish I could have seen it at the time:

Good love is easy.

Life is hard enough. Good love makes it easier.

If you haven't found good love, get out! Keep looking!

---------

Maybe your love story got off to a rocky start. Maybe it came with divorce, depression, debt, a disapproving parent, a bitter ex. Whatever you're coping with, I'm not here to tell you that your love story isn't real. Maybe it is.

But I do hope your love makes it easy. Good love makes a complicated situation so much simpler.

Good love makes you put each other's needs first. So if your so-called soulmate is in the midst of a great battle, I hope love drives them to make the right choices: to pick you, and your well-being, over everything else.

If they love you, it will be easy to do.


I wish you love.


Saturday, March 12, 2016

How I Know I'm Not Young Anymore: 15 Ways

1. I can remember things that seem impossible now, like how restaurants and airplanes used to be sectioned into "smoking" and "non-smoking" seating. For that reason, I hated being friends with smokers. Sometimes the salad bar would be too close to the smoking section in a restaurant and it would make the food taste bad.

2. I still remember sharing one rotary phone with everyone in my house. You had to stand next to the wall, attached by a cord, to talk on it. If you were upstairs when your phone rang, you had to run downstairs really fast. If you missed the call, there was no way to know who'd been trying to reach you. You might literally never find out.  

We had this phone.
3. I remember what a big deal it was when we got an answering machine. It was exciting when you came home to see a blinking light.

4. I have owned a pager.


5. I once said I'd never own a cell phone, because I "just didn't need one." 

6. All of the celebrities I think are cool are old people.

Is that Eddie Vedder, or someone's cheesy dad? Oh wait it's both.

7. When my husband and I hear new rock songs on the radio, we exclaim, "This isn't rock music!" We shake our heads and feel disgusted.

8. I found myself "resting my eyes" at a concert last night. 😁

9. When anyone in my first grade class had a birthday, our teacher made the birthday kid go to the front of the room, where she paddled the kid one time for each year he or she had been alive.
My teacher did not get fired for this.
It was a different time.

10. After my dog passed away, I was so upset all the time, I got a wrinkle between my eyes and it never went away.  

11. I hate my chair at work because it lacks lumbar support.

12. I am about to take out a loan to buy a shit-ton of windows. I am excited about this.

13. Some of the smartest people at my job are younger than me.

14. My proximity to a rest room is a real concern I have to plan around. I just can't hold it all day anymore.

15. I am still sensitive, but I don't really care what you think of me anymore.

So at least there's that.
:)



 



Wednesday, March 2, 2016

Dear Mr. Somebody, the Substitute Teacher Who Told Me Not to Be a Writer

Future writer

Dear Mr. Somebody, the Substitute Teacher:

I never knew your name. You covered my study hall one day in 11th grade when our regular teacher was out.

You were not a convincing teacher. You were much older than our other subs, who were usually fresh-faced college graduates. You were small and sheepish, like a boy.  You had no control over our study hall, and the kids, sensing this immediately, seized the chance to misbehave.

You knew who I was. You walked right over to me with a copy of our school newspaper in your hand. You pointed to my picture, which was in every issue, because I was its reporter, columnist, and editor. It was my paper, my pride and joy.

“Let me guess. You think you’re a writer,” you sneered.

I was proud. I said yes.

You laughed. And you said:

“Let me set you straight. You don’t get to be a writer in the real world. Enjoy it now, because you’re never gonna make it. “

I told you I would make it. I would be a writer.  

Good luck!” you said, like it was some kind of punch line, and you walked away, still sneering and shaking your head at me. Then you pitched my newspaper into the trash.


Lucky for me, I was smart enough to know a couple things. I knew that “You’re never gonna make it” is not something teachers are supposed to say.

And I knew that something else had just happened, between the lines of our conversation. You had recognized me as a writer. My articles were good enough that you knew I was the real thing.

So why am I writing to you now? It’s not because I’m bitter. I haven’t thought of you in about 18 years. But recently, as my husband and I were going over our budget and finding that we are doing just fine, you popped into my mind.

And I want to tell you this.

I kept writing, buddy. I kept writing and writing for the sheer joy of it. I write because, as Joan Didion said, "I don't know what I think until I write it down." And also, I write to earn a paycheck. A really lovely paycheck. Because guess what: every industry needs writers. I learned that in writing school.

And I’m telling you this because I want to tell others writers — young writers and old writers and budding writers and frustrated writers — that assholes like you have no idea what you’re talking about.

I don’t know where you are now, but unfortunately, your type is probably still out there, telling kids not to write, or draw, or dream. I hope that those kids have — like I did —  other teachers whose voices are louder and more supportive.  And I hope — like I didn’t — that those kids

tell you to shut the fuck up.

And I hope those kids write on.

 

Friday, January 15, 2016

These are the Things We Fight About



 


Billy's band plays Cleveland tonight. I'm going to miss him!

Cleveland is a 2.5 hour drive, so I told him he should trade cars with me this weekend. My car is newer, can hold more guitars, and is more reliable. He said we'd discuss that idea later.

So, this morning, I kissed him goodbye and started to leave for the day -- in his car.

Billy wouldn't hear of it. His car, he said, wasn't reliable enough for me to drive to work.

I fought back. "But I'd rather have it break down for me, here in Pittsburgh, than for you, far away in Cleveland. You can't put all your guitars and amps on a tow truck!"

But Billy wouldn't budge. He wasn't going to drive my new car.

We fought about it for a while.

Eventually, I gave in. I knew that there was zero chance that my husband would ever, EVER, let me drive away in an unreliable car.

That's just the kind of man he is.

It's the same way he refuses to eat the last serving of food -- ever. We'll fight about how full we are and who should finish dinner, until he finally packs up the leftovers for me to eat for lunch the next day.

Billy is steadfast. He always puts me first.

I dated enough men to know how very, very rare this quality is. And now, I appreciate it with all my heart. Maybe best of all, it makes me take a critical eye to my own actions. Would I do the same for him? I think I would. I hope so.

But just to make sure, I make his coffee every day, and I have his breakfast ready for him, and I do whatever else I can think of in an earnest attempt to even the score.

May neither of us ever win.



Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Confession: My House Scares the Crap Out of Me

These are things people say to you when you rent your home:
  • You're throwing money away.
  • Your home never really feels like it's yours.
  • There's no security in renting.
  • Your rent costs more than my mortgage!!!!
Yeah, I know. I heard it all. I rented for 11 years. Because renting enabled me to set a fixed budget and live somewhat high on the hog while I socked money away. Instead of buying a modest starter home, I moved into a big, fancy apartment. Unburdened by a leaking roof or failing gutters, I always had money for vacations and happy hour.

My rent did cost more than some people's mortgage. But I didn't pay for gas, water, sewage, taxes, home insurance, loan interest, garbage, appliances, maintenance, repairs, or things like a lawnmower/shovel/rake, windows, furnaces, air conditioners, emergency plumber visits, and lots of other seriously expensive stuff.

And, I never once shoveled a snowy sidewalk, raked a pile of leaves, or unclogged a drain. I worried not about hot water heaters or burst pipes. Who cared if there was only one dirty dish in the dishwasher? I ran the whole cycle! That's the wonderful freedom I paid for.

But eventually, it was time to move. I married a wonderful man. He came with lots of stuff. We adopted a very noisy Beagle. We hated Mozart Management, our landlords. So after a long search, we found the perfect house. Since we'd always lived on a budget, we had a nice down payment. We bought that house, and we love it.



So ... where's this sense of security everyone kept talking about?

Home ownership is the scariest thing I've ever done.

Here are the things I worry about every single day:
  • Did I lock the doors before I left home today?
  • What about the garage door? Oh my god. I might have left it open.
  • Did I turn everything off? I bet I didn't. Something's going to start a fire. The house has probably already burned down.
  • Speaking of ... how old is our wiring? How much does wiring cost?  
  • Houses get older every day. It is DETERIORATING AS I TYPE THIS. I need to do ... things ... to it!
  • The upstairs is hot but the downstairs is freezing and the gas bill is going to be huge.  
  • Probably because we need new windows. And a new furnace. Oh, god.
  • And I DEFINITELY shouldn't take such long, luxurious showers.
  • NEW THIS WINTER! Did snow fall on our sidewalk? If someone slips and falls on it, can they really sue us? Did we buy enough salt?
  • ALSO NEW: So what does this mean, "burst pipe?" 
  • And so on.  
 ........

Anxiety aside, I do love our house. It is so pretty. It is just right for us.

And I do like the feeling that if we want to stay there forever, we can.

My husband can play guitar as loud as he wants. And our dog can bark as ferociously (and incessantly) as she wants.

I don't have to hide my cat  from the landlord anymore (eff you, Mozart!). In fact, we can consider more cats or more Beagles if we want!

This will never happen to me again:

Housekeeping Inspection from Mozart Management. This is no joke.

-- and -- this is big -- I love my laundry chute! (I don't know why we, as a people, decided to start carrying our laundry down stairs in modern times. This was a terrible mistake.)

We really bought a house.

So tomorrow, when I get home, it will happen again. I will stand in front of my house, the biggest thing we ever bought, the biggest responsibility we ever took on, and I will fill with sheer panic.

But also pride. And love. Because fears aside, it is our best adventure yet.

Or at least, that is what I will say if you ask me. Because I do love our house.





Saturday, January 2, 2016

Moving Away From Animal Testing: A Cruelty-Free Morning Routine

 

Recently, I stepped up my efforts to create a cruelty-free home. I wanted to see if it was possible to switch all of my products to brands that don't test on animals.

I'm really excited to report that:

  • It's easier than I thought it would be! I realized that there are plenty of cruelty-free products at normal stores that perform just as well as the products I used to buy.
  • It's cheaper than I thought it would be.
    Some of my new favorite brands are saving me money.
I'd like to help you create a cruelty-free home, too. So, here's a blog about my new morning routine and the great products you can turn to. Next time, I'll post a cruelty-free cleaning routine.

But first, here's why you should care about animal testing:

  • It's unnecessary.
    There are plenty of safe, cruelty-free brands that prove this.
  • It inflicts unthinkable torture on animals -- even dogs and cats. Test animals are forced to live in cages. Chemicals are dripped into their eyes, injected into their bodies, or forced up their noses or down their throats. They inhale or ingest toxic substances. They suffer burns, infections, blindness, pain, and loneliness. Laws that protect pets do not apply to them -- although beloved breeds like Beagles are used for animal testing!

 


You don't have to take part in this. But unfortunately, if you're not paying attention, you probably are funding the cruelty, because the most popular brands tend to test on animals.

Make the switch.

Here's an easy and affordable cruelty-free morning.

NOTE: There are PLENTY more cruelty-free products on the market. If you download the free Cruelty Cutter app, you can scan products at the store to see whether or not their brand tests on animals. These are just the ones I've tested and recommended for you! If you have other recommendations, post them in the comments!


Shower

  • Body Wash: Alba Botanica Very Emollient smells great and is super creamy for dry skin. If you like a bubbly lather better than a creamy mousse, try Jason brand. I like the apricot. LUSH offers lots of bath and shower items.
  • Face Wash and Toner: I love Alba Botanica's face washes. I'm using their Acnedote Deep Pore Wash, which is slightly minty and has a refreshing zing! It smells great. I recently used Yes to Carrots brand cleanser and toner, which is cruelty-free, but my skin didn't look so great while I used it, so I'm going with Alba on this one. Also, a confession. I keep lavender-scented Method hand soap on my sink and have used it to wash my face. I love it.
  • Shampoo and Conditioner: My husband (who has amazing, luxurious, long curly hair) turned me on to sexyhair. Now we both have nice hair. :)  Sometimes, I like to switch to Bliss Supershine Shampoo because it smells delicious, like real lemons. UPDATE: I just started using Shea Moisture Curl & Shine and it is giving me seriously good hair days. My hair is big and voluminous with perfectly shaped waves!
  • Shaving: Dollar Shave Club ships cruelty-free blades to my house every month, and they're WAY cheaper than the grocery store brands! Check them out by using my personal referral link, please! Blades start at $3 per month. I spring for the Executive blades, which are still cheap at $9 per month. They sell products like creams and gels, too.

Personal Care

  • Deodorant: When it comes to deodorant, I'm also concerned about toxic ingredients. I like Crystal Essence brand because it's clear. Tom's of Maine has an antiperspirant and a deodorant that work for me, too. See more on Tom's ...
  • Toothpaste and Tooth Brush: I been using Tom's of Maine toothpaste for at least 15 years, and I've never had a single cavity. (I'll note here that Tom's is owned by Colgate, which does test on animals. As a consumer, I feel like I'm creating a market for cruelty-free by shopping Colgate's cruelty-free line, but you can decide how you feel about that.)
    Don't forget to make sure your toothbrush is cruelty-free, too. I like the Preserve toothbrush, which is made of recycled plastic and is available at Trader Joe's.
  • Tampons: Natracare and Seventh Generation are great. I just learned about Lola, which ships cotton tampons to your house every month and doesn't use animal testing. I'm going to check them out!
  • Lotions and Hand Cream: There are tons of options if you look. Right now I'm using Alba Botanica, and a great pomegranate body butter by Trader Joe's! They have lots of great cruelty-free products for your face, skin, and hair. I found a purse-sized bottle of Shea Moisture Brightening Body Lotion at Target. It's thick and creamy, has lots of organic ingredients (including mushroom extract!) and works great.
  • Contact Lenses: I just ordered my first box of Clear Conscience contact solution. It has great reviews, so I have high hopes for it. Unfortunately, it's not so easy to buy cruelty-free contact lenses. I'll have to keep researching this one.
Hair and Make-Up
  • Styling Products: I use TRENDStarter styling paste. I originally bought it because it was cheaper than the salon version and it worked. TRENDStarter has lots of products.
  • Hairspray: Try TRENDStarter or splurge on the more expensive sexyhair.
  • Face: ULTA's house brand doesn't test on animals! I've been using their foundation stick to cover under-eye circles. I'm using powder by Physician's Formula. You can get it at the grocery store for pretty cheap.
  • Eyes: I've been using ULTA's house brand, especially the eyeshadow cream because it goes on like a stain and lasts all day. You need to try the eyeshadow primer by Elf, which you can grab for a dollar at Target.
  • Nails: My search for cruelty-free lead me to my two favorite kinds of nail polish! Remember Wet n Wild, from when you were little? It turns out their nail polish lasts a really long time without chipping, costs a buck or two, and doesn't test on animals! Urban Outfitters also sells a long-lasting nail polish. I can wear it, with a top coat, for nearly a week without chipping.
  • Lips: I'm completely obsessed with lip gloss. Right now my favorites are this chocolate lavender balm by Dagoba/Eco Lips and anything by Alaffia. Una Biologicals is a Pittsburgh-based line with lots of wonderful stuff, especially their smooth and glossy Chocolicious lip balm with a hit of mint. I wear Lip Smacker every day too. I used to like the little round EOS pods, but I'm sad to learn that they test on animals so that they can sell their products in China. Shame on them.

 

One more note: Brands change their stance on animal testing all the time. Lots of products I used to use in high school now test on animals, and some brands I used to boycott are now cruelty-free. It's a good idea to scan products with the Cruelty Cutter app for the latest info, even if I've suggested them in this blog.

I've purposely posted photos that aren't too hard to look at. If you do your research, you'll see examples of HORRIFIC torture on animals. Please join me and go cruelty-free! It's easy! 



Thursday, December 31, 2015

I Really Wanna Be Your Best Friend: My Rebel Girl

Rebel girl, rebel girl,
Rebel girl you are the queen of my world.


 ... 

I was 16 years old and I lived in a boring suburb. It was boring, and my boyfriend was boring, and *I* was boring. But with no Internet and no drivers license, I didn't know where to find anything that wasn't just as boring as my own boring life.

Then Madge came to town.

Madge!

Madge held her head high. She wore glitter on her eyes. She laughed louder than anyone I'd ever met. She could write, she could play guitar, she was sure of herself, and she said and wore whatever she wanted. She was brash but tender. Sarcastic yet sweet. She wasn't like anyone else.

Madge was exciting, and I loved her, instantly.

To my shy amazement, Madge loved me back. She immediately became the big sister and best friend I'd always dreamed of.

I still remember the first time she ever called me. I was sitting on my parents' living room floor, petting our dog. The phone rang -- we had house phones in 1996 -- and my mom answered it.

My mom came into the living room and, knowing just how huge this moment was, whispered, "It's ... Madge!" My heart leaped into my throat -- more than it ever had for some dopey boy.

Madge had called me on the phone! And it wouldn't be the last time, either.


I didn't have much to offer to Madge, except my wide-eyed and puppyish devotion. Neither of us had cars, but we went wherever we wanted. We took the bus to the Mount Oliver Bathhouse and pretended to be mermaids when we swam in the pool. We caught a Greyhound to New York City (and figured out, on the way,  how to simultaneously use each other as a pillow). That's where she sneaked me into a 21+ concert, and I was too afraid to talk to anyone the whole night for fear I'd sound underage.


Madge gave me books, and mix tapes, and stacks of poems she'd written. She took me thrift shopping, and helped me pick out a white vintage lace slip, which I liked to wear with my army jacket.

We lounged around her apartment, painting our nails and daydreaming while we cranked Bikini Kill, Liz Phair, and PJ Harvey on her record player.



We went to the beach, and we traveled to see Pearl Jam. She was  the only person I'd ever met who loved Eddie Vedder as much as I did -- and understood him like I did -- with all his aching, beautiful, corny sincerity. We talked about Eddie endlessly, as though he was someone we knew, because it felt like he was.

Madge went to live in London for a while, and I followed her there.

This is us in Amsterdam, where we went to see The Tragically Hip.

Madge cracked open new music, our city -- and the whole world -- and showed it to me.  

I copied her endlessly, but could never keep up with her latest thing. Madge was always starting a new business, working on a new art form, hosting Open Mic nights, fronting a band, or publishing a book.

Madge was constantly taking care of me, even paying my way so I could do cool things with her. But she also challenged me. She laughed at my awkwardness and poked fun at my shyness. And I felt more confident with her by my side.

I'll never forget the day she came to meet me while I was working on my high school newspaper. Madge, tall, sparkling, and long since graduated, strolled in to the school computer lab like she owned the place. My classmates stopped talking and stared at her with open mouths. And I gathered my things and left with her, feeling more proud than I'd ever felt in my life.

Madge was my rock star. She still is.



Looking back, I'm so glad our love never lost its luster, not even temporarily. Madge has always been around, even when she moved away, and even now, as she and her husband meander around the country. We still Facetime, and email, and I know that next time she comes to town, we'll catch coffee or a cat circus or just lay in bed, playing with each other's hair.

Madge, on my wedding day, teaching me how to curl my eye lashes.

Too busy singing


For all the times I cried in your arms,
for all the times you had to pretend to like my crummy boyfriends just because I thought I did,
for all the times you faithfully responded to my meltdowns, never once brushing me off or saying the wrong thing,

thank you.

I love you, Madge!

Happy birthday.

 ... 

That girl thinks she's the queen of the neighborhood
I got news for you -- she is!






Monday, November 30, 2015

How Are You Supposed to Know When You've Found "The One?"


How are you supposed to know when you've found the person you're meant to marry?

It's a question I asked myself a lot when I was single. I would scroll through pages and pages of Match.com profiles, feeling skeptical. I'd sit in my car before a first date and wonder if the next few hours were supposed to change my life forever. I wanted to believe that my person was out there, but it was exhausting wondering if each bozo who sent me a message on OkCupid was him.

I was worried that I wouldn't know if it happened to me. I heard stories about love that kindled slowly, over time, and I worried that I'd get bored with my date before discovering that I actually loved him.

I didn't know, then, that love would hit me fantastically hard. When I did meet the man I was supposed to marry, it would be obvious.

Now I only wish that I'd trusted that it would be. I wouldn't have wasted so much time.

Here's how it happened.

How I Knew I'd Found The Man I Was Going to Marry

  • He took me on dates.
    Dates have become something rare and special. This is because so many men now expect women to hang out. This is often boring, and always sends a mixed message. ("Does he like me? Or are we just friends? And if we're not going anywhere, can I change into my yoga pants?")
    But not my Billy. He took me out. He made fun plans. He paid for me, he held doors open for me, and he bought me flowers. All of these things made it clear that he liked me and was working hard to win my affection.
    He won it.
  • There were no games.
    I recently learned that some people are so calculated about dating, they'll even time their responses to their text messages in order to gain the upper hand. For example, if it takes their date five minutes to reply to a text, they will then wait ten minutes before replying to them.
    WHAT? Why do you need the upper hand if you (supposedly) like each other?
    Billy did not do this. There was no upper hand. In fact, he put all his cards on the table. He never kept me waiting. He texted me all day long. He confessed everything. He blurted out "I love you." He showed me a picture of himself at his chubbiest, and also his fittest, and asked me if I could be okay with either of his two extremes. I was so charmed, I gave him an emphatic yes. 
  • He dazzles me.
    This is important, since I just told you that he texted me all day long. Billy is not the first man to ever come on strong. He's just the first man that I couldn't get enough of. He's funny, sharp, talented, a little crazy, and I never know what's going to come out of his mouth next. I love being around to witness what he's going to do next.
  • He is generous.
    There are rich men, poor men, and the best, rarest men all: generous men. Billy is the most generous man I have ever met.
    I first saw this when Billy and I went to Kennywood on an early date. We shared their legendary French fries. Billy had never had them before and I wanted to make sure he enjoyed them, so I made sure I ate all the burnt, shriveled fries and left the crispy, golden brown ones for him. Soon, we were both done eating, and only the most perfect, pristine fries remained. It turns out that he was also eating the ugly fries -- to save the best ones for me.
    Billy is not a rich man. But he'd always go without to give me the best of everything he has.
  • He is attentive.
    This one was the clincher.
    One day, before Billy and I lived together, I decided to Facetime him. He answered. Even though he was in the middle of checking out at the post office. Even though he was sublimely embarrassed when my enthused, "HEY BABY!" was heard by everyone in line. He always answers me.
    Billy lavishes me with all the attention I need, which is a lot. He checks on me. He lets me know when he misses me. I always know where he is. And he makes me feel loved, every single day.

That is why it didn't take me long to nail this thing down. It took me 33 long years to find him, and now, I promise to appreciate him every single day.  


Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Curry, Boiling the Bathwater, and Roasted Mice: Ode to My Shitty Apartment


It was kind of charming, even though it smelled like curry.

My first apartment was smaller than many dorm rooms, but somehow, I loved it. I rented the attic of a three-story house in Squirrel Hill. 

It didn’t bother me that the ceilings sloped with the shape of the roof, meaning that you couldn’t stand up unless you were in the middle of the apartment. If you ventured too far left or right, you had to stoop or take a seat. It also meant I couldn’t have any tall furniture—like a refrigerator. I kept a mini fridge under the kitchen counter.

But the ceilings reminded me of a dollhouse, which seemed fun, so I hunkered down and enjoyed it.

I was also charmed by the antique details, like the big claw-foot bathtub. There was no shower, which worked out, since there was never any hot water. Every night, I would place my four biggest pots on the stove and boil water. If I hurried, potholders in hand, I could dump enough boiling water into my tub to take the chill off my lukewarm bath. I got used to this, even though the process took half my night.

I was, however, bothered by the heat in the summer. If you’ve ever stepped into an attic in August, you've felt how the oppressive, sauna-like heat rises. Great, nauseating waves of heat would wake me up in the middle of the night.

I worried about my cat, left to roast in her fur while I was at work, so I ran an AC unit in one of the two small windows during the day. The unit worked so hard all day that by the time I got home, it could barely cough out a stale breath. I’d turn it off so it would be ready to cool again by the time I left for work the next day. 

So it was hot. It was cramped. And then, along came a colicky baby. 

The family on the second floor had a baby that wailed every night from about 1am till dawn. This would have been bad enough in an apartment building, but we lived in a house together. This angry baby was basically my roommate.

You might have sympathy for this baby and his parents. Here is why I did not.

Any time — every time! — I tried to vacuum, those same neighbors would bang on my door and angrily inform me that I had to stop, because their baby was napping. The only time they permitted me to run the vacuum was the rare occasions when they were not home. 

They would also throw their things into the washing machine while I was doing my laundry. The shock of finding their hallway rug in with my delicates left me too speechless to ever confront them about it.

I decided that this baby, and his parents, were jerks. 

But the last straw came when I heard a strange scurry in the middle of the night. The next day, I found a mouse, brazenly out in the open and watching me from my curtain rod.



I shrieked. Then I called my mom. She came over, cornered him, caught him in a boot, and took him outside. 

But, it turned out, he’d left his entire family behind.

I found this out when I baked cookies in my oven and smelled something strange. Something very dry was burning.

I had cooked a mouse nest.

And finally, finally, but just like that -- I didn’t love my apartment anymore.

Mercifully, another apartment had just opened up a few blocks away. It was close enough for me to carry my meager belongings and tiny furniture down the street. My cat and I broke the lease and left the attic, mouse nest and all, behind. 

Today my co-worker described her first apartment, which was in a complex with cafes, a pool, and a gym. I opened my mouth to describe my first home away from home and realized I didn't even know where to start. 

Instead, I told her that it sounded really, 
really 
nice. 

Sunday, November 15, 2015

Weekend and Worries

We did a lot of chores this weekend. 

When you are married to a gorgeous long-haired musician, you spend part of your weekend going to his gigs, and the rest of your weekend sweeping his hairs off your floors.

I'm kidding! To be fair, I shed an awful lot too. Between the two of us, the dog, and the cat, we can make a real mess, and a big chunk of our weekends are devoted to chores. But I am grateful to have this family to clean up after.

And I had a wonderful weekend. I'm glad, because I've been working so diligently to create happiness. I have a happy life, but it's a shame how sadness can take such a sinister hold anyway. You can do so many things, like yoga, or a keep gratitude journal, only to have your own mind and memories sabotage you anyway.

I really hoped our move would help me get over Porter, and the awful way we found him But the past month has actually been one of the hardest, and now I am experiencing flashbacks.

I used to think a flashback was like a memory. But now I know that it can be much worse. You can get trapped, reliving a horrific memory that's so vivid and real, it's as though it's really happening to you. You're there. It's so real that you find yourself desperately hoping it turns out differently this time -- and believing it actually might. And when it doesn't, you get to suffer the trauma all over again.

So what can I do? Just keep trying to let happiness in, I guess. This weekend I did that by loving Billy, and going to see him sing anf play guitar, and by working on our house. I hung artwork and cleaned and organized and focused on filling our home with comfort and love.

And I will keep doing that, for all of us.



Monday, October 26, 2015

Blog for My Cat on the Eve of Her Surgery


My 16-year-old cat is having surgery tomorrow. I'm so nauseous and nervous about it, you would think that I'm the one having the operation.

So tonight, I'm typing this with one hand while the other one strokes Firefly's silky calico fur. I hope she can tell how much I love her, and that I want her to do well.

...

Firefly showed up as a stray kitten when I was a sophomore in college. It seemed like she picked me. I lived in a dorm and didn't have anywhere to keep her, so I stashed her at my then-boyfriend's house.

I didn't even drive yet. I rode a bus to the grocery store and picked out her first dishes, kitten kibble, little balls with jingle bells in them, and other cat stuff. The cashier had to explain to me that my new kitten wouldn't want to walk on the dog leash I'd picked out.

(Never fear. Years later, Firefly and I would hike Frick Park with the aid of a papoose. But more on that later.)

Firefly and I turned into grownups together. After college, she moved home to my parents' house with me. Our dog wanted to eat her, so I kept Firefly locked in my bedroom. She did okay in there, but she was a little starved for attention. When I got home from work at night -- my very first office job -- she'd start howling as soon as she heard me come through the front door.

I'd never had a cat before her, so I raised her like a puppy. We'd wrestle, or play fetch for hours.

She moved into my first -- terrible -- apartment with me. The one that smelled like curry and had mice living in the oven. She came with me every time I upgraded to a bigger, less disgusting place, and she also accompanied me on several beach vacations. She always took the 10-hour car ride to the Outer Banks in stride.


Firefly has been a constant presence. There were boyfriends, most of whom claimed to be allergic to her. Firefly always got first dibs on my bed anyway, and she outlasted all of them. And when I decided to embrace my spinsterhood, she was my most loyal companion -- even going for walks around the neighborhood with me, safely strapped into a papoose.

But when I found my husband, even Firefly knew it was right. She accepted him like a dad.

She was always a part of everything I did. Whether I was cleaning my apartment, lounging in front of the TV, hula hooping in my living room, or curling my hair in the bathroom, Firefly was curiously involved.  

But recently, a couple things seem to have aged poor Firefly.


She hates ... absolutely hates ... our new dog. And, she didn't adapt to our most recent move as well as all the others. We moved into a house last month. I took the bedroom that used to belong to a teenage girl and turned it into a haven for my teenage girl cat. Firefly settled in to her room and doesn't really like to come out of it. It makes me so happy when I see her take tentative steps into the rest of our house.

She also got really feisty. She hisses. A lot.


It's taken almost half my life, but I've watched her change from a kitten to a little old lady.

It's sad that we grew up together, but suddenly, she's aging so much faster than me. It doesn't seem fair.

I know a day will come when we have to say goodbye, and it makes me cry just typing it.

But I can tell that she still loves me.

Firefly, 10 minutes ago, proving that she's still got it.

This is my little prayer for you, Firefly. Please do well during your surgery tomorrow. Please come home to me.

I love you.