Category Archives: Deep Thoughts

The New Normal

The Old Normal was living 3 hours away from my boyfriend and only seeing him on weekends.  It was going out with friends for happy hour a couple days a week and brunch at least once each weekend.  It was blogging in my free time. The Old Normal was living in Portland.  It was shopping on Mississippi and eating Pizza Schmizza for lunch and going to the Deschutes brewpub every chance I got.  It was living in the same city as most of my friends and being able to catch up with old coworkers regularly.  It was talking Blazers basketball and Oregon football and Did you see the last episode of Portlandia?  It was making fun of hipster snobs and their fair-trade coffee, PBR and fixed gear bikes, while being a snob about microbrews, Powell’s Books and Tillamook cheese.  The Old Normal was never having spent more than four consecutive days with Galen, even though we’d been together for over two years.  It was not knowing for so long what I wanted to be when I grew up, then deciding, and then the agony of waiting to hear back from grad schools.

The New Normal is living with Galen in an apartment with a great view of the Seattle skyline and very few reliable appliances.  It’s still being excited to see each other at the end of every day.  It’s being 3 hours away from friends, former coworkers, and Galen’s family.  It’s getting to know a new neighborhood and a new city, when I’m not in class, at work, studying or doing homework.  The New Normal is having four or five good friends in this city and feeling like that’s a lot to maintain.  It’s dreaming about having enough time to blog again. It’s taking Galen to the airport for a two-week study tour and realizing we haven’t been apart for this long since last summer, when it used to be Normal.  It’s getting to see my mom every other month when she’s here for work.  The New Normal is not knowing where to go for happy hour or brunch or good Thai food.  It’s waiting for the Sonics to come back to town and trying to have some allegiance to the Seahawks and Mariners.  It’s discovering new donut and ice cream shops, and trying something called “savory pies.”  The New Normal is explaining to people that most of my family and friends call me Mego.  It’s studying something I enjoy and find infinitely fascinating.  It’s having “clients” and trying to pretend I’m grown-up enough to be someone’s therapist.  It’s imagining what will happen after grad school and what the Next New Normal will be.

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Filed under Deep Thoughts, Keeping Portland Weird, Seattle Reign

Seamus

I have attempted to write this post at least ten times in the last month, and have written pages and pages of thoughts and drafts, but nothing seemed right.  Then my friend Michelle let me know exactly what to do, and it is perfect.

I met Michelle at work about four years ago, and we bonded in the way that only two strangers who grew up in Montana can.  Our friendship grew over food cart lunches, happy hours, and sarcastic emails.  After I met Galen, she was the first person at work I talked to about him, and then the first person to know a few weeks later when he asked me out.  She is one of the most honest and open friends I have, and I’ve always valued her opinions and insight.  However, she’s also the funniest chick I know, and I often worry I’m not funny enough to hang out with her.

One morning at work a few years ago, I went into her cubicle to chat with her about something, but was distracted by the sight of her devouring a breakfast sandwich in a way that made it clear she hadn’t eaten in weeks.  With her mouth full of eggs and sausage, she swore me to secrecy before confiding that she was pregnant and this was her second breakfast that day.  I was so excited I actually bounced up and down in my chair.

A few months later, Michelle came to work with the ultrasound showing she was going to have a baby boy.  We asked about baby names and she told us she and Eric had had their boy’s name picked out for a while.  At the time, she was reading Trinity, by Leon Uris, and we had previously talked about the book and also the great Irish names in it.  Months later, baby Seamus was born.

While she was on maternity leave, Michelle and I went for Sunday walks with Seamus regularly, which was wonderful.  I have lots of baby Seamus memories from that time, including how he liked to sleep in the carrier with his head tilted way back in a way that looked incredibly uncomfortable, how Michelle said he always behaved better in the car when she put Justin Timberlake on, and the time I was holding him and he peed on me through his diaper.  Michelle and Eric were awesome new parents and I admired their ability to roll with the punches and enjoy every second.  And laugh.  A lot.

Once, when Seamus was about a year old, Michelle was planning to attend a mutual friend’s birthday party at a pizza place near our houses.  She texted me to ask if I was interested in attending because she was looking for a “co-baby wrangler.”  I have never had so much fun watching a kid NOT eat pizza, nor have I ever left a pizza joint as exhausted.  We left a wake of destruction in our path, covered with napkins, plates, straws, and lots and lots of tiny cut-up pieces of pizza that Seamus had put on his tongue and then allowed to fall out onto the floor before doing the same thing again.  There is no possible way he consumed more calories than he burned that evening.  When he wasn’t licking pieces of pizza, I was toting Seamus around the restaurant, carrying him upside down, tickling him and trying to distract him from what he really wanted to do, which was get down on the ground and run away to explore.

The next time I saw Michelle, Eric and Seamus was at the Bridge to Brews 8k I ran last year.

Galen, me, Jess, Michelle and Seamus after the race. I'm pretty sure beer does for adults what orange slices do for kids.

Right after this photo was taken, I asked to hold Seamus.  He was happy in my arms for about 0.13 seconds, until I wouldn’t let him rip my hair out or eat my sunglasses, at which point he started kicking so I’d let him down.  Which I did.  And the moment his little shoes touched the ground, he was gone.  I chased him down in a crowd of people and then allowed him to run while I held on to the back of his overalls, since he was easily faster than I was when unrestricted.  Eventually I had to pick him up and carry him back to our family and friends, because it became clear he was never going to take us back there.

The very last time I saw Seamus was at lunch with Michelle and some other former coworkers last fall.  I had just quit my job to go back to school and Michelle had started a new job, so we got together with some of our old crew to catch up.  Seamus sat in his high-chair long enough to eat some food, and then Michelle and I chased him around the restaurant for a half hour.  I was sweaty and sore afterward from picking him up, chasing him, laughing and smiling.  He reminded me of an old toy car we used to have that would drive on the table in one direction until it came to the edge, then turn 45 degrees, drive straight, turn, etc. – only turning when required.  With Seamus, though, we were physically picking him up and turning him, since he was headed straight for a staircase or a wall and he didn’t want to stop for either of those things.  Then he’d just take off running again.

Exactly one year ago, just shy of his second birthday, Seamus was in his stroller as his dad pushed him across a crosswalk.  By absolutely no fault of their own, but because the world sucks sometimes and horrible things happen to good people, they were hit by a car.  Eric survived, but Seamus didn’t.

Since then, I have thought a lot about him, about their family, and about all the good and bad things this world has to offer.  I’ve written many of those thoughts down in the past few weeks, trying to find the ‘right’ thing to say on this blog.  Then Michelle asked everyone to share their memories of her son, and I realized that’s always where my mind ends up anyway.  These memories are what connects me to Seamus, Michelle and Eric, and they’re what I really wanted to share.  I am grateful that Seamus was part of my world, albeit briefly, and I wish every day for nothing but good things to come to his parents and their families for the rest of their lives.

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The end of a terror

Twenty-four hours after I heard about Osama bin Laden’s death, there are only two things I’m sure of:

1. I don’t know how I feel.

2. However you feel is the right way for you to feel.

I’ve read and heard so much from people whose emotions range from elation and pride to frustration and sadness – those who are standing just a little bit taller today and those who are mortified by that type of response.  I can see everyone’s point.  I can’t come up with any reason for these people not to feel the way they feel, whatever it may be.  Really moving, strong, emotional moments like this can stir up lots of feelings and we can’t possibly assume they’ll be the same for any two people.

I do know it’s hard for me to celebrate the death of another human being at the hands of my government, although it’s not difficult to rationalize this man’s assassination.  I understand that, after what he had done, our leaders were left with a situation in which there was no simple “right” answer.  I am almost positive that if any number of factors in my life were different, I would have been celebrating in the streets last night instead of monitoring the internet for more information or a good one-liner that might help me describe my emotions.

I’m grateful that (from what I’ve read) no Americans or Pakistani civillians were killed in the firefight.  We’ve lost too many already.

It’s hard for me to understand the meaning of the word “justice” in this situation.  If you define “justice” as the death of the man who has led his followers to kill thousands, then yes.  It’s perfect.  If you define it as somehow making up for the previous deeds done, there is no way.  But if this brings something – closure, peace, a welcome moment of reflection – to those who have lost a loved one, I am glad.

I’m trying to use this as an opportunity to remember times when I’ve been particularly proud of my country, my government, or my fellow citizens.  How I felt in the weeks and months following 9/11, for instance, before I started scoffing at American flag bumper stickers and lapel pins.  Or when Obama was elected in 2008, when I was proud to be part of something historic and meaningful, before I became disillusioned once more.  Or what it was like before the TSA and Koran burnings and ground zero “mosques.”

I’m trying to ride the wave of excitement in an effort to reclaim those feelings and maybe unite with everyone for a moment in our emotions, whatever they are.  ‘Cause being proud to be an American feels so damn good.

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Filed under Bleeding-Heart Liberal, Deep Thoughts

The Real Meaning of Compassion

Dear Glenn Beck,

I am not a regular listener (or viewer) of yours, but a recording of one of your recent shows was brought to my attention this week. On Monday, you responded to a recent monologue by Lawrence O’Donnell and discussed your views on Planned Parenthood. The recording is available here.

Mr. Beck, I do not know you personally. I don’t know what it’s like to deal with the tragedy of losing your mother at a young age, not to mention alcoholism, drug abuse, divorce or spiritual awakening. I can’t imagine what it’s like to raise four children, one of whom suffers from a physical disability. I have never contemplated suicide, and I can’t imagine what depths of sadness and suffering you must have experienced to do so. Perhaps even more than once.

But even though I don’t know what you’ve been through, even though I may not see eye-to-eye with you on political issues, I try to have compassion. I try to pause before passing judgement, taking into account that you are in a different place than I am, making different decisions. And even if I disagree with your opinions, I understand that you must have your own reasons for forming them.

Compassion is part of what makes us human. When people forget how to empathize, good people get hurt. Their life savings is destroyed when the market collapses because people on Wall Street were only thinking of themselves. Their family is separated because their country’s leader believes that some of his people are worth less than others. They receive poor treatment at a hospital when their routine surgery goes awry, because the nurses and care providers are just punching the clock instead of caring for patients.

Considering how outspoken you were about the lack of compassion you encountered at the hospital a few years ago, I was appalled to hear your reaction to Lawrence O’Donnell’s reading of a letter from his friend who has taken advantage of the amazing services offered by Planned Parenthood. I understand that you are pro-life. I understand that you do not want the government to fund Planned Parenthood. I understand that you dislike Mr. O’Donnell. But I cannot understand your inability to put yourself in someone else’s shoes for even one moment.

As Mr. O’Donnell’s friend mentions, women are strongly encouraged to get routine exams annually. These exams not only help care providers identify cancer (cervical, breast, and others) in its early stages – when it is more likely to be curable – they also help identify women who may be sick without knowing it. It is possible for a man or a woman who has only had one sexual partner in his or her whole life to be carrying something unknowingly. Having multiple partners during your lifetime is not unheard of, even among your friends, family and supporters. Even you, Mr. Beck, have had children with more than one woman.

So imagine that you are a woman in a long-term, monogamous relationship who needs annual exams, but you aren’t able to pay for them. Perhaps you are unemployed, like nearly 10% of Americans, and therefore do not have health insurance. Perhaps you are a college student, like myself, with a student insurance plan that does not cover annual exams. Perhaps you are lucky enough to be employed, but cannot afford to purchase health insurance because your rates are much higher due to a pre-existing condition, such as the Cerebral Palsy from which your daughter suffers, Mr. Beck. Imagine, for a moment, that you aren’t able to go to the same hospital the president of GE does, because you can’t afford it. And then imagine Planned Parenthood steps forward and tells you that your health and well-being are their priority, and they will treat you regardless of your ability to pay.

Imagine that you are a woman who suffers from ovarian cysts or migraines that are kept at bay by daily hormones known as “birth control pills.” You do not take the pills to prevent pregnancy, but you must pay $70 per month to fill your prescription. The cost of an annual exam pales in comparison with your monthly prescription refill costs.  And your doctor won’t renew your prescription unless you get an exam every year.

And then imagine that, during your visit to Planned Parenthood for your exam, you learn that they will also provide your medication. All they ask is that you pay what you can. Your health and well-being is important to them.

Now imagine that you are online at work or school or the public library one day, and you find a link to a recorded radio show in which a man you’ve never met calls you a hooker. He says that the only people who depend on Planned Parenthood’s services are prostitutes. He tells you to stop spending money on birth control pills and just use condoms instead. He tells you to stop killing babies. He says that you have internet access, so you should be able to pay for your medical care.

And then imagine, Mr. Beck, that you do a quick internet search and find out that this man has spoken out against the new law passed that prohibits health insurance companies from discriminating on the basis of pre-existing conditions.  That he’s against the public option for people who don’t have the coverage they need.  And then you find a video of that same man a few years ago, talking intimately to a camera about “The real meaning of compassion.”

Just for a moment, try putting aside all of your political messaging and imagine how that might feel.

Only then, Mr. Beck, will you know the real meaning of compassion.

Sincerely,
M

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Filed under Bleeding-Heart Liberal, Deep Thoughts

Liberty Scanners

“They who can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety.”
– Benjamin Franklin

I don’t believe I have all the information about the new TSA body scanners, although I have read quite a few articles on the subject in the last few days.  I’m not usually the type of person to worry about things like BPA-free water bottles, high-tension power lines or anything else that might somehow make me sick without my knowledge…  I guess I just figure there are so many things to worry about in this world that we can’t all worry about everything.  (And apparently, I have chosen to worry about spiders and logging trucks).  However, of all government agencies, I think the TSA would be the least likely to be concerned with my personal well-being, especially when sacrificing it could in some way make them feel “safer” or look tougher.

Of the handful of articles and posts I’ve read, this one was the most interesting to me because, although the author notes that he does not specialize in radiation, he is a Ph.D. student who is clearly used to thinking scientifically and doing research the rest of us might not think to do (or even know how to do).  He itemizes every juncture at which the TSA has failed to conduct thorough safety trials or utilize critical thinking.  I highly recommend reading it, even though it’s long.

What this post showed me, assuming it’s all factual, is that there are enough unanswered questions to make me want to opt out of these scanners the next time I fly (if I’m even subjected to them).  Although having a TSA employee pat me down is not an exciting option either, I think there is less potential risk.

It is worth noting, however, that other people who may have been traumatized in some sexual way (which I have not) might find both of these options (the scanner and the pat down) horrifying for different reasons.  I can’t even imagine how difficult that experience would be for them.

In some ways, I also feel bad for the people employed by the TSA who have to perform these scans and searches.  Although I’m sure some of them are just grown-up hall monitors on a power trip, I’m sure lots of them are people who just desperately need a paycheck and wish they weren’t the face of the organization that’s implementing these rules.  These shirts and underwear are kind of funny, but they’re sending the message to the wrong people.  I bet lots of the TSA personnel are even less excited about these new regulations than the people buying those shirts.

The other thing is that you can’t out-think terrorists.  No matter what you do, they will work harder and try crazier things to bypass your systems, if they really want to.  People who want to endanger others MORE than they value their own life and safety are absolutely terrifying for that reason.  I’m not saying that there will be another successful terrorist attack or that there won’t… I’m just saying that this constant search for the terrorist-proof system is fruitless and only stirs up more anger and fear, which is exactly what we don’t need.

As you can see, I haven’t exactly organized my thoughts on the matter, nor am I ever sure I’m getting accurate information, but it’s frustrating to feel this new system has been implemented before proper testing and without concern for the peaceful, innocent individuals it affects.

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Filed under Bleeding-Heart Liberal, Deep Thoughts, Travel, Words to Live By

Gratitude

This year, I was going to do one of my annual photo collages, but some things are easier put into words.

I am grateful for:

The people who started as my coworkers and became some of my closest friends.

Homemade whipped cream.

Flowers, all sorts.

Family members who know me so well, sometimes I don’t even have to use words to describe my feelings to them.

Baking.

Jeans that fit well.

Songs that cause me to sing out loud and stay in the car after I’ve already parked.

My “college friends” who I wasn’t friends with in college, but who mean the world to me.

Sunny days that make me feel like I’m glowing.

Christmas lights.

My boyfriend, whose love is always with me, even if he can’t be.

Craft projects.

Aunts, uncles, cousins and baby cousins.

Traditions, memories and sentimental values.

Galen’s family, who always make me feel welcome.

Ebenezer Ale.

Sudoku.

Boots with the fur.

The wonderful people in my life who are patient with me as I try to understand the uncertainty that surrounds me and try to remember not to judge others too harshly.

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Science Cheerleaders

My friend Bonnie shared this article the other day about “Science Cheerleaders,” a group of former and current professional NFL and NBA cheerleaders who are also scientists and engineers.  They recently performed at the U.S. Science and Engineering Festival to encourage people, specifically young women, to pursue careers in science, technology, engineering and math:

Although I understand where so much of the stereotypes and criticism of cheerleaders comes from, I still think this is an awesome concept.  Jezebel.com covered the topic, saying, “Science shouldn’t have to be sexed-up to make it an acceptable career choice for women, but hopefully the message girls take from the Science Cheerleaders is that your attractiveness is not a reflection on your intelligence.”  I agree with them, but as a girl who has always been good at math and science, I think there’s another important part to this message, which is that you can excel in “nerdy” subjects and still be girly.  You don’t have to be, obviously, but sometimes, as female nerds, we don’t realize we have a choice.  Sometimes in middle school and high school we feel pigeonholed.  Everyone is given a label (nerd, football player, cheerleader, druggie, hippie) and then expected to play their part.  It took me a long time to figure out that I could pick and choose from various stereotypes, INCLUDING the “girly” one without accepting the whole package.  There were a few years in college when I had acrylic nails and got them “done” regularly, not because I was a super girly-girl overly-concerned with my appearance, but because I wasn’t really girly and having fancy nails made me feel good and a little rebellious.  I liked that I could rock my naturally curly hair and hooded sweatshirts every day but still have some feminine touches like manicures and matching accessories that made me feel good.  To this day, I sort of like the way people react when I tell them I majored in math.  I like defying their stereotypes.  And I really wish someone had told me when I was thirteen that I could spend time on my hair and dance and do neurology research, without having to choose.

Now I’m just hoping they start some sort of program for science professionals who want to be BlazerDancers.

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