Lean Out and Get a Life

I am a working woman in my 30s who has never read Sheryl Sandberg’s Lean In. I’m a rare bird, but now that you’ve spotted me, you can check me off your list.

Like a lot of women, I had a very basic, visceral reaction to Lean In that made me an instant skeptic. For me, though, the problem was less about the privileged position Sandberg was writing from at the time, and more about the fact that she was using her prominent position to tell us all to work harder–as if Americans weren’t already working themselves to death.

Continue reading

“I’ll Be Gone in the Dark” No More

book-jacket 2Michelle McNamara spent years working on a book about The Golden State Killer. She died in her sleep before she was able to finish the book–in part because of the substances she used to cope with the horror of investigating these crimes. Her husband, Patton Oswalt, and a couple of collaborators made sure the book was finished and published. I’ll Be Gone in the Dark was published a few weeks ago to huge acclaim. Today, police announced THEY’VE TAKEN A SUSPECT INTO CUSTODY!

You couldn’t write this stuff if you tried.  Continue reading

A Rock Climbing Fable for the Ages

Last weekend, my boyfriend and I headed to the rock climbing gym as per usual. We donned our gear, chalked up our hands, and hit the wall. There were a dozen or so new routes in the back corner of the gym, and after a warm up, we headed over to check them out.

If you aren’t familiar with climbing gyms, here’s a little primer on how it works. The easiest routes are rated 5.5. If you’re an adult, these get old quick. The holds are easy and close together. Ratings go up to about 5.14 or so (it gets more complicated than that but it’s all you need to know for now). At my gym, when a new route is set a scorecard is put out and climbers can rate it however they think fit. Eventually, someone takes all the ratings and narrows it down to one rating.

600_434194106A year or so into climbing, I can climb a 5.9 pretty reliably. Once in awhile I meet one that vexes me. I have climbed the occasional 5.10. But this weekend I found myself faced with something interesting. Instead of a bunch of scorecards on the new routes, they were simply marked with colored tape. There were absolutely no ratings to be seen.

We stood before the wall, assessing the new routes. You usually have some idea of whether or not something is within your wheelhouse. But I found myself looking at one route on a sharp corner with lots of tiny little holds thinking, “I can do that.” My boyfriend guessed it might be a 5.11. I decided to throw myself at it anyway.  Continue reading

Why I Climb

I have to retract a statement. In a recent post I called kickboxing “the only workout I can stand.” It turns out that was a lie. I guess I didn’t know myself as well as I thought. You see, I’ve taken up rock climbing and I am smitten. 

climbing

Grace in motion.

A couple of years ago my boyfriend, Brian, and I were walking through the local Apple Harvest Festival and stopped by a tent for the nearby rock climbing gym. The young man who was manning the booth gave us a couple of free passes. In our joint quest to get in better shape, we finally used those passes in March. I was feeling a little worse for the wear after throwing myself whole hog into cardio boxing. I went to three classes in 7 days and by the last class I was seeing improvement in my cardio stamina but my abs were D.O.N.E. We got to the last 15 minutes of class and I could hardly pick my legs up off the ground. I’m pretty sure I pulled a muscle.

So when Brian asked if I wanted to finally use our climbing passes that weekend, I lept at the excuse to not have to go back to the boxing gym right away. We took a belay class and were unleashed on the gym.

We haven’t looked back since.  Continue reading

No, YOU Smile!

I have a new hobby. I like refinishing furniture. I don’t mean that I take beautiful old antiques and bring them back to life. I find junk at Goodwill or the dump, slap some paint on it, and unload it on Craigslist. This is how I found myself standing in front of a wall of spray paint in my local hardware store. I had a can in my hand and was examining the label when a man in a headset and vest stopped and said, “And how are you doing young lady?”

“I’m good, thanks,” I said and went back to my label.

“You’re not smiling so you can’t be doing that well.”

I looked at him as if to say, “Not smiling while reading the label on a can of spray paint? Dude, if you see someone grinning while reading the label on a can of toxic chemicals, you can be pretty sure she is going to huff it behind your store. Do not sell it to her!”  Continue reading

Kickboxing: The Only Workout I Can Stand

7536321456_23f0bee70b_z

Flickr Creative Commons, Phicen Kickboxing, Edward Liu

It’s been a while since I kickboxed, but it was, by far, my favorite form of exercise. It’s the only thing that ever got me looking forward to class, and kept me coming back 3 or 4 times per week. Now, I’m thinking about getting back to it again, but all kickboxing classes are not created equal.

There are a few things I really love about kickboxing:

  • I don’t need to do anything else. My favorite class incorporated 15 minutes of ab work at the end of class, after I’d punched and kicked an inanimate bag into submission. Then we would stretch. There was no need for any other kind of work out.
  • I’ve never liked exercising for the sake of exercising. I don’t like to run just to run, or lift weights just to lift weights. But with kickboxing I felt like I was learning to defend myself, which made it feel like more than exercise.
  • I like to hit stuff. Let’s be honest, we all spend a lot of time being more civilized than we might like. I don’t yell at other drivers, or cuss out strangers in parking lots. But hitting stuff is fun!

Continue reading

In Praise of School Dress Codes

I have a very vivid memory of sitting in American history class as a senior in high school and looking over at my friend Ali. She was covertly gesturing at the guy next to her who was wearing a tank top. We were in suburban Connecticut, not Florida–which is to say that tank tops were not exactly fashionable attire for males, even in the late-1990s. I didn’t know what all her gesticulating meant until she whipped out the Ani DiFranco lyrics she knew I would recognize. “PALE PURPLE!” I grimaced. She could see this dude’s nipple.

I’ve been thinking about this story a lot lately. There seems to have been a rash of outraged blog posts and news segments about girls getting sent home from school–or being otherwise punished–for failing to meet their school’s dress codes. Some of the stories seem outrageous. Othertimes, some of the shorts actually do seem pretty short and if you knew what the dress code was, why didn’t you abide by it? Parents cry foul when their daughters are reprimanded for wearing short-shorts/skirts, spaghetti strap tank tops, and beyond. They gripe that boys aren’t “shamed” for their wardrobes–and that girls should not have to care whether boys are “distracted” by their bare skin. It would be easy enough to throw up my feminist hands and say, “Right on! Wear whatever you want, grrrrl!” But I feel like something important is being ignored in these discussions. Continue reading

I’m Not Moody, I’m a Normal Human Being–And So Are You

Lately, much of my regular media diet has been made of up of discussions of Moody Bitches: The Truth About the Drugs You’re Taking, the Sleep You’re Missing, the Sex You’re Not Having, and What’s Really Making You Crazy. From NPR to Slate, everyone’s talking about it. Here, take a few minutes to catch up:

Continue reading

Going Vegetarian, Getting Rid of Sugar, and Becoming Smoothie Obsessed

20130818-191659.jpgA few weeks ago I decided to tackle my sugar addiction once and for all. You can blame NPR for reporting the dangers sugar poses to the cardiovascular system, and for someone telling me that Agave nectar is as bad for you as high-fructose corn syrup. There was also the small fact that I was chowing down on donuts all winter like a bear preparing for hibernation. It was a huge problem. My pants were getting a little too tight.

My cousin started the Paleo diet a few months ago, and while the program didn’t seem right for me — that much meat is bad for you, and for the environment — there were some rules that made sense to me. I don’t believe in “diets” because they aren’t sustainable. Eventually you go off of them, and then what? I’ve always been a big proponent of adopting rules that make sense for you in the long-term. But when my cousin told me how she’d cheated on her Paleo diet during the Super Bowl, and woke up the next morning feel so hungover she almost had to call out of work, it convinced me that there were some changes I could make that would have me looking and feeling better.

Continue reading

Why Bustle Isn’t Going to Win the Hearts and Minds of Women

A while back Bleacher Report founder Bryan Goldberg found himself in a bit of a PR nightmare when he announced he would be revolutionizing women’s media by creating a site that *gasp* put politics and hard news alongside beauty tips and fashion advice. Mostly people just laughed at him because clearly he hadn’t done any homework before launching Bustle.com, which would have shown the many thriving websites aimed at women. Among his competition is Jezebel. I’d forgotten all about Bustle because, well, I read Jezebel, Rookie, XOJane, Slate’s XX blog, and any number of other lady-focused sites. Today I confirmed that I was right to stay away. Continue reading

Game of Thrones: The Most Feminist Show on TV

I’ve been meaning to write this post for quite a while, but I’ve been a bad, bad blogger. Please thank my busy life and a desire to get away from computers at 5 o’clock sharp! So here it goes…

I got into the Game of Thrones craze a little late. There had already been a couple of seasons by the time I got around to learning about The Starks and the Dyer Wolves, and the Khaleesi. Like most people, I was immediately hooked. Then the Wendy Davis memes started…

It wasn’t the first time I’d thought about just how feminist a show/book Game of Thrones is, but I did start to consider it more seriously. There are a lot of boobs in Game of Thrones, but there are also a lot of bad ass women. Some of them are evil, most of them are awesome… all of them are worth talking about.  Continue reading

Everything I Know About Cats and Urinary Tract Infections

She's not sick, she's just very hot.

She’s not sick, she’s just very hot.

A few years ago one of my cats came down with a urinary tract infection. The first sign of this unpleasant feline problem is an excessive amount of litter tracked around the house from the constant in and out of the litter box. Then you start to notice the poor cat actually going in and out of the box. And then, and this is the weird part, you’ll find them trying to pee in sinks and tubs (or at least my cat did) and wonder, “How does a cat know what a drain is?” And eventually you get to the vet and they tell you that, in the case of male cats, UTI’s can be extremely dangerous if they develop crystals in their urine–the crystals can lead to a blockage.

It’s been a long time but I recently went through the experience again, and over the years I’ve learned a lot about the problems so I thought I’d share my extensive knowledge. This is one of the more frustrating (and annoying) health issues to deal with and I know I wish I’d had all this information 4 years ago.

Originally my cat was put on a prescription food, which was super expensive and had pretty crappy ingredients. So after a few years I decided to do some homework and found out that giving your cat the crappiest wet food is better than giving them the most expensive dry food, at least when it comes to UTI’s. It’s all about the moisture content. Continue reading