Close to Home: Thinking About Newtown

My view of Newtown.

I used to work in Newtown, Connecticut and I lived just down the road in Monroe. I volunteered at the pound, and every once in a while I drive the hour or so back there to visit one of my favorite restaurants. It’s a beautiful town. Exactly what you think of when you picture Connecticut. Beautiful old homes line the main road, and Ram Pasture Park is the kind of place where you see retrievers running in the snow, geese sitting on the pond, and where you can still picture actual rams grazing in the grass. And then there’s the infamous flag pole, which confounds drivers.

I was never really a part of this community, but I know people who are. It’s a community much like the one I grew up in. So when I saw the news today, I was shocked. Sad. Angry.

I sat here watching the news for a while, watching the images of children marching single-file through the parking lot. Listening as elementary school children, with pearl earrings, reported what they’d heard and experienced. I looked at the faces of the newscasters I grew up with as they stumbled over their words, struggled to figure out what was going on, and tried the explain what the hell had happened. Cried with the parents who sobbed as they retrieved their children from the school…or worse.

Eventually I decided to get up and walk the dog. We took the long route, and I streamed NPR to my phone, listening to the news as I walked. It was an unusually beautiful day, today. Not warm, exactly, but not cold. It was clear and sunny, and not so windy that your nose and ears throb. It made me think about 911.  Continue reading

An Economy Built on Crap

Honestly, does this add $300 worth of value to your life? I’m gonna say it does exactly the opposite!

A few years ago, when I was living in a tiny apartment, I declared a stuff boycott. Since moving into my house I’ve relaxed the rules a bit, though I still don’t like buying things that seem unnecessary. But every Christmas season I start scouring  websites for gift ideas to buy those tricky relatives who don’t want or need anything useful that you could possibly buy them. Sure, they might actually need a new dishwasher but it’s not like you’re really going to buy that for your aunt or uncle…

With my friends I can get away with making donations in their names ( is my favorite), but my family is a little Christmas Crazy. For years I’ve been trying to get them to agree to Secret Santa or a grab bag, but so far I haven’t been successful. So…I continue to troll the internet looking for not completely horrible gift ideas for people who don’t need anything. I often make them something and then just go get gift certificates for manicures or what have  you.

But as I sort through the incredible amount of crap that’s out there to buy — and I wonder why anyone would buy it — I realize that our entire economy is basically built on people’s willingness to buy stuff they don’t need. Just the other day I was window shopping for a new laptop. Mine is probably at least 4 years old, some of the keys are starting to stick, and I’ve heard some not great noises coming from it but to say I “need” one would be a stretch. Part of me knows I should make the switch before this one actually dies, but a much bigger part of me says, “You don’t need it now!” But as I’ve chatted with friends about this new shopping conundrum of mine it’s clear that they think I should just go ahead and do it already, whether I  really need it or not. (There have been some good deals on refurbished MacBooks, so it’s been a real struggle to keep myself from the impulse-buy.) And if it weren’t for people like those friends of mine, buying gadgets they don’t really need, where the heck would our economy be? And more importantly, can we really sustain growth on that kind of mentality?

I think the answer is, obviously, NOOOOOOOO!  Continue reading

Feminism: The Other F-Word

John Oxton, Flickr Creative Commons

As is the case with so many of my posts lately, this one started with a xoJane article. This one happens to be about how Taylor Swift and the author don’t identify as Feminist (capital F). I don’t think any of us find that shocking. Here’s a girl who makes her living singing syrupy songs about break-ups with the kinds of guys who I get great joy out of giving the heave-ho. I also think of her as being eternally 16 because she continues to write songs that have the emotional maturity of a 16-year-old. (Maybe ya’ll have guessed, but I’m not a big Taylor Swift fan.) How can you be mad at a 16-year-old for not being a feminist?

More to the point, I do identify as a feminist and have ever since I took my first Women’s Studies class in college. Back then I tended to wear army green pants and gray shirts and spent too much money on Ani DiFranco tickets. These days I only go to see Ani when it’s free (which, oddly, happens more than you would think) and I try to incorporate more colors into my wardrobe. I no longer care to resemble camouflage. But I’m still a feminist.

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No One Should “Have It All”

The internet is on fire with reaction to the Atlantic’s cover story. Rather than try to explain what all the hub-bub is about, I’ll let someone else do it:

The whole how-can-women-work-and-parent-well-at-the-same-time is not exactly a new conundrum, but clearly something about this piece, written by former State Department official and current Princeton professor Anne-Marie Slaughter, and the magazine’s cover (a toddler stuffed in a briefcase), struck a chord with The Internet.

A lot of the negative reaction to the piece is aimed at Slaughter’s contention that feminism sold her a bill of goods. That she was raised to think that she could “have it all,” but that, actually, it’s not so easy.

Oh, you mean having the equivalent of two full-time jobs isn’t easy? Ya don’t say… Continue reading

In the Face of Fear

When I was 19, I jumped out of an airplane. So it might surprise you to hear that I’m afraid of heights.

I don’t like standing near windows in tall buildings, and when I’ve had seats in a suite for an event at the Civic Center, I stay toward the back of the box — because somehow it seems like I’m less likely to fall out if the whole box goes crashing into the crowd below. Driving on mountain roads near cliffs is…torturous. I don’t generally mind planes just because you’re so far removed from the earth, it’s kind of unreal.

Jumping out of the plane, though, that was a new level of terror. I didn’t really do my homework, so I found myself having to climb out onto a wing of the plane rather than just throwing myself out of a door. My leg barely reached the strut so it flapped in the wind while my stomach did somersaults. Eventually I managed to get out onto the wing, and my tandem instructor and I were flying in the face of every shred of common sense I ever had. I immediately curled up into a ball and started screaming!! After I saw the earth-the sky-the earth-the sky go by me a few times, I realized I was panicking and doing exactly what I wasn’t supposed to do.  Eventually I regained my composure and we tumbled toward the ground in a more orderly fashion. Continue reading

Trayvon Martin, American Paranoia, and the Decline of the Neighborhood

Seriously, which one of these people would you be more afraid of if you encountered them on the street?

This morning I listened to a story on NPR about “the talk” one mother had with her teenage sons. It made me sadder than anything has in a long time.

Here is the gist:

BRITT: The talk is what many black parents have with their sons and daughters – but probably more often their sons. It’s a preparatory explanation and a warning, to let them know what’s out there for them. You know, when they shift from the adorableness of childhood into, you know, their early preteen and teen years where they can perceived as dangerous, as threatening, as things that most of them really aren’t. Continue reading

My Favorite Vegan: Bill Clinton

I owe my friend Tracy big time. Last fall I heard that President Bill Clinton was coming to the CT Forum, and because Tracy and I G-Chat pretty much all day, she got to hear me (read me?) whine about how I wanted to go. As I had just bought a house and Christmas was right around the corner, disposable income was not at an all-time high. But Tracy is one of those people who hears you mention something and makes a mental note. So, frankly, I wasn’t all that surprised when she announced I had to clear my schedule for March 16, 2012. My Christmas present was a ticket to see Bill Clinton.

A quick check of your calendar will reveal that last night was March 16, and so you’ve probably guessed that I saw the 42nd President of the United States last night.

I won’t lie, I get really angry about term limits when I think about Bill Clinton leaving office. I keep my fingers crossed that Hillary will some day be our president just to get Bill back into the White House (not that she isn’t awesome in her own right). And I don’t think I’m the only one who thinks this:

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Some Practical Advice for Perma-Campers

The lap of luxury for a perma-camper. (From dave_7, Flickr Creative Commons.)

I heard a story on NPR the other day about NPR’s perma-campers. What’s a perma-camper you ask? Well, it’s someone who exists in the nebulous place between having a roof over your head and the homeless. Here’s an example:

Some of them are old-timers, but there’s also a wave of newcomers and younger people, like Marcus Featherston, a 20-something who lives in a Ford Econoline van.

Featherston’s van has a fold-out couch, a miniature sink and a fridge running on batteries. He moved into the van last year, after losing a couple of jobs.

“It was kind of either food or rent, and I ended up selling a car that I had and moving into the van and deciding to go to school,” Featherston says. “[The decision] was kind of freeing, to be honest.”

When I start to ponder the plight of the perma-campers, I keep thinking about the RV-couple from Into the Wild. You remember them right? The hippies who live in their RV, making a living by selling old books at flea markets and the like. To be honest, I kind of wanted to be them after seeing that movie so I can see how Featherston would find the move into his van freeing. Someday, when I retire, I’d like to hop in a camper and drive around  the country. In fact, I’ve given this quite a bit of thought (as did my friend and her boyfriend, who quite their jobs last year and spent several months traveling the country in an RV and shooting videos about it for American Continue reading

Obama Impeachment: Ludicrous

Justin Sloan, Flickr Creative Commons

I’m getting excited to go see Bill Clinton at the CT Forum this Friday. It’s rather coincidental that there is an impeachment bill sitting in Congress as I type:

Rep. Walter B. Jones Jr., R-N.C., has introduced a resolution declaring that should the president use offensive military force without authorization of an act of Congress, “it is the sense of Congress” that such an act would be “an impeachable high crime and misdemeanor.”

I’m not even going to bother arguing the merits of this “impeachment” or how ridiculous it is when opponents of any president try and use impeachment to un-do the will of the people. (As far as I’m concerned only the people should be allowed to impeach the president they elected — you know, like those recall elections the states have.) What really bugs me about this is how useless and wasteful it is. Continue reading

The Women’s Media Center Has Lost Its Mind

The Women’s Media Center Has Lost Its Mind

A great post about why the Women’a Media Center has lost its mind … even more so than Rush Limbaugh:

So, Women’s Media Center,  I am here to tell you (a) that it’s not mere speculation to suggest that your strategies can be used with equal zeal against people arguing for your causes and (b) even the vicious baboons I used to do battle with never attempted anything quite as arrogant and over-reaching as what you propose.