Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Sex +

You know how sometimes you feel a certain way, but there's no word or phrase to describe it?

That's the way it's always been for me and my attitude about sex. In lieu of a cool, spot-on phrase I would say things like I'm accepting or non-judgmental, but then at some point during the last two years (Yes, I've been living under a rock and it's name is children) I discovered the whole Sex Positive movement.

Music played, lights flashed and I was like, oh that's a perfect phrase for what I think and feel about human sexuality. Here's the definition that I grabbed off Wikipedia and, kids, if you're reading this, remember Wikipedia is not to be trusted for homework papers

Sex positivity is "an attitude towards human sexuality that regards all consensual sexual activities as fundamentally healthy and pleasurable, and encourages sexual pleasure and experimentation. The sex-positive movement is a social and philosophical movement that focuses on acceptance and advocates these attitudes along with sex education and safer sex as part of its campaign. The movement makes no moral distinctions among types of sexual activities, regarding these choices as matters of personal preference.

Even though it's not included in the above defintion (another reason not to cite Wikipedia) one of the things I find most appealing about the Sex + movement is its emphasis on female self-esteem.

This shouldn't come as a surprise.

I have an eleven year old daughter who is launching headfirst into a culture where girls starve themselves to look like models and even models need to be airbrushed to meet the unrealistic standards of beauty that are set. If you haven't seen the Dove Real Beauty evolution piece, take a minute to watch it and you'll see why this topic gets me angsty.

Enter Laci Green.

She's my new hero (or since I'm calling myself Sex + maybe I should say heroine). Her clips on YouTube talk about relationships, body image and sexuality in a healthy upbeat way. Even more importantly, from my perspective, she's a young, hip, twentysomething who is saying all the things I want my daughter to hear.

As I mentioned before, my daughter is eleven.
Every time I talk to her about things like getting her period she clutches her ears and moans like my voice is toxin.

Which I get. I'm her mom. But Laci Green isn't. While my daughter isn't ready for the videos about losing your virginity, I think she's the perfect age for Period Hatin' and "OMG" - 12 Year Olds Aren't Sexy.

Instead of handing my little girl a book about "The Blessings of Menstraution," and never speaking about it again, we'll pop ourselves some popcorn, fire up YouTube and I'll let Laci Green say all the things I want to say. They all boil down to love your body, love yourself and know your worth isn't determined by what you see in the mirror.

Which, when I stop to think about it, is a message that's just as important for grown ups as it is for little girls.

Monday, February 25, 2013


Some of my writer friends spend their days in cozy yoga pants. Some of them sport jeans and flannel button downs on a regular basis. Some of them would say the Oscar red carpet fashionstravaganza is the definition of prime writing time.

I won't be offended if any of these friends skip this post.

Writers get a bad rap when it comes to fashion.

Just because some of us can skate by without leaving the house, washing our hair or showering on a weekly basis, that doesn't mean we do. This writer, in particular, loves Oscar fashion night.

Here are my thoughts in no particular order about some of last night's more memorable moments.

Quvenzhane Wallis, the youngest actress to ever be nominated for an Academy Award, and her puppy purses is already setting trends among nine year old girls. After seeing a quick interview with her I predict her trendsetting capabilities will soon extend to kids begging for liberal bedtimes just like Quvenzhane! I know my daughter can't be the only one who was jealous that particular detail.

Amanda Seyfriend, in her Alexander McQueen dress, was the poster child for the adage about suffering and beauty. "I feel like my internal organs are going to pop out," she said, but then quickly amended her statement to profess a love for corsetted costumes which felt a little like insisting four inch heels are good walking shoes.

Jennifer Lawrence in Dior Haute Couture was natural, stunning and still managed to find time to talk about food. If she wasn't already, now she is definitely my favorite actress in Hollywood.

Nicole Kidman reminded me that no matter how much I hate what the march of time might do to my face, plastic surgery is not always the best option.

Jennfer Garner was glamorous, beautiful and pitch perfect with the press. Every time I see an interview with her she makes me smile.

The one trend I noticed, aside from puppy purses, is many of the stars were were wearing gowns that could double as wedding dresses. I ended Oscar night inspired to repurpose my wedding gown for my next black tie event. Fortunately the impulse was short lived. 

What about you? Any moments of crazy fashion inspiration? Do you watch the Oscars for fashion or for the actual award ceremony?

Friday, February 22, 2013

Dude Looks Like A Lady

A Girl and Her Hamster
Child #1 waited six solid months for Nixie Noo-Noo, as she's known when we're feeling affectionate.

Our household was in such a hamster frenzy over Ninjy Hamster that it was apparent to everyone but me a second hamster was in the cards.

Nixie arrived on Christmas and she is actually a he.

Child #1 really, really wanted a girl, but since I refuse to deal with hamster pregnancies and hamsters eating their young, we just decided to do a gender reassignment.

 Nothing shocking about that, I mean come on, we live in the People's Republic of Portland where the only citywide goal I've identified is expressed on bumper stickers and t-shirts reminding everyone to 'Keep Portland Weird'.

But back to the hamster. At first she was just Nixie, but since my kids like their hamsters with a healthy serving of backstory, she's since developed into Nixie Minaj, pop star to the hamster world.

"She gives concerts from her cage at night. Want to know what she sings?" I was walking the kids to school while my daughter was expounding on hamster world happenings.
Science Project Fodder
"I know," I told her. "I can hear them from my room. Which is true. By ten o'clock both my kids' rooms sound like hamster mosh pits.

She sang it anyway. To the tune of of Nicki Minaj's Starships. "Some hamsters are meant to fly. Paws up and touch the sky." After that I was treated to a rendition of "Sleep All Day," sung to the tune of Pound the Alarm.

Meanwhile, it saddens me to report that Ninjy has passed on to the big cage in the sky. It was either a heart attack or internal injuries. Hamsters are heart attack prone so we're going with the first alternative.

Although Ninjy was mourned deeply for several hours he was replaced later that day by Nibble, who true to his name, has performed some surgical nibbling upon child flesh. But we are nothing, if not hardy hamster tamers at the Garth household because Nibble is being loved into submission coming around.

When Nibble's not biting my kids, his backstory is trainer to the hamster stars. That's right, he's responsible for the workout that keeps Nixie Minaj looking sweet and chubby.

We may have one gender-reassigned pop star hamster and another who, in the voice of Child #2 talks a lot about push ups, but at least we won't have babies. Maybe Nixie Minaj will be inspired to write a song about that.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

This Is How You Get Her Attention

The book I'm reading at the moment is so delicious I wan't to gobble it all up and, simultaneously, take my time because when it's over, that's it. I'll be done.

In case you're not familiar with Junot Diaz's, This is How You Lose Her, here's a little taste.

You, Yunior, have a girlfriend named Alma, wo has a long tender horse neck and a big Dominican ass that seems to exist in a fourth dimension beyond jeans. An ass that could drag the moon out of orbit. An ass she never liked until she met you. Ain't a day that passes that you don't want to press your face against that ass or bite the delicate sliding tendons of her neck. You love how she shivers when you bite, how she fights you with those arms that are so skinny they belong in an after-school special.
It's writing so real and raw with such an amazing voice I almost can't bear the knowledge I'm halfway done. My only consolation is I haven't read The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao, which now feels like the rainbow promise of an ice cream cone treat.

My absorption with this book was evident when my son found me last weekend in the living room, nose to page, curled in a ball on the couch.

"Whatcha reading, Mom?" he asked and then, when I didn't immediately respond, proceeded to slow read the title from the front cover. "This.   Is.   How.   You.   Lose.   Her." He thought about the name for a minute and then said, "I hear that's a great book."

"You do?" I said looking up, which is what he wanted in the first place. "Who do you hear that from?"

"My teacher. She's been talking about it a lot."

"She has." I said with a smile.

"Yeah," he nodded his head like the coolest kid on the block and added, "She's thinking about reading it to us out loud as soon as she finishes it."

"Really?" I asked and tried to stifle the giggle that threatened to escape at the image of twenty-two second graders assembled on the rug, eyes wide as their teacher reads aloud from a book about the ways humanity searches for passion and, all too often, settles for frail substitutes. Oh, and not to mention the sex and the drugs.

But it is kind of cool my kid wants to talk to me and knows how to get me to look up from my book without being obnoxious, so I smiled instead of laughed and said, "So This Is How You Lose Her is next on the list after Chitty Chitty Bang Bang?"

"Yeah." He climbed up in my lap and did that thing where he pets me like a dog.

I put the book down and surrendered to his gummy-fingered affections. "Okay. Tell me all your favorite parts in Chitty Chitty Bang Bang."

Which he did and fortunately he didn't ask me to reciprocate.

Friday, February 15, 2013

Happy Valentine's Day Mr. President

My favorite sight on Valentine's Day?

Hands down, the highschool skateboarder I passed during my morning run. He was holding an enormous bouquet of roses wrapped in cellophane and, I could tell, skateboarding more carefully than usual.

It made me smile. And say did the cards and love from the kiddos. Now I have two new handmade Valentine's Day cards to add to my seasonal wall 'o Valentines.

Sadly, my sweetheart was all the way on the other side of the country yesterday. Happily, there's FaceTime.

And my reference to the President in this post's title?

I'm sure I've mentioned my enduring crush on President Clinton somewhere before on this blog. He's my One Direction and I'm more than happy to claim the title of groupie!

Which is why I won't be here on President's Day.

I'll be way too busy contemplating one particular and still dreamy at the age of 66, ex-President (or possibly, sshhh, don't tell Bill) catching up on errands and maybe even seeing a movie with my two little funny Valentine's and my big serious one.

Since I'll be gone, I'll leave you with some eye candy. For most people it's cabana boys or hollywood starlets, but for me it's President Clinton and his amazing mind.

Enjoy the weekend and I'll see you on Wednesday.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Oral Processing

We were on our way our the door when I discovered a Nintendo DS cartridge in my son's backpack.

"What's this?" I asked.

"Oh, it's just leftover from my sleepover. I forgot to pack it out."

"You mean unpack it," I corrected while Child #1 stifled a laugh.

"Yeah, uh-huh."

And we were off. On the way home I thought about Child #2's linguistics. From the time he was little he's always been creative with words, both prononciation and application. He played with disanours and requested hangabers for dinner.

As he gets older, he's been known to use his language skills as an offensive technique. Word to the wise, if you're slated to play the Blue Bombers this spring, don't talk to the kid on third base. He'll only distract you from completing your homerun.

The more I thought about Child #2's urge to communicate, proper words notwithstanding, I realized he might have come by this trait genetically. I moved to France after college with little to no practical knowledge of the language. You might think that would prevent me from making friends and having an active social life, but there you would be wrong.

Instead of listening quietly, I inflicted my baby French on everyone I met until eventually, baby French became grown up French.

In my current incarnation as mom and writer, much to Child #1's burgeoning discomfort, I talk to everyone I meet. This is why I know the check out clerk at Trader Joe's is named after a flower and all the details of a certain barista's divorce.

And even if there's a language barrier, I still manage to have interesting conversations. I'll try English, fall back on French, poke my husband to see if he can come up with the phrase in Italian or Japanese and if all else fails, I resort to pantomime.

The more I thought about this trait, the more I realized it's more than just social butterflyness or chattiness. My son and I process our lives through interaction. Our experiences of the world aren't concrete until we've discussed them, literally felt them slip-slide over our tongue. We're oral processors. And language, as it turns out, is nothing more than an obstacle course. If you tackle it in the right way, you find yourself going around, over and under it.

The important thing is finding your way through to the other side.

So whether you unpack, pack it out; tell everyone you meet you plan to be an avocado instead of a lawyer or cause well-meaning Italian men to blush all kinds of red by telling them you love to eat "fica", eventually the misunderstandings get straightened out and you're on your way to a conversation.

And if you're lucky, you might just be taken to a fig orchard, which incidentally is pronounced fichi, and told to pick as many as you want.

Are you an oral  processor? If not, how do you process your world?

Friday, February 8, 2013

The Knotty Issue of Boy Scouts

Full disclosure: My son is a Boy Scout.

It wasn't an easy decision to make. I had to get comfortable with allowing him to belong to an organization that wouldn't allow his uncles or many of my close friends to lead a troop. I say I got comfortable, but maybe I should just say I rationalized it.

We talked about my objections over the dinner table where my concerns were mistranslated to my children, in the way things so often are, as an objection based on the Boy Scout policy to only allow gay men and women to lead troops.

From there, they extrapolated Boy Scouts was primarily an organization for gay men and boys and my concerns about Child #2's membership were based on our inability to predict which way he would swing.

But back to my rationalization process. It was based on the leadership of Child #2's troop.

It's a co-op of men who, while not gay, share the same beliefs and value systems I do. Still, knowing that the boys with two moms aren't part of the troop saddens me. I understand and support their decision, but I've long wished the Boy Scouts would change their policies so they resemble something drafted in this century.

Which is why I've kept a watchful eye on the Boy Scout's decision to re-examine their policy regarding sexual orientation. It's interesting, if not surprising, to note the reconsideration of policy was preceded by a sharp drop-off in corporate sponsorship.

Sponsors who've recently denied funding to the group are IBM, Levi Strauss and Company, J.P. Morgan, American Airlines, Medtronic, Portland General Gas and Electric, Hewlett Packard, Textron, Fleet Bank, CVS/Pharmacy Stores and Carrier Corp. In 2010 UPS gave the Boy Scouts $167,000, but in light of pressure from homosexual-rights groups they've since pulled the plug on their donations.

The Boy Scout's decision to re-examine their long-standing policies doesn't speak to a sudden change of heart as much as it proves they, like every other nonprofit, rely heavily on corporate donations. I do believe the policy will eventually be changed, whether next week or next year, it's just the way we're headed.

Once it's changed, the analysis of Boy Scout leadership, at a corporate level, becomes more interesting. Will a change in policy based on financial reasons pave the way for true change based on belief? That's my hope and not just because it meshes so nicely with my view of the world. 

Instead of making my son's participation in Boy Scouts feel like a dirty little secret, wouldn't it be nice if it was something he could announce with pride. "I'm a Boy Scout. I can tie knots, pitch tents and I know the true measure of a human being isn't determined by their sexual orientation."

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Social Media Scary

I tend to be very comfortable in my little corner of the internet.

Blog posts go out. People read them. Some people leave comments, but if I compared comments to hits I'd say most people don't. Which is maybe why I'm so comfortable. I sort of forget how many people stop by, read and are gone without ever leaving a trace.

This isn't to say I'm not grateful for my readers or expect everyone to comment. It's more to explain my surprise at the series of unexpected events that follow.

My daughter has a phone, sort of. It's actually my old phone with the phone part deactivated. She loves checking her email, the weather and sharing silly pictures of her hamster (Nixie Minaj) clothed in the latest Child #1 creation.

Things were good until I realized I wanted her to be able to text me. Yes, I realize people lived for years without text messaging services, but it's just so convenient. In lieu of actual texting that would require a phone plan, I downloaded a messaging app to her phone and we started having long text conversations. I'm a social texter, which means I like to chat via text and, as it turns out, so is she.

And it was still all good until I published one little Tweet.

One little Tweet was all it took to remind me the internet is a teeming metropolis. Just because I stay in the nice neighborhoods, doesn't mean there aren't mean streets I shouldn't wander down in the middle of the night.

The Tweet, as most of my Tweets are, was innocuous. Something along the lines of "I love using [texting app] to text with my daughter #motherdaughterbonding.

What happened next was frightening. My phone started to blow up with text messages from other users on the app I'd named. Within ten minutes I had over thirty messages from strangers.

Some of the messages were disturbing. "Please talk to me. I need a mom." Some of them had major ick factor. "Hey MILF, I bet my c*ck is bigger than your husbands," complete with nonexistent punctuation and photoshopped evidence of the male sexual organ of, I don't know, a donkey, maybe a small elephant, attached to a human being.

The whole thing happened so fast it caught me off guard. I read a few messages before I remembered this app allows the sender to see when their message has been read. I started to get more messages which made me feel like my phone had been contaminated...which in a way it had.

In the end I quickly deleted the rest of the messages without reading them and haven't had a problem since.

But it did serve as a good reminder. The amount of hits my blog gets on a daily basis surprises me. On Twitter I have close to 7000 followers. On Google Plus my profile has found its way into a similar amount of circles. All of the foregoing is just a numerically quantified way of expressing the internet audience is wider than I remember.

I don't spend much time thinking about followers or numbers. Product, in the form of words, goes out. People read it. In the process I get to make interesting friends. This makes me happy and that's where my analysis ends. At least it did, until I got dragged kicking and screaming into an internet back alley.

I've been thinking of what happened as a wake-up call. The internet city is immense; a place virtual art museums are erected a mouse click away from prostitution rings. Maybe it's good to have an occasional reminder to look both ways before I cross the internet highway.

But I have to admit, it does leave me curious. What precautions do you take to avoid being hit by a runaway internet freight train?

Monday, February 4, 2013


My son, to quote Michael Jackson, is a lover not a fighter.

He's the one who holds my face, stares into my eyes and says, "Mommy, you have such a beautiful smile." He's the one who chases his sister around on the playground and then wraps her in an enormous bear hug.

Because of this, we dote on him like he's a puppy. Which is all fine, except in some ways he's like the pampered, lapdog version of a puppy. It occurred to me the other morning, as I was making breakfast, that he's been working the system far too long when it comes to using a knife and fork to cut his food.

He's had ample instruction on multiple occasions, but we're all kinda suckers for him. However on this particular morning I decided to hold strong.

Child #2 ambled into the breakfast room, eyed his plate and announced, "Someone needs to cut my pancake."

"This morning that someone will be you," I said and handed him a knife and fork.

Things got ugly fast. "This is neglect!" he cried when he figured out food would not be partitioned into bite-sized pieces on his behalf. "You're a mean mom who sends her child to school without breakfast. I won't eat."

Instead of making the obvious points, homemade pancake sitting on plate, table service, school morning, I just smiled and said, "I guess you'll be really hungry for lunch."

He cried. He stabbed at his pancake with a knife like it was a murder weapon. His food got cold. He had to microwave it. The microwave door propelled the plate onto the floor where it broke. I served him another pancake and he had to start over, but in the end he managed to cut his pancake.

On the way home from school, instead of congratulating myself, I thought about roadblocks.

Child #2's refusal to cut his own food is classic kid behavior, but that doesn't mean adults don't engage in it too. I've had to drag myself kicking and screaming down certain paths only to discover, once I got there, it's actually kind of nice on the other side.

Blogging. Twitter. Querying. Writing the Dreaded Synopsis. Telling People I Want to be a Writer. Pushing for a Big Six Deal. Marketing Effectively. Developing Thick Skin.

That's a partial list of of my writing related roadblocks. Some have been conquered. Some still require work.

The more I thought about it, the more I realized I would love to have a writer mommy to decide when I was ready to start using a knife and fork to cut through my roadblocks.

Writing is one of those careers that's all about internal motivation. Most of the time I'm good at that. But every now and then I long to have someone appear in my kitchen and tell me today is the day I develop thicker skin.

On a sidenote, Child #2 cut his steak into nice little bite size pieces yesterday. It really is nicer on the other side.

Friday, February 1, 2013

Bang With Friends, Jdate and eHarmony all came on the scene after I met and married my husband.

In retrospect we met the old-fashioned way. The abbreviated version of that story is a friend was clerking at his office. I picked her up for lunch and he picked me up for dinner a few days later.

All that is to say, I don't have any experience with internet dating. In theory, I'm all for people meeting each other and finding love, but the latest entry on the internet scene leaves me a little...well...let me just tell you about it.

Bang With Friends is an app designed for heterosexual use that claims to allow users to anonymously hook up with their Facebook friends. It's tagline reads "Your friends will never know you're interested unless they are too!"

Before I continue, I should probably give you a little insight into the way my brain works.

 Pollyanna and I have a lot in common. In fifth grade I was the one who insisted the song lyric was "darn" instead of "damn" because they would "never play swear words on the radio." Those people who hung out behind my high school and looked like they were high. They weren't really using drugs. They probably just didn't get a good night's sleep.

I wish I could say that naivety was a product of a bygone decade, but my first thought after reading about Bang With Friends was, "How interesting. It must be for drummers."

Don't laugh.

Okay, never mind, you can laugh.

After I realized the target market was wider than the musically inclined I was plagued with a plethora of giggle-inducing questions.

Will there be a next generation app that follows Bang With Friends? Since they've already started their brand maybe it'll be Bang with Friends of Friends or Bang with the Unfriended.

Will there be a Like option for app users?

What happens when Facebook glitches and "accidentally" publishes all the hook ups (is that what they're called? I don't even know) to user's timeline where great-aunts and high school english teachers can comment?

Is it just me or does Bang With Friends seem like the virtual equivalent of a college fraternity party? I can already hear the app users complaining (via anonymous message board of course), "Dude, where are all the girls?"

And maybe that's exactly what Bang With Friends is, a next generation college fraternity party. Even though it seems incomprehensible to me (quite honestly I'm still working hard to convince myself it's not really about drumming) maybe this is part of what it means to be twenty-something in 2013.

What do you think?