Thursday, November 24, 2011

Happy Tryptophan Poisoning Day!

Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday. It might have something to do with the awesome food, or the ability to seriously overeat and not face much judgment (which is important for a fat chick), or the fact that its always close to my birthday. It could also be that we don’t celebrate Christmas. But the real reason is my family.

I know I talk a lot about how crazy they (we) are, even on occasion how potentially fucked up I am because of my family. I’ve told stories about my sister getting pulled over after buying drugs, or how if you get my mom drunk enough she will explain why incest is okay in Memoirs of a Meth Family. Or about how my mom lit my neck on fire in Storytime: Medications of the Abi Somethings. I’ve written a short story about the youngest sister running away. Or about my mom hiding my sister’s drug stash to bribe her to clean the house, and delay her so that she gets free lunch.

I’ve told people stories about my mom hitting people with a rolled up newspaper for making the dog bark, I’ve held my tongue in polite company while people tell me about how wild their younger brother is for smoking pot. And the truth is we are crazy, every single one of us. We are Abi something (a joke from one of my favorite movies as a kid, young Frankenstein, and a play on my last name).

I’ve done things with normal (if there is such a thing) families, where there is awkwardness, and angst and stuff. But I wouldn’t trade all the pain and other crazy stuff that happened to me as a kid for that, ever.

My family might be functionally dysfunctional; we might drink too much, do to many drugs, or be loud, or different, or completely off the rocker. But at least we are interesting. And they give me great writing material. So I love Thanksgiving, because it is a great excuse to get together with my family, and just hang out. I am thankful for them, and all of their crap. I am thankful for the baggage they have given me, and for making me who I am as a person.
What are you thankful for?

Happy thanksgiving, and hopefully I will have some awesome stories to bring back after the holiday.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Smart Mouth

I have a smart mouth. Or perhaps it would be more accurate to say I have a very stupid mouth, and a smart brain, or perhaps it would be more accurate to say I have an average mouth, an average brain and a very stupid filter that connects the two.

I have a true skill at talking myself into trouble. In fact, most of the lessons that I learn, and promptly forget have to do with talking to people. Things like, don’t talk to strangers, because talking to strangers leads to them following you, and misinterpreting being friendly with flirting. And stalking you, and breaking into your house, and murdering you in your sleep. But that might just have more to do with being friendly, and growing up in the south where it is perfectly acceptable to be nice to strangers, and waving at people (like cops). Did you know if you are in a city and you wave at a police officer they think you need help? I sure didn’t not when I moved here at least.

Living in DC can be challenging sometimes, and not just because of the city thing, and the talking to strangers thing. But for its own special thing. DC is full of people that think they are important, and people that are actually important, like the President. The President comes with secret service, and they come with road closings and general obstruction of people trying to get from point A to point B, especially when the President departs from his normal routine to do the unthinkable, go out to dinner. Imagine three city blocks in your neighborhood getting shut down, one of these being the street you take every day home from work, because someone wants to eat at a restaurant. This happened the other day as I was on my way to dance class. Luckily I was on foot; un-luckily I was letting my smart mouth have fun.

The roads in the DC/Arlington area do not make sense, to walk from the metro to the dance studio I have to cross what I like to call the scary intersection. Its where five roads intersect, normally this would be a perfect place for a traffic circle, except their isn’t one (see previous comment about roads). One of these roads had been blocked off by the DC/Arlington/METRO/Secret Service police people. They had also roped off the sidewalk on this street, but this street runs alongside a park, which was not blocked off. So I cut through the park on the way to class, even though I don’t have too, but I am curious as to what was going on (I learned later it was because the president). So when I get to the crosswalk to leave the park, and cross the street, away from the blocked off area, I am met by a police officer. The exchange went as follows:

Police Officer: “You are not allowed to be here. You have to cross the street now.”

Me: looking into oncoming traffic, “Can I at least wait until the cars stop coming.”

Police Officer: “You have to cross the street as soon as it is safe to do so. You are not allowed to be here.”

Me: “You know, this side walk isn’t blocked off.”

Police Officer: “It will be blocked off as soon as you cross the street.”

Me: “What is going on?”

Police Officer: “You must cross the street here.” (The light still hadn’t changed)

Me: “Really? I had planned to cross over there,” I reply pointing into the middle of the intersection. (there is no other place to get out of the park, without walking straight into the intersection of death).

Police Officer: (not detecting my obvious sarcasm) “You have to cross the street here. Perhaps if you told me where you are trying to go, I could give you directions.”

Me: “Look, I am just trying to get to my KKK meeting at the coffee shop over there.”

Police Officer: “Cross the street now” (the light had still not changed, but she walked into the street to block oncoming traffic)

True story. I’m not sure where KKK came from, perhaps it was my brain saying, don’t say Al-Kida(sp?), say anything but Al-Kida, so when thinking of groups as hated and as evil as Al-Kida, not Al-Kida, the KKK jumped to my head. Perhaps it would have been better to not say anything at all, but I couldn’t help it. My response to people not getting sarcasm is just to get more sarcastic. It’s a vicious cycle.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Tights are not pants!

Skinny jeans are a conspiracy designed by boot companies. Really the only thing they are good for is showing off your boots. And perhaps looking at other peoples cellulite, but really, who wants to do that, in public, there are websites for those kinds of fetishes.

I am not a very fashionable person. I would live in sweats if I didn't have an office job. I would never wear shoes unless my office job supplied me with a handbook about appropriate footwear (yes, I did go barefoot in the office for about two weeks before the HR people brought me a copy with the "appropriate footwear" thing highlighted, then I switched to flip flops).

I do,however pride myself on one element of fashion. I am very good at dressing for my body type. So good in fact, that people often guess my weight as being about 50lbs less than it is, 20-30lbs I give up to kindness, but that means I can successfully hide 20-30lbs of extra weight that I carry around, mostly because I live a sedentary lifestyle, that I blame on having sedentary hobbies, and working 80 hours a week. In fact I have been surprised in finding out that people I am friends with wear the same size clothes as me.

That being said. I think skinny jeans area conspiracy designed by boot companies, to sell more boots. And, tights aren't pants. You see there has been alot of talk in the news and apparently in squatters, and maybe even on this blog about the 1% vs the 99%. Well, in my opinion, approximately 1% of people look good in skinny jeans. (I might go up to 15% but 14% of those people wear them poorly). This is a fashion trend that drives me crazy, for three reasons.

1) It doesn't look good on most people, and I don't want to ever see other peoples fat.
2) Because its a trend all the stores carry skinny jeans which makes it impossible to find regular jeans that actually look good on the majority of people (this directly contributes to #1 since people who look bad in skinny jeans, and need clothing, will buy skinny jeans if they have no other option)
3) They are uncomfortable.

Then you get the people that take the trend to a bizarre extent. Like, the other day, I was running some errands in DC and there was this woman walking in front of me, her pants were so tight I could see every ripple and fat bubble in her ass, I was transfixed, mostly wondering how much skin she lost getting the damn things on. Then, how she could look at herself and think, damn this looks good...she must have more self confidence than me.

Or, the girl I saw wearing pantie hose outside, and her top wasn't even long enough to cover where her underwear was showing.

Now I also get, that guys like looking at asses, especially of people of the opposite sex, or perhaps even of their sex. So I want to suggest some equally wearable options, that show off the ass. Pencil skirt, jeans that fit tight on the ass but are loose in the leg (wide leg jeans). Are probably my two favorites.

If you haven't given up already, you are probably wondering where I am going with all of this. #3 of my list as to why skinny jeans were created by the devil, is they are not comfortable. And to write, you have to be comfortable (at least I do).

This past week the company I work for celebrated its 40th Anniversary, we had a party on Capitol Hill, lots of important people were invited. I had to dress up. It sucked. But I went out with my co-workers afterwards, there was an open bar at the party, and then there were more drinks at the bar. There was a girl (not with our group at the bar) wearing leggings, and a tight sweater. She was being rude and loud to our server, and I was very drunk. By very drunk I mean, I was four beers, two glasses of wine, and a shot into the night. So I decided to tell her she was dressed inappropriately. "Excuse me, tights are not pants."

p.s. I also learned that night that, pencil skirts with but zippers get guys to ask for your phone number.

p.p.s. Wide leg jeans are making a come back in stores!

Friday, November 4, 2011

Get Your Stats out of my Edumacation

And now, for something completely different. Some of you might know that writing and blogging is not my full time job. My full time position is Lacky. Not really, but it works, I put it on government forms and everything. Never ask for me to fill out a reference form for you, especially if you are applying for some sort of government clearance. I mean we've already established that I am addicted to sudaphed, play with bomb dogs, tell police that I am going to KKK meetings, and do u turns in front of the CIA, I digress.

Sometimes I wish writing was my full time job, I doubt the pay would be much worse. Anyway I work at a civic education foundation, called the Close Up Foundation.

I describe my job about as vaguely as I describe my writing. I do stuff. Lots of stuff...but its easier to tell you what the foundation does.

We bring kids, mostly high school students, from across the country to DC where we teach them about government and current events and other important political stuff in a non partisan way. We break down the barriers. We try to get them to see each other, and through each other the issues.

You see, a student from Orange County California might not ever have seen a gun, and only know about gun violence from tv, while a student from Chicago might have lost a brother to gang violence, and a student from Hiawassi Georgia might go hunting once a week. These kids know people exist that dont believe the same thing they do, but if they have never met them, seen them, talked to them etc, these other people become mythical creatures, stuff of legends and newspapers, and yes I believe those are the same thing.

But we bring these kids together, make them room together, hope they become friends, then get them to talk about gun control (or other important issue, like the economy, I hear that's important).

Maybe your thinking, whats the point. So I'll throw in some statistics:

Families that make above $75,000 per year are twice as likely to vote and six times as likely to be politically active as families that make below $15,000 per year

Only one-third of Americans can name all three branches of government

Less than one-third of 8th graders know the historical purpose of the Declaration of Independence

Despite the highest level of voter turnout in 40 years in the 2008 election, only 56.8% of eligible voters voted, that means on hundred million Americans failed to vote.

African American and Hispanic students are twice as likely as their white counterparts to score below proficient on national civic assessments

These were taken from the September 2011 Civic Mission of Schools Report.

Are you scared yet? If not I'll throw a bit of an analysis in there for you. Follow me for a minute (I have logic and I'm not afraid to use it, you should be though):

Wealthy families have more opportunities to help educate their children, for example, they can afford private schools, tutors, extra curricular activities, college, etc. Upper middle class families who might not be able to afford private schools might be able to afford to have a parent work part time, or from home to provide assistance with their child's education. This parent most likely is college educated. Middle class families can probably afford extra curricular activities, and perhaps tutoring, odds are one if not both parents graduated high school with some college or technical school. Blue collar and lower middle class families rely on public school systems, but maybe they belong to a union which gives them health benefits, etc. Immigrant families and families that live below the poverty line, have kids in public school, with limited assistance, who may or may not drop out by the time they are sixteen so they can get a job to help out the family.

Most public school's get their fund's from property tax collected in the area they are zoned in. People can typically afford to live in area's with other people earning about the same as they do, you dont typically see a trailer park next to the McMansions. This means that the schools where your lower earning families live have less money than the schools in the higher earning neighborhoods (although not always). And your middle class/upper middle class families have a bit more flexibility in where they live, they can look at the local schools before deciding where to move.

Now, consider that families earning $75,000 plus a year are more likely to vote and be civilly active, write letters, call politicians, donate to campaigns, go to town hall meetings and more, than families earning $15,000 or less. Who do you think these families will advocate for? What do you think they will advocate for?

Now lets look at the recent government "entitlement program" spending cuts, you know, that bill they passed to end the deadlock that faced congress last winter, when the government shut down for a little bit. Here are a list of programs that lost some, if not all of their government funding.

Center for Civic Education

Communities in Schools

Council for Economic Education

Close Up Foundation

National Board for Professional Teaching Standards

National History Day

National Writing Project

New Leaders for New Schools

Project GRAD

Reach Out and Read

Reading is Fundamental

Teach for America


Yep, that's right. Extra curricular education programs were cut, across the board. As I said at the beginning, I would eventually get to the point, and here it is.

Higher earning families are more likely to vote. Children of high earning families are less likely to need educational assistance provided by the government. People with high education are more likely to get high earning jobs.

People keep complaining that the rich are getting richer and the poor and middle class are staying the same, if not getting poorer. People seem to forget the role education plays in this. Don't believe me? Want proof.

The Civic Mission of Schools Report identifies six proven practices that overcome these statistics:

Provide Instruction in government, history, law and democracy

Discussion of current events and controversial issues

Service learning/applying what is learned

Extracurricular activities

Simulations of democratic process

Some of the Benefits of civic learning (also from the same study)

81% of high school dropouts say they would have been less likely to do so if there were more opportunities given for experiential learning

Civic Learning in middle school with a focus on civic responsibility is directly tied to a students propensity to drop out of high school.
Now, I have two questions for you:

Do you think democracy works when only 58% of eligible people participate in it?

Do you think all people from all economic classes are given equal opportunities when they do not have the same access to education?

I will end with a quote from Thomas Jefferson.

"Now let us see what the present primary schools cost us, on the supposition that all the children of 10. 11. & 12. years old are, as they ought to be, at school: and, if they are not, so much the work is the system; for they will be untaught, and their ignorance & vices will, in future life cost us much dearer in their consequences, than it would have done, in their correction, by a good education."
1818 January 14. (to Joseph C. Cabell)

Sorry for the political rant, we will return to our regularly scheduled programing on Monday Have a good weekend!

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Green Suede Shoes: An Insecure Writers Support Group Post

I have a pair of knee high boots. They are green, suede, I don't wear them all that often, because they are not that comfortable, and they are falling apart. The oddest thing is that the right boot is ALWAYS harder to get on then the left boot. Its obnoxious. its weird. I think it's because the right boot is made of slightly thicker swede than the left boot. I ripped the tongue on the left boot shortly after getting them. The right boot keeps my legs a little warmer, and it doesn't slouch quite as much.

They are the same boots they came in the same box, and I've had them both the same amount of time. I've never worn one without the other, although I wouldn't put that much past me. They are just different.

When I was a kid, I think I was around nine or ten, I was taking horse back riding lessons at this barn with woman named Ms Darby. She was a great teacher, she challenged me all the time, she gave me riding gear when we couldn't afford the real stuff. There was another girl in my class, she was a better rider than I was. Her parents bought her a pony, and she had all the right equipment. I envied the hell out of her. Then one day, we were doing some basic jumps. I was on the ugliest horse in the world, named Honey, and she was on her pony, and something happened. Her pony spooked and she fell, she wasn't hurt but she was scared. She was crying, and Ms Darby had to stop the lesson and take her up to the barn. She never came back. I couldn't understand it. Here was this girl who was so much better than I was, who was willing to throw it away because she hit the ground once.

When I grew up and started teaching horse back riding lessons, parents needed a to sign a special waver to get their kid in my class. I could guarantee they would advance. I would also guarantee they would fall off at least once. There were two lessons I took from the girl in my class ( I dont remember her name), one if you've never fallen off you've never pushed yourself hard enough, and two, if you've never hit the ground to see if you will get up again, you dont know if you will.

Writers deal with a-lot of different types of rejection. There is the social sort that everyone else deals with, and then there are the other kinds. The is this good enough sort you ask yourself. The kind that comes from friends when you tell them you want to be a writer, or you are a writer, and they think you will be rich, or are crazy, or will be poor. The kind you ask yourself when you are feeling seven kinds of overwhelmed and wonder why on earth you want to do this. The kind from agents, the kind from editors the kind from other writers. The kind when someone tells you "writing isnt hard/work/creative, cause anyone can do it"

The worst part of all of it is that it's not something that you (for the most part) put some sort of half assed effort into. Writing is hard work, mayhaps not the physical kind, but still, hard work none the less. The search for the perfect word, turning creativity into words and putting them on the page.

Someone on another blog (and I WISH I could remember who) asked the question, does creativity directly link to insecurity, and I do not think it does. I do think however, that because creative people, who need/want to share their creativity face a certain amount of rejection, and that rejection causes anxiety which leads to insecurity. But just like in horse back riding you have to get back up and try again, and you've never pushed yourself until you've hit the ground.

And just like boots, no two things are exactly the same. I might have stretched it a bit to make those two metaphors work. But, I signed up for the "Insecure Writers Support Group" with Alex J. Cavanaugh. And today was the day to talk about insecurity.

p.s. GO check out other blogs on here. Its an order.

How do you deal with insecurity? What kind's of insecurity do you face?

And I will end with a "Sara and Bobby" just to lighten things up.

Sara and Bobby on Judaism:

Bobby: I made up a new word!
Sara: uh huh
Bobby: Jewnicorn! Though, I wonder what that would be.
Sara: A kosher unicorn. A unicorn without cloven hoofs.