Archive for the ‘Life’ Category

An Explanation for my Disappearance

November 23, 2014

I have disappeared on many of you. I promise, it’s not because you had a baby. (Even though you’re right, I don’t really care for babies.) Or because you moved. Or because you have a new girlfriend/boyfriend/wife.

I am broke.

I just entered the final year of a massive debt repayment plan. Most of y’all are aware, at least up to a degree, but…

I’m never sure if I talk too much about this, or too little. But I think I’m on the “too little” side, from a lot of of the conversations I have. Because I live with this every day, it bugs me when someone doesn’t understand why I can’t just rent a car and drive up to visit. Or come out to dinner, or a show, or any other million things that cost money. It’s unfair, I know: it’s my circumstance, not yours. Of course it’s not on the top of your mind. And even if it is, you might not understand exactly what I mean when I say “I’m broke.” Because I try to make it seem like I can go to a show on a whim, and I never mention the hours of budgeting and tweaking said budget that makes it happen.

There’s this whole mixed-up cocktail of feelings that make me want to never, ever speak about this. Today, as I looked at the $10 in my weekly budget and at my undies drawer that’s down to the granny panties and I realized (not for the first time) that I would be wearing every hideous pair and maybe hand-washing a few to get me through to payday, I wanted to talk about it again.

So. What keeps me from speaking up?

franceshaI just watched Frances Ha (on the Netflix that I was sure I could again afford the $8 a month on two months ago, and that I will be canceling again this month), and this movie, this movie is my broke-ness. (See this article in Slate that talks about money in the movie.) In response to Frances calling herself poor, a friend says “You’re not poor, that’s offensive to real poor people.”

I am not poor. I know I’m privileged, and I see all the advantages that I have had and still have, and the fact that I have made many choices (both wise and unwise) that have brought me to my present state of broke-ness. My being broke is not a life-crushing, perpetual thing. When I talk about my broke-ness, I’m not asking for help; I have a great support network that I clearly communicate to when I need help. Neither am I asking for pity; my life is pretty good, actually.

I don’t even like to admit to myself how broke I am. That can mean I end up doing things like eating at a schmancy burger place with friends when I know I don’t have the funds for it that month. There’s a deep shame, that I’ve done something horribly wrong with my life, to the end that I cannot afford the same luxuries my friends and peers can. I want to hide my bad choices, make them invisible – except I’m pretty sure that’s the whole feeling that leads to a nation full of debtors. Ignore the problem, just charge it.

Shame’s connected to another feeling, one that’s harder to put a name to. The feeling that makes you fly to Paris on a credit card. To feel, for just a moment, like it’s something you can do. To show to others that it’s something you can do. Like buying a designer handbag, it can be a survival mechanism to present yourself as coming from a place of strength. Never admit a weakness. Always put on your best face. Fake it ’til you make it. I recognize my privilege here, as well, even while feeling a feminist desire to transmit the fact that I am strong, that I am capable of providing for myself, that I am at your level.

I’ve had bouts of depression that I didn’t understand in the past, and that led to me being a person who made excuses. I would make plans to go to a party – then the night would come, and I’d find I simply couldn’t face people. *cough cough* sorry, so sick. I’m also a terrible liar, so it was pretty obvious to my friends that I was just making something up.

I’ve come completely about face on this; now, when I can’t face an event, I’ll tell you flat out. I’ve come so completely around in the other direction that making an excuse of any kind, even when it’s a legit reason, makes me feel guilty. So I stay quiet.

Part of this is because the money thing always feels like an excuse, and not legit. My budget always has a little bit of wiggle room; after food and housing and debt payments and utilities, I generally do have $100 or so to play around with. But then my dog (adopted when I still had my head in the credit card sand) gets sick. Or she doesn’t, but I desperately need to get a carshare to take her to the dog park so she won’t jump on my head at 5am. Or I made a stupid choice on a schmancy burger or a cocktail yesterday. Or I broke my glasses/computer/toe. Or I wore out the soles on my last pair of boots.

Some of these are things I could have avoided. Yes, I probably could have prioritized seeing you. But I didn’t. Something that I didn’t plan came up, and this – which I can and must plan – is withering as a result. I’m sorry.


That’s really what all this is about. I’m sorry. I miss all of you, and I’m sorry that I haven’t prioritized our friendship. I’m trying to come up with ways right now to make this better – you may be getting a skype date request from me very soon – because I’m sorry. There are reasons I disappeared, and if I didn’t make those clear to you from the very beginning, if you think I just don’t care to hang out with you any more, I am very, very sorry.

Because of this mixed up slurry of emotions and my deep desire to avoid the topic, I tend to avoid reaching out to you. I can’t offer to visit you, and it doesn’t seem fair to make you do all the work, plus I know you likely have reasons that make it hard to visit me, so I just avoid the awkward conversation all together, and the “we should totally hang out”s that invariably start to feel disingenuous.

Okay, I started this in kind of a light-hearted place, and it just got all serious. So… in case I can’t see you soon, please enjoy one of life’s free (if you have the privilege of internet access) pleasures: slow lori GIFs.


Trust No One

July 22, 2013

I’m in the middle of a massive crafting project, and as a result, I’m re-watching all of the X-Files on Amazon Prime. As one does.


I’m approaching season 3 now, and I’ve finally realized where that nagging “this is ridiculous” thought in the back of my head is coming from. At the end of season 1, in an episode that originally aired in 1994, government whistleblower Deep Throat dies, whispering “trust no one” to Scully. Well, duh.

The entire premise of the show is that the government lies to us. Sure, there’s aliens, but that’s an afterthought, or a metaphor, or whatever. The show is about government, truth, and lies. But in a post-Patriot Act world, none of what they’re telling us is shocking.

In 1994, Deep Throat was a tragic hero. In 2013, Edward Snowden is a traitor. Their motivations were the same, but the world that has happened in between has changed the context.


I don’t have a strong opinion on Snowden, unlike many, many people on the internets. I do, however, feel sorry for him. Let’s take his stated motivations at face value (ignoring any potential desire for 15 minutes of fame or an inflated sense of importance): he wanted the public to know just what was going on behind closed doors.

I think he made a few assumptions that did him in.
1) The public does not care. While this is a pendulum, and I’m sure any day now there will be something horrible that the government does that will make public opinion swing back the other way, right now we still seem to be living in the shadow of terror. We’re still more than willing to look the other way while you scan our nubile young bodies at airports, and pull us out of line just because our names have middle-eastern etymologies.
2) The public already knows. Seriously, man, this is not a surprise. Of course they’re spying on us. The technology exists, and the fear I referenced above makes it the government’s right, nay, duty, to use that technology. We might have not known the details, but there is nothing shocking about the idea.

In 1994, there were a slew of people who wanted to believe, and a growing certainty that our government was carrying on some dark shenanigans behind closed doors. I was right there with them, as a moody, outcast teenager. I watched X-Files religiously, and even looked into joining the FBI so I could be behind those doors, sneaking a look at those ominous secrets.

Since then, the doors have been pried open a few times and, aside from a few squawks mostly from conspiracy theory nutjobs and the far left, they closed again without anything much changing on the other side.

There have always been shadow organizations operating outside of and around the law, but they always had a fear of the daylight. They knew that if their assassination plans reached the public, there’d be a national debate and furor. I’m terrified, more by what Snowden’s case implies than by what he actually told us. I’m terrified because I don’t see people being enraged that they lost their right to privacy, all without much discussion on the matter. It just kinda happened, and we’re all like, yeah, that sucks, but what can you do? Terrorists, you know.

(Also, I wouldn’t use this to prove a point, since it could prove equally that the dark shenanigans are working as intended or that they are completely misguided, but I find it hilarious that more toddlers killed Americans than did terrorists this year.)

I’ll leave you with another epiphany I had while re-watching: Scully and Mulder have aged remarkably well. Rawr.

Postscript: If you speak Spanish, this is another interesting intersection of Snowden and the X-Files: this video discusses the alien secrets he released at the same time!

Just Write Through It – Exponential Sins

August 27, 2012

I’m going to admit to two things that I’ve been shamefully hiding from most of the world, or at the very least, downplaying drastically.

– I’ve been pretty depressed.

– I have not been writing.

In my head, both of those are shameful, and to be hidden. (I know, I know. But my head goes where it wills, no matter what I try to tell it. Stupid, stupid head.*) And both of them contribute to the other, and not in a straightforward algebraic way. Each issue increases the other exponentially.

I’ve written through my troubles before. The kind of sadness and anger that you face when you lose a loved one, or a loved car, or you hate your job with a fiery passion, or you’ve just been mugged… that’s a funk I can write through. Writing helps me process the pain, and the pain does sometimes even serve as inspiration and fodder, as romantics all agree. The myth of the tortured writer, and all that.

But this. This feeling, the feeling that nothing in the world is bearing down on you, at least no more than regular, and so if you feel this shitty, it MUST be your fault… that’s a hard feeling to write through.

We are young. We are strong. We’re not looking for where we belong. We’re not cool. We are free. And we’re running with blood on our knees.

Oh, man. Mika just came up in iTunes. Did you know it’s really hard to maintain a funk through some all of his songs? That’s the sign of a pretty awesome pop star, if you ask me.

Try it. Just try listening to this, and keeping a frown on your face.

Okay. Shit. Where was I?

So, I get down on myself. And I sink into the couch, and my WIP languishes as I re-watch Dr. Who, and the self-loathing mushrooms as I lose sight of myself as a writer, which makes me fear writing even more, which makes me even angrier at myself… **

I hate days like this. When it rai-rai-rains, when it rai-rai-rains. Baby, I hate days like –

Oh, god. Seriously, if you didn’t click the above video, just try it. Turn on some Mika, and see if you can keep a good, morose, whining rant going. Damn it, it’s hard. I may have just found my solution. I’m gonna get some earbuds and just listen to Mika, constantly. I might end up writing some cheery fucking bubble-gum romance shit, but I’ll be writing.

It’s nothing like a life we wanted, but you better move on, cuz I’m ready for more than this, whatever it is. Baby, I hate days like this. Caught in a track, I can’t get back, baby, I hate days like this.

Sure, it’s artificial. It’s a high that will soon burn off. If I use it properly, it doesn’t matter. I just need a kick; if the buzz gets me writing, then the credits start multiplying exponentially as well. I’m a writer again. And even if nothing else changes, what would you rather be: a tortured writer, or a depressed couch potato?

Which one of those choices gets you more action?



Obviously said in Judy Davis’ best mocking voice. Stupid, stupid rain. 

**Is there an artist out there who can draw me some self-loathing mushrooms? Because I’ve got a pretty clear image in my head, and it’s cracking me up.

Road Rage-ish

August 24, 2012

I’m not terribly prone to road rage. It’s rare that I honk in anger, or scream and curse, and I think I’ve only ever flipped someone off once (after some careful deliberation). I think what I get is better labelled as Road Tics.

In other words, I gesticulate and make odd noises, but there’s very little anger behind them, and… well, they’re not the standard angry gestures.

Last night I was driving home in some mild (by Bay Area standards) traffic. A hole opened up in the lane next to me; I began to move into it, just as someone two lanes over did the same. We both saw each other, and moved quickly back into our own lanes, and then, when I saw the hole was still there and I was still positioned, I took the space.

As they passed me moments later, I could see the passenger had turned to face me and was screaming something. He didn’t look happy. Sort of idly, without even meaning to, I raised my hand with my forefinger, middle finger, and thumb extended… kind of like a gun.

I have no earthly idea why I did that. I wasn’t angry; I think I was even giving him a slight smile, in a “Hey man, it’s cool, we both did the same thing and were in the right, and hey, we even both saw each other in time to avoid a collision, aren’t we great drivers” kind of way. Collegial, you know? Not menacing or creepy — calming. I don’t think it had the intended effect. They fell behind, and stayed there.

I do this all the time. A hand raised in exasperation starts rotating, and turns into this weird “smell my breath” motion. One time, I barked. Like, a lot. Like, I rolled my window down and was barking at the top of my lungs at this woman who was trying to cut in front of me, across a solid line, after I’d been stuck in unmoving gridlock for the past 58 minutes, moving less than a half a mile.

Okay, so that one might have had some rage behind it. But she sure didn’t know that; she just looked mildly annoyed, then massively confused. And sped away from me.

Now that I think about it, I think these tics are pretty excellent survival mechanisms. They keep people away, like bright colors and spikes on lizards, without escalating the rage of any of my fellow highway drones. If I had any control over them whatsoever, maybe I could use them in other areas of my life.

“I’m sorry, the grant deadline is when?” *patting my head, flaring my nostrils, and sticking my tongue out* “Oh, great, four weeks. I thought you said four hours.”

“You need a break?” *ripping open my shirt, biting my lip, and blinking rapidly* “Oh, we should go on a mini-break. Great idea! Paris, on you? Sweet.”

“I’m sorry… did you say marry?” *thumb to nose, fingers waggling madly, and off-key humming* “Oh, no, right, merry meet back to you.”


August 19, 2012

Oh, I had good intentions today. I woke up before seven, ready to jump into the blank page. But since I woke up so early, I decided there was time for a bath. Then, after the bath, I had to make tea. Then, I began my pre-writing ritual of clearing out my rss reader, and ‘warming up’ on my blog.

It is now almost nine. I have an appointment at 9:30. That means I spent over two hours on all the pre-writing crap, just to get to the warm-up stage. More upsetting is the fact that I seem to be doing this more and more. I think I just need to move the writing part up in the ritual. Before my eyes open, I should be warming up here, on the blog, letting the words flow while my mind is still muddy and doesn’t know what my fingers are doing. Hey, that’s my theory of exercise: get the running shoes on and be out the door before my brain knows what hit it.

I sabotage myself, I know. I always feel like I have the best intentions, but I’m pretty sure I’m fooling myself. If I had wanted to write today, I would have written. My subconscious intentions are crap, and they all want to bathe.

Right. I still have 35 minutes. I’m not going to let my subconscious get the best of me.


On my way to the wilderness, I passed…

July 30, 2012

Yesterday, I drove a speedy little Fiat into the Santa Cruz mountains, the light filtering through the redwoods and through the sun roof onto my head, in order to take a wilderness skills class that taught me how to walk stealthily through a pile of leaves in order to sneak up on a deer and smack it on the ass.

This post is not about that. Because I never feel compelled to write about the actually interesting things in my life, it would seem.

Instead, this post is about community colleges, and my love of them. On my way to the citycarshare pod to pick up my fiat-for-the-day, I passed Laney College. There’s nothing in particular that I can point out as appealing about Laney (though I’m sure some of my alum and staff friends there can fill me in), but it just made me happy to walk onto the campus for a moment.

It’s because it plain feels like a community college; the look, the smell, the aura, everything. The buildings are of that old-but-not-old-enough-to-look-prestigious era, you can peek past smudgy windows into sparsely decorated rooms, and the giant cement steps and attempts at a ‘quad’ clearly demonstrate the sweetly aspiring dreams of the designers.

empty hallway at Wayne County Community College, b/w photo

Wayne County Community College, by Don Harder, dharder9475

Aspiration. That’s why I love community colleges. They remind me of my time in high school, when I would visit PCPA at Allan Hancock College in Santa Maria (bad idea!) and dream about my future as a Broadway star. Or that other time in high school, when I spent my freshman summer in a young writers’ program at Cuesta Community College in San Luis Obispo, dreaming about my future as E.L. James.

So there’s a little of the bittersweet in there. Sweet aspirations, rarely grounded in reality. I kinda want to pet those concrete walls and murmur words of support. “Oh honey, it’s okay if you never MAKE it. I love you just the way you are. You don’t have to be an ivy leaguer to deserve love.”

George E. Frost Building, Holyoke Community College

George E. Frost Building, Holyoke Community College, by Elizabeth Thomsen

Cuesta may soon be closing, and the thought makes me incredibly sad. That campus in particular always felt full of dreams, and, in a less ethereal vein, also had amazing programs and faculty. If the school closes due to a poor reaction to a funding cut, it will be a spectacular loss for the community… and for the future of dreaming.







* Possibly tied in (but more likely just relating thematically) to my love letter to average scholastic achievers: today’s discovery that my coworker’s high school had two alumni who are now Nobel winners, while my school’s claim to fame lies in teen heartthrobs. Cuesta’s alum list is also way more impressive. Jake Shields! Dude!

Three months, in a nutshell.

April 6, 2012

Wow, January was really the last time I posted? I’m not totally surprised.

Since then, I

– moved,

– had my car stolen,

– recovered the car,

– submitted 14 grant proposals, including a monster of a national gov’t one,

– drove to Tucson to visit family,

– planned and implemented a girls weekend retreat redefining beauty,

– closed out the year for the Board I serve as treasurer on,

– (the Board is actually for a writing organization, though you’d never know from that sadly final preposition)

– spent a cumulative total of 13 hours with a certain, monolithic, to-remain-unnamed phone company that left me Angry, Trembling, & Ticked-off,

– switched to Sonic, a little local company, and have been blissful since then,

– bumped into Al Pacino on the red carpet at the Castro Theatre,

– and a few more awesome and totally-not-awesome things.

It’s been a busy few months. The one thing I have NOT been doing is writing. That ain’t good. I consoled myself with the fact that I had a few stories on submission, but the first of them came back with a decline today. I need to get back to it. Like, now. No time like the present. Therefore, it’s back to the blog.

Expect a good few rants coming up next; I’ve been saving ’em up.

If you have to fail, fail miserably

September 16, 2011

So here we are. Day 6 of the SF Food Bank‘s Hunger Challenge, and I am here to admit defeat.

This challenge was never really about whether or not I could do it (I say defensively). I always knew I could – millions of people do, every day. I was just curious about how healthy I could be, and how much awareness I could raise. Man, was I confident.

Thus, the failure stings even more. I’ll post a picture of the amazing soup I plan to make tonight (the soup that should have been made on Monday) to cheer me up later, but for now… sigh. I’ll look at my oh-so-Important Lessons that I planned to rely on, and see where they let me down.

1. Soup. This would have gone excellently, had I actually made the soup. I wisely planned all soft foods, soup and mashed potatoes and scrambled eggs, knowing that on day 2 I would be having a root canal. Smart, except I forgot that the post-canal Vicodin would sap me of any will to make anything. Which means I sent loved ones out for piles of Boston Market mashed potatoes, milkshakes, and soup, all of which was way outside my budget.

2. Go Freegan. I actually kinda excelled at this, but it still felt like a failure, for reasons I’ll return to in a minute.

3. Plan. See item 1, re Vicodin.

4. Pick your shops wisely. A mix of failure and success on this one. The Sunday closing-time farmer’s market was as perfect as it could have been, but that success made me careless in other places, buying milk at Walgreens and a burger at In-‘n’-Out. Not that a burger anywhere should have been in my shopping plans.

I was weak, I know. People living on food stamps have days like my Vicodin-hazed Monday all the time, and they still have to stick to their budget. But I caved, and told myself it didn’t really matter. I’d get back to it soon enough, and finish up the week strong.

Except I didn’t. The leftovers from my weakness lasted me out the rest of the week, with a few freegan meals thrown in for good measure. Friends gifted me with Burma Superstar leftovers. Sisters brought me cheesy bagels and coffee. And there was a reeeeally good seminar at work that left behind brownies, cut veggies, and more coffee.

I ate it all with a guilty heart. Part of the reason I’m not on food stamps is because of my support system. Heck, it’s pretty much the whole reason. If this challenge was to really put myself in the shoes of a person on food stamps, wasn’t relying on them cheating?

Yes. Yes, it was. I’m consoling myself with the fact that I am still writing about it, and raising awareness, and really, if given the opportunities, wouldn’t anyone hungry do the exact same thing? But I cheated, with willful impunity. I’m sorry. I’m a bad, bad person. I think I’m going to go donate to the food bank in order to make up for it. You totally should too.

My Hunger Challenge, Day 1

September 11, 2011

I was ready to go when I woke up. Saturday was the monthly meeting for my writing association, and I was able to squirrel away a cup of leftover fruit for my breakfast. I also picked up a cup of beautiful tomatoes, grown in East Oakland by the most amazing silver-maned erotica author you could ever hope to meet.

freegan melon and tomatoes on a window ledge

Then I went back to bed. With the Netflix increase this month, it’s no longer in my budget, so I watched my last online movie in bed (Tees Maar Khan; good, but not as good as Dil Bole Hadippa. You can’t beat cross-dressing romance and cricket stars) and put my account on hold. Sigh. I’ll be back. But I bet I’ll get a lot of writing done in the meantime.

I braved the world outside the covers just long enough to make a fried egg and fresh tomato wrap (with some Barbados hot sauce a co-worker brought back for me last year) and heat up leftover squash soup, and make a quick trip to the Farmer’s Market.

fried egg and tomato wrap, bowl of green soup

I hit Walgreens first for some milk and cash (already breaking my rule 4; milk at walgreens is anything but cheap, but I forgot to hit an atm) then the Temescal Market, just before closing. And what a haul I was able to pick up!

bags and piles of fresh veg

There wasn’t much variety – everyone was packing up for the day – but man, the deals! All of the above cost me $7.75, and should get me through the week. A full bag of peaches for $1!

Which is good, because my summer squash soup plan went out the window (goodbye, rule #3) as soon as I got home and realized I’m out of olive oil. Luckily, there just happens to be some leftover from my work’s summer courses; no one’s going to use that before next year. Score! But, it means I had to scavenge through the fridge and end up with a pricier wrap.

So. Freaking. Good. And there’s enough for tomorrow’s lunch. Shrimp, zucchini, fresh corn, tomato, and hot sauce. Yum.

So here’s my tally so far, including any tax:

$7.75    veg for the week
$3.00   milk
$2.00   shrimp, roughly
$2.50   leftovers for tonight & tomorrow, roughly (zuke, corn, squash soup)
$2.00   eggs
$0.90   whole wheat tortillas

That leaves me with $15 for meat, bread, and pasta. Let’s see what I can do tomorrow.

I’m stoked with the healthy choices I’ve found so far, but it’s a heck of a lot of work. Plus, I’ve still got it easy with my freegan opportunities and markets; they don’t take food stamps at the farmer’s market.

The Hunger Challenge

September 9, 2011

I signed up for the SF Food Bank’s Hunger Challenge, and starting on Sunday, I’ll be trying to eat for $4.72 a day.

Actually, I kinda feel like I’m cheating. See, I’m broke, and on Tuesday I had the first part of a very expensive root canal. So not only am I very unexcited about food right now, I also have just about $30 to eat on for this week. So hey, that works out.

I’ve been eating on that budget for a while now, but in even more of a cheater’s fashion, slowly emptying my cupboards of the unattractive beans and strange boxed meals. The cupboards are getting bare now, and it’s time to put what I’ve learned into action.

1. Soup. There will be TONS of soup this week. It’s a great way to stretch pretty much anything, and you can use not-quite-molding ends and tops to make killer stock on the cheap.

2. Go Freegan. I work at a fabulous place to find free food. There are workshops and meetings every week, and about half of them leave their snacks and leftovers behind. Coffee is easy to find, pastries a bit more of a challenge (Real Estate groups always bring the swankest scones), but the best day is when the retired school teachers get together for their monthly meeting next door. They bring a BOMB potluck hot lunch, and always bag it up nice for us rats after.

3. Plan. This is something I hate to do. I like to find a good, seasonal recipe, pick up the few ingredients I still need on my way home, and wah la. Dinner. Budget eating don’t work that way. I’m going to plan, plan, plan. One shopping trip, with hopefully a little leftover $ for emergencies.

4. Pick your shops wisely. Obviously, avoid Whole Paycheck and Andronico’s. But even supermarkets can be improved on. Farmers markets can have great deals, especially late in the day (and on a sidenote, does anyone remember when farmers markets actually catered to early morning restauranteurs and low-income moms and had the BEST deals? I swear, it was only yesterday that they turned ’boutique.’ Sigh.) and little local groceries often can beat out the big stores on prices, especially if you’re still trying to go organic.

I think I can already safely say that living on this budget takes serious work. Planning, searching, lots of cooking (just think, one night out at Zachary’s pizza would completely wipe that budget out). I think, think, that there won’t be as many surprises for me. But like I said, I’ve been cheating up until now.

This upcoming week, I’ll be staying away from the major foodstuffs left in the larder, but I think staples like flour and honey are okay. And I’m totally using my stock, because since I made it myself from leftover bits and pieces, it counts as freeganism in my book.

Here we go. Let’s get hungry.