Archive for the 'Random' Category

Paging Doctor ______

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Well the good news is that I don’t seem to have gallstones because the ultrasound showed nothing of importance. The bad news is that medical care in the United States is ridiculous—I have been trying to reach my primary care doctor for almost a week to find out about next steps and she has yet to call me back. I left her a message on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday and only received a call back from an assistant on Wednesday who said that the doctor was faxing a prescription for Prilosec to my local pharmacy. Of course, the assistant had no idea why the doctor wants me to take that medication—brilliant. In the mean time, until I can make human contact with a trained medical professional, I’m living off of a very fancy diet that consists of plain gluten free pasta, peas, tuna, bananas, applesauce, and Fruity Pebbles—anyone want to come over for dinner? 

I don’t have class again until March 20th because of Spring Break and the professor being out of town during the following week. She gave us plenty of reading to pass the time, but most of it is in the form of novels. I feel like I’m cheating because I’ve been spending my homework time reading novels instead of heavy theory. We started with Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni’s novels Sisters of the Heart and The Vine of Desire. I finished the first one in a day and now I’m about half way through The Vine of Desire. Once that’s finished, I have three novels by Andrea Barrett (which I am told are rather confusing—great!) and a little bit of theory. Somewhere along the way I need to start working on my Jack Bauer paper, too. In the words of Jack himself, “Damnit!

WebMD is the Devil

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While the Internet has been one of the most valuable tools of my whole entire life (what would I do without my daily dose of feministing?), it also gets me into quite a bit of trouble—particularly because I am the world’s biggest hypochondriac and the Internet just feeds my sick, sick mind. Every time I get a foreign bump on my skin or a slight soreness in a new spot, I rush onto WebMD and immediately throw myself into a tizzy about my possible diagnosis. Fortunately, until today, I was always way off base. 

For the past few weeks, I’ve had several stints of really horrendous stomach pains on my right side. At first—much to Dan’s delight by the way—I thought that spinach was bothering me. He rejoiced as I threw away the bags of organic spinach I had stored in the freezer and I thought I had solved the problem. Until Friday, when I ate homemade nachos (sans spinach) and had the same issues. Maybe I was lactose intolerant? I went along with my new hypothesis, avoiding milk, cheese, and ice cream all weekend until I made tofu, vegetables and quinoa last night and guess what? Same stomach problems. When you’re consuming TOFU, veggies, and QUINOA and have stomach problems, something is amiss. 

After consulting with my good friend/addiction WebMD, I diagnosed myself with gallstones and decided that it was time to see the doctor. It only took a few minutes for me to describe my symptoms before my doc set me up for an ultrasound tomorrow morning to look for…gallstones. Crap. And apparently they can occur when you lose weight like I have been lately. I can’t win. Double crap. 

If the ultrasound confirms the gallstones, I will need to have my gallbladder removed. Unfortunately, my hypochondria extends into all things surgery related. I have never been under anesthesia before and the thought of it completely freaks me out. What if I wake up half way through the procedure and there’s a tube in my throat and I’m choking and no one in the operating room can tell? I think I saw an episode about that on Maury once…

In Search of Intelligent Dialogue…

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The Providence Journal, the daily newspaper in Rhode Island, provides quite a bit of online content that supplements the top stories of the day. Over the past few months I have found myself increasingly drawn to the “active surveys” section of the site. Projo staff post new survey questions (mostly open ended) on a regular basis and readers are encouraged to submit their two cents. Recent questions include “what’s a good spot for a central library in Providence?”, “have you ever had problems with wildlife on your property?”, and less tasteful surveys such as “tell us your Rhode Island mob story.” 

At first I thought that these surveys were a great way to start an open dialogue with people in Rhode Island about all sorts of important topics such as neighborhood improvements, arts and culture, diversity, and affordable housing. Unfortunately, many of the surveys become dumping grounds for people’s ignorant views—apparently (according to the comments I read) illegal immigrants, homosexuals, state workers, and politicians are the cause of 99% of the problems in Rhode Island. Librarians, teachers, and strippers are apparently a bunch of troublemakers too. 

When two mothers from Woonsocket joined in on a fight between their daughters, the Projo survey results included many comments about illegal immigrants creating violence in our cities. Unfortunately, a majority of the posters either failed to read the article fully or failed to realize that people from Puerto Rico are American citizens and not illegal immigrants. 

Some readers shared intelligent, well-thought out insight about the potential relocation of the Providence Public Library while others chose to offer more ludicrous ideas such as firing all librarians to save money, closing the library because everything is available on the Internet, and moving the library to Cranston because Providence is a “hell hole.” Anyone who thinks Providence is a “hell hole” obviously hasn’t stepped foot in the city since the 1980s. 

Rhode Island is increasingly becoming a service industry state because low paying retail and food service jobs are the best match for the skills of many unemployed Rhode Island residents. This state, along with other New England states, offer top notch higher education to thousands of college students each year. The problem is that students take their education and move straight out of New England. I imagine that people who are contemplating a move to Rhode Island check out the Providence Journal to get a feel for the state’s culture. I only hope that if they stumble across these active surveys, they take most of the comments with a grain of salt.

Where Has It Been Hiding?

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  • I think my desire to be a writer is back with a vengeance, which is great! I just wonder where it’s been hiding for the past 2+ years? I have all sorts of great new article ideas (which I will start with one at a time because of my crazy schedule) and I’m feeling that creative fire within—that overall “want to be a better person” rumble in my stomach.
  • I am currently sitting at Panera Bread, sipping a gigantic cup of hot chocolate and enjoying the free WiFi. Starbucks and Borders take note—I think it’s crappy that your establishments offer WiFi, but only by purchasing service through T-Mobile. I would gladly pay $5 per cup of coffee for the chance to get free WiFi within walking distance of my apartment. And Borders, I am a self-proclaimed magazine junkie who would probably walk away with at least $20 of magazines per visit. Instead, I’m sitting in a great business that offers tons of delicious food that I can’t eat.
  • I think we would all feel much less stress if we took some time to get emotional like little children do—this morning alone I have witnessed at least five kids who start with one long cry, take a gigantic breathe, and let out an even louder wail. It looks absolutely exhausting, but pretty emotionally satisfying. Do you think I’ll get fired if I try it at work tomorrow?
  • My class is still incredibly interesting, although I still loathe watching Grey’s Anatomy. I know several people who are die-hard fans of the show and it is really upsetting them that I hate it. Some insist that if I started watching it before it was a class assignment, that I would really enjoy it. I think not.
  • I have started a paper about Jack Bauer and after doing research all day yesterday, I’ve come to the conclusion that this will have to be a 25+ page final paper because there is just too much to say about him. Did you know that there is homoerotic fan fiction about Jack and Tony Almeida? There’s also some that stress a relationship between Jack and President David Palmer—kinky.
  • I am currently reading Jennifer Baumgardner’s newest book Look Both Ways: Bisexual Politics as a review for feministreview.org, an excellent site that offers reviews of all sorts of products from a feminist perspective. So far, I cannot put the book down. I started late last night, just to get a feel for the writing, and ended up reading the first 75 pages! And I haven’t even gotten to the chapter entitled “Bisexuality Now: The Ani Phenomenon.” I’ve admired Jennifer Baumgardner’s writing since I first read Manifesta many years ago. I’ll post the link to my review of the book once I finish.
  • I have also been reading a lot of Gluten Free Girl’s blog. The site is so visually appealing, Shauna’s writing is superbly interesting and exiting, and she makes all sorts of delicious food that I can eat! I am also insanely jealous that she is a professional writer by trade and that Le Creuset donated a ton of their cookery to her after reading her blog. If any corporations are reading this, I love Target, Crate and Barrel, Putumayo World Music, iTunes, artichoke hearts, and I think I spend roughly half of my salary at Whole Foods… thank you for any help you can offer!

Will the Lappie Inspire Me?

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Well, the Ahtspot party was a huge success! Please check out our website, with photos taken by yours truly, to get a feel for the turnout. I am so excited about the winning logo and can’t wait to get it placed on tee shirts and bumper stickers. 

Grad school is great so far, although I am sick of telling people about the class I am taking this semester—Sequels and Series, or What Television Can Teach Us About the Novel. Despite the fact that I tell curious people all about the massive amounts of reading and heavy theoretical material I have to finish each week, the only response I get is “you’re paying to take a class about television?” or “I wish I could take a class that involves just watching tv.” Excuse me, I’m just studying possibly the single most influential and most used piece of equipment in every American home…no big deal. Ugh. 

I am counting down the days until my new laptop, a Dell Latitude 420D arrives! For five years, I have struggled with an older Dell that defies all specs associated with owning a laptop (lightweight, convenient, full of battery power, wireless) because it weighs a ton and needs to be plugged in at all times because the battery power lasts for all of 30 minutes. I keep having Carrie Bradshaw daydreams of carrying my new wireless laptop to the coffee shop, library, and school so I can become the Superwriter I have always dreamed of—minus the fact that I hate coffee and I hate high heels even more.

I Love Aht

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Mike Huckabee, the former Republican governor of Arkansas, was one of the guests on Meet the Press this morning. Huckabee was speaking to Tim Russert about his potential run for President; normally, this would be my cue to walk away since I’m already sick of hearing about the 10,000 people who are running in 2008. (As an aside, I’m deathly afraid of finding a candidate I like because I’m sure the media will ruin them before its even time for the primaries, a la Howard Dean). I gritted my teeth as the conversation focused on Huckabee’s conservative views on civil unions, gay adoption, abortion but I have to give credit when credit is due—he had some amazing things to say about the arts. When asked about his love of music, Huckabee stated, “one of the things that I’m very passionate about is music and art and education because it was life-changing for me. I think in a creative economy we’ve got to have a whole group of kids coming up and a generation whose left and right brains are stimulated. And it’s something we’ve got to address because the future economy is dependent upon a creative generation.” In the five years that I have religiously watched Meet the Press, I don’t ever remember another guest mentioning the importance of the arts in education and the American economy.

My teenage clients are screaming for creative opportunities because many of them go through high school without ever taking a music or art class. Since most of them live in poverty, they don’t have the opportunity or supply money join the drama club, take a drawing class, or even spend a few minutes writing in a journal. Some of our most successful workshops and field trips over the last few years have included crocheting, jewelry making, improv acting, and other arts-related activities that most kids participate in from birth (through extracurricular activities like the Girl Scouts). 

I was thinking about all of these things because tonight is our party for Ahtspot. I am so proud to be a part of a business that values the creativity and hard work of artists. If you’re in the Providence area tonight, come party with us!

Kerri’s Writing Soundtrack

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Today’s Writing Prompt: If a record company put together the soundtrack of your writing life, what songs would it include? List 10 songs that inspire, excite or compel you to put the pen to the paper. Start it off with “(fill in your name)’s Writing Soundtrack.”

     Since I cannot think of anything constructive to say at the moment, I thought I would rely on Writers Digest magazine and their daily writing prompts to get my brain flowing.
     I just want to preface this by saying that one of my biggest pet peeves is the simple-minded music that television and film creators choose for their stories. It is so obnoxious to watch a really touching moment when, for example, a main character is deep in thought about his love life and is having trouble falling asleep. Suddenly, this horrendous music that completely doesn’t match the mood starts playing and the lyrics are something obvious like “I can’t get to sleep…I’m thinking about her love…” Duh. Music is about so much more than just the lyrics—as a writer, I can’t believe I am saying this. But it’s true.

Kerri’s Writing Soundtrack

1. “Denied” by Andy Moore. Andy is a superb folk singer/songwriter that I had the pleasure of hearing during an open mic night in Provincetown. This song is all about the struggle between working to pay the bills versus doing what you love. Whenever I am down about the size of my bank account, this song always inspires me to keep writing.
2. “Little Plastic Castle” by Ani Difranco. Besides being fun and upbeat, this song encompasses the characteristics that I aspire to as a writer—in your face, intelligent dialogue. Extra points for being the only song I know of about a woman with a shaved head.
3. “Not a Pretty Girl” by Ani Difranco. What can I say? I just love Ani. When I have a particularly infuriating feministy topic to write about (like the abomination that is Joe Francis), I break out the version of this song from her So Much Shouting, So Much Laughter album…although the original is excellent as well.
4. “The Misere” by Joyful Company of Singer. This song can be found on the Buddha Bar compilation albums, which contain some of my favorite relaxation music. After a hard day at my full-time job, I like to unwind by listening to this song as I transition from Kerri the stressed-out director to Kerri the super-hip writer.
5. “Born Too Late” by the Clarks. After living in Pittsburgh, PA for a few incredibly depressing months, I was convinced that nothing good could ever come out of that city besides a decent football team and one of my favorite buildings in the world. Most of the Clarks’ music is about drinking beer, chasing women, and many of my other least-favorite activities. But “Born Too Late” really struck a chord with me because it questions who you could have become if you had been around to witness the works of visionaries like Martin Luther King Jr. and Williams Shakespeare.
6. “After All” by Dar Williams. As an incredibly busy person, I often have trouble stepping back from my life long enough to appreciate all that is around me. Most of Dar’s music speaks to me about the richness of life (if you just take a moment to breathe it all in), but “After All” is my favorite. When I’m truly stuck on new story ideas, I listen to this song to remind myself that so many story ideas can pop out at us if we just take the time to observe.
7. “This Is Me” by Girlyman. In all honesty, anything written and performed by Girlyman makes me want to be a better writer and an overall better person. Their harmonies, vocals, lyrics, etc. are just absolutely beautiful and I try to see them live as often as possible.
8. “Fill It Up Again” by the Indigo Girls. In my daydreams, I am a yoga practicing, environmentalist, vegetarian, coffee drinking, free-flowing writer/gender and cultural studies activist/professor. In actuality, I’m a stressed out work in progress who currently “forgets” to exercise, throws away more paper products than all of her neighbors combined, loves chicken, loathes coffee, barely finds the time to write and is several years away from becoming a professor. “Fill It Up Again,” a love song with eco-friendly analogies, lets me escape to the life of my alter ego and makes me feel closer to my dreams every day.
9. “The Perfect Drug” by Nine Inch Nails. Since junior year of high school, I have really enjoyed listening to this song during my more manic writing phases. This song has the perfect combination of hammering rock music, slower interludes, and the haunting voice of Trent Reznor never hurts my creativity. I also really love this music video because I have a bit of an obsession with “all things weird,” according to my mother.
10. “Bouncing Around the Room” by Phish. Besides the fact that I have never experimented with illegal drugs (which should give me an automatic pass for presidency!), I consider myself to be a hippie. I love the Grateful Dead, Phish, Janis Joplin, Joni Mitchell, etc. This song really gets me into a great mood and is a perfect for when I want to dance around the office as I wait for the inspiration fairy to hit me.

Meh.

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I’m suffering from a serious bout of “meh” from my full-time job lately and all of the associative feelings are creeping their way into the rest of my life. I’m prone to suffering from “meh” when I get incredibly stressed out about something and the prospect of solving the stress seems rather hopeless.

As a director at a non-profit organization (an inherently thankless job), it is really difficult to expend my energy working my tail off and motivating my staff when I really could use a shot of optimism for myself every once in a while. I know that my staff feel valued because I am constantly reinforcing their roles in the department. I just wish I could feel those positive vibes about the work that I contribute to the agency. For the past year, I’ve had a swimming-against-the-tide/drowning-in-work/never-going-to-catch-up cloud hanging over my head with false promises of when the skies will finally clear. I thought it would be more manageable in April, after our agency accreditation process—nope. I thought completing four major grants might clear up my to-do list—nope.

In terms of my life outside of work, I’m finding it really difficult to come home and write because my brain feels like it’s stuffed with cotton instead of intelligent and creative ideas. I started going back to the gym this week in an effort to de-stress and clear out my head before going home; it’s led to a bit of weight loss, but I’m still brain dead. I’ve visited Borders and Barnes & Noble at least four times in the past week and a half because it’s usually very motivating to sit down with a stack of magazines and envision new article ideas. Besides spending money and drinking coffee, my trips were rather unproductive. Meh.

Any suggestions for how I can pull my head out of my ass?

Day Six? Review of Appetites

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I have both a good excuse and a poor excuse for not updating my site in a few days—the good excuse is that my web developer left town for the long weekend, leaving me high and dry when it came to posting my entries. Someday, my goal is to learn how to do it on my own. The poor excuse is that since I knew no one would be reading my entries this weekend, I didn’t write any at all—d’oh! 

However, my weekend was not a complete waste. I spent some quality time with myself, planning my seemingly chaotic life for the next 2 ½ years as I endeavor through grad school. Class starts in less than two days and I am feeling that combination of utter excitement and pending anxiety that always precedes something new in my life. I was also aware of blending in some fun time for myself, which I spent by hanging out with Liz and Susan, reading a few good books, and partaking in a bit of jewelry making. 

One of the books I finished was Appetites: Why Women Want by Caroline Knapp. Wow. What an amazing combination of personal memoirs and psychology around women and their various vices around the topics of hunger and appetite. As I mentioned before, Knapp passed away a few years ago (right after the book was published) at a rather young age. I am so sad for her family, but also for women in general—I can only imagine what other pieces she would have put together in the future. 

The basic premise of the book, which is also covered by feminist writers such as Naomi Wolf, is that issues around hunger such as body image, anorexia, bulimia, calorie counting, binge eating, and exercise distract women from the bigger hungers in their lives such as career goals, intellectual pursuits, healthy relationships, and a fulfilling sense of sexuality. As she says on page 52, “The great anxious focus on the minutiae of appetite—on calories and portion size and what’s going into the body versus what’s been expended, on shoes and hair and abs of steel—keeps the larger, more fearsome questions of desire blurred and out of focus.” 

While this may seem like a tired topic, I found that Knapp really took the time to research and delve deeper into the meanings behind women’s appetites by studying a few distinct topics—women and culture, mother/daughter relationships, sexuality, and overall body image. She also tied her research into mini-stories and examples from women who were willing to share their stories about their appetites. 

I particularly enjoyed her views on female sexuality and our “missing discourse of desire,” which describes how females are taught all about the mechanical and scientific aspects of sexuality but never about the emotional or pleasurable parts. This is why many girls grow into adult women who have no idea how to orgasm and partake in sex because that is what sexuality means to them—someone finding them attractive enough to take them to bed. Particularly in my career, I meet many women who admit to not enjoying sex or not feeling attractive enough to pursue their own happiness. 

Besides those sections, I also read quite a few passages that really resounded with me on a more personal level—particularly the chapter around family, motherhood, and how personal and family expectations can differ greatly.

Day Five–Bird Flu Woes

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So I was enjoying my senior managers meeting at work the other day when our Director of Counseling pulled out a pile of paperwork about pandemic flu planning. It is a surreal and frightening experience to sit with co-workers and brainstorm who will run which departments if people fall ill or pass away. Someone said that they watched an episode of Dateline that stated that the first wave of pandemic flu would attack younger adults. Great. Get the girl with asthma first! As you can imagine, I am absolute last on the list of people to oversee the agency, because it will hopefully give me enough time to recover from the flu, then run the show once I’m immune. I am so torn between thinking this is another scare tactic by the government/media and preparing for quarantine in my apartment for up to 8 weeks at a time. 

I look at my own financial situation, as part of a couple and as a fairly privileged and educated woman, and realize that it is difficult to find the money to purchase extra food, first aid supplies, toiletries, prescription medications, etc. in case of an emergency. We are trying to purchase an extra box of aspirin here and a few cans of tuna there, but it is still a daunting task. And where do we put all of this stuff, if we can afford to buy it? Then I think about my clients and how they struggle, with the help of our programs and others, to make every dollar stretch to feed and cloth and provide medical coverage for their families. If the avian flu (or any other disaster, biological or otherwise) hits this country, there will be such a horrific gap between the “haves” and the “have nots.

Sigh.