Monday, April 30, 2007

A touch of diva

Perhaps it's the sunshine outside and the budding leaves, but I've been stricken with the desire to be a girl as of late. I usually fall more along the lines of yard work, fishing and Home Depot in my leisure time. Except, in the last 72 hours, this rugged Alaska woman has painted her fingernails and toenails, bought some fabulous, strappy, high-heeled sandals and a spring dress, worn pantyhose, drank purple pomegranate martinis at an afternoon ladies' party, attended a women's fundraiser, purchased and wore two gold toe rings, given three "housewife's tarot" readings, crossed my arms in a petulant fashion, and loudly vocalized my displeasure when I felt a man wasn't properly indulging my wants and whims.

Perhaps rugged Alaska diva is more accurate.

'Course it could be that I am just drowning my angst in sparkly things and flowing fabrics.

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Thursday, April 26, 2007

A question of etiquette

Is there a polite way to tell another adult, someone who is ostensibly a professional person, that they should stop capitalizing every word in a sentence? I mean, is it just me, or does the following sound snarky?

"Dear colleague,
I was reading through your item and noted a couple of typos. Just a reminder that we only capitalize the first word of every sentence.
Your co-worker"

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Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Look in the mirror

My oldest friend asked me to take an online quiz yesterday. It involved word association and a rather complicated exercise in hand-eye coordination. The result, in my case, was that I apparently slightly prefer European Americans to African Americans. Though I have some doubt as to the validity of the methodology, I suppose it makes some sense, given that I am white. My friend, who is African American, also took it and said the results showed a slight preference for African Americans.

My 13-year-old son offered a simple explanation: He said that it is natural for human beings to have an affinity for other humans that look similar to themselves. And his point is well taken, I suppose. A while ago, I read about a study that showed that men and women, when asked to pick the most attractive person of the opposite gender from a collection of photos, overwhelmingly chose a photo of themselves, morphed to be the opposite gender.

Yet, there must be more. My two oldest children, ages 13 and 10, also took the same quiz. They both showed no preference toward either race. My children are white. Using the aforementioned logic, they should have both scored as I did. But they didn’t.

That fact both gives me some hope and some pause about my own prejudices, even if they are not part of my conscious thought. My upbringing was not one surrounded by diversity. Until I was a sophomore in high school and moved to a larger community, I could count my African American classmates on one finger. And even in this larger community, the racial lines were bright. It wasn’t that relations felt acrimonious, at least they didn’t feel that way from my perspective; it was just that the white people didn’t mix with the black people. It was self-segregated or, perhaps more accurately, socially segregated. And I remember acutely the degree of whispering that accompanied anyone who stepped over the bright line: the girl who dated a black boy and vice-versa, the white kid who liked to hang out in that section of the hallway.

I told this story to my son, and he just shook his head. “That’s just messed up, Mom,” he said. Yet despite this and despite that I know he has friends of all ethnic and racial backgrounds, I also have heard him talk of what sounds to me like racial tension in his school. He isn’t sure what to make of it. I think it puzzles him greatly. I can’t help but worry that his neutral stance now, and that of his sister, is more a factor of the blank slate of childhood. Will the world ruin them?

I suppose that the best place to start is to recognize our own biases and to acknowledge that most of us have them, even if they are unconscious. It’s not a comfortable place to be, I suspect because, at some level, we all must know how factually absurd racial bias really is. War, injustice, oppression: all over something that boils down to pigment.

No saving the world tonight. Just the vague sense of unease brought on by the harsh light of a mirror to the subconscious.

It’s worth your time to give it a try. The link is here.

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Some people are strung tighter than a piano wire.

I am more inclined to remove the piano wire and use it for various nefarious deeds.

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Monday, April 09, 2007

How many people does it take?

An employee of a government entity discovers that the print shop has discontinued the paper that is used for the single-sheet, photocopied employee newsletter. Now this newsletter comes out with relative frequency, so the time to choose a new color is at hand. So, what is the logical next step? Why, of course it’s to send a memo around to nine different colleagues, with three paper samples neatly attached, so people in two departments can weigh in on this very important issue of the newsletter color. This is especially important because, after all, this newsletter is a source of information for all of the employees in the organization. We wouldn’t want it to be a color that people find overly garish or offensive.

It is, for this reason, that having the thoughtful comment from nine people is vital. Their wise counsel will ensure that the paper choice adequately meets the communication needs of the organization. It is important to choose the correct one.

Oh wait. Did I forget to mention the choices?

Ivory, tan or buff.

And they wonder why bureaucracies are so slow.

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Surviving adolescence

I must confess that I’m starting to wonder whether my 13-year-old son will be allowed to survive to see his 14th birthday, let alone make it to adulthood.

In all seriousness, it’s interesting to watch this adolescent-awakenings phase from the adult perspective. The thing I remember most about my middle school years is that everything, and I do mean everything, seemed incredibly intense and larger-than-life. Every crush, every argument with a friend or my parents, every decision, seemed to be the end-all of everything.

Now, as I watch my son, I see that same intensity manifest itself in some of the most annoying behavior I have ever witnessed. It seems like he’s never middle-of-the-road. When he’s happy, he’s happy to the nth degree, making this “YEEAING!” noise and throwing his body around like a two-year-old who drank the sugar bowl. When he’s mad, he’s prone to tossing things around in his room with angry abandon. And don’t even get me started on the degree to which he tries to push every boundary I can think of, and many that I haven’t.

All I can say is, “It’s a wonder my parents didn’t off me as soon as I hit 13.”

I suppose the only thing that saves him is that, at times, I can see a glimpse of the man who lives beneath this big, strange, swirling mass of hormones. And that man is kind and compassionate, intelligent and responsible.

Perhaps I’ll let him live, after all.

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Block ‘o chop

Note to self: Putting a three-pound block of pork chops into the oven at 7 p.m. is likely not the most effective way to create an evening meal and may result in scrounging around the fridge for leftovers at 9 p.m. because, after all, the kids have to eat.

I’m just sayin’.

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Saturday, April 07, 2007

No weed required

Time: 11:30 p.m.
Scene: Two women up talking all night.
Woman 1 to Woman 2: "I want to put some of that government cheese on these chips."

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Friday, April 06, 2007

Truth at 8:30 a.m.

Overheard from a male colleague:

"If I don't care so much, it doesn't hurt so bad."

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