On Political Correctness (or not)

Today is Cinco de Mayo in the States. I live in a corner of West Texas; the country of Mexico is within three miles of my house. I did my Master’s degree at a program that was primarily concerned with social and cultural implications of borderland living, mixed-race literature, and that had a lot to say about cultural appropriation.

Battle of PueblaMy ethnicity is Hispanic. My race is white. I grew up white, with all the privilege that is afforded a white person. I never had to deal with language barriers, ethnic barriers, familial or cultural barriers. Those were things my grandparents lived through – I only reaped the benefits.

Cinco de Mayo is not the only culturally appropriated holiday in the States.

Earlier this week I equated Cinco de Mayo to St. Patrick’s day. My comment was deleted and replaced with a post about how the writer will not tolerate hostility. Let’s make the world a better place.

Second Battle of Puebla by Jean-Adolphe BeaucéCRITICISM makes the world a better place. ENGAGEMENT makes the world a better place. Agreement does not make the world a better place. It feels better, short term. It’s nicer.

But it’s not BETTER.

Passive aggressive wrist-slapping does not make the world a better place.

SHAME makes the world a better place, actually. But shame takes guts. Making people feel shame for actions requires direct confrontation. And direct confrontation is, apparently, not an option.

I was trying to be entertaining and instead I was viewed as hostile. I made a contribution and it was ignored and rebuked. No direct contact, all very passive. No way to actually engage. Just an unspoken shut-out of what was perceived as a dissenting opinion.

Battle of PueblaAn academic posts something controversial. A response is perceived as hostile and is (therefore) a dissenting opinion.

It’s fundamentally insincere to delete a dissenting opinion and replace it with vitriol about “engaging in a discussion about cultural appropriation.” You know what that is?

That’s silencing a voice and replacing it with your own.

That’s the heart of cultural appropriation.


Borderline Morbidly Obese

Doctors, man. I rarely leave a meeting with a doctor (especially one related to my reproductive parts) without at least one incredibly painful line that will follow me around for years to come.

We had a truly banner day, recently. We “met” with our adoption  consultant (over the phone) and are now officially “started” on the adoption journey.

We also met with a local fertility specialist for the first time. We are in a new area and about 8-9 hours from the last one we worked with. There’s one frozen embryo (hereafter referred to as Frosty) left from our IVF cycle last year and we both feel like we have a moral obligation to give it a shot. It’s a life.

That being said, we are now officially eight years into infertility. By that I mean we’ve been “trying” for eight years. During that time we’ve had three chemical pregnancies and an ectopic pregnancy. And about six years of zilch. Apparently that one fallopian tube I lost was the good one.

So you’ll understand why we are less than optimistic about Frosty’s chances. We have had multiple pregnancies and not one has made it past 10 weeks. Would it be delightful and miraculous if Frosty was the one that made it? For sure.

Do we expect Frosty to make it? Not remotely.

That being said, we’ve spent years wishing and hoping and praying for a kid, watching others raise theirs, and turning off news stations where folks mistreat or abuse kids. Life is precious. We have a life that we created and we are not going to let it go. We are going to fight for it. Even if it’s a losing battle from the start, it’s still worth fighting for.


We met the local fertility doc. And it was generally pleasant. He knows what he’s doing. He’s friendly. He’s positive. He’s even slightly pushy about the whole “don’t give up” thing, which we expect from a doctor whose specialty is making babies. But dude.

Apparently I’m borderline morbidly obese.

This comes as a surprise to me. It’s been increasingly obvious that I’m overweight. It’s been on my mind. I’m mildly active. I know the activity could use an uptick, but truly it’s the diet that needs to change. I’ve been crossing my fingers that the metabolism of my 20s reappears so I can keep eating delicious restaurant food four nights of the week and drinking a beer with dinner. Every time I look in the mirror I’m like “just a few more years with sweet potato fries and craft beer! Please!”

All that came crashing to the ground, though, with the proclamation of “borderline morbidly obese.”

So what did I end up with from that banner day? Hope and joy that we will soon be parents through the sociological miracle that is adoption? The faintest glimmer of possibility that I might actually be able to give birth once in my life? No. No. Nope.

Look, I know that guy was off. I understand the unreliability of BMI as any kind of accurate gauge of health or weight. I know it’s actually a small spread with a lot of grey area and room for interpretation. Even within those broad parameters, “morbid” obesity is so much further down the road than where I am. I can look at myself in the mirror and see that his words are a gross overstatement.

But still.

It’s a doctor. It’s an “expert.”

I’m so tired of medical people. I 100% can not wait to be done with them in relation to my reproductive parts. They are THE WORST.

On the slightly brighter side, now I have the appropriate level of self-disgust to give up sweet potato fries and craft beer. Bravo, doc.

Dr. Cox exercise program | sundriedtomatoe.wordpress.com

I Call Bulls**t – Monica & Chandler Adopt

I didn’t watch Friends when it was on the air – we didn’t really do TV in my house growing up and we definitely didn’t do “20 somethings having sex” TV.

Now, though, I have Netflix and a lot of crafting/making time on my hands, so I’ve been working my way through the series. Mostly I’ve been enjoying it, although I’m still not over my strong distaste for Rachel Green. I’ve just never understood the cultural fascination with Jennifer Aniston. Did it start with this character? WHY? She’s the WORST.

rachel green
Ugh. Rachel Green.

Moving on.

In the last (tenth) season of the show, Monica and Chandler go through infertility and then adoption. I have ambivalent feelings as I watch. On the one hand, I’m kind of delighted to see that real and present decision-making process represented on a major TV show. It’s not something you see on TV much, certainly not in proportion to how many people deal with it in real life. I feel personally gratified that it’s all on there, because so much of what I see as I watch is a “hey, us too!” thing.

deep emotion
“I’m feeling all the feels about our inability to be human beings, Chandler. Can you tell from the deep sorrow that is playing across my flat, emotionless face?”

On the other hand, though, it’s a twee representation. Friends is not a deep show. There’s no one grappling with a drug or alcohol addiction. Eating disorders are funny. Multiple divorces are funny. Suicide and homelessness are funny. So when infertility comes up and they try to be serious about it (and kudos for trying) it rings false. Or, at least, it falls flat.

“Oh my GAWD, Monica, look at these SEVEN PAGES we have to fill out in this ONE EPISODE.”

I never see the couple losing it over the inability to have kids. Neither of them question their basic biological function – their wholeness as people. No one ever cries (!??!?) over the situation. They have a clear, meaningful result to their first round of infertility tests. They move through alt-family options with swiftness and ease. They don’t agonize over what kind of adoption, or funding, or the paperwork/waiting process. They don’t feel a horrifying mixture of resentment and guilt over their friends having kids easily.

Ooopsie! TWINS! Two for the price of one! And, by the way, let’s never actually address the tens of thousands of dollars we had to shell out to get here!

In the span of a few weeks they go from “trying” to have kids to having twins.

At one point, they LIE to the birth mother about their file. They eventually correct the mistake but then Chandler does this super-pathetic “we are desperate for a child” plea that apparently wins the birth mother back over. WTF?! Lying and coercion to get a kid?!

lying to the birth mother
Lying to the Birth Mother is a great way to get a baby!

It’s weird because the whole time I’m watching I’m so glad and relieved to see SOMETHING about our lives represented on a popular show. But at the same exact time I’m so angry and offended by how lightly it’s treated, and how easily it’s resolved.

Be ye warned, actual, real-life friends: the Friends version of this devastating life event is just the tip of the iceberg. If you have someone in your life dealing with this kind of thing, don’t use Friends as a source of information or understanding.

But do watch the show for other stuff, though. It’s pretty good.


LATimes article responding to the “we’ll just adopt” episode, 2003

Blog post on Rachel vs. Monica

Real Estate Agents Are Ridiculous

Holy smokes in a cat-herding hand-basket of spaghetti. What a joke this “buying new home” process has been. We have laughed a LOT over the last month… with the understanding that this is a kind of dark humor born of the depths of weird doublespeak and fundamentally shady standards.

{The feature image for this post is so smarmy that I just had to include it. SNARF SNARF.}

My first draft of this post was SO LONG, mainly to try to explain the mental gymnastics one has to go through to even understand U.S. home-buying real estate.

The super-short, very pared down version is this: we didn’t use a real estate agent to buy or sell the house we’re currently in. We live in such a small, rural area that word of mouth and a local real estate attorney was all we needed to get the contract and lending obligations done. In fact, this house never even went on the real estate market – when we bought it was because we heard it was available through a friend and when it was time to sell we had four different people interested before we were even done cleaning!

under contract

Contrast this with our new location – a large city and a robust real estate market and hundreds of homes for sale. Any time we saw a house the selling agent would do a double take in shock and awe when we said we weren’t working with a buyer’s agent. They just couldn’t wrap their heads around it.

What that means, now that we’re only two weeks away from moving in to a new house, is that we tend to get ignored when we have questions or document needs. Title companies, other agents, inspectors, even the lender (to some extent) are used to working with agents. They are NOT used to fielding calls and answering questions directly from the buyer. So the responses have been mostly surprised and sometimes strangely dumb.

I actually had one guy call and scold me for not using an agent. And the seller’s agent called and told me our lender (a major bank) was a “terrible decision” and that I should go with “their guy” who could get the whole loan processed in three weeks or less.

the most interesting realtor in the world

Seems to me that the assumption is that we are stupid, or foolish. Going against the flow so dramatically (I had no idea…) as to not even HAVE an agent at all kind of marks us as weirdos in a major real estate market.

The plus side to all this is that I have control over the timeline. No one is lagging on sending documents to our lender. Nothing we say is getting lost in translation as it passes through two or three middle men. I have a solid idea of where the listing agency is in their “to dos” for this sale. Mostly, I’m not having to rely on one person for all my information. Worth it.

If all continues to go “well” we will be done with the Real Estate Agent Circus and in our new home in two weeks. That’s pretty cool, and also scary! MAJOR change, and one that is not a sure thing until all the paperwork is signed. I never realized how big a deal it was to pack up your life and head to a new place without a sure spot to land! We’ve always had a rental or apartment lined up. This is kind of a “pack up and hope for the best” situation!


David Bowie Ch-ch-ch-CHANGES

This Week in History

TimeHop is an app that “crawls” your history on social media and tells you what you posted “on this day” as many years back as your history goes.

This week is apparently one for the books. Here are two short stories.

This Week in History | SundriedTomatoe.Wordpress.com

Six years ago we were living in a shady area. We’d never really lived anywhere where crime happened in our neighborhood. We’ve always lived places where crime happens nearby.

And I’m not talking anything big, like murder or kidnapping (although that stuff did happen) I’m just referring to petty theft, vandalism, etc… Before eight years ago, that was a thing we only heard about.

So this week six years ago we had a rock thrown through our front window and we kind of realized that we weren’t living in a great place. Up until then we had brushed that notion off. (For the record, there wasn’t anything malicious about the incident. Most likely it was some kids walking around late at night, being jackasses.)

What was the scariest the next morning wasn’t the gaping hole in the front of our home, it was the fact that neither the cops (who didn’t even show up after we called 911 twice) nor the apartment complex people cared at ALL. The reaction of the locals was kind of, “why are you freaking out about this? It was just some kids with rocks.”

This incident really got our wheels turning on a move. Six months later we were in a different town and I was back in school working on my Master’s. Kind of a pivotal event, all told.

This Week in History | SundriedTomatoe.Wordpress.com
A year ago I was working as a project manager, grant writer, IT liaison, and accreditation director. I was becoming overwhelmed but this week was the beginning of the end. When I saw this little post on TimeHop I had to stop and catch my breath.

So the story is that it was the first grant proposal I had to get approved. All the ones I’d written before that were kind of “it’ll be nice if we get it, but no biggie.” For this one, there was a ton of pressure from all leadership to deliver.

The conference was a killer opportunity in terms of project management. I had won a fellowship to it and was going on just travel costs. But by the time departure day rolled around I knew that I absolutely did not have the time to take those three days and leave behind the Proposal.

I really want to go into details on how crazy that whole thing was. Mostly, know that it was essentially an undeliverable. There was no way I was going to be able to do it with the resources I had. I asked for more resources and was turned down. I tried to deliver anyway.

I was also beginning the process of training the whole organization on a major program change from IT.

I was also the director of a major, organization-wide external evaluation report.

I had other jobs. At the time the above post was written, I was working a solid 60-80 hours a week and falling way behind every day. I wasn’t sleeping much and I had started losing hair, which was weird and scary.

Oh! And we were going through a round of IVF! We had started the process months earlier but had put it off several times because of work commitments for both of us. By the time the above post was written we had decided that no time was particularly good (ie: life was going to be crazy all the time) so we just went for it.

I didn’t tell anyone at work what was going on in my private life – it wasn’t the kind of place where they want anything that distracts from the Job. So when we had a positive pregnancy test, we rejoiced in private. And, a week later, when I started to miscarry, we mourned in private. And I kept going to work.

Six months later, I had quit that job and was happily freelancing, spending most of my “work” hours with a great friend; and Hubs and I were starting to work through our options for adoption.

All of this is to say I’m kind of interested to see where we are six months from now. There’s been enough quiet upheaval in the last few weeks that I could probably mark this week (this year) as another “beginning.”

We shall see. Definitely stay tuned.

Bless Her Heart

At a work function, I had the singular misfortune of being grouped with one of those peers who is convinced that they are NOT my peer and that they need to spend a lot of time making sure I know we are not peers. I wasn’t the only person who got that kind of attention; the cranky coworker did the same thing to pretty much everyone.

bless her heart | a post from sundriedtomatoe.wordpress.comIn a large meeting, a boss brought up a particularly divisive point of conversation. Cranky Pants McGee politely disagreed, out loud. Then she spent the next 20 minutes shit-talking the boss under her breath to anyone who would listen. Conversation had its hills and valleys, but Cranky Pants McGee just spent her time being negative. Viciously negative. Under her breath.

Post-discussion, our smaller group met. Cranky Pants didn’t seem to realize that no one agreed with her approach… or maybe she was just smart enough to keep most of the ugly under her breath. But in the post meeting she spent some more time trash talking the lady and we all kept our mouths shut. Until she uttered the words “bless her heart.”

The room went silent. Someone said, “…oh…”

You don’t just throw that phrase around.

Sick on Trips; DIY Heating Pad

Food poisoning this time, not shingles; a relief of sorts and yet still terrifying. On the two -day road trip out to the midwest conference (in a van, with several students), I had a sudden and violent onset of “both ends” stomach explosion. We stopped four hours away from our first day’s destination and I quickly realized that I would not be able to manage another four hours in a vehicle. So I got a hotel room and the rest of the group (who were on a time hack the following day) left me to try and make their travel deadline.

In retrospect, it’s mildly terrifying to be alone in a hotel room in a strange city with zero transportation options and the closest person you know four to eight hours away. I should have been petrified. But I wasn’t petrified. I was so grateful for a bed and a private bathroom that I had no time to be petrified.

I may have actually told the bed “thank you” several times.

On a side note, I want to tell you about a trick I came up with a few years ago and have used several times (in a pinch) when a regular heating pad isn’t handy. My 36 hours in a random hotel room involved this “heating pad hack” and, when I was feeling better the next day, I was like, “I should tell people about this heating pad thing. It’s great.”

Two ingredients to this masterpiece. A towel, which hotels usually have on hand (hand towels work best, or you can use a t-shirt if no towels are handy) and a Ziploc bag.

diy heating pad | from sundriedtomatoe.wordpress.comdiy heating pad | from sundriedtomatoe.wordpress.comSide note: I pack all my random toiletries in gallon-sized Ziploc bags when I travel so I always have at least one or two on hand. Any watertight bag will do, however. You could use the ice-bucket bag.

Find a hot water source. In hotels, just use the bathroom sink. That water gets SCALDING HOT. Soak that towel in hot water. Wring it out so it’s just damp (I have to use a second towel for this to protect my hands so they don’t burn) and then fold neatly and seal in the Ziploc bag.

Viola. Heating pad.

If you have a microwave handy, double the awesomeness. Instead of potentially scalding your hands you can just dampen the towel, put it in the (microwave safe) Ziploc and heat in the microwave.

And re-heat as needed, which is really great when you’re trying to move as little as possible. 30 seconds in front of a microwave is way better than five minutes of finagling in the bathroom.

diy heating pad | from sundriedtomatoe.wordpress.comSomeday, when you’re out on the road and sick as a dog and just can’t muster up the resources or energy to go to a store to BUY a heating pad, you’ll remember this post. And thank me.

You’re welcome.