Category Archives: Legacy

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Home Improvement Makes Me Happy

I suppose this post doesn’t really have much to do with the general themes of this blog, but whatever.  This has to do with improving the house that all the writers of this blog live in, so, um, it’s totally relevant.

Yesterday I took on the unpleasant project of removing the urine-soaked carpet in the back room of our house and replaced it with new, stench-free vinyl tile! Seriously, the puppy is adorable and often hilarious, but it’s like she’s having a personal pee party everyday all day and, while we are all apparently invited, we are not in attendance willingly.

I began the project by myself initially by starting to lift the carpet and yank it off the floor. There were staples and other pointy sharp things, but the most terrible part was the wave of eye-burning odor I was hit with as I progressed.

It was at this moment that I learned that there is something that is the opposite of aromatherapy.  Aroma-torture?  Aroma-needling-and-nagging? The cloud of putrid aroma instantly stressed me out, made me sad, and had me spiraling in a negative feedback loop of epic proportions. I was questioning various life decisions that brought me to this juncture and was honestly afraid that “Urine-Soaked Carpet Maven” was going to be the value I represented to everyone.

I’m being a bit hyperbolic of course, but I definitely had a mini-meltdown and cried for a while. Jessie found me staring helplessly at the pile of offending textile on the floor with a tear stained face.

Jessie often has a way of finding me when I’m having one of these moments. Last year when we rented a little house in the mountains for Wes’ birthday, I managed to forget my meds for the weekend. I didn’t think it was going to be a big deal, but by the last day I was truly not in my right mind. At one point, I was vacuuming various rooms while in full throttle weeping mode. I feel like a weeping woman vacuuming is the perfect embodiment of the 1950’s. Jessie found me though and calmed me down. She did the same thing yesterday. She’s pretty awesome.

After that, I was talking with Jessie, Wes, and Amber and we came up with the thought that it was the pee that threw me off my rocker. Then I got to thinking that the permeating aroma of decomposing waste had likely been making me generally less happy and calm for days.

I pulled it together and went off to brunch with everyone and when we got back, Jessie helped me roll up the carpet and underlayment and get it outside. It was gross, but freeing to get that awful stuff out of the house. I then cleaned the floor underneath with Nature’s Miracle, followed by some heavy duty floor cleaner I got from the tile aisle, and then I put a sealer/primer down so that rogue pee molecules could not escape from the wood. Then I put down the vinyl tile, covered the gaps with trim, and the back room looks fabulous AND (most importantly) the stench is gone. I spent a while back there just breathing happily.

As it turns out, while there are other offending spots in the house (all of which are on my list to fix with various cleaning and floor coverings), the back room was supplying the bulk of the stink to the whole house. By fixing that, the rest of the house was remarkably not awful in the smell department.

As you can tell, I am quite proud of myself. Wes took me out for dinner and drinks to celebrate the floor project. All in all, with shopping for supplies included, the whole project took about 6 hours to complete and cost us about $200. About $50 of that was made up of tools that we will use again and again, and some supplies that I didn’t use much of and can use next time (since this project is a big one). And it looks like this:

Back Room Floor

Pretty neat, huh??? The improvement is amazing. With the stench gone, I am way less angry to be home. It’s also much easier to clean (since the puppy is still being a jerk about ONLY going outside), which is a plus. The next project is the stairs! This is much bigger and more annoying project (I think) but it will be awesome when it’s done. After that, laminate flooring in the living room. Then? Who knows???

Adventures in Therapy: New and Improved

I went to Lowes today at lunch to scope out floor replacement options to continue work on undoing the pee-havoc that the puppy has wreaked on our various carpets. My initial solution was going to be self-adhesive carpet tiles. That’s still something I’m going to do on the stairs, but I have to order them online and if I know one thing about myself is that there are certain types of things I almost always do on a whim. When I decide that I want to do something in certain categories, I want to be able to go to a business and get the materials/services needed. For instance, a few weeks ago I decided I wanted to cut my hair short, so I went to a Hair Cuttery on the way home and had it chopped off. I have gotten sudden impulses to paint murals on our walls at home and…so I do. In the context of this particular home improvement project, I found nice looking vinyl self-adhesive tiles that are readily available in abundant quantity at the store, along with all the tools and shit I might need right there in the aisle next to them. Solution found, and I’ll be working on that this week in the room where that kind of solution is appropriate. HOT DAMN.

As I wandered around the store, and then subsequently as I walked outside towards my car, I was suddenly aware of how calm and generally “fine” I was feeling. I remarked to myself that this feeling of general calmness and okayness was what I have grown to expect from myself. It is my new normal. I then realized that it has been 3 years since I began my Great Journey to Mental Health: Extreme Makeover Edition, 2 years since beginning the search for a therapist and going on Zoloft, 1 year since winning the epic wages increase battle of 2013, 8 months since ending a relationship that was not doing anyone (especially me) any favors, and about 4 months since some other rather unfortunate stuff happened resulting in the end of a friendship I cared deeply about. In hindsight though, everyone is better off with the way things turned out. Sometimes people and lives are not compatible and it’s important to find that out earlier rather than later.

I honestly never believed that this general feeling of personal wellbeing, of calm, of Fine would be normal for me. Sure, I’m still on Zoloft but Zoloft (and other meds) didn’t do all the work required for me to get here. Zoloft is a tool for wellness and one that I still use and need for balance. There’s no shame in it. I’ve worn glasses every day of my life for the last 20 years because my eyes don’t work properly without them. The chemicals in my body are imbalanced, so I do what I need to in order to correct that and lead a happier, more productive, highly satisfying life.

But before and since medication, I have done an immense amount of work on myself to find the person I want to be hiding underneath. The biggest change I have experienced is that the things that are important to me have shifted. It used to be that being well-liked, or more to the point, having no one be upset with me, was pretty much my main social goal. This backfired, like, all the time in terms of people treating me well and my getting anything I wanted or needed. But I did achieve the goal of no one having an issue with me. In my younger mind, this meant that I would never be voted off the island. But that’s because I was the most obedient mule around and I would work tirelessly to pull that water wheel…or whatever it is you would need a mule for on an island. Pulling a cart full of coconuts? I’m mixing my metaphors I think. The point is I figured that if I was indispensable as a friend (through the services I would do for them), no one would leave me in the lurch! It was a substitute for actual trust in people.

The problem was that I was constantly being left in the lurch because I wasn’t communicating anything accept acquiescence. I was selfless in the fact that I never, ever put myself first for anything but it wasn’t altruistic. I got a sense of security from it.

I am still a helpful person but I have learned to pay more attention to what is a reasonable thing for me to be asked to do. This might seem like a small step, but I wasn’t doing this AT ALL before. And the scenarios in which I have to do this range from the mundane (“Come pick me up at a location 10 miles out of your way even though I can totes take the train”) to the fantastic (“Lie to me about your feelings…better yet, don’t talk to me about your feelings”). Both types of scenario are things that I have said no to and life is better for doing so. Saying no when you honestly want to say no is better for everyone in the long run. If there is backlash, it can be weathered knowing that ultimately this is the system working. Holding your wellness and happiness as central goals is better for those who love you and those who don’t.

I’ve learned a lot about what I want, what I need, and what I’m worth to myself. It’s still a struggle to express those things and sometimes I falter. But the underlying change in focus is there. I have a lot more to say about that and the things I have learned and am always trying to act upon, but for now I celebrate this peace time after so much war.

Tonight, Wes and I are going to have a few drinks at the Franklin Institute and learn about the science of gross stuff (Happy Halloween!). The Science After Hours series has been so much fun and is pretty much the best idea ever. I have always loved the Franklin Institute and the fact that they are making kids in adult bodies events after the work day is so very cool.

The rest of the week will be spent working, celebrating 10 years of employed bliss at my company’s Employee Appreciation Dinner (I’m totally getting a mug. I just know it), knitting a hat (my first project with double points needles…gasp!), coloring drawings, and replacing urine soaked carpet. I definitely did not save the best for last in that list.

So life is good overall. The happiness baseline is at a good place. The sinusoidal nature of the human experience notwithstanding, I am satisfied with the amplitudes of the highs and the lows. As for the frequency of the waves, well, that’s getting longer and more mellow all the time.

OK, that was just a pretentious metaphor. What am I even talking about here? Am I failing at mule AND math metaphors? Look, my point is, I’m doing well and I’m happy being me. What a novel concept!

Much Obliged, Madam

I’ve been thinking a lot about failure.

Now, before you go thinking that you’re going to need me to talk me of a ledge or something, I don’t mean for that to sound like such a bad thing. I spend a lot of time thinking about success too, but we have to think about our failures in order to sow new success, yes? And I have also learned that much success is not a one time thing, but rather a state of existence that needs to be maintained.

Success and happiness are the same in this way (and are pretty interrelated, obviously). To me, success is a part of happiness. It is a necessary part for everyone, I think. It’s just that the definition of success is different for different people.

So yeah, I’ve been thinking a lot about failure recently. Part of this contemplation has included thoughts on friends I have lost, or more to the point, friends who have lost me. There were communications failures. There were failures to vet properly and there were red flags ignored. But whatever, that’s life, right?

What I’ve been thinking about more these days is my inability to fulfill obligations to myself. I don’t even want to call them obligations. I have great trouble making my own personal goals, desires, and needs a priority in my own life. It is pretty much an automatic habit I have to deprioritize mine when there’s someone else I could spend my energy on.

This isn’t a new realization and anyone who knows me well is all like, “No duh”. It’s true that in the last several years, I have learned how to prioritize myself more and I have gained the confidence to speak my mind and demand decent treatment. But I did that to improve the quality of my relationships. This is important to do, most certainly, but it has a component that is for other people, not just myself.

The frustrating thing for me is that I just won’t put the same kind of value onto things that benefit me almost solely. The two biggest examples are eating right and exercising regularly.

I know the truth already: There is a way of eating that makes me feel a lot better both emotionally and physically. I don’t have allergies or intolerances (I don’t think), but a more “paleo” diet makes me function better and feel healthier. Exercising regularly makes me feel more confident and healthy and does away with any body image issues I might have. If I did both, I would feel incredible.

You would think that with that evidence, it would be easy to prioritize these things for myself. What would prioritizing things like this look like? An early morning yoga class a couple times a week, stopping at the gym on the way home from work, a Pilates class once a week, walks/jogs on the weekends. It would look like meal planning for the week and shopping for what I need for those meals. It would mean not using the time after work stopping at the grocery store or at Home Depot or a million other places, instead of working out. It would mean more “make ahead” meals that would allow me to throw it together in the morning and have it start cooking while I’m out doing things for myself. It would mean cooking even when I don’t feel like it. It would mean scheduling workouts like they are things I can’t miss (like work). It would mean not worrying so much about everyone else’s preferences and let them fulfill those on their own.

It would be me taking an interest truly in my own wellbeing. This sounds really simple but I am currently just not wired that way. But it’s a circuit worth getting.

These things take a lot of time (as in time to exercise and time for preparing healthy meals) and definitely a lot of energy. These things also take clear communication to others. Like, if I’m going to make meals that don’t include starches and other things that make me drag and feel lousy, then all I need to do is communicate what I am making and people who want more can add what they want for themselves. Part of my problem is always trying to anticipate what other people want and feeling obligated to accommodate them, even if it means compromising my own goals.

The bottom line is that I need to see the value in working as hard for myself as I do for other people. I honestly don’t know how to do that. How do I hold myself accountable to myself? Clearly, I still don’t know quite how to value myself without external validation. I am assuming that this is a skill I can learn. I know I can always work harder, but at some point I’m going to need to work smarter too.

Good thing I have therapy on Monday!

Pumpkin Everything and Giant Piles of Leaves

Often when I tell people that I was born in California, they always ask “why on Earth did you leave?!?” Well, firstly, it wasn’t remotely my decision since I was 15 months old when my parents, sister, and I packed up and moved over to Philadelphia. Secondly, my parents were sick of Southern California and its barely changing seasons.

Yep, my parents’ main reason for wanting to come to the middle of the East Coast was so that we could actually experience the joy that is the axial tilt of the Earth and I, for one, am quite happy that they wanted that!

I love living in a place that has four distinct seasons. I love each season for different reasons and my favorite parts of the year are the transitions from one season to the next. We are currently in my favorite of the transitions – summer to autumn.

snoopy_autumn

My favorite thing about summer is the lovely amount of light we get and how long the days are. Waking up and coming home in sunlight each work day makes every day feel like the possibilities are endless and I look forward to that every year, especially after losing the light for several months. Of course, I like a certain amount of heat to go with that light so that I can partake in all the outdoor stuff I like (beaches, rivers, and dining al fresco) but I am more susceptible to heat related illness seemingly (though that has gotten a lot better since I started paying special attention to my water consumption and not staying outside in the dog days for long periods of time).

But this time of year, when it is cold enough to grab a cuddly cardigan in the morning to head to work, and when sunset is earlier and the evening commute is bathed in golden welcoming light…I tend to be filled with a calmness and pleasantness that accompany days well spent, work well done, and the promise of relaxing under fuzzy blankets on comfy couches with perhaps a cup of favorite tea.

In addition to all that awesomeness, autumn brings PA Ren Faire season which means costumes, pirates, giant turkey legs, and mead! Also, Mount Hope winery sells one of my favorite red wines, so it’s time to stock up a little!  I also want to visit pumpkin patches and go on a hay ride and sip apple cider while picking out the perfect ginormous squash.

squash boat

I have no choice but to name the above photo “Squash-Buckling”.  Shut up.  I know I’m fired.

And Halloween.  But, like, I don’t even need to go on about why that rules.

I even love the winter. While I don’t so much love the darkness, I actually quite enjoy bundling up to go outside and I enjoy finding coffee shops to get the occasional hot chocolate or peppermint mocha in. I like getting one of those drinks and wandering around in festively decorated parts of town. While I’m pretty much over Christmas in a lot of ways, I love lights and glitter and the way Rittenhouse Square gets transformed into a magical pocket in the center of the city.

Last year I, like many people, was taken by surprise by the “real winter” we ended up having. I didn’t have the proper apparel at all and for some reason kept avoiding investing in anything. So, I was epically cold a lot, trying to piece together proper warmth from random things I would find in the house. This year I am shopping for a warm, vintage inspired winter coat and I’m going to get some fuzzy lined water proof winter boots…and leather gloves…and a soft warm hat! Yes, I’ve become all girly and wish to look cute AND be warm.

fuzzy hat

I bought a couple of dresses on Modcloth yesterday and will be investing in more sweater tights because cuteness waits for no person!

I used to fear seasonal affective disorder, but that hasn’t been much of a problem since getting treatment for depression and anxiety in general, and also because I tend to fill my evenings with things that are not light dependent. I do a lot of art now and often I work on my pieces at night, regardless of season. Also, now that I have upped my Vitamin D levels, I have more energy regardless of sunlight. So, I’m feeling pretty happy now and expect to keep it up over the autumn and winter months.

Things are good. I feel like healing has been happening without me quite noticing. Now that it’s a little bit chilly at times and Halloween is on its way, I find that I am feeling inspired to decorate for the season (inspiration that has mostly eluded me for the last couple of years). I’m also inspired to fix things up around the house and do projects that I haven’t be able to muster the amount of care required to do up until now.

I also totally gave up on the Whole30 out of sheer boredom and the fact that me and ridiculous amounts of restriction really don’t get along. The thing was that I committed to trying it as an experiment, but I hadn’t actually bought into the whole philosophy. A lot of it I suspected was kind of bullshit…certainly bullshit if one is making blanket statements about what EVERYONE should be eating. I pretty much confirmed in 18 days what I already knew about my body and what makes it function best. Hooray and give me a piece of cheese.

It’s truly wonderful to feel the darkness lifting even though the days are getting shorter. I couldn’t ask for more wonderful people in my life. I couldn’t ask for a lovelier home. I couldn’t ask for a better job and career. I couldn’t ask for anything more because this is the life I want, with the people I love, and with the future full of possibility and promise.

Now…if we could just get the puppy to stop crapping on the floor, life would be damn near perfect!

Stardust

D’awwwwwww!

Whole30 Day 17: I Drank Some Wine and it was Delicious

Ok, I admit it.  I went 16 full days without “cheating” at all on this Whole30 thing but then some personal BS occurred and I was going out to see a Fringe Festival show and all I wanted in the world was some damn red wine.  So I had some.

Do I look at this as a failure? I mean, yeah, but I don’t really care.  I look at it as doing the Whole30 imperfectly and since I’m doing this for no one else but myself, I get to make the rules.  Does this mean that I’m going to be boozing it up for the next 13 days? Of course not.  It would probably shock you to know that I had a cube of cheese a few days ago too because I was starving and had to go grocery shopping yet again and had nothing to eat.  Impressively, I don’t feel like my progress was destroyed.

I sound super defensive, don’t I? I think it’s because someone was like “now you have to start all over” and I am saying, “Nah, not going to do that.”  If you read the article on the Whole30 website it goes through a bunch of reasons why you have to and then it says the most important one, “But hey, you’re an adult and can do whatever you want to do.” Yup.  I’m pretty much with Cartman on this one:

cartman

So, this is the supposed Tiger Blood week of the challenge and, as with all the other parts of the timeline, my experience is lining up pretty well.  I generally have more energy, am sleeping much better, and waking up in a more alert, clear state.  Of course, the wine from yesterday changed those things for today but that is not a new experience for me.

The hardest thing about this way of eating, and why I will not really keep up to this degree after the 30 days is the constant need to go grocery shopping.   I have been going shopping every 4 days and buying a lot of stuff each time.  When you’re eating fresh food all the time without a lot of filler starches and grains, you eat a lot more and instead of produce rotting in the crisper, you are simply always out of produce!  I also eat larger portions of meat.  And while there’s nothing inherently bad about that ,these things combined with cooking with every part of the coconut makes for a hefty grocery bill every time.

Eating this way costs a lot in money and it costs a whole lot in time.  I feel like a lot of my free time is spent purchasing food, chopping food, and cooking food.  And while I enjoy cooking, it is difficult to keep up the energy when you are also working a full time job and doing some house remodeling and keeping the house clean and chasing after a puppy.  It’s not that I don’t have the time (or at least, it’s not that I can’t make time to do it), but I question how much of my time I wish to spend doing this.

I understand that the answer is planning planning planning, however, to make enough food for the rest of the week I feel like I would have to give my entire weekend to the kitchen. I already give a large part of my weekend to house upkeep and food. To spend every free minute making large pots of things to hopefully last the week just isn’t something I want to do. This challenge has shown me a lot about how I value my time.

The good side of this is that I have spent significantly less on eating out, simply because eating out is a pain in the ass with such a restrictive diet. Because eating out money is my personal money and grocery money is a shared pot, it feels like I’m saving a lot. But since I’m spending more on groceries (over the amount we actually budget for), I’m not actually. But it’s nice to have some money left over when I get paid. I like the feeling of living within my means. In this case, though, it’s pretty much an illusion because of the grocery aspect, I guess, but I always feel accomplished when I cook/make the majority of my week’s food.

Though this is “Tiger Blood” time, I have to admit that I am not feeling all that much “better” than when I’m generally being mindful of what I eat the rest of the time under less restriction. Yes, I am feeling energetic and I’m not experiencing all kinds of blood sugar crashes, but this is not a new thing for me. Whenever I watch my sugar intake and eat way more fruits and veggies, I feel better. I am lucky in that I don’t have any allergies or food sensitivities. I also feel way better in general since I started taking a vitamin D supplement, so it’s hard to say if the diet is doing anything majorly different or if I was just really deficient in vitamin D. I’m leaning toward the latter, combined with the knowledge that lower amounts of processed foods is a generally good idea for me health and happiness-wise.

The next part is a little TMI, so scroll past if you are squicked out by discussion of female biological processes.

One very bizarre thing that occurred was that I got my period way early. This is particularly strange because I am on the pill, so bleeding occurs like clockwork 3 days after ending a pack. But I did some reading and am thinking that the whole phytoestrogen thing is not a total load of hooey. Soy is packed with isoflavones, which are touted for various positive things (especially the easy source of protein) but they also mimic estrogen in the body. They don’t do the job of estrogen as well as estrogen, but they like to hang out on estrogen receptors. Apparently, most grains contain a bunch of these things too. So seemingly, when I cut out all grains and all soy, my body saw this as a significant enough of a hormone level drop to trigger bleeding. As I just finished a pack today, I wonder if that means I’m going to be bleeding for two weeks straight. Great…but kind of interesting and little bit disturbing.

So 13 days to go. I likely will not be wavering again in my Whole30 resolve, ‘cause 13 days ain’t no thang. I am certainly enjoying learning some new recipes and agree that eating this much produce is a good thing, but honestly, pasta is a requirement for a busy person with so much awesome going on. I look forward to having it back as an option!

Whole30 Day 7: The Dog Days Are Almost Over

Hello! I have successfully stuck to the Whole30 challenge for 7 days and I think I’m about out of the “Oh my goodness, body, I know, you want sugar…you’re just going to have to enjoy this damn pineapple, OK?!?” stage of things.  Other than some physical blechness and a few days of irritability and stress, I have adjusted to this way of eating pretty readily and I’m enjoying it.  As it turns out, this timeline is really accurate.  I definitely had some moments on day 4 where I thought I was going to resort to screaming , stomping, and possibly throwing things.  I managed to not do that and ate a banana instead.

Years ago, I did a stint of the Atkins diet with Wes and it was a nightmare the first time because we were just replacing things we like with weird alternate versions of them that contain fake sugar and alternate ingredients, none of which contained any nutritional value.  I got really stupid one day and remembered that I hadn’t had, like, any sugar in a week and my brain was turning into a glucose zombie. “Glucossssse…GLUCOSSSSE”.  I ate a candy bar and was able to read words again.  The second time we tried it, I went the vegetables and meat route (no substitutions for bread or candy or whatever), and kept my blood sugar even with cheese (seemingly).  Still, on Atkins, you have to stay away from most fruit in order to keep your carbs at a ridiculously low level.

I am enjoying this because it’s not a weight loss plan.  It’s a nutrition plan and while fruit is still high in sugar content, it’s not banned.  It’s just not number one on the list of things you should be eating.  Veggies are number one, meat/eggs/nuts are number two, and fruit is number 3.  And what I’ve learned is that this isn’t quite as restricting as I thought.

Granted, it makes going out to eat sort of useless.  Wes and I are actually enjoying that because we are spending way less money.  I never budget properly for eating out and always spend way more than I think I’m going to.  So this challenge has had that added benefit.

I am enjoying this because it’s inspiring me to try new things.  I’m not a picky eater, but I am not necessarily motivated all the time to try something new from the produce department.  I went to find recipes and have been having a grand old time cooking with things like lemongrass and fresh ginger and Thai green curry.  These are flavors that I enjoy in restaurants, but have never really done anything with at home and I love having a reason to branch out.  It is especially inspiring in the slow cooker arena, since most of my Crockpot cookbooks have fifteen different recipes for beef stew and not a ton of variety. 

One of the more entertaining things is that coconut is apparently the wonder plant in this world.  In my kitchen, I currently have coconut oil, coconut milk, coconut vinegar, and “coconut aminos”.  Coconut aminos is sort of like soy sauce and is actually pretty tasty and useful.  It has been fun learning how to use different things and how to bring out more flavors.

So yes, I think things are going well.  I’m still a little headachey, but my ibuprofen consumption has decreased.  I think my brain is stabilizing and working more efficiently now.  I haven’t been going nuts about little things and I totally don’t feel like stabbing anyone in the face. So wins all around.

So I might start feeling amazing in a day or two.  I will keep you posted!

Adventures in Practicing Skepticism: A Post About Toilet Paper

Confession time, people: the other day, I bought a package of Charmin toilet paper.

Not for myself, OK? I bought it for someone else. Don’t look at me like that. I NEVER SAID I WAS A ROLE MODEL.

Oh…wait. You’re not looking betrayed. You’re looking quizzical, as though you have no idea as to why this is something you should care about. Well, pull up a chair and let me spin you a tale from the recent paaaaaaaaast!

*flash back fingers*

A few years ago, on a day quite like this, I was thinking about toilet paper. Before you leave thinking, “Oh great. Get a load of this weirdo. If I wanted to hear about this, I’d go watch ‘Two Girls, One Cup’ again”, allow me to explain. I wasn’t just thinking about toilet paper. I was thinking about why I bought the particular brand I did, since I barely care with what I wipe my butt…unless it’s poison ivy or something. Then I care. But as long as it’s appropriate paper, I’m good.

As it turned out, I had allowed myself to be completely manipulated by advertising campaigns, but perhaps not in the way you might think. I was buying Cottonelle because I hadn’t yet been annoyed by their ad campaigns or packaging imagery. I wrote a blog about it back then and had some pretty strong opinions that I have actually stood by all this time…what I hadn’t realized was that, though my ideas in this matter had validity, I was not approaching it as skeptically as I should.

At the time, I had just started buying toilet paper with a brand name other than the supermarket from which I was buying it. I was all about the econo-brand, but Wes was growing aggravated with the way the two plies would separate while rolling it out. It was true that it would become this whole ordeal akin to something you would see in the “before” images of an infomercial. Toilet paper everywhere, us ineptly trying to get it organized and usable, us looking frustrated and confused and implying that “there’s got to be a better way!”. So it was decided that we could afford name brand toilet paper, and since there wasn’t a brand endorsed or sold by Billy Mays, I was going to have to choose from the standard Leading Brands.

I walked down the toilet paper aisle and began to evaluate my choices. First up: Angel Soft. I hadn’t yet seen a commercial on television for this brand, so I had to go by the packaging. On the front was the logo and a human baby rolling around in clean, fluffy, white toilet paper. I think what I was supposed to get from this was that it was so soft that it could be used on a baby. I went a different direction in my thoughts. “Is it soft like a baby’s ass?” The next logical jump from that would be “Angel Soft, like wiping your ass with a human child”. While some may find that a selling point, I have never yearned for that particular experience. In addition, let’s not forget the word angel here. I resented the religious implications. What do I care if this is the only toilet paper endorsed by angels? Everyone knows angels don’t poop and to imply that they do is complete heresy. HERESY! With all those valid arguments being made, I had to rule out Angel Soft.

Next up: Quilted Northern. I had seen a television commercial about this one and the characters from the commercial were printed on the package. According to the commercial, Quilted Northern is literally sewn by a bunch of old ladies who sit around a quilting table gabbing about…toilet paper. They quilt so that it can have maximum absorbance for us, the consumers, just like that lovely quilt your grandmother made you. Obviously, I couldn’t get the image of wiping my crotchal area with a handmade quilt out of my head. Not only is that gross, but it’s mad disrespectful. YOUR GRANDMOTHER GOT HER THUMB STUCK IN AN ABNORMALLY SMALL THIMBLE MAKING THAT FOR YOU. She was never the same. And you’re going to using that for all the unmentionable business?!? INGRATE. Anyway, since I couldn’t bear to ruin the hard work of all those miniature old ladies, I had to veto Quilted Northern as well.

Next was…Charmin. Of all the brands in the aisle, Charmin is the one that has the ad campaign I hate the most.

Here’s my thing about all ads dealing with bodily functions. Culturally it is rude to talk about them, right? Unless you’re an edgy standup comedian or Dr. Oz apparently. I think it’s dumb that we’re not supposed to talk about them because, like, they are a part of everyone’s existence in some form or another. BUT if you do something like directly talk about pooping, peeing, or the shedding of your uterine lining, on television, angry parents will write angry letters to the network. Or something. I don’t really know what happens. Maybe an Op-Ed gets written in the Inquirer? Whatever. So, in order to avoid these angry letters, ad agencies have to come up with all kinds of cutesy ways to imply what they’re talking about without every really saying it.

Take, for instance, erectile dysfunction medication ads. Have you ever seen so many sight gags in your life? My favorite is the Cialis ad with a dude talking about wanting to be ready for that “special moment” while throwing a football through a tire swing. Stupid enough to make teenagers and adults giggle, vague enough that children won’t be scarred because they won’t know what anyone is talking about.

So when it comes to toilet paper, people really don’t want to talk about butt stuff…or at least, not the majority of people in the mass populace. And with toilet paper, the butt is the universal common denominator.

Heh…butt…denominator. Fractions would have been so much better if they were about butts, amirite?

In terms of plumbing, almost all people have a butt, while the other plumbing down there might differ. Charmin knows this and so their ads are all about the butt. Specifically, they are about bear butts…cartoon bears who shit in the woods.

Charmin’s entire bear ad campaign is about that…proverb? Colloquialism? Saying? Whatever. Think about it. A bunch of highly paid ad consultants were sitting around a table and said, “OK, for the Charmin campaign…what can we do with ‘…does a bear shit in the woods?”. Well! That’s perfect because bears have a really tough time staying tidy when they shit in the woods JUST LIKE YOU, AMERICA.

When I watched these ads, I thought I was watching National Geographic. I had no idea that bears had to deal with such plights as toilet paper being to rough, or toilet paper getting inexplicably stuck to random parts of their ass not involved in actual pooping. I also didn’t know that bears are allowed in local stores in which to purchase their necessary toilet paper. And here I thought bears were a bunch of broke-ass motherfuckers with no sense of decency who just try constantly to steal my picnic baskets and honey.

Before you jump down my throat about suspension of disbelief, yeah, I know. They are cartoon bears who, for no apparent reason, have embraced the human concept of ass wipery (but have decided that houses are a bad scene after the Goldilocks Incident). My annoyance about this entire thing is that everything about the campaign is about shitting and they hide this harsh reality behind demure and easily embarrassed bears, who use the paper and then giggle at each other because poop.

I fully admit that I am giggling while I write this because poop. DAMN YOU CHARMIN FOR UNDERSTANDING THE HUMAN CONDITION.

At the time, I couldn’t bring myself to support those damn bears. All that was left was Cottonelle, which had puppies on it playing around in a similar fashion to the babies on Angel Soft. I think I justified this being OK because if there’s one thing puppies like, it’s rolling around in shit. And then rolling around on everything possible before I grab them and put them in the bath tub. I decided it was best not to think to hard on the implications of the Cottonelle packaging, since I was out of options.

That was a couple of years ago and I have purchased Cottonelle ever since.

So why did I buy some Charmin? Well, last week I was sitting down to dinner with Wes, Jessie, and Jessie’s new beau. I don’t recall how we got on the subject, but I was talking about the blog post I wrote about toilet paper and how I still refuse to buy Charmin because FUCK YOU BEARS. During my tirade, Jessie says something to the effect of “I know the woods shitting bears thing is dumb, but Charmin makes good toilet paper. I hate lint. Charmin does not have lint.”

I was taken aback. “Well, you can buy your own then. Like I said, FUCK THOSE BEARS.” Wes then joined in, “I mean, Gina, the commercials are dumb and there’s nothing wrong with Cottonelle…but I don’t think your arguments in this arena are based on rational thought.” That was paraphrased, but I think that pretty much sums up what he said.

I looked around. My mind was whirling. Had I actually allowed irrationality about the stupidity of an ad campaign stop me from looking into a possibly superior product?!? Well, shit. After thinking in silence and nervously poking at my mashed potatoes for a while, I said, “Yep, I’m being dumb. I’ll get you some Charmin the next time I’m shopping.”

I told someone else that I bought some Charmin and she was like “I hate Charmin. It’s linty and makes me vag itch.” So apparently it’s really all about personal preference.

HOW INCREDIBLY SHOCKING. As for me, I still don’t really care. But I am continuously amused by the types of things that happen when you’re on a journey of personal growth. Conceding that Charmin is probably fine, if not superior toilet paper because my reasons for hating had everything to do with cartoon bears was meaningful, even if incredibly silly.

I’m hoping this means I am getting back into blogging. Nothing gets me blogging more than talking about toilets. That’s what this blog is about, right? Sure.

A Vignette: Labsplosion!

This has been a somewhat lousy week for me keeping it together and being productive. But at least today I managed something: I totally accidentally lit something on fire in a laboratory.

So, my job is pretty cool. I make coatings for paper and board that go from liquid to solid instantaneously when they are exposed to high intensity UV light. Because I need high intensity UV light to cure my stuff, we have cure units in the lab that house, for lack of a more fabulous term, miniature suns. As such, they heat stuff up pretty quickly if flammable things are held close to the lamps for a long time.

Here, a long time is about 10 seconds.

So there I was, minding my own business trying to cure some coating like it’s my job (because it is…) and my coated paper gets stuck in the machine. The following transpired:

Me (thoughts): Oh shit. It’s stuck. Hmm…what should I do…stick my hand in there? Turn it off? Hmm…such a decision. Lemme look in there. OH SHIT DON’T LOOK IN THERE JACKASS. MINI SUNS ARE ALSO BLINDING. Crap. Um…should I put my hand in there?

During this really interesting conversation I was having with myself, the machine and paper decided to solve the problem for me. Suddenly my paper came flying out of the machine, half in flames.

Me: Oh…oh that’s not good. Um…

And I proceeded to try and blow out the fire. After several attempts I succeeded, because I have a degree in science obviously. By then another lab person came over with a rag to help me stamp out the embers and the place smelled like a campfire.

I talked to several people and it had happened to them also with this particular machine (not the model I usually use, but ours is down). Some of these people have Masters degrees and PhD’s. So…um…there.

Not burning down the lab was pretty much my biggest accomplishment today, but I’d say it’s a pretty good one!

Hello and Welcome!

Hi there! Welcome to Living Within Reason! This is a blog about living the most reasonable lives that we can. The primary writers will be me and my wife, Gina. We both formerly wrote for Polyskeptic.com, and are now launching our own blog.

Gina and I live in Collingswood, New Jersey with my fiancee Jessie (who may pop in now and then with a guest post). We practice polyamory, which is the practice of having multiple romantic/sexual relationships with the knowledge and consent of all involved. A lot of my writing deals with polyamory and its practice. I’m a lawyer and a skeptic, so I have a lot of opinions. Gina tends to write more personal entries, so you can look forward to getting to know her on a more personal level. Our former blog, Polyskeptic, dealt with the intersection of atheism and polyamory, and a lot of our writing here is likely to reflect those themes.

Come back soon for more substantive entries! I’m looking forward to some great conversation.

“Your Character Needs More Character…”

“Have you considered giving him a limp?”

This is what our director told my friend Chris Herrle during one of many ridiculous rehearsals for the Drexel production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream.  Chris was one of the mechanicals but apparently wasn’t individual enough…or something.  Chris heard this suggestion, and raised his one eyebrow way up high.

“A limp?” He was incredulous.

“Yeah, what do you think?  The limp could have a whole back story.”

“You want my character to have a limp.”

“Yes, I think it would be a great character choice.”

“That’s…that’s not…Character choice? Really?”

“…Well…do SOMETHING.”

Needless to say, he did not choose to give himself a limp.

Chris Herrle died last week.  He was 30 years old and used to be a pretty constant presence in Wes’ and my life.  Things got hard for him and he was dealing with heavy loads and he would disappear from public life for months at a time.  He was a frustrating sometimes absolutely maddening man but he was also one of the few people back a few years ago that I felt comfortable telling when he was full of shit.  I don’t know if it enlightened him at all, but it was something that happened and we kept being friends.  At the time when he was most in my life, this was something deeply valuable to me.  While I was often furious with his antics, I couldn’t hold them against him for long because he was such a big personality, often the life of the party, and caring, loving, and someone you could count on, even though he would get in his own way a lot.

Often I felt like Chris didn’t know what to do with me because I was a woman he had deemed “off limits” for romantic/sexual relationship status (he was a deep believer in The Bro Code and I dated a good friend of his before Wes.  He was pretty awful to Wes for a while and then he was in our wedding, so, you know, Bro Code Shmro Shcode), but I was also a woman who he deemed “not like ‘typical’ women”.  It was a sexist attitude that I got on his case for often, but I knew that he valued me as a good friend and shared with me things that he would share with his guy friends.  I was a trusted mutant in his band of oddities and I was often called upon for unique perspective, much like one of the many bizarre factoids his mind teemed with on a daily basis.

That may sound like I am devaluing this status, but honestly, Herrle’s strange and extensive collection of knowledge was one of my favorite things about him. I often would consult him when trying to think of something obscure that I couldn’t quite put my finger on.  His mind was a data base that looks like Wikipedia in my imagination.  He was smart, articulate, hilarious, and had an ongoing thirst for knowledge.  He liked to learn new things and share them with his friends. He was a musician.  He was a writer.  He was a singer and a scientist.

Herrle, like everyone, had gone through different versions of himself.  I have two versions that I always loved: Herrle, the Poker Player and Herrle, The Glassblower.  When we were still in college and Wes and I had an apartment in University City, we would have a regular group of friends who we played tournament style Texas Hold ‘Em.  Chris was a good player, certainly better than the rest of us shmoes.  He played in Atlantic City often and while our favorite stories are often about him feeling fabulous about losing obscene amounts of money, he actually paid back his student loans from winning at the tables.  I tried to learn from him but being awesome at poker was not something that was destined to be one of my life skills.  We spent hours around that dining room table, Chas buying in again three times after missing out on some really promising “pair draws”, me waiting until I was pretty much down to nothing before making my move (I was the queen of the slow play…because being aggressive was not something I could actually do), Jake drinking his Vitamin Water to get that extra advantage, Wes and Hoffman exchanging South Park quotes.  It was a good time and I will remember those nights as bright spots in a time when I was pretty miserable often.

But I think he was happiest when he was Herrle The Glassblower.  He worked at a lovely little shop in Old City.  Wes had seen an article about the place looking for people who wanted to apprentice.  Herrle had been looking to change careers and wanted to work with his hands.  Wes let him know about the apprenticeships and before we knew it, Herrle was learning to make whiskey glasses.  He gave a special one to Wes, one with a blue color in it that was a version that they didn’t sell.  It was one of a kind and he gave it to Wes for helping to change his life.

Chris was a good man and a good friend, if not always the easiest man to understand or connect with.  It took me a long time yesterday to really understand the reality of his passing.  I had gotten so used to him disappearing for a while and then reappearing.  But he won’t be reappearing this time.  I will never hear one of his ridiculous stories again, or hear his perfect Murderface impression, or see him bring down the house at karaoke.  I won’t have a chance to help him anymore, and so I wish that I had been there more when I could have been.

Chris, you will be missed.  Thank you for your friendship.  Thank you for the host of good memories I have of you.  Thank you for being in our wedding.  Thank you for always working towards being a better man. Thank you for being open about your problems, even if we were never all that helpful.  Thank you for everything.

There is beauty in the world.

You are loved.

Goodbye, friend.  I am happy for the fleeting chance I had to know you.