Thursday, December 8, 2011

I am engaged!

It’s time for a real life blog post, because I have plenty to say!

First of all, the biggest news is that my longtime boyfriend of 4 years proposed to me on Saturday!  He gave me the most beautiful and perfect ring that I always dreamed of.  It was so simple and subdued and sweet and pleasant.  We both cried, naturally I accepted, and now I’m awaiting the ring resizing so that I can wear it.

I’ve actually been ‘engaged’ before.  But it wasn’t much of an engagement. I’d been dating the guy for 2 years, I pressured him into buying me a ring because I felt insecure about our relationship.  I was young (19). I went with him to pick out the ring.  He never actually ever proposed to me, I just called him my fiance.  We never made any plans to actually get married.  I’d like to say that he just basically bought me a promise ring, though there was never any promise made.  The relationship ended in 2006.

When Luke and I first met each other, I knew that it was the real thing.  The moment we talked to each other, I was drawn to him physically and emotionally.  I wanted to talk to him for hours, to stare into his eyes forever, to never leave his side.  We started dating just after Thanksgiving in 2007, moved in together the next month, and together we have been through a lot.  We’ve moved to many different homes together, even moved from San Diego to San Francisco together.  We’ve both grown in our careers together, reached milestones such as our first vehicles paid off, our first joint account, our first family health insurance.  He’s been my best friend since the day we met.

I never tire of him.  We have a healthy relationship where we both split duties and do not have rigid gender roles.  We are equal earners in the household.  We both want the same things out of life (children, house ownership, successful careers, travel).  We see eye-to-eye politically, and he can put up with my ranting, my feminism, my outspokenness about issues that upset me.  We share hobbies such as board game playing, video games, watching TV, and loving food and going out to dinner.  Living with him has always just “felt right”.  When he isn’t around, I miss him.

When I’m with Luke, I just feel like I can be me.  I have never been ashamed of who I am.  He knows that I’m clumsy and sometimes oblivious, and laughs alongside me.  He knows that I’m sensitive and cry on occasion and he is always supportive.  He tells me I’m beautiful and has no problems with the fact that I’m overweight. He thinks of me and is courteous and generous.  We don’t argue over silly things — we have rarely got in “fights”.  Luke supports the choices I make in life like no one else I know.  When other people judge me, Luke stands by me.  He’s made me realize just how awesome I am.

We didn’t “need” to get married.  I don’t believe in the patriarchal concepts of passing ownership of me from my dad to my fiance.  I don’t know what I’m going to do about my last name at this time.  We’re not sure what kind of ceremony we’ll have, or if we’ll just exchange vows at the courthouse.  I just know that I absolutely have loved him to pieces for years and that I can’t imagine anything other than spending the rest of my life with him.  I am literally the luckiest woman in the world, and I can’t believe how well my life is working out for me.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Gone vegetarian

On Friday night, I watched Earthlings on YouTube.  It’s a documentary narrated by Joaquin Phoenix that is about animal rights.  Ever since, I feel sick to my stomach and see the imagery in my head when I think about eating meat.  So, I haven’t eaten meat since watching it and don’t intend to.

In a perfect world, I could go vegan.  I just believe I should start out vegetarian and see how it goes.  I don’t think it will be too hard — I’ve done it before and the Bay Area has lots of options for vegetarian food.  We live not too far from a Trader Joe’s and a Whole Foods, so I can buy readymade vegan and vegetarian options there.  I also need motivation to cook more at home and eat healthier, so that’s what I believe vegetarianism will help me achieve.

Last night, I ate vegan buffalo ‘chik’n’ nuggets from Morningstar.  Today I ate cereal and we’re having falafel wraps for dinner with a greek salad on the side.  What are your favorite vegetarian recipes??

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Review: Divergent by Veronica Roth

Divergent is a debut novel by Veronica Roth, and I picked it up after seeing lots of buzz surrounding it on Goodreads.  It's a dystopian young adult fiction based in an alternate Chicago setting and featuring a teenage female protagonist as she struggles to find her identity in a wartorn world with rigid societal roles.  Sound familiar?

Divergent is very much a spiritual throwback to The Hunger Games trilogy, which is a series that I devoured as rapidly as possible.  It's so close in spirit and feel to The Hunger Games that it almost feels like a ripoff in places.  I've recently found out that it too has been picked up for a potential motion picture, so clearly these types of books are flying off the shelves.  Divergent is also more than reminiscent of the Harry Potter world, with the members of its society taking assessment tests to see which 'clan' (read: house) they will join.  These clans are very much similar to the houses in Harry Potter.  The Dauntless might as well be Slytherin.  It's basically the Reaping meets the Sorting Hat.

The protagonist of the story (Beatrice, or Tris) is likable enough, though not a spectacularly deep character.  Other than her current struggles within the Dauntless society she finds herself in, we don't know much about her likes and interests.  Aside from her family ties and her romantic interests, of course.  Did she have close friends other than her brother before the assessment tests?  Did she have any hobbies?  The entire book becomes a whirlwind of mental and physical training and at times I find that Tris's thoughts and motives are predictable and shallow.  I found her much less frustrating than Katniss Everdeen though, and connected with her in a stronger fashion.

The pacing of the book is odd, spending tons of time on and going into detail about the assessment testing and the training that Tris goes through, before whipping into the real conflict 75% through the book.  Clearly Divergent is preparing us for the second book in the series, which I will eagerly read to see how certain conflicts and relationships are resolved.

My biggest issue with this book (and also with The Hunger Games and Twilight) is in the way the teenage girl protagonists interact with their love interests.  In Divergent, Tris is completely mindblown and baffled by the fact that Four has taken an interest in her.  Though she is brave, strong, and the top of her class in assessments, she is completely timid and self-loathing when it comes to her interactions with Four.  She puts herself down, basically calls herself ugly, and can't believe that a guy like Four would be interested in her.  The fact that she tosses aside her achievements and her personality and only thinks about her appearance when talking with Four sets a bad example about the confidence a young woman should have in herself.  I found her budding relationship with Four to be far less annoying than Katniss and her relationships with Peeta and Gale, but just once I'd love to see a more confident young woman interacting with the male characters in these books.  It's frustrating to see such strong and powerful young women in these fantasy/dystopian novels who can kill people, save the world, win wars, and outsmart anyone yet they are still portrayed as weak girls when it comes to being interested in boys.

All in all, I did enjoy Divergent.  I read it in 3 days total and found myself turning the pages long after I intended to go to bed.  I will be reading the next book in the series to see how it plays out.  I think Veronica Roth is a very accessible reader with a knack for making battles engaging and interesting, and this is a great first effort by her. It's worth picking up if you enjoyed The Hunger Games and wish there was more of it.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

My Click Moment: How I Discovered Feminism

How silly of me, this blog has been up and running for half a week now and I haven't wrote about my feminist click moment yet. Here's the anticlimactic way I discovered that I was a feminist.

I moved to San Diego from Minnesota in 2007, and was absolutely thrilled when we overturned the ban against gay marriage. I went down to the predominantly gay neighborhood Hillcrest and joined the massive celebration. I watched couples holdings hands and looking so relieved and so in love. Then, I found out about the proposition 8 that would eliminate the right for same sex couples to marry in California. I was disgusted by the proposition, but figured that there was no way it would pass. After all, we're in California -- it's all liberal here, right?

Near the end of the campaign against Prop 8, I began to notice that the pro-Prop 8 movement was gaining traction. I started joining in on the protests and the marches in the city. I figured that there was still no way it would pass, but wanted to show that I was standing in solidarity with the gay rights movement in San Diego. The night of the vote, I sat glued to the television. I saw the results and how close they were all the way to the end, and my heart felt like a huge lump in my chest. When the victory was declared for the pro-Prop 8 movement, I cried. I was heartbroken and absolutely shocked that something like this could happen. Taking the step to grant rights to gay people to marry is a huge progressive step for any state, but taking it away? That's cruel, unjust, and was not what I thought California was about.

Throughout the movement, I spent a lot of time reading blogs and news sites that were liberal and feminist. The majority of sites covering the CA Proposition 8 news were feminist, or at least allies. Just by adding these RSS feeds to my reader, I was exposed to a world that I never knew existed. I learned about feminist concepts I'd never heard of, read about stereotypes against Muslim women, about sex and fat positivity, about the word 'slut' and what it meant or didn't mean, about sexism in media and advertising, about domestic violence, rape culture, wage disparities, and more. I learned about the world that is out there and all of the systematic and cultural things that are wrong with it. I owe a lot to sites like Shakesville, Jezebel,Feministe, Feministing, thisaintlivin, and Womanist Musings, among others.

I thought to myself - "how is it possible that I can be ONLY advocating for equality for LGBT people when all of these things are so closely intertwined?" I started to ravenously devour anything I could about feminism. I started to see things in movies and games and on TV that I never saw before. I started to notice things in my everyday life and conversations that I would never have noticed. Things about the way people treat each other, about their stereotypes and the culture that we are all blind to because we live in it. I had a lot of help in helping me navigate my way into feminist thought from great women like TiredFairy and Brinstar. I thank them for helping to educate me.

I'm still very new to all this. It's been over a year that I've started calling myself a feminist, but I'm still learning. I'm still making mistakes and still trying to fix them. We still have a huge uphill battle for marriage equality in CA and the United States, but it's not the only battle out there to fight. It's impossible to ignore the blatant issues that plague women and other marginalized groups in our society. So that's my click story.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

The Day In Which I Discover WWASP Schools and the Troubled Teen Industry

Do you ever have moments where you are introduced to something going on in the world that you previously knew nothing about, and then are so consumed by it that you can't think of anything else?  I have been recently addicted to reading Reddit, and I came across a thread called "I am a Survivor of WWASP Schools Tranquility Bay and Cross Creek Academy".  I clicked on it because I was curious to know what a WWASP school is.  What I read completely disgusted, baffled, mind-boggled, and disturbed me.

WWASPS (or World Wide Association of Specialty Programs and Schools) is a global organization of 'schools' that are made to treat and provide therapy for troubled teens.  They are based in Utah and are heavily based off of a mixture of B.F. Skinner's Behavior Modification Therapy theories and the Mormon religion.  WWASP was founded by Robert Lichfield, a man with a business major with no credentials or experience working with children or education (who happens to donate thousands per year to the Republican party).  They have now blown up into a worldwide phenomenon that has been occurring since the 1970's.

How WWASPS Works

WWASPS schools use professional looking websites, a religious and spiritual mantra, and recommendations from psychologists they pay off to encourage parents of 'troubled teens' to send their teenagers to special schools.  These schools are passed off as camps, boot camps, boarding schools, behavior modification programs, wilderness camps, therapy programs, and places to get a good education while fixing kids and making them good.  Kids are sent for any reason a parent might want to send them: because they're LGBT, experimenting with drugs, getting in trouble with the law, or even just arguing back or acting depressed.

Once a parent decides to send a child to a WWASPS program, the children are picked up in the middle of the night by a teen transport company or teen escort company.  They are restrained, told that they're going to be taken away from their parents and that their parents have approved this, and they're taken away by car or plane to a location within the United States or out of the country (such as Costa Rica or Mexico).

Once there, kids are not allowed contact with the outside world.  Any phone calls or letters from parents are heavily censored.  Teens in this program meet rigorous militant abuse, ranging from being forced to eat their own vomit, to standing in solitary confinement without moving for 48 hours without food or water, being raped, beaten, kicked, and emotionally abused.  Kids have to progress through a multi-step program aimed at making the perfect child, which can take years.  And parents are paying upwards from $20-60,000 per year for this treatment.  They don't know what goes on in these schools, because no one is talking about it.

Kids that come out are often scarred, traumatized, abused, and changed for life.  They are scared, distrustful, and come out with a lack of trust for their family who sent them away.  Rarely do they have any sort of accredited high school education.  This is child abuse.  It's also fraud.

What is being done?

Many efforts to combat WWASP have come and gone, because WWASP officials carefully control their image in the media and on the web.  They are known to edit Wikipedia entries to make them sound in their favor and use SEO techniques to dominate Google search results for "troubled teen".  They often close down claiming a lack of enrollment, then open up again using a different name.  Some of the biggest offenders such as Casa By The Sea and Tranquility Bay have been closed down.  There are still many many schools still up and running, such as Cross Creek, Carolina Springs, Midwest Academy, and dozens more.  And Teen Transport companies are all over your own state.

Some people on Reddit have started a sub-reddit called Troubled Teens to bring awareness to the issue.  They are going to be doing proactive things such as bringing the attention of Ellen or 48 Hours.  The original man who posted his report about surviving a WWASP school now has his mother answering questions about her regret for sending him.  Xandir is a young woman who was sent to WWASP for being gay

Several Facebook groups are available, such as Stop WWASP, a group for former 'programees' that features tons of horrible stories from the teens who lived through the abuse.  Not everyone had a horrible experience, but most everyone knows someone who did. is a survivor website with a fantastic forum and comprehensive wiki about the abuse that goes on in WWASP establishments.  Want to know where a WWASP school is in your state -- check here.  A book named Help at Any Cost helps to educate parents about the fraudulent and abusive troubled teens industry.  There is plenty of information out there, but this isn't widely known so it is buried under the lying filth that WWASP's affiliates publish to cover up the truth.

Further Reading and Education

Video on Liveleak about Tranquility Bay abuse
Teen Advocates USA
Secret Prisons for Teens

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

My little girl is growing up

Tonight, my 6 month old Boxer puppy has her first puppy class graduation.  I am kind of sad about it, because it's just another sign that she's not the super tiny snuggly ball of fur that she was back in December when we first laid eyes on her.  I love her to pieces and I want her to stay an adorable little puppy forever.  Alas, she finished 8 weeks of puppy class at Hidden Valley Obedience Center and is ready to move on to her next class.

There will be pictures taken.  But for now, here's some shots I took of her over the weekend.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Where Should We Live?

I'm trying hard to fall in love with San Francisco.  This is the place where my career would flourish.  The culture fits me well.  There are beautiful green pastures that my horse would love.  Napa Valley's amazing wine country is close by.  Back in the day, I would have loved to live here.

The problem is, I'm in love with San Diego.  I love the Mexican influence, I love the warmth, the beautiful sun, the cleanliness of the city, the restaurants, the place my horse lives and the people I ride with, the fact that my boyfriend and I could realistically buy a house in the next couple of years, the ease of driving around, just about everything.  In fact, I can't think of anything that I don't like about San Diego.

However, it's a barren wasteland for the game industry.  There are only a couple companies, and none of them are social games.  The one social games company down here is the one that I left last summer and I have no intention of going back.  The job I have is remote, and they want to move me to San Francisco.  I could basically have my pick of social game companies and the sky would be the limit as far as potentially moving up in the industry.

Also, I don't really have many friends in San Diego.  My best friend Caitlin (who also lives with me) is of course a huge reason to stay...but everyone else I know has already moved up to SF.  Luke and I don't really hang out with many people because we don't know anyone and we're not good at making friends.

We could try Los Angeles, but it's basically San Diego except dirtier, more crowded, and more expensive.  I don't know what the point of that would be other than giving us a change of scenery.

Sigh.  We're feeling like something has to change.  I don't want us to leap into the decision to move to the Bay Area and then regret it.  I hate life decisions.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

I left my heart in San Diego....

I'm up in the SoMa area of San Francisco for the week, as I am for a week out of every month.  My company's office is located up here, so I come up to get things done and remind them that I exist.  It's nice to get to see my coworkers, and to hang out with friends who live up here.  However, it's pretty hard on my relationship to be away for a week.  Plus I have two dogs and a horse that I miss like crazy when I'm gone.  So, I'm a bit mixed on the whole frequent travel thing.

There are some advantages though.  Such as this beautiful view in our regular outdoor lunch spot.

This is apparently Mission Bay, but not be confused with the Mission Bay down in San Diego.  Curiously, there is an old sailboat anchored in the middle of this 'channel'.  I asked about it, and I guess it's been there for weeks.  Apparently, you can anchor a boat wherever you want in the water in SF, as long as you're not in the way of a major thoroughfare.  I thought this was interesting, since I know in San Diego people pay a shitload to dock their boats.  But I guess this isn't technically docking, so who knows.

It is neat to see the train cars though. I call them "San Francisco Treats".

Two more days until I go home.  Tonight I'm treating myself to a foot, head, and hand massage at a place in Chinatown.  I need some R&R.

A new blog for me.

Lately, I've felt inspired to actually talk about my life.  Yes, I realize that not everyone wants to read about it.  And you know, I'm not one to think that I have some totally awesome life that needs to be shared with the world.  And no, I don't care if it seems like an online diary.  I need to get beyond this 140-character nation of status updates and fake reality, and really start blogging about what I want to talk about.  I need to not give a fuck who reads it, and just enjoy speaking my mind like I used to.

I owe this sudden resurgence to Ivonne over at Beans & Ink.  She is this uber-creative, uber interesting person who just blogs about whatever is going on in her life.  I love how she just speaks her mind, showing who she is regardless of who might be reading it.  I love having a glimpse into someone's real life, instead of stupid Facebook status updates where people only share things they want to brag about or heartaches and catastrophes.  Life isn't so up and down.  Sometimes we just LIVE. 

So that's what's going on here.  I'm just living.  Sometimes I may have interesting things to say about politics, feminism, pop culture, tech, media, animals, or whatever.  Other days I might just tell you what I ate for lunch and show you a picture.  I might just share tidbits about my day.  I might just send you links to things I find interesting.  But I need a place to write for me.  That's what I'm doing here.