I Can Be...a Stereotype!

Raising a daughter can easily turn into a constant struggle with your own preconceptions and values regarding gender stereotypes.

Last week's Happy Meal toy selection included dolls from Barbie's "I can be" series--a bunch of career-oriented dolls meant to empower little girls and open their eyes to the vast array of possibilities open to today's women and ahahahahahaha just kidding, they're terrible. Sadly, we eat at McDonald's enough that we got two of these things last week; one was a teacher and the other a ballerina. I'd be hard-pressed to find two more stereotypically female career choices.

Dani doesn't have many (read: any) proper dolls, and when I noticed her carrying the ballerina around everywhere with her, I figured it was time to buy her a doll that I felt a little better about. Secretly (or not-so-secretly), I was hoping to find a Mulan doll, but I would have been okay with Rapunzel or Tiana, or really, any generic doll that wasn't covered in pink frills or hooker makeup.

Female role models: that's how you do it.

While at the store, I saw the full-size version of the awful "I can be" toys. Once again, they had a teacher, but I have to admit I was a little surprised to find a couple of them that weren't entirely objectionable. They had a dolphin trainer (pretty awesome), veterinarian (still a little stereotypical, but not bad), a movie star, and a TV news anchor. There was the fairly gender-neutral chef, followed by the more frilly pancake chef (is this even a thing?)...and then things started getting ridiculous.

All right...this isn't horrible, I guess. I mean, it's still basically a veterinarian, but you're operating on, like, lions and stuff, so it's kind of bad-ass.

What's wrong with just calling her a pediatrician? Oh, right--because the important thing here is that Barbie just looooooves the widdle itty-bitty babies. God forbid a woman resist the call of her uterus in any aspect of her life.

Pony doctor. Pony. Doctor. Let's see...is there a way to describe that career path in a way that will make people take you less seriously? Tiny horsey boo-boo kisser?

Funny, among all these [noun]-doctors, I failed to see doctor. Is medicine really so dull that we have to dress it up with babies and ponies?

And then I saw the ultimate anti-feminist kick in the nads, the rancid icing on this crap cupcake. With all these wonderful careers to choose from, what have we forgotten? Oh, yeah:

Bride. Right.

So we got her a Rapunzel doll...and a plastic hammer that lights up when you hit things. She likes them both, and I think I'm okay with that.

Distractions Abound

Well, the craft center is clearly not getting done as quickly as I wanted, but I kind of expected that. I've been unusually busy lately. I got a part-time job; it's pretty dull, but that's kind of what I was looking for. With the amount of stuff I have to keep me occupied at home, the last thing I need is a bunch of job-related stress.

On top of that, I've been dating someone new, which is another huge time commitment. Of course there's the whole new-relationship giddy "I need to spend all of my free time with you" thing, but at the same time I need to make sure my family gets enough of my attention and time. I'm going out a lot, and making up for lost time when I get home. It's all highly enjoyable, but not very conducive to having a lot of free time for things like home improvement projects. Or writing blog posts.

Despite all that, my energy level has been pretty high. I felt a burst of inspiration earlier this week, and ended up churning out a long-ish stream-of-consciousness poem. I made a last-minute decision to go to my favorite coffee shop's open mic night and read it, since I was in town anyway. It seemed to go over well--it's hard to say for sure, since the crowd there is pretty generous with applause, but I felt I did a good job with the reading. And as long as I'm happy with it, that's all that's really important.

I'm actually writing this at the coffee shop while the rest of the performers do their bits. The open mic night organizer seemed to genuinely want me to come back next week, and right now I'm high on adrenaline and applause, so I really want to...I plan to if I can write something new. I'd feel a little weird coming back with just the poem I'd done the last week.

Planning the Craft Center

I'm just about done with the planning stage of my closet craft center. I watched the first couple of videos at Sketchup for Woodworkers, and decided to jump in and get my hands dirty. Google Sketchup turns out to be pretty frustrating when you only sort of know what you're doing, but it's an incredibly useful tool nonetheless. A couple days of swearing at my laptop has produced this:

Five drawers on full extension slides, metal pegboard (magnetic!) on the walls, extra-large keyboard shelf (not pictured), and I might put some sort of shelving on the far right side there. This is going to be so awesome!

I'm trying to decide what to do about power, though. I'm moving my computer, printer, and Cricut machine into here, plus installing a lighting fixture, so I'm going to need to plug stuff in. If I'm doing it right, I really should install an outlet inside the closet. However, this room does not have any grounded wiring running to it. Electrical code requires that all new outlets be grounded, so if I want to put in a new outlet, I will need to run grounded wiring into the room. Doing so would require tearing out quite a lot of drywall.

We've been talking a lot lately about selling this place and moving back to the city, so I'd rather not do a huge project that won't actually increase the resale value of the house very much. Better to focus my time and energy on simpler things with a lot of visual appeal...like the craft center, or nicer built-ins in the bathroom, or nicer shelving in the utility closet.

So, in the process of typing this out, I guess I've convinced myself. Power to the craft center will be provided by a power strip plugged into an extension cord plugged into a two-prong to three-prong adapter. Not exactly the pinnacle of electrical safety...but when the alternative is gutting most of this room, I guess I'll go with the fire hazard.

This Week's Project

I couldn't decide what to do for my next craft project, but then I discovered a wonderful store called Gateway Electronics. I bought a bunch of interesting-looking electronic parts that were just begging to become part of a steampunk ray gun.

Then I got the parts home, and realized the ray gun would have to wait.

One of the first home improvement projects I wanted to do in this house was to convert the closet in the third bedroom (which we use as an office) into a fold-away craft center. I could craft to my heart's content, and then close up the doors when I wasn't using it.

I used some used oak flooring to build a tabletop into the closet, moved the shelf up, and took out the clothes bar. After that, I couldn't decide what I wanted the rest of it to look like--I figured I'd get a better idea of what storage I needed after I used it a while.

Problem is, it took almost no time for it to look like this:

So this week's project is to do something about that. Just cleaning it won't do--without any decent storage in there, it'll just return to its current state. It's time to roll up my sleeves, buy some lumber, and build the best damn craft center in the country. Or at least the best one that can fit in my closet.

Since this project is a bit more ambitious than a ray gun, I'm going to give myself two weeks. Aaaaaaaand...go!

Polyamory Media Surge

As the Newt Gingrich circus continues, I'm (pleasantly) surprised by some of the excellent discussions on polyamory showing up on fairly well-traveled sites. Though I think Newt is one of the worst examples you could find of responsible, ethical non-monogamy, it turns out that most people do recognize this. And lots of people are coming out of the woodwork to share their own stories.

Polyamory in the Media has a good roundup of stuff here and here. Here are a few things I especially like:

Our successful open marriage: We’re largely invisible. When I pick my girlfriend’s daughter up at school, I don’t tell the teachers I’m dating her mom. I just sign the pick-up form and head home.

I see a lot of people in the comments to this article saying "it never works," or "I've never seen it work." I think this quote nails it, though; polyamory is far from mainstream, so most people who practice it keep pretty quiet about it to keep from ruffling any feathers. A lot of the time, you only hear about it when it goes wrong--when things explode in a maelstrom of tears and drama that's pretty hard to ignore. When it's working...we look pretty much anyone else.

How not to do non-monogamy: Comparing Gingrich to polyamory is like comparing wife-beating to BDSM.

This is the point a lot of the traditional news outlets seem to be missing. Polyamory is about wanting to carry on multiple healthy relationships, whereas it really seems like in Newt's case, he just wanted to jump ship to a new woman without going through all the messy business of a divorce. I could of course be wrong--maybe, in the cold shriveled rock he calls a heart, he truly just wants to be with and care for more than one person. But if that's the case...

There's more on this point in I could teach Newt Gingrich a thing or two about open marriage: But an essential characteristic of any polyamorous relationship is informed consent; I have no problem with any of my partners telling me that they have a date with someone else, but would have a big problem with finding out that they had one last week with someone new, and didn't tell me.

Carrying on an extramarital affair for six years without your wife's knowledge or consent is pretty bad relationship practice. Almost anyone--even (especially?) most people in open marriages--would tell you that. I would certainly consider it a deal breaker, as would all of my polyamorous friends.

Meanwhile in Crazy Land--I mean, Fox News: Newt Gingrich's three marriages mean he might make a strong president -- really So, as far as I can tell, judging from the psychological data, we have only one real risk to America from his marital history if Newt Gingrich were to become president: We would need to worry that another nation, perhaps a little younger than ours, would be so taken by Mr. Gingrich that it would seduce him into marrying it and becoming its president.

what is this i don't even

You know what? I give up. I'm all out of snappy comebacks. I'm going back to bed.

At Least I Know I'm Delusional

So about 3 months or so ago, I bought a drafting table. I'd wanted one for a long time, and hey, maybe if I got one, I'd be inspired to draw more. About an hour after I put it together, I'd already started putting junk on it, and it was quickly buried.

I finally cleared it off the other day, and wisely left the top in the inclined position, so I can't leave more junk on it.

First "Project of the Week"

I actually did finish this in a week (plus or minus a day)--I just didn't post about it. I have been uncharacteristically busy lately.

So, this week's project was to tailor this vest for a more flattering fit, and add more buttons.

Step one: tear it open! I had to remove some trim to get at the insides.

Now I pin and mark the darts. The vest fits well in the bust, so it just needs to be brought in at the waist. For a trim fit, I need to remove about 5 inches, most of it in the back.

Once the darts are sewn, they need to be pressed. I then go to my handy-dandy ironing board:

...also known as a towel on the dining room table. I need to buy an ironing board one of these days.

There isn't a big enough opening in the vest to slip it over the corner of the table, and I don't want to press wrinkles into the layers underneath what I'm working on, so I just folded a hand towel in thirds.

It goes up inside to keep me from screwing up the bottom layer of fabric while I press darts.

After the darts are pressed, the trim gets stitched back on.

Next: buttons! There are only four on this vest, and if there's one thing I know about steampunk, it's that you can never have too many buttons. I really should have taken a picture of the buttons, but I forgot. Here's the vest with pins marking where the new button loops go.

And with the fancier and more plentiful buttons sewn on, this vest is now fit for...Kellie Lynch, Lady of Adventure!

Front view:

Side view. You can really see the shaping the darts have added here.

And from the back:

Success! Now to decide what I'm going to work on this week...

Cat Sitting for the Common Man

I wrote this for my stepsister, who was pet-sitting for us over the holidays...mainly because I knew it would annoy her.

The Care and Feeding of the Domestic Feline

A Guide for the Common Man

Congratulations! You have joined a long and proud line of temporary companion animal caretakers, known by some as Indentured Servants (Feline), but more commonly referred to as “pet sitters.” While the occupation comes with minimal monetary compensation, the sense of personal satisfaction one can gain from the task is unparalleled, provided the sitter retains all of his or her limbs and mental capacities. This guide will enable you to do just that.

Chapter 1

Getting to Know Your New Masters

The animals you shall be serving are known as Nick and Lulu. Nick is a portly fellow with white spots on his chest and paws, and a taste for human flesh. Lulu, a beast of blackest night, tends to be more skittish, but will happily gift you with any disemboweled mice she finds on the premises.

Both Nick and Lulu enjoy a good scratch atop the head and beneath the chin. Do beware, though, as both animals have a tendency to bare their underbellies, as though in supplication. Under no circumstances should you take this as an invitation to stroke their revealed bellies. Doing so could result in a loss of limbs or life.

Chapter 2

Scheduling Your Servitude

Cats are fiercely independent creatures, and can be left alone for long periods of time; however, they prefer that their servants check on them once per day. If you cannot manage a daily schedule, visiting them on alternating days will suffice. Your new masters will be satisfied as long as you do not allow two full days to pass between visits. Ignoring them for two days in a row will earn their disapproval, which they may show through sour glares, cleverly-placed piles of excrement, and extreme violence.

Chapter 3

The Way to a Cat’s Heart

Your new masters would prefer to eat tuna fish for every meal. In the absence of tuna fish, they will be happy to subsist on the flesh of their caretakers. If you wish to discourage this behavior, you shall find a dried cereal-like substance that fulfills their dietary requirements in plastic pitchers in the bottom of the pantry. Fill the blue dish carefully, but do not be distressed if some granules escape: the cats consider food from the floor a delicacy, and vastly prefer it to the properly-served food in their dish.

Chapter 4

Beverage Selections

Feline companions enjoy the following beverages, listed in order of preference: the blood of the innocent, water from the bottom of the shower, condensation on cold beverage containers, the blood of the not-so-innocent, toilet water, water on the floor, and water in their dish. If you must resort to providing them with water in their dish, rinse the dish quickly and fill it with cold tap water.

Chapter 5

Eliminating the Elimination

Cats find human toilets to be beneath them, and as such, prefer to use a box filled with sand, clay, wood pellets, or other grainy substance that can easily be tracked across the floor. To maintain freshness and avoid incurring the wrath of your vengeful masters, the litter box should be cleaned daily. This household uses a three-piece sifting box for quick and sanitary disposal of waste (diagrammed below). It consists of a detachable rim (a), a perforated sifting tray (b), and two solid litter trays (c).

To clean the litter box:

  1. Remove the detachable rim (a).
  2. Lift the top solid litter tray (c), containing the soiled litter.
  3. Tip the soiled litter into the perforated sifting tray (b).
  4. If any soiled litter remains stuck to the solid litter tray (c), scrape it off with a litter scoop, found underneath the sink. Quickly rinsing the tray may be necessary.
  5. Lift the perforated sifting tray (b), allowing the litter to sift through the bottom and into the bottom solid litter tray (c). Solid waste will remain in the perforated sifting tray.
  6. Empty the perforated sifting tray (b) into the trash, and place it inside the empty solid litter tray (c).
  7. Place the full solid litter tray (c) inside the perforated sifting tray (b).
  8. Re-attach the detachable rim.

Chapter 6

Your Very Own Vomitorium

From time to time, your feline overlords will express their displeasure, discomfort, boredom, or satisfaction by expelling the contents of their stomachs onto the floor. Do not be concerned if this happens as much as once per day; it is completely normal. The resulting messes can be cleaned up with an assortment of household chemicals, found on the shelf above the washing machine, and paper towels, found hanging to the left of the kitchen sink.

Chapter 7

In Case of Emergency

Your benevolent feline masters are hearty, robust creatures, and are unlikely to have any medical problems while under your care. However, if you notice odd behavior, such as the litter box not being used at all, or vomiting 3 or more times in a day, medical treatment may be necessary. During daytime hours, treatment can be provided by the XXXXXXX Animal Hospital at (XXX) XXX-XXXX, and for after-hours emergencies, contact the Animal Emergency Clinic of XXXXXXX at (XXX) XXX-XXXX.

Note: while friendliness and affection can easily be considered “odd behavior,” they are usually not signs of a medical emergency. If a cat is treating you unnaturally well, be on your guard for vicious sneak attacks and excrement left in your shoes.

Chapter 8

In Summary

The cats you have been called upon to serve may seem like callous, unfeeling, vicious, petty, scheming, violent, murderous beasts, but that’s how they appear to the untrained eye. If you take the time to get to know them, you’ll see that’s exactly what they are.

Armed with this guide, you will be better prepared for the trials that lie ahead. Good luck!

Crafty Goals

Sometimes it seems like all I ever do is re-evaluate my goals and priorities. It's a productive and healthy thing to do on occasion, but I switch directions so often that sometimes I barely recognize myself from one month to the next.

I wrote a little while ago about accepting my role as a housewife and not expecting too much of myself. Once again, I haven't been feeling like I'm accomplishing enough, but this time it's because I'm really not. I started playing WoW again a couple months ago, and since then it's been a rare day that I've gotten through my entire cleaning checklist. The good news is that I've spent the last 3 1/2 weeks out of town, and after that long cold turkey, I find my desire to play is almost nil. I still haven't gotten through the cleaning in the couple of days since I've returned, but that's because I've been unpacking and settling in. I'm okay with that.

On the other hand, I still have a strong desire to earn some money. Housewife I may be, but I still want to go on vacations and build up a bigger savings. I've applied for a part-time job near home, which would certainly satisfy that goal, but I have been finding that I also miss the creative outlet that selling on Etsy provided. I mean, it never really made me money, but it was fun, and it did let me justify buying a whole bunch of craft supplies. That's always a plus.

So my new goal is to get my Etsy shop stocked and running again. To that end, I want to do at least one project a week. I've been on a steampunk kick lately, so I'm going to start off with a couple of steampunky projects, but I'll probably also get back into Kindle cases and recycled yarn.

Project number one is something I'm probably going to keep, though. It's this vest:

I picked this as the first project because it's really simple: I just need to tailor it for a more flattering fit. A couple of darts should do it, and maybe I'll add more buttons. When it's finished, I'll see if it looks good with the rest of my steampunk convention wardrobe...and if not, into the store it goes!

I Nailed Your Gift

There's a church near me that has the most unintentionally funny signs I've ever seen, because whoever's writing them doesn't understand the proper use of quotation marks. Last week I was shocked to see one that was funny for another reason. (But it still abused quotation marks, naturally.)

Man, God is a dick.

The sign inspired me to create this:

I realized as I was finishing it that it could easily be taken as a cynical comment on the modern commercialization of Christmas, rather than the joke I meant it to be. So take it however you like; I'm just glad I finished a drawing.