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Fifty Things I’ll Never Do

So I can think of many things I’d love to do, though I don’t have a bucket list (you know, that list of things you need to do before you die).  Maybe I should have a bucket list.  Do you have a bucket list?

But this is not that list.  This is a list of fifty things I’ll never do.  Ok, I know, never is a long time.  I could change my mind on some of these items, because hey, I’m allowed to change my mind.  But since I’m not getting any younger and I seem to be set in my ways, I’m pretty confident that these are the things I’ll never do.

  1. Read Twilight.
  2. Watch the Twilight movies.
  3. Get a tongue piercing.
  4. Tattoo my face.
  5. Get drunk.
  6. Eat liver.
  7. Find the fountain of youth.
  8. Run a marathon.
  9. Run a half marathon.
  10. Run circles around my back yard.
  11. Consider Sarah Palin a serious political anything.
  12. Send Rush Limbaugh fan mail.
  13. Wear anything that is mustard yellow.
  14. Camp.
  15. Bungee jump.
  16. Enjoy red wine.
  17. Enjoy most white wine.
  18. Consider Justin Bieber talented.
  19. Wear leather pants.
  20. Go to any country that forces women to wear a head covering.
  21. Be a judge for American Idol.
  22. Be a judge on any show Simon Cowell is on or has his hands in.
  23. Like Simon Cowell.
  24. Think Tom Cruise is sane.
  25. Carry a purse.
  26. Have a pet rat.
  27. Like football.
  28. Understand why people like The Sound of Music and The Wizard of Oz.
  29. Smoke a cigarette.
  30. Smoke a cigar.
  31. Smoke a turkey.
  32. Change my mind about Severus Snape.
  33. Believe Fred Weasley is dead.
  34. Kick ass and take names.
  35. Consider myself “plucky.”
  36. Become an extrovert.
  37. Smile all the time.
  38. Mudwrestling.
  39. Join the military.
  40. Cheer for the Cardinals.
  41. Consider Coors or Bud anything but horse piss.
  42. Join a girl gang.
  43. Wear high heels.
  44. Join a convent.
  45. Finish this list… holy crap, am I done yet?  This is taking forever.  Wait, I mean Stand-up comedy.
  46. Intentionally swallow a tapeworm.
  47. Give love a bad name.
  48. Rule the world.
  49. Vogue.
  50. Stop believin’.

So– what are fifty things that you won’t do?  Or even just a few?

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A tale of feminism and mental health.

Gather around, everyone.  Aunt Stephanie wants to tell you a story.

I’m telling this story second-hand, with permission.

 

M is like a sister to me.  We met in high school and have been friends since then.  She’s 41, has had bi-polar 2 all of her life, and is in the middle of perimenopause.

Without getting into too many details, this is important.  Perimenopause is the time when a woman’s hormones get all outta whack and her uterus does really stupid things.  Some (good and forward thinking, in my opinion) doctors will agree to perform a uterine ablation or a hysterectomy for women who undergo way too much monthly uterine stupidity.  After all, a woman who is 41 and child-free by choice has nothing to lose by having one of these permanent procedures done.

In an attempt to alleviate the symptoms of hormonal wackiness and stupid uterine tricks, a few months ago M’s doctor instead recommended a newer IUD that uses an an extremely low dose of hormones to regulate these types of shenanigans.  Medically, this is pretty good advice, so M took it.

Unfortunately, M’s own hormones contribute greatly to her depressive episodes.  Several rounds of birth control pills (additional hormones) have triggered depressive episodes.  This is in M’s medical records.  The doctor who gave her the IUD knew about the hormone-related depression, but thought that, since there is such a low dose of hormones with this particular device, it wouldn’t affect M’s mental health.

You can imagine how angry I was at the doctor when M told me last week that she was battling another depressive episode and actively suicidal.

The good news in all of this is that M’s doctor very quickly removed the IUD, her psychiatrist adjusted her medications, and her therapist put her on sick leave with strict instructions for M to check in with the therapist every single day this week.  She is battling the depression like the warrior she is.

The bad news is that she is battling a severe depressive episode again because her doctor thought a low dose of hormones would be better for her than a hysterectomy, even though M’s medical files say that hormones send her into depressive episodes.

And here’s what I hear in this whole thing:  the medical community would rather try to kill my sister instead of taking away her ability to have a child.

Oh, I know.  That’s simplistic and melodramatic.

But if you’re a woman, you know it really isn’t.  Women are insulted and berated all the time for choosing to be child-free.  Women who want easy access to birth control for themselves and other women are called sluts, even though they’ll be called sluts if they get pregnant.  (Slut if you don’t want a kid, slut if you have a kid. Makes sense.)  Women who have heavy periods are generally told to deal with it because the only truly permanent ways to reduce heavy bleeding will render them sterile.  Yes, a woman can use hormonal birth control methods to reduce heavy bleeding, but the use of hormonal birth control contributes to depression in women and it’s so common that depression is listed as a side effect of most hormonal birth control methods.

I understand that no doctor is going to recommend ablation or hysterectomy for a teenager.  But if a woman is child-free or done having babies and she wants a permanent solution to the monthly uterine hijinks, why is she not able to choose that for herself?  Why is a woman’s ability to have a child sometime in the future more important than her current mental health?

If you’re a woman, you’ve probably had a doctor say or do something that reveals how much patriarchy affects women’s health issues.

I have another friend who is a few years older than me, has two kids, and is done having children.  She has such heavy bleeding that it gives her migraines and usually keeps her home one day a month.  A uterine ablation isn’t a medical possibility for her and her (male) doctor won’t agree to a hysterectomy “because she only has a few years of this left.”

I had a tubal ligation five years after our only child was born.  The (male) doctor asked me two questions before he agreed to perform the procedure:  what did my husband think about me having a tubal ligation and what would I do if our child died sometime after I had it done?  He apparently wasn’t convinced by my own desire to not get pregnant ever again.

Personally, as a pro-life mother, I’m exhausted by the stupidity of a system that thinks of me as nothing more than a hormonal incubator and won’t allow me or other women the health care we need for our mental and physical well-being, simply because it might hurt our ability to reproduce.

Women are not just incubators for the next generation.

 

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I’m super tired of misogyny.

(Warning: NSFW due to language.)

 

Bitch.  Cunt.  Pussy.  Sissy. Douchebag.  Twat.  Boob.  Slut.  Whore.  Skank.  Slag.  Tramp.  Prude.  Frigid.  Lesbo.  Diva.  Feminazi.

In just those few words, I could be insulted for being a jerk, weak, stupid, a person who likes to have a lot of sex, a person who doesn’t like to have sex, a lesbian, dramatic, or a passionate feminist.  Five of those are insults based on feminine body parts.  The others are based on just being a woman.  At least five of those (pussy, sissy, douchebag, twat, boob) are also used to insult men.

Compare that to gendered insults based specifically on the masculine:

Dick.  Prick.  Bonehead.

The list is significantly shorter and based on just one male body part.  They are used in place of jerk and stupid.  There aren’t really any insults for men who like to have sex; in fact, most cultures celebrate men who have many sexual partners at the very same time they are denigrating the women with whom the men are having all this sex.

In “The Harmless Sounding Phrase That is Terrible for All Women,” Karen Rinaldi writes:

A few weeks ago, I was talking with a friend about another friend’s husband who had called his wife a “stupid bitch” in front of their daughters in a moment of anger. He later apologized to the family. He’d had a hard day at the office. He didn’t really mean what he’d said, and he’d humbled himself in front of his wife and kids. We knew that he was basically a good guy. Basically a good guy. 

And that’s the phrase that kept swirling in my head. It occurred to me that the common refrain, “He is basically a good guy,” confirms one of our most pervasive biases. A colleague who made a sexist remark in a meeting? Well, we think, he didn’t mean it. He’s basically a good guy. The young man who insulted his date in front of his friends? He didn’t think she would take it so personally. He’s really a good guy…

When has anyone ever heard, as a pardon for a woman’s bad behavior, “She is basically a good woman?” Never. Because as frequently as we hear, “He’s basically a good guy,” we also hear, “She’s such a bitch.” Women are not so readily forgiven for their transgressions, no matter how small. The woman who refuses to accept blame at work for something she didn’t do? The woman who disagreed with her date in front of his friends? The wife who got too drunk at the neighborhood party?

A woman in a position of power in the workplace is called “Bossy;” her male counterpart is  called a “Leader.”

Wives and girlfriends”Nag” their partners about things that need to be done; husbands and boyfriends “Remind” their partners of the same things.

A woman who forgets a few things is called “blonde” or “ditzy” or “airhead;”  a man who forgets a few things has a “momentary memory lapse.”

Calling out a man for misogyny is usually reserved for blatant acts of physical and/or emotional abuse or assault.  We’re really quick to call a man who physically abuses his wife or girlfriend a wife beater.  But what about the man who jokingly calls his partner a bitch or slut?  What about the men who catcall the girl walking down the street minding her own  business?  What about the father who calls his son a sissy because he cries when he’s upset?  Or what about the baseball coach who tells the boys on his team that they throw like girls?  How about the teacher that claims boys do better in math than girls?

Misogyny isn’t just about being outspoken in your hatred of women.  It’s in the little things like jokingly calling a woman a bitch or slut because she did something that offended you or had any sexual partners before you.  Like catcalling a girl as if she is public property because she’s walking down a public street.  Like calling your son a sissy for crying or telling a boy he throws like a girl, as if women are inherently lesser than men and telling a boy he’s acting like a girl is the ultimate insult.

Misogyny is all about men who believe that women are weaker than them, not as smart as them, not allowed as many privileges as them, more emotional than them, and generally just not as good as them.

Men > women.

Language is powerful.  I’m super tired of misogyny and I’m super tired of the language it creates.  I’m tired of being told women are weak and that I’m weak because I’m a woman.

#Resist #NeverthelessShePersisted

 

 

 

 

 

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Things I dislike (and other people think I’m crazy for it): anything written by Charles Dickens

Imagine this:

You’ve just found out you’re pregnant.  Your hormones are all over the place, you’re nauseated all the time, food doesn’t taste good, and you can barely make it past 7:30 pm before you’re falling asleep sitting upright on the couch.

Sounds like a lot of fun, right?  Let’s keep going.

Not only are you pregnant, you’re a non-traditional student (aged 29) and just started your second semester back at college.  It’s really important that you do well, and since you’re majoring in English, you think a class on Charles Dickens might be just the thing for you.

Then you start reading Bleak House and Nicholas Nickelby, and wonder why you thought this was a good idea.  “Bleak” is now forever associated with feeling nauseated, flat, and tired.

Finally, you also work full time, so your Dickens class is from 6-9:30 pm.  Your professor, though really nice, is also a boring lecturer and has a habit of turning the lights out to show scenes from some of the movie adaptations of Dickens’ books.  It’s embarrassing, but you fall asleep in class most of the time.

Christmas was a few days ago.  You probably read or watched A Christmas Carol.  It’s traditional, quite possibly one of Dickens’ most well-known stories, and you’re wondering how in God’s name I could possibly not like Charles Dickens.

I’m sure you guessed that I was the pregnant, bored student reading Dickens too late at night.  Maybe it’s unreasonable to not like an author because of these types of associations.  True.  I’ve thought of that.

Maybe the most important reason I dislike is this: he prattled.  Why say something in fifty words when you could write it in 500?  Over and over and over again.  In the same book.

I adore a long book.  I have several books on my shelves that are at least 500 pages, and some of them are 1,000 or more.  It’s not the length of the books that matters, it’s that the story is actually being advanced by all of those words filling the pages.  J.K. Rowling, George R. R. Martin, and Victor Hugo are all verbose, but when they could write something in fifty words, they wrote something in fifty words.

Dickens needed a good editor.

Dickens sucks.

I hope you’ve enjoyed the “Things I don’t like” series.  It was fun to gripe about silly things instead of politics.  Any thoughts or comments on this series?  Is there a series of ideas you’d like to see me explore in 2017?  Please let me know in the comments.

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The value of rebuilding when your life has been torn apart

Rebuilding anything, in general, kind of sucks.  Even if you wanted that thing torn down.

One year ago today, I was fired from my job of eight years.

While part of me would prefer not to put that out there, the other part of me wants you to know this story, at least the short version with only the really important parts mentioned.  The executive director and I didn’t get along.  He wasn’t the person that hired me, and he moved me from a job I enjoyed (mostly) to one I didn’t (mostly).  I knew I was going to get fired eventually.  I had been praying to be fired.  It was a good thing for me.  It really, truly was a great thing.  When he fired me, he called me toxic and told me I was terrible at my job.

I was happy to be fired, but I’d been dealing with his dislike for three years and had just been told I was an awful human being and employee.  A year later, I can still hear him telling me that.  It hurts a lot less now, thanks to being out of the situation, a lot of therapy, and lots of people I worked with telling me to ignore him.

I’m in the process of rebuilding that part of my life.  The foundation of my work life was completely destroyed.  I’ll be honest with you:  I’m only now beginning to lay the first few stones.  I sat in the dust and rubble for several months, dirty and hurting.

I have a new job.  I’m basically doing the same thing I was when I got fired, but I’m working for a church now instead of a state agency.  My boss, the church pastor, tells me I’m doing a good job.  His wife called to tell me how excited he was that they had hired me.  The people in the church are friendly and kind and happy to have me here.  It’s a part time job, it’s quiet, and I have three day weekends.

I wanted to mark the day because it’s the day I was set free.  But at the same time, my world was torn apart.

Shit happens.  I’m a Christian, but I don’t think that everything happens for a reason.  Sometimes shit just happens, our worlds are ripped apart, and all we can do is sit in the dirt and rubble, catch our breath, and rebuild.  We have to grieve, take care of ourselves, and begin to heal.  We have to understand that it’s much easier to say those words than it is to live them.  In the process of being gentle with myself, I’ve had to question if I’m being gentle with myself or if I’m just being lazy.  I quit writing,  I started writing again.  I quit writing again.  I sat on the couch a lot and binge watched netflix shows.  I looked at a lot of job postings and got frustrated nearly every time I did so.

Rebuilding is difficult and it sucks. But the value in it is that when you start to clean up what’s left, you can look at every single old stone and decide how it will fit into the new foundation.  Some of the old parts of your life are shattered and have to be discarded, but some of them are just scratched up.  You might have to polish them up for quite some time, but when you get done, you’ll have these gleaming, glossy, shiny stones that are stronger because they’ve been refined.

At least I hope so.  I’m still in the process of refining and being refined.   A year later, I’m a little stronger than I was.  I’m a little more hopeful about my life.  I don’t dread each morning anymore and marvel that there are still people in this world who are so nice to me.  I feel like I can breathe again.

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Things I dislike (and other people think I’m crazy for it): The Sound of Music

This month’s crazy thing I dislike is another movie: The Sound of Music.

When I was little, TSoM was shown every year during the Thanksgiving or Christmas holidays, I think on CBS.  When we were smaller, my brother and I would sit together in our dad’s arm chair and watch it.  I don’t ever remember my parents sitting down with us to watch it.  I don’t know if one of us chose it or if one of our parents turned it on for us.  What I distinctly remember thinking every single time I watched it was, “Isn’t there anything better on tv right now?  Why do we have to watch this again?”

In hindsight, it was probably the most intelligent thing on tv, as these were the days before we had cable.  The pickings were slim back then.

Now when I’m faced with the commercials for the yearly showing of this classic, this is what I sing:

the hills are alive

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Things I dislike (and other people think I’m crazy for it): Ohio

“How do you not like an entire state?” Jeff asked me.

“I mean, come on, it’s OHIO,” I replied.

I will admit that of all the dislikes I have in this series, this one is probably the most irrational of the bunch.  I have only been to Toledo, and of those three times, two were in the middle of winter.  First of all, Toledo is not a winter wonderland at the beginning of January; it is a harsh, bitter land of never-ending cold and despair.  It’s also an industrial hell.  Industrial landscapes have always seemed really dismal and bleak to me, and Ohio from Cincinnati to Toledo is a lot of empty space with spots of bleak industrial hell holes.

The other time I went to Toledo was in May, and it rained all weekend.  Imagine a gray sky to highlight the gray of all the industrial-looking buildings.  Yuck.

I’m sure Ohio is lovely and that the people who live there are quite nice, but honestly, I never want to go there again to find out.  And I live in the state that elected Brice Rauner as governor, so you’d think anywhere would be better than here.  But no.  Ohio, this is my space.  That is your space.  Don’t invade my space and I promise I won’t invade yours.

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Things I dislike (and other people think I’m crazy for it): art

I can hear all of you right now: how the hell do you not like art? Ohmygod, you’re what’s wrong with this world!

Now that I’ve sucked you in, let me explain.  I love looking at art.  Anything done in watercolors makes me unbelievably happy.  A friend of mine gave me a piece of art she’d made with red and gold leaves on an ivory background in a driftwood-type frame.  Liam and I have decorated his room with different drawings and paintings he has made since he was about three.  If I had my way, I’d have way more art hanging on my walls.

But creating art?

In fourth grade, we had to make those pictures where you colored a white sheet of paper in lots of different colors, then color a really thick layer of black over the colors, then make the picture by scraping the black crayon off the paper in any design.  I was bored.

When I was in first grade, I remember coloring in a Barbie coloring book one day before school.  I was bored.

In eighth grade, we had to do negative space drawings of a fern.  Have you ever tried to draw negative space?  It’s a pain in the ass.  I remember getting really frustrated with it and wondering “what’s the point?”

When I reached high school, we had to take at least two years worth of fine arts.  I chose chorus over art class.

I don’t know if it’s the repetitive motion of art, or if my brain just isn’t wired that way, but trying to draw, color, paint, or sculpt makes me nuts.  I get bored after about twenty minutes.

Adult coloring books are wildly popular right now.  I have several friends who love to post pages they’ve colored on Facebook.  They say coloring is therapeutic.

In November 2015, we made a road trip to St. Louis and stopped at Dick Blick on the way home.  Liam loves drawing, coloring, and painting, and he needed more art supplies like I need another ear piercing, but he bought some anyway.  Since I love watercolors so much, I bought some watercolor paper and watercolor pencils.  I hadn’t ever used the pencils before, so Liam showed me a couple of ways they could be used and I began to color.

Twenty-five minutes later, I remembered why I don’t color.  I don’t like it.  It’s not therapeutic for me.  It’s just boring.

I admire those of you who create art in any form.  You have the patience of saints and buttloads of talent.  Sometimes I wish I had that talent.  Then I just laugh at myself and go back to my book.

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Your productivity does not determine your worth.

Your Productivity

Your productivity does not determine your worth.

Your productivity does not determine your worth.

And one more time for the people in back:

Your productivity does not determine your worth.

(I want you to know, as I write this, my anxiety is ratcheting up so high I’ve given myself a headache.  I’ve been putting off writing this post all day long, and to be honest, I’m not sure where it’s going to go.  So just sit back, read, and take the journey with me.)

I’m not writing this for anyone in particular except myself.  So if I know you in real life, I’m not calling any of you out (:::koffexceptyou,momkoff::::) so much as I am writing this for myself.

Let’s take a trip down the rabbit hole.  Google “why do we need to be productive“.

If you did that, you found articles telling you how to be more productive, reasons you shouldn’t be more productive, productivity and happiness, things to stop doing to be more productive, why productivity is important… and that’s all on the first page.

In the United States, we have this unwritten belief that we are only valuable as individuals if we are working hard and getting things done.  I think that mindset starts in the workforce and bleeds freely into our non-work lives.

Things have to get done.  We have to work some.  I understand that.

But how many times have you worked a full day outside the home just to rush home and work another full day inside the home?  You start dinner when you get home because your kids need to have a good meal as soon as possible, and if that doesn’t happen you’re a bad mom.    You spend all weekend doing laundry and cleaning the house because if your house isn’t perfect for the coming week, you’re a bad spouse.  When you fall into bed utterly exhausted, you think of all the things you didn’t get done and conclude you’re a bad person.

Productivity determining our worth is so ingrained in our culture that if the to do list doesn’t get done, we feel like worthless failures.

But that’s not true.

You’re not a worthless failure just because the laundry didn’t get finished, you haven’t eaten a vegetable for days,  or the writing didn’t get done (again).

(I told you I was writing this as much for myself as for you, remember?)

You and I are not valuable based only on the amount of work this world and our lives can wring from us.  You and I are not valuable because of what we can do for others.  We are not commodities.

We are people.  You and I are valuable because we live.  You and I are valuable because God made us and breathed life into us. You and I are valuable because God loves us.

I forget that a lot.  I forget that I do a lot of things right when I did the one thing wrong.  Like right now, I’m sitting here berating myself because it has taken me almost ninety minutes to write this post instead of congratulating myself for writing something, anything, at all.  And when I’m done writing this, I’ll feel badly about myself because it won’t be 1,000 words long.  I didn’t get as much picked up today as I would have liked, so I’m beating myself up about that.  Never mind that I took an hour to help my kid clean his room.  It still needs about two hours worth of work, but I can see the freshly vacuumed floor now.

I am surely not the only person on this planet whose self-talk needs to change from “I didn’t do all the things today, so I must be a bad or lazy person” to “It’s great that I got some of these things done today, but even if I hadn’t, I’m worthy of love, grace, and acceptance.”

Your productivity does not determine your worth.

Your productivity does not determine your worth.

And one more time for the “pull yourself up by your own bootstraps” crowd:

Your productivity does not determine your worth.  

God does, and He thinks you are precious.

And now, a picture of my kid with a stuffed tiger on his head to lighten things up.
And now, a gratuitous picture of my kid with a stuffed tiger on his head to lighten things up.  Not seen: the dog hair that used to be all over the kid’s bedroom floor.
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Blogs I Love: Yes and Yes, Sarah Von Bargen

I’ve been reading Yes and Yes for at least four years now, and I don’t remember any of the details about how I found this blog.  That’s not terribly important anyway.  What I remember is how Yes and Yes drew me in with it’s fun, quirky vibe.

I think I was hooked in about three minutes flat.

Sarah is constantly positive, upbeat, and sassy.  Honestly, her blog is what I want mine to be when it grows up.  She’s a traveler, and has written about the countries she has visited and lived in and how to travel in those countries without sacrificing your bank account.  Every Sunday she publishes Web Time Wasters, a bunch of links she found throughout the week that she thinks are fun, educational, empowering, and encouraging.  In her True Story series, she interviews people who have interesting stories to tell about their lives.  My friend Anna over at Artist Adventurer was featured twice this year in the True Story series.

And in between all the different series she writes, Sarah writes stand-alone articles about business, self-improvement, how it’s OK to fail, how it’s OK to succeed, and tips for what we can do to feel like life is a vacation, even in the midst of staying home.  And everything in between.

I love Yes and Yes, and think you will too.  Go read!

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