December 25, 2008


Before I had children, I adopted the feminist outlook that I wouldn't allow any of my daughters to have Barbie dolls. A toy that would potentially encourage my daughter to see herself as a "mannequin, sex object or housekeeper," wasn't welcome in our lives. I had my own past history — and a few scars — from growing up with Barbie. My feminist mother never bought any, but they seeped their way into my life as well. My singular lasting memory of receiving the doll was Christmas Eve when I was 9 years old. My Aunt, a Dietician obsessed with weight and nutrition, gave me two presents that year: a calorie-counting guide book and a giant Barbie head. The overpowering message of the two gifts was clear — you are not good enough. I had decided that Barbie would not be a part of my daughters' lives. Of course, while I personally didn't purchase any, I couldn't foresee the complete onslaught of Barbies at every birthday and holiday that they would receive from uninformed friends and family. It was truly overwhelming, and I succumbed to peer pressure. And as I watched my girls play with the dolls, I realized that their imaginative play was mostly positive. One thing became clear to me: Barbie was in control and didn't take orders from anyone.
Adjusting my viewpoint to fit the circumstances, I focused my "ban" on other dolls — like the overly-sexualized "Bratz" dolls. With their exaggerated lips, tits and ass, they make Barbie look somewhat like Holly Hobbie. Once surrounded by dozens of Barbie dolls, I thought I should share a few words with the girls about the doll, her features, and the cultural messages. Over the years, this has turned into somewhat of a Christmas morning ritual. Barbie (and other dolls of her ilk) come encapsulated in the most extreme packaging of nearly any product out there. There is thick plastic that must be cut, wires that must be unwound, plastic tethers that must be cut from her head, wrists and feet, ripcord strings that must be pulled from the stitching of her clothes. Of course, no child can manage this on her own, so is sweet succession, I am handed these dolls to "free them." Instead of complaining about the lengthy process of cutting through all of the packaging, I enthusiastically cut and rip at the plastic, telling the doll, "You're almost free!" And this is how my Barbie pep-talk begins each year — as I free her from the bonds of her plastic slavery. Anticipating what has become our ritual, Little M did her best Aretha impersonation this morning and danced around the living room singing "You better think, think about what you're trying to do to me." Big M and I chimed in with the chorus, singing "Freedom! Freedom!" as we held up the newly emancipated Barbie dolls. Little M and I told each doll, "You are free now. You don't have to be what they created you to be anymore. People are gonna love you for who you are, not for being what they want you do be. So be yourself now! You're free!"

December 22, 2008

Frozen solid

It's been so cold the last couple of days that I've been pretty much holed up in the house. I did manage to go outside for a few minutes today to add antifreeze to my car — hoping that will cure it's total lack of heat, and to help The Nurse free her car from the perilous ice. Once we got her car out, I decided that there was nothing that pressing that was worth me losing my relatively easy-to-park-in spot. I could have dragged some lawn furniture into the street in true Chicago fashion to guard my spot, but it just seemed like too much effort. Much easier to surrender to the ice and just stay put.
The ice seems to have seeped into other corners of my life too. My job search is somewhat frozen, as I have found myself once again pinning my hopes on one great lead that is totally frozen with no job offer and no confirmation that I didn't get the job. Frozen.
The promise of Advent has not yet thawed the icy chill in our hearts as we grieve the loss of three parishoners, and I have learned that another is close to the end -- the mother of a girl I went to high school with who was in a devastating traffic accident that killed two other parishoners a month ago as their car collided on an icy road with a semi truck. It's no wonder that I've come to have a healthy respect and fear of this ice.
More snow is expected tonight and into the holiday and I will probably have to venture out into the world tomorrow and do my best to break free of all of this ice. I might get stuck, but I'm a hearty Chicago girl whose been through 36 long winters and I won't give up without a fight. Wish me luck.

December 09, 2008

International Human Rights Day

If I had a job, I'd be calling in "gay" tomorrow. Or perhaps I'd be joining others on the steps of the Chancery downtown tomorrow to protest this Christmas gift from the Vatican. Sadly, I'll be at the wake of a friend's husband tomorrow instead. What are you all doing?

December 06, 2008

10,000 points of light

I noticed the other day that this blog has now gotten over 10,000 hits, which is a milestone I guess. I hope that a good fraction of those hits resulted in actual readers.
It's been busy lately: I survived Thanksgiving with The Nurse's family — and their Black Friday 11 hour shopping tradition the next day. They teased and joked about Aunt Patty not being able to hack it when she went with them years back. The Nurse took it as a good sign that they were comparing me to another spouse. With a little Christmas money in hand, The Nurse and I headed out to the casino for a minute before going to see a movie on Thanksgiving night. She lost $50 bucks in about 10-15 minutes. Ouch.
I had a big job interview this week, and I'm waiting as patiently as I can to find out if I sealed the deal. Don't want to talk about too much because I'll probably jinx it.
We've got the Christmas tree up and decorated, and for the first time since our childhood's — we've got a tree with colored lights. The kiddos begged for them this year, and our white lights were mostly burnt out at this point, so we went ahead and got some. We decided that it's gonna take a little getting used to, because we both have some negative associations from our childhoods. Poor people use Christmas lights. That's one thing we grew up believing. Somehow white lights always were more elite and elegant. Blinking colored lights were entirely ghetto, particularly if strung in giant x's in the front windows.
Well, as luck would have it, we actually are poor, so we're enjoying our low-brow colored Christmas lights this year.