Sunday, September 30, 2007

Ewwwwww, mealybugs!

One of the benefits of living in suburbia is having a back yard, however comparable the size of that yard is to a postage stamp (I live in Southern California, where even a million bucks doesn't buy much more than that). So in theory, due to the great weather, I'm supposed to be able to enjoy this small slice of paradise -- in my case, year round.

Instead, this reverie has been marred by one pest jihad after another -- I spent most of last year trying to kill my then-mortal enemy, the snail -- which ate pretty much my entire herb garden and about half of my landscape plants. This year -- the mealybug. If you don't know what they are, click here for a photo, imagine them ALL OVER an entire wall of vines, and proceed to puke. I hate them!!! They've pretty much destroyed all my passion fruit vines, and I spend about 10% of my time after I get back from work squirting them with an organic pesticide. To no avail. My vines are so diseased that I had to amputate huge sections today, and I have had enough! Enough of this organic crap, I'm pulling out the big guns. In a few minutes I am going to purchase a poisonous, systemic insecticide that I hope will melt those friggin' mealybugs on contact. Ha! Take that, mealybugs! And, I'll have 10% extra time to spend with my family to boot.

Ready to go in 5 minutes flat

Like how in the few short days since I've started this blog I've abandoned my initially proposed structure?

As Monday morning rolls around I thought I'd share my thoughts on a most important Monday morning skill: making your face look presentable in 5 minutes or less. In my various incarnations as a management consultant, graduate student, Wall Street slave, beauty industry professional (with even some experience doing celebrity makeup, if you can believe this disjointed resume) and marketing / general management type, I've tried to maintain integrity in the area of looking decent (and actually, better than that, I try to look a little nice) and since I've had kids have had to make that process a lot more efficient. The steps below can be accomplished even with a person or two whining and wrapped around your legs:

  • If you have dry skin, moisturize, but I skip this step.

  • If necessary, use concealer or foundation to cover up blemishes.

  • Go over whole face with a mineral powder foundation. The benefit of a mineral powder foundation is that it provides sun protection, and is inert so just about any skin type can use it. It also provides surprisingly good coverage, particularly if you are a light- to medium- coverage type of girl. I'm currently using the L'Oreal Bare Naturale Mineral Makeup, which has an SPF of 19 (and which is really reasonably priced) -- and which saves me the step of having to apply sunscreen. Powders also require less care than liquid formulas, which require blending -- so a quick swipe all over your face will do the job.

  • Fill in your brows with an eye shadow or brow wax; comb out using an eyebrow comb. If you're in a real hurry you can stop here -- having your brows looked groomed really makes a huge difference in making you look polished. If you're brow-challenged, go get your brows done professionally initially, and then you can maintain accordingly -- it's worth the investment if you don't always want to end up looking surprised all the time.

  • Apply a rosy or peachy blush (those tones work well on just about anyone). Again, you can stop here if you want to; you'll look fine. Blush has a way of perking up your face and making you look suddenly healthier. I find that when I wear it people often ask me if I'm feeling ok (which is not a great testament to my natural beauty).

  • Finish up with a pinky-nude lipstick or gloss. I suggest these colors because they're the lowest maintenance; I rarely re-apply once I'm in the office, so I want shades that wear off well gradually. My go-to lipstick of the moment is Clinique's Sweet Honey, which has a great texture, is mistake-proof, and which is for me, a shade just better than nude.
    If I'm feeling really fancy, I'll curl my lashes and swipe on some mascara too -- that generally makes me look a lot more awake.

It took me more time to describe the process than it takes to do it, so give it a try. If I can give just one woman 15 more minutes of sleep, my life will be complete.

Day of rest, day of perspective

It's Sunday, and I'm taking a day of rest. My kids have colds and I want to be sure that they're well enough to go to school tomorrow (thus the trials and tribulations of the working mother without backup daycare). I like to think of Sundays as a day of stepping back, a day to reflect. Sundays for me are typically a church-going day, but I think that religion has given itself a bad name. In fact, I'm generally hesitant to talk about religion much these days, as a pre-emptive strike against confrontational conversations for which I don't have the energy nowadays.

When we lived in Chicago we went to Fourth Presbyterian Church, led by Rev. John Buchanan. I think what Buchanan does best is that, on the day of rest, he provides perspective. And I think one important thing he does is provide perspective on religion -- and the fact that we can all get so caught up in the technicalities of our own religions that we miss the big picture. Too often, our viewpoints stir up animosity, hatred and violence -- the very things that religion was brought in to mitigate. From Buchanan:

Jesus taught about and revealed a God who is big enough: a God bigger than human religions, bigger than religious laws and traditions, bigger even than the most sophisticated and sublime descriptions and theologies and creeds. Jesus revealed a God who is so passionately for all people, a God whose love simply knows no boundaries, certainly not the boundaries religion itself has created...

So you and I who claim his name are invited to the great adventure of living in that love and extending that love into all the world, to all people, near and far; people like us and people who are radically different; other Christians with whom we may disagree on many issues, maybe all issues; other Christians, Jews, Muslims; people of other faiths and no faith—all of them, each of them a precious child of God, each loved and treasured forever by their creator.

You can read the rest of Rev. Buchanan's message here. But I like that perspective. Given that there are so many theologans (even within Christianity) that spend their lifetimes reading and interpreting Scripture who can't seem to agree, I find no reason to claim that what I believe is the be-all, end-all -- in fact, I think that the concept of God is bigger than all of us, and we certainly don't have enough data to be making any exclusionary assertions -- and certainly no basis to go around killing other people with different beliefs.

I like this way of thinking. I wish more people would adopt it, and that by the time my kids are adults people will really be able, spiritually, to focus on what's important, rather than use religion as a tool to dominate or antagonize others.

Friday, September 28, 2007

Economic development is the answer

I recently read a book that spurred me into action. It's called Enrique's Journey, and I've pasted in a synopsis below:

From Publishers Weekly Starred Review. Soon to be turned into an HBO dramatic series, Nazario's account of a 17-year-old boy's harrowing attempt to find his mother in America won two Pulitzer Prizes when it first came out in the Los Angeles Times. Greatly expanded with fresh research, the story also makes a gripping book, one that viscerally conveys the experience of illegal immigration from Central America. Enrique's mother, Lourdes, left him in Honduras when he was five years old because she could barely afford to feed him and his sister, much less send them to school. Her plan was to sneak into the United States for a few years, work hard, send and save money, then move back to Honduras to be with her children. But 12 years later, she was still living in the U.S. and wiring money home. That's when Enrique became one of the thousands of children and teens who try to enter the U.S. illegally each year. Riding on the tops of freight trains through Mexico, these young migrants are preyed upon by gangsters and corrupt government officials. Many of them are mutilated by the journey; some go crazy. The breadth and depth of Nazario's research into this phenomenon is astounding, and she has crafted her findings into a story that is at once moving and polemical. Photos not seen by PW. (Feb. 28) Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

I live in Southern California, where approximately 80% of nannies and housekeepers are single mothers who had to leave their children behind in their home countries in order to support them. It's hard enough leaving your kids behind when you go to work -- can you imagine having to do it for years, never knowing for sure if you'll ever see them again? Worse yet, knowing that they might embark on dangerous journeys in order to try to find you?

That's why I support economic development. Hand-outs are simply not sustainable. There are ways that individuals like us can easily get involved -- organizations like Kiva make it simple for you to lend $25 to an entrepreneur in a developing region to help lift them out of poverty (and the default rate is miniscule -- these people really want to get out of poverty), so they don't have to illegally immigrate in the first place. It's startling to me that for the price of a t-shirt, I can really help someone change their life for the better.

How to stop thumb-sucking / pacifier / binky use

My older daughter sucked her thumb, while my younger one used a binky. I was able to wean each of them from their respective habits within a day. Yep, you heard it -- cold turkey, all at once, in a single day. While I make no claims that I caused no psychological damage, but I will say that I used the most effective tool available: The Truth. The conversations went something like this:

Me: If you keep sucking your thumb, you're going to need braces. [using a tone of voice usually reserved for ghost stories] Do you know what braces are?
Kid: No [but looking a little afraid].
Me: They put metal wires in your mouth and glue brackets on your teeth and then pull it really tight with a wire and it's really owie. Do you want to see what braces look like?
Kid: Yes...? [looking very anxious now]

I took them downstairs to the computer and using the ever-omniscient Google, I found this website. Check out Case #4 -- it's the most graphic [insert maniacal laugh]. I showed my kids these photos and they were 1) scared, because growing up in Southern California, they've never seen teeth this screwed up, and 2) they shrieked, "I don't want to be like that!" and immediately gave up their habits.

There you have it. Tried and true.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Haircare shortcuts and social networking

I work. I'm married. I have two kids. I've spent years mocking blogs (I mean, who has the time? Um, I guess I do.). So, this is what I'm going to do now after taking care of the kids, putting them to bed, taking a shower, cleaning up, and sometimes doing a bit of work. I can't promise exceptional prose. I can't promise revolutionary ideas. I can't even promise that I'll be in a good mood. But I think I'll start off with a simple format: a Tip, a Rip, and a Clip. Tip being something I think might be helpful to you, if you're at all like me (meaning, you work, have kids, are married, or are inherently lazy). Rip being something I don't understand (or just think is dumb). And a Clip is just a word I had to stick in there to rhyme with the other two -- but will likely be a product review that you can clip away for storage, just like a coupon (ok, it's a stretch, but work with me here. It's my first post.). I will also include random rants that I might have. Sometimes I might not include all categories. Sometimes I might overshare. Luckily, you don't know me.

I never thought I'd end up this way, but here it is: I have two preschoolers, and I have to drop them off at school in the morning, so I have to shower at night after they go to bed (there are several logical mental leaps in between, but trust me, I can't shower in the morning). Sometimes, at the end of the day, I'm just tired. So tired that I just really want to go to bed. I weaned myself after my first kid was born from daily hair-washing, so I'm on an every-other-day rotation. If you have hair you'll understand that the implication of washing is drying, which for whatever reason I have come to view as a cumbersome task. In the face of need comes innovation, so I've come up with a few ways to work around hair washing on those days when you really just can't face it:

  • Baby powder. Remember the 19th century? Powdered hair was in for a reason. It not only soaks up the grease pretty well, but it covers what I call "hair b.o." as well. There's nothing I like less than smelling of hair (or more specifically, scalp). Just rub a bit of the powder into your hair at the hairline (and anywhere you think it's particularly greasy), and presto! Almost clean hair. I have on occassion over-powdered and found myself choking on the powder all night. I wouldn't advise this, since I'm pretty sure that inhaling a bunch of talc is a very bad idea.
  • Dry shampoos. These are basically baby powder in a spray can, but the benefit of these is that they're generally propelled by some type of carrier substance (like isobutane -- again, don't inhale too much) that feels really good on your scalp if your hair is dirty. Spray only at the roots, and after a few minutes, brush out. I've tried two brands: Klorane and Algemarina. I prefer the Algemarina (the Klorane has a smell that I can best describe as "old person"), since it has a nice fragrance, but the can I got from Amazon was defective. I've heard it's better to buy it in a store.
Facebook. At the risk of sounding like a luddite, I just don't get it. I have an account just because I've been invited (by some clearly earlier-adopting people than me). I'll grant that it's good for stalking, which is of course an honorable pastime (I was just notified in my "news-feed" that my husband added "bad spackling" and "magma" to his interests). But what's up with the "wall"? Isn't it just a really inefficient way to send email? In my experience, a friend will write something on my "wall". I then get an email telling me that my friend posted to my "wall", at which point I have to log back onto Facebook to see what it is that was posted on my "wall," so I can post to my friend's "wall", at which point she will also get an email notification that I posted on her "wall". As a stalker tool, I find the "wall" insufficient since the postings make no sense to an outsider -- which is what you would be as a stalker. And the other thing -- why would I want people to know so much about me? Better to be the stalker than the stalkee.

I do like LinkedIn though. It's a pretty good stalker tool for being professional in purpose. I've gotten invitations to be a connection on LinkedIn from people that I don't know that well at work. Like they're in IT, and I haven't ever spoken to them. When I see them in the bathroom I give them a knowing look, like I know that you know that we're connected on LinkedIn but I'm pretty sure that they just find me creepy.

But in addition to being a stalker tool, LinkedIn is great if you're looking for a job, or looking to hire. It's just interesting to see who's in your network. And what those people have grown up into.

So there you have it. Come back and visit for more posting on all the newfangled things this world has to offer. Thanks for reading.