The Real Reason I Don’t Like Pageants

By Katie, 5:27 am

I just heard that the Miss USA pageant will be airing this Sunday night, and I had a rather interesting reaction.

You probably think that I dislike pageants because of their obvious objectification of women. Because of the way women literally parade around being judged on the way they look in a bikini. Because there’s a an actual crown associated with it.

 (Source)

But honestly, when I heard that the Miss USA pageant is this weekend I was more shocked than appalled. Really? I thought. This stuff is still going on?

Truthfully, the whole idea of a beauty pageant just seems downright boring to me! Boring and old-fashioned and outdated. Women in bikinis and high heels with perfect hair and flawless makeup and disturbingly white teeth? Been there, seen that. About a million times. Including every single time I turn on the television.

Going to school for Women’s Studies and writing this blog and dialoguing with all of you has shown me just how complex our relationship with beauty really is. It’s those complexities that I find interesting and intriguing, making the very idea of a pageant just seem so…over-simplified. It completely ignores the intricacies of our sexualities. It doesn’t get me riled up or inflamed; it just makes me feel tired. Hmph.

At this point, I feel like we’ve all seen enough padded boobs, sky-high legs, orangey-tans, and super-toned abs to last us a lifetime. We have better things to do than watch a beauty pageant, no?

Anyone else pretty much sick of beauty pageants???

My New Restaurant Scene: The Blue Moon

By Katie, 5:39 am

As I’ve mentioned before, Dave and I just built a house in York, Pennsylvania (pictures to come, I promise!). To be blunt, we are loving it. While we enjoyed living in Baltimore, basic stuff we wanted – like a big yard and lots of open space – just wasn’t affordable there.

Of course, leaving the city has meant going without its many amenities. We’re no longer within a few miles of both a Trader Joe’s and a Whole Foods (although I still work right next to WF!). We’re no longer within a few minutes of popular hang-out spots like Fell’s Point or the Inner Harbor. And, worst of all, we’re no longer in the dead center of Baltimore’s booming restaurant scene.

But there’s hope! Just as I was mourning the loss of the city’s fabulous options for dining out, Dave and I had the opportunity to eat at the Blue Moon in downtown York.

 (Source)

We sat in this adorable courtyard area…

 (Source)

…and enjoyed some seriously delicious food. I went straight for the crab cakes, which were exactly how crab cakes should be – mostly crab and only a little “filler.”

Dave went for the scallops, which were seared just right (which I know from experience isn’t easy to do!).

Another person in our party went for the soft shell crab special. She was kind enough to let me take a picture of it! Soft shell crabs have always kind of freaked me out, but apparently this one was wonderful!

Another person had pork, which again was cooked perfectly. That’s probably what impressed me the most about the restaurant – the way each dish was prepared just right. No rubbery scallops and no tough pork!

I wish I had remembered to take photos of our desserts; our group of four shared portions of bread pudding and creme brulee, and they were both amazing!

Happy tummies. :-)

I gotta say, the foodie in me was relieved to know that the Blue Moon exists. It’s made my move to York, PA that much more exciting!

What’s the restaurant scene like in your area?

and/or

Have you ever eaten a soft shell crab?

Inside My Wallet: Relationships and Money

By Katie, 5:02 am

Missed my first three Inside My Wallet posts? Check them out!

When I first asked for suggestions for my Inside My Wallet series, by far the most requested topic was about handling finances in a relationship. No big shocker there, since I’m pretty sure money tops the list of reasons couples fight/disagree.

(Source)

Obviously every couple is different, so I can’t prescribe a definitive way for successfully merging your moula. But what I can tell you is what works for Dave and me and how we figured it out.

What Works For Us

From the beginning, Dave and I knew we wanted to completely merge our bank accounts. While many people I know choose to keep separate accounts, for a variety of reasons, we decided it would be best to keep everything all together.

This works for us because:

1. We’re both interested in financial stuff. In some couples, one person is the financial guru while the other wants nothing to do with monitoring the checking accounts. But Dave and I both enjoy it (or at least don’t mind it! And want to recommend to do Fifth Third apply for credit card), so having our accounts together means we can both get a good look at the whole picture.

2. We both pay bills. Again, while some people  prefer to have one person pay all the bills, Dave and I each pay some. He pays his student loans, I pay mine. He pays the gas bill, I pay the electric. This is mainly because we were each paying some of these bills prior to getting married, and we like having the load divided. It works for us. (We keep a shared spreadsheet where we document our bills, so we’re certain everything is getting paid each month!)

3. We are totally open books. Having nothing but joint accounts means that Dave’s aware of every single transaction I make, and vice versa. For us this is totally fine. We don’t need or want privacy in our spending. And yes, this means that if I happen to buy Dave a gift, he eventually knows how much it cost. This is in no way a problem for us because neither of us are big gift givers. For special occasions we usually prefer to plan something together – a nice dinner, a weekend trip, etc. _______________________________________________________________________________

So that’s what works for us. Obviously this wouldn’t be the case for everyone! What really matters, I think, isn’t the specifics of a relationship-based financial plan, but rather the process you take to get there. Here are the key steps.

Steps for Creating a Relationship-Based Financial Plan

1. Become self-aware. Taking some time to analyze my “money personality” was a great first step. I went into my relationship knowing what kind of spender/saver I was, what my goals and priorities were, etc.

2. Talk about it! Duh, right? And yet so many people don’t talk about money with their partners! If you’re going to share your life with someone, regardless of whether or not you share your bank account, your best bet is to be open with each other about your financial goals, dreams, frustrations, and anxieties.

3. Consider both the short and long term. While a Starbucks obsession doesn’t immediately seem connected to your goals for retirement, the two are actually closely linked. If you want to find the middle ground between spending now and saving for later, it’s important to think through both aspects of your finances.

4. Create a realistic system that feels good to both parties. In the end, the most important thing is that your financial plan works for both you and your partner.

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Your turn to chime in!

What are your tips and suggestions for managing finances while in a committed relationship?

Confidence Takes Courage

By Katie, 5:56 am

It makes me sad to say this, but it kind of makes sense that so many people hate their bodies.

Recently a reader e-mailed me and asked why it’s so terribly difficult for her to accept herself and her body. Part of the reason, I responded, is that when we attempt to make peace with ourselves, there are lots of forces against us. Confidence isn’t exactly encouraged in our society.

The big corporations, for example, make money off of our self-consciousness. Covergirl brings in the big bucks when we think our eyelashes aren’t full enough without their specially-formulated plumping mascara. Jenny Craig’s profits go up when we constantly think we need to lose ten pounds. Companies don’t want us to be confident because then we’ll think twice about handing over the contents of our wallets.

Sadly, our own friends and family might be on the same side as those corporations. While it’d be great if everyone we know always wanted the best for us, the truth is that when someone feels bad about herself, it’s hard for her to be truly happy for the self-assured people in her midst. Misery loves company, and in those cases confidence seems threatening.

No wonder we have such a body image issue on our hands.

I think it’s important to remember this notion – that when we practice self-acceptance, there are often forces pushing against us – because it reminds us that confidence takes courage.

Thinking you’re beautiful is an act of bravery.

Indeed, I’d go as far as to say that self-love is radical. It completely goes against the status quo, and as you step outside the box of “I’m not good enough” there are tons of people trying to push you back inside it.

Today, I’d like to tell you that you are bold. You are brave. You are courageous. No matter which advertisement tells you otherwise in the hopes of persuading you to spend your money. No matter which friend or family member wants you to feel bad about yourself just because she/he does. No matter who tries to knock you down a notch every time you manage to climb a rung higher.

Confidence takes courage. Fortunately, I’m feeling brave.

Do you think self-acceptance is a courageous act? What are the forces in your life that try to hinder you on your path toward a better body image?

This post is part of the Self-Discovery, Word by Word Blogger Series. You can participate too!

Moment of Zen: Palin-Fey Edition

By Katie, 5:25 am

Funniest thing I heard this week.

While reporting on Sarah Palin, Fox News accidentally used an image of Tina Fey impersonating Sarah Palin on SNL! Oops! :lol:

Are you hoping Sarah Palin enters the presidential run just so we can see more of Tina Fey in character? Because I kind of am.

Side note: Melanee from Looking in the Mirror is celebrating her blogaversary by giving away a copy of my e-book! Check it out!

Worry Wart Syndrome: Two Questions to Ask When Worrying

By Katie, 5:35 am

I can’t say that I’ve ever had a wart, but I can imagine the experience is rather unpleasant.

Sort of like worrying. :-?

The nail biting, the fretting, the whole lying awake in bed thing. Ugh, no thank you!

But for as much as I hate the worrying dance, I’ve done it a million times. I’ve bitten my nails to the quick. I’ve fretted away for days over concerns both big and small. I’ve begged my brain to shut up and let me sleep, all the while watching the minutes tick by on the clock.

(Source)

It’s not that I don’t know the truth: that all my worrying is futile. I’m very aware that worrying about something for hours on end usually doesn’t affect the outcome; the only measurable impact it has is on my increasing anxiety.

It’s not that I don’t know what the Bible says about worrying: that it’s not a good use of our time or energy, since God, who loves us like crazy, is the one taking care of us. “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more important than food, and the body more important than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life?” (Matthew 6:25-27)

I can know all of these things cognitively, and yet continue to worry. Just like with emotional overeating, I need a simple, concrete strategy to help bring myself back to a place of peace.

Two Questions to Ask When Worrying

1. Is there anything I can do about it?

Until I started asking myself this question, I didn’t fully comprehend how useless my constant worrying really was. Nine times out of ten, I’ve discovered, I worry about things over which I have no control. None. Zero. Zilch. Taking a step back and fully realizing that the situation is in my hands as much as the weather is has helped me to put the worries aside.

2. If so, is now a good time to work on it?

On the rare occasion that there is something productive I could do to address a concern, I then ask myself if that moment – the moment during which I am tossing and turning, both literally and metaphorically – is really the best time to sort out the situation. Is there anything I can about it right now? Usually no. Usually I’ll be much better equipped to handle it at a later time, once I’m armed with a good night’s rest and a more rational perspective.

In those cases, it’s a matter of accepting the fact that there is nothing I can or should be doing about the situation immediately, so the best thing I can do it put it on the shelf. In my mind, I imagine wrapping my worry up in a neat little package and putting it in the corner of my closet. Or handing it directly to God. Anything to get it to some external place – outside of my already-overwhelmed brain – ready to be opened and dealt with at some later, more effective time.

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I wish I could say this is a foolproof method for ending worry, but alas, sometimes I still get all caught up in unnecessary concerns. Nevertheless, asking myself these questions has allowed me to distance myself from my worries at a time when it usually seems impossible to do so. It reminds me that I don’t have to be consumed by my worrying; I can acknowledge and address my worries without becoming them.

Any other worry warts out there? How do you handle it?

From the Front Lines: A Follow-Up on the Slut Walk Movement

By Katie, 5:27 am

A few weeks ago I posted about the SlutWalk movement and the notion that a victim of sexual assault is never to blame for her (or his) attack. That post is still garnering attention and new comments; I should have known you all enjoy a little controversy!

As a follow-up, today I am featuring this guest post from my fellow blogger The Writing Goddess, who actively participated in the LA SlutWalk last weekend. She shares her experience and her opinions, and please be aware that some of it may be triggering. I decided to share it because of my passion for raising awareness about sexual assault, and I invite you to continue sharing your opinions so that we can further the dialogue on this issue.
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Saturday night.  You’ve got a date, or maybe a party, hoping that cute guy from algebra will be there.  You’re tearing through the closet, anxiously looking for something to wear that will not make you look fat.  You find something that makes you feel pretty and sexy.  You put it on, add makeup and jewelry and fix your hair,  feeling happy, excited about the evening.

But wait!  Here’s something else to worry about.  Are you too sexy now?  Because if you look “like a slut,” and you get sexually assaulted, it’s all (or at least partly) your fault.

At least, that’s what some people, even some police officers who shouldknow better, think.  That “women should avoid dressing like sluts in order not to be victimized.” 

The problem is not that this was a dumb thing to say; it’s that it’s a dumb thing to think.  It’s a societal message that most girls and women have internalized, to the point where we pass some pretty harsh judgments not only on ourselves, but on one another, too.

I’ve posted on busting the myths here and here and I just got back from Slutwalk LA, which was a wonderfully, empowering experience.

Now, what some critics have said about SlutWalk is that it’s just about a bunch of young women dressing up in revealing clothing to no purpose.  I only attended this one, but I’ve read the info on the sites, and only the most superficial person could so easily dismiss them.

Just as only a superficial person or, perhaps, a clandestine rapist could dismiss all rapes which are not forcible as “not really rape.”  (Well, those people and the FBI, who officially only counts “forcible carnal knowledge of a female” or such attempts as rape, which excludes drugged victims, and victims of forced anal or oral sex, rape with an object, statutory rape, and male rape.  If you think that all rapes should be counted by the FBI, click here.)

One speaker at the SlutWalk was a young woman raped in college six years ago.  She never reported the report to the police, because… she felt ashamed.  That it must be her fault.  This was the first time she told her story to a group of more than six people, so she was a bit nervous.  (Sidenote: one out of every five college women, and many man have been sexually assaulted, either during or before college.  Half of them have told no one.)

This young woman had been dating this young man for several weeks.  He was “classroom cute” and attentive.  Protective.  He would walk her to her car every night, to make sure she was safe.  She liked and trusted  him, and yes, felt attracted to him.  Then one night when they were at his place, he drugged her and raped her.

I got a much clearer picture of what roofies do, from her story and that of another speaker, who was also drugged.  First, you get violently sick, and then after throwing up, you black out.  Later, you recover consciousness while the monster who drugged you is raping you.  You’re conscious of everything that is going on, but your body is like a limp rag doll, you can’t move, you can’t scream, you simply have to be present as your body is moved and rearranged to facilitate your violation in whatever sick way the rapist chooses.

The pain and the bewilderment in her voice still brings me to tears.  As she related, she liked this guy.  Quite possibly she would have been willing to have consensual sex with him later that night, but instead, he chose to rape her.  He chose.  He planned it out in advance, procuring the drugs, and he chose to put them in her drink, and nothing she wore that night or any other would have made the slightest bit of difference.

Slutwalk is about rejecting the blame that we are raped because we have “failed” in some way.  We have dressed too sexily; we have failed to constantly guard our drink, we have mistakenly trusted someone.  (Message being, trust no one?  Ever?)  Slutwalk is calling bullshit on the lie that the victim is responsible for being sexually assaulted.  The person responsible for rape is the rapist.

Yes, there were some scantily dressed women (and men) at Slutwalk LA I attended.  Also moms pushing babies in strollers, and bearded men wearing “This Is What A Feminist Looks Like” T-shirts and women in business suits and transgender people in various costumes.  The message of the many wonderful speakers was that sexual assault hurts people: people of every color, gender, size, age, and profession, and is never the fault of the victim.

Slutwalk is about redefining the word slut, which was always a subjective judgment anyway, from a derogatory association to a positive affirmation.  It’s not suggesting that women should wear scanty clothing, or modest clothing and headscarves, but affirming our right as human beings to make that choice for ourselves.  We choose what we will wear.  We choose what we will eat.  We choose whether we say yes to many, to few, or to none.  We choose when, or if, we will bear children.

We are sluts, and proud of it.

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A thank you to The Writing Goddess for sharing her experience!

Any comments or opinions you’d like to add about the Slut Walk movement in general? Have you heard any more about it since I last posted on the topic?

The Truth About The Biggest Loser

By Katie, 5:27 am

Sometimes I think I missed my calling. I should have been an investigative journalist, because I so enjoy finding out what really goes on behind the curtain and sharing it with all of you. The weight loss industry is a perfect place to apply this hobby, as it is literally overflowing with myths and misconceptions.

But I can’t take any credit for digging up the dirt on this one. It all goes to reader Alexis, who recently sent me several articles and videos about what really goes on in the making of the television show The Biggest Loser. I admit to only having seen the show a handful of times, usually reruns that I turned off in a matter of minutes. It just rubbed me the wrong way. Now I know why.

The major drops in weight you see on that show? The amazing final weigh-ins? They are definitely not due to adopting healthy habits or honoring your body. Here’s what season one winner Ryan Benson said on his personal website (emphasis mine):

I wanted to win so bad that the last ten days before the final weigh-in I didn’t eat one piece of solid food! If you’ve heard of “The Master Cleanse” that’s what I did. Its basically drinking lemonade made with water, lemon juice, maple syrup, and cayenne pepper. The rules of the show said we couldn’t use any weight-loss drugs, well I didn’t take any drugs, I just starved myself! Twenty-four hours before the final weigh-in I stopped putting ANYTHING in my body, liquid or solid, then I started using some old high school wrestling tricks. I wore a rubber suit while jogging on the treadmill, and then spent a lot of time in the steam room. In the final 24 hours I probably dropped 10-13 lbs in just pure water weight. By the time of the final weigh-in I was peeing blood.

Was this healthy? Heck no! My wife wanted to kill me if I didn’t do it to myself first. But I was in a different place, I knew winning the show could put us in a better place financially and I was willing to do some crazy stuff. All this torture I put myself through has had no lasting effects on me (that I know of) and at the time it was sort of a fun adventure for me – but I am sure it reeked havoc on my system.

In the five days after the show was over I gained about 32 lbs. Not from eating, just from getting my system back to normal (mostly re-hydrating myself). So in five days I was back up to 240 – crazy!

Crazy indeed. Season three contestant Kai Hibbard shared similar information on her blog:

I dehydrated off 19 pounds in the last two weeks before the BIG weigh in. I stopped eating solid food after eating only protein and asparagus (a diuretic) then I had two colonics and spent the night before the weigh in and out of a sauna. there really was no “diet” the day of the weigh in, we weigh in as dehydrated as possible on empty stomachs after 2 hour workouts in the morning.

I actually put on about 31 pounds in two weeks. After my body had a chance to stabilize I spent all last year hovering between 159 and 175, I fight everyday to find some stability.

Of course none of this really surprises me. I understand that “reality” television shows are nothing close to reality, and that the producers don’t care if they trick people so long as they bring in the moula.

Unfortunately, though, not everyone realizes this. Not everyone understands that that kind of weight loss isn’t just difficult, it’s dangerous. Many people don’t see that the biggest loser is losing more than just weight; he/she is also losing an opportunity to be truly healthy, which doesn’t involve peeing blood or master cleanses or living off asparagus.

But now you know. And that’s what investigative journalism is all about.

Are you familiar with The Biggest Loser? What do you think of it? Are you at all surprised by what the contestants really do to lose weight?

Your Turn: Portable Breakfast Ideas

By Katie, 5:57 am

With the help of all of your wonderful moving tips, Dave and I successfully moved into our new house last weekend. (Pictures to come – right now it’s still just boxes!)

I’m still in the process of figuring out my new routine, which includes a longer commute than I had before. One thing is for certain: I will be eating my breakfast at the office instead of my house. I’m leaving home pretty early to beat some traffic, and my appetite just isn’t revved up yet. In order to honor my hunger, I think it’s best to wait an hour or so and eat when I get to work.

(Source)

The trouble is that I’ve never had to eat breakfast away from home before, so this is the first time port-a-bility is a factor in my decision. I’m thinking  some days I’ll have oatmeal made in the microwave with fresh fruit, and other days some kind of Greek yogurt mixture (with all the elements packed in separate small containers). I also want to experiment with smoothies; it’d be great if I could make a big batch and freeze them in individual portions to take throughout the week!

I need some other ideas, though, or else my appetite will get bored. Please share suggestions!

Have you ever had to pack your breakfast to eat away from home? What are some portable breakfast ideas?

Thanks in advance for your ideas!

Moment of Zen: Silly Sign Edition

By Katie, 6:10 am

Sometimes you gotta wonder what people are thinking…

…that is, if they’re thinking at all! :lol:

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