Endearing pet stories: we love them, we hate them

Enjoying my Sunday morning coffee and bran muffin this AM, reading the local newspaper and catching up on world news like the advances in democracy in Saudi Arabia and Russian leaders Putin and Medvedev swapping jobs.

Local stores have some good deals on fall shoes and boots-might have to go check those out today, and sweaters also-a girl can never have too many sweaters.

Rather quirky, but the last thing I always read in my Sunday newspaper packet is the little Parade Magazine insert. It usually has an interesting recipe, often vegetarian, a book review or two that sparks my interest, even though I am back into the no-time-to-read-anything-but-textbooks mode, and in the very back a weekly op-ed sort of article in a section called American Stories. Sometimes these are quick little insights or advice but  mostly just glimpses into real people life events from not so real life people. One contributor is Connie Shultz, a Pulitzer Prize winning journalist who writes for the Cleveland Plain Dealer. I have seen her articles in this magazine before. She often writes about her family. Today was another piece about her second family: her pets. Her children are grown now so she and her husband call their three pets their family; their children. I think many, many pet owners can identify with this.

Today’s story carried the title Old Faithfuls and was accompanied by a sweet picture of a jet black cat and a smushy faced pug. Meet Reggie and Gracie:

Schultz has written about these two before, along with a third companion, another cat named Winnie. These pets are of very advanced age, having been members of her family since before she met her current husband. As a reader, I can take one look at the title here and get a pretty clear picture of where this piece is headed. I don’t have to read much farther than the first few lines and I can feel the tug at my heartstrings and that funny, crinkly, twitchy feeling at the corner of my eyes as the very first sign of tears spring up. I, like so many millions of others am a softy when it comes to pet stories. Also, like so many millions, I have taken the attitude with the loss of each family pet that “there shall be no more four-legged creatures entering my house, ever again”, and I have been proven an absolute liar when the next four-legged creature becomes a part of our family.

We all know that when we adopt an animal into our lives the outcome will most likely be a sad one. We realize that the life span of a cat or dog will not outnumber our own advancing years and we will inevitably have to walk down the road to doggie or kitty heaven with more than one pet. Schultz touches on this in Old Faithfuls with this quote from veterinarian Nick Trout,  “We’ve come to embrace our animals as family members,” he said. “We are not meant to lose our children. And yet we take pets on, knowing we’ll have to lose them. It’s the package deal, to the very end.”

We know this and we come back for more, yet how can we not when we look at the faces of all the Reggies and all the Gracies out there, many who have no one, many who have been abused, tossed aside or forgotten and all who simply want to belong to a loving family.

I have to go hug my cat now.


The Easy Bake Phenomenon Apparently Lives On

In 1963 my world was turned upside down with the invention of the Easy Bake Oven. I didn’t actually own one during its debut year but probably by the time I turned 6 in 1965 Santa had left this wonderous gadget under my Christmas tree.


I want to say I remember mine being pink, but the mind plays tricks now days so it might simply be that I wanted my oven to be pink. This had to be the greatest toy in the world for aspiring young girls who had dreamy visions of growing into  industrious, proper and perfectly trained homemakers later in life. What better practice than to whip up a delicious cake for your family (or numerous cakes as 1 wouldn’t adequately feed even a five-year old) and stun them silly with your cooking ability.

I firmly believe that without my Easy Bake, I would not have had any interest in learning to cook, taking the requisite Home Economics classes in high school, nor would I have more than a passing interest in finding and trying new recipes today. My Easy Bake opened culinary doors for me, gave me a strong sense of my womanhood and energized my creativity and interest in cooking. I am laying a lot of self-worth on my Easy Bake and now with the news on MSNBC today that even as the old incandescent light bulb version says good-bye, a newer, sleeker updated version is ready for even more kitchen magic and fun while ushering in a whole new womanhood ideal for more of those budding future homemakers.  This version is completely re-designed and the cost jumps considerably from roughly $29 to a whopping $49. Who would deny this generation of young, impressionable girls their chance to make their families happy with their culinary arts? This is definitely a looker and designed to fit most any counter top decor.

So now the feminist in me must bring up how sexist this whole idea is and how our society is excluding young impressionable boys from their own future in culinary arts by marketing this new version to young girls. I know this because of this statement: “The oven targets girls between 8 and 12.” Hasbro should ready themselves for complaints, emails and radical feminist protests over this marketing ploy that seems to completely disregard the young male members of our society who want to experience the joys of Easy Bake for themselves. I say why not? Why didn’t Hasbro choose a nice neutral tan or beige or ecru for their newest oven. Take off the flowery looking swirly designs and go with something more gender neutral. Change the verbage, put a boy or at the very least groups of children of both sexes on the box using the oven and stop assuming only young girls will want this product. This isn’t 1963 anymore and boys do cook, they even grow up to be pretty darn good cooks with their very own Food Network shows.

I’m willing to share my memories of the girl dominated Easy Bake era. Maybe a future grandson will want to cook on an Easy Bake and I will be right there beside him, instructing, reminiscing about Grandma’s early days, sharing tips and tricks for producing the best possible desserts, ones that he will be proud to share with his family, although he will still need to bake extras as the cakes don’t look any bigger than what this oven turned out in 1963.

Thank you Rene Descartes

How many degrees can one person attain during their lifetime? I would like to pursue Anthropology, Philosophy, Religion, Women’s Studies…any or all of the above and combinations also.

What does that have to do with Descartes? Nothing, or maybe everything. The great philosophers name came up today as I was reading my International Relations text. Firstly, this is not a class I would have ever intentionally sought out on my own. It was one of a small handful of core requirements and in my opinion infinitely better than either macro or micro economics. Let’s digress for a moment shall we. When working on my AA degree I purposely chose to focus on the broad area of Humanities which is a kind of glorified, worldly, cosmopolitan general studies degree. I chose Humanities because:

1. It contained only 1 math requirement

2. Refer to the above description of broad focus. I wanted my initial college endeavor to allow me to explore as many areas as possible.

Fast forward to my current degree pursuit: Sociology/English minor. I found myself so fascinated by so many topics while working on my AA that I seriously had days and weeks of indecision in trying to choose a BA major. I still am not completely sure that I chose correctly, although so far I love Sociology and I get to experience and continue to learn about a broad range of topics as evidenced by my reading in IR. I am actually very proudly applying my as yet meager knowledge of Sociology basics for this current class. I hope my fellow students don’t revolt as I continue to base my opinions and replies to discussions of politics, government and global interdependence on sociological principles, but darn, it feels so good to be able to actually use some of this knowledge I am paying for and cramming into my head.

So back to Descartes. In a discussion of transnationalism philosopher Descartes was quoted as part of an example of sources of globalization. Human thought is in part one way we as a people define and connect with other people around the globe. In discussing abstract thought and self-awareness the famous, “I think, therefore I am” from Discourse on Method (1637) jumped out at me. (in homage to Dr. Bach-professor of IR, I will cite this reference, rather out-of-place but cited non-the-less). (Rourke and Boyer 2010, 115). And no I will not provide a reference list–I choose to be a rebel.

Descartes quote above was in a twisted way the inspiration for the title of this entire blog. I was aware of this phrase long before I ever participated in a philosophy class or knew who Descartes was. I simply liked the original and decided to adapt it to fit my image of this blog. My ultimate meaning, if it’s not clear, would be something like: I exist in this world as a human with emotions, opinions and feelings and because of this I must write about the way those aspects affect me. I hope I didn’t plagiarize Descartes with this. Up to now, the citation police have not silenced me so I have to assume I am forgiven for any indiscretion.

So here I am, experiencing college classes that open up my mind, make me realize just how much I don’t know about the world, challenge me to learn more, make me shake my head either in disbelief or joyous agreement and in the words of the wry curmudgeon chef Anthony Bourdain, “make me hungry for more.”

Seriously though, does anyone out there really know just how many degrees one person could attain? Does one’s brain simply run out of room after 1 or 2 or 3. I tend to think that my pockets will run low on available funds long before my brain cells fill up but regardless my quest for knowledge is endless and for as long as I can I want to keep learning.

I leave you with a bit more by Descartes:

“In order to improve the mind, we ought less to learn, than to contemplate.”


This is simply wrong in so many ways

I find that I consistently receive in my mailbox a catalog from a company called Blair. I believe a few years ago, maybe 4 or so, I ordered a T-shirt or sweater from this company. Let me be clear, this fashion house caters to the mature woman, which I find rather ironic as they use models who appear to be between 35 and 45, an age I certainly consider mature, but not in the way we associate mature with old.

The catalog and website are chock full of sensible, comfortable, stretchy fashion. That rather nondescript stuff one sees the 4 pm dinner crowd at Denny’s wearing. The mostly non-figure flattering, boxy and please-cover-up-my-flaws fashion that really does more to accentuate said flaws than hide them. You might be asking why I chose to order something from this catalog…at the time they had a side collection, which by the way has made a re-appearance, called Two-Twenty. I would not call this collection trendy by any means, but every so often you could find  a shirt or sweater that was cute, appropriate for the over 45 crowd, well priced and not made of polyester.

The latest catalog came again today, unsolicited by the way but I am just too lazy to take 5 minutes and remove myself from their mailing list. Once more, randomly thumbing through this catalog inspires the question:

Who decided that mature woman enjoy wearing things like this on their chest?

This fine example of cowboy cats was one of the only accessible images not protected by some internet code disallowing us good intentioned bloggers to upload and post images of disturbingly kitschy and really ridiculous women’s clothing.

Believe me, it does get worse-simply go to Blair.com and take a little tour. To be quite honest, these sorts of essential wardrobe pieces have their very own section on the website: Embellished Tops

Had enough yet or do you need to see more? I know that there are other companies out there that sell the same type of women’s clothing so please don’t think I am singling out Blair. It just happened to be the one catalog in my mailbox today that inspired this post.

I think it’s time to head over to the Blair website now and take my name off their mailing list. If I get too many more of these catalogs I just might be tempted to purchase my very own johnny collar sweatshirt with some homey-sentimental embroidery on it