Happy World Penguin Day!

I totally feel you, baby penguin. I am just as clumsy. But not as cute.

Apparently, April 25th is World Penguin Day: http://earthsky.org/earth/world-penguin-day-2017-state-of-antarctic-penguins-report

Who would have thunk it? That there is a World Penguin Day? But out of all the animals, penguins pretty much dominate – alongside with pandas and koalas – the adorable, cuddly and unattainable section of a Venn diagram of exotic and cute creatures. Don’t get me wrong, I would love to have a chinchilla (if I wasn’t allergic) or a hedgehog, which is reflective of my personality, with all its prickles. But you can still buy those at a local pet store. You are not able to buy a penguin,  panda, or koala. So they fall into an entirely different category.

What?!!? I’m JUST as cute as a penguin!! If not more. LOOK AT THIS FACE! Cuteness!

Actually, believe it or not, there is a National Hedgehog Day. This year, it was on February 2nd, so let’s not downplay hedgehogs. I love them. And they are unusual creatures.

Per a previous post, I had dogs and bunnies for most of my life. My mother relegated our dogs to the outdoors in doghouses, Snoopy- and The Fox and the Hound-style, in structures that actually looked like tiny houses. I always felt bad when it rained and I would contemplatively gaze out a window and see my dogs with their graying snouts poking out their front doors as snuffling black noses dripped water with each stormy raindrop. Honestly, my dogs didn’t seem to mind the wetness and there was nothing I could do anyway as my mother had an adamant rule about how dogs should stay outside. But I still wanted to smuggle them inside and under the covers of my bed.

WTF KIND OF A DOGHOUSE IS THIS?!!? I would pay rent to live there. My dogs did NOT enjoy such luxurious surroundings. Poor babies.

Unlike the photo of the “luxury doghouse” (okay, WTF is up with that shit?), my dogs inhabited the stereotypical ones, not those made out of clapboard and random planks of wood like “in the mountains”, but more of the type you see at Home Depot. You know, the mass-produced houses made of sturdy, hard-plastic materials. The ones that stand the test of time. Gnaws and scratches. And, obviously, thunderstorms.

One of my dogs liked to claim his territory in our covered car park while he burrowed into blankets, basically getting the best of all worlds: shelter, warmth, space, and freedom of movement while being closest to our side door which is how he was always able to make sure to be the first one to get fed. His ears would perk up when the metal door creaked open and he would instantly lop over with that inquiring dog-look of hey, what’s up? I love you!! Love!! Food?!!? For me? and be all cute.

Unfortunately, I am pretty allergic to dogs. Much more to cats. And bunnies. Basically anything with fur. Or plants with pollen. Such as ragweed, which affects me mainly with melons such as cantaloupes and watermelon. So, essentially, if I had been born decades or millennia earlier, I may have keeled over and perished due to sneezing fits.

However, I do not have allergies to any type of aerial or aquatic creatures, which probably would include penguins (but maybe not otters? Who knows?). Which is fantastic! Except I CAN’T HAVE ONE AS A PET.

Wouldn’t it be great, though? Realistically not so much for the penguin, but for ourselves in a fantasy world of make-believe. Because I think at one point or another we’ve all watched March of the Penguins or a similar documentary or movie and thought, “Awwww! I wish I could have a penguin!! Look at them as they waddle!”.

Don’t you want to adopt me? I am adorable!

Like pandas, the very cuteness of penguins has raised a lot of awareness about the threats to their continued lifestyle and existence. They are like the supermodels and poster children of the animal world. And I hate to admit it, but single guys would totally score a lot more if they brought a penguin to the park as opposed to a puppy. I envision this entire scenario in my head where a guy has a fuzzy, adorable Golden Retriever puppy that a bunch of women are fawning over and then…ta da! Here comes a man, all sensitive and hipster yet cool, toting a small, peeping baby penguin, strolling through the local dog park while feeding it ice chips and bites of fish. The first guy would be toast. All the women would immediately flock to the other one with the penguin. THAT, my friends, is the power of penguin-cuteness.

They are so darn squishable and we just want to gather them up in our arms and hug them and pat them on the heads while they sit by us as we watch movies which…c’mon, people, you know we’re like that. You know that our dogs and cats don’t actually, 100%, understand what they see on tv while they’re lounging out in the living room on the sofa, but we think they do and we love them for it. And how much more awesome would it be if our companion in that situation was a penguin?

Given their level of adorableness and the fact that I would most likely not be allergic to them, I kind of wish that I could have a penguin as a pet. I can’t. Apparently there are a bunch of regulations against it (also, how would you acquire one?). In addition, PETA and other organizations would rail against me or any others who harbored a penguin. Not to mention that I have neither the financial resources nor space in my house to set up an adequate sanctuary made of ice and a small lake filled with yummy fish. But I wish I did.

So the only thing I guess I can do is to celebrate and promote World Penguin Day. So…happy World Penguin Day!!

We Got Annie!!

Who can’t help but love the musical “Annie”?

The musical, Annie, has been out on Netflix the past month or so. My boyfriend, John, isn’t a huge fan. I’m not sure why. Maybe it’s the sugary sweetness of the movie or the fact that it involves a little orphan girl that does good!! in Hollywood-fashion, as if our lives actually ever work out that way.

I always loved the musical. Mainly because I pretty much consider myself as an orphan, although technically I’m not. If my mother ever reads my blog and comes across this entry, it would pain her to know I feel this way, I know, but that’s the truth of it. I know that most would think, without hearing my life story, that I fall into the Poor Little Rich Girl category. But my childhood and background is much more convoluted and messed up than that, I wasn’t simply neglected to drift on my own through a huge mansion suffering from lack of parental love while I was being waited on by servants.

How it actually was for me, as well as for my sister, well…perhaps at some point I can share that with the world through my blog, but I’m still not at the place where I can right now.

Needless to say, obviously there is much of my past that has influenced me that I could relate – somewhat – to Annie. And the part of the movie I loved best is the one where everyone goes ecstatic that We Got Annie! They dance, they sing, they go crazy and there is basically a huge party about how everyone gets to keep this little girl.

I believe that’s why Annie was so successful; we all yearn to simply BELONG. Somewhere. To some people. To someone. Especially those of us who never really had that feeling to begin with. Also, just to imagine that there are those who would celebrate the simple fact that they can be with us imparts a wonderful, warm and tingly happiness in our imaginings. Finally, many of us like to see ourselves as Annie; somewhat spunky, yet optimistic and cheerful in the face of adversity. Not how we typically are, which is frustrated and at times angry that it seems like no matter what we do, things never go our way, dammit!

For all those orphans or pseudo-orphans like me out there, I think we understand just how much a sappy movie like Annie can speak to us. And it’s also uplifting to realize that we still hope and not only feel it in the cockles of our hearts, but also to know that we still have them. Both cockles and the hearts they reside in.

P.S. Carol Burnett kicks ass.

I Love the Sound of Rain

Photo credit: http://khum.com/media/uploads/post/11911/Rain.jpg

Every single person connects with certain sounds. Dogs barking or your children’s laughter or the rumble of an engine when you start your car.

For me, I love the sound of lightning in a storm, a train chuffing its way by my neighborhood, a foghorn in the distance, or the whisper of sheets while my loved one, John, moves his way closer to me while we are lying in bed and falling asleep. And the sound of rain.

When I was very young, my family and I lived in an apartment on the third floor of a four-story building and once there was a storm so severe that the rain that came through on our balcony flooded our place; I remember random objects bobbing in the water as I tried to sift through everything to save the books and toys I loved the most. Even after then, I still loved thunderstorms.

My mother despaired of my tendency to run outside when I was a child, even after we moved, while there was a storm and stand there, raising my face towards the sky and relishing the feel of the rain on my face while there were gusts of wind blowing around me and lightning flashing overhead. I would laugh and stomp around in the puddles while feeling the thunder resonate through me.

I loved how the rain would sometimes feel cold, sometimes warm, against my skin as fireworks streaked silver through the sky as rumbles of thunder that would tickle me, through every part of me, my muscles and bones.

My mother would rush towards me and always bundle me back inside the house and dry me off, admonishing that I had to be careful not to get sick and what were you thinking? And you have to be careful, since our island would experience a lot of typhoons and sometimes neighborhoods with houses, including ours, would be flooded. It was a constant fear of hers in the typhoon season, since we lived near a river and below hills, that we would all be washed away, helter-skelter, in a mix of arms and legs and precious belongings, away into the fields beyond.

I’m not sure why I liked to dash out at those times, but there was something liberating about just being out there in the open while there was Mother Nature being crazy all around me.

All the sounds of rain – the drifting of a gentle haze of moisture that you can barely perceive, the pattering of large and lazy droplets on umbrellas, the downpour of buckets against the sidewalk, and finally, the harsh shattering sheets of water like razors that demolish any attempt you put up for protection, be it raincoats or galoshes – all those are endearing to me. As how I handle snow, I love it when I shake off all the rain and then snuggle down into my bed while listening to the weather outside and think to myself, I am safe, I am inside, I am okay.

It’s a contrast to the wildness and lack of control I felt when I was actually outside, that feeling of indoor warmth and protection. It was a reminder to me of how we, as human beings, are in essence, completely vulnerable to the elements outside of our carefully constructed abodes. It’s wonderful, at least to me, to remind myself that there is a part of our lives that is still connected to nature and the uncontrollable.

Baltimore (or Maryland) as with most of the region, has been experiencing unprecedented rainfall this season. In practical terms, I hate it since it means that my basement may smell all damp again and that I will track water into my house and my hair will get all frizzy, but in the romantic sense of it all, I relish it. The sound of rain falling on my roof and the scent that comes with it – even in the city, I feel as if you can smell soil and mulch with every rainfall – is comforting. So even though it means another week of coldish-temperatures, I welcome it.

Me and The U.S. Army

Only my classmates in boarding school knew for some time that I had volunteered to be part of the U.S. Army Reserves when I was in high school. In fact, they found it so unusual that when our dorm designed and printed our annual t-shirt, they had designed my “stick figure” as someone saluting, as seen below.

All the girls in the dorm had stick figures representing them that year. This was mine.

Readers, you have to understand that I was living in an environment of the privileged elite, where kids were in zero danger of needing to serve in the military to make a living or to gamble their future years to secure schooling. Or even committing to any type of armed service; everyone there, even if world affairs became so desperate that the U.S. resorted back to the draft, would have been excused through the ingenious machinations of their parents. We were all part of the politely excused populace that could have forgone on-hands military service during wartime to serve the country in “essential”, i.e., non-combat service. We were all being groomed to be future CEOs or corporate giants.

Plus, I was a girl. But I did volunteer.

Part of it was that my family was going through some financial difficulties at that time and I wanted to help out how I could. I admit now that I also wanted my own options outside of my family. But, mainly, I believed it would be great to give back to the country that had given me and my family so much. I was fine with signing X number of my years away to help my mother out and receive an education at the expense of Uncle Sam while also putting my life on the line for this country.

I went through all the screening. The physicals and taking the ASVAB and grueling interviews. My friends thought I was nuts. My mother, when she found out what I had done, went even more nutters. All the arguments and screaming matches came to naught, however, because I had to get a medical waiver.

My ASVAB results allowed me to select a career in a wide range of positions, the highest being a technician in operating satellites, of all things, but I couldn’t get there without going through basic training. And my eyesight was so poor that they postponed my assignment for basic training to the next season, in the fall, only if I could obtain a waiver from an Army approved ophthalmologist. It was highly unlikely that I would be able to secure one. I am pretty blind, and back then, the military wanted to make sure that people could operate and function without contacts or if their glasses fell off, which I couldn’t (and can’t).

So I was released from my obligations.

From time to time, I wonder what my life would be like now if I hadn’t had issues with my eyesight. Or if I had needed to push for my waiver because I had limited choices in my career. The strange thing I find is that I am quite anti-establishment, so I’m not entirely sure that I would have succeeded at a military career. To be frank, I probably would have excelled at first, but then have become disillusioned and sullen and been kicked out for insubordination at some point.

However, in a way, I’m kind of proud that in the flush of my teenage optimism and innocence, I sought to serve in the military in a (very) minor capacity. The institution in all its branches has a lot of faults, to be sure, but at the same time, it has a lot of virtues. I thank all those who justly and purely serve this great nation of ours in the military and keep them in my thoughts and hope them safe passage always.

Kids. Being Bullied? Sometimes You Just Have to Throw Down.

End that shit. Right now.

I am old-school.

I completely understand the whole “love each other” concept of trying to decrease bullying in schools, because that does work. In terms of steering our children to a culture of acceptance and tolerance of others. I encourage it. I applaud it. But I’m also realistic in that along our progress towards universal love of the human race, we are still humans and instinctively savage, and need to look after ourselves before we reach our ultimate goal of global cooperation.

So sometimes, I think kids just really have to throw down.

I say this from a perspective of someone who is small and was therefore even smaller when I was a child. It took years before I wasn’t the first one in line at school when they lined us all up by height. I was short, I was skinny, I was kind of nerdy. I was the perfect target for playground bullies. My only saving grace besides my speed at running and dexterity at evading my tormentors for a time was my sister, who is of a bigger build than me and not as dorky and stepped in and protected me once in a while. But it only went so far because she was four years ahead of me in school and couldn’t watch out for me all the time.

Finally, at one point, I was faced, all alone, against a small group of boys who was looking to kick my ass. Why? Who knows? Who cares? My mother said afterwards, “They were teasing you, they think you’re cute! They like you!” I don’t think that was true. I think that’s the adult version of why fights between girls and boys happen. And when you’re about eight and have been harassed by classroom bullies for a while, you don’t think of such things. When you’re standing out in the playground on the grass and there is an enormous circle of emptiness around you as you are facing off against not just one or two, but three other boys who are taunting you and there is not a teacher in sight and your friends are peering out at the scene behind the elephant-slide a hundred yards away, you feel that your survival is entirely up to you.

I remember that incident. I didn’t have the vocabulary in swear words then as I do now, but the thought that basically ran through my head was, Fuck this. I’ve had enough. Then I waded in.

To this day, I’m not sure how I kicked their asses. I think part of it was that I’m actually stronger than I look since I inherited my broad shoulders from my mother and barrel-chest and strong legs from my father. My main weapon, though, was probably all the frustration simmering in me since I didn’t have a roses-and-marigolds childhood; I harbored tons of anger. I remember a lot of punching and kicking and shouting. It was mainly my legs as I was kicking shins and ankles and chests that helped me since, at eight, I didn’t have much of a punch. But I could also grab and twist ears and throw them off balance by yanking on their arms, which I did.

And you know what? Nobody ever bothered me again after that.

I didn’t have to sit through a parent-teacher conference with the other kids. This was before the trend of when this became popular, when people believed that everything could be solved by sitting kids down together to discuss feelings. My mother received a phone call from the school about my rowdiness and that was about all. I got a scolding of sorts, but my mother is pretty scrappy herself so I could tell that her heart wasn’t in it. She was, I believe, actually proud of me; the only downside in her eyes was that I may receive a negative mark in my permanent record.

Maybe, in this day and age, I would make an awful parent. I don’t know. But I sincerely believe that if you’re a kid and you’re being bullied, sometimes the best and most direct approach is to simply deck the bully. Show some fight at least. Try to beat his or her ass into the ground. Take all that bitterness about being harassed and focus it into one pivotal fight and just go all out. Forget about the butterflies and clear blue skies and let’s just all get along and love each other and go for it.

If my kid was being bullied and he or she finally let go and beat the other kid’s ass and I was dragged into school to “resolve the situation” with the other child and parents, you know what I would do? I would say to my kid, “Good for you.” Because sometimes you need to commit to the fight. Sometimes you need to protect yourself. And most crucially, sometimes, as a kid, you need to prove that you can step up and say to the world as you know it, “This is me. You don’t like it? Let’s take it outside.”

Yes, bullies are bullies because of their own inner turmoils and angst and blah blah blah. But you know what? If I was a parent, I would be more worried about my kid than the fragile psychological issues of the bully. Let his or her parents worry about that. That wouldn’t be my job. My job would be to make sure that my child is safe and able to look after himself/herself when I’m not around.

And sometimes that requires a throw down. Truly.

My Man Likes To Buy Me Hoochie (ish) Shorts. Why?

I don’t look nearly this good.

My boyfriend, John, likes to buy me clothes from time to time. Sounds great, right? It is, but he absolutely loves to get me hoochie shorts. Now, they’re not trashy, they’re more like the above, not thongs disguised as shorts. But I’m more of this kind of a woman:

SNORE!

So I always ask, “Why?” and he answers, “You have a great ass!” and I grumble because I don’t think I have one. It’s just there. Also, in my opinion, an ass is an ass and I can’t even see mine. When I do catch a glimpse of it in the mirror as I’m making sure that I’m presentable to the outside world, to me it’s still simply an ass. Hey look! I have one. Great. Good to know.

John doesn’t expect me to wear the hoochie shorts outdoors, as if I’m his trophy girlfriend (because I’m so NOT, he would have to go many years younger and umpteen degrees higher in hotness for that). They’re meant for lounging around the house. But, still, then these are the conversations I have in my mind whenever I receive a hoochie short as a gift.

Me: What does he expect me to do, prance around in the house wearing them? (Of course, then the image of me prancing around in a tight outfit springs into my mind, with me spouting all sorts of French phrases, such as Monsieur, would you like a drink?  while I make him a cocktail and wave a feather duster around, as if anyone uses those nowadays, which they obviously don’t.)

Me 2: That’s better than him being like, hey fatass, I don’t want you to, because you’re a fatass. I am not going to buy you any clothes except for mumus and even then, maybe not.

Me: But I wouldn’t be with a guy like that anyway. And if the guy I was with ever said anything like that, I would kick his sorry ass. Then I would kick him to the curb.

Me 2: True. But he’s buying you these clothes because he’s being complimentary, like he thinks you would look great in them and he wants to indulge you. It’s kind of nice.

Me: Okay. I grant you that. However, what am I? A sex object?

Me 2: Well, no. Because if you were, you would be a total trophy girlfriend who would be draped in Harry Winston jewelry and would be loafing around and be doing nothing except maybe open up a cupcake shop to make yourself feel fulfilled.

Me: Hmmm. You have a point. He knows I’m not that kind of woman, though. So what’s with all the sexy clothes? What does this all mean?

Me 2: To you? Or him?

Me: Argggh! I don’t know! This is too much. More psychoanalysis than I’m up for. I am going to go take a nap or read a book.

The thing is, this is something men often like to do for women. Purchase sexy outfits for them. This is not something women do for men. We buy them sweaters or shirts that we think they would look good in; we apply a certain style to them, as if we were still children playing with dolls. How often have we said to ourselves, he would look so much better if he wore XYZ instead of those sloppy shirts and faded khakis? Or, those shoes he likes are terrible, doesn’t he know that his taste is completely dated? And then we go out and buy them little gifts of clothing or surreptitiously slip them into his closet.

What we don’t do, however, is get them tight briefs so they can stride around the house while we admire their asses. That’s just something most women don’t do. I don’t know why.

Ultimately, I think guys want the best of all worlds. To have someone who sashays around looking all delectable and also comfort them while they’re feeling down and also bring in some of the bacon. But, here’s the wake-up call. You can’t have it all, men! Because we women don’t have it all either. That’s not the way the world works!!