Sep 29, 2016

Where does it come from?: "Break a leg"

Hi and welcome to my OTHER new series, "Where does it come from?" where I answer the question "Where does [thing] come from?" This series will have at least one installment.

Today's installment is about the phrase "Break a leg," the widely accepted and even preferred way to wish someone good luck before they go on stage for a performance. Where did this phrase come from?

The phrase originates from in the past when theaters desperate to fill seats would hire "bad guys" to stand outside and break the legs of or otherwise injure passersby. The bad guy would take off down the street, and the theater's doorman would rush to the aid of the injured and invite them to have a seat in the theater while they waited for the police and medical help to arrive.

This was back before cop cars or ambulances so it would often take 45 to 90 minutes for an officer or doctor to get to the scene -- the perfect amount of time to watch a play! (Some theaters even had deals with local physicians and law enforcement to ensure they took their time.)

Once the theater was full enough, the play would begin! It was the goal of the actors to deliver a performance so engaging and so powerful that audience members would forget about their injuries and instead of filing a report or seeking medical attention, they would pay for their seat upon exiting.

So when you tell someone to "break a leg," you're not actually instructing them to do damage to another person's limbs, but rather to ensure that the previously inflicted damage is not allowed to heal, through the power of theater. It's like a metaphor.

Thanks for reading "Where does it come from?" and stay tuned for the next installment (should I choose to write it), "Where does it come from?: Baby turtles" -- the answer may surprise you!

Sep 28, 2016

Amber's Lawn Soaps and Hedge Balm

You want the shiniest lawn and most luxurious hedges. Now you know.

And at $19.99 per bottle, you won't find a better deal anywhere else! You sit and think about that while you wait.

My pappy used to say I'd never make anything of myself. Well don't look now but my name is on several bottles.

You can look now.

I also know a guy who will do a "Brazilian Blowout" on your trees if you'll let him. I have some of his business cards and can get more at any time.

Amber's Lawn Soaps and Hedge Balm: Are you ready for it?

Sep 23, 2016

why i refuse to watch the debates

i cannot believe we're doing this as a country.

donald trump is a garbage troll, and hillary clinton is a qualified politician trying to be the first woman president of the united states, and we're putting them on the same stage like some kind of sick reality show.

how in the year 2016 are we handing a microphone and giving the national stage to a racist, sexist bigot who makes up lies when facts are so easy to google? how as a country are we saying, "yes, what you have to say is important, and worthy of our attention"?

like, imagine if you were interviewing for your dream job -- the one you've been working toward your whole life. and the people hiring you were like, "listen, we really like you for the job, but we're also considering this wet paper bag with some hair in it. does it have any qualifications or skills? no. is it even a sentient being? someone says they saw it move once. but the worst people in this company -- and there are plenty! -- really like the bag, so we have to be fair."

wouldn't ANYONE be like "ok, thank you for letting me know, because now never mind. i no longer wish to work for you." but hillary's actually going to get on that stage, and to me that says everything i need to know about her character and her commitment to the presidency and to the people of this country. all of them.

i wish this were like when god asked abraham to sacrifice his son isaac, and abraham was like "man, i don't get it, but i respect you, so ok." and he was about to do it and god swooped in like "omg i was just testing you! you passed, you're in you're in." i hope jon stewart swoops in and does the same thing to hillary the night of the debates, but since i'm pretty sure that's not going to happen, i will not participate.

plus i generally avoid things that make me vomit, which is why i will not spend one minute of my time listening to donald trump speak. or drink tequila.

Sep 15, 2016


sometimes i think texting is the worst thing that's ever happened to us, and other times i write emoji poetry.

Sep 9, 2016

i think: feminism

yes i had two cocktails and i walked home and boy do i feel like blogging!

just let me say: the best i ever feel is spending time with funny, powerful women. are they women who know exactly what they want? HELL NAW. they know things -- plenty of things -- and then they're like "omg i do not know some things." and that's what i love about women. they're comfortable uncomfortable. it's where we live. it's no big deal.

here's what i think: rich white men have been in power for EVER. ever ever. WHAT IF, just as an experiment, women were in power? like women of color. or gay or trans women. or women in poverty. or non-able-bodied women, or women with mental health challenges. like i'm a woman but i have no IDEA how bad it is for some other women. what if we let those women make all the decisions for just 100 years? just 100 years! it's nothing! grand scheme of things.

I BET, in 100 years we would see a more equitable and more peaceful world. (i bet we would see it in 20 years but let's really solidify it and give it 100. you'll be fine! don't worry!)

i mean why not try it? we've tried this ONE THING for so long and... i have to say... like it's OK but it's not super great. there are a lot of things i would change.

i bet, i bet you could replace all the wealthy white men in power -- from presidents to shift supervisors -- with underprivileged women -- even just a random sampling of underprivileged women with no political or leadership experience whatsoever -- and things would get better. i bet they would!! let's find out. why not!!? i love new things.

ideally, we'll all live in a world where opportunity is equally afforded to all, and individually we can make of it what we will. to get there, i wonder if we don't need to take away some of the privilege the most privileged have experienced in order to get them to understand. in order to get us to understand. like ideally we can skip that part, but realistically, i wonder if we don't need to swing a little further in the opposite direction in order for things to eventually balance out.

for example, white people be like "black people should not riot! that's so rude!" ok but we created a system in which black people have far less agency. so to ask them to protest within that system is like asking a person without arms to raise their hand to ask a question. i think disadvantaged people need to make a BIG F-ING DEAL in order to just get our attention -- even if it looks messy and makes us feel uncomfortable. that's good. let's start there, and then let's find a place that works for everyone. but if in the meantime i need to let go of my privilege... well ok. i've had it long enough. i can live without it for a bit just like some people have lived without it ever. like this is me talking about feminism where i should have every right to be like "MY TURN!" but already i'm like nah this is someone else's turn (which is what happens when you read about white feminism i think).

sidebar: white feminism

white feminism is when you march up and down the street chanting "77 cents on the dollar! 77 cents on the dollar!" while women of color stand behind you going "uh try 65 cents or less." it's demanding a list of things without ever turning to ask "hey does this list work for you? what are your priorities?" a good white feminist stands in spaces where women of color would be ignored and goes "LISTEN UP, you bozos!" and hands over the bullhorn, or continues to yell on their behalf if that's what'll get the point across best.

ANYWAY, this is all to say i love lora and brenna and christina and kenzie and jessie and charlotte and gabby and chiara and nicole and linzi and jess and stef and jenna and stacey and baby sara and megan and emily and marta and laura and elizabeth and tricia and mo and my mom and grandmas and my cousins and my cousins' wives and THAT IS JUST THE BEGINNING of women i love, don't even get me started on my book club or my coworkers. (there are a dozen other names but these are the people whom i've texted or had happy hour with most recently. sup brenna & christina... thanks for buying those nachos.)

i mean damn, do you guys even HAVE this?

did you guys even plan a costumed fun run with all your guy friends and name yourselves The Gynosaurs? alright.

my version of feminism is i love everyone, but i love women mostly. and i believe that brand of feminism needs to exist right now in order for things to even out someday. so deal.


*future generations, when you find this post hundreds of years from now, know that ;-* represented a winky kissy face, in like old hieroglyphic style. also i hope everyone's got the same opportunities.

Aug 8, 2016

Buttwipes of Portland: #1 (Swipes Lovin Wipes)

"What ever happened to Taco Bells of Portland??" people are always asking me in my mind. And while ok I didn't review every Taco Bell in town, I did answer the most pressing questions of our time: Are all Taco Bells created equal (no) and where can you, dear readers, find the best grilled stuft burrito in a 10-mile radius (NE MLK and Lombard and SE 50th and Powell).

I may be done with that phase of my investigative journalism career, but I'd like to bring it full-circle and present to you a new series: "Buttwipes of Portland." By "of Portland" I don't mean these buttwipes can only be found in Portland. I'm going to review buttwipes that have a Portland feel to them, so not your Rite Aid options, but your Whole Foods and your New Seasons buttwipes. Perhaps there's an artisinal personal hygiene pop-up shop in town. I'll find out.

Why buttwipes? Well, it's summer, it's hot out there, and sometimes you just want a fresh butt, alright? Listen either you understand me or you've never used buttwipes before.

I'll start by saying I normally buy the Target-brand buttwipes, because I'm at Target*, sometimes they're on sale for $3.33 for the double-pack, and they do the trick.

*chances are I'm at Target right now.

But the other day I decided to treat my butt to something new, and I picked up the cucumber-scented Swipes Lovin Wipes at Whole Foods.

Now, if you're a cucumber lover like me, you want that stuff everywhere. On your face, in your water, in between where the sun don't shine. And let me tell you -- it is a delight! The scent alone makes these worth the extra $0.08 per wipe. Actually now that I type that I realize it's not true. BUT, there are other benefits to the Swipes. Gather 'round.

First, they're eco-friendly. The package says things like "gentler on the environment" and "made with pure water." Plus it uses 70% less plastic than the traditional pop-top wipes! Is that not worth almost a dime a wipe? ...Eh!

Here's the real clincher (hehe) for me, though: Swipes Lovin Wipes are made in the good ol' U.S. of A., which means someday you or I could work in R&D at Swipes Inc.! I didn't even know I had a dream job til now.

Finally, I like how Swipes tells you what it's for. Most buttwipe packaging beats around the bush (hehe again! killin it). I thought the "Lovin" part of the name just meant Swipes would be good to my butt -- is that not the definition of love? But these ones are marketed as a cleansing product for pre- and post-lovin! I love that!

That and so much more.

In conclusion, Swipes Lovin Wipes are worth the $4.99 at Whole Foods. They'll replace my generic up & up wipes once I get through the six packs I bulk bought last time I was at Target. That is... unless a new contender emerges.

Stay tuned for more Buttwipes of Portland, and stay fresh, everyone.

Aug 5, 2016

a thing that happened that was uncool


this is something that happened this week that i'm embarrassed to write about because it shows how naive i can be, but i think it points to a bigger issue and that is some people's (primarily women's) need to please others at the expense of themselves.

i was home sick from work wednesday when someone knocked on my door. you have to be let into the building to get to my apartment so it's very unusual for me to get an unexpected knock.

i walked toward the door and asked "hello?" i heard a man saying something on the other side.

"yes?" i asked.

"hi, can you um open the door so i can ask you something?"

i would've preferred to know his identity first, but he asked, so i opened the door and saw a man i didn't recognize standing in the hallway. there was nothing alarming about the way he looked and dressed and carried himself. 

"hi, can you feed my cat saturday?" he asked.

what he should have said was, "hi, i'm so-and-so from apartment 106. i'm leaving town for the weekend and was wondering if you're around, if you could stop by and feed my cat."

i could tell the guy didn't have some very basic social skills, but i don't believe he was being rude or creepy. that's all i can really say for myself -- my gut told me he was awkward but not threatening. 

seeing he was struggling, i replied, "sure! ...i have cats too!"

then he asked if i could come over to see the food setup now. which is when i did the second thing i didn't really want to do, and followed him to his apartment.

"i'm amber, by the way," i said on the way, attempting to normalize the situation. "oh i'm joaquin," he said.

i followed him into his apartment and he shut the door behind me. he shouldn't have shut the door behind me. i'm assuming he did this to keep the cat inside, but i don't care if your cat escapes -- you can retrieve your cat from the hallway. you should never shut someone in your apartment.

he showed me where the food was and told me how much to feed the cat. "what's your cat's name?" i asked, trying desperately to be a regular human in a neutral space with another human. "yoshi," he said, and i bent down to pet the cat. "oh you probably don't want to approach him from above, he doesn't like that and can get weird."

"ok well i'll steer clear when i come by saturday to feed him."

joaquin handed me his spare key and asked if he could leave me some booze as a thank-you. "nope!" i said, "you can just feed my cats for me someday!" i flat-out lied.

i walked back to my apartment, locked the door, and called my friend to relay what just happened. (saturday i'm bringing a friend along to go feed yoshi.)

here's the problem: i so badly want to live in a world where neighbors take care of each other. i want it so badly that i set aside all my discomfort in this situation to make it happen. but this guy -- and again i don't believe he had any ill intentions, he just literally did not know how to have a conversation -- put me on the spot repeatedly. i should've said "can you identify yourself before i open the door?" and "how about i come by later with a friend to check out the food?" but he should've known his questions, coming from a strange man to a woman alone, were inappropriate.

but what i'm most upset about is that i worked so hard for those few minutes to make that situation ok, and to make this poor guy feel like he wasn't messing up every step along the way, even though he clearly was. why? to be nice. i got nothing out of that interaction and i straight-up risked my safety for it. i'm embarrassed i did that and i regret it. it was dumb and dangerous.

i don't know know how to get to a point where i always stand up for myself as a default. i don't know how to stop prioritizing being nice over being comfortable. is it because deep down, i still doubt my comfort is as important as someone else's -- is as important as a man's? even a strange man who didn't even give me his name until i asked?

i'd like to think it's my inherent kindness that makes me naive sometimes, but i'm afraid it's deeper and more disturbing than that -- that i was raised in a society that teaches women to first and foremost be nice and take care of men, and despite years of educating myself otherwise, i still haven't broken free of that canon.

women, how do you stand up for yourselves? how do you learn to value your needs enough to request them every time, even if it makes someone else feel uncomfortable? that is the world we want to live in, right? it seems like it requires major brain rewiring, and i thought i'd made progress, but this interaction showed me otherwise. give a sister some help?

and men, realize every time you interact with a woman you don't know, she needs to gauge whether you're a threat to her or not. that is an unfortunate truth. so go the extra mile to assure her you're not, and don't be put off if she asks you to identify yourself through a closed door.

i'm hoping just writing this out is a step in the right direction, but if anyone has advice, please share it. i'm not looking for "carry pepper spray" -- i'm looking for advice on how to remember, in the moment, my needs are important.

Aug 3, 2016

i think: depression

today i heard an interesting piece on NPR about the genetic factors behind depression. the reporter suggested that maybe depression is an adaptation -- which sounds like a TERRIBLE thing for our biology to do to us -- but his theory was that back in the day, you might be struggling to find food to survive, and this helpful little reminder would kick in that the world's a rough place so don't get your hopes up, buddy. enjoy the taste of that stick. that's as good as it gets. and then you'd survive because you'd be like "alright, a stick!"

it was interesting to me because just last week i took my last dose of the antidepressants i'd been on since december.

i've been depressed a few times as an adult -- the first two times were tightly tied to situations i needed to get out of, but felt helpless to do so. the first time i didn't even recognize it as depression, because i'd never experienced it before and i'd always been such a happy kid, depression didn't even cross my mind. i just figured that phase of my life was over, and adulthood was dull and bleak and lacking. so first i needed help understanding that life could be better, and then i needed help getting there. both times i used a counselor to get there.

this last time, though... it was different. sure i was stressed about work, and it was winter in portland, but the feelings of sadness would come out of nowhere and utterly crush me. i remember describing to my new counselor, "it's like i'm going about my daily routine, not thinking about anything in particular, and then i'll notice this shadow creep over me. and i look up and there's a giant black anvil slowly descending from the sky, and i know i've got about 10 minutes to get home and get safe before it hits." like i'd have to leave the grocery store halfway through my shopping list so i could get in the car and hopefully back to my apartment in time. for a couple months there, you could often find me sobbing and unable to move from my driver's seat.

then there were mornings i'd wake up and without even having time to think a thought, i'd be crying. tears and snot and that pain that pinches your chest down to your stomach. i couldn't sit up, i couldn't get dressed -- at best i might be able to text a friend to ask for help not feeling so alone.

it was scary.

this time i couldn't identify the source of the feeling, and there certainly wasn't a problem worthy of its intensity. i didn't know what to fix so i could get to the other side of it. so my counselor suggested i go to the doctor to make sure nothing was physically wrong.

when my doctor found my physical health was in order, she made a suggestion: "why don't you try antidepressants for awhile and see if that helps?" now to a person who doesn't even take tylenol for a headache, the idea of antidepressants was hard to open up to, despite having educated myself about them and supposedly getting rid of my biases. i knew sometimes people's brains just chemically didn't work right, so treating them with chemicals made sense. but this was my brain.

this was also my very desperate brain, though, and my usual tools didn't seem to be working at all. so i started the antidepressants. i remember the day they kicked in (thursday, dec. 10, just two days before my birthday ball, which i'd been planning for months but had been secretly dreading). i felt... ok. i felt like myself. like i no longer had to fight against this powerful negative force to get through each day. i could just get up, put some pants on, and do life. (and my birthday ball was magic.)

most doctors will recommend staying on antidepressants for at least 6 to 9 months so your brain can get used to them. i had a really comfortable 8 months, with minimal side effects (except for all the wild dreams, which were actually kind of fun) and a general sense that i could handle things. more out of curiosity than anything, i recently decided to try to ease off them. that went fine too. the last couple days i've felt dizzy and tired, but those are just withdrawal symptoms as the drugs finally leave my system. i'm pretty sure once that's over, i'll be back to my old self.

i wish i didn't ever have to deal with depression -- it takes time away from my life. and i doubt that that was my last run-in with the old beast. but now i know not to wait, and to be open to treatments, and that even if depression is a biological adaptation, i don't have to be satisfied with just a stick.

Jul 27, 2016

baby's second video!

this one starring me and my unwashed hair! camerawork by tony green, music by british sea power ("man of aran").

please don't pay me for this as i haven't licensed the music or purchased the stock photos yet. thank you.

i think: having children (for real)

ok my last post was a joke (i remembered how i liked jokes). but now that i've gotten that out of the way, let me write a few paragraphs because my thoughts meet the minimum importance requirement for inclusion on the internet.

i'll start with a few facts: this year i turn 35, i don't have a partner with whom i'd like to make and raise children (see post 1), and i could either afford child care or my rent, but not both, and they don't let you live at the daycare, even though no one's using that space overnight.

aside from the facts, though, i don't feel like it. i haven't felt like having a kid for 8 years now. the last time i wanted a kid was when i was getting married, and everything i wanted at that point in my life (including marriage ...and lots of dresses) came from this desperate urge to not be depressed anymore.

i didn't know at the time what i was experiencing was depression -- i just thought it was adulthood. but adulthood isn't crying daily and feeling no connection to your life. that's depression (i'll write another post about that later).

so i no longer take seriously the things i think i want when i'm depressed, even though i think i want them SO BADLY. because once i'm feeling fine, i do not want those things, and i think what you want for yourself when you're feeling fine is really what you want for yourself. hard to tell in the moment, but that's the theory i try to function off of.

anyway, i don't want kids. i could go into all sorts of reasonable explanations, like "seems like there's enough new humans on the planet at the moment, i could just take one of the existing ones if i wanted" or "i'm not sure earth will be a nice place to live in the next couple generations" or "i like naps," but really i just don't feel like it. having a kid seems to be one of those things people do because they want to, period. if you don't have to have a reason for it, i shouldn't have to have a reason against it. just don't feel like it.

people ask, "but who's going to take care of you when you're old?" the same as you, i suppose. either the people who love me or a paid professional if they're not available.

and people tell me "it's the most amazing experience you can have in this life," and you know, i believe that. i see it second-hand through my nephew, through my friends' kids, and one time i even got to take photos at my the birth of my friend's son, and holy shit, i will never forget the feelings in the room that night. and that wasn't even my kid! i can't imagine the intensity of love parents feel. it looks amazing. i believe it's beyond anything i can even imagine.

but it's ok i don't get to experience that. i'm not convinced we all get to experience the most amazing experience in the world. i'll take some of the other, lesser experiences and be ok with my little collection. because they're the ones i want.

Jul 17, 2016

i think: racism

ok i was not going to get so heavy right off the bat but WHAT IS UP, AMERICA? we need to have this conversation daily until we fix this shit.

i think if you're white, you're racist. it's ok! (it's not ok to BE racist, it's ok to admit we are.)

you can read multiple studies that show white people have conscious or subconscious biases against people of other races -- easy to find online. OR you could just listen to a black person and believe them.

i get it, it's so uncomfortable to think about how you might be kind of a bad person. but you know what else is uncomfortable? being black in america. so i think we can stand being uncomfortable for a few minutes.

and i don't believe that most of us have hate in our hearts -- most of our biases come from ignorance. we were raised in a society that shows us over and over and over again that the lives of people of color are worth less than white people's lives. it's a big, complicated thought-habit to break.

here's something that i try to do whenever i'm interacting with someone who doesn't look like me (this works for skin color, ability, sexual identity, socioeconomic status, etc.) -- i think to myself, "i probably have some assumptions about this person. i wonder what they are."

you might be surprised or even downright ashamed about what comes up, but that's ok too! we're all a product of our environment, and hey, back when we were cavemen, we had to make snap judgments all the time to avoid getting eaten by a sabertooth tiger. but now that our species has evolved and tigers aren't around every corner, we can check those assumptions against reason and logic, and then we can dismiss them because they don't make sense.

assumption-free is a great place to start when interacting with someone.

for any readers of this blog who think, "ok, but my assumptions are often confirmed," note that our brains always look for patterns that reinforce our beliefs and dismiss the things that don't fit in. you might not even be registering all the evidence to the contrary.

also i hope you know that cultures (and our perceptions of them) don't exist in a vacuum. for example, i'll take a common stereotype racists have of black people: they're lazy. but white people have systemically prevented black people from obtaining the same level of education, employment, and wealth for centuries. we have repeatedly shown generation after generation that it doesn't matter what they do, they can't have the things we have.

don't they therefore have to work 10 times harder to overcome the obstacles we've put in their way? and you might see someone who's just trying to survive or who can only work five times as hard, and you'll call that lazy. you know who's lazy? some white people. and some black people. all types of people can be lazy. some cats are lazy! if you think color of skin has anything to do with it, that's called ignorance and you can fix it by learning. i mean ask yourself: are you slightly lazier when you're tan? that's how much sense that makes.

here are some easy ways to learn:
  1. follow some black feminists on twitter (if you're not already a feminist, kill two birds with one stone! also learn about white feminism.) and when they say something that makes you uncomfortable, try not to get defensive and just listen and believe them. my faves:
  2. read some books and articles on racism
  3. watch a documentary on racism
  4. engage in black communities and black culture, and when you do, just shut up and listen with an open mind and open heart
i hope all this is super obvious to my friends. i've surrounded myself with some very conscientious people, and i like to consider myself pretty thoughtful, yet i have to work constantly at battling the biases i was raised with. but that's nothing compared to the work people have to do to battle them from the other end. 

so step up and try to be less racist, my fellow crackers. and people of color: if i'm off about any of this, please let me know. i want to get it right.