26 May 2008

just a plug for my favorite site of late

i always forget that i love to read jezebel -- until someone links to a post there, and i read it, and then spend the rest of the weekend reading the rest of the site. i'm not very aware of website "families" and organization and politics, but i guess jezebel is owned by gawker media, most of which is "progressive" but casually misogynist (especially the commentariat) and most of which i never stick around to read for very long. but jezebel's pretty awesome, and sometimes i wish these crazy ladies, who came out of nowhere to tell funny stories and critique shitty media and say all the things that i wish i had heard people say when i was younger*, were people i knew and hung out with. but failing that, it's nice to know they exist out there.

*like this. this post is pretty much 100% how i felt about myself, sexually speaking, for several years (before my libido plateaued, so i'm gonna say 2002-2005 maybe?), but at the time i never heard anyone talk this way and felt alone and weird. i guess it didn't help to go through a couple relationships where my sex drive or my sexuality was implicitly fingered as a cause of the relationships' fatal problems. even in college i felt kind of weird, since most of my friends were virginy (for lack of a better word) and even the virtual communities of learnlink weren't all one might imagine. until senior year the only forum that came close was JUGs, and that was kind of conservative comparatively; i sometimes got the feeling that i was either the horniest or the most oversharing participant on there, even though all my experiences were pretty vanilla at that point. then senior year there was GINAs, and i was blown away that there were women who wanted and had more sex than i did, not to mention kinkier. but by then i had already sort of leveled out in terms of activity and also in terms of insecurity, and isolation, and thirst for knowledge about other people's experiences.

the amazing thing? they make posts like that all the time. what i at first thought i'd stumbled upon just the once, as a singular anchor of comfort in a crazy cruel misogynist madonna/whore internet, turned out to be their normal, workaday output.

i think at one point that may have been my dream job, but let's face it, my sex life is way too boring now. ha. that's probably a good thing, considering.

eta: plus, diablo cody (screenwriter of juno) is a reader and commenter. that's kinda cool, right?

24 May 2008

more from the abortion files

so i spent about half an hour yesterday, and half an hour the day before that, on the phone with a woman who was early in her pregnancy and broke but determined to have an abortion as soon as possible. C's house is in foreclosure; she relies on others for transportation and her phone is being shut off this weekend. she shares custody of her daughter with her ex-husband, but fears her ex would somehow use an abortion against her in custody court if he found out, so she can't ask him for financial or practical support. the dude involved in the pregnancy is her on-again, off-again sexual partner, but more importantly is her friend of 13 years; he helped C raise her daughter for two years when things were bad with the ex-husband. he's said he can loan her some money for the abortion because she has none. she has lived in her town, "in the suburbs, but in the boonies", for a year and doesn't have many friends. all of this she told me on thursday. we hung up with the understanding that she would call her friend to find out how much money he could loan her and then call me back.

on friday when she calls me she is crying and panicked. the dude, her friend, is being weird. he told her to stop calling him, that if she kept pushing him he wouldn't give her any money at all, that if she called him at work again he would break her legs. he has never spoken to her like this before. she tells me he's patching things up with his ex-wife, who would leave again with the kids if she knew about his relationship with C. apparently C tried some ill-advised blackmail: "i don't know why you're making this so difficult, all i have to do is make one phone call [to tell all to his ex-wife]". he responded with "you try that and we'll see what happens to you". she says that if it weren't for having to depend on him right now, she would call the police, and she doesn't want to speak to him ever again when this is over. but she needs him to drive her the 25 miles to the clinic. at the end of their argument, she says, he suddenly became cooperative, saying "ok, i'll drive you there, sure". she is worried he's going to leave the clinic while she's there and never come back. i'm worried she's not even going to make it to the clinic. is he going to show up and beat her? try to drive her off a bridge? she mentions maybe he's thinking of pushing her out of the car to cause an inexpensive miscarriage.

i'm about to ask C if she can tell someone of her fears, maybe the neighbor she's mentioned, when she says that she has already made plans to tell the neighbor where she's going and with whom, and then to drop it into conversation with the dude that someone will be checking for her return. we come up with more plans: of the two hundred dollars she has told him he must come up with, she's going to reserve fifty for a cab ride home in case he doesn't show up. i will send the clinic a pledge covering the rest. and she's going to call me when she gets to the clinic, whether from her doomed cell phone or the clinic's front desk. both nervous but not sure what more we can do, we hang up.

i go out for a very late lunch and come back to find a message from her: "what if he wants to come in and pay the $200 himself, then how will i be able to pocket the cab fare?". good question. i call the clinic, explain the situation, ask if they can set aside the fifty from their payment if the dude does come in to pay. they are surprisingly quick to understand, don't act like i'm asking something weird of them: sure, we can put fifty in the safe with her name on it, she can come back and ask for it if he splits; i'll make a note of it in her chart right now. so i call her back, she doesn't pick up, i leave two messages because i'm nervous. thank god i'm working this saturday, i can be at my phone during her appointment.

so today is saturday, her appointment is at noon. she calls me in the morning and i tell her the clinic is cooperating. she says she'll call me when she gets there, as per the plan. then she doesn't. it's noon, one o'clock, three o'clock, five o'clock. no C. it's past time to go home. the building is closed monday, it's national don't go to work day. i'll call the clinic tuesday and see what they can tell me then. maybe she's fine. i turn off the lights and leave.

a car is idling in the parking lane in front of our building's entrance, a woman with short hair is holding a camera in the rolled-down window, she sees me see her and looks. looks at me some more when i look at her some more. i'm confused, worried, but there are a dozen floors to our building and my employer is on just one of them. she could be taking pictures for anything. our front desk "security" is crap though. i tell myself not to borrow trouble.

catch-up: feedback

Counselor met needs: yes -
Would recommend Hotline: yes -
Other comments: last august my boyfriend killed himself and i lost my job and my apartment, and spent months and months in depression. i only just started working again about a month ago and it feels great to be doing something with myself, but i found out i was pregnant from the only messy one night stand i've had in all that time and i didn't know who to turn to or what to do about paying for an abortion. having the baby was never even an option, i can't even take care of myself! you people seriously saved my life. i owe you everything.

wondering if i should delete this entry or somehow make it private. leaning slightly toward yes right now but i wish i weren't, because i also would like to share patients' words more. but they're not mine to share, are they? i'll give it more thought soon.

catch-up: talking shop

so a friend emailed me recently and said hey, how have you been doing by the way, i don't really know what you're up to.

good point.

since january i've been working at a national pro-choice organization. it's a professional organization for providers, a policy and lobbying group, a coordinator of research and medical education, and a resource for women seeking information about abortion, sexual health, and a good variety of related things.

the latter function is under the scope of an assistance hotline, where i work as a case manager. my department recently received a significant gift of money, all earmarked for helping women pay for abortion care. this is why i was hired. it used to be that one case manager was sufficient for the tasks of (a) usually telling people "no, funding isn't really what we do", (b) determining who was most needy of a "yes", and (c) administering the very small amount of money we had. but the hotline has become a real funding resource since then, and as of next week we will have a total of five case managers to manage the demand (i was the third).

it's great to be able to say "yes" so often. it makes me wonder about all the women who called for prices when i worked at the clinic; how many of them simply gave up? when people inquired about financial help, we had to begin with the shitty stuff -- "have you asked your church group for help? can you go see a loan shark? do you have anything you can pawn?", knowing that some women might already be selling their food stamps or selling sex -- and then tack on, "and if you get pretty close to your goal, there are organizations that may then be able to give $50 or $75, but they can only do that a couple times a month, so call back and talk to our manager and maybe she can talk to them for you". now that shitty stuff is the last resort, for after we've promised as much money as we're allowed to. it's still not a perfect system, but i'll certainly take that over "no, we can't do payment plans. but we do accept credit cards...".

in fact, we say "yes" so often to so many women that we've delegated a lot of that to the hotline operators, so that case managers can spend more time on people who need more support than just the money. in a way that makes it harder, of course; you feel like you fail more often, because there are still people that, no matter how hard you try for them, don't make it to their bus ride across the country or have too complicated a medical history to be seen by anyone at this stage in the pregnancy, etc. i had to give up on a woman with paranoid-schizophrenia and a pregnancy that may or may not have been the product of incestuous assault because she would only contact me, via payphone, every two weeks, was unwilling to fax the clinic the police report or the medical report that would have established legal grounds for the procedure (or even her previous sonogram so they could tell her the length of pregnancy and the cost and set her an appointment), and had been sent home from a previous appointment elsewhere after having a freakout and making a nurse there feel unsafe. one of my colleagues had been working with her as early as january, and by the time she was too far along to have an abortion she still hadn't gotten it together.

of course these are the people that you want to work hardest for, because they're having the most trouble getting what they need. but there's a certain point where i can't do more -- can't go to her state and get her out of her father's house and drive her to colorado and escort her through the weeklong appointment -- and even if i could, maybe i shouldn't. the hardest thing for me has been sussing out whether a woman really wants to go ahead with an abortion and is just encountering obstacle after obstacle, or is inwardly ambivalent and hoping that one of those obstacles might stop the events in motion. it happens. i've done that myself, about mundane things like going to a movie i didn't really want to see, or accepting a job i didn't really want to do: "i'm so disappointed, i was all set to do it but then i got sick / had a plumbing emergency / had conflicting family plans", whatever. it's important that women still be able to own their decision, such as it is -- if you can help it, you should avoid being in a position to blame something important, like having or not having a child, on things beyond your control -- and i am struggling to find the best way to support that. once someone apologized to me when she said she wouldn't need financial assistance anymore because she had decided to carry to term. i don't want you to be sorry. i just want you to to be able to do what's best for you, and you know best what that is.

i'm glad that i am still working with a client population, even if it's only over the phone; i know i quit my job at the clinic saying i wanted to do lobbying or communications or something of the sort, but this job offer came right at the time where i was starting to question that, and i think it's mostly been a good thing. i'm still thinking i'd like to do policy research sometime soon, but it makes me sad to think about sitting alone in an office not actually talking to the people i'm hoping to be useful to. how can you know you're on the right track if you don't listen to your clients? but anyway, there are so many things i want to do sometime soon that i don't know which one will be soonest. go to school so i can just get a masters' out of the way, travel, live in my hometown for a spell, change jobs four hundred times, write some kind of food book? sure.

anyway, so that's what i do, sort of. i'll try to update more soon.

catch-up: foodblog, sort of

the chocolate birthday cake i made last night (and brought to the beach today, with a bottle of milk i grabbed when we stopped for gas) was probably my best attempt yet. i've made it in cupcake form several times before and the cupcakes always came out a little over-moist, like they would stick to the roof of your mouth, even when i tried to overbake them. not sure why it worked so much better in a single eight-inch round, but i'm not complaining. recipe pilfered once again from the amazing orangette; my only creative input was to third the recipe, since i had neither 3 cake pans nor 3 oz of chocolate left. (also, i've been going through chocolate bars REALLY quickly ever since deciding to confront my baking demons.)

i like how quickly i can put together a baked good nowadays, at least after i've made it a couple times. it's nice to have a feel for something, to remember what a particular batter is supposed to feel like, or whether it's supposed to be dull or shiny on the whisk, flat or bubbly in the pan, how high it should rise in the oven.

more cooking notes. dinner last night was a baffling series of disasters. baffling because each component seemed like it would be simple and quick, and instead was difficult and time-consuming and a wreck. the brussels sprouts that should have "caramelized" turned a really beautiful green and them promptly burned. the tilapia kept falling apart when i turned it, and patches of it were still floury when i plated them. and the part of dinner that i was most looking forward to -- a beurre blanc, a sauce made of white wine and lemon and butter that is smooth and amazingly flavorful -- came out the absolute worst: the reduced wine and lemon juice seized up into browned clumps, probably bound to burned milk solids from the butter, and sank to the bottom of a bowlful of clear yellow oil. basically i had clarified butter dotted with flavor-chunks. fuck.

i think what happened was that the cold butter should have gone into the sauce to melt but never have gotten actually hot. the recipe's technique was to lower the heat to low before the whisking-in of cubed butter, but i probably should have removed it from the heat entirely. see, i did exactly as the recipe said, but the recipe probably didn't know that i use a shitty electric stove, which heats up and cools down a burner WAY slower than a gas flame would. so now i know. but i'm two sticks of butter (i know!) poorer for it.

all that said, i think the meal had a lot of potential and might come out perfectly if i tried again. by the last fillet i certainly had the hang of the pan-frying technique, and the brussels sprouts might just need a little tinkering -- non-virgin olive oil, or a tiny bit of sugar in the pan, to get the right kind of browning -- and maybe the only problem with the sauce was the heat issue. so i feel bad for wasting people's evening, but not too bad about the disappointment in and of itself.

the one thing i can recommend without all the caveats would be what i did with the fettuccine (or was it linguine? doesn't matter), which was simple and subtle and flavorful: bit of extra-virgin olive oil, splash of cream, grated lemon zest, ground black pepper. the end. anyone can do it, everyone should.

that's more than enough from me in one night. someone please remind me to start using my camera again. off to crash, goodnight.

catch-up: foodblog 4?

today was cold and rainy. i made the mistake of agreeing to go out of the building for lunch, figuring the rain was safely down to a mist by then, and of course on the way back it suddenly poured and four blocks later i rejoined my coworkers looking like a drowned rat and had to sit another four hours in an office chair, soggily squishing in my cold wet pants.

anyway, between the weather and it generally being a very monday-ish monday (which seemed to be going around today in a big way -- i had office space quoted to me a couple times, even), i didn't really feel like cooking but i also wanted to eat something comforting and warm. and ended up throwing together a surprisingly good soup out of not much. i'd like to claim i'm brilliant but actually the following is just a slapdash version of this recipe. thanks, clever vegan lady, for giving me something tasty to unceremoniously deveganize. i'm sorry.

yellow split pea soup

nonstick spray (i.e. pam or something)
1 medium/large onion, chopped
2 tbsp light olive oil (i.e. not virgin or extra-virgin, those burn too fast)
1 tsp mustard seeds
2 tsp ground coriander
chunk of ginger (about a 1-inch cube), minced
2 cloves garlic or more, minced or smashed
2 tsp garam masala
a bag of yellow split peas (about 3 cups dry), rinsed -- and checked for pebbles!
chicken stock (and/or water)
a bay leaf
1 can sweet potatoes, drained
2 handfuls of mustard greens, torn up
salt, black pepper

spray the bottom of a big pot with the nonstick stuff. this sounded totally weird to me too, but trust me. it actually kept the onion from frying/burning much better than regular oil does.

on med-low heat, sautee the chopped onion until it gets soft and translucent, around 5 minutes. according to the clever vegan lady, you should then scoot the onions to one side of the pot -- i did that and then also scooted the pot halfway off the heat -- so that you can drop in the mustard seed and a little oil. the seeds should pop, with a jump and a noise, but they don't always -- they didn't tonight -- so if they pop or if they start getting dark, you can move on to the next step.

add in the garlic and ginger, stir, add more oil if needed, stir, add the coriander and garam masala, stir, add the spit pleas and stir again.

pour in lots of chicken stock (or water), enough to cover the peas by at least a half-inch. stir, add the bay leaf, cover and raise the heat to bring to a boil. then turn it back down to simmer the soup with the lid askew for about an hour, or until the peas are as soft as you want them. make sure to check on the water/stock level now and then, and add more if the soup is starting to dry out or look burny.

toss in the mustard greens and the sweet potatoes. replace the lid and cook on low heat until the greens are at your preferred texture -- for me, 5 minutes got them soft but not soggy. salt and pepper to taste. (salt is really critical to the soup not tasting like bland mush punctuated by sweet mushy chunks.)

i ate mine over some fridgified rice that wasn't going to be good for much else. it was quite satisfying. i like how (relatively) quickly split peas cook.

the original recipe called for kale, which i like but didn't have, and real (i.e. fresh) sweet potato, which gets cubed at the very beginning and tossed in to boil with the split peas, and "mild curry powder", which may or may not be what i used (?), and cumin, which i accidentally replaced with coriander before realizing it. yes, i'm sure cumin made more sense in the curry-powder context of the recipe. but it still came out tasty my way. i hope someone else tries this and tells me how it came out / what other changes you made / etc.

i'll try and write less-mundane things sometime soon. there's just been so much going on in my head lately, it's hard to talk about any of it. with anyone i mean. so don't take it personal, internet.

catch-up: banal misogyny is everywhere

"but how will we get people to read it?"

i mostly just wanted to point out the poor sad sexy depressive crying on the curb that they chose to illustrate the headline -- "sex: cure for the blues?" -- which incidentally is not what's in the actual text of the article (as happens all too often in all manner of reporting on studies and experiments -- thanks, lazy editors!). apparently sex is no cure at all for the blues, since "depressed women have more sex" but evidently remain in the "depressed" category of the sample population.

(nitpick the third: do "couples" only count if they're hetero, or do you think the social scientists in question remembered the lesbos? i am just curious, cause the article doesn't make any mention one way or another.)

(i am not even gonna go into the bs "women are probably having sex to get that closeness and security" interpretation, because after all this is just a stupid "life&style" article from australia, and australians as we all know are smelly.)

catch-up: newsy news

HOUSTON (AP) -- Police in Houston say a 14-year-old girl who delivered a stillborn fetus in an airliner restroom on her way back from a middle-school field trip will not be charged with any wrongdoing.

Homicide investigators say they interviewed both the girl and a 14-year-old boy believed to be the father.

Police say that prosecutors decided not to pursue charges against the girl. The fetus was found in a waste can on a Continental Airlines flight that landed at Houston after a flight from New York.

Authorities say the girl told police she didn't know she was pregnant. Preliminary autopsy results indicated the fetus was stillborn and not viable.

The girl's name has not been released.

headdesk or cry? so hard to choose.

catch-up: quotey quote

Behold the neat trick. First, you make women act like simpletons, broodmares, janitors, mannequins, and sex slaves before you grant them social approval. You call this behavior “femininity” and explain that it is their essential nature, and that any deviation from the program will be punished. Then you infantilize and ridicule the ones who get it right, and vilify and abuse the ones who get it wrong (you can also vilify and abuse the ones who get it right, because, let’s be honest; the world is your oyster).

...but then, twisty faster never minces words. anyway, the rest of the post is about "pink" marketing, etc -- though if you've read "the beauty myth" it's basically the same idea, particularly the second half. then again i guess it's even more directly "the second sex", in case that snippet didn't make it obvious.

ok well. i was gonna write a real post -- about "cops"! -- but i slept poorly this weekend and want to make it up to myself before i wreck my week.

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