Thursday, October 30, 2008

Increasing Domestic Violence is Really Scary

Yes, I know it is Halloween and people are getting ready for tricks and treats and all sorts of fun stuff. But I want to talk about something that is truly frightening.

I cannot let October end without mentioning that it is Domestic Violence Awareness Month.

Recently, I saw a teenage girl being bullied by a teenage boy. He didn't hit her, but he was being quite menacing. It was late at night at a bus stop outside a metro station in my troubled neighborhood. I had my cell phone ready in case it escalated and I needed to call the police. When I told someone this story they stopped short of chiding me for not intervening. What could I have done? And how would I have helped her if he decided to do me harm as well?

Sadly, things like this happen everyday.

Just yesterday, a friend of mine told me that while her then (and now former) boyfriend didn't hit her, he gave her some indication that he could hurt her if he wanted to.

According to, about 1/3 of the women in the U.S. reported being physically or sexually abused by a husband or boyfriend at some point in a 1998 survey. That was the amount of women who reported the abuse. But how many didn't report it? And that was ten years ago. Now with the heightened stress of a bad economy even more women and teenage girls are likely to become victims of abuse.

Earlier this year, members of my family had to bury my cousin after she died at the hands of someone she had dated who did not agree that their relationship should end.

National Domestic Violence Hotline: (800) 799-SAFE (799-7233)

If you are an abuser or a victim, get help.

Domestic Violence Hits Home (Again)

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

The Other Side of the Door

I supposed when people try to help you and it doesn't turn out quite the way you thought it would, you should just be grateful. However, when have I been known to leave an oddity un-commented upon?

I really do appreciate it when a man hold open a door for me. More often than not, they tend to do it rather quietly. So I should have known that something was up when I was leaving a coffee shop and man called out rather loudly, "I'll get it! I'll get it!" just as I was about to exit.

I paused to let him get the door and he did...but then he walked through it. He held it open once he was on the other side, so he did make good on his promise. Who's to say that this isn't how it is done where he comes from?

However, when I described this incident to two friends (a guy and a girl) they broke into peals of laughter.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Face to Face (without Facebook)

My Facebook friending habits vary. Sometimes someone who I only kinda sorta know will ask to be my friend and I'll say yes and sometimes, I'll think that I barely know them, so I click "Ignore" and their request is spirited away.

That is the interesting thing about this phenomenon we call 'social networking': socializing almost always has a networking aspect to it, but sometimes networking isn't all that social.

Once, when in an expansive mood, I accepted a friend request from someone I knew socially, but not personally. I would not have friended her, but since she asked, I thought why not?

The other day I came across the aforementioned person in the flesh. I said, "Hi, [Person]. She paused, crinkled up her face, giving me a look that said, 'Who the [bleep] are you?' Then she responded with a tepid, "Hi." She walked away, turning back as if to try to understand who I was or why I'd spoken to her. Yeah, I could have tried to jog her memory, but I didn't feel like being bothered.

Of course, she likely fell sway to that 'seeing people out of context' thing where meeting someone in an unexpected place renders them unrecognizable.

From my vantage point, I saw recognize that I saw all that I needed to see.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Deer and Bears and Police, Oh My!

When The Washington Post asked me to do a Road Trip in Shenandoah National Park, I thought why not, since I'd never been.

You can read the article here:

Scouting Shenandoah's Skyline

The park staff said that the bears were friendly and that seeing a bear was often the highlight of a person's trip...I saw no bears, but I did catch on sign telling me that a certain area had "aggressive bears." Truthfully, I didn't know there was any other kind.

And I was delayed by a deer family eating lunch. They say not to get too close to them because they'll get frightened. So I had to wait 15 minutes or so for the fam to finish the picnic they were having right near my car.

To be honest, the unfriendliest and most frightening creature of all was the menacing park police officer who stopped me and gave me a warning for having a defective brake light.

Friday, October 24, 2008

During these harsh economic times...

During these harsh economic times (and you can replace the word harsh with tought/difficult/uncertain/unsure or any other such word) many sentences begin with the words "During these harsh economic times."

Perhaps we have to use adjectives to qualify it because we don't want it to become the norm, as in beginning every sentence with "These days."

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Bag Lady
It is amazing how ever since the plastic disposable shopping bag came about, some of us cannot wrap our minds around the concept of the reusable bag. If I were a truly dedicated blogger I'd look up the history of the disposable shopping bags and have all sorts of fun facts for you. As you can see, in this instance my dedication did not extend that far. But, it is the thought that counts, right?

I am not one of those people who does a lot to conserve the environment, so I can only hope that my environmentally-friendly thoughts count since my conservation actions don't always seem to quite pan out.

As I've mentioned before, it really ain't easy being green. When I show up to my neighborhood grocery store with my resuable bag, the barriers to earth-friendliness are much higher than in other places, something I understand given the area. But is it that the idea of a reusable bag can be so foreign?

Tonight the cashier (as is often the case) told me that my bag didn't count for the 5 cents off that Giant promises because it wasn't a Giant bag. Yes, the sign offering the discount pictures and is next to a display of bags that Giant is selling, but it says you get the discount when you reuse any bag.

So after she gave me the 5 cents off and sighed and rolled her eyes at me for not following the Giant program, she then proceeded to put my groceries into a plastic bag. When I tried to stop her, she again looked at me with disdain and explained that she was putting the groceries into the plastic bag so I could put the plastic bag into my resusable bag (duh!).

Of my frequent trips there when my bag is ignored unless I insist, there was one cashier was more than happy to to use the resusable bag. She told me she loved people like me who brought bags in because she got tired to trying tp pry open the plastic bags and said they got on her nerves.

So once I made one person's day. Good. Because I left the store after my latest trip with a plastic bag that I will reuse to line a wastebasket. Actually, that does make it a reusable bag. See Earth, I really do care.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

A Clothes Encounter—Of the Rude Kind

In which Inotherwordz exchanges harsh words and gets kicked out

Consignment shops are doing well these days. I’ve always been on to frequent these places, but I gather that lately, they’ve seen new customers who had considered them to be an option before.

I called one such shop, Clothes Encounters of A Second Kind, to ask if I could bring clothes in for consignment. I was told that they were getting full, but that I was free to come by any time. Granted, a busy Saturday morning is not the best time to go anywhere, but anytime means any time. So I didn’t expect to be greeted so rudely and eventually kicked out of.

As soon as I walked in the proprietress, greeted me with these words, “Oh, God, not another one.” To give this a generous context, I will say that she meant that I was yet another person coming in with clothes for consignment. I was instructed to go over to the side and wait while she schmoozed with people who indentified themselves as “good customers.” Fair enough. There were people there ahead of me. Yet, my back was already up because as they say, the bulk of communication is non-verbal. In word, gesture and tone she communicated that she did not want me there.

So here is the lesson: if you are not wanted and are in a position to leave, do so. Why stick around for more abuse? But I am stubborn, so I stayed and stewed, thinking that I would tell her that I understood she was busy and frazzled, but she might want to be kinder to customers.

When she was ready to attend me, she asked if I’d been there before and I hadn’t. I dutifully provided her with my basic information. Again, she mentioned just how very full the shop was getting. I was given to option to have clothes donated if they didn’t sell, and I took this option, so I was essentially saying goodbye to those clothes forever.

I gave her a phone number and when she asked for alternates, I said I had none. In modern life, all of our information is spread everywhere, so it seems pointless to even try to contain it, but I do. I get tired of having to give every story, office or whatever I enter every single piece of identifying information there is. One working phone number should suffice.

“If you move, we will have no way of contacting you.” Sure, life is full of surprises, but the clothes stay on consignment for, I think, 60 days and I had no plans to move. While I’m sure a consignment shop gets stuck with a lot of clothes, the fact that I’d chosen the donation option meant that if mine didn’t sell, they were free to give them the heave-ho.

“Well, I’ll try not to move then,” I said with a smile. This was a very lame attempt at humor on my part. Instead of breaking the tension, all hell broke loose. She had been looking for a way to get rid of me and she’d apparently found it.

“Do you really want to consign here?” she asked angrily. The truth is she didn’t want me to be there, but she was going to flip her disdain and make it my fault.

“Yes,” I said. “I don’t understand why you were so rude…”

“Get out,” she said.

The ensuing conversation got heated. I attempted to complete my statement and she told me no, she would not listen to me and to get out. It got ugly and as I said, all of this took place on a busy Saturday morning. Since Clothes Encounters of A Second Kind is at 202 7th Street SE, it is right near Eastern Market, and there were plenty of customers there to witness this exchange. Not that having witnesses around ever makes people reconsider their behavior.

I will admit that there were some rather unkind thoughts running through my head after this, but one really doesn’t have to wish misfortune on some people. Doing well is more than even to do them in.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Project Meatloaf

If someone had ever told me that I'd be judging a meatloaf contest, I'd have told them they were crazy. But hey, we all end up doing things that a) we never said we'd do of b)are so out if the realm of our thinking we can't even imagine them.

So yeah, I was asked to judge a meatloaf contest by a restaurant that I once reviewed for the Prince George's County Gazette. If that is where my "celebrity" takes me, then I'll go.

Celebrate National Meatloaf Awareness Day at the New Deal Café

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Identify Yourself

Today I overheard a woman on a cell phone saying, "Hi, this is R_______, Marquise' Baby Mother, and...

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

They're Bringing Sexy Back

In case you didn't know, savings and fiscal responsibility is sexy...and when I woke up this morning one retailer was on the radio wishing me a Merry October and telling me I could put stuff on layaway for Christmas.

Remember layaway? I thought it was all but gone, however it seems that you could have put things on layaway at Wal-Mart up until 2006. In case you didn't click on the preceding hyperlink, it referred to a Washington Post article which stated that at that time: living within your means is becoming an outdated concept in today's buy-now-pay-later culture.

Styles change quickly, so the budgeting that was outdated in 2006, is back with a vengeance in 2008. Let's hope it now obtains classic status, as something you'll want for every season.

I don't have plans to put anything on layaway, but I really do need to get a little sexier when it comes to savings.

P.S. If you want more serious insight into our economy, check out “where analytical rigor meets a mother’s intuition.”

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

BlogHer DC 2008

As I wrote in my previous post, there were definitely some goodies to be had at the BlogHer DC conference, like slippers, a cute little portable mouse for my laptop, and a laser pointer. But really these conferences are about knowledge and making connections.

If I had one big takeaway from the BlogHer DC conference, it was that authenticity is key. Authenticity and good content are Even when panelists had differing opinions on methods, techniques and formats, they all in some way advised bloggers to be true to themselves.

I thought about this when I overheard someone at the closing cocktail reception say that he was going to get his site all spruced up with bells and whistles. He reasoned that if it looked good people would come, even if he didn't put so much time into the content. Sure they'll come, but will they stay? And will they ever return?

At a bare minimum, a blogger needs to identify themselves somehow--with a picture, a graphic or a tagline--and give readers some method for contacting the blog's author.

You also need to spread the link love, meaning you gotta include hyperlinks to the cool stuff you mention and link to the cool bloggers you read. I definitely have to do more of the latter, but here is some of the former. I got great tips on some online tools to put method to my madness: your internet usage each day. You can set alarms to help you limit time on certain applications (Facebook!!). you into your Twitter, Facebook and IM accounts on one page. is a good tool for aggregating research, as their tagline says: 'research, not re-search.'
--A tool for organizing and aggregating your e-mail accounts and social networking applications.
--This set of online notebooks wants to help you get organized one project at a time. It's still in beta, so you have get a code, but look for it to launch. usability guru's site isn't cute, but it doesn't have to be because he has the inside scoop.

Besides learning about these super-useful online tools, I also learned that the Chinese have a word for the first person to leave a comment on a blog/article and that people are having virtual baby/wedding showers where they present to stories to the guest of honor.

Who knew?
This post would be 1000x more compelling if it was accompanied by pictorial evidence. I had such evidence, but it seems my camera has been stolen. I hope it turns up, but in the meantime, here goes:

The BlogHer DC Bathroom Brigade

Any time I go to some event and stand in the line for the women's bathroom that inevitably snakes around a corner while the man's bathroom remains unoccupied, the conversation about who designs buildings and 'why don't we just use the men's bathroom' commences. And only sometimes does anyone really take action.

Well at the BlogHer '08 Reach Out Tour in DC, some of us stormed the castle, or the commodes, shall we say. Since the conference was at a rather nice hotel, the men's bathroom was not at all scary and they had the same fresh flowers that the women's bathroom had. Perhaps knowing that we'd pick up on secrets such as this this is why men live in fear of women's empowerment...

In any case, the conference gave us a lot more that secret bathroom knowledge. We also got great swag like slippers, notepads and reusable bags.

Ok, in all seriousness, it was a great conference and I'll be back later in the day with more about stuff I actually learned. (And hopefully my camera will show up as well.)

Monday, October 13, 2008

That Chicken You See Running Around With No Head--Yeah That's Me

I'll be at the BlogHer 2008 Conference all day today. I wish I could tell I was doing something brilliant like Twittering the conference or something. But I'll be taking notes the old-fashioned way.

Then I'll be dashing over the the Washington Post to hear children's book legends Mem Fox and Helen Oxenbury because a) I want to hear them speak and b) I am on the board of he WNBA-DC Chapter and we are co-sponsoring the event.

But hey, there are many days when I just watch the tumbleweed roll by.

Thursday, October 09, 2008

Arugula is Alright with Me

Someone with a surplus of arugula brought some into the office to share. If I've had it before, I don't remember. I do remember all the fuss about Barack Obama being some arugula-loving elitist.

After the first bite, I wondered how something so bitter could be considered the province of the elite, but then it grew on me.

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

"That's how I do my thing!"

I managed to check out two events on the last day of the Duke Ellington Jazz Festival and found that these events had plenty in common: entertainment, a little education and calls for audience participation.

At the THEARC in Southeast DC, Nasar Abadey's Legazy Band, which includes his teenage son, gave some youngsters a lesson in jazz basics. He found a way to bring improvisation home to kids, telling them that it is similar to performing freestyle.

The band demonstrated improvisation with a scatted-up version of The Flintstones theme song. Abadey then called a few volunteers onstage to show their skills. Interestingly enough, the first few were handed a microphone, but they chose not use it very much. I thought they would all start to rap, but they most just danced (quite well I might add). Although one kid did exclaim the words in the title of this post upon finishing. Abadey then prompted the next volunteers to rap.

The festival's final performance featured Paquito D'Rivera, the festival's musical director with a cohort of very skilled musicians, many of whom hail from Latin America. One of them, Edmar Castañeda of Columbia, did absolutely impossible things with a harp.

In between selections, D'Rivera gave the audience insight into the value of instruments like the bandoneón. He also treated the audience to tales of jazz legends, including sharing a story about how Dizzy Gillespie once arrived at a South American club dressed as a gaucho and riding a horse.

There was also swag: attendees were treated to a souvenir program booklet that came with a free cd.

Monday, October 06, 2008

David Sedaris
My first experience with author David Sedaris almost got me killed.

I got one of his audio books from the libary, unaware of what I was in for. I thought it would be mildly amusing, but instead it was unbelievably hilarious. So much so that when I listened to it in the car, I was laughing so hard, I nearly ran a stop sign.

Sedaris isn't for everyone, of course, but if you aren't offended by his offbeat worldview and sometimes less than pc offerings, it is a treat to hear him read his work.

When I got an e-mail saying that someone I knew had an extra ticket to go hear David Sedaris speak, I jumped at the chance. Sedaris, who lives abroad, was here to promote his latest essay collection, When You are Engulfed in Flames.

As usual, Mr. Sedaris was laugh aloud funny. He is in the habit of paying someone at a book signing prior to a speaking engagement to introduce him. When a young woman who looked a little nervous approached the microphone, I thought she might have been university staff, but no, she was a student. Sedaris had offered her $10 to bring him out and for someone who hadn't planned to speak before a capacity crowd, she did a good job.

Book tours are all about promotion and he read a funny piece that The New Yorker had asked him to write about being on a book tour. But Sedaris doesn't just use him speaking engagements to promote himself. He also mentions, holds up and reads from the work of another author he admires. He read from The Braindead Megaphone by George Saunders. This kind of promotion was good to see because not everyone is quite so generous.

Thursday, October 02, 2008

Free Speech?

There is a memo on the bulletin board of the non-profit where I am working at the moment instructing employees to restrict their political discourse. They were asked not to flaunt their political views on websites where they identify themselves as employees of the non-profit. They were also asked not to post any political cartoons or things of that nature in the office since these things might make someone else uncomfortable and muddy the non-profit's non-partisan reputation.

All day I sat near someone who engaged everyone who passed by in conversation about politics. This person called several people, asking them to come by and see a satirical political cartoon.

Despite the edict and the attempt to stick to the non-profit's promise of being non-partisanship, the employees can't help themselves. And I don't blame them. Although I've always been conscientious and voted, I have to say that I have never been on to actually watch any pre-election debates. And the people I spoke with, friends, neighbors and colleagues spent the whole day on the edge of their seats in anticipation of watching tonight's vice presidential debate.

In the words of Sara Palin: Let's ramp it up! Now doggone it, it's time to move forward!

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

Botox Bailout!

Yes, that was on an ad that was screaming at me from the the back page of a newspaper.

You knew it was coming...someone has to profit from this bailout might as well be the purveyors of a beauty-enhancing toxin.

Because, hey, if the financial crisis is all too real for you, then you will need to smooth out those wrinkles you got from all that frowning.