Friday, July 21, 2006

Is This The New American Dream?

In reference to my post of 7/14, a New York Times article about luxury bathrooms.

Does anyone else think eating in the bathroom is disgusting?

And I can't be the only one who thinks it is absurd that one of the bathrooms referenced in this article is more than 1/2 the size of my home.

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Comment Policy

As sole author and editor of this blog, I establish the following policy regarding comments.

1. All comments must contain the author's name. If you have a blogger account, Choose the box tagged "Blogger," and then sign in with your username and password. If you do not have a blogger account and wish to leave a comment, choose the box tagged "Other," and then type your name. You must type your actual name. Any comments registered as Anonymous (whether comments are positive or negative in nature) will be deleted, as will any comments posted under a false name.

2. Comments are encouraged, and I completely respect anyone's right to disagree with anything I have written. I do require, however, that you make all comments (whether in agreement, disagreement, or whatever) in a respectful manner. I reserve the right to delete any comments that I consider to be vulgar or offensive.

3. Do not leave spam. And I mean this in the broadest sense.

I hate to have to establish a Comments policy, but a proliferation of Anonymous comments (of all nature - positive, negative, and completely inane spamlike comments) have left me frustrated. I implemented Comment Moderation briefly in order to delete them before they even appeared, but I don't like slowing the comment process by those who have interesting and relevant things to stay. Instead I am hoping that people respect the policy, and if not, I will delete any comments any offenders leave. (Why? Well, just like your mom once told you...Because I'm in charge and I said so!)

So family, friends, and others who have intelligent and interesting things to say, please continue leaving your thoughts. Those who are still trying to figure out what inane means...go away.

Friday, July 14, 2006

A Culture of Want

Last Friday, Jeff, Gregory, and I went to the movies. Because the movie we wanted to see was popular, we were only able to get tickets for a show starting about an hour and a half after we arrived. Fortunately the theater was located in an area of "downtown revitalization" so we weren't forced to sit in the theater and stare at movie posters, but could walk through the area, which was filled with restaurants, bars, stores, and commercial enterprises of every sort. We wandered past most, but only ducked into two: Bombay, where we like to browse, and Borders, where we listened to music and perused books. There were other stores of interest - a DSW, for instance - but I refused to let myself go in. The reason: there was nothing I needed. Had I gone in, however, I very likely would have found something I wanted. And then I might have bought it...simply because I wanted it.

A few days after we went to the theater, I was reading the Washington Post and came across an article about the growing popularity of luxury items in homes. Marble countertops, walk-in closets the size of dorm rooms, showers with five showerheads, nine car garages, theater rooms, exotic woods floors, heated toilet seats. The list goes on. The owners of these luxuries were all quoted saying some variation of "I earned it" or "I deserve it." I have to wonder if they truly believe that. And if so, just what they have done to deserve these luxuries.

By American standards, by legal standards, these people have done nothing wrong. They do indeed have the right to build homes as large and as fancy as they want. If we so choose, we can fill walk-in closets with shoes or buy a new dress for every wedding we're invited to. If we can afford it (or are willing to take on the debt), we can have pretty much whatever we want, no questions asked. But perhaps there are some questions we should ask, questions like: Do I have the moral or ethical right to this? When there are people in the world without potable water, do I have the right to luxuriate for 30 minutes in my five showerhead shower? When century old forests are being destroyed and land is at a premium, do I have the right to a five thousand square foot home? When the world's gas supply is dwindling and pollution is rising, do I have the right to drive a car that gets 10 miles per gallon?

Perhaps I'm in the minority, but I think the answer to these questions is "No." Yes, I know that you not buying a pair of shoes isn't directly going to feed a starving child in Africa (or America). And conserving energy in America isn't going to bring reliable electricity to Iraq. But what if we started spending our luxury money on making sure others have necessities? What if we realized that making more money doesn't entitle us to more natural resources? What if we started thinking about how the choices we make affect others? What if we learned to distinguish want from need?

I'll go ahead and be the first to admit that I am selfish, that I stand in the shower for too long, that I don't give enough to others, that I buy things I have no use for, that I lust after beautiful homes. I want. It's hard not to here in America, in a culture where most of our stores are here to fulfill desires, not needs. Where we all, admitted or not, have some desire to keep up with, if not get ahead of, the Joneses. We want people to admire our homes, our cars, our clothes. But we don't really need that, do we?

Aside from the adventure of travel and the wonder of seeing places I've only dreamed of, I think one of my motivations for wanting to do an around the world trip is to force myself to recognize how little I truly need and to acknowledge how much I've been given. Living out of one backpack, I'll hopefully recognize the frivolity of a pair of shoes for every outfit. Experiencing firsthand the poverty in which so much of the world lives, I hope to lose any desire for useless rooms and extravagant trappings. I want to learn to live simply. Not to deprive myself, but to be appreciative of my life and circumstances, of the fragility of fate that let me be born who I am, where I am. I long to be able to differentiate need from want and to choose my wants carefully. To ask only for shelter over my head, food on my table, health, good stories, and laughter...and friends and family with whom to share it.

Wednesday, July 12, 2006


I have my own office with a door and a nameplate. I'm going to have to go in early when no one else is there and take a photo. I also have my own electric pencil sharpener. Life is good.

Sunday, July 09, 2006

Three Years, Three Jobs...Time for Number Four

Friday July 7 was my last day at The Children's Partnership. If I mention that I first started there on June 20, 2005, perhaps you won't be surprised that I've left this job. That was after all, a span of one year and seventeen days between my first and last day, which is actually a record length of time spent at one job in my post-college life. In the three years since I graduated, I have had three jobs. This is the first job, however, that I have actually quit, since my first two jobs were offered and accepted with the understanding that they would only last for a year.

Quitting a job is awkward, especially when your office consists of only you and one other person at the time you give your resignation. But it was something I needed to do, and I survived even despite my abnormally strong dislike of any sort of confrontation. And no, it wasn't actually confrontational by normal standards, but considering I find returning unused items to a store to be a sort of confrontation, this was seriously confrontational for me. Ohh the discomfort. What exactly am I supposed to say to remarks like "I'm in shock" or "This is such a huge loss for us." I mean, I know it's a huge loss...I'm pretty irreplacable. But it's not like I can say that - I act humble, even if I'm not. (kidding, kidding)

I wonder what it says about me that I have had so many jobs in such a short span. Clearly, it hasn't hurt me as I've always had another job lined up to replace whatever job I'm leaving, but I haven't met too many other people who are on the same path as I am. I mean I know people who've worked at coffee shops longer than I've worked at professional jobs. I like to tell myself that I just haven't found the right job yet, and that when I do, I'll stay there. (I mean, I did stay at the Louisville Zoo for three years, so it's not like I have no sense of job commitment...) But part of me wonders if I just have unreasonable expectations and am too difficult to satisfy.

I have a hard time accepting the idea that work is just something I have to do, whether I like it or not. If I only get this one life, I don't want to spend most of it doing something I don't like. That can't be the point of life, can it? Working for a paycheck just doesn't cut it for me. I need stimulation and challenges. I want to think that what I am doing is important and is somehow leaving a positive mark on the world. I want to feel that although I may be able to think of other ways that I might want to spend my time, that just maybe I'd want to do what I'm doing at work even if it wasn't my job. I know that's probably not all that reasonable, but I don't think it should be entirely impossible. In fact, I'm hoping that my new job proves it even a teensy bit reasonable. I'll let you know. Tomorrow's my first day as Editor at the Smithsonian American Art Museum. Wish me luck!

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

Monday, July 03, 2006

Weddings Galore

At the time Jeff and I got married last year, a number of my friends were already married or engaged while very few of Jeff's were. Jeff loved to exaggerate this, acting as if I were dragging him off to a wedding every weekend. Well the table's have now turned and Jeff's going to have to shut his mouth, because it now seems as if every single person Jeff knows is getting married. While the only wedding I have on my agenda for the next year is Despina's (yay!), Jeff's list is exceptionally long. It includes

1. Chris & Jackie - Summer 2006
2. Phil & Rian - Fall 2006
3. Jayanth & Fiona - Fall 2006
4. Tony & Katie - Winter 2006
5. Alison & Chris - Summer 2007

So really it looks like Jeff's friends are just latebloomers. Although he claims the resason that they're all getting married now is because he showed them how you can be married and still be cool. Um-hum. Riiiight.