Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Climb Out of Darkness - Team Pasadena!

Last year, I participated in Climb Out of Darkness, the world's largest event rising awareness about perinatal mood and anxiety disorders.  I went on a local hike, and I did it alone, and it was such an awesome way to celebrate how far I had come since I was first diagnosed with postpartum depression.  I blogged about it here. In that blog post, I vowed to organize Team Pasadena for the 2015 event.

Guess what? I am! I am the Leader/Sherpa for Team Pasadena for the Third Annual Climb Out Of Darkness. We are hiking on Saturday, June 20, 2015. I haven't pick the exact time, but it will be 9ish - civilized, but early enough to beat the heat.

Do you want to donate to my fundraiser campaign?  Click here and then click the donate button.

Do you want to join the team? Click here and then click the register button. You do NOT have to do any fundraising to participate in the climb. You just have to register. I am choosing between a few Pasadena hikes right now, because I want something easy enough for toddlers. The hike I went on last year was beautiful and inspiring - and had about 38 good places for a toddler to die. So this year's hike will be beautiful and inspiring, minus the toddler death traps.

Do you want to join a team but need something a little more local? Go here to check out the map of all the awesome hikes.

Warning: this is my first post about the hike. There will be others. I have so much to tell you. And thank you in advance to my readers who have already donate - you are rock stars.

Friday, March 6, 2015

Cellphone Chronicles; Or, Why I Broke Up With My iPhone

I used to have an iPhone. It served me well. I assumed I would always be an iPhone person.

Then I had Pippa, and Pippa became obsessed with destroying the iPhone. I could have kept the phone away from her, but there's a Sesame Street app that keeps her very happy in emergency situations. I bought a fancy protective case, but it felt clumsy and cumbersome. So I adopted the following strategy: when Pippa threw the iPhone as hard as she could, I pretended that the iPhone was indestructible. 

This strategy did not work.

After a bunch of toddler abuse, my iPhone was cracked and losing little metal chunks at an alarming rate. It was no longer an iPhone. It was a zombIephone. I took it to the Apple store, but the repair quote was too steep for my taste. I was not going to pay $200 to repair a screen that Pippa might break again in a week. 

I was using Verizon, so I went to the Verizon store to procure a new phone. The salesman told me I qualified for a free iPhone and a free tablet - yay - but my old plan was no longer available. I would have to upgrade to a new plan that would cost a lovely $150/month - and by the way, there were data limits.  More money for less data? What the what? 

I had nine months left on my contract.  I asked the salesman what would happen if I terminated early.  He said I would be charged a $200 early termination fee.


I confess: the "free" tablet was tempting. Verizon knew what it was doing. When the salesman offered me the free tablet, I felt as if I had won the lottery on Christmas. He left me alone to crunch the numbers (translation: go pee) and I played with the tablets on display. Oh, so tempting. My life would be perfect if only I had a free tablet...

Then I remembered I already have a Kindle Fire and I did not want/need another tablet. What I wanted was a new, lightweight laptop with an actual keyboard. Not some shitty free tablet. 

I left the Verizon store, went home, and researched my options.  A few days later, I went to Best Buy and a lovely saleswoman (who did not work on commission) showed me an Android that cost about $70. I looked it over. It was much better than I expected. I thought I was going to get a barebones flip phone that might be able to send text messages. This phone seemed even better than my iPhone. I bought it.

I've been using my Android for seven months now, and I love it. It only has one drawback: I can't use it to record and email long videos of Pippa to my family. Videos are limited to 16 seconds. But this drawback has forced me to use a digital camera for videos, and the digital camera takes much better videos than my iPhone ever did. So the drawback is actually an advantage.  

For a service provider, I decided to stick with Verizon. I make monthly payments. No contract, no lien on my soul. For $45, I get a month's worth of unlimited talk and text, plus 500mb of data. For another $20, I get an additional 3GB of data.

Math is not my strong suit, but let's do a little anyway. I had nine months left with my Verizon contract. At $120/month, that was more than $1000 for the privilege of using a broken iPhone. Since my iPhone had one foot in the electronic grave, that was not an option. (Unless I wanted to pay at least $700 for a new iPhone - eff that.) So to stick with Apple, I would have had to take the "free" iPhone and pay $150/month for the next twenty-four months and that's ... $3600.

Instead, I paid $200 to escape the shitty Verizon contract.  $70 more for my new phone.  (After seven months of hard use, it's still in excellent almost-new condition.) And instead of $150/month, I pay a measly $65/month to use my phone.  Over the course of two years, I will pay $1830 to use my phone. That includes the Verizon cancellation fee.

So let's see... $3600 for an iPhone versus $1830 for a phone that I love even more. Even if I have to replace my Android every six months, the iPhone is still about $1600 more expensive.

I don't know about you, but there are a lot of things that I can do with $1600. When I ditched my iPhone, I was worried I might regret that decision. I worried in vain. My cheap Android is awesome.

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

My Not-Yet Aquarium

I want an aquarium. Badly. I have wanted an aquarium for years - decades! - but I always hesitated. Where would I put it? What would I do when I went out of town? What if the fish were from another planet and they hypnotized me and sent me on a mission to steal the Hope Diamond? (Because everyone knows intergalactic fish are obsessed with the Hope Diamond.)

Despite these legitimate concerns, a couple of months ago, I finally decided it was time for my aquarium. It would be a goldfish aquarium. I bought a book about goldfish at the pet store. (Pippa and I often stop by the pet store to admire the animals, especially the canines at doggie day care. I was glad to finally engage in a little commerce with a place that gives us so much joy. They should really sell snacks. For people. We're not eating the dog snacks.)

Did you know that if given enough space to thrive, goldfish are actually quite big? So big, that if you have a large 29 gallon aquarium, you should only keep two goldfish? Did you know it's cruel to keep goldfish in a bowl? That goldfish actually live for years and years but when trapped in a bowl, they suffer and sicken and die very premature deaths?

I had no idea! I had goldfish as a child. I don't remember their names, but my brother always named his fish "Frankie." Oh, our poor tortured fish! And then, I had goldfish in college - Chunk and Eloise, and Marty and Doc - oh, my poor goldfish babies! I'm sorry!

(In college, I wrote an op-ed column for the student paper, and one of those columns was about my goldfish. And that post can be read right here. Yes, I have always been lame but I think we all already knew that.)

I decided we would NOT have a goldfish aquarium. Sure, we could have a tank with two fish, but that seems lame. The whole point of a tank is to have little schools of fish darting around, getting up to all sorts of crazy shit. Two goldfish = no crazy shit.

So I bought a book about freshwater aquariums. It is an excellent book. If anyone wants an aquarium, they should read this book first. After reading it, I wanted my aquarium even more.

But not yet.

Here's what I learned about aquariums: if you are going to have one, you have to do it right. You can't half-ass it with a 5 gallon novelty tank with a big replica of the Eiffel Tower and clean the water every few months. You have to get a big rectangular tank, at least 29 gallons, but 50 gal. is much better. Then you need to put that tank on a proper tank stand, because a filled tank is too heavy for a standard bookcase. You have to change the water regularly and frequently to keep your fish as healthy and happy as possible. (I suppose, if you are the sort of person who tortures squirrels and microwaves cats, then you don't need to change the water.) And if you are going to be changing the water regularly, you need to position the tank close to a sink. But the tank does not belong in a kitchen or against an outside wall or near a main door...

Above all, I learned there is nowhere to put a respectable tank in the Cranky Pumpkin household. Except the guest room. Where no one would ever see the fish. Except for overnight guests. Which, in the past year, have included the following: (1) my mother-in-law, and (2) no one else. I suppose my mother-in-law might enjoy the fish, but then again, I don't actually know that. She might hate fish. she might be nursing a secret fish phobia. If I put an aquarium in the guest room, she might stay up all night with a harpoon to guard herself. Or, she might think the aquarium makes an annoying bubbling sound.

Long story short, the aquarium is not happening anytime soon, but I am not giving up the dream. Someday! In the meantime, I may accidentally buy a hamster during one of our frequent pet store trips.

Monday, March 2, 2015

How To Write A Peppa Pig Episode

We watch a lot of Peppa Pig in the Cranky Pumpkin household. It's a cute British cartoon and my toddler Pippa adores it. This creates a lot of tongue-twister situations, e.g. "Pippa wants to watch Peppa." (Just try and say that three times fast while changing a toddler's diaper.) The similarity between "Pippa" and Peppa" also generates a fair amount of confusion. Pippa often says something that could be her name, Pippa, but then again, it could be the name of her favorite British cartoon pig, Peppa, and then I don't know what the hell is going on. Does my toddler want to watch an episode of Peppa? Is she trying to tell me something about herself? Or is she having an existential crisis?  

Pippa has watched so much Peppa, the cartoon now registers in my ear as white noise. I can sit on the couch, with Pippa on my lap, and happily read a book - even a difficult book with lots of big words and tricky grammar. But some part of my brain must be interested in the show, because I have memorized all the damn episodes.

I'm not bragging. Anyone can memorize the Peppa Pig canon, because there are only a dozen or so themes that keep getting repeated. Once you know the themes, then you can write a Peppa Pig episode yourself. Just pick two or three, mush them together, and bazinga, you have a hit show on your hands. In case you are looking to script your own episode, here are the themes:
  • Daddy Pig's big tummy
  • vehicular trouble (choose at least one: car; boat; or train)
  • Mr. Dinosaur issues
  • Muddy puddles
  • Peppa getting frustrated that she lacks a natural talent like whistling
  • Madame Gazelle performing mind experiments on the children
  • the school roof needs fixing
  • tortoise in a tree
  • Mummy Pig has some amazing secret talent like playing the violin or archery
  • Grandpa Pig's hobbies - the more eccentric and expensive, the better - I can't decide which is more ridiculous, the million dollar telescope in his attic or Gertrude the miniature locomotive
  • Miss Rabbit's jobs
  • Pirates! Alas, this is just Danny Dog playing. No pirates are yet to plunder and pillage the school.
  • George is a genius. 
  • Daddy Pig is an expert at _____ (diving, accordion, jumping in muddle puddles, etc.)
  • Daddy Pig claims to be an expert but is not, in fact, an expert (e.g. French and basic carpentry)
  • Pedro Pony is lame and needs to stop calling everything "super"
  • I am really lame and should probably watch the news once in awhile