Our Skin

I’ve been following the comments on my link to the Dark Girls documentary over the last few days, and it has been an education for me. Excerpts from a few comments that I thought deserved more attention.

“…When I came to college, I was able to learn more about the history of Africa and learn about where my family comes from. I didn’t meet black guys who were interested in me which I thought came from me not being involved in a black sorority or in the Black Student Union. When I started to interact with other black students through work and volunteering, I still felt very separated from the “traditionally black” groups. Save for black girls with real (meaning really close) roots in Africa or the Caribbean (a girl whose parents are from Senegal and another whose roots are Native American and Haitian have been two friends I’ve made in the past four years) I’m dismissed by other black girls, too.

I feel guilty saying that it’s because of my dark skin color, because that discounts the fact that maybe I’m an awful person (and maybe I am!) or maybe our personalities don’t sync up. But, I’ve seen girls and boys who have ignored me in African American and African Studies classes excitedly interact with groups of friends I have who run the gambit in personalities but who represent the whitest end of the color spectrum. So, in four years, I’ve learned to draw conclusions.

It’s complicated and it’s a big deal, as evidenced by the little girl in the video who sees race as an indicator of intelligence and beauty, so it’s really hard for me to draw conclusions outside of the ones that I’ve made for myself.

It sounds so trite and Dove campaign-y but I love my skin. In my skin I see my grandmother, a woman I’ve only known in pictures; I see the skin of my ancestors, whom I’ve never seen but who I know looked like me. I see history and I am so lucky to be able to carry that around with me.” –Beatrice

“[On my camera,] I use the ‘lighter skin tone’ setting and flash, sickened by my preference for a lighter me…

The girl I babysit, a sweet, Caucasian girl of age seven, asked the other day, “Do you like having brown skin?”

I stuttered and said something along the lines of, “I guess,” ashamed that I was ashamed of something so natural and uncontrollable as the color of my skin, hating myself for hating myself.” From “Let us be colorful, darling” a post by Lamisa

“…I am Indian. My mother was light/fair skinned and my father was dark skinned. I inherited my father’s darker tones. My mother would scold me constantly for being in the sun and hated when I looked dark. She had stupid creams on me when I was little that would blister and burn my skin.” -Calypso

“You know what’s crazy? That a lot of white girls spend a ton of time and money trying to make their skin darker… Understand: I am in no way trying to say that it’s the same thing as the experience of dark-skinned women… But it just struck me, why are we all programmed to want to be different from how we are?” -Amy

“Wow…unfortunately, this brings back sad memories for me. As a dark skinned African American woman I too heard these comments throughout my life. My saving grace was my beloved grandfather who told me every day that I was beautiful and special and a gift from God. Because of his counter attack on all the negative comments, I grew to love my brown skin. Just goes to show that love can wipe away a multitude of sins.” -Dar

How Do You Fight Insomnia? My 10 Tips.

10 Tips for Fighting Insomnia | Mighty Girl

Tempur-Pedic asked me to track my sleep habits with a Fitbit and share the results. This is the first time I have been paid to sleep, but I have made it a professional goal to pursue further opportunities in this field. You know how to reach me.

Raise your hand if you ever have trouble sleeping. Actually, if it’s 3 a.m. you can let your hand fall listlessly by your side, I already saw you on Twitter.

A few of you have asked me how I like my Fitbit. Until Tempur-Pedic asked me to use one to track my sleep, I never bothered to learn how. Now, after sleep tracking for a week, I think it’s the most useful feature. It proved something I always suspected about myself. When my health and stress levels are in order, I have a straightforward relationship with sleep. Things have been going better lately, which means the worst night of sleep I got last week looked like this:

While waking up 11 times may not be ideal, I’ll take nearly nine solid hours of sleep any day. You can even throw in a nap, and I will not complain.

When I’m under heavy stress, however, my body prefers to be conscious enough to fret. As you might imagine, a few months ago I was awake. For weeks.

Because insomnia is such an indicator of anxiety for me, I do everything I can to get my sleeping habits back to normal. These are the top ten tricks that work for me:

1. Clear your head. Anxiety is a stimulant. I put stressful tasks at the top of my to do list in hopes of making headway before bed. For larger tasks I find it helps me to make a plan — a detailed list for the next day, an outline of a project that will take weeks to complete. If my worries are more emotional, I write stream-of-consciousness in a journal. This way I don’t waste sleep time worrying about things I can tackle in the morning. Speaking of which…

2. Keep a pen by the bed. There will always be something you forget to write down. Something so pressing that it jolts you from sleep at 3 a.m. Don’t regain consciousness while you worry about remembering the important thing. Write it down and roll over.

3. Get off the couch. Exercise. Harder than you usually do if you’re athletic. One of the less-touted benefits of strenuous exercise is that it exhausts you. Perfect.

4. Stop the nightly grind. This isn’t an issue for everyone of course, but I grind my teeth in my sleep. I didn’t realize how much it was waking me until I got a mouth guard, and so I mention it here. Consider it, my stress-ball friend.

5. Clear out electronics. They say you need to remove even the tiniest lights if you don’t want to mess with your circadian rhythms, and maybe that’s true. Illuminated clocks are so accusatory they might as well have an exclamation point after the time. But the little charging lights on my computer, phone, iPad, camera? Those are more of a problem if I’m already awake in the dark. Each one is a tiny siren song, coaxing me to conquer another level of Plants and Zombies. Not to mention how often my phone wakes me with a late-night text or call from one of the many inconsiderate louts who I have come to love. So when I’m having trouble sleeping, all the gadgets go in the living room.

6. Don’t play dead. When I’m up, I just get up. I won’t stay in bed awake for more than fifteen minutes because I don’t want my bed to become a place where I worry about not sleeping. I’ll take a bath or go read on the couch, any activity I can do supine. And if you fall asleep in the bathtub? Success.

7. Stop taking uppers. No more caffeine. If I can’t sleep, I stop ingesting stimulants because they are chemically designed to keep me awake. (I’m wacky that way.) I’ll take a two-day withdrawl headache over a month-long stint as a zombie.

8. Shower before bed. The warmth is supposed to sleepify you, and maybe it does, but I find it relaxing just to climb into bed clean. Sleeping with freshly shaved legs is also a nice bonus.

9. Get stuck. I get regular acupuncture, and I almost never have trouble sleeping on days when I have a session. The effect is similar to a good massage.

10. Powder your nose. When you finally do get to sleep, the last thing you want is to be woken by your bladder. Use the bathroom right before bed, and limit liquid intake an hour or so before you (hope to) go to sleep.

According to the Fitbit, my bout of insomnia is mercifully in past. To whit:

BAM! How you like that, Insomnia? Come and show your face, if you got beef! Or perhaps you should come back in the morning when I’m awake. We’ll discuss your behavior over a leisurely breakfast. You can do the dishes.

So that’s what works for me. How about you? How do you get to sleep?

Let me know if you need me to come over and spoon.


If you want more information on how to buy a good mattress, you can get it here. The folks at Tempur-Pedic want me to remind you about this, “This post is sponsored by Tempur-Pedic, because we think you deserve to get your best night’s sleep every night.” Thanks, Tempur-Pedic. You’ve got my back. (Pun brought to you by Maggie as a reward for reading the fine print. You’re welcome.)

Solution: At-Home Salad Bar

I’m at the top of my ten-pound weight swing, which means salads for lunch until I get the house back in order. I love the ease of salad bars, and after searching for a fridge-sized box to keep everything at hand, I finally realized I could just use the crisper drawer.

My at-home salad bar has a head of arugula in a little bowl of water (It still had the roots on when I bought it. Fancy.), a bag of mixed greens, an avocado, a bowl of cherry tomatoes, some chopped jicama, and chopped carrots. Also, red peppers, which I don’t love, but they’re so good for me that I just sneak a few in. Instead of plastic wrap, I used little folded sandwich baggies to line the bowls of ingredients that needed it.


It increased my salad intake and consumption dramatically because it was so easy to pull the drawer out, throw my ingredients in a bowl, and pop everything right back into place. Clearly, I am a genius.

If you’re looking to improve your salad-making mojo, here are a few good links to explore:

-Oprah’s mix and match salad chart
-Metafilter thread on salad ingredients
-And a few salad ingredients to avoid from Six Wise.

Is this my first official post about what I had for lunch? I feel a stoning coming on.

Have a favorite salad combo? I’d love to hear about it in comments.

Five Favorite Books


I’m a little late posting this Momversation about finding time to read. Shortly after Hank was born, I realized that reading is my meditation. I get mean if I don’t get book time.

If you’d like to see more books I recommend, have a look at my Eight Books that Changed Things for Me post. The comments on that post are great too. If you haven’t yet, list your favorites here. I’m always looking for good reads.

Rita Konig on Luxury

Thinking about a Rita Konig quote published in Domino:

“There’s something about the size of everything in Italy. The glass of wine is small and so is the order of spaghetti. Here, everything is too big, which is about value, not luxury.”

10 Days with Gwyneth Paltrow’s Trainer, Days 3-6

In case you want context:

Original post
Day 1
Day 2

Day 3 Report: Skipping breakfast before my workout is an error. I read a scientific study that proves you can get some of the benefits of exercise by simply imagining you’re exercising. I adopt this plan. I lay there, panting, and imagine working out for about half the routine. “These sit ups in my head are so taxing! My psychological form on these pikes is unbelievable!”

I’m not even sore the next day. Screw you, Science.

Day 4 Report: Huh. I can sort of manage a crippling Pilates position, which I had previously believed Tracy Anderson was achieving through CGI. I no longer feel angry at Tracy Anderson herself, just specific parts of her body — specifically her abs and upper arms.

Day 5 Report: I get through the first section without keening or modifying the exercises to suit the needs of an 80 year old woman who has just given birth.

Day 6 Report: If I ignore the searing pain, I am able to lay on the floor, and lift my legs at a right angle to my body while reaching to the ceiling to touch my toes. I do this more than once. I am increasingly angry at Tracy Anderson’s abs and upper arms.

Progress Report:

This project was supposed to take ten days. On some level, I suppose it will, but there has been guilt.

I’m working out twice a week more than I was.
Without changing my diet at all, I’ve lost two pounds. I love you, buttered bread and red wine.
My stomach is visibly more muscular.
I am no longer mortified to be on my hands and knees whimpering while my husband checks his email at the desk next to me.

Rainbows, I Tell You

Psychologists now know what makes people happy

My favorite part of this article on happiness by Marilyn Elias:

“One of the happiest men I ever met was a 64-year-old Chicago welder with a fourth-grade education,” he says. The man took immense pride in his work, refusing a promotion to foreman that would have kept him from what he loved to do. He spent evenings looking at the rock garden he built, with sprinklers and floodlights set up to create rainbows.”

Project! Pretty Lingerie Drawer

As you may recall, last summer I was bitching about uncomfortable underwear. I was feeling globally homicidal at the time, but was unable to stop pulling at my drawers long enough to pull a trigger. So G-strings are useful for something besides sex after all.

Anyway, you guys came to the rescue with a range of good suggestions, which I proceeded to try out.

A while later I saw this gem of an article in Domino (available online courtesy of DesignMom). It’s about organizing your underwear so it looks all fancy. After reading it, my disheveled pile of aging cotton made me feel even more pathetic.

I finally threw out all my ill-fitting drawers and bought a couple of these on sale:

That’s the Old Navy Women’s Mesh Hipster, and just as you promised, it’s a towering achievement in undergarments — cute, flattering, reasonably priced, comfy, no panty line, good at math. Once I’d tried them out, I went online and ordered enough to outfit the Rockettes.

The drawer organizers I found were overpriced, so I bought some ornament storage trays on clearance at the Container Store, because I am a genius.

Anyway, behold!

Are you atremble at the glory of it all? For the record, that glass full of weed is actually verbena leaves. I thought it would make the drawer smell nice, but it didn’t really, so feh.

I redid my sock drawer too:

I can’t tell you how chick-excited I am. It’s like a new-issue-of-People-and-box-of-rainbow-macaroons-from-Miette-while-I-watch-Gossip-Girl excited.

Anyway, do this for yourself. I’m surprised at how calming it is to wake up knowing I won’t have to paw through a tangle of withered elastic and granny wear.

Tomorrow, oral surgery! Enjoy my pain-killer enhanced posts for the next week or so.