2011 in review

This week on the show, we’re squarely focused on reviewing the year 2011 and the stories that kept us talking. Journalists and other newsy people voted the death of Osama bin Laden as the biggest news story of 2011 and I have to agree. But it wasn’t the huge news that kept me talking this year. Rather, it was the smaller stories I focused my energy on. I picked my top 5 favorite stories from this year to talk about, talk to death and then bring up several weeks later to recap.

1. Congress. I’m not sure I need to explain this any further, but for posterity’s sake I will. The year 2011 began with the Republican’s taking control of the House of Representatives, while the Democrats retained control of the Senate. So, you’d think everyone would get their compromise hats on and work together? Silly you. Of course they didn’t. Instead, they bickered throughout the entire year. Whether it was looming government shutdown, possible debt ceiling debacles or raising or lowing taxes, Congress showed America how little they care about the American. And it was bipartisan. Both sides refused to vote on the other’s measures, regardless of what the average citizen wanted. It seems to me that Congress has forgotten their actual job, to serve as a representative for the people of their district. And with an 8 percent approval rating, I think those people may be looking for new leadership.

2. Kardashimania. I am not a fan of the Kardashian family. In fact, I refuse to spell words that begin with c with a k just to placate a group of talentless folks. And this year, I especially talked about them. Less than a month before my own wedding, Kim Kardashian held her fairytale princess monstrosity, posing as a wedding.  With a man she’d been dating less than a year. Who wasn’t even sure he wanted to marry her, except for those pesky contractual obligations. But getting married wasn’t the problem. It is the sham of the marriage that irks me. This family doesn’t take real life events seriously. Marriage (I can just get divorced), parenthood (we have nannies for that), sex tapes (let’s make the most money we can out of it). But the lack of respect for marriage is especially appalling. Particualry considering Kim has been married before. And it lasted 4 years, not just 72 days. But being married cramps her brand so why would she respect a lifelong commitment. I feel sorry for all the parents who have to explain this trainwreck of a family to their children.

3. GOP presidential race. I have never known a field of candidates to be so underwhelming to their own party. No one is extremely excited about any one of them. And with so many people in the hunt, the chance for a true frontrunner to emerge are not great. But this race, and it’s subsequent thirty-million debates have kept all of America talking. Whether it is their marriages, their beliefs, or their religions, everyone wants a piece of every candidate. But it will certainly make for an interesting race.

4. Sex scandals. How many were there this year in the public eye? 10? And you’ll notice, none prominently featured women in power behaving badly. It was really only men (and please, correct me if I’m wrong). From celebrities to politicians to athletic superstars, the overwhelming theme was catching the boys in compromising positions. Arnold Schwarzenegger fathered a love child (14 years ago!), Anthony Weiner and his, well, wiener, and the chilling allegations against Dominique Strauss Kahn and Jerry Sandusky. With all that bad (and illegal) behavior, it’s not wonder 2011 was the year of men behaving badly.

5. Gay marriage, DADT and DOMA. While New York became the 6th and largest state to legalize gay marriage, President Obama repealed Don’t Ask, Don’t Tel, giving gay men and women freedom to serve openly in the military. And the Senate held its first hearings on the bill to repeal the Defense of Marriage Act. I think, regardless of personal beliefs, people were talking about gay rights this year more than any other because it was in the forefront of our media. It makes people question these laws in the first place and whether they should stand up. But as the country moves towards more tolerance, these laws are coming to light in new ways.

You’ll notice I didn’t mention the Arab Spring, Occupy Wall Street or Casey Anthony. I may have talked a lot about those stories, but they weren’t my favorites to talk about. Those are above. Hope 2011 was a great year for you and that 2012 isn’t the end!

The neverending quest for an interview

I’ve been “working” as a journalist for a long time now (look how cool I am!). Since January of 2010, on and off, I have been involved in the production of news. And in that whole time I am still in awe of one thing: how difficult it can be to get interviews.

For example, I started working with PBS’ To the Contrary in May of 2011. Michele Bachmann announced her candidacy at the first debate in June. I have been in touch with her campaign press secretary, her congressional communications director and her book’s publicity people. I have yet to schedule, let alone have an interview with her. She is one tricky woman to nail down. And every time I see her doing an interview I get a little upset. I know, I know. News people are supposed to have thick skin. I just can’t help but feeling like I’m the last kid picked in gym class.

Bachmann is not my only interview quest. She is just the only one who hasn’t turned me down outright. In general, I just hear no (which is like not getting picked at all) and maybe (which only serves to get my hopes up). Sometimes I schedule some great interviews. And sometimes I can’t get a response.

I’m easily discouraged. So hearing “no” once makes me want to give up and stop trying. In my job, that won’t fly. We have to schedule the great interviews, the interesting stories. And we have to get them in DC, which is no small feat.

But the best feeling? When we get the interview. When I can write it on our giant wall calendar because we scheduled something. I love that feeling. And that’s why I continue on this arduous quest. And Michele? If you’re reading this: PLEASE let me schedule you.

Becoming a gamer

My husband loves video games. And I don’t mean, “yeah, he likes to play after work.” No. My husband played video games for 10 hours yesterday. The same game for 10 hours.

Please don’t think I’m being critical. I’m not. I enjoy reading and getting out the house. He enjoys playing a computer game with circa 1985 graphics.

Now, I hate video games. I’ve never had a video game console, they were not a part of my childhood. I think they are a huge waste of time, with a few exceptions. When I was a teenager my little sister got as PS2 and Dance Dance Revolution and I loved that game. Ditto Guitar Hero. And then Rock Band. I can also get into some Wii Just Dance. But I prefer other things.

But in an effort to bridge the divide I feel video games cause in my life (he does not feel this way, needless to say), I finally allowed a video game console into our home. Yes, I’m the proud owner of an XBox 360, though we don’t yet have Kinect, which I hear, signifies our true gamer status.

With our XBox 360 (from his parents) came about 15 games. All except 3 were shooting games. I may be trying to close the gap, but I draw the line at shooting lifelike people in various war/gang war/fantasy war situations. So we settled on the relatively safe Madden NFL. But, the XBox has been so unloved while J has been at school and now married that our newest version of Madden is from 2008. We hadn’t even met. Deuce McAllister was still in the National Football League. But I digress, I sat down with my controller and tried to learn this game.

He beat me. Soundly. The first game I held my own, but the second he literally made every one of his players fall down on the field so I could get some touchdowns. That’s love, man.

Later, he caught me playing by myself. Little does he know, I’m just trying to get good enough to win.

So what did I learn? I learned that video games do not hold my attention like they can his. I get bored in the first quarter of the game and wish we could just stop. J won’t give up until the very end. The bitter end. When his wife is freaking out because the score is 45 to 0.

I’m not sure video games are for me. The next step? Kinectimals (Now with Bears!). J thinks if I can pet cute animals with our nonexistent Kinect, I’ll stop complaining about his daily gaming ritual. He’s probably right. They are so damn cute. I’m also pushing for Dance Central because it seems like an even better version of my original favorite: Dance Dance.  But I’ll also try Madden NFL 2012 (bringing us into this decade). Because it’s kind of fun to play with my husband. Just don’t tell him I said so.

If you get married and nothing changes, are you really married?

This was an oft-repeated question in my home in the days and weeks following my beautiful, riverside nuptials. I would tell anyone who could even pretend to care this new philosophy on marriage. And let it serve as a warning. Marriage, as an event, is pretty anti-climactic.

I don’t mean it doesn’t matter or it isn’t moving and beautiful. Damn, I have the pictures to show you how beautiful it was. No really, look at my pictures, I carry them everywhere. Isn’t this one of us with our parents adorable? But I digress. My wedding was beautiful and perfect and my husband is amazing and kind. But my marriage? What marriage? Seriously, am I really married? Because nothing changed. At all.

My husband and I lived together before our wedding. We lived together before we were even engaged. We co-signed our lease. We became joint cat parents before we tied the knot. We bought a car together. We have joint savings. Many frontiers have been traversed. There’s almost nothing left, apart from changing my name (which I’m not) or buying a house (HAHAHA, maybe in a million years). After 2 ½ years of dating, 1 year of sharing an address and 10 months of diamond-ring encrusted finger, we were finally married. I thought it would never get here and it did!

But then we went home after the wedding (to our own bed, thank you very much), woke up the next day and continued to live our life. We watched football on Sunday, I went to work the following Monday, and he went back Wednesday. Life went on and the only thing that changed was the amount of metal adorning my hand. One big party didn’t prove our commitment to each other even though it was an awesome party. But it still didn’t change the way we live our lives, day in and day out. We struggle. We fight. We laugh and we go on date nights and we have plenty of (not-so) boring married sex.

Unfortunately, a lot of views on marriage aren’t realistic. If you get your ideas from movies or TV, romance novels (and don’t get me started on the inaccuracies in books) or studies posted online, you’ll be disappointed. We live in a world where most couples live together before marriage. And if they don’t, they spend the night at each other’s places enough to know what living together would be like. So the traditionally biggest changes with marriage (name change, moving in together, getting a pet) don’t hold as much weight as they once did.

The fact is, marriage is about two people joining their lives together. This is the person you’re choosing to build your home with; to have children with and to get really old and wrinkly with. I married my husband because I love him and I can’t imagine not having him in my life. He married me because I’m great in bed, obviously.

Our commitment was made long before we signed our marriage license (which in Virginia, we actually don’t do, so this is all for the reader’s imagination). We made a commitment to each other with each new step our relationship took. And that’s why we’re unshakable. I can be a real bitch and he never does anything unless I ask him at least 30 times. But we are a family. And that’s stronger than any governmental paperwork.

Loving my pet is hard to do

For Christmas 2010, my lovely husband (then-fiance) got me the one thing missing from my life.

Meet Pebbles, my sweet kitten. She was 5 months old when we adopted her from our local animal shelter, where she had been living for a month. She was cuddly and sweet when we met her and I knew right away: she was my cat. And I was hurting for a pet. My last pet, a tortoiseshell kitten, was taken from me when I was 12 after we married my highly allergic stepdad. I had a hamster after that, but it was never the same. Pebbles filled that hole.

Until she started acting out. Biting and clawing in a kitten is not as cute in a full grown cat. We tried to teach her early with swats to the nose, loud claps at bad behavior, dumping her off our laps, etc. Everyone online, in books and in person has different tips for dealing with an unruly kitten. And at times, we literally had the sweetest cat in the entire world. But those times are hard to remember when she is clawing at your feet under the comforter at 2 in the morning.

Over the past year, her claws have gotten sharper, her bites have gotten stronger. I cannot get close enough to her paws to trim her claws, let along try “soft paws.” Yes, I’ve tried everything. I’ve read everything. I know all the ways to make her better. I know everyone thinks declawing is cruel. I’m not a huge fan myself. But when my cat continues to claw me in the lip, eye and cheek, I’m strongly considering declawing her myself.

It was after a visit with the vet (in which she clawed the vet in the face) that we realized our sweet Christmas kitten is probably never going to get any better. We’re trying behavior modification with a water squirt bottle. It doesn’t seem to be helping. But she hasn’t clawed me in the face in the past 2 weeks, so what do I know. I’m still afraid of her. I can’t have her on my lap for too long or I get scared. But I’m trying.

It’s times like this that I hate being an adult. Rarely is this the case, but when a vet tells you to put your aggressive cat to sleep because she will never be safe, I wish I had a parent to decide for me. Instead, I have to wrestle internally with the idea that my kitten, the one I’ve waited for for 10 years, may be too feral, too aggressive. And that sucks. Simply put, it sucks.

There’s no neat and clean way to wrap up this post. Because there’s no black or white answer. As much as I wish there were.

My take on Herman Cain and Ginger White

I know you’ve been DYING to know what Megan Pratz thinks about Herman Cain’s alleged affair and I will not disappoint.

A lot of speculation and news reports have wondered why Herman Cain and his alleged mistress Ginger White engaged in late night texting and phone calls. Because people don’t do that unless its a booty call right? And why would Cain give White money, something he admits to, if he weren’t sleeping with her?

Well, I have your answer. At least, I believe I have an explanation as to what may have caused all of these events. They’re in AA. Or NA. Or whatever -A group.

The basic principles of Anonymous groups are simple. They are anonymous. That means, you don’t talk about the group outside of the group. And many people in these 12-step programs have sponsors to help them through recovery.

So here’s what I think. I think Herman Cain is Ginger White’s sponsor. He is there for her as she struggles with sobriety, even offering a helping hand (in the form of money) when life gets to be too much. It makes sense right? When one of them is jonesing, they call the other for support and help.

That means Cain cannot talk about the group, or the people in it, outside of the group. Which explains his erratic and confusing behavior. Which is worse? Being a male chauvinist (“boys will be boys”) or having a substance/behavior addiction? Obviously, as a candidate for president, being a womanizing jerk is better. See Bill Clinton.

Now why would White speak out with these damaging allegations if they weren’t true? Simple really. Cain stopped the money flow. He cut her off, as addicts often must be cut off, to get healthy.

Makes sense right? I think so. Either that or he’s simply a cheater. But it will make next week’s meeting VERY awkward.

Recent stories

Because I love my job and because I like to share the awesome things I do, here are two of my recently produced pieces.

Presenting Christmas

I am a girl who loves (loves, loves) giving gifts. I think about the perfect sentiment to show how much I love someone for weeks, even months leading up to their event. I (way) overspend on holidays, particularly Christmas. And as my first year with a husband, I am becoming aware of how much of a problem my gift giving is.

In our family, I pay the bills. It was set up that way before we got married and it just stayed. I also am more likely to remember to pay the bills, so this is just how it is in our house. But because of that, I have very little money left over for incidentals. Like GIFTS! So my lovely, wonderful husband, Josh, gets to pay for the little things that accumulate each month, like dinners out, movies, etc. And this year, he is also paying for Christmas gifts for an extensive list of family members. Let me break it down for you.

I have 4 parents, 4 siblings, 1 niece and 1 nephew. Josh has 3 parents, 2 siblings, and a very important grandmother (my grandparents, obviously not important). That means gifts for 16 people. Not counting friends and each other. Now, of course, I could refrain from giving gifts this year. We don’t make a lot of money and we have a lot of debt. And as adorable, crafty people like to point out: “You can always MAKE something!” But there are two problems with that solution. First, I can’t make anything. Well, not anything people would actually want to have. I’m not crafty and cute. Second, if you missed the point, I LOVE giving people gifts. So that’s out.

But Josh is at his wit’s end. My poor, poor husband. All he wants to do is give his credit card a rest. But we’re not even halfway done. We have made progress though. And, I caved. We are making a few little things for people, including each other. And he convinced me not EVERYONE needs a $100 gift (that would be $1600, which is CRAZY! Even I know that). So, I’m not a total lost cause. But there are still 31 shopping days until Christmas (which is why I shop online).

Growing up is hard to do

Obviously a major theme of this blog, thus far, is, well, growing up. But this week I confront one grown-up challenge I haven’t before. No, it’s not buying a car/house/pony. No, it’s not having a baby. This week I embark for Cleveland, Ohio, with my parents and sister. And leave my husband behind. On Thanksgiving.

Since we started dating in college, Josh and I have never spent a holiday apart. We have always driven the slight (2-hour) distance to be together, no matter what. And no matter how long. Once, it was only for dessert. But being together on holidays is important to us.

Josh told me recently he doesn’t understand why people go on vacation at Christmas. Because he’s always thought Christmas was “all about family.” Reason I married him #34968. I feel the same way. Family is so important to me and he is my family. So leaving him behind on Thanksgiving is sort of heartbreaking.

Obviously, we discussed my decision to leave. And he was in total support. He works nights and he will be working the night of Thanksgiving, as well as the days before and after. So my 4 day weekend becomes one day with my husband. And I bought an expensive plane ticket to be home on Sunday morning to spend our one day together. Does his working make it easier to leave? Yes. Do I wish he wasn’t working? Yes.

Meryl Streep goes to Washington

To the Contrary host Bonnie Erbe and Academy Award winning actress Meryl Streep

I’m about to tell you something that may make you a little jealous. On Wednesday, I met and produced an interview with Academy Award winning actress Meryl Streep. Yes, you read that right. Meryl. Streep. I’m sure you think I have the coolest job and as my Twitter followers know #iDOhavethecoolestjob. But it’s what brings Ms. Streep to Washington, DC, that I really want to write about.

The National Mall has a museum of natural history, American history, art and an aquarium. But, conspicuously missing is a museum to women’s history. You may think it’s covered by the museum of American history, but alas, it’s not. The American history museum does have a lovely display of First Ladies’ dresses. Nothing about their lives and works, but intimate details about their dresses.

I’m not trying to be overtly feminist, or challenging the influence of men. Men did a great deal for this country. But, so did women. And they deserve the same level of recognition with a museum of their own. Meryl Streep is the spokesperson for the National Women’s History Museum, which currently exists solely online. She is pushing Congress to pass a bill allowing the organization to purchase a site near the mall to build a museum. The bill passed the House soundly, but failed to pass in the Senate, as two (male) Senators put a hold on the bill.

Meryl Streep could put her name and face on any cause. She doesn’t even have to have a cause. She’s MERYL STREEP! But, she chose this one because she believes in giving women a place to be celebrated, recognized and learned about. I think many women would be surprised to find out there is not a museum of women’s history, not just in DC, but in the entire country. Whatever your thoughts on women’s contributions to history or the present, I believe it is important for young women and girls to know whose shoulders they can stand on to make their own influence on history. And maybe a museum is the way to do that.