Friday, December 28, 2007

Present in Form Only

Some days I seek silence the way I seek cupcakes with buttercream icing on others. On the days I want to live solely in my head, the quiet is sweet and always fleeting. My mind fills with words, ideas, and I keep them all to myself, selfishly, delightedly savoring them, toying with them until they bore me. I fear there isn't enough to share, never enough to go around.

Today, I meandered through my morning routine and wandered out into the dark and mist, all without saying a word. The swish of the tires on wet pavement was the only music allowed in the car, while my thoughts floated free elsewhere. The lights were still off when I arrived at the office. Those are my favorite moments in cube city, sipping hot green tea, basking in the absence of noises other than those of my own creation.

When the Others arrived, I put on my headphones and found the stillness between the compact lines of a Smiths song.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Things I don't want to see

"Things I don't want to see" may become a semi-regular segment...

This morning I don't have a lot to do at work (I'm saving up for those two days next week when I will be working and no one else will). So, I found myself surfing the 'Space, looking at other people's friends lists like the dork I am. Then I ran across this: a MySpace avatar of someone breastfeeding her infant. I think I've already expressed my distaste for pregnancy pictures; you know, the sideways shots of giant growing bellies and, worse yet, those straight-on shots of naked, belly button-free stomachs. Ick. But this was way over the top. Seriously, it was an overhead shot of a baby face and some woman's boob. I don't need to see that...EVER.

Does it make me a terrible feminist that I find breast-feeding a little gross? I suppose one has the right to do whatever they feel comfortable with, but really, I don't want to watch. When I was a hostess, I once saw a woman whip out her breast in the middle of a busy restaurant waiting area and start feeding her screaming kid. Part of me was glad the child shut up, but the rest of me wanted to vomit. It's not that I have a problem with boobs or looking at them. I was not one of the offended when Timberlake ripped off Janet Jackson's top. Boobs are beautiful. But when they show up unexpectedly and get shoved in baby mouths, I get a little uncomfortable. The women who don't mind this behavior are quick to point out that it's a natural function, blah, blah, blah. My body performs many necessary and natural functions, but I don't take pictures of them and post them online or perform them in the middle of public places. People usually get arrested for that sort of thing. Hmm, there's an idea.

The moral of the story? Take all the schmoopy pictures you want of your pets, your significant other, your children. Hell, I don't even get offended if I happen across a porn-ish photo of anonymous boobs. But, for the love of god, keep your breastfeeding photos to yourself!

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

The Woman Vote



Last weekend at a party, a good female friend of mine informed me that she'd taken the time to watch the most recent Republican debate on televison, "because I know you are into that sort of thing," she said. I am into "that sort of thing." And even though, I would rather she had watched the Democratic debate, I was glad she took the time to become an informed voter for the party of her choice, even though it's not necessarily her "thing."

In the last election more than 20,000 women failed to vote. Most weren't even registered. If I had a dollar for every time a woman told me she didn't "get" politics or didn't care about the process, I could retire. You just don't hear that excuse from men. Most of them appear to step up and do their civic duty without question. Maybe that's why there are so few women in political offices. When we as a group so segregate ourselves from the polticial process, we are making it the domain of men. The domain of old, white men. And then we wonder why it seems like our leaders don't understand what we need or want.

So, why can't we, whether we enjoy politics or not, take the time to think about our beliefs and priorities for our country? Is that so strange? Would you work in your job aimlessly without thinking about where you hope to see the company and yourself go? Would you be in a relationship in which you never thought about the future? Would you buy a new car without thinking about your driving needs? So, why not consider where the country is going?

The second step is to find a candidate who supports causes and national priorities you hold dear. This means more than finding out who friends, significant others, or other social leaders are voting for. I've known too many women who have copied their political views from their husbands like math homework. Like I used to tell my students, grow an opinion, an informed one! If we don't help make decisions, other people will make them for us. And, I don't know about you, but that's not good enough for me. This is about how lucky we are to live in a country where we are free to fully participate and be a visible, functioning part of our society.

But thousands of women won't be. Take a minute to watch the video above. Can you imagine what 20,000 more votes might have done in the last two elections? Can you imagine that your vote might be the one that puts the first female or minority in the White House instead of the same old white guy? You've got the better part of a year to figure out how you are going to make a difference. Do it already!

Friday, November 30, 2007

Last of the daily blogging...

Ah, the last day of National Blog Every Day Month. Not that I technically blogged every day. However, I look forward to returning to my former lackadaisical blogging style next week.

*********************************************************************************
I'm so not ready for the holiday season. And, I don't mean I'm unprepared with adequate gifts for my loved ones, although I don't have any of those yet either. I'm just not in that mindset yet. Thus the reason that hearing the Christmas music that has recently begun to be piped into the hallways and elevator of my office building make me want to stick my fingers in my ears. And, Christmas lights...Christmas lights are like children to me--I don't mind taking a quick peek at someone else's in passing, but I surely don't need any for myself. I walk through the malls (during off hours, of course, to avoid the crowds) and can't imagine who wants festive holiday pjs from VS or Crocs in holiday colors. Yeah, I know, bah humbug.

I think it's more the descent of winter weather than anything. I hate being cold, which I am when the temperature drops below about 75 degrees. I hate having to bath in lotion to keep my skin from getting dried out. And most of all, I hate seeing the sun for about half an hour a day (if I'm lucky) on the drive to work and how it's pitch dark by the time I emerge from the office. Early darkness saps my energy and makes me want to crawl under the covers for the night by like 7 pm.

I thought I had a plan...I've been mentally preparing myself for winter since October. When the daylight started ending sooner, I started telling myself that the worst of it would be until the end of December, and then the sunlight hours would start building again. I thought if I was prepared the impact would be lessened. And, in some way it has a little. But there's still a part of me that feels mopey and lazy for no reason at all.

I've also been trying to revel in all the things about winter I do like. Winter is the time for candles lit in the windows; the overwhelming desire to bake; cuddling and movie marathons; cashmere; ice skating in Forest Park (constant complaining about the temperature mandatory); surprise gifts of all shapes and sizes; parties, parties, and more parties; down comforters; hot coffee, cider, wine, or chocolate spiked with various liquors; boots (!) and scarves; and, of course, company paid holidays.

So maybe I'll get into the holiday spirit sooner or later. Just don't expect Christmas cards. :)

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Inside the Blogger's Studio

I was listening to James Lipton on Diane Rehm this morning, where he answered the same set of questions he asks his guests on Inside the Actor's Studio. Seemed like a good idea for a blog, so here goes:

1. What is your favorite word? Couture...it brings to mind glamour from a world very different than mine. And Peaches...it just sounds juicy and yummy.

2. What is your least favorite word? C*nt. I know the Vagina Monologues has taught us to embrace the word, but it still sounds negative and harsh to me. Even though, in general, I swear like a sailor, I almost never ever call someone that. I didn't even want to type it.

3. What turns you on (creatively, spiritually, or emotionally)? Stimulating conversation about books, writing, or big ideas with someone who pushes me intellectually.

4. What turns you off? Attitudes of entitlement. I don't care who you are, the world doesn't owe you anything. You aren't too good for anything. You aren't better than anyone else. Also, passive-aggressiveness

5. What is your favorite curse word? I love, love, love the F word. Any word that can be used as almost any part of speech deserves to be used regularly.

6. What sound or noise do you love? My cat's purr when we are curled up napping together. Rain drumming on the roof, especially at night.

7. What sound or noise do you hate? Other people eating crunchy foods. My neighbors loud house music when it keeps me awake, or in the middle of the day for that matter.

8. What profession other than your own would you like to attempt? As different as they are, if I weren't in the English field, I'd be a fashion designer or a doctor.

9. What profession would you not like to do? I'd be the world's worst psychiatrist.

10. If Heaven exists, what would you like to hear God say when you arrive at the Pearly Gates?
"Come on in...it's nothing like they told you it would be, I promise."

What would you answer? I'd love to hear what everyone else would have to say. Comment!!!

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Sap Ahead

So much for blogging every day this month...

Thanksgiving came and went, as did my birthday. I sort of consider my birthday the beginning of a new fiscal year, and inevitably I find myself looking back on the past 12 months. Overall, it's been a great year, although at first, I couldn't think of any good examples to support this conclusion. I've been in the same job for over a year now. I live in the same apartment, drive the same car, and care for the same naughty cat. My friends are consistently wonderful. My family hasn't changed. Don't get me wrong, last year wasn't bad at all, but why was this year so much better than the last? The only big difference was meeting B. in April. And, since then, my life has been undeniably brighter. I feel like I finally have it all: a cool life and someone to share it with. I wasn't actively looking for a relationship back then, nothing more serious than a weekend boyfriend, but one rainy Friday night, I reluctantly went out with friends and met the best thing that would happen to me all year. Maybe my whole life.

Here's to another year even better than the last.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Holiday How-To Plan

I can handle my immediate family just fine. In fact, most of the time, I even look forward to seeing them (especially my favorite sister *wink*). Most of my cousins are pretty okay too. It's the nosy older members of my extended family that make me want a handful of Valium with my turkey dinner.

Ever wish you could send ahead a list of topics you prefer not to discuss at your family holiday gatherings, the way celebrities do before they go on a talk show? I think it would make the whole episode a lot more tolerable. That, and including wine with dinner like every other freakin' family on the planet (I mean, seriously, we might like each other a lot more after a glass or two).
Here's my list:

1. Don't ask me about my job. I've repeatedly explained to everyone what it is I do as an editor, and assuming they can even remember that I'm no longer a teacher, they seem to think I spend 8 hours a day proof-reading. No amount of explaining can make it clear, so let's just say I'm gainfully employed and leave it at that.

2. Do NOT ask me about my relationship. I used to be annoyed when they would ask if I was "seeing anyone special," but that was easy enough to nix with a sarcastic, "I'm seeing all kinds of unspecial guys. Tons actually." Now that they have an actual person about whom to interrogate me, I feel it could be worse. So, don't ask how it's going. Don't ask if we are getting married. And, definitely don't ask when I'm planning to finally be barefoot and pregnant like a good little woman. Wait for a Save-the-Date like everyone else.

3. Zero, and I mean ZERO questions or sarcastic comments about my decision to stop being a strict vegetarian. I don't analyze what's on your plate; don't bug me about what's on mine.

4. Let's agree ahead of time that we will definitely disagree and avoid all topics having to do with religion or politics. And while we are at it, let's avoid any issues of social justice, racism, feminism, or just about any -ism. The fine weather and perhaps the score of the football game will suffice. In fact, I'll probably just make sure my mouth is full the entire time precluding the need for conversation.

5. Let's be honest, I'm in this for the pie and, in this case, birthday cards filled with money. Give me those things, and I'll be on my way.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

10 timely facts about me

In no particular order:

1. I've been on my own for a long time, but there's still something fulfilling about paying my last bill of the month and knowing I don't have to do it again for, oh say, ten days.

2. I still get super excited about my birthday, even though it does mean I'm another year closer to OLD.

3. I used to get into arguments with my cousin whose birthday was the day before mine. He was born two years after me but used to insist that because his birthday came first, he was actually older. Funny how being the younger one doesn't sound so bad anymore.

4. My jeans feel looser today, and that makes me indescribably happy.

5. I haven't had a Dr. Pepper (or any other kind of soft drink) in over a month. I haven't been to Starbucks in more than 2 weeks. Maybe I've kicked my worst habits!

6. I frequently have practice conversations in my head before the real-life ones, especially if they could be intense.

7. I've always been an INTJ (Introverted, Intuitive, Thinking, Judging) on the Meyers Briggs Personality Inventory, but when I took the online version recently, I got an INFP (Introverted, Intuitive, Feeling, Perceiving. I keep wonder if my personality has really suddenly changed...hard to tell.

8. I have seen 2 car accidents take place next to me in 2 days. I'm a little nervous to drive home today.

9. After watching Ratatouille, I've decided to actually make some ratatouille tomorrow night. Hope it tastes as good as the picture in the recipe looks.

10. I woke up this morning wondering if Heidi and Spencer really broke up on the Hills last night or if it was just creative editing on the preview. I'm going to watch the episode online on my lunch break.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Getting Soft on Crime?

I've frequently said everything in St. Louis is done in a half-ass manner. Even our crime. Apparently, it's not just baseball titles this town can't keep for more than one consecutive year... St. Louis Ranked Second Most Dangerous City in U.S.

Funny how I don't feel any safer walking around my neighborhood though.


Marriedtothesea.com

Friday, November 16, 2007

Fatal Attraction to Cuteness

An early birthday present to myself arrived this morning:

4 inch heels...One glass of wine and I could very well break an ankle, but aren't they gorgeous? I'm sure it makes me a very bad feminist to so enjoy wearing these devices designed by a man to torture a woman's feet, legs, back, etc. However, my opinion falls into the Marilyn Monroe camp:
"I don't know who invented high heels, but all women owe him a lot."
Yes, Marilyn, we certainly do.
Debut: my birthday party!

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Puppy Dreams

I want a puppy! You have no idea how much. Look at that cute little guy in the picture above. *Sigh* Adorable!
It's not that I don't love my cat. Karma is the best (except for when she bites me on the ankle, unprovoked in the early morning hours). Look at that purely evil little face:

I got a cat in the beginning because she needed a home and I needed a pet that didn't require me to be home at regular intervals to walk her. She was about the size of my palm when I brought her home and spent the entire first night mewing pitifully. Pretty soon she was sleeping on my pillow, curled around the top of my head (and I wonder why I wake up with allergies every morning). She pokes me in the face with her little wet nose when she thinks it's past time to wake up and get her some kitten chow. She hides behind the clothes basket waiting for me to walk by, jumps out, and bounds away hoping I'll chase her back. Sometimes I do.

But I've never had a dog of my own either. My parents owned a giant doberman when I was small, but that was technically my dad's dog, even though Prince let me ride around on his back like a horse. The dog we had when I was older, Patches, was named by me (b/c he had different patches of color on him...I was so creative back then), but he was mostly my brother's dog. "Every boy needs a dog," my dad had said. So, I think a puppy of my own is long over due. I want to put it in dorky little argyle sweaters and fancy collars. I want to play tug-of-war with little rope toys (not my shoes...).

Unfortunately, my apartment is way too small for a whole puppy. It's almost too small for a cat. I'm still not home early or regularly enough to walk a dog. I don't have a yard for it to play in. It's just not time. So, the puppy remains a little wish for the future.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Consider this:


nataliedee.com


5 reasons I'd make a pretty good President:

1. If I could keep my deliquent students in check, dealing with comparatively small-time dictators would be a piece of cake.

2. I have two years experience as class VP behind me. My record includes putting on an awesome junior prom and an exciting senior class trip.

3. I could finally put to good use all the knowledge of domestic and international affairs I've picked up from listening to NPR constantly. Who needs a law degree??

4. As a former English major, I will save the country money by writing my own speeches...and as an added bonus, I will be able to pronounce all the words in them and read them correctly from the teleprompter.

5. I can rock a power suit in ways even Hillary and Barack never dreamed of. Think about it.

Vote Cherry Blossoms in '08!

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Out of the Blue

I was a total goody-two-shoes when I was a kid. The thing I dreaded most was getting a "talking to" from one of my parents. It didn't take so much to please them, just to get good grades and stay out of trouble. So I did. Staying out of trouble meant a lot of things--not running wild with my friends, getting home by curfew, showing up at church on Sunday, not disagreeing, and not talking back. Somewhere along the line, I learned I could do whatever I wanted as long as I didn't get caught, and I started compartmentalizing. I just kept my mouth shut, and everything was alright. Even as an adult, some old habits are hard to let go.

I started this blog in the interest of expressing my truest self and thoughts. And, for the most part, I think I explain my views honestly. However, both in this medium and in real life, my distaste for open conflict holds me back. Because I hate fighting with the people I care about, I censor the pieces of myself that I feel would offend them. For someone who prides myself on not giving a shit what most people think of me, I spend a lot of time creating the spin that will make me more palatable to people I love but have decided can't handle the "real" me. I don't tell, and for the most part, they don't ask. They are relationships of mutual delusion.

It's not even that I don't want to fight. I wish I had the balls to stand up and tell the bluntest truths. I stay silent because it's easier, because I don't want to sit through a well-meaning lecture about all the ways I am "disappointing" someone else's expectations, because when it comes down to it, I really don't care what anyone else wants, because I'm still going to do whatever it is I want to do. So, maybe it comes down to something as simple as laziness.

Or maybe it's something more serious. I hate telling half-truths in this blog, but then I'm worried that the wrong people will read it and somehow I'll get "in trouble." I'm almost 29 years old...what's the worst that could happen to me? That my parents won't love me anymore? Maybe. I've never tested that supposedly unconditional love. If my life goes in a different direction than theirs, can they accept me and have a relationship with me? That's a tough cliff to jump off of blindly.

I don't want to harm my relationship with anyone, but I also cannot, under any circumstances, be the person they think I ought to be. The best I can do is a poor fictional version of that person, a version that makes me resentful at family gatherings because I have to stay in character for hours on end and can't talk honestly about what's going on in my life. I'd like to look forward to those gatherings instead of dreading the conversations I'll have to avoid to keep the peace.

Maybe it's just that over a decade after I became a legal "adult," I'm ready to grow up already.

Monday, November 12, 2007

I read it online, so it must be true

What his video games reveal about him. Where was this article when I was dating around? I know the first thing I was scoping out in a guy's apartment was his gaming systems. If only I'd known how to decipher their meaning. Some categories were missing though:

A guy with no video game systems:
Probably an alien. What guy doesn't have at least one? Check his computer for PC games, which are way geekier than video games. If he buys imaginary swords on eBay for his World of Warcraft character, you should probably leave immediately.

A guy with all the video game systems:
Too involved in gaming to date. Also, possibly lacks loyalty. If he can't commit to a system, he probably won't commit to you either.

A guy with joysticks for playing old school aracade games:
My kind of guy.

I should totally be writing BS articles for MSN!

Friday, November 9, 2007

One Small Step

I have to admit, I'm pretty excited that on Sunday, 2 women in StL. will be ordained as Catholic priests. Never mind that I'm not Catholic. Never mind that I'll probably never attend one of their services. Not allowing qualified and well-educated women to preside over a congregation is what's wrong with most fundamentalist religions out there. There's something wrong when women are relegated to the nursery or Sunday school room simply because they are female. Women can do more than sing in the choir or be youth leaders. If they are given these roles under the stereotype that women are, by nature, nurturing, then why wouldn't a woman be a great option to nurture an entire church/temple/mosque/etc.? Nothing would make me more interested in a place of worship than knowing that the leader was a female. Keeping them out of top leadership is just another example of how men try to keep women in their places under the guise of "that's how God wants it."

As with any other "-ism," change takes time. I appreciate these women's courage to follow what they perceive to be their holy callings, even in the face of possible excommunication from their religion's leaders. It's also a testament to the community of women that other females from reformed congregations have stood by them, supported them, and even, in one case, offered them a sanctuary to perform the ordination, not just to anger the men in power but because they genuinely believe in the work that these 2 women will do. Another article I read put this particular situation in words I couldn't have said better myself: read it.

Maybe one day, some of the more resistant powers that be will put aside their own pride and desire for power and choose the person who is truly best for the job of leading a faith community regardless of gender.

Thursday, November 8, 2007

Creating Ritual




B. and I have decided to celebrate Chanukkah this year, so I spent the morning yesterday shopping online for menorahs. My favorite were the sketchy ones on eBay that didn't actually have the required 8 candleholders. There were also traditional, modern, and artsy ones to choose from, and even a Waterford crystal one if you want to drop $300. Let's just say I was a little overwhelmed by all the choices.


The idea of creating rituals with significant others and loved ones has come up quite frequently lately. I think it's a part of growing up and putting down roots to want to create meaningful traditions with the ones you love.


A dear friend wrote a piece about this subject for one of her American Studies classes. I wish there was a link for you to read it because it was beautifully written (Publish it, J.!!!). She wrote of deciding in what ways to observe her cultural traditions in the family she's creating with her fiance and how our generation differs from the previous one in that many of us buy the cultural symbols (usually the grandest and most expensive) that the previous generation had passed down to them from their families. As I recall it, the piece essentially questioned whether rituals mean more when they are passed down from generation to generation or when we co-op them in ways that are meaningful to us personally. I think this is especially true when people come from different backgrounds. I am interested in knowing the basis of the original traditions, but I love the idea of blending the elements that mean the most to both of us to create our own unique celebrations.


Another friend recently told me how much she wants to build traditions with her group of friends. She said that since she isn't that close to her family of origin, she considers her friends and their significant others to be the family that she has chosen for herself. She wants to build holiday traditions and annual vacations with us. We are planning to begin this year with a week-early Thanksgiving dinner together. I love the idea that one day our families will spend the week sharing condos on the beach or going skiing together in the winter. "Family" takes on a lot of different forms, and I'm excited to share that label with her.


As it turns out, B.'s family has a spare menorah for us to use. Neither of us will be home at sundown on the 4th to light the first candle, but I think we'll find our own way to commemorate those 8 days. I'm just excited we get to spend another holiday together.


Wednesday, November 7, 2007

A few of my favorite things

Fall might be my new favorite time of year.
I walked out of work last night, and it smelled like fall; that cold crisp scent was all over the air. There's something about that smell that makes me want to curl up in front of a fireplace with a book and homemade hot chocolate. Never mind that I haven't actually had a fireplace since the house we lived in when I was a baby. That, and the non-operational one in our room in the Bass House in college. It was really more of an entry point to let birds and bats and who knows what other wild life into our room.
I love the frosty windows and contrast of the cold air and the toasty down comforter in the mornings. And how Karma burrows into the covers in the crook of my legs. Those mornings require hot tea while I'm getting ready for work, the kind made in a kettle on the stove, not in a mug in the microwave.
It's the only time of year I feel outdoorsy. This weekend B. and I are going to Elephant Rock to do a little hiking and look at the fall foliage. I want to feel the crunch of leaves under my tennis shoes and make the most those last few rays of warm sun.
Fall makes me want to cook things from scratch. Mashed potatoes, cranberries, pies, mulled wine, festive things to share over dinner with groups of friends. I find myself walking through places like Crate and Barrel and dreaming up beautiful place settings for all the holiday gatherings I want to have one day when I have a house of my own, runners, center pieces, special dishes and glassware.
And my birthday is just 15 days away! All good things happen in the fall...

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Musings

Ever since I started working in publishing with a medical emphasis, I’ve wondered what it would have been like to work in medicine. I’ve done more than make sure the names of disease are spelled correctly; I’ve looked up the meanings and sometimes the ugly pictures that go with them in my Stedman’s medical dictionary. I’ve become concerned about drug interactions and the side effects of the therapies my friends and family take. I’ve taken to wondering whether or not drug companies really want to find a cure for cancer when the drugs to treat it are so lucrative. I’ve gotten up in arms about the current administration's lack of support for the HPV vaccine (b/c it would encourage young girls to be “promiscuous”). I’ve started wondering if I missed a career because when the time to choose colleges and majors rolled around I was inexperienced and afraid of not being the best at something (ie, math). It's amazing that we ask people to make major choice about what their future will be like when they are 18. I’ve also started wondering if it’s too late to do something about this wondering. Or, if it’s a little too late, and I should just be content with the path I’ve chosen. It’s hard to say.

Monday, November 5, 2007

Fashion Victim?

It's amazing how a new haircut can make me feel like a new and better version of myself.

I always joke that being a woman means being in a constant battle to stay on the right side of ugly (ie, the not ugly side). There are chipped toenails to be re-polished, legs to be de-fuzzed, skin to be exfoliated, pores to be mud-masked, eyebrows to be waxed, faces to be made up, abs to be toned, hair to be cut and colored, closets to be cleaned out and filled with wearable (hopefully slimming) outfits.

It gets tiring to say the least.

Maybe this is partially my own fault, as I am what "they" call a girly-girl. I'll run to Target in yoga pants, but I don't like leaving the house without mascara and concealer on. Sue me. I like to at least resemble the girl who B. first took out and not let myself go just because I'm "taken," part of which I feel is keeping the legs in first-date shape. I don't like to wear shoes with last season's heel or cheap clothing that doesn't hold its shape in the dryer. I realize that all these things are my choice. But constant choices become habits, and it begins to feel like I spend an inordinate amount of time trying to just make it in under the wire of looking halfway decent.

But Saturday, I got my out-of-control, overgrown short hair cut. I got a new style (as I do pretty much every time...): long, side-swept, choppy bangs and short, edgy layers. The cut took off the last of the leftover black-brown ends and left me with shiny, reddish medium brown. Add a little eye makeup and I was feeling like a supermodel.

Or I will for a week or two anyway.

Friday, November 2, 2007

I'd rather be napping

This whole blog-every-day thing is cutting into my nap time. Oh well.

I came home from work, did a pilates workout dvd that I'm not convinced does a damn bit of good, and then tried my hand at a new cheddar/chutney dip recipe to take to Mel's party tonight. It's in the refrigerator setting up, but I do believe we have a rousing success on our hands.

Learning to cook isn't something that has necessarily come naturally to me. I still remember my first cooking fiasco. My grandma had ordered me a Betty Crocker children's cookbook by redeeming thousands of BC box tops and UPC codes. Of the many great things that can be said about the woman, she certainly knows how to make the most of a rebate. Anyway, I was thrilled and set about flipping through the pages to find out what kind of tasty treats I'd soon be able to create. I settled on banana bread. It seemed easy enough. My mom wasn't too thrilled about the idea, but finally she set me loose in the kitchen with some over-ripe bananas and a "Don't make a mess!" I carefully measured out the ingredients, mixed them up, and poured the gooey mixture into a bread pan. I set the oven timer and paced around the kitchen waiting. About 45 minutes later, I checked my "finished product," only to find out it was still a soupy mess. I checked that the oven temperature was correct and decided to give it a few more minutes. Twenty minutes later, the situation was still the same. Finally, I yelled for my mom to come take a look. She looked at the liquid banana bread and at the mess of ingredients on the counter. Her eyes narrowed. "Did you put any flour in it?" I looked across the counter...there was banana peels, baking soda, various spices, but sure enough, no flour. "Can't I just add some now and throw it back in the oven?" I asked. Needless to say, baking time was over for the day and for many days to come.

This story (and a couple of others stikingly similar to it) came up last Thanksgiving when I contributed to the family dinner with my favorite Indian potato dish and a carrott souflee, which were flawless by the way. "This is pretty good." someone said, "Better than the time you tried to make banana bread, remember?"

In this family, how could I forget.

Thursday, November 1, 2007

Warming Up

I came into work at 7:00 a.m. this morning because at 3:00 p.m. I'm leaving to go see my baby sister's sectional volleyball game in some godforsaken small town in Southern Illinois. If I don't post tomorrow, you can assume I'm lost in the hills somewhere with banjos playing.

Volleyball is pretty much the only sport I can watch for more than five minutes. Even sitting in the stands, I feel something tug inside me when I watch them play. I scream at the ref. I call the ball out with them. I yell side-out, even though rally scoring kind of makes the term obsolete. In general, I make a complete ass of myself because I want more than anything to be in the thick of the game instead of living it vicariously.

So many of my memories in high school are tied to the sport. When in other aspects I felt like I didn't fit in, being good at volleyball was my identity. The court was the one place where I felt confident, like I was appreciated for being myself. It was where I bonded with the girls who would become my friends. I remember silly things like wearing matching Nike headbands (an aside: I saw a woman wearing one at the gym the other day--these headbands were not as cool as we thought), braiding each other's hair before games, eating jars of disgusting baby food on the way to road games (b/c we heard it was a good source of light-weight protein), and being terrified of our coach's bad driving. I remember warming up before games with Stephanie and trying to beat our record number of passes without dropping the ball (I think, it reached over 500 at one point). I remember all the little superstitions like not washing our knee pads when we were on a winning streak, wearing my "lucky" maroon hairband, and not cutting our fingernails the day before a game. I remember salt and pepper, quick hits, and queens of the court. I remember how the team from the Mennonite school in Arthur, IL was our biggest rival and the few times we beat them. I remember the day in practice when I hit my chin on the floor during a diving drill and bled all over the place (I still have the scar from that one). I remember that invincible feeling of flying through the air and the snap of my shoulder muscle when I put the ball down. I remember the thrill of competition and the high of winning.

In some ways, cheesy though they may be, I could credit the Lady Falcons with teaching me about the fine line between competitive spirit and teamwork, the value of pushing myself, and maybe even the most basic "girl power" feminism. Even though I haven't gotten a chance to play competitively in years, even though all those "priceless" varsity letters and trophies are god-knows-where in my parents' garage, no other experiences of playing in college or later in leagues has ever quite matched the magic of that little high school team.

Monday, October 29, 2007

The Challenge

So November is National Novel Writing Month, in which the motivated can write the majority of their novels in 30 days. It's a lovely concept, but not one I'm particularly interested in at the juncture. However, another blogger instituted National Blog Post Month, in which the slightly less motivated post something on their blog every day. For that one I'm in, especially since I've been so bad about posting lately. Just don't expect anything from me on the weekends...
Anyone care to join me in this endeavor?



Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Dear Me:

Earlier, I was reading a post from one of my favorite bloggers
Christine of Storked!. In this piece, she wrote a letter to a younger version of herself as if preparing and encouraging herself before hand for the many twists and turns her life would take. Her words really got me thinking and inspired me to do something similar.

If I could sit down with myself around age 13, here are some of the things I'd make sure I knew:

1. Pefection is not only impossible, it's boring. Be imperfect. Be yourself. It's not so bad. Go out without makeup. Get a B or two. Spend the majority of your time living life.

2. Don't participate in activities just because you think someone else expects it of you or even to spend time flirting with a boy. Think how much more free time you'd have if you skipped all those basketball practices, choir rehersals, and study groups you didn't want to go to. This extends into adult life too. Do what you want, even if you do it alone.

3. You'll get your heart broken many times before you meet the right guy. But don't let that stop you from meeting him or the ones in between. Just know that no matter how much you think you'll die at the time, all those heart pieces can be put right back together again and you'll be as good as new in no time.

4. Follow fewer rules. Really. Being too sheltered is worse for your spirit than falling down a few times because you pushed the envelope. Figure things out for yourself. Experiment. You can always change your mind.

5. Disappoint more people. You worry far too much about what other people think of you. Teachers, parents, friends, friends of friends. Like the perfection thing, you'll never please all of them all of the time anyway. Worry about whether or not you're disappointing yourself first.

6. You'll be most disappointed in yourself for not reaching your potential. You can often do better for yourself than you do. Try to get into the dream schools and interview for those dream jobs. Being bored is a fate worse than death for you.

7. The "cool" people you think you want to be like are only cool because they think they are. So, have more confidence in yourself.

8. Friendships come and go. Just because you grew up with someone doesn't mean they automatically get a free pass into your life forever. People who gossip, judge, lie, cheat, or abandon don't really care about you. Surround yourself with the people who get what you're about and support that. Let the rest go.

9. Don't spend all your time hating your body and obssessing about numbers. You're thighs aren't that flabby.

10. Finally, life usually doesn't turn out in line with your carefully organized plans. Deal with it. What was so good about your plan anyway? When you look back at those old plans years later, you might be glad they never happened.

Those are just a few. What would you tell a younger version of you?

Monday, October 1, 2007

Shifting

I updated my MySpace profile today, and in a weak attempt at humor, in the About Me section, I gave a quick rundown of a day in the life of me. I won't subject you to a full recap, but the primary activities on an average day consisted of working, playing with the cat, and chilling at home with B. For a split second I considered deleting it because, frankly, it sounded a little geeky. Then I added the following to the end: "Give or take an activity or two, this is my life, and, minus the 8 hours of obligatory work, I love it."

And it's true; I do. However, there was a time in the not so distant past when I was continually on the go, especially on the weekends. Even the occasional Friday night that began with my ordering pizza and settling in to watch movies, ended with getting bored and heading out in search of fun. Not that we don't go out now. We go to dinner with friends, we get drinks in favorite pubs, we go to parties and hang out in friends' homes. But, it's amazing how simply all the other stuff slide away unnoticed. I considered this on Friday when on the way to meet up with his brother for dinner, B. asked what I wanted to do afterwards. My vote was to stop at Schnucks for a bottle of wine and drink it while we finished up season 4 of Buffy the Vampire Slayer. "Are you sure?" B. asked, "I feel like we used to go out a lot more before we started dating. I don't want you to get bored."

I once thought I would. I remember asking a friend in a long-term relationship, "Don't you just get bored out of your mind? Don't you miss all the firsts? How can you sustain that initial excitement about each other?" Her answer was that a long-term relationship is a different kind of happy, that you trade that edge-of-your-seat adrenaline rush for the milder but equally satisfying excitement of building a life with someone. I hoped she was right, but honestly, it seemed crazy. Until it happened to me.

It turns out there's not a lot to miss about the past. I don't miss the silly drama and mixed signals or waiting all night for a text from boy of the moment. I love that when I go out with friends, it's 100% about spending time together, not scoping the room for prospective guys.
I've found that sometimes firsts are over over-rated. It's not just that first magic kiss but the random kiss before work one morning that makes my day. It's not just the spectacular dates but the times we spend the whole day together, doing laundry, getting groceries, and making dinner. It's the unconscious rituals and inside jokes that create the story of the two of us together. It's being able to say anything in front of him, to be my most authentic self, and know that he loves me for it, not in spite of it. It's making plans together, some we'll accomplish tomorrow and others for future years and knowing we mean them both. It's feeling everything has just been practice for this moment. It's knowing this is the closet thing to a sign from heaven I'll ever get.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

The I in Team

I spent Sunday afternoon attending the bridal shower of a close friend. It was an old-school shower, the kind held in the fellowship hall of a church, filled with an interesting mix of girlfriends and church ladies. Halfway through the event, one of the church ladies gave a devotional on the characteristics of a "good wife." Some of the attributes were hard to disagree with: Compassion, kindness, wisdom. Then she requested that other married women in the group give the bride their best marriage advice. At this point, a word kept coming up that made me a little nauseous. Submission.

"Submit to your husband."
"Let your husband be the leader of the home."
"Allow your husband to guide you."
"Give him the final decision."
"The husband is the head of the household."
"Order your home as God intended."

I watched the bride nod politely, and I hoped she wasn't buying the advice wholesale. Another friend leaned over, "I'm going to lose it here in a minute." As I sat listening to their words, I remembered why I grew up with a screw-that attitude toward marriage. On one hand, marriage was billed as the spiritual and physical joining of two lives. On the surface, that sounds like an equal partnership, except for the little matter of the philosophy that god made men leaders and they should be in charge of everything in the household, including the woman. Ummm, sorry, count me out.

Plenty of religious texts support either implicitly or explicitly the idea that men are somehow more valuable than women in this capacity (plus, if the woman is busy making babies, like she's supposed to, how is she going to have time to be an equal partner??) Most ancient cultures were patriarchal in nature. Of course the men writing the texts were going to hear their god(s) tell them to stay in control. And might I point out, there were also rules about keeping women away from others during their periods and after childbirth and forcing women and men to worship separately, both of which we mostly no longer observe. If we've been capable of identifying other ideas as culturally obsolete, why can't some people see that subjugation of women in marriage is equally ridiculous? Women run companies and countries. Women are as intellectually and emotionally capable as men. So, why then wouldn't women be able to lead a home with her husband?

What about teamwork? I see myself as more valuable than a supporting player always being told to pass the ball to the star of the team, even when I have an open shot. Maybe this idea worked when a girl was passed from her father's house to her husband's. But in a world where most people don't get married until many years later, those old philosophies just don't work. I love B. more than anything, and I love all the little ways in which he makes me feel cared for, but I've been taking care of myself on my own for more than a decade. I don't need or want someone to make decisions for me (except maybe which restaurant to eat in). I don't want to acquiesce simply because I'm a woman and he's a man. I won't be a second-class citizen in my own home.

To the bride, if she's reading, I'd say what I didn't have the opportunity to say that day: Make your marriage a parliamentary democracy. Discuss the pros and cons of decisions together and make decisions based on logic rather than which partner thought of the solution. Be all of those other great things, compassionate, kind, and wise. If you truly want the best for each other, finding satisfying compromises for the daily issues of life will come easier. When they don't come easy, keep talking it out. Hold onto each other and float, rather forcing one person to swim and pull the other along. No one need "wear the pants" in the relationship; share the pants. If anyone must submit, keep it in the bedroom. *wink*

Thursday, September 6, 2007

Stirring

Life has not been conducive to blogging. I have a thousand excuses: too much working at work, too much time living life instead of writing about it. It's not like I haven't had any ideas, just no luck getting them on paper. But here's something I've been thinking/talking about recently, strictly a work in progress.

I grew up in an environment where open-mindedness was tantamount to compromise. "If you don't stand for something (ie, what we stand for) you'll fall for anything (ie, the other)." I tried to do, and more importantly, feel all the "right" things, but somewhere along the line, things just didn't add up for me. It seemed less like faith and more like the ultimate intellectual arrogance to think that every tenant of my belief system composed the only truth and that everyone else was simply wrong. I spent most of my twenties struggling through all the discrepancies between teaching and experience, intuition and pragmatism. I tried to pare away all the extraneous cultural pinnings and find the core values that meant something to me. And, eventually, I have developed a hybrid of ideas around which I organize my life, the basis of which is mutual respect for differences. I'd forgotten that this is apparently a revolutionary idea.

It's easier for people to shut themselves off from the other, to cover their ears and chant to themselves what they want to hear, to judge others inferior for choices that aren't ones they'd make. This post could go in a thousand directions, a dollar a dozen example of ways I see people around me threatened by the idea of coexisting with difference. It comes down to the fear that by failing to bring the difference into submission, one might instead be changed by it. Few people seem willing to look past the surface differences of religion, culture, race, or politics to find the values that could often connect us, if we'd let them.

One place the divide has become clear is the area of religion and dating. I've dated Christians, Jews, Hindus, Buddhists, agnostics, and atheists. I've never thought twice about it. I've cared more about what kind of human being he was than what philosophy he practiced. Relationships have come and gone, but not because of our religious or cultural differences. My current relationship is an inter-faith/cultural one. I respect that his religion is his culture's way of making sense of the world. I respect his right to practice his beliefs while I practice my own. I respect that, regardless of where we come from, things like love, family, honesty, and thousands of other values remain the same.

If both people in the relationship live under this assumption, then everything is great, right? Right...mostly. Except for dealing with the people around them that think all this respect and coexisting stuff is just dangerous and scary. Will each other's parents accept and support the relationship or pray their respective gods that the couple break up? What about those non-existent children? Won't they be confused if they are taught that there are multiple ways of seeing the world? Will one person's cultural and family traditions be ignored in favor of the other? And ultimately, what if one of us gets the shaft in the after-life? What then?

I'm certainly not the only one of my group of friends to experience this or similar issues. The common theme in those discussions has been that when you are in an amazing relationship, all you want are the people in your life to celebrate your good luck with you. Admittedly, in our case, most of our friends and family feel like we do and are just happy that we are happy. Honestly, I don't think it would matter either way. I'm stubborn that way. Change is slow...It amazes me that so many of the lines that once divided the world--catholic/protestant, black/white, gay/straight, conservative/liberal, wealthy/poor--still exert so much power, especially in a country that prides itself on the melding of cultures.

And the post drags on...more on this topic later.

Thursday, August 2, 2007

Baggage Check

"Don't waste yourself in rejection, nor bark against the bad, but chant the beauty of the good." Ralph Waldo Emerson


I love a good quote, literary, movie or otherwise. I added the above one to my page because they seem like words to live by. Because, it seems like the things I remember, the things that hold on, are those small rejections from the past. Why don't I remember when former boyfriends and dates told me I was beautiful or smart or funny? Why do I bother to recall, usually when least I want to, not being good enough or pretty enough for someone who doesn't matter anymore?

Everybody brings a little baggage to a new relationship, even when they think they don't. When I arrived in my current relationship, I showed up a little (or maybe a lot) jaded by my interactions with previous, less than deserving men. But I was pretty sure I'd dealt with all the really important issues. I thought the real baggage had been checked at the gate.

This delusion lasted right up until our first discussion about the future. I could barely bring myself to talk about it, even theoretically. Why? "I'm afraid after you've really thought about it, you'll freak out and break up with me." The reply reassured me, and I had to remind myself, "He is not any of those other guys." But it wasn't the last time I had to shove the bulging suitcase closed.

Unprovoked insecurities still show up at the door unannounced, like the luggage you'd given up as lost only to find out it was just misdirected. I find myself wondering how I compare with past girlfriends (or any of a million faceless, nameless women who might want to replace me): am I prettier, skinnier, smarter, sexier, more creative, a better cook, more successful, more athletic...the list goes on and on and gets more absurd.

And, for every ridiculous question that pops into my head, I can remember the guy who dumped me for his ex, the cheater, the guy who got random calls at 3:00 am from girls I didn't know, the one who made fun of a haircut or looked at my thighs in disgust. Somewhere along the line, I internalized those comments and actions and began, on some subconscious level, to believe they were right. If I wasn't the best, I wouldn't be loved, and he wouldn't stick around.

And then I met someone who turned all those subconscious ideas upside down. I could hardly believe it. "What, you like my hips?" "You don't want to keep a few girls on the side, waiting for me to screw up?" There were millions of other little epiphanies like those, things any rational person should already know. I guess I never realized how much other people had messed with my head until I met someone who didn't.

He is amazing, and I want to throw out all that baggage once and for all. If I never think about a long-past shitty moment again, it would be fine by me. However, those images pop into my mind far less often than they used to. So, I'm thinking that the longer two people build trust and security between them, the quieter the negative memories become, until one day maybe they cease to exist all together. I want to empty the bag and treat this relationship like the brand-new experience it is.

Friday, July 27, 2007

Metamorphosis

The fact that life moves almost imperceptibly like the revolving top of the Millenium hotel makes the times when life speeds up all the more dramatic. I used to feel like the people in my life and I were orbiting each other, gently floating closer and farther away, not quite randomly but with no particular destination in mind. Lately I've realized the motion was acutally metamorphosis. All of us, at once, in our own ways, becoming something other than we were.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

A Staring Problem

"It's not nice to stare at people" is something I heard more than once as a child. Maybe part of it comes from being a writer, but I'm a people-watcher from way back. Put me in a high traffic area, and I can entertain myself for hours studying the characters passing by. Beautiful, unfortunate looking, it's all the same to me. I love to look at the way their faces fit together, their wardrobe choices, mannerisms, expressions. In my head, I make up stories about them, who they are, and where they might be going.

New places especially bring this out in me. A couple of weeks ago, I spent a few days in Chicago visiting my brother. We took the L or walked everywhere, and during those times, I saw some of the most interesting people. Ordinarily, words are my preferred artistic medium, but I found myself wishing I had a camera to capture some of these unique images. A big camera, of course, so I could pass for a photo journalist, instead of some weirdo taking pictures of strangers.

There's something compelling about photography. If I describe the scenes and characters for you, you will (hopefully) have a vivid mental image of what I've described, but you only get to see as much as I've described. And unless my description is carefully sterile and objective, the way I choose to describe the scene will affect what you see. With a photo, there's the possibility for you to imagine your own version of the unspoken narrative.

That said, I don't know the first thing about photography. I'm not even sure I have the desire to learn. So here's my word photo album from the last few weeks.

A mylar balloon bouquet tangled in the powerlines high above the hub bub of Dressel's patio on Saturday night, sparkling in the street lights against the backdrop of the late night sky.

A young mother in a cool white ankle-length skirt,walking down Halsted on the way to the corner bus stop, holding the hand of a dark-haired toddler dragging a golden teddy bear by one hand along the cement.

A couple waiting for the L, late on a humid Saturday night, facing each other, her arms around his neck. Both were clad entirely in black leather outfits and accessories that made me think of dungeons and whips. Her face looked too old for a mini dress and platform thigh-high boots. They didn't seem to notice the temperature or anyone else on the platform.

A woman in her mid-thirties, in khaki pants, white t-shirt, and flip flops, slouching in her seat on the train, talking loudly on her Blackberry. "No, she reached over and grabbed what she thought was a bottle of water and took a big gulp and spewed it out all over the place. Yeah, it was tequila....Lynard Skynard? Who's he? Yeah, I'd go to that show."

Some of the best people sightings were on the roof of some friends' apartment building. The surrounding structures towered on three sides of the roof-top deck. The thousands of uncurtained windows rising up around me were like so many movie screens. A middle aged woman was making a late night pasta dinner with red sauce and fresh garlic. A group of teenagers played what must have been Wii tennis (although I couldn't see their televisions, only their movements). From behind a shade, one shadow press another against the glass. A cat stared back down at me from another window. The stars barely glistened past the electric lights and haze.

It's a good thing I don't live in a high rise.

Friday, June 29, 2007

Bits and Pieces

A few thoughts for a Friday:

In just 4 hours, I'll be off to enjoy an entire week of vacation. Therefore, I can't concentrate on anything else today. Not that I have any work to do anyway, but...


Someone in another cube (oh, I know precisely who it is) is typing with a vengence again. The space bar could shatter at any moment it sounds like. I'm not being petty...it's so loud other people have discussed with me how unbelievably annoying it is. Thank goodness for iPods. I may go deaf, but at least I didn't fly into a rage and rip someone's thumbs off.


I went running on Wednesday morning and to a pilates class (purely by accident, I thought it was going to be yoga) Thursday morning. In so doing, I have achieved a full body ache. However, my new schedule allows me to both work out, do my job, and enjoy my evenings. Who knew.


I've been thinking about serendipity lately. Not the bad John Cusack movie (and haven't they mostly all been bad since Say Anything?). I'm talking about the moment when you wake up one morning and realized that, through no manipulations or engineering on your part, your world has mysteriously fallen into place and in a better way than you could have ever planned for yourself. I'm not sure how that fits in with my belief in free will. I'm not sure I care. I'm that sap who suddenly thinks maybe some things do happen for a reason. Whatever. Make fun. I'm too busy doing the serendipity-dip (a little like the electric slide) to care.


My cat needs to go to obedience school. She's the devil in a thinly veiled disguise lately. I have the scratch on my nose to prove it.


I'm spending a few days of my vacation in Chicago. Plans include: going to the art museum, shopping, pretending Lake Michigan is an ocean, sending schmoopy text messages back to StL., and trying an all veggie diner I read about online.


The iPhone comes out today...I will go on using my sad ass LG phone.


The new book I was so excited to get from Amazon is really slow and boring. I am deeply disappointed by this and the poor synopsis I read that led me to purchase this book. I do, however, still have an unopened copy of Glamour to put away at the pool this weekend.


My new favorite show is The Office...I know, I'm a little late, but the dvd episodes are priceless.


Tonight is going to be a good time. I can't wait!


Have a wonderful weekend...I'm sure I'll have something or other to write about when I get back from vacation.

Monday, June 18, 2007

Concessions

My favorite Ensler monologue is the one about the short skirt. It's the one I'd read if ever I was invited to perform a Vagina Monologue. I'd wear a sassy, short skirt, probably in black, maybe leather, and stilleto heels to show off my calves. I'd roll the words off my tongue like poetry,
"It is not an invitation, a provocation, an indication..."
I'd probably stand with one hip jutting higher than the other, body slightly twisting, sensual but not to be trifled with.
"My short skirt, believe it or not, has nothing to do with you..."
I'd run a hand absently up my thigh, silent self possession.
"My short skirt is my defiance, I will not let you make me afraid..."
But I'd be lying. Some days the defiance lacks. Some days I just don't want to rock the boat. I don't want to defend.

A snapshot of Sunday morning:
I gathered my week and a half's worth of laundry, detergent, Glamour. I was rosy cheeked and fresh out of bed, wifebeater and soft red sweatshirt-material shorts. As I passed the mirror, I paused and looked back. The fabric ended just a fraction below the curve of my round ass. Every muscle and curve in my thighs were visible. I felt momentarily proud. Then, I dropped the basket and pulled on track pants instead.
"Why are you changing clothes to go to the laundromat?" B wanted to know.
"I don't want to deal with any negative attention today," I explained.

In the laundry, no one looked at me. There were no unwanted come-ons. Coincidence or consequence of my concession? It was hot inside. No air circulating, dryers superheating the room. I felt the sweat bead up behind my knees and run down the back of my legs. I felt angry. I wouldn't have been hot if I hadn't changed. It wasn't fair.

Were my only choices really to wear what I wanted and fend off the sleazy men hanging out in front of the Express Mart because my shorts were "asking for it" or to cover myself, censor myself, become invisible in exchange for peace? I can't fight on prinicple every day. I'm not that hard inside.

I learned in a college logic class once that there are always more than two options to a logical dilemma. The Either/Or fallacy. So, what's my third option? Why should I have to be the one to give in?

"But mainly my short skirt and everything under it is Mine. Mine. Mine."
Maybe someday.

Daddy's Day...a day late

I remember hearing somewhere that lots of girls want to marry a guy like dear old dad. I didn't used to understand that. It seemed way too Freudian. I thought that would mean wanting to marry someone who liked to go fishing or lived in a small town or imposed early curfews.

Now I get it. It's more than listening to Cardinals games on the radio. It's more than motorcycles and Dirty Harry movies. Maybe it's because I've fallen in love with someone that now I can identify how many of the qualities that make me feel loved in my relationship are qualities that made me feel special back when I was daddy's little girl.

Whether it was hearing him walk around the house before bed checking that the doors were locked and the oven was off or knowing that if it came down to it, my daddy would kick some serious ass to protect me, I learned from him that the one who loves me will go to great lengths to keep me safe. I'm a tough girl, I can take care of myself, but I like the security of knowing someone else has my back in a sometimes scary world.

My dad was forever checking my oil, gauging the air pressure in my tires, changing spark plugs, filling up washer fluid, giving me emergency gas money. At the time I took it for granted that it was something fathers were supposed to do. Now I realize that those little gestures were just one of the nonverbal way he showed he cared. Those little gestures have come to mean the world to me. Sweet notes left on my keyboard, some much-needed Advil, blue sour Skittles...Because of my dad, I know to treasure all those little "I love you's".

My dad and I have a similar sense of humor. We're both sarcastic and witty and sometimes just plain goofy. We laugh at the same slapstick comedy. We instigate inside family jokes and never let them die (much to the annoyance of the person the joke is on). We used to watch the old Pink Panther movies and be the only ones laughing hysterically. We've been quoting the same lines from Ferris Bueller's Day Off for like the last 15 years, but it never gets old to us. Today, one of my favorite things about spending time with B is that most of it is spent smiling and laughing. We entertain each other endlessly it seems. And, that's the way it should be.

My dad loves my mom like crazy. I almost never heard them argue (although I'm sure they must have). I caught them making out in the kitchen more than once. They still hold hands and go for weekends away together. They still can't wait to sit down together and hear about each other's day. When I was younger all I could see was the old-fashioned division of chores in the household and once said I didn't want a marriage like theirs. I wanted someone who would do the dishes with me and help fold laundry. I still want those things, but more than that, I want someone whose passion for me sustains and grows until we are old and gray the way theirs has. (Not that either of you are old or gray, in case you're reading, Mom, Dad...)

There are so many more instances I could share. My dad is awesome. Both of my parents are, really. I often wish it hadn't taken me so long to grow up and realize how much I appreciate them and the way they've shaped so many of my perspectives. Better late than never! Happy Father's Day, Dad!

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Phases

It takes a long time to grow a personal style. But there are glimpses of it along the way. Clothes are like costumes to me. I wear them to express a mood, a feeling, an attitude I want to project. I remember flannels and baby tees. Calvin Klein. Flowing floral skirts and Doc combat boots. Thrift store sweaters. A time and place when wearing khaki pants on speech days was dressing up.

The summer I was fifteen, I wore a black and white bandana, dew rag-style, over my long, straight hair almost every day. With flared leg jeans and white t-shirts. With giant hoop earrings and dogtags. With sundresses. With soft army fatigue shorts. My mother hated it. She couldn't tell if I was trying to be country, or punk, or ghetto, or hippie. All of the above. I was trying to be me. Whoever that was.

Whoever I am.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

It Built Character...or something

"You've had an incredible number of jobs in your life," B said to me the other day. This, after the revelation that I had once worked a holiday season at Victoria's Secret. I started trying to mentally catalogue them. I really have had an absurd number of odd jobs from the 13 year old me trying to save money for Calvin Klein jeans to currently supplementing sorrowful adult income. Here are a few I can remember:

1. Babysitting.
It started with my own siblings. I joke that I raised my youngest sister and that's why I don't need to have my own children. It branched out to my cousins and eventually a friend of the family. Defining moment: "Josiah, you cannot start a campfire on the deck." "My mom would let me..."

2. Server at Fillmore Cafe.
My childhood bff's parents bought the little cafe and turned it into a 1950s style diner. For a couple of years, I poured endless cups of coffee for the farmers who spent the better part of their day there, gossiping like old women. Highlight: a jukebox that automatically played both Blueberry Hill and Aerosmith's Crazy about 15 times a shift.

3. Cashier at the Fillmore grocery store.
When the Cafe was sold, the new owners hired me to work in their grocery store. There were three aisles. And one shelf for VHS movies for rent. I learned to slice roastbeef on the meat shaver. I learned to count backwards to give back change. Favorite part: Selling sandwiches to the same farmers I used to pour coffee for.

4. "Sandwich Artist" at Subway.
The summer between my senior year of high school and my freshman year of college, I made sandwiches. It sucked. I did enjoy the people who ordered fries with their subs. Do you see a frier?? Best exchange: "We also own the Subway in your college town. We could arrange a transfer if you'd like." "Uhm...no."

5. Psychology Department Secretary.
I had my own office. I made a few copies, graded a few tests, and helped recruit soccer players (as one of the profs was also the coach). Most of the time I played solitaire. I felt like the two hours a day I had to spend there really cut into my social life. High point: Sneaking a boy I liked into the office one night when we were looking for a place to make out and sitting in the dark holding our breath when security came along to check the doors.

6. Office staff/Volleyball instructor at Kanakuk Kamps.
It kept me from having to live at home in the summertime. I lived in a cabin with a bunch of other girls my age, had very little to do with the campers, and spent most afternoons lying by the olympic-size pool. Frequently took days off to go outlet shopping in town. Biggest coup: Sneaking out of the locked gates for midnight runs to Sonic on a regular basis.

7. TGIFridays.
It supplemented my pathetic graduate assistantship stipend. It kept me in groceries and booze. I had lots of flair, but I don't want to talk about my flair. I've said it before and I'll say it again...Mel, April, Shelley, and Jeremiah are the only good things that ever came out of that job. Low point: Bursting into tears when the kitchen manager berated me at the end of a double shift for not adequately scraping out the empty salad dressing containers in the salad bar. May Lemay rot.

8. The GAP.
I worked the summer and back-to-school season. It was like the mothership calling me home. I spent WAY more money than I made. When I started teaching part time I had to quit to save money. Skill learned: I'm not a sales person at heart, but I can sell almost anything to a man. "Wow, those jeans look great on you! You should try them in this color too."

9. Victoria's Secret.
The holiday shopping season brought me to VS from Black Friday to New Years. I worked in beauty. No boob measuring for me. My boss had a lazy eye. I could never tell if she was looking at me or my co-worker. But, at least I got a 50% discount. Worst part: Asking to put lotion on other people's hands. That really fucked with my personal space issues.

10. Game Stop.
Also a holiday season job. This was probably my favorite part time job ever. I got to alphabetize the video games and use the plastic machine and hair dryer to seal the used games. Greatest compliment: "You work here?" "Yeah." "You don't look like a girl who works at a video game store. He (pointing to the dorky manager) looks like he belongs here, but not you."

11. Outback Steakhouse.
Yes, me. I worked in a steakhouse. I wore the stupid jean shorts and even stupider "bushman's" buttondown shirt and those ridiculous pins. I stayed for less than 6 months. Humiliating moment: Losing my grip on the enormous, full tray I was holding on my shoulder and sending ranch salads and new york strip steaks sailing across the dining room.

12. Catering St. Louis.
For exactly two months I served hors d’Ĺ“uvre and wine spritzers to rich schmucks at wedding recptions and events. I did learn how to knot a tie for my uniform, a skill that continues to serve me well. Funniest moment: When a very spoiled Busch (August?) asked me to bring him a Heinekein from the bar. I laughed at the irony (Alanis Morissette-type) and told him I was busy.

13. Spyglass on the Park.
I spent about a month in the most unprofessional restaurant in the world. The manager got blasted at the bar over the course of every shift and harassed the female servers. The clientele was mostly skeevy, newly-single 40-something men who lived in the apartment building next door. Best decision: After one particularly bad shift, I just never came back. No 2 week's notice or anything. I'd always wanted to do that.

There you have it. I still have two jobs, but both are related to my fields of interest. It's unfortunate that there's no place on the resume for all of this work experience.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Mind Travel

I should be working, but I'm not. I was just starting to read the blogs I peruse on a daily basis. I usually start with Greek Tragedy. And today Stephanie's words inspired me more so than usual. She was talking about how she falls asleep at night thinking about the "where I've beens." Isn't that what writing is all about? Remembering where we've been?

Even as a child I've always been uber aware of myself in the context of the greater scenery of which I am a part. Walking down the street, I imagine what people see: a lamp post, a man walking his dog, the tall girl adjusting her barrett in a shop window. This obsession made me acutely aware of scene. I remember so many of them in my life. Moments embellished by where they took place. I want to start a series (probably intermittantly) of moments of place and time that stick with me. In no particular order, here's the first one:


I remember countless summer afternoons that slowly stretched into summer evenings spent sitting on the rotting wooden picnic tables under a single pavillion in the one square block of a park in my hometown. There would be three or four of us, slurping on cream sodas and sticky clumps of fruit rollups we'd bought at the corner store on our way. The air always seemed cooler and damper under that sagging roof. We'd make plans, talk about who was going to kick whose ass if they ran into each other here. I often found myself walking around the structure, to each individual table, each supporting column, even the rafters, reading the grafitti scratched in the chipped gray-white paint. Some missives were written in thick black permanent marker. Some in pencil, barely legible. My favorites were the ones carved deep into the wood, the ones a fresh coat of paint wouldn't cover. Stephanie ♥s Aaron forever. David's a pussy. AC/DC rulz. Fuck. I would run my fingers over the grooves and feel the words. I longed to carve my own Fillmore Park propaganda. I wasn't even sure what I wanted to say. I was certain my dad would find out. Vandalism. Immortality. One night after the street lights had come on, my best friend stood watch. Digging deep into the cracking paint and soft wood, I left a piece of myself, a piece of me to stay behind when I left and never came back.

Monday, June 11, 2007

A Review and a Thought

I finally got one of the books I ordered from Amazon. It is Eve Ensler's new compilation A Memory, a Monologue, a Rant, and a Prayer: Writings to Stop Violence Against Women and Girls. I've been a fan of Ensler's literary and activist work ever since the first time I saw Vagina Monologues performed. All of the proceeds from the book and author royalties go to the V-day organization.

I took the book to the pool with me on Saturday. The pool was crowded with weekend sun-worshippers trying to get a little color before a night on the town. The concrete deck radiated a whole day's worth of heat. The sparkling blue water looked warm but was spine-tinglingly cold. I chose a deck chair far way from both the group of twenty-something women and another group of 30-something guys eyeing me up for totally different reasons. I slathered on a little more spf 45, spread out my decade-old Ralph Lauren beach towel and began to read.

While my skin beaded and ran with sweat, the words I read made my insides grow cold. Regardless of the artistry of the writing, the words rape, mutilation, molestation, violence, and violation reverbrated through me. As the climax of the stories built, I felt myself growing still, willing the all too real protaganists to triumph. Sometimes they overcame, some barely survived, some didn't. I felt empathy. There was sorrow. And strangely, to me, guilt.

Luckily, I have not been part of the 1 in 3 statistic. There have been situations that could have gone wrong, but they didn't. No men in my life have ever laid a hand on me in violence. They've never laid a hand on me sexually without invitation. I've been taken for granted, lied to, and cheated on, but never emotionally or physically abused. I feel blessed that I've been spared that. But in the same way that I look at children with terminal cancer, it doesn't seem fair that some people get to live such safe, sheltered existences while others have to endure horror and tragedy. It makes me feel like those of us who have been spared have even more social responsibility to reach out to victims of abuse and work even harder to end the violence against women once and for all.

We make jokes about what it means to be a feminist, but for me it doesn't come down to how much money we make on the job compared with men or how many women are in political posts. It comes down to how the historically perpetuated social framework in which we live views women, their sexuality, and how men are allowed to treat them. It's a complicated issue. We've made so much headway. Most of the men I know treat the women in their lives like queens. But reading this book, I realized anew how many negative attitudes (and the problems they create) are still very much alive and well even in the most progressive nations in the world. We need more than a band-aid to put on the problem of violence; we need to re-educate the attitudes that make violence possible.

I left the pool that afternoon with a couple more freckles and an unsettled feeling. I'm not aware whether or not St. Louis has a V-Day chapter. If not, that might have to change.

Monday, June 4, 2007

A whole lot of something

Sometimes a whole week goes by and I have nothing to say for myself. I'd like to write to you about this book I'm reading that Shelley gave me and wax all philosphical about what it means to my way of thinking. I'd like to talk about how much I miss doing research and writing and trying to get published or present at conferences. I even thought about making a list of the top 10 things I want to do this summer. But, the truth is, I can't even think of ten novel things to write. Instead, how about a quick weekend update?

Saturday night I discovered rockabilly music. Saw the Trip Daddys at the Pageant. I loved the retro feeling of the country meets punk sound. The neuvo-retro outfits were even better! I loved how some of the songs made me want to swing dance. It was quite an experience. May have found a new musical niche for myself.

Sunday morning I (re)discovered hangovers. I re-experienced how one can last all the way until 8:00 the next evening. It wasn't pleasant. I missed my day at the pool. There wasn't enough Powerade in the world. Arby's curly fries and a four hour nap, however, helped a great deal. Lesson learned: Vodka is not my friend.

And somewhere between those two time periods, in the middle of the crowded Halo bar, someone said three words to me that I'll never forget. I can't stop repeating the scene in my head like a movie clip. A few months ago I wrote a blog in which I said I'd yet to meet anyone who made my heart pound or my knees weak the way I felt when I was 23. Well, things change. It felt that good and then some. To be honest, it blew 23 right out of the water.

But that's all I've got for now. I'll work on concocting some mind blowing idea for later in the week...

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

MySpace Rules...

Rules the world that is. Or maybe rather, MySpace has introduced a whole new set of rules for social dynamics.

Case in point: I received no less than seven emails concerning a recent small change to my MySpace profile. I made the switch from "single" to "in a relationship". A sampling of the emails follows:

"Dude, I thought you were swearing off dating indefinitely...what's with the status change?"

"Something changed on your profile, Call me ASAP!!"

"WHAT??? Why didn't you call me immediately?"

And the like. We've all done it.

"I think X is so cute...too bad he's dating someone."

"His profile says single, how serious could it be??"

The "Define the Relationship" talk (DTR) has become one part about the two people and one part about if and when to change the status line. Ours went something like this: "I see you changed your profile status but left the Here for section with Dating and Serious Relationships...Is this an open relationship? Should I hold off on the memo?"

Kidding.

MySpace should also consider ways to represent all the variation of "relationships". "In a Relationship" can sound so very sobering and serious. We need something between that and "Single". I propose more categories (and more confusion): "Casually Dating," "Booty Call," "Considering Each Other Romantically," "Hanging Out," "Make out Buddies," Seeing Each Other on the Weekends." Let's send a petition to Tom.

Only we don't see each other on just the weekend any more. We just spent the last four days together. It was mind-blowing. We didn't even get sick of each other (well, I didn't get sick of him...). There's a foreign toothbrush in my toothbrush holder and three cans of peaches on the kitchen counter that I didn't purchase...and I SO love it.

If the label fits, wear it. With a smile!

Friday, May 25, 2007

Not half as cool as I think I am

Just when I'm feeling particular edgy and cool, I talk to one of my younger sisters (ages 20 and 17) and realize I live under an adult-size rock.

I think it's ridiculous that musical taste has become the major method of categorizing the way people dress. Whatever happened to labels like preppy, dirtbag, and sporty? I had finally gotten used to a few of the musical categories, like hippie, punk, emo, and indie. But there are apparently more...many many more.

It all started when I was telling my sister that I was dating someone. "You mean the preppy guy?" she asked. "Actually I misjudged him; he's turned out to be more of an Indie kid," I informed her. She then proceeded to tell me how our cousin is also an indie kid, which he denies and that she is often accused of being a scene girl. "A what?" I asked. "A scene girl, but so many people are just fashion core these days, who can even tell..." she said. Which scene? Fashion core? I was utterly confused.

Thanks to Urban Dictionary, I now have a fairly good idea what she was talking about, but still...When I mentioned the subject to B, who was quite good natured about being mistaken as preppy, he suggested that music has always influenced fashion and been one way we label the way people dress. He cited examples of ranging from beatniks to country to greasers to jazz all the way back to the medieval traveling minstral. "What?" I asked incredulously. "Sure, they had costumes and shit." That I can't argue except that did people who were really into the minstral music also dress like minstrals when they were not actual performers? I doubt that one. The itinerate schedule would have lent itself well to the tour date t-shirt though.

Anyway, there's no getting away from it. And once you get to a certain age, isn't it all a question of fashion anyway? Is anyone really and truly still a hardcore "kid" after the age of 25? To me it's all about the outfit, not the social statement. I guess that would make me fashion core minus the core...

Let's call that fashionista!

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Almost But Not Quite

I have a theory. It's physically impossible for all the separate areas of one's life to go well at the same time. At least for me. It makes me nervous every time I notice it. I stop, eyes widen, and I think, "Well, clearly this can't last. Something's gotta give." And it does.

Not that I have that much to complain about. I'm completely aware that there are people who are far less fortunate than I, people whose lives offer real reasons to be depressed. I'm healthy. I have a roof over my head (one that also offers a great pool in the summer time--VERY excited about that). My family is supportive. My group of friends is as tight as a second family. I've been on a whole string of truly amazing dates lately. I even have a good job.

But I wanted an awesome job. Recently, I applied for a managing editor position, even though it was a bit of a stretch seeing as I'd been there for such a short time. But I knew I could do it. My boss knew I could do it. Apparently even her boss (who was doing the hiring) knew I could do it. But it came down to senority, the one characteristic I didn't have. So no awesome job this time.

The thing is, I knew it might not happen. Like I said, it was a stretch, a long shot. But the harder I tried to keep my hopes down, the higher they were. I'm not crushed or anything. My ego isn't even wounded. I'm just really bad at not getting the things I want. I've never quite digested that the old maxim, "Work hard and you can have it" doesn't apply in every situation. Until today, I've never NOT gotten a job I interviewed for (yes, even as a teacher who just used a double negative). How could they say no to this face?? :)

I was ready for the big break. I wanted to finally be able to say to my parents, "Hey, look at your English major daughter, she finally made something of herself...aren't you proud?!" Hell, I just wanted to be impressed with myself for once. I wanted to rise to an actual challenge. And of course, I wanted to live a life in which I could stop worrying about income and enjoy myself (don't we all).

In reality, it's not the end of the world. Life will go on in the manner to which I am accustomed. There will be other opportunties. And when they come, I'll have more experience and be better prepared for them. By tomorrow, I will have snapped out of this funk. But until then, I'm going to take a minute to pout. Don't mind me.

Sunday, May 6, 2007

In Praise of

I'm still smiling this morning. I smiled so hard last night my face hurts. But I can't help it. I just can't stop.

I've done more than my fair share of bitching in this blog about dates who did not meet my approval, so it's only fair to, as Salt N Peppa so wisely said, give props to those who deserve it.

I went on the best second date ever (well, technically, fourth, if you count walking around Forest Park and having coffee as 1 and 2). The first (third?) one was pretty amazing too. But you can write things like that off as a fluke. I'm the queen of the good first date. I have a hard time making you hate me in just one evening. Usually by the second, the poor guy has done something from which he cannot redeem himself, and I never answer the phone again. Not so this time.

We went to Terrene and sat on the patio, ate, drank, laughed, flirted. Next stop was Brennan's wine bar. More drinking and laughing and flirting. Final stop, Dressel's. We closed the joint down.

Then came the moment of truth. I put an inordinate amount of faith in the value of the first kiss. So much so that it scares me. It's why I didn't do it last week. Life is too short for bad kissers, and many a poor fellow has been unable to meet the challenge. It's always a shame. He could be the nicest guy in the world, but if the kiss doesn't do it for me, I'm out. So back to the moment of truth...Sometimes a girl needs to be grabbed and kissed. And I was. And I liked it. And I didn't want to stop. I actually can't wait to see him again.

Okay, that's enough. I'll stop. I'm a closet gusher...shhh, don't tell. I have rep to uphold.

Thursday, May 3, 2007

Big bug in a little apartment

Ordinarily, I'm pretty good at taking care of myself. I've grown accustomed to living alone. Most of the time I love coming home to the sweet silence of my own home. I can change a tire, I own a small tool set now, I've even managed to rearrange my house with just myself to do the heavy lifting. But there's one thing I just can't handle.

I came home last night, talking on the phone. I threw myself on the bed in exhaustion. I looked up at the wall above my head. "Holy shit, what is that?" I said out loud, into the phone. "That" was a ginormous bug. I thought bugs this big only lived in remote South American jungles. This is not true; they apparently live not only in St. Louis but in my apartment specifically.

My greatest fear is not cancer or dying alone, it's swallowing a bug in my sleep. The fact that this little alien was in my bedroom made the sighting that much worse. My brother, whom I was talking to at the time, suggested the tried and true paper towel squish. I was already hyperventilating just a little, and all I knew was I was NOT going to get within arms length of this thing. I contemplated the extension arm of the vacuum cleaner, but even that put my hand a little close to the offending insect. Besides, this thing was so giant, I wasn't sure the vacuum could suck it up. Finally I opted for the super powered bug spray I keep on hand (just in case) the way other women keep mace. I spread a beach towel over the bed to catch the bug if it fell; I stood about three feet back and let her rip.

As soon as the blast of pleasantly clover-scented poison hit the bugger (pun-intended), it bounded off the wall (yes, I'm quite certain bounding was involved) onto the waiting beach towel and scuttled off the towel and behind the bed. I was too busy shrieking at the top of my lungs over the way it had projected off the wall to stop it from getting away.

By this time, my heart was pounding, I was sweating just a little from all the adrenaline. This could be a fight for survival. First things first, I stopped and put on tennis shoes. I was going to have to move the bed out in search of this thing, and if it were to scurry across my pink polished toes, I was certain my heart would have exploded. Behind the bed, I found a lot of dust, a cat toy, a headband I've been looking for for the last six months, and an M&Ms wrapper, which is weird because I don't eat M&Ms. But no dog-sized bug. I removed all the blankets and pillows and shook them out and put them in the "safe zone" in the hallway. I reached to pull up the corner of the mattress, and I saw the monstrosity making a run for it from between the mattress and boxsprings.

Now it was war. I moved the matress to the other side of the room and stood it up against the wall. Then I cautiously tipped up the box springs, spray can in hand. Nothing. It was gone. But where? I needed some moral support, so I dialed J. I knew of all people she would sympathize with my mental breakdown over a bug. She did. She instructed me to lie in wait with boots made for squishing. So I did. Nothing.

Eventually I had to come to terms with the fact that my bad ass cat is apparently useless and somewhere out there, this giant bug has either crawled away to die or plot revenge. Either way, I've never wanted a boyfriend or a roommate or anyone at all who is braver than me to be around. Humbling moment. Talk about a damsel in distress. Ha.

I slept on a bed of folded up comforters on the living room floor last night. I don't know if I'll ever be able to sleep in that bed again...I may have to move.