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'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


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


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." ""

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...