19 December 2005

Alone, But Not Lonely

Friday night I decided to finish up my Christmas shopping. I really only had my roommate Miss Parker left to shop for. I had had several really fantastic ideas of things to get for her, but at various stages of each operation, things had fallen through. So I found myself wandering The Gateway Friday night searching for the perfect gift. I never did find the perfect gift, probably because I was supremely bitter about all the previous failures. But I found some good stuff and I was feeling pretty good about the whole situation when I walked past the movie theater. I decided that instead of going home to my List of Things To Do that took up an entire page from a legal pad, I would see a movie. I bought tickets for The Family Stone and went to find a seat.

I had thought, with King Kong and The Chronicles of Narnia open, no one would want to see a small dramedy with Sarah Jessica Parker, but I had thought wrong. I found myself at the end of a substantial line comprised mostly of groups of women and couples. Only then did I begin to feel self-conscious about being by myself. I have been to movies alone before, things no one I knew wanted to see, but usually on some random afternoon when most people were otherwise engaged. I’ve never really thought twice about it, but there is something about standing alone in line on a Friday night that made the Chick Flick Coffee Klatch standing in front of me and the married couple standing behind me give me a Look. The Look to which I refer is a mixture of awe, confusion, and pity, related to the one I get when people realize I’m a single 27 year-old living in Utah. Only this had more confusion and less pity.

As I waited for the show to start, overhearing various conversations of people around me, I realized what a social event going to a movie theater is. There was no one for me to chat with as the annoying pre-preview commercials ran, no one with whom to whisper about the actual previews, and no one with whom to share my confusion over Claire Danes getting first billing. I hadn’t even known she was in the movie. Not that any of this will keep me from seeing a movie by myself again. It only serves to remind me what social beings we humans are.

16 December 2005

OCD Like That

Recently, I became disenchanted with the radio station I usually listen to at work. There are already a limited amount of ‘work-appropriate’ non-country radio stations to choose from. And I absolutely hate shuffling between radio stations on the manual tuner alarm clock that sits on my desk. So I registered for LAUNCHcast streaming radio from Yahoo. It is free and allows one to create a personalized station. I thought it was the answer to my work-time music woes.

In adding variety and personal choice to my music options, it is a dream. But there is also a dark side. See, the program allows you to rate songs, artists, and the albums from which the songs come. Which is great for crafting my own personal play list, but it really exacerbates my OCD tendencies. There is such pressure in deciding which rating, from ‘Do Not Play Again’ through ‘Can’t Get Enough’ applies to each song. Is it too harsh to judge an artist by one song? If I hate the song, should I still give an unknown artist an ‘It’s OK’ just in case they might have another song I could love? Will the unknown Powers That Be laugh when I profess my love for Bowling For Soup, while giving a classic Eric Clapton song an ‘It’s OK?’ Can I really 'Not Get Enough' of any song or artist, or does that just mean it becomes part of the permanent rotation? Some days, I just can’t deal with the pressure and have to resort to the listening to the old radio station while I alphabetize my Post-It notes and organize my M&Ms into color-coded pyramids before I eat them.

14 December 2005

Just Call Me Veruca

I have never been a patient person. Most especially when there is no time frame or end-date for what I want. An open-ended promise or goal drives me insane because I want it NOW! When I was little, my parents promised me that we could get a dog once they had bought a house. Well, we moved into the house in September and there was still no dog by the beginning of October, so I took things into my own hands. I knew, even at the young age of six, that nagging and whining would not hurry the process at all, but rather make the parents less inclined. I had already promised all the requisite things, like taking care of the dog, feeding the dog, cleaning up after the dog etc. So I had to come up with something genius. And my devious six year-old brain did.

I found a small piece of wood, probably a small part of a shingle, and tied a white string to it. Then, I convinced my three year-old little brother that if we were ever going to get a dog, he would have to drag the wood-on-a-string creation around pretending it was a dog. Within a week or two, my parents had become so concerned with my brother’s mental health that we had a dog. Just in time for my birthday.

The problem now is that the things I want are much more expensive and grandiose. Also, I’m a (fairly) self-sufficient adult who can no longer psychologically manipulate her little brother nor her parents. At least not in good conscience. I can’t force my brother to drag around a piece of wood pretending it is his iPod, although the mental image of my 23 year-old brother attaching headphones to a piece of wood and carrying it around is just too amusing for words.

So, the issue remains. I want it NOW! It being different things at different times. But if I haven’t learned that instant gratification is unfulfilling in my past 27 years, I doubt it is a lesson I’ll learn anytime soon. Any advice?

12 December 2005

Blame it on Barbie

I want to buy a house. I can’t afford to buy a house, but I want to. Additionally, I don’t want to buy one in my current state of residence. I can’t stand the winters here. This change-of-location requirement for ownership just reinforces the fact that I can’t afford to buy a house. Especially not my dream house.

I have been designing and redesigning my dream house for over a decade. In junior high and high school I was sure I wanted to become an architect and would spend random hours with a stack of graph paper drafting designs for my dream house. Since I graduated from high school, secure in the knowledge that architecture wasn’t for me, I have been mentally drafting designs for my dream house. It has seen many incarnations, but the current one is a variation on the Craftsman cottage, with a lot of large windows, beautiful, simple woodwork and two stories. It is located somewhere temperate near an ocean. Either coast is acceptable. I also have a mental design for the interior, complete with memorized paint chips, catalogued furniture options from IKEA, Pottery Barn, and any number of items found in various editions of InStyle HOME magazine. If I had the time or space, I would start a house scrapbook, with pictures, paint chips, cutouts, fabric swatches etc. But I probably shouldn’t feed the obsession.

Part of the problem is I’m tired of living in someone else’s space. I want a space of my own where I can put the overhead lighting where I want, where I can install sconces if I want, or attached shelving. I’m lucky in that my apartment lease allows me to paint, as long as I return it to its pristine and boring white before I move out. But it just isn’t the same. I want a place to settle, to call home, not just a place I live for the moment, where I have to re-evaluate if I want to stay there once a year after which they will raise my rent payment. I want a home to call my own, not just an address.

09 December 2005

The George Clooney Exemption

Remember when 40 was old. It was the age of our parents, our teachers, and all the other authority figures in our lives. It is the age at which my parents stopped aging in my head. It isn’t that I forget to observe birthdays and if you asked me how old they are, I could tell you, but it always surprises me that they have both entered their 50s. Part of the problem is that it always surprises me when I think about how old I am. I’m still shocked when I remember I’m not a teenager, nor even in my early 20s, that I’m closer to 30 than 20. The years seem to have flown by. Which is why when I heard that one of my friends had gone on a date with a 40 year-old, my first response was: Ew! He is old enough to be her dad. But he isn’t. In fact, he is barely over the 10-year mark that is my standard dating age limit. This age limit is of course self-imposed and completely arbitrary, however, I like it. It hasn’t proven an issue. Last night, Esperanza and I were discussing the conundrum of dating someone in the Over 40 set and the 10-year limit last night. We had both come to the conclusion that we liked the limit and couldn’t see ourselves dating someone over 40. There was a short pause and then we blurted out, in unison: Unless it’s George Clooney!

08 December 2005

I Can Still Smell the Hot Chocolate

I can still smell chocolate because last night I laughed so hard I shot my amaretto hot chocolate out my nose. Simply not being able to laugh and swallow at the same time is embarrassing enough, but to have it shoot from your nose onto a patch of kitchen floor 2 feet away is even more so. It was one of those wish-it-were-Friday evenings in which Miss Parker and I get extraordinarily goofy and not a little slap-happy. Several entries had already been made onto our make-shift quote wall on the side of the fridge, which is how I happened to be in the kitchen with my cup of hot chocolate. Parker had been filling me in on the happenings of the animal shelter charity event she volunteered at the night before. We were discussing our mutual desire to own Great Danes when she announced her decision to name her two future Great Danes Rufus and Scooby. The next sentence she mixed up the names and called them Rooby and Scufus. Hence the hot chocolate through the nose and the burning sensation that followed. As a result the world smells slightly chocolate-almond flavored. Which isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Perhaps it is the olfactory equivalent of rose-colored glasses.

05 December 2005

Happy Little Accidents

Yesterday I woke up at 10:30 a.m., which seems like a very nice thing to do on a Sunday morning, but my ward starts at 9:00 a.m. I had forgotten to set my alarm the night before. So I decided it would be fine to go to another ward I used to attend that meets at 1:00 p.m. During the meeting a young man led an obviously disabled man to the stand. This young man usually brought several disabled individuals to this ward every Sunday, but this level of participation was unusual. The young man introduced himself and the other man and stated that this individual was autistic and didn’t communicate through the spoken word well, but that he loved music and wished to express his testimony through song. What followed was the most beautiful rendition of O Come All Ye Faithful I have ever heard. The man had a clear, clean voice but it was more than that. He had love in his voice and the spirit of his message touched every one of the 400+ congregants. I doubt there was a dry eye in the room. Love flowed out of and through every word and every note he sang, not just his love for his Savior, but also the Lord’s love for him. I have never been so happy to have overslept.

02 December 2005

A Few of My Favorite Things

My top ten guilty pleasures, some more than others.

10. Cable. Yeah, I know all about television being the new opiate for the masses, but who can resist watching Anderson Cooper deliver the news on CNN? And then changing channels and watching Jon Stewart make fun of the news.

9. InStyle, Vogue, and Vanity Fair. Not that I doubt fashion magazines contribute to image problems, but I love the clothes and what can compare to the fun of a full page fashion spread and/or interview with one of my many TV boyfriends?

8. Target. My bank statements suggest I shouldn’t go there as often, but have you seen the new Isaac Mizrahi for Target tuxedo ensemble? To. Die For. Now if I only had a grand holiday event that would justify buying it!

7. The Public Library. Not only is it my favorite building in the city, the coffee shop on the first floor makes the entire place smell like coffee, which is one of my favorite smells.

6. NetZero. Who doesn’t like having internet access in their bedroom? I can spend Saturday mornings reading the New York Times in my pajamas, for free.

5. Hot Chocolate. I have about 6 different flavors sitting in my kitchen. It makes me alarmingly happy when I have the time to make a mug of hazlenut or Irish cream or amaretto and take it to work with me. Somehow the day just goes better.

4. My Washer and Dryer. It adds $30 a month to my rent, but the relief of not scrounging for quarters is worth it. Also, I don’t have to share with any strangers, which greatly relieves the germaphobe in me.

3. Flannel Pajamas. Nothing is better in the winter. I could go bankrupt buying different pairs in crazy patterns. I already have pink flamingos and state-themed snow globes.

2. The Snooze Button. I push it at least three times a morning, which means I have to set my clock ahead an undetermined amount of time in order to get out the door on time, but the illusion that I can stay in bed for a few more minutes every morning is worth it.

1. Turtlenecks. I love them so much my fashion-conscious roommate has forbidden me from buying any more. As it is, I could conceivably wear a turtleneck every day of the week in the winter and still not have to do a load of laundry.

01 December 2005

Oh, the Weather Outside is Frightful

Well, it is cold and windy, which to me is frightful. I have never, in my 20 years living in the North, become acclimated to the cold. I like it when a room is 78 degrees, I just can’t afford to heat my house like that. At work, I sit near the door, which means no matter what the thermostat is set at, when the door opens the cold invades. Today is a perfect example. The clouds blotted out the sun and people kept opening the door, so here I sit, crouched like Bob Cratchett, trying to get warm and concocting ever more elaborate schemes to do so.

I have decided I’m hiding a stash of hot chocolate somewhere in this office and partaking often this winter. That is quite achievable. It is when my fancy takes flight that I get into trouble. Because that is when I think about going to Hawaii, which leads me to thinking of traveling the world. It doesn’t help that my computer wallpaper is a lovely photograph of the Thames and the Houses of Parliament at Christmas. All these dream castles come crashing down when my Outlook inbox pings to let me know there is a new email. It reminds me that I have a job, that I have to work to pay things like rent and my soon-to-be-exorbitant heating bill. This intrusion of reality, once dealt with, tends to make my flights of fancy more grandiose. Confession: I have long harbored the wish that I had some secret trust fund, of which I am unaware, and which will be made known to me any day now. Preferably sooner than later. This large, undecided upon amount of money would enable me to throw off the chains of employment, travel the world with my friends and family in tow, treat my parents to all the things they refuse to do for themselves, and help my brother finish school. I could chase my own dreams and help my loved ones fulfill theirs.

Oh, there is that ping again. Just as I was getting to the good stuff.

30 November 2005

There Are Always Dinosaurs When You Don't Want Them

“There are always dinosaurs appearing when you don’t want them.” My roommate Miss Parker uttered these immortal words the other night while I was sitting on the couch with my Kleenex and orange juice watching the only thing on TV that my cold medicine-addled mind could handle, Jurassic Park III. Once my fit of giggles had subsided, we had the following discussion:

Me: But that’s the nature of the movie.

Parker (thoroughly exasperated): Yeah, but it’s like every five minutes. Give it a rest already.

The phrase stayed with me and struck me as quite a metaphor while I was sitting in my car, hazard lights blinking, off the 72nd S. freeway exit waiting for a tow truck to come and get Miss Parker’s car. All I had wanted to do that evening was curl up with a blanket on the couch, watch House and go to bed. I hadn’t gone to work due to the pernicious cold I’ve had for the last week, so an early bedtime and an uneventful evening was what I wanted. The uneventful part went out the window when a newscaster announced the building of an IKEA in Draper. Even sick, I had to do a little happy dance. But at 7:30, I got the call that Parker was stranded. Which is how I found myself sitting in my car by the side of the road pondering the metaphorical applications of Jurassic Park III.

How often in life do we complain about the omni-presence of ‘dinosaurs’? The problems, whether large and terrifying, or small and annoying, which seem to follow us through life. Last night it was Miss Parker’s car, a fairly recurring issue in her life. For me, it is a cold and $5 bank account balance (Mom, if your reading this, remember, I’m prone to hyperbole). Less immediate, but a seemingly much larger threat, is my complete confusion as to what to do with the rest of my life. Not all dinosaurs are hungry predators and not all issues in our lives are harmful, but even the gentlest brontosaurus is going to cause us fragile humans a little concern. It could crush us with its big toe! I’m pretty sure we can’t expect the last-minute rescue. Things are never as easy or as formulaic as in films, but I have to hope that at some point we will get more than a five-minute respite. Otherwise, I might have a nervous breakdown. Feel free to join me in the padded room.

28 November 2005

This Was Supposed to be a Holiday!

A week ago I was so excited for the Thanksgiving holiday. My parents were in town; my favorite aunt was arriving that evening. We had tickets to see Mamma Mia! the following evening and I had three days off from work. It was going to be a real holiday, a break from work, from stress, from all the day-to-day stress of normal life. But the week had something very different in store.

First, Mamma Mia! was fun, but the choreography was, at times, a little graphic. Especially when one is with one’s parents and a conservative aunt and uncle. Also, that music is insidious. I hardly slept at all Tuesday night because the soundtrack was playing on constant rotation. Every time I rolled over it was “Money, money, money/must be funny/in a rich man’s world” or “Mamma Mia!/here we go again/my, my, how can I forget you” or “Does your mother know that your out?/take it easy, take it easy/better slow down boy” or “Super trouper/ lights are gonna find me/shining like the sun.” By the time the sun rose, I was ready to get out of bed! Except that in between the endless Mamma Mia! encores, I had managed to develop a cold.

Wednesday and Thursday were both kind of a blur; a drug-induced haze of people I had to greet, food I couldn’t taste, and the nagging feeling I should be wearing a sign emblazoned ‘UNCLEAN’ to warn everyone I was a walking biohazard. There is no guilt like the guilt of being the sick person at a holiday gathering.

Finally, there was the Jetted-Tub Fiasco of 2005. My uncle’s (where we were staying for Thanksgiving) basement bathroom has a luxuriously large jetted tub. Wednesday night I was feeling particularly unwell and decided a hot bath would make me feel better. I gathered up all the necessary items - like flannel pajamas and shampoo - from my bags and started filling the tub. Twenty minutes later, hair washed, relaxation started I thought the jets would be the finishing touch in making me feel better. I should have listened to the little voice in my head that shouted: !!ABORT, ABORT!! Earlier, when I announced my intention to use the tub, my cousin, Lou, said that sometimes the jets wouldn’t shut off, so you just had to wait for the water to “go out.” Well, the jets wouldn’t shut off. And in attempting to convince the on/off button to do my bidding, I managed to hit the drain handle and the tub began draining. I don’t know how many of you are familiar with jetted tubs, but if the water level gets below the level of the jets, the jets start shooting water into the air. I might mention at this point, that my uncle has neck problems and most of the jets were pointing straight up. Also, the tub has no doors, so the water began shooting all over the bathroom. I attempted to stop the water by contorting my body to cover as many of the jets as possible. I tried to shield the bathroom by holding my brave little towel in front of the most egregious spray. I was naked, panicked and soaking wet. When the water ran out, there was at least an inch of water on the floor. Also, every single item in the bathroom was sopping wet. My pajamas, my clothes, my towel, other towels, the toilet paper, all were wet and completely useless. I finally found one dry towel at the bottom of the hamper, wrapped myself up and bravely poked my head out the door to kindly ask my father to go and get my mother. Then I sat on the edge of the tub and did the only thing I could think of: burst into tears.

I hope you all had a lovely holiday, free from vicious plumbing.

21 November 2005

Fire Alarms, Fantasy, and Family

The past weekend was one long string of Events, planned and unplanned. On Friday night I baby-sat for my friend Z’s four month old son Jr. while she and her husband went to see a local production of Camelot. My roommate, Miss Parker, had no plans that evening, so it was a team effort. The evening progressed without incident until our building’s fire alarm went off. Apparently someone down the hall had left something on the stove. I didn’t think there was any real danger, but there was the added stress of caring for someone else’s most prized possession. Mixed with the stress was a large amount of humor. For Miss Parker and I had, again, managed to unknowingly dress exactly alike that morning in matching black turtlenecks and jeans. So, as we left the building carrying a baby, a toy, and keys (having forgotten important items like a blanket and the cell phone) and wearing matching outfits, we ran into our alternative-lifestyle neighbors who were carrying their beagle puppy much like Miss Parker was carrying Jr. We hurried to my car, pausing only to inform a girl on her balcony that the alarm and the two fire trucks in the parking lot did indeed mean there was a fire. Luckily no one was harmed and the only result was a floor that smells of smoke.

Saturday was the day, after weeks of email scheduling, that Esperanza, Panini, Mrs. W, Mrs. L, and I were going to see Pride & Prejudice. It was quite a production just getting everyone there and in their seats. Which, due to the production of getting to the theater, were in the front row. We had gone in fully expecting it to compare poorly with our beloved 1995 BBC production starring one Mr. Colin Firth. This version fared quite well in the comparison and if Esperanza’s reaction is any indication, Colin Firth might have a run for his money in the “Favorite Mr. Darcy” contest. Although, the lack of a pond-swimming scene was universally mourned by all involved as we enjoyed dinner afterward.

Sunday was a Family Event. My cousin C recently turned 16 and we engaged in all the celebration that accompanies that event in an LDS family. There was the driving, and the first date, and the new religious responsibilities. Plus the requisite roast dinner. My parents had traveled down early for Thanksgiving, my brother Mime and The Future Mrs. Mime stopped in on their way back to their college after visiting The Future Mrs. Mime’s family. There was minor family drama, but I was still sad to have to leave, to return to my weekday life. And if truth be told, I listened to a bit of Christmas music on the way home in the hopes of cheering myself up.

18 November 2005

The Joys of Sleep

Last night I got almost eleven hours of sleep. That is highly unusual and usually impossible on a weeknight. I was able to get this sleep because I woke up yesterday with the nagging feeling I was getting a cold. The throat was a little tickly, the nose a little sniffly and the ears a little itchy. I did not want to get a cold. So, armed with Vitamin C, Zinc, and Echinacea lozenges left over from the last time I got sick, I went to work. It was an uneventful day but the unfortunate possibility of a cold hung over my head. Deciding the best defense is a good offense, I left work early, went to the store to load up on more cold-fighting supplements, and went home to my waiting pajamas.

By ten o’clock I had taken as many mega-doses of those cold-fighting supplements as were safely recommended and went to bed. I had arranged to come in late for work, so I set my alarm for two more hours of sleep. When I woke up, sunlight was streaming through the cracks in the blinds and I still had 20 minutes until my alarm went off and I had to get out of bed. The sensation of laying there, somewhere between asleep and awake, just conscious enough to luxuriate in the warmth and the comfort was perfect. As I rolled over to hit snooze on the alarm clock, I realized something. The tickly throat, the sniffly nose, and the itchy ears were gone. I don’t know whether it was the supplements, the sleep, or a false alarm, but I do know I might have to come into work late more often.

17 November 2005

Life-long Bibliophilia

One of my first memories in life is of a book. I couldn’t have been much more than three, as my little brother had not yet arrived on the scene, but I still vividly remember the large purple hardback with the silver engraving of a small woman in small hat with a flower. It was Mary Poppins. I loved the time spent in my mother’s lap, hearing the cadence of her voice, feeling the weight of the book on my legs, breathing in the smell of the crisp pages. It was a quiet time in which new worlds were opened.

My next great book experience was discovering the library. I believe I still have my first library card stored among all the other keepsakes of my life. This first library was home to a fantastic miniature collection of the stories of Beatrix Potter. The books were perfectly sized for a four year-old’s hands. The pages had small pen-and-ink sketches that illustrated the stories. The pages themselves were a revelation, having been treated to make them smooth and sturdy, unlike the fragile paper pages of other books. I loved these books, although I have no recollection of the actual stories. Years later I found out my mother disliked these books intensely, yet she still read them to me, letting me experience the joy of literature.

My most embarrassing foray into books involves several pre-adolescent years obsessed with serial novels like Nancy Drew, The Baby-Sitters Club, and something I believe was called Sleepover Friends. While the Nancy Drew series is a classic, the others don’t rate very highly in the literary world. But at least I was reading. My sixth grade teacher, disturbed by my pop-fiction diet, forced me to read Little Woman, which I did grudgingly and formed a distorted opinion of the book that wasn’t corrected until many years latter. I never did very well with assigned reading. Especially when those assigned readings involved The Pearl by John Steinbeck, Jude the Obscure by Thomas Hardy, or The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck. To this day I avoid anything by Steinbeck. And Tess of the D’Urbervilles did little to change my mind about Hardy.

Part of my joy in reading is the discovery. The excitement of wandering down the stacks in a library or the shelves in a book store and knowing that something there will open a new world to me and possibly change my life. Books have power. The power to enlighten, to educate, to entertain, and to engage the mind in a direction it might not previously have gone.

16 November 2005

My Own Personal Treasure Hunt

All people dream, but not equally. Those who dream by night in the dusty recesses of their mind, wake in the morning to find that it was vanity. But the dreamers of the day are dangerous people, for they dream their dreams with open eyes, and make them come true.
~T.E. Lawrence (Lawrence of Arabia)
Lately, I have been thinking a lot about what the future holds for me. I contemplated going back to school to get a degree in history teaching. I already have a degree in international politics and I thought it might be my calling to open the eyes of students to the world around them. That struck me as highly narcissistic. I also had to face the realities of going back to school, for degree in which I had only one possibly transferable credit, at the ripe age of 27. I also had to face the financial obligations involved and that, added with the stress of my birthday, the coming holidays, certain pre-existing financial obligations, and the very short time frame for applying to my local university tamped the fire. It is still an option I mull over every so often, but I am unable to come to a concrete decision.

Part of the problem is that I love learning. I have a certain intellectual curiosity that delights on opening new worlds. How long that delight lasts depends on the subject, as evidenced by the four majors I went through during my first university career. But for the most part I find the world, its inhabitants, its galactic neighbors, and its inner workings fascinating. Who is to say I wouldn’t find teaching history and civics to groups of apathetic adolescents trying after a year or two? Maybe I should focus on library sciences, as my idea of Heaven involves an infinite, well-appointed library and eternity? Or maybe I should embark on an even more daunting endeavor and write a novel?

The problem I have found is that there are too many possibilities and no dream. The possibilities are good, productive, and satisfying to at least some part of my psyche, but I haven’t found a passion. Perhaps that was the problem during my previous experience with higher education. I found lots of interests, but few with real sticking power. So now I’m floating, finding comfort in the distracting world of sleeping dreams, and seeking a dream to follow in the waking world.

15 November 2005

Here Comes the Sun

The front wall of my office is a glass door and a plate glass window. In the summer, this means the AC can be going full blast and it is still ninety degrees in the room. However, on those beautiful sun-filled winter days it is a treat. Now, I have never been a fan of winter. There are few things I like less than being cold, but winter does have a its own wonderful pleasures. One of my favorites is the experience of stepping into a car that has been sitting in the sun on a cold winter’s day. The warmth in the car is like being wrapped in a warm blanket, the kind of warmth you get from flannel pajamas, hot chocolate, and lazy Saturday mornings spent reading in bed in your flannel pajamas with a mug of hot chocolate beside you. I love that feeling! Well, in my office, as the sun sinks throughout the afternoon, my whole office fills with that warmth and I smile.

14 November 2005

Brighten a Rainy Day

Today was dark, grey, stormy and altogether unpleasant. It was also a solitary day as everyone in the office had somewhere more important to be. I thought it was more important for me to be in my flannel pajamas reading in bed, but alas I’m hoarding my vacation days for Christmas. None of the piles on my desk were urgent, so I sat and stared out the plate glass windows at the pounding rain, trying to find one redeemable quality in the day. As I watched the sun set behind the clouds at 4 o’clock in the afternoon, I finally hit upon the answer.

I started this blog as an escape from work, a way to put down my thoughts without feeling like a melodramatic adolescent making furtive notations in her diary. The advantage was reconnecting with several high school friends who also have blogs. Even though some of them live less than an hour away and I see them on a regular basis, this exchange of ideas, thoughts, and the topics that concern us have allowed us to reconnect in a way that hearkens back to the many slumber parties and hours-long gab sessions of a decade ago. We are all in different places in our lives but the things that drew us to one another in junior high and high school have drawn us together again. So in honor of my rediscovered friendships, here are a few of my favorite quotes on friendship:

We think we have chosen our peers. In reality, a few years difference in the dates of our births, a few more miles between certain houses, the choice of one university over another . . . the accident of a topic being raised or not being raised at first meeting – any of these chances might have kept us apart. But, for a Christian, here are, strictly speaking, no chances. A secret master of ceremonies has been at work. Christ, who said to the disciples, "Ye haven’t chosen me, but I have chosen you," can truly say to every group of Christian friends, " Ye haven’t chosen one another, but I have chosen you for one another." The friendship is not the reward for our discriminating and good taste in finding one another out. It is the instrument by which God reveals to each the beauties of others.
~ C.S. Lewis, The Four Loves, pg. 126

Friendship is precious, not only in the shade, but in the sunshine of life; and thanks to the benevolent arrangement of things, the greater part of life is in the sunshine.
~ Thomas Jefferson

Writing creates a sanctuary. It is a place where friends, although apart, can meet.
~ Sylvana Rossetti

To my dear friends past, present, and future who brighten my rainy days, Thank You!

11 November 2005

So is it Patriotism, Paranoia, or Partisanship?

There is a debate going on in the U.S. Congress about proposed legislation to outlaw the use of torture to gain information. This legislation is vociferously opposed by the Bush administration, despite their equally vociferous protestations that no such methods are authorized in any front of their War on Terrorism. This comes on the heels of the outing by the Washington Post of secret prisons operated by arms of the U.S. government in Eastern Europe. Previously there had been complaints from detainees held at Guantanamo Bay of mistreatment (the most blatant being the authorities' desecration of the Quran) and the Abu Gharib prisoner abuse scandal. Taken separately these issues can be seen as unfortunate discrepancies in the United States’ support of democracy and freedom. Strung together as a working narrative, they illustrate something far more disturbing.

The current Bush administration appears to have little or no concern for basic human rights. They speak of spreading freedom and democracy to the oppressed nations of the world, but their actions undermine every higher aspiration. Yes, I realize that individuals impacted by my examples in the previous paragraph are criminals. They are individuals on the other side on the ideological and geographical battlefield who would do, and have done, the same or worse to citizens of our nation and our supporters in the War on Terrorism. But is that any excuse? Are we content, as a nation, to stoop to those levels? Shouldn’t we, in our Western ideology of human rights, democracy, freedom, and even to some extent Christianity; choose a higher path? Have we so lost our way, become so focused on revenge and retaliation for the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001 and all that occurred after our invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq that we forget to implement the ideals for which we claim to be fighting? And if we forget them on foreign soil, how long will it be before we forget them on our own?

We already have the Patriot Act, which, among other things, allows for the monitoring of your library activity. Under John Ashcroft we were encouraged to watch our friends and neighbors for suspicious behavior and to report them if we found anything amiss. John Ashcroft's replacement has Attorney General, Alberto Gonzales, authored memoranda arguing the pros of torture before being nominated for the position. Members of the Bush administration revealed the identity of a CIA operative in what appeared to be an act of retaliation against her husband’s politics. An individual’s – and her family’s – well-being was put in jeopardy because of the administration displeasure about someone’s opinion about its actions. What happened to the understood guarantee of a United States citizen’s freedom of expression? Perhaps you think I’m paranoid or a conspiracy theorist. I don’t think I am. What I am is worried about how far an administration more concerned with ultimate loyalty to its head (and by head I mean the unholy trinity of Karl Rove, Dick Cheney, and Donald Rumsfeld), its agenda, and its party will go. When did partisan loyalty (on both sides of the aisle) become more important than what is in the best interest for this nation and the individuals of which it is built?

10 November 2005

At Least I Don't Get the Shakes if I Miss an Episode

When I was eleven, our television blew up. Being budget-conscious, and aware of what a time-waster television was, my parents decided not to buy a new one. So our house was television-free for the next few years until my father broke down and bought a state-of-the-art entertainment center. Still, no cable allowed. The world of television was only explored when baby-sitting late at night or spending the odd evening in a hotel room. It wasn’t until university that I became reacquainted with television.

During my freshman year, Thursdays were the worst days of the week. I don’t know whether it was the class schedule, the fact it wasn’t Friday yet, or some karmic cycle but by dinner on Thursdays I was a grumpy, grouchy mess. And then I found NBC. This was during the halcyon mid-90’s when Thursdays on NBC meant Seinfeld, Friends, and ER. It meant laughter and George Clooney. And I was happy. Thursday evenings became a haven in which I could escape from whatever ugliness had happened that day or week. It was great two-hour respite from life.

The following years at university introduced me to other shows, the most important being The X-Files. Now that was a show you could escape into. It had good writing, suspense, humor, a female lead you could respect, and male lead that made you melt. There were other shows I dabbled in, but The X-Files became an obsession, as you can probably tell by the name of this blog. The depths of that obsession are far too embarrassing to admit. Unfortunately some of it has been captured on video. However, this obsession was about more than just the show. At the time I was deeply unhappy with where I was in life and it provided an enjoyable escape. Also, I was six seasons behind, so I could spend as many hours living in that fictional world as I wanted.

The final season of The X-Files promised to be a disappointment and I thought my obsessive television habit would come to an end. That is, until I caught the premiere of a new show on Sundays on ABC, Alias. I joked that it was like a patch for The X-Files. It had a similar feel of good story-telling, engaging leads, and addictive plots. I was hooked, addicted. I gave up my fight against television and became a full-fledged addict. Five years later, I’m juggling a television load of nine shows. Yes, nine: Arrested Development, Gilmore Girls, Supernatural, House, Lost, Veronica Mars, Alias, Smallville, and Numb3rs. If it weren’t for an overloaded Tuesday schedule, I would be tuning into The Office as well. And this list doesn’t even include the other two or three sitcoms that I watched last year, but are being held over as mid-season replacements by their respective networks. I’m drowning in a sea of videotapes. I really should invest in a DVR, but I’m in such denial about my addiction, I can’t be someone who pays almost $100 a month for cable. I just can’t. But I also can’t give up any of my shows. Which I suppose is the definition of addiction.

09 November 2005

On Migraines, Misanthropes, and the Concept of Mass

Today I am completely scatterbrained. Due to the combination of a migraine-medicine induced afternoon nap and a large Coke, I got very, very little sleep. And what sleep I did get was disturbed by crazy dreams involving Dr. House from the television show House and musings on the equation E=mc2 about which I’m reading in a book I highly recommend called E=mc2: a biography of the world’s most famous equation by David Bodanis. All in all, not the most restful night I have had.

One might not think that a fictional misanthropic doctor and the basis of all modern physics might have anything in common outside my drug-addled mind, but they do. I promise! In the years following the publication of Einstein’s theory of relativity and the discovery of the composition of an atom, theoretical physicists and their chemist counterparts began experimenting with the theory by bombarding elements with neutrons, hoping to create the large output of energy the equation promised by altering the mass of said elements. Initial research created slightly altered forms of the elemental nuclei which leaked out a very small, gentle form of energy, but not nearly the amount promised in Einstein’s equation. These altered elements became useful as tracers that could be swallowed or injected in order to see what is going on inside the human body. Hence the relationship between a fictional misanthropic doctor and modern physics.

Lest any reader by overwhelmed by the above paragraph, I would like to point out that until I picked up this book, the mere thought of physics made me cry. When I was in high school, I took a physics class. I can’t remember if it was because I was planning on majoring in architecture at the time or if I was hoping to be in a class with my current crush. It was probably a mixture of the two. Either way, every night, when it came time to face the physics homework, I would cry. I just couldn’t grasp the concepts presented to me. I could memorize definitions, quote Newton’s laws, and fake my way through a post-experiment write-up, but I didn’t understand the logic of it. It was a foreign language that I could only parrot back on each exam and hope for the best. Why is it different this time? Perhaps it is because I was actually curious and wanted to learn, as opposed to impress some college admissions board or a cute fellow student. Perhaps the author is a gifted writer who merges the human with the scientific in a way to which I can relate. Or perhaps it is because I’m 10 years older and a lot more open minded. Or maybe, just maybe, it is because I get to do all my learning while curled up in bed wearing my flannel pajamas.

08 November 2005

The Winter of My Discontent

Perhaps it is the last five days of grey. Perhaps the fact that the return to Standard Time from Daylight Savings requires me to drive to work during dawn and drive home at dusk. Perhaps it is the migraine that has been developing since 10 o'clock this morning. But I am completely bored with my job. It has gone past the merely 'unfun' stage through the 'only-for-the-paycheck' stage to the mind-numbing, soul-stealing boredom that threatens to become hatred. Actually, my unhappiness has spilled over into hatred several times today. I know that on occasions everyone dislikes their jobs, that nothing can be enjoyable, engaging, or enlightening eternally, however, I don't know that I ever felt any of those things about this job. It isn't just the fault of the job.

I took this job after a year and a half of unemployment following graduating from university. I believe desperate is proper descriptive. And there were lots of benefits to the job. My coworkers, despite their daily amazement that I don't know the inner thoughts of the office printer, are good people who do their jobs and do them well. They enjoy them in a way I don't understand. My job has absolutely nothing to do with my degree, or with any of the four other majors I declared while finding my way through higher education. I took this job as a stop-gap, a means to becoming an independent adult. I thought that I would spend a year figuring out what I want to do with my life while gaining the means to support myself. But in the intervening 22 months I have become more confused, more adrift in a sea of possibilities.

I had considered going back to school to pursue another degree. I even met with some of the local university's advisors, but I was faced with another dilemma. Did I really want to graduate from school and start a new career at the age of 30? Did I want to stay working in this job until I graduate at the age of 30? The majority of the voices in my head think not. Then the minority of the voices ask what else I'm going to do in those intervening years. And silence ensues. Until someone in the office needs me to translate the blinking lights on the office printer.

07 November 2005

Welcome to the Family II

This weekend, I met theFiance. In fact, the whole family traveled to the university town in which my brother (henceforth to be known as Mime) and theFinace live in order to meet her. I feel a little bad, as my parents and I descended en masse without warning. However, she handled it quite well. There was bit of awkwardness, the awkwardness that always accompanies the meeting and mingling of a person's separate spheres. Once the initial awkwardness passed, I realized that theFiance is quite the level-headed girl. In fact, I must admit, that Mime is the flighty one, the airhead, the flibberty-gibbit; the source of my parents' and my anxiety. At least what I thought was the source of my anxiety. As I watched the happy couple, my parents, and all the other couples that seemed to pop up in that university town I realized that my concerns and stress revolving around theWedding might be more about me than about Mime and theFiance.

I confess, I have never been in love. That is kind of a sad thing to confess at the age of 27. But I haven't. I've never let myself let go, lose control emotionally. All my concerns about theWedding, the couple's ages, financial situation, lack of maturity, lack of time invested in the relationship, were all concerns I have about me in any hypothetical relationship. They are all the things that keep me self-contained, guarded, closed-off from others. Maybe the hardest thing about theWedding is that if forces me to admit that my little brother might be more advanced, more grown-up, more mature about something than I am.

04 November 2005

I (heart) the anti-hero

Hello, my name is Scully. I watch the WB. Ok, admitting it is half the battle, no? Not only do I watch the WB, I watch Smallville, which isn't really lauded for its narrative prowess. And yes, I watch it for the Handsome. But not the Handsome you would think, for I find the actor who plays Clark Kent to be far too pretty for his own good. No, my deepest, darkest secret is that I watch the show for Lex Luthor. The villain. Granted in this show he isn't so much the villain, as the morally, ethically grey character. The Anti-Hero.

So what makes a nice girl like me interested in complex, doomed character? First, many kudos must go to the actor that portrays Lex Luthor, Michael Rosenbaum. He does great things with the material he is given and makes the character believable and intriguing. But my interest goes deeper than just an attractive, talented actor. So, what about the power-obsessed, conflicted millionaire do I find alluring? Anyone vaguely familiar with the Superman story knows that Lex Luthor is bad news. He will someday become a megalomaniac destroyer that Superman has to keep in check. The result is inevitable, so why do I hold out hope for the future? Is it the erroneous belief that people can be changed by others? Is it a blind optimism? Perhaps it is just a well-develop attraction to the arch-typal Bad Boy. Or finally, perhaps it is his Porsche. I could be just that shallow.

03 November 2005

Welcome to the Family?

I'm meeting my future sister-in-law this weekend. I knew that at some point this day would come. I just didn't think it would happen quite so soon. The announcement of my little brother's engagement came the week I turned 27. He never has understood the concept of timing. He has always been impulsive, but he shocked my parents and I by getting engaged 4 weeks after he and theFiance began dating. Four weeks. That is one cycle of the moon, one page on a calendar, 1/13 of a year. How can you possibly know someone in 4 weeks?

So I'm meeting theFiance. I've spoken to her once on the phone, before she became theFiance. She is 19. How does a 19 year-old already know what she wants out of life? I'm 27 and I still don't know what I want out of life. Perhaps experience makes room for uncertainty.

I want to be open and supportive. I want to be a Good Sister. But how do I do that when I think they are completely, totally, amazingly insane for rushing what is possibly the most important decision of their lives?