Tuesday, November 29, 2011

... baggage claim ...

Trivia was, as always, delightful. I love the people, I love the challenge and camaraderie, I love the fact that my random pack-rat brain can occasionally be used to my advantage, I love our nice wait-staff … I just love Monday nights. Although we have lost a formidable teammate to the ‘barren wastelands’ of sunny Florida, we have gained a new male teammate via our other female teammate getting engaged. And the engagement ring is HUGE. The verdict isn’t in yet, but he may be able to help us make up for the loss of our engineer. But he has also added the distraction of a HUGE SHINY THING at our table. And they are also spending just the appropriate proportion of time being giggly and cute and adorable, which is also kind of distracting. But hey, love is beautiful and I’m not complaining!

I got to see Wall-E for the first time last night. I think my older brother had pity on me and my strange mood and decided it was also a convenient night for movie watching. As a lover of kid’s movies in general, how had I missed this gem? It was perfect. Really perfect. As an early literacy nerd, the simplicity of the visuals and the lack of unneeded dialogue reminded me of No, David! and other books where children story-tell to themselves, creating a world full of their own rich conversations and contextual importance. The character development was fantastic, the artwork was beautiful and accessible to children and adults, and while ‘UP!’ rivals it for adult application and enjoyment, Wall-E did make me think. I also said wonderfully brainy things such as ‘OH, look – Wall-E became a people!” to my brother, being so completely happy and charmed with the movie that I forgot to speak like a rational adult.

***Spoiler alert (if anyone else is as behind the times as me) and nerdiness - I have two complaints with the film … one being the fact that the plant survived being pulled out of Wall-E while he was in outer space. It is, in fact, a little nitpicky issue with a children’s film, especially with all the other impossibilities in the film. But I nearly squealed NOOOOOO aloud when I saw the plant in outer space, because I cared quite deeply for that little lima bean plant. I’m not sure why I thought it was a lima bean plant. Did anyone else instantly assume a lima bean plant? The second was more of a pondering then a problem – if we assume the original three Asimov robotics laws, could the robots (most notably Auto, his little hench-bots, and whichever ones kept feeding the people so much spam) have done what they did in the film? Obviously, the robots knew they were robots and were not pretending to not be robots, so any discussion of the ‘fourth’ and ‘fifth’ laws is unneeded***

I have done something I have been avoiding for a while and have actually laced up my shoes and gotten to the gym to ‘run’. I’ve been walking or wandering or playing about, but I have realized a lot of the icky nasty feelings I get with the lack of sun are also due to the lack of activity. Also, running helps me mentally houseclean. I literally run away from my problems (for a while). Being the weirdo I am, I put all of the issues chasing themselves around in my brain on a post-it note, and then put the post-it at the rear of the treadmill. And then I run (or, if the steam runs out, walk) until the things on the post-it can be dealt with in a rational manner. Some days I can have a long list and it will take about 30 minutes to reach mental equilibrium. One day I had one item on my note, and I was on the treadmill for 2 hours. After about an hour and some weights, I had dealt with my list and was headed home to bathe before some much-needed Auntie Joyce Time. I was so happy I was practically skipping. Hooray endorphins!

And then, as soon as I got home, my post-it got a major item for tomorrow. But that’s life, there’s a lot of it yet to come and this is a drop in the bucket. If that.  And in a strange way it makes me think – I had to tell someone today to just ask me for what they needed and I would do it. Isn’t that what people need to remind me to do as well, on occasion?

And nothing makes you feel better than a grandmotherly old northerner telling you that you handled a situation quite well, and that you were growing lady-balls.

Monday, November 28, 2011

... storm warning ...

Wow. No post Sunday because Sundays are usually my ‘unplug, relax, unwind’ day. I usually use Sundays as a day to fill up my ‘love list’ and reflect on all the lovely things that I get to see and experience. This Sunday that didn’t quite happen.

The toilet happened. As one of my somewhat dramatic friends put it, the EXPLODING TOILET. No actual explosions, of course. A simple, $5 dollar fix. One piece from Lowe’s. No big deal. But it started an itch in my brain that is hard to scratch. The one that makes me question homeownership. For example – I need to re-carpet the whole townhouse, from stem to stern. It needed new carpet when I moved in a few years ago. Carpet isn’t cheap. Neither are any other flooring options. I do not have the funds to carpet the house. And it needs doing. But I’m not very motivated to do it, because to be honest, carpet is boring. Touch up paint – easy. I can do that over break. But then there’s the kitchen …sigh. I have PICKLED PINE (so ugly) cabinets, blueish strange Formica countertops, and odd brownish floors. With the dingy white paint, the inner decorator in me has been having a fit. So, I should paint. BUT no one color goes with all these odd shades. And I can paint the cabinets, but that leaves the counter tops and the ugly flooring. And I can’t pay for the flooring, so that means I have to fix the countertops somehow. But I can’t PAINT the countertops like I’ve seen on Pinterest because they are KITCHEN countertops with heat and knives and needing to be bleached multiple times daily. And even if I repaint, what will protect the back-splash? So what started as a hypothetically simple paint job has now turned into a desire to re-countertop and decoratively backsplash my kitchen. Which I can’t do. Because I need carpet. Boring gray carpet. Being a grownup makes my head hurt.

After being irritated at life, the universe, and everything for a few moments, I picked myself off my butt, dusted myself off, and proceeded to endeavor to make my day awesome. And I succeeded somewhat, with some Winnie the Pooh and conversations about undergarments with my roommate. And some odd scifi television.

Fast forward to today - setting the alarm to pm, waking up an hour late, bad hair day, Monday, rain, being off-kilter at work, sticking my foot so far in my mouth it ... well. 

As I sit here in Coffee & Crema, after finishing a worksheet off the clock, staring off into the dreary (very British) rain, sipping my really caffeinated beverage, I began to wonder how much of my tendency to try and love on people is really me being outwardly affectionate and how much is a way for me to compartmentalize by fixing other people’s woes. I can shove almost any feeling away when I have another person’s problems on my back – and it makes me feel more settled and less awkward. People also almost unilaterally accept people who fix problems, so why not be a cuddler, a problem solver, a fixer? This seems to go well, unless I do the quintessentially Liz thing of doing something ungracious, selfish, pig-headed, and just foot-in-mouth-worthy. Like today at work, last night with a friend, this morning on the phone. For some reason, I hate thinking that I give people less-than-perfect moments.  Which may be why when I finally have to face things that bother me, I collapse and have a ‘give-a-damn’s-busted’ day on my sofa in sweats.

Wisdom comes from strange places. Tall, handsome, dancers who tell you to start relaxing and caring less. A redheaded former roommate who corner you with the truth that they love you, and that hating yourself for things out of your control is wrong. A broad shoulder you’re resting on telling you to ask for what you need. A perky professor yelling, “process not product” at the top of their lungs. A five-year old realizing the need to love others, and getting excited about that responsibility.

It’s strange to think about sunflowers on a day like today, perhaps. Secretly, I’ve always wanted to surprise me with a sunflower. For ridiculous and purely sentimental reasons, purple irises top them as my favorite. But sunflowers have a unique and beautifully inspiring trait – they seek the sun.  They follow the course of the sun across the sky, reaping as much as they possibly can. They are annuals, but they soak up so much sun and warmth during their short lives. They are the embodiment of joy and positivity. Or maybe someone slipped something in my coffee. Quite possible, seeing as these musings are coming from a girl who believes that Pacifica has found a way to bottle uber-delight, sunny days, and happiness in their Blood Orange roll-on scent. And thinks that following the directions in this song would be an ideal conflict resolution strategy in a serious relationshi... we could argue and fuss all night, but I propose ...

Saturday, November 26, 2011

... a little more bliss ...

Holidays at my Aunt Lisa’s are the closest thing to perfect that my family will ever have. The company is delightful, naturally. There is the perfect combination of hard work and leisure. There is NEVER any shortage of amazing food. And most of all, the amount of love in that house hits you over the head like a Louisville Slugger the second you walk in. From Wednesday until this evening, I lacked for nothing and probably had too much affection, food, kindness, and laughter. In fact, I felt rather spoilt.

My darling cousin was hard at work all weekend on major papers and saving the world (typical tasks for one as brilliant as she is) so I was left to reading, assisting with cooking, some cleaning, walking my the dog, and in general having a fabulous time. I learned about old coins (the US Mint used to make coins worth five cents that were marked as a half dime instead of a nickel, and coins worth 2 ½ dollars apiece) and how to cook ribs (well, mostly preventing them from catching fire). I also got lots of quality time with this motley crew – my sweet grandmother (mentioned in the previous post), grandfather, and their ‘son’ Sam. I love this photo; it seems to get all the personalities quite well.

Pappy is quite the stoic man’s man, but loves to be paid attention and spoilt and looked up to. When I was little he told me stories of him wrestling tigers in India and I believed every word he said. He has the firm believe that any useful sort of fella will know how to fire a gun, fix things, always have $20 in cash, and be able to produce a watch and pocketknife on demand. He worries if you are late and/or gone too long, and needs to be reminded that I do behave and I won’t run off from family gatherings to go be a reckless hooligan and smoke cigars and drink scotch. He’s stingy with his praise, but not with his love. He is also a sentimental old coot, though he’ll never admit it – he still carries the hankies I embroidered for him when I was a little girl. He loved watching the news, grumbling about politics, hugging Nanna, and watching his two granddaughters become somewhat useful girls. He loves cars, and heaven help you if your tires are old or your oil needs changing and it hasn’t been done!

Nanna is a typical Southern lady, has Amy Vanderbilt memorized from cover to cover, can cook the pants off almost anyone I know, and is one of the few people I know who could actually kill someone with kindness. She is put together, enjoys her friends and family, loves hugs and closeness, and praises everything lavishly and wholeheartedly. She keeps Pappy from being too blunt by simply saying ‘Charleton!’ in a tone only that many years of love and labor can create. She sees beauty and importance in everyday graces, and forgives easily and beautifully. She can be melancholy at times, but she’d give the shirt off her back to the first person that asked.

And Sam? Sam is the best dog in the world. Sam is as faithful, kind, fiercely loyal, and intuitive as Sam in the Lord of the Rings series. He brings Nanna joy, Pappy comfort, and their whole community something to nurture. He is also camera-shy.

How else was I spoiled this week? In addition to my gourmet chef aunt’s cooking, I got a coffee date with the terrific trio from my undergrad days – Ben, Catherine, and Zach. I was foiled in my plans for giving Voldemort as my coffee-name at Starbucks, but I did have a lovely long conversation with my loves, in which I successfully used the term ‘bogarted’. We discussed arranged marriages, villainy, gold plated AVI cables, holding hands, camping, football, and work.  We had such a good time, in fact, we went to a wretched hive of scum and villainy known as the Thirsty Fellow (the bar was actually far classier then you’d think for it being across the street from USC’s greek village) and finished up by discussing football and nerdy pick-up-lines there. In short, my coffee date lasted from 3:30 to almost 8, and I never really noticed how fast the time flew. And I’ve been recruited for springtime camping trips and may have housing at Zach’s for Enter the Blues in Atlanta.

Dad visited for a good portion of the day today and took the weekend from simply wonderful to absolutely fabulous. He also said I was an excellent driver, which made me giggle.

Also, I have gotten to read and reflect more on my newest nonfiction homework. My goodness. The author described the work, quite accurately, as ‘not a nice story’. The dark, dirty, sad history of the treatment of people with mental illnesses is not pleasant – and when you combine that with questionable ethical/moral choices, as well as academic backstabbing and hubris … not an easy read by any means. But then again, this was undertaken as improvement and not necessarily enjoyment. I am enjoying the knowledge I am acquiring though.

Now, I am curled up with a cocktail and the newest Jane Eyre DVD in my very own bed, taking stock of what I need to do tomorrow. Groceries, bills, running to prep for Lindy Focus … and I am wonderfully content.

Friday, November 25, 2011

Happy-day-after-Thanksgiving, ya’ll!

I don’t know why I always get the insane idea to start a blog during the holidays. Maybe it’s the warm, family, fuzzy feeling that I want to share with the world. Maybe it’s due to the fact that I get really busy and don’t get to actually connect with everyone that I’d like to. Perhaps it’s just a holiday coping mechanism. But here it is. A shiny new blog. Presumptuous in its very nature. Of course I have things to say, and I shall put them on the Internet for ALL TO READ! My voice is POWERFUL! MWAHAHAHA!

So, what pressing matters do I have to share? What burning thoughts are aflame in my mind? Today – psychoanalysis, ewoks, Alzheimer’s, dogs, FOX News, and Black Friday shopping.

Apparently, tryptophan has no effect on the hamster wheel that is my brain.

I’ve recently downloaded the Kindle version of A Most Dangerous Method, and I can’t wait to delve further into my self-assigned homework. Seeing as I'm only on chapter four right now, and most of material to this point is about the practices of doctors, treatment of patients, and the overall perception of mental illness in the late 1890's and early 1900's, I'll do a brief intro based off of the 'dust jacket', Amazon reviews, and one online book review I read somewhere and promptly lost the link to. The book is about Jung, Freud, and Spielrein – two well-known psychoanalysts and a woman who had some amazing theories of her own. She was initially a patient of Jung’s, but was treated and responded well. She then became a doctor and published several articles – when she wasn’t too busy being Jung’s mistress (at least this is what is insinuated in the review I read). Jung eventually detached himself from Spielrein, and she moved to Vienna and was analyzed by Freud. Her decision to align herself with Freud’s theories supposedly lead to the split of the two collaborators in an emerging field of study. Why this book? I feel that my knowledge in the area of psychology is woefully limited, and this can at least introduce me to the non-child centric theories (I’ve studied Piaget, Erickson and Vygotsky…) that my high school and college education didn't really delve into, other than cracking jokes about cigars. A historical love triangle thrown into the mix? Bonus. Movie coming out with Viggo Mortensen, Michael Fassbender, and Keira Knightly … major bonus! I need some people to come see it with me so I can pick it apart afterwards.
I am at my aunt’s picturesque house in Lexington, and she has gotten a new cat named Mazie. Some strange breed called a ‘Himalayan Flame Point’. She has amazingly blue eyes and is as sweet as her nickname – Fluffernutter. I swear this cat is an ewok in disguise. I want to put a little leather hat-thing on her and squeal over the cuteness. Like some savvy human did to this kitty! Who, humorously enough, looks almost exactly like Mazie.

Most diseases suck. I am aware of this. Cancer sucks. Celiac takes away pasta and bread. Lupus makes your body attack itself. But few diseases piss me off as much (and frankly, scare me as much) as Alzheimer’s. My sweet, loving grandma has been dealing with this for years. She used to be a nurse and is painfully aware of how this will progress. She hates the fact that this horrible force is inside her, taking things from her. She’s gotten to a point where she hates her life. I hate to hear her talk about how she wishes she wouldn’t have another birthday, and how she hates the years she’s spent living. I hate how she can get upset over things and can’t stop herself from being angry, even though she knows she shouldn’t be. I hate how when I offer help she says no because she doesn’t want to feel weak. I hate watching someone I know and adore hate herself. I hate that the few happy moments she has are stolen, and she can’t store away new ones. How selfish is it of me to wish I couldn’t remember things from my past, delete people or events? Memory is such a strange thing, sometimes so keen when it is least wanted, and sometimes so fickle. But I reflect on how lucky I am to have partial control of my crazy memory, at least for now.

My brilliant cousin recommended a documentary to me called Dogs Decoded. This was brought up while the family was sneaking our grandparent’s dog turkey off the table, naturally. Being a huge animal lover and geeky person, I was thrilled to hear that there is a documentary that attempts to look into the genetic links between domestic dogs and wolves/foxes.  And while people have been shown to emotionally and physically benefit from having dogs, did you know that dogs also benefit from interactions with people in a similar way? Hmm. I am looking forward to my science lesson. It is also apparently on Netflix! SCORE!

I hate the news. Always have on some level or another. Apparently I announced this fact to the world quite loudly at the age of 6. It stems from my grandfather and uncle’s physical dependence on the news.  When I was younger, it was always on. I would try and turn it off and put on some more ‘entertaining’ programming – but the menfolk would not permit such things. I have since learned not to touch the remote. To this very day, the news – more specifically FOX news, is on at family gatherings, the beach, what-have-you, nonstop and painfully loud. If it were election night, I’d get it. I have an election night all-nighter, flipping between the polls and late-night TV. If it was a major crisis, I’d be glued to the TV too. You can't get me off of the news if there's an earthquake, hurricane, or something like that. But just the FOX news channel on a slow news day repeating the same clips over and over and talking about the Republican Presidential candidates for hours on end? Sigh. All I really wanted was one episode of Big Bang to break up the monotony. This was greeted with scorn and general displeasure. I poured myself another glass of Riesling.

Black Friday people – you are insane. It makes no sense to me. Even though I have to deal with FOX news on loop for hours on end, I will not be fighting you to the death for the last reasonably priced laptop. It will not happen. Some people I know missed Thanksgiving dinner with FAMILY to camp in a tent outside a store. Unfathomable. I hate shopping for things in crowded areas normally – why on earth would you think I would willingly get out of bed at 4am to buy things that I could buy online for the same price (or less!) on Cyber Monday?