Saturday, February 26, 2011
Lately, I have not been a very good reader at all. I don't know what it is, but I have a hard time sitting down and focusing. Mostly, I think working long hours with lots of overtime has gotten me out of the habit. I have a theory about pre-sleep laziness and the current lack of a bedside lamp also being a factor, but we won't go into that here. It is too slothfully shameful.
For a bit after I got the Kindle for Droid app, there was an upsurge in my reading - The Woman in White (so good!), Letters of a Woman Homesteader, the first few chapter's of Paulo Coehlo's Brida). Reading via Kindle is no book, but it's not as heinous as I'd anticipated and you can read in the dark even if it will never become dog eared with love or replace the tactile sensation of paper against your fingertips.
I finished a book about Islam around Christmas and did spent a couple weeks in early November listening to Bloodroot on cd (if you have a long commute, I recommend the audio version). Since at least January, I've been reading the first Flavia de Luce mystery for what seems like an eternity. I burned through most of it on a round-trip flight, but have been stuck a few chapters away from the end for months. The worst part is that it's not due to any fault of the book, which is in fact is charming and well written. Normally, it would be the kind of book that left me wanting to start a new one with the same author and characters immediately upon finishing. Really. I even checked the second volume out from the library in anticipation of wanting more.
So, in addition to the perennial "write more, lose weight and get in shape" (progress is being made - more about that another time!), I am adding "read more". My norm used to be 4-5 books a month, but I don't know if I can do that much. Finishing one would be nice for a start (yes, I'm looking at you, dear Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie). Mmmm pie . . .
Friday, February 11, 2011
Let us pause for a moment to celebrate with a picture from last year's birthday trip to Maryhill. Aren't the trees pretty? Even though it was taken in mid-March, it looks an awful lot like it does outside right now.
But my personal work stuff is not the only cause or even the most important cause for celebration today. Can you believe the news from Egypt? The beginnings of a government transition mostly through peaceful demonstration. I am fascinated by the scenes and stories from this revolution. Mubarak has been in power for longer than I've been alive, longer than many of the Egyptians who brought about this change have been alive. Whatever happens next, today is a monumental day.
Here there are already pundits trying to guess which direction things will take. It's obviously not just a matter of ousting a government and then everything is okay. It is now that the work begins. This will be a journey for the Egyptian people, but for now I am simply happy for them and their victory. Every time I turn on CNN and see the demonstrators, first protesting and now celebrating, in Tahrir Square, I am reminded of my own relatives in Berlin and the jubilation when the wall came down. My mother and grandmother never thought they'd live to see that day, and yet they did. I remember what that felt like and how we sat in front of the t.v. at home crying tears of joy for our relatives thousands of miles away. I have no real connection to Egypt, but somehow that memory does make me feel connected to these people today.
Monday, January 31, 2011
So I've done it! I've posted approximately every day for a month. It was a different experience this time from past years. On the one hand, I didn't skip weekends and decided that as long as I posted approximately 30 posts, it didn't matter if some were back dated or if I missed a couple. (Hey, life gets in the way sometimes!)
On the other hand, I don't feel like I posted anything very exciting. Last time, there were a few posts that ended up springboards for new writing. This time, I don't really feel like there was anything like that. A lot of it is just crap I posted to post something. Even if it wasn't particularly creative, though, it did start getting me in the habit of writing every day. So, I say, so far, so good!
Sunday, January 30, 2011
As it turns out, the pizza wasn't as bad as I remembered (the veggie one was pretty okay), but I was right about the hyper, screaming kids. And when Chuck E. says your party will be two hours, let me tell you, he means two hours. Things got a little off schedule when the birthday boy disappeared just as it was time to cut the cake. I swear Chuckette (our party planner) would have cut it without him if we hadn't made her wait until he was located at the ticket counter trying to turn in tickets for a prize.
Ultimately, they ended up having to take the presents along to open at home, because there was no time and it was clear Chuck E. was going to call in his goons if we didn't vacate the party area asap. I think Antonio's parents spent quite a bit of money on the festivities (not just on the kids, but also extra food for the parents), which makes that a bit unfortunate, but I'm sure that there was another party after ours. They were probably just trying to stay on schedule. Still, it looked like the kids had fun, which was the point.
Saturday, January 29, 2011
Friday, January 28, 2011
Abandoned in The Dalles, originally uploaded by Martina.
If my head were a house, it would be the one in the picture above. Today it head aches like someone has been repeatedly hitting me with a bag of hammers. My neck, shoulders and arms feel compact, like pieces of paper that have been wadded into tight balls. I feel like I need to be stretched. It was one of those days where I could think of nothing at work but going home and taking a hot bath before flaking out on the couch with a dog and a quilt for comfort.
I have been pretty tired lately. At first I thought I was not getting enough protein, but I think the headache and fatigue are probably just stress. I was looking through my flickr pictures earlier and noticably absent were any vacation pictures from 2010. This is not because I forgot to upload any or even to take any, but because I never took a vacation last year. I was so busy working, I didn't even notice!
This year, I will have to remedy that. Maybe it's time to resurrect my annual birthday road trip. Or maybe I need to plan a real vacation to somewhere better reached by plane for later in the year. Maybe I need to do BOTH. Either way, my headache epiphany underscores my feeling that more non-work activity need to be ushered back into my life, because a life where you don't even notice you never took a vacation is just wrong!
Thursday, January 27, 2011
This weekend the boy turns six. It seems like yesterday that he first pushed his little stroller up to the fence, so he could climb on top of it for easier fence scaling. He was two then. After that first day, every time he wanted to come over, he stood at the fence bellowing until someone came out to lift him over the fence.
Who would have thought on that first day that this funny little boy would become part of my family? It's really because of him that I got to know his family. We would have all gone on with our busy lives, waving and smiling when we went out to get the mail, but never pausing long enough to really get to know each other. I might have never experienced a quincinera or sopes with cactus leaves and I certainly would never have watched any Chipmunks movie going a dozen times.
Antonio changed all that. He is in Kindergarten now and calls me his aunt and my mother his "favorite grandma", and I like that. On Friday nights, he often shows up with his little backpack tow, so he can spend the night. When I come home from work trips, guess who's conveniently waiting to visit, so he can help me unpack (the presents he rightfully assumes I've brought back for him)?
He never ceases to amaze me. He makes me want kids of my own. He is so goofy and sweet and sometimes even reverent. Last summer when he and I took my mom to The Grotto to go for a walk on her birthday, he disappeared. For a moment, I panicked, then I looked over at the altar to find him all alone, praying, hands folded, eyes squeezed shut tight.
I wonder sometimes what it is he was praying. I hope at least some of it was thanks for having so many people around who love him. I know that I am thankful that he is there to love!
Wednesday, January 26, 2011
Around Christmas, I decided to start researching my family history. My dad is gone, my grandfather is long gone, and I don't know much about his people. I’ve since learned that they landed in Oregon after a few generations of Westward migration from Tennessee. As it turns out both my great-great-great grandfather and great-great grandfathers were both preachers. How funny that the woman with such conflict about organized religion is descended from a family of conservative baptists.
As it turns out, the research is a lot of fun. Despite my ambivalence about certain more recent ancestors, I see how people become addicted. Tracing a family line is like eating Pringles, you can't stop at just one. Each new discovery makes me want to go a little deeper, a little further into where we all came from and what made me as I am.
If it hadn't been for the Tennessee connection, I might never had found Amy Greene's Bloodroot. I started listening to it on a CD from the library to fill my long commute to and from work, but realize now that I need the book (to own!). I find myself wanting to spend time in the car at lunch, so I can have a little more time with the story each day. If that is not a good reason to buy a book (not that I've ever needed much of one), I don't know what is!
Greene's characters and even the places featured in the story are so alive.
I am only about half way through, but it has already become one of my favorite novels of recent years, which means that I think everyone should read it.
Tuesday, January 25, 2011
Sometimes when I look at old pictures, I wonder what happened to her to make her so mean. She was so bitter. I wonder now, was she always that way? Was there ever a time when she was young when she was sweet or carefree? Did something happen to her?
I never think of her as "grandma" or even really as my grandmother. She was so different from my maternal grandmother, my oma, who spoiled me rotten. The closest I can get to her is "my father's mother". Even that chokes in my throat. She is DNA, not family.
I remember on one of my rare visits to her house when I was a little girl how she told me, "You have eyes just like your father's. They always could stare a hole through a brick wall." Maybe it was guilt that made her remember. Whatever it was, she seemed to disapprove of me, because I looked like him. My dad didn't talk about his childhood much, but I remember once when I was older he told a story about how she'd punished him for something. When he'd finished, my mom said "today that would be considered child abuse". His response was to look sad and quietly say, "It would have then too."
He had left home at a young age to get away from her. I don't think she ever forgave him for that. I was just guilty by association. Even worse, I was the spawn of a woman she insisted on referring to as "the foreigner".
And that's why it feels more comfortable to keep the distance of at least a generation between myself and that bitter, old woman who seemed to hate everyone. Even though she lived only a few miles away, I only saw her a handful of times when I was growing up. The last time was when I was in my teens. I had gotten a part-time job. I don't remember why, but I took it into my head to spend my sad little paycheck on a present for her, because I thought she might be lonely after her second husband died. As it turned out, a neighbor was visiting when I got there. This gave the old lady an audience to complain to about how most of her family was worthless and to make pointed remarks about how she'd be lost without my uncle, even though I knew my father regularly offered his assistance as well. Looking back, I am not sure why he did. I suppose as nasty as she was, some part of him wanted her approval.
She never saw, but I went home crying that day. After my father heard what happened, he decided that if she couldn't accept and be kind to his family, he didn't need her either, but I know it hurt him. In some ways, though, I'm grateful for having experienced her. She shaped my ideas about family. Without her I might have never known that family is not necessarily the people who carry or blood, but the people we love and who love us back. I wonder if I would have ever really understood that, if it hadn't been for her.
Monday, January 24, 2011
Lily, who is the best and freakiest smallest dog in my house, has a skin allergy. I swear in her two short years she's had more antibiotics and anti-inflammatories than I've had in a lifetime. We think it's either her food or fleas, so she is on a food trial. Actually, ALL the dogs are on a food trial, because it's really difficult to keep them eating different things, when she insists on getting into everyone else's food. Plus, the others are all suckers. One of them actually lets her take food OUT OF HIS MOUTH.
Despite that, the new Salmon and Sweet Potato diet (I know, it sounds weird, but she needed novel protein and carb sources for it to work) is going well. What's not going as well is treating her for fleas. Administering Advantage is NOT a painful process (it just involves dabbing a little at the hairline), but you'd think we were trying to skin her alive. Every time she sees the little vial, she heads for the hills.
I think you know your dog is spoiled when having a drop of liquid put on her constitutes discomfort.
Sunday, January 23, 2011
Today brought to you by random scraps...
Diet: I have lost 8 pounds since the first of the year. Go me!
Diet 2: While I am still trying to avoid animal products, I still crave them. We had veggie sausages for dinner last night and all I could think of was that while it looked like a sausage, it didn't taste like one. It's the same feeling I get when I eat a Boca Banzai Burger at Red Robin. I think sometims it's better to stay away from faux meats and just eat things that have no meaty tasting expectations.
Sometimes I think that if you're craving something that badly, maybe you just make an exception that day. But then I think of the hypocrisy in that. If it's just about health, the occasional exception works, but if it's about cruelty, then meat can't be "wrong" except for when I'm craving a burger. Stupid conscience! Food becomes complex with you really think about it. Someday I will work it out...
The point for now: some things just cannot be faked. Maybe it's better to just replace them with other things.
Alpacas and Llamas: Cute! I have heard that they are very smart. When I lived on The Prairie (sadly, it wasn't in a little house, but a crappy apartment), there was a farm that used llamas as herders.
Saturday, January 22, 2011
And the plan is to lighten.
For the past few years, my hair has been dark with the random bright streak - sometimes a bright red or fuchsia, sometimes an orange, but always on a dark purplish base. The plan now is for a lighter, brighter red all over with some blonde mixed in. First, though, we have to work on lightening it up a little, so today we began the reddening. By my birthday in spring, it will be ready for phase two (adding blonde streaks).
It's like a follicular metaphor for the the new outlook I need to cultivate. It's amazing what a lift a new hair can provide. It doesn't solve everything, but it's a quick, easy change that makes me feel a little less down, a little less bloated and a little more attractive. Sometimes it's the little things that make you happy. And that on its own makes them them worthwhile.
Thursday, January 20, 2011
*In addition to having excessive happy making properties, this also makes for perfect cleaning music. Vaccuuming is much more fun if you can get your groove on while doing it! This makes me want to go see Burlesque again at Kennedy School where I can do so with pizza and Ruby Red!
Wednesday, January 19, 2011
Lately, I have been feeling depressed. It all started after my trip to Houston.
Since returning, I have been feeling increasingly blah about a lot of things (weight, money, myself, my life, my lack of children), but especially about work. It kills me to get up and go each morning. I find myself wondering why I do the job I do. I think I'm probably just burned out. I work so much overtime over the fall and winter and spend so many of my work hours trying to make people happy. Even when I think they are jerks, I can't help myself. I just want everyone to be happy.
Lately, though, I've been starting to wonder, what's in it for me? It's certainly not money. While I work overtime making sure other people get their bonuses, I'm not exactly overcompensated for my work. But the minute someone is even a little discontented, I feel the need to go out of my way swoop in and fix things IMMEDIATELY, then find myself feeling frustrated when they don't appreciate it.
Don't get me wrong. Most people aren't a problem. Most people aren't even selfish. I have enough pride in my work to even want them to get what they have coming. The majority are even appreciative and pleasant. The thing is that when you're overly sensitive and prone to taking things personally, one person's bad vibes can negate the good vibes the other nine put forth.
Some people are hell bent on finding problems and start conversations with phrases like "I demand..." and "I expect..." Sometimes I want to tell them "And I expect you to not be such an asshole. I guess we're both going to end up disappointed." Sometimes I wonder if they think their heads will explode if they say "thank you". But, of course, those are the sorts of unproductive thoughts I usually keep to myself.
Still, it frustrates me. I place incredible value on doing things "right" and not being the kind of person who is unresponsive or uncaring about my work or the people I serve. I like helping people. I like advocating for them and making sure they receive what they are due. It's a principle thing. I don't even mind going beyond what they're due to what is simply right and kind. I have never felt better at work than the day I managed to talk a director into allowing to pay one of my reps early on some business that hadn't closed in time for a cutoff. He was helping his father-in-law who had cancer but no insurance pay for his chemo treatments. It wasn't my job to do that, but it made me feel so good that I played a small role in helping relieve a little bit of stress for that family at least for that month.
But I'm tired. It makes me question what I am doing. It makes me wonder if it isn't time for a change. Or maybe it's just time for a vacation. It's definitely time for something. The good thing is that if there's one thing you can count on in my workplace, it's change. I have my annual review in a couple weeks. I'll have a better sense of where things are going then. After that, maybe things will improve or maybe it will be time to take the sage advice of Dusty of Wenatchee. Who knows, it could be fun...
Tuesday, January 18, 2011
You're covered in roses
You're covered in ashes
You're covered in rain.
You're covered in babies
You're covered in slashes
You're covered in wildernis
You're covered in stains
This is not Mary, the idealized virgin miracle mom, but Mary the real, suffering woman who had the son she loved taken from her in the most brutal manner. It was a powerful close to a movie about war. I've since learned that the writer and singer was Patty Griffin, who is an amazing storyteller gifted with such a simple, pure and honest voice.
The song has made me think a lot about the role of women and Mary in particular in religion. I am no Bible scholar. Until recent years, I probably spent more time actively avoiding anything even remotely churchy than going to it. We weren't super religious when I was growing up, but there was a period when I was carted off to Sunday School each week. My memories from that time of Mary are that while she was definitely on the side of the Goodies, she was always seemed to show up as a pregnant donkey rider, an idealized archetype of motherhood or as a "Jesus' mom is in the house!" footnote, but rarely as a fully fledged personality. No one ever talked about her feelings or her suffering.
But Patty Griffin did...
Monday, January 17, 2011
Approximately half way through my January post-a-day project, I have fallen behind, but I think that is okay. Despite being an unrepentant cheater, I'll make it up. I'm not above back dating either, as you may have noticed. Sometimes it's more important to remain true to the spirit of an agreement than the letter. Even if it doesn't always turn into bits I can post, I have been writing each day and then filling in later with things I can post. Besides, what am I going to do, sue myself?
What I can say at this mid-point is that it has been good to sit down and just write a little each day. I used to noodle around with taking pictures, making music and writing stories, essays and (bad) poems all the time. Somehow as work started to consume more of my life, I moved further and further away until I just stopped. It is a sad thing, since I find far more fulfillment in creation than I do in my job. Funny how we can so easily slip into robbing ourselves of the things that give us the most pleasure. Reclaiming that neglected part of my life is really the point of this whole blog exercise. I'm not trying to write the great American novel (yet), the first step is simply to develop a habit. That seems to be happening and everything's comin' up Millhouse.
Meanwhile, I'm really glad that Jen (who is MUCH better about updating her blog than I am) is doing this too, and not only because it means I have
Sunday, January 16, 2011
There is something about the drums and rhythms that just makes me happy. It's hard to hear it and not want to move. That's probably why I was sucked in by the late night Zumba commercials on t.v. I have never been one of those people who just loves working out. Even during those times in my life where I have done it regularly, it has always been something to get out of the way rather than something to look forward to. Most of my dancing these day involves butt dancing in driver's seat of the car when a good song comes on. But, hey, it was worth a shot, so I ordered the DVDs.
I won't lie. The box sat unopened on a shelf for at least a month after it arrived. Then, today, I got the urge to get my groove on and opened it up. As it turns out, it is totally FUN! I am really out of shape, so I didn't made it through the whole thing, but I made it through enough to be sore afterwards. More importantly, I'm kinda looking forward to doing it again tomorrow!
Until then, here is some primo butt dancing music from Ricky Martin.
Saturday, January 15, 2011
People sometimes complain about the Oregon rain. It does get kind of grey and depressing in the winter, but there are days when I really like that. I love the sound of the rain on the roof over my back deck, I love building a fire and nestling down with under my favorite quilt with my little Lily dog. On such days we read or watch movies and eat popcorn.
Of late, it's been reading. As it turns out, I may be the only person on the planet who could not get into The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, so we are dividing our time between two other books:
1. Letters of a Woman Homesteader by Eleanore Pruitt Stewart.
I am reading my version on Kindle for Droid. Originally, I thought I would hate reading on a screen, but I'm kind of digging it. It will never replace holding a real book in my hands, but it is pretty cool for those times when you're waiting somewhere and need something to pass the time. It's also great for those times when you are in bed and want to read, but are too lazy to get up and turn on a light. Hey, it's not pretty, but when you don't have a bedside lamp, it happens.
If you don't have a Kindle or the book, you can also read it for free online.
The letters were written between 1909 - 1911. My favorite letter so far is the one in which the widowed Pruitt (she doesn't become a Stewart until later) takes off with her young daughter in the middle of winter to go camping. I love how independent and adventurous she was. And the letters are so good humored and descriptive. They're great fun to read!
2. Eating Animals by Jonathan Safran Foer
Eating Animals isn't fun in the same way, but it's definitely well written and an eye opener, if you have never allowed yoruself to think too hard about where the stuff at the grocery store originated. I am feverishly trying to finish it, because the library wants it back and I am only about 2/3 of the way finished. A lot of it, I already knew, but reading it makes me happy about the dietary changes I've been making. I find the more I inform myself and keep the reality in my mind, the less easy it is for me drop the curtain that allows me to push it all out of my head. I've said it before, but we do some pretty vile and cruel things in the name of factory farming.
Friday, January 14, 2011
Earlier today one of my Facebook friends posted a status about how something about her cold was making her feel it was imperative that she make kale chips stat. My first thought after hearing "kale" was about the delicious kale and root vegetable salad I got out of Vegetarian Times a couple months ago. It has candied pecans and instructions about "massaging the kale", which make me feel vaguely dirty.
Naturally, my second thought was that if I ever write a series about a vegetarian sleuth or spy, the first installment would be called The Kale Imperative. I don't even have a cold, this is just my natural genius at work! Hey! Don't look at me like that! If Lilian Jackson Brown can spend 40+ years publishing "The Cat Who . . ." books, I can fill the shelves at Barnes & Noble with tales of vegetable murder and mayhem.
Speaking of vegetables, how awesome does this recipe for Beef Tagine with Butternut Squash look? I've been thinking I might like to try making a variation of it with some manner of soyified "beef". I'm also excited to try this Butternut Squash Lasagna. Both would go well with the aforementioned kale salad. Oh, kale, my friend, it always comes back to you, doesn't it?
Thursday, January 13, 2011
One of the more fun things about traveling to Houston last week was getting the chance to visit NASA’S JOHNSON SPACE CENTER. This would have been cool on its own, but was made even more fun by the fact that my dad worked on the space program back in the 60’s. My childhood was peppered with stories about all the people who came to watch the rocket launches at the facility where he worked. Somewhere in a box, I have a letter he kept that was signed by some astronauts, thanking him for the blood he donated for one of their missions. He worked at Cape Kennedy (now Cape Canaveral), which was responsible for launching craft, whereas Houston serves as mission control once they’re in the air, but it was still exciting to see.
One of the cool things about the space center is that it’s not just a museum, but a living, working facility that is still involved in training and mission control. Of course, there are parts of the center that are clearly there solely for tourist purposes, but the ones that interested me most were the working areas, like the old control center.
I was born exactly four months before Neil Armstrong proclaimed to the world “Houston, the Eagle has landed.” It is amazing to me to think that within my lifetime man took his first steps on the lunar surface. I wonder sometimes the way we have messed things up here on earth if we really need to be establishing a presence on the rest of our solar system, but when you are standing there looking at that room, thinking about all of the planning, work and excitement that went into that first step, it is hard not to be impressed by it.
The funny thing about the facility (once you get past the tourist center) is how normal it looks. Except for the occasional tourist tram running by and the number of bicycles you see parked in front of the doors, it looks like any other office park. As it turns out, the bikes are provided to employees for use in getting around the campus. They offer a quicker means of transportation than walking that also saves on gas and is healthy for the employee too.
The bikes I saw all had baskets, which allowed me to imagine low level space couriers rushing super secret documents from one building to another. In my imagination, they just put a stack into the basket and set a moon rock on top, so the papers don’t go flying around willy-nilly. Imagination NASA can launch a man into space, but has not yet entered the internet age yet. This is good for space courier job security!
The other thing I noticed is that the trams all had advertising placards, like public busses do. The one I rode in had a number for the Discount Tire Co., which now makes me think of NASA as not just NASA but “NASA! Now sponsored by the Discount Tire Co.!” Maybe we could supplement all of our government projects and bodies in this way. “The Oval Office, brought to you by Nike! Just do it!” “The McDonald’s Department of Health and Human Services?” You get the picture. Think of all the tax dollars we could save if some corporations would help foot the bill. They already get too many breaks. It’s time to make them pull their weight!
But I’m getting off topic. Soon I’ll be ranting about lobbyists, and nobody wants that. The point here is that the Johnson Space Center is worth a visit, so you should go. Really. Right now. I mean it. The Internet will still be there when you get back. You know you want to! Get out and see something…
Wednesday, January 12, 2011
For some bizarre reason, though, yesterday at the grocery store I got it into my head that meatloaf sounded good. Maybe it was the cold weather, maybe it was nostalgia for the meatloaf and mac & cheese my mom would make when I was a kid, or maybe it was that I hit my head harder than I thought when I fell down last week. I don't know, all I know is that at that moment it sounded comfort-filled and good.
So, somehow I came home with a package of ground beef yesterday, thinking I'd make it later in the week. As it turned out, I ended up making it tonight. When you haven't touched a lot of raw meat lately, mooshing ground beef into something loafy is pretty disgusting. This is even more true when you can't get out of your head that the matter squishing between your fingers is ground flesh. Not meat or beef, but the flesh of a formerly living, breathing animal that felt cold, discomfort and pain.
Before Christmas, I went about five months without eating meat. This isn't the first time I've toyed with vegetarianism, but it seems that each time a little more of my ability to disassociate what I am eating from its living origins slips away. I sometimes think if I try it often enough, one day I will get it right and there'll be no going back. It wouldn't be the worst thing. I like the way it feels when I know that no living thing had to suffer for me to find nourishment. And just think what it would do for my cholesterol levels, my ever present struggle with weight.
As it is, I find myself thinking more and more about where my food comes from. I notice things like the amount of cow juice a meatloaf sweats when it's cooking. I don't know if the beef I bought was mislabeled or if it's just that I haven't made it in so long that memory of how much fat drips out of it was not generous enough. All I know is that the thing currently sitting on my counter seems like a big, greasy blob. I tried eating a little and it made my stomach turn. I'm not sure if it's the grease or the conscious awareness of where it came from. It's becoming more difficult to seperate the calf from the cow, the cow from the beef. Like I didn't have enough guilt in my life, now I have added this feeling of uneasiness to my emotional sphere every time I eat an animal product.
You'd think that would be enough to stop craving it. Food is a funny thing, though. It has so many social and emotional associations. It's not just nourishment, but it's tied to the way we live, how we interact, how we celebrate. Decades of programming aren't as easy to overcome as one might think, even when one is intellectually on board with the idea of changing. At some point I'll have it all figured out. For now, I'm just doing the best I can.
Tuesday, January 11, 2011
Anyway, the nutso week has been making me think . . .
Have you ever worked for a crappy boss? I've generally been pretty fortunate over all, but I have had a few who sometimes made me want to run screaming for the hills. By the same token, a great boss can make a crappy situation so much more bearable.
My job is pretty stressful, but when I think about the good luck in my life, my boss is pretty high on my list. After working for years for a woman who, despite being a decent human being, was a total micro-managing freak as a supervisor, I switched my current department a couple years ago. I've been amazed at how much happier it makes me to have a boss who stands back and lets me do my thing. It is so great to work for someone who is supportive and accessible when I need her, but trusts me enough to let me take ownership of my work.
If that isn't enough of a gift, she bought me an awesome Amazon gift certificate for Christmas. For the first time in ages, I am at a complete loss for what to buy myself, but I am sure I will find something fun.
Monday, January 10, 2011
Sunday, January 09, 2011
On of my favorite things about the Academy of American Poets is that you can sign up with them for a Poem-A-Day email. I look forward to getting my email from them each day. It's a great way to find poetry that you have never read before. Today's poem was Emily Bronte's Spellbound, which I love for its quiet fortitude. Resolve is not about loudness but constancy. It always makes me think of how I felt when my father was dying. I was so tired, but could not leave him to go sleep myself for fear that he might die alone.
Reading it, I could almost convince myself that it was written as a reflection of my own feelings. But that's the beauty of poetry. Good poetry manages to somehow touch the eternal. It unlocks the gates of time, allowing a reader like me to share her own experiences of strife and grief with a woman who died over a hundred years before she was born. That is pretty powerful, when you think about it.
by Emily Brontë
The night is darkening round me,
The wild winds coldly blow;
But a tyrant spell has bound me
And I cannot, cannot go.
The giant trees are bending
Their bare boughs weighed with snow.
And the storm is fast descending,
And yet I cannot go.
Clouds beyond clouds above me,
Wastes beyond wastes below;
But nothing dear can move me;
I will not, cannot go.
Saturday, January 08, 2011
If you want some good people watching, camp out in a hotel crammed full of loosely affiliated strangers brought together for a week long annual corporate meeting. Working in a position that touches the work lives of a few hundred employees, I know a LOT of my coworkers by name. I see them on reports, we correspond via email, we IM, we talk on the phone. Some of us are Facebook friends. Essentially, except for annual meetings like the one I've been attending this week, we do everything but meet each other in person.
I spend a lot of time at these meetings watching and scanning crowds for individuals I want to meet. It is interesting to see how people interact at these functions. Some are on the prowl for a hook-up, others only have eyes for people with fancy title. Some people are minglers, comfortably flitting from group to group. Others are more reserved, sticking like glue to the same little cluster of people every time I see them.
The latter are my people, the ones I get. I too am not a good mingler. I am friendly, but I'm also not good at approaching. I've never been comfortable breaking into an already established cluster of people. I take too long to come out of my shell to be good at schmoozing. My parents apparently had deficient schmoozing genes that skip a generation. So, I spend a lot of time talking to coworkers I already know, people who approach me or ones I have friendly relationships with and wanted to meet in person. I figure with them it's a pretty safe bet that their response will be "It's so nice to finally meet you!", so they're safe.
Sometimes people surprise me, like the guy who literally chased me down to hug me and tell me how awesome I was. I had no idea he felt that way. I saw him running toward me from far away, but assumed he was late for a meeting. There were also two upper management guys who yelled my name from across the hotel and came over to tell me how much they and their teams love me. I got a lot of that and it felt pretty good to see that I have a good reputation with my coworkers and that they think of me as someone who will fix things for them when they have a problem. Even our supreme overlord chatted me up for a bit and then made a point of acknowledging me (or high fiving me) whenever we ran into each other. I find this somewhat amusing. While I really do believe it was his way of being genuinely friendly, except for with my five year old nephew, I'm not a big high-fiver. Secret handshakes sure, but I'm not so much a high five kind of person.
The generally positive vibes I got from people made my experience with one of our regular overlords all the more surprising to me. We're not best friends or anything, but we've been on conference calls together and I work a lot of his employees. I'm not being arrogant when I say that I think he'd know my name. When I finally tracked him down and introduced myself to him on our final night there, he looked at me like "Who the fuck are you, and why do you dare approach me, worthless worm?", quickly inquired which office I work in, then turned his back to me and started up a conversation with someone else. Talk about awkward! I am no smooth operator, but even I was completely stunned at his lack of social grace. At first, I thought "Well, maybe he just doesn't recognize me. My voice isn't the loudest, maybe he just didn't hear the name right." The thing is, even if those things are true, that's no excuse for treating anyone like that.
I've had a few instances with people like him when I was younger and working as a nanny to put my way through college. There are always going to be those people who look right through you, if they decide you're not "important" enough to acknowledge, but I have never experienced it so openly in a professional environment, especially someone in a position and culture that's supposed to spout the "Every member of our team is important" line, even if they don't really mean it.
I've never understood why some people think a title or an financial statement renders them more worthwhile as a human being. A title may prove that you know your field, it may prove that you've worked hard and paid your dues, or sometimes even just that you know who to suck up to, but it says nothing (hear me, NOTHING) about your value as a human being. I'm not really hurt by his behavior. My job is my job and not my life, and I'd certainly never seek out someone that douchetastic as a friend. The funny thing is that I only introduced myself, because I thought it would be kind of rude of me to be there all week in the same building with him and not do it. I'm more bummed that an otherwise mostly positive trip ended with a reminder that mean people do indeed suck.
Ah well, at least is it all over now. I am exhausted by all the meeting support stuff, but I did get to spend time with some pretty cool people this week. More importantly, now I am home where my little dog will tear anyone who looks at me cross-eyed limb from limb. She would do it really slowly, because drawing and quartering is a slow process when you only weigh 10 lbs, but I know she's got my back!
Friday, January 07, 2011
Thursday, January 06, 2011
If you can keep your head when all about you
Are losing theirs and blaming it on you;
If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,
But make allowance for their doubting too;
If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,
Or, being lied about, don't deal in lies,
Or, being hated, don't give way to hating,
And yet don't look too good, nor talk too wise;
If you can dream - and not make dreams your master;
If you can think - and not make thoughts your aim;
If you can meet with triumph and disaster
And treat those two imposters just the same;
If you can bear to hear the truth you've spoken
Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,
Or watch the things you gave your life to broken,
And stoop and build 'em up with wornout tools;
If you can make one heap of all your winnings
And risk it on one turn of pitch-and-toss,
And lose, and start again at your beginnings
And never breath a word about your loss;
If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew
To serve your turn long after they are gone,
And so hold on when there is nothing in you
Except the Will which says to them: "Hold on";
If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,
Or walk with kings - nor lose the common touch;
If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you;
If all men count with you, but none too much;
If you can fill the unforgiving minute
With sixty seconds' worth of distance run -
Yours is the Earth and everything that's in it,
And - which is more - you'll be a Man my son!
~ Rudyard Kipling
Wednesday, January 05, 2011
This year, I started the new year off with a trip. It's a work trip, but a trip nonetheless. Today, I escape the hotel to go to a super secret offsite meeting. I am not supposed to know where it is, but I do, and it's COOL! I can't post it here yet, just in case anyone I work with sees (doubtful, since none of them know about this blog, but it's not worth getting fired over, so I think I can keep my mouth shut a few more hours.) Knowing that it will be another late night with work to do when I return, I flagrantly pilfered the following meme from justabunchofsilliness.blogspot.com and filled it out before I left for my trip in case I didn't have time to write anything.
- What did you do in 2010 that you'd never done before?
I spent a month as a vegan. While I still eat the occasionally bit of animal (usually fish or poultry), I've not gone back to my old meat eating ways. I had feared that Houston would be all barbeque and beef products, but I've actually had a really easy time so far finding good veg options – an insanely HUGE pasta fresca (seriously, at my house one order would feed four people and that's saying a LOT, because we like our food!) and peach-blueberry crisp from Grand Lux Cafe last night and a roasted vegetable sandwich for lunch today.
- Did you keep your new year's resolutions, and will you make more for next year?
I'd have to remember them to answer this, so there is a good chance the answer is no. I have set goals for the first quarter of the new year. Once that is over, I will set new ones.
- Did anyone close to you give birth?
No, though I did know someone who was pregnant and had a miscarriage.
- Did anyone close to you die?
- What countries did you visit?
None. Except for work purposes, I barely left the county this year, let alone the country. This should probably be remedied!
- What would you like to have in 2011 that you lacked in 2010?
A real vacation.
- What dates from 2010 will remain etched in your memory, and why?
My birthday was a perfect mix of friends, travel, peacocks, and free ice cream. Plus, it was a warm, sunny day in March, which is a rarity in this part of the world.
The holidays this year were super fun. I loved introducing my nephew to Norad's Santa Tracker and Mungmas (aka Christmas, Part 2) was a blast. I now think it should always involve a Battle of Wits, Feat of Strength and Game of Chance as part of its traditional observance.
- What was your biggest achievement of the year?
I made some major changes to the way I eat – less processed food, very few animal products.
- What was your biggest failure?
I should have said "Yes" more and had more fun.
- Did you suffer illness or injury?
Nothing serious, thankfully, but I've been like a walking disaster lately. In the past few days, I've fallen and gotten a bloody nose and cut a slice into the tip of my thumb.
- What was the best thing you bought?
My Droid. I debated for a long time about spending the money, but I've gotten a lot of use and enjoyment out of it.
- Whose behavior merited celebration?
My adopted nephew and niece. One started Kindergarten and the other started college. Both are doing really well.
- Whose behavior made you appalled and depressed?
It bummed me out that President Obama would speak out in support of Michael Vick, even if the call was never meant to be public. People who abuse animals disgust me. As far as I'm concerned, Vick's second chance is that he is not still in jail. It disappoints me that someone I supported would spend energy advocating for second chances for someone who would engage in the kind of abuses Vick did.
- Where did most of your money go?
Bills, groceries, household expenses, gas, presents for the boy. Okay, maybe clothes for me and some dinners out too.
- What did you get really excited about?
Starting to research my family history. Ancestry.com is nerdtastically addictive!
- What song will always remind you of 2010?
As much as I love music, it's sad to say, but there is none in particular.
- Compared to this time last year, are you:
Happier or sadder? Happier, my job hardly ever makes me cry anymore
Thinner or fatter? Probably about the same
Richer or poorer? Slightly richer, but not enough for it to make much difference.
- What do you wish you'd done more of?
Road trips, photography, writing, music, spending time with friends.
- What do you wish you'd done less of?
- How did you spend Christmas?
Christmas Eve was spent at church and visiting friends, Christmas Day was at home with friends, and then we had a separate (and best) Christmas celebration with other friends.
- Did you fall in love in 2010?
No, I gave up thinking so much about it. If it happens, it happens. If it doesn't, that's okay too. It's not something you can force.
- What was your favorite TV program?
Glee, So You Think You Can Dance, Conan, The Daily Show
- Do you hate anyone now that you didn't have this time last year?
I might occasionally vent or joke, but I don't truly hate anyone. Hate is a waste of energy.
- What was the best book you read?
I can't think of a new one that particularly excited me. I did recently read and enjoy Wilkie Collins The Woman in White.
- What was your greatest musical discovery?
More of a rediscovery – Jason Mraz.
- What did you want and get?
My mom is basically healthy after her pacemaker surgery.
- What did you want and not get?
To lose weight.
- What was your favorite film this year?
Not sure - I didn't see a lot of movies. Most of the ones I did see were with a kid, so the field is kind of limited. Maybe Burlesque. It was fun!
- What did you do on your birthday, and how old were you?
I spent my plenty-ninth birthday having brunch with friends, then went on a mini-motor through Gorge and to Maryhill with other friends.
- What one thing would have made your year immeasurably more satisfying?
Being home officed, spending more time on my personal life and less on my professional one.
- How would you describe your personal fashion concept in 2010?
I don't think I had much of one. I don't typically look like a bum, but it was not an exciting year for fashion. 2011 looks much more promising.
- What kept you sane?
Pets, family, a sense of humor and reminding myself that most of the things we worry about really just little blips in the grand scheme of things.
- Which celebrity/public figure did you fancy the most?
Johnny Depp, George Clooney, basically the old standbys.
- What political issue stirred you the most?
Healthcare, Don't Ask Don't Tell
- Who did you miss?
- Who was the best new person you met?
The new programmer at work. She rocked and made my job so much easier!
- Tell us a valuable life lesson you learned in 2010.
I REALLY need to get out more. If you spend too much time working, your answers to New Year's Surveys are going to be BOR-ing!
- Quote a song lyric that sums up your year.
I've been to Nice and the Isle of Greece and I've sipped champagne on a yacht. I've moved like Harlowe in Monte Carlo and showed 'em what I've got. [shimmy goes here, if you're dancing while you read]. I've been undressed by kings and I've seen some things that a woman ain't s'posed to see. I've been to paradise, but I've never been to me.
(Ok, not really, but it's a lame question and the lyrics are so ridiculous, it would have been wrong not to use them!)
Tuesday, January 04, 2011
I have arrived in Texas and I am SO tired. I can't even begin to explain how tired I am after getting up at 3 a.m. (my valiant attempt to force myself to go to bed at 9 p.m. did not pan out), but I made it. Oh well, who needs sleep anyway?
Apparently not the ten year old who was sitting by me. Upon plopping down next to me, she announced that she had been up since 1 a.m. and had drank two Monster energy drinks. The energy drinks explain a lot. She was this little strawberry blonde, freckled whirlwind hair metal band afficionado who talked my ear off the whole time. Most of our conversation went approximately like this:
Her: I'm going to visit my mom
Me: Really? Are you excited to see her?
Her: No, not really. Do you know what an Xbox is?
Her: Do you play?
Me: No, not so much.
Her: I am OBSESSED with Xbox! Do you have kids?
Me: No, but I have a godson and he plays video games.
Her: I don't know what that is but I'm in third grade, but supposed to be in fourth.
Me: Well, sometimes we need a little extra time to learn things.
Her: Do you like rap?
Her: You do????
Me: Sure, I like most kinds of music.
Her: Well, my favorite is 80's rock. Do you know who Brett Michaels is?
Her (suspiciously): What band is he in?
Her (thinking): Who sang Cherry Pie?
Me: Some blonde guy with long hair
Her (mildly disgusted that I didn't give a better answer): I'm going to put my ipod on and listen to my favorite song over and over again, but I'll be right here.
Me: Ok, then
[I close my eyes to take a nap]
Her (the minute my eyes open): Do you watch Lifetime?
Me: Not really
Her: Have you seen The Wizard of Oz?
Me: Lots of times
Her: Is the Wicked Witch East, North, West or South?
Me: I think she was the Wicked Witch of the West
Her: Did you know in the old days they used to pull your tooth out with a string?
Me: Yeah, I think I heard something like that.
Her: In the old days when you were little, did you wear those things?
Me (trying not to laugh): Yeah, we wore things all the time back then.
Her: No, I mean those things with the straps and the thing in front that you attach.
Me: You mean overalls?
Me: I think that is more of a farm thing. I grew up in the city.
It went on like this for about two hours. In between she had time to quiz our other neighbor in much the same manner and also fill us in on her feelings about math (no good!), reading (even worse!), brothers (she hits hers with a bat(!) sometimes), ATV's and any number of things I am too tired to remember now. She also wrangled us into helping her with the book of word search puzzles she'd brought along and told us her favorite colors (there are seven, in case you wondered) and provided a list of her favorite movies.
If only I had an eighth of her energy. I would not be about ready to nod off right now.
More later. Tomorrow (Tuesday) we go on an offsite adventure, which actually sounds kinda fun.
Monday, January 03, 2011
Do you ever have to go on work trips? I do, and that's why I am writing this post in the past to post in the future as though it were the present.
This time, the trip is to Houston for a national sales training. My flight leaves at 6 a.m., which means getting up at a time when even a rooster would tell you to fuck off and let him get some sleep, because I have to be ready for the coworker who is kindly giving me a ride to the airport, but wants to pick me up at 4 or 4:15 a.m. I don't even want to think about how early this means I'll have to get up! Surely it is cruel and unusual to force anyone to be up at that hour of the morning when it is not because they are just coming in from a night out!
As much as I love to travel, going on a work related trips always fills me with dread. Once at my final destination, things are usually fine and I even have fun. Before leaving, however, I always feel like I'd be willing to cut a deal with the Devil himself to avoid having to go. Nothing turns me into a homebody faster than forced travel.
To make matters worse, once I get to the hotel, my responsibilities are also going to be a bit out of my comfort zone. I am still not 100% clear on what it is that I will be doing beyond "meeting support", which as far as I can tell means assisting some executive with handouts, taking notes, making sure his mic works, projectors are working, etc. I don't know when it is I moved from administering compensation to being president of the AV Club, but I want to go back! I do not like this not knowing. I get anxious about screwing things up, even though none of it is rocket science. Even I don't know what I'm so worried about, but I am.
And don't even ask me how I'm going to provide meeting support all week AND get my normal job done, because no one else is going to be picking up the slack on that for me either. Guess who's going to be working some overtime the weekend she gets home? Just what everyone wants to do after a week away. I haven't even left yet and all I want to do when I return is spend the day watching movies in my pajamas while eating Chinese food right out of the carton.
Clearly, I need an attitude adjustment about this. Travelling is fun, right? Surely there are some reasons to look forward to this trip. Perhaps I can think of a few now:
- It is warm and not grey in Houston right now.
- Going through TSA security will probably be more action than I've seen in months!
- Going to a state where the airports have Fox News stores will make me appreciate my lovely, liberal Portland all the more.
- I will get to see lots of coworkers with whom I normally only get to communicate via phone and email. A few of these people are ones I've become friendly with but never actually met in person.
- My roommate for the trip is awesome and will tell me about her recent vacation to South Africa.
- The trip will take me out of my usual environment and allow me to kickstart some of the changes I want to make to my regular routine.
- Travelling always gives you stories to tell.
- I am not allowing this trip to interfere with my resolve to post something every day for a month.
- It will all be over and I will be home in my pajamas eating pot stickers with my dogs before I know it!
Sunday, January 02, 2011
If there's one thing I love, it's a good personality test. So, back when Strengthsfinder was all the rage, I finagled my way into taking the test through my work. In the post-test interview, I was told by HR that I am a good person to have around at the beginning of a project. I think this may be Strengthsfinder's way of gently telling me that I start things with much gusto, then peter out and lose interest after a time.
And it's true! I am great at brainstorming, planning and starting projects, but not so good at finishing them if there is no pressure to do so. You need only to look at my writing notebook to confirm this. I have a whole mystery novel outlined. But how much have I actually written? Maybe five chapters and that has taken years. Then there's my progress on the longest interior redesign in history. I have been redecorating my bedroom for so long that the whole color scheme and style have changed multiple times without there ever being a moment when it was complete. I love the excitement of finding a new vision and planning it out. It's when it comes to execution that I fail. Too often, I find myself diverted by some shiny new idea and never finish.
Maybe that's why I love the start of a new year so much. It's like time's way of putting new sheets on the bed. Everything is so crisp and new and filled with spring-fresh possibility. At New Year's, I am not a slacker who doesn't finish what she starts, I am a visionary! People actually encourage reevaluation, resolve and new beginnings. This time of year is a planner's paradise.
At the same time, I don't really like the idea of New Year's resolutions. If I am ready to start eating healthy or looking for a new job today, why wait? Still, it's good to have goals. A year is a long time and some of my goals are big, so I've decided to break my year into manageable quarterly goals that advance me to my main goal, which is simply to be happy.
So, here are the three things I think will most contribute to my general sense of well being at this time:
- Lose 20 pounds by March 20.
- Finish the longest redecoration known to man.
- Create something every day (starting with a month of blogging in January).
Saturday, January 01, 2011
Welcome to 2011 and welcome to my attempt to blog every day for the month of January. It is time to shake things up a bit. It's been so long since I've posted or even written anything with any kind of regularity that I am excited to start doing so again. I'm also a little nervous. There are some logistical challenges with the first week of January due to a work trip. I'm still not sure if I'll be able to post every day or just write every day and post later. But that is not the real reason for my apprehension. The real reason is that for a long time I've felt dried up, like I just don't have anything interesting to say. I start to write, find myself unable to find a hook, wonder "what's the point?", then give up in frustration.
I originally created this blog to coax myself into becoming less freakish about writing in a forum other people could read. While I never got too far into posting any creative writing, it really did help bolster my confidence. It feels natural to come back here when I again need that boost.
Frankly, this whole endeavor is kind of a cliff hanger for me. What if I really don't have anything to say? What if I say something and you think it's stupid? What if we're all allotted a certain number of words at birth and I've used mine up? Can I find a month's worth of topics? Do they have to be novel? Do they have to be interesting? Do they have to be good?
Do I have to care?
I think the answer is probably "No, it's not my job to worry about that", but that's not how I roll! I am a growing snowball of anxiety about being "good enough". I roll like a gold medalist in the Worry Olympics!
At the same time, there are so many great things about life! How could anyone not have anything at all to say? Maybe I just need a little push.
When I was a kid, I used to like to climb up on top of the jungle gym and jump off. But I never just climbed up and got down to business. I always stood there for a moment to work up my nerve. My little thrill seeking heart was always at war with my rational head.
What if something went wrong? What if I fell and got hurt instead of landing surely on my feet?
But if I didn't jump I'd miss the thrill. So, eventually, I always did jump and I always hit the ground happy and running.
And that is what I am doing tonight in these first minutes of the new year, taking a leap. It's no accident that I orchestrated my evening so I could be writing at midnight. I feel dried up, but what if it's just that my rational, analytical day job mind has caused my creative, playful, flowering, fearless mind to close down?
In some ways, I am not a big fan of New Year's resolutions. Not because they are bad, but because I believe we should make changes as they are needed without being bound by dates. Still, if I think about what I want of the new year, I think it may just be the courage to be unapologetically me – to not worry about whether I am good enough, thin enough, smart enough, creative enough, likeable enough and instead just be and enjoy being.
And part of who I am is someone who enjoys playing with words and ideas. So, here I go…
If you care to join me in my month of writing, let me know and I'll happily read along!