February 28, 2010

Reading Rainbow

Well, my books from Amazon arrived yesterday, so hooray for finger crossing!  They also happened to come on the same day that I picked up a bunch of books I had reserved at the library, so I think it's safe to say it's going to be a Book-A-Palooza around my house for a bit. 

February 26, 2010

The Positive Power of Over-Thinking

So I bought three fun books from Amazon this week and I am eagerly anticipating their arrival. I’ve been checking my doorstep every single day even though I totally picked the cheap-o free shipping offer because...well, I'm cheap...and each day I think to myself, who knows, maybe Amazon will accidentally overnight them. I mean it could happen, right?


Anyway, the first book is the new Booklushes selection (Have you joined yet?  What are you waiting for?) and although I’ve been dying to read it, I’m sort of scared because a lot of people have already said they are having a hard time getting into it. I’ve been on quite the bad book spree lately so I don’t know if my fragile little heart can take a tough-to-get-into type of book but we’ll see. Hell, it was only $5 so whatever.

The second book is a book about marriage…yes that’s right – I have no ring, no wedding date, and we are not married, yet I bought a book about how to make a marriage work. Hi, I'm not eager or anything.  Oh and you just wait until you hear about the third.

The third book is a book about fertility. Yes as in for babies.  That’s right, again let me remind you that I’m not married and surprisingly enough I am not even thinking about having a baby this year.

**Awwww, look at your confused face. It’s so cute.**

Trust me, there was a second after I submitted that order where I looked over my shoulder a little self-consciously and said to myself  “I can’t believe you are making this purchase.”

But let me let you in on a little secret about me – I am obsessed with planning. As for execution, well I can be pretty good at flying by the seat of my pants, but truth be told usually if I even get to the Execution Phase on something it is because I have spent a ton of time analyzing or researching.  And when it comes to marriage and family planning over the next few years – well let’s just say that it is a “topic of importance” on my mental radar.

Actually Jess wrote a post recently about her penchant for analyzing, and I swear it could have been a page right out of my own diary. Especially this part:
I don’t feel the need to be prepared for every possible eventuality, and so I don’t freak out about the possibility of outrageous scenarios. But if I know something IS going to happen, or is LIKELY to happen, or I WANT it to happen…well, yeah. I think about it. I process it. I analyze it. And I try to move forward with as much awareness as possible.

This is exactly how I feel -- especially the awareness part. If I know something is in my future, I’m going to try and prepare myself. And it is not because I think I will necessarily be more or less successful if I have done research or looked into certain options – I mean certainly I am goal oriented and of course I like to be right just as much as the next person -- but even more important than all that, I really want to live a life where I am conscious in the decisions that I make. I know that sounds a little woo-woo, let’s all hold hands in a drum circle while we sing, but I think it’s actually more practical than it seems.

Something Ariel said today in one of her posts really resonated with me in light of all this thinking I’ve been doing about the motivation of my analytical tendencies.  First, a little back story.  As someone who had prided herself on being conscious about who she is and not a real consumption-monger with respect to her pregnancy, Ariel felt sort of uncomfortable the first time she took her new baby for a walk in a super-fancy-pants stroller that was gifted to her. It seemed so against everything she was to be pushing around this Cadillac of strollers:

Identity definition is important to me, and I want to make sure that the shift to motherhood doesn’t include blindly stumbling into things just because that’s supposedly how they’re done. I push a stroller now because I’m a mom, and that’s what moms do. Like so many other things in my life, it’s a question of intent and trying to stay truly alert to make each decision thoughtfully. I’ll take the discomfort of feeling like a self-conscious adolescent if it means I stop and take the time to truly consider what I’m doing and why I’m doing it. That discomfort tells me I’m not sleep-walking through this time in my life.

That really spoke to me – especially about making decisions thoughtfully and doing things the way I want to do them, not the way I think they should be done. Being aware of the choices I make is a process, and one that ultimately makes me feel empowered. Analyzing things a bazillion years before they happen for me is less about making the right decision and more about knowing that I am making the right decision for me at the time.

And yeah, sometimes that does make me feel uncomfortable. Sometimes that does give me a moment of panic where I say – "Holy hell who is this person thinking about retirement accounts and car safety ratings before my next purchase and strategies for marriage and planning physically to have a baby? Who is this person that comes home on a Friday night after a long week and prefers to curl up on the couch with a new library book and go to bed early rather than bee-line to the bar with friends?"  And while I am definitely aware that life is what happens to you when you’re busy making other plans and all that -- I like to think that for me it is less about actually making plans, and more about ensuring that for those few hours that I am awake each day that I’m not sleepwalking through my life.  Though all this thinking sure has made me want a nap....

February 25, 2010

If You Need Us, We'll Be Getting Ferg-a-licious

So tonight Garrett and I are heading to the gym together after work. You know business as usual, right?

Except that it’s totally not business as usual because tonight is the first night that Garrett has ever set foot in a gym as a card carrying member? Can you believe this? I am having a hard time wrapping my brain around this because he is almost 30 and has never had a gym membership EVER, whereas I have probably had at least 20 different gym memberships over the last 15 years in the different cities I have lived and I’m almost certain I can’t even count on one hand the times that I have broken up and got back together with 24 Hour Fitness alone.

So this Blows. My. Mind.

The other thing that blows my mind is that when Garrett was doing his 7 day trial a few months ago (because my Garrett does many things, but he does not Buy Before He Tries) we showed up, grabbed a couple of treadmills, and while I got my walk on he got up right on the sucker and ran for something like 4 miles straight, with hardly a drop of sweat trickling down his little face when he was finished.

And this was his first time ever setting foot in a gym, like, EVER.


(As an aside, he can also eat pasta all week long and then go out and do yard work for a few hours on a Saturday afternoon and come inside with the outline of a six-pack on his abdomen. And in those moments I want to say ARE YOU SERIOUS, GOD? REALLY?  Also, YUM! -- but that's not the point here.  I never really believed in the whole “it’s genetics” thing until I met this Garrett and it DRIVES ME CRAZY on the regular. You know, in a totally loving and totally non-competitive way, I swear.)


Anyway, my fitness failures aside, I think I’ve told you before that I’m a group fitness junkie so I have talked Garrett into coming to a weight lifting class with me tonight. It’s not that I don’t like to workout alone -- sometimes there is nothing better than just getting into the zone with your machine and your iPod – but for me there is a level of discipline involved in attending a class (I mean it is in a group full of people and I don’t want to look like an ass) so I usually push myself harder.  This particular class is usually a good mix of men and women, and apparently that was the key for Garrett, (he didn’t want to be Turbo-Dancing to the Oldies or something) but I still think he is a bit nervous. I’m kind of interested to see what it’s like hitting gym on a regular basis with The Boy.

I figure we know how to play together, live together, and work together – how tough could it be to work out together?  You know I'm gonna let you all know.... 

February 24, 2010

I Can Make ANYONE Love Brussels Sprouts

Ah, Brussels Sprouts! Nature's cruciferous little cast-off.   How can you hate something that is so cute???

Growing up in my house, brussels sprouts (and please note the 's' at the end of brussel so that you won't be rudely corrected by some bitchy cooking aficionado as I was) were strictly verboten. My father had an unfortunate choking incident with them after being forced to eat them as a child, and let me tell you if there is anything more powerful than a traumatic childhood food memory, I don't know what it is. 

Just about everyone I'm acquainted with has some story about a time they were forced to eat something, and now as adults they staunchly refuse to partake if for no other reason than 'because they can.' As a child this meant no brussels sprouts in our house, at the request of my father, and no seafood of any kind at the request of my mother. The latter is kind of a humorous story for another time, but rest assured I have all but overcome my mother's hatred of fish and now could live happily as a pescetarian.

But today I want to talk about brussels sprouts.  Deeply delicious brussels sprouts.  And if right now you are thinking that I am at least one card short of a full deck -- I urge you to resist judgment, at least until the end of this post.  I mean, it involves bacon, people.  We can reserve judgment if it involves bacon, can't we?  Okay, so let's get started with these little delicacies...

So the first rule of Brussels Sprouts Club is Never Talk About Bruss...wait, that's not right. 

The first rule is No Boiling or Steaming.   If I can impart even a small culinary nugget of widom on you today, let it be this:  If you think you do not like a vegetable, please try it roasted at a high temperature with a little olive oil, salt, and pepper.  If you think you REALLY don't like a vegetable -- roast it in bacon drippings.   This is sound advice, I swear.

You see that shiny goodness on your brussels?  That is the magic of bacon!  And it is the result of you rendering about 8 slices of chopped up bacon (or "lardonnes" if you want to be snooty about it) in an oven proof pot or pan (I use a 7 qt Dutch Oven) and then removing those slices of bacon and adding about 2lbs of cleaned brussels sprouts.  While you are at it, give them a little shower of salt and pepper...and don't be shy about it.  Good seasoning is key here -- especially with the salt. 

At this point you are going to pop that bad boy in a pre-heated 400 degree oven for about 30 minutes -- and the trick here is that you want the sprouts to be in a single layer so they actually roast, not steam.  Steaming makes for a soggy sprout and we want ours to be crusty and delicious when it's done.  After about 30 minutes your sprouts should be cooked but not completely browned, and at this point you will take them out and throw in what is left of the bacon bits you rendered earlier (c'mon...you know a couple of those pieces made it into your belly, you are only human after all).  Then you want to throw in a little more than a handful of chopped walnuts (whatever looks good to you, you can't screw that part up) and put them back in the oven altogether for another 10 minutes. 

After 40 minutes of roasting they will look about like this:

And they will smell even more incredible!  At this point, Garrett and I just grab forks and go straight for the pot.  I will assume you are far more civilized than we are, but if not -- I really can't blame you. 

Caramely, nutty, roasty, and of course BACON-Y people, BA-CON-Y.  I just can't emphasize that enough.

Can you give them another shot?  Seriously.  This recipe might change your life.  

February 23, 2010

Standing Knee Deep In A River Dying Of Thirst

I drive the same route home from work everyday -- no highways, down a long busy street, through a kind of expensive neighborhood, through a not very expensive neighborhood, and then through to our neighborhood which is a nice hybrid between the two.  It's a monotonous commute, but a short one (20 minutes tops -- and that's if I hit traffic) so I am grateful.  I don't pay attention too much to my surroundings, but when I'm just about home and I drive through that fancy schmancy neighborhood, there is one house that always sticks out.  It's a nice big colonial house, with sturdy dark colored shutters and a cleanly landscaped lawn.  It's a beautiful shade of gray with white trim and the most striking feature is the big red door. 

You all, I LOVE this house. 

And each day when I pass it, totally depending on the type of day that I have at work and depending on what mood I'm in, I have one of two thoughts:

1.  I love this house -- I'm so happy I live in such a beautiful area and get to see this house everyday. 

*I'll let you decide which mood is which* 

So recently I had a bit of a rough day, and I drove by the house as I always do, and sure enough said to myself pretty much everything in Option # 2 (plus a few melodramatic explatives, I'm sure)  and then just a minute later I was pulling into my own driveway.  I reached over and grabbed my purse, my lunch bag, my coat and got out of the car, and all of a sudden I looked up at my own house and really saw it -- my pretty gray house with the pretty white trim (granted it only has a regular old brown door) -- and I thought to myself, holy moses, I'm really only a coat of paint away.  Sure it's not a sprawling colonial with a freshly manicured yard (BAHAHAHAHAHA!) but it's so close.  And this one is mine.  And this one is perfect, right now. 

And I wondered how often do I do this?

How often do I make myself feel like something is so monumentally far away -- so far out of my reach that it is impossible -- when really the difference between the life that I have and the life that I want is as simple as a coat of paint?  Because seriously, even on my worst day I could probably handle a coat of paint.

It was a strange moment of consciousness that afternoon, and one that I now think of almost daily on my drive home when I pass that house.  Half of the battle of getting where you want to go, is being able to truly acknowledge where you are -- and letting that to be okay.

February 22, 2010

Monday Morning Musings

  • So last night as I was devouring a bag of a Chocolate Chex – which by the way is the only type of store bought Chex Mix I will eat, the rest of them all taste like a bad knock off – and I was reading the back of the bag (I also enjoy the backs of cereal boxes, I’m not really a picky reader, clearly) and became sort of befuddled reading the advertising claim on the back. “Chocolate Chex – 50% less fat than potato chips!” Which just seemed kind of weird to me because, I don't know about you, but when I am eating Chocolate Chex? It is not because I am craving something salty, you know? The two do not scratch the same itch, right? To me it just seemed as arbitrary as saying Brussels Sprouts -- 50% less fat than Chocolate Chex! I wanted to say to the Chex Marketing People, Yeah…and your point?  But instead I just kept chewing
  • On Saturday we had my cousin and her husband over for dinner and I used them as guinea pigs (aren’t I sweet?) so I could officially test Pioneer Woman’s Perfect Potatoes Au Gratin, and can I tell you? I am not sure those potatoes are legal in all 50 states! The cheesy, creamy, potato-y goodness is so worth the extra calories.  (Note:  I added an extra cup of cheese because I'm crazy like that.)   I wouldn’t eat it every night, but man those were a good weekend delight. I’m so far gone on the Pioneer Woman bandwagon, that woman can do no wrong. Tonight Garrett and I have some steaks that need to be grilled (February grilling! I love living in California) and I think PW’s Whiskey Glazed Carrots will be making an appearance.  Yum!
  • So I finally got 500 Days of Summer from Netflix -- I have been waiting for it FOREVER, but Garrett's addiction to The Wire was taking priority -- and I watched the first 20 minutes the other night and kind of hated it. Can it be?? Tell me it gets better because I wanted it to be so cute and everyone I know says it's so great, but so far besides the music, there's nothing great jumping out at me. I have such a girl crush on Zooey Deschanel (although who doesn’t?) and yes her clothes are cute and we all wish we could wear ruffles without looking like dorks, but something about this movie...I don't know, I remain suspicious.  But I still have hope…
  • Speaking of movies, I saw Shutter Island on Friday night with Jeremy and Katie because they were kind enough to let me crash their date night and join them.  I probably would have dragged Garrett but he had other very important events to attend to (see: Beer Pong Tournament. We are classy around these parts) and was not available.  I thought it was pretty entertaining but it sure is getting kind of panned. Whenever I see movies that are based on books, I always end up wondering if I should read the book? 9 times out of 10 I prefer a book to the movie if I have read it beforehand, so when I see a film adaptation and I am luke warm on it  I always want to pick up the book in an effort to rescue the story (most recently I felt this way about The Lovely Bones.  The movie was just so...cheesy.) But since I know all the plot twists, I’m torn about wasting my time getting through the book. Hand wringing, people.  Hand wringing.  Have you read this book? 

What’s on your mind this morning?

February 18, 2010

To Everything (Sneeze, Sniff, Cough) There is a Season...

The second the sun comes out I get all excited for spring because there is nothing I love more than the delicate heat of spring sunshine on my back. As any local does though, I quickly remind myself that the sun in Sacramento is a slippery slope. You see, one day it’s beautiful and sunny and the wind is blowing through your perfectly coiffed hair, and the next day you are in the 9th Circle of Hell and your normally straight hair turns into a frizz basket, and you better just get used to it because you will look this sweaty for at least 3 straight months! And I think I’ve clarified before exactly how I feel about thatSo although the sun has been nice the past few days, I’m sort of scared of what’s to come. Climate Control is not really my bag. But now I also have ridiculous worsening allergies to contend with. I know most people have a sneeze or two when the flowers are in bloom, but I recently found out that when it comes to the ability to deal with histamines, my body is taking a long ride on the short bus.

I went to the doctor at the end of December because I had a dry cough that had been persistent for about a year. It wasn’t really bugging me, but apparently the decibel level of my cough was somewhere between Indoor Megadeth Show and Airplane Engine Symphony (who knew? I’ll put that on my resume). As you can imagine Garrett was lovingly nudging me to get it checked out. After dealing with a lifetime of mild allergy issues at various times during the year (spring and summer being the times I don’t have the luxury of living without anti-histamines in my system) I was not surprised when my doctor examined me and almost immediately determined (unless any other diagnostic tests came back with other indicators) that year round allergies were causing post-nasal drip and this was the most likely the culprit causing me to cough. As for the decibel level? Well that’s just my god-given talent apparently. My levels of sexiness are reaching sky high proportions right now, aren’t they?

So she sent me to have a chest X-ray and my lungs looked just fine. Then I had to have a CT scan of my sinus cavity to make sure that there weren’t Alien Life Forms growing in there or something, and sadly it came back completely normal. I say sadly because I was secretly holding out hope that the CT scan would show an insanely large sinus cavity because I have a super-hero sense of smell that plagues me (Lord Help Us All one day when I am pregnant) and I was hoping for once and for all to find a reason for that, but alas No! -- normal sinuses on all accounts.

The final step was to go through a lung function test. I was kind of scared of that to be honest with you, but mostly the fear was derivative of the fact that I was expected to be at the hospital:

1) At a very early hour
2) Having not consumed any caffeine

BAHAHAHAHAHA. A Function? Pre-coffee?

Obviously the Doctor did not get the memo that I don’t do ANY functioning, lung or otherwise, without coffee -- but since she asked me so nicely I showed up and did as I was told and breathed into a crazy apparatus and chatted with a lovely and considerate gentleman who was drinking a piping hot cup of coffee across the table – so help me god, he was lucky he lived to tell about it. But in the end I was delighted to hear that not only do my lungs function, but they function “at the level of a professional athlete” and you know, I felt an nostalgic sense of pride in that moment. But that quickly turned to defeat when I realized that since this was my last diagnostic test, it was official:  I am allergic to pretty much everything in the free world, all of the time.

So if you thought I was sexy before, you should just see me now that I have this prescribed “Allergy Cocktail” of pills, inhalers, nose-sprays and neti pots. It is an ear-nose-and-throat disco inferno up in here with all the hotness, my friends. After almost 60 days on the wagon the cough has subsided a bit, but not all the way.  Both specialists I saw warned me that it would not be a quick fix and they think it will take months for my irritated throat to heal since I left it “severely untreated” for over a year.  The dramatics of that statement make me chuckle a bit.  I don’t know exactly what I think about this diagnosis yet, since I am definitely NOT a fan of taking medicine at all, let alone daily just to function.  (Let me insert a Quick Disclaimer:  I am not making a judgment about you if you need medicine to function.  Many people do and I am happy to live in a time where it is readily available).  It's just that I do not subscribe to the general philosophy of Western Medicine that every problem with the human body needs a little yellow pill to solve it. I’d prefer to let my immune system do its job correctly and not micro-manage the whole situation.  But obviously my body is failing me a bit, so this is kind of a challenge for me.

I would love to hear of any kind of natural remedy worked for you when it comes to allergies. What have you got for me internets???

February 17, 2010

Hijinks Ensue

I'm pretty sure I've said this before, but Garrett and I work for the same company. Most people wonder how we spend that much time together without killing each other, but we work at a big company, we don't work in the same department (or even on the same floor) so, you know, all of that helps with the killing part. We generally aren't breathing down each other's necks all day while also living together so frankly I've found it's actually kind of a perk.  If I'm having a bad day, he is a phone call away and we can head out for a quick walk or whatever.  If I have an embarrassing Excel problem I can just give him a ring instead of asking one of my co-workers and risk looking like an absolute reject. Well, at least I think it's a perk anyway. The jury is probably still out from Garrett's perspective now that I think about it. Anyway, it's also super convenient that we get to carpool together because we listen to audio books -- Oh, have I not told you already about how we are giant nerds? Because while we're on the subject, we also DVR Jeopardy. Thank god we found each other.

Anyway, one of the potential downsides that people always inquire about with this whole working together thing is: Doesn't that mean that you two are usually getting ready at the same time? And the answer is yes. And if you have ever shared a bathroom with anyone with both of you trying to be at the same place at the same time, it may sound super annoying -- but I swear it isn't so bad.  For one our bathroom is large enough to accommodate two people pretty comfortably, but more importantly I am officially convinced we have some of our funniest exchanges while getting ready in the morning. And a good laugh is a pretty darn good way to start your day. 
For example:

I use a product called Big Sexy Hair right before I blow dry, and  Garrett can't get over the ridiculousness of that name.  It never fails that he will work that into the conversation even though I never quite know when it's going to happen. Often times it's from the other room and he'll say something like "Oh hey, you know what I've been meaning to tell you?" And as soon as I show concern or interest he says, "That you have some Big! Sexy! Hair!" Never fails. I don't think I'm a particularly gullible person, but I fall for it every single time. You'd think I would learn.

Also, over tooth and hair brushing, we have conversations of The Very Important Variety, like yesterday, when we mapped out all of Season 2 of Jersey Shore. We hypothesize as follows:

Snookie will come back, of course. That girl could have her own show. In fact, if she shows up as the host of some kind of arbitrary MTV dating show prior to the new Jersey Shore season, we will not be surprised. Pickled Hijinks ensue.

The Situation and Pauly D will be trolling for tail and GTL'ing once again, although now that everyone knows who they are, the hos will be infinitely trashier. Hijinks ensue.

JWoww will not come back to the shore with a boyfriend. Lesson learned people. She will also spend the season wearing (or should I say WOWW-ing) the crowds with her high fashion line of club gear the entire time. Hijinks ensue.

Vinny, we predict, will show up with a girlfriend though. He can't possibly make it another year without a lady to wait on him hand and foot just like his mama. Hijinks (well probably won't) ensue with this one. Just like last season.

Ronnie and Sammy will totally be broken up. Ronnie will be ho-ing it with Pauly D and The Situation, all of course to Sammie's whiny dismay. She will still follow him around putting in and pulling out her hair extensions, muttering about her Fred Flinstone toe all the while. They will surely be the new Wes and Johanna. Hijinks ensue.

(Disclaimer:  We may watch a little bit too much MTV for our age.)

Angelina will totally come back and everyone will hate her because now instead of just being a trash bag carrying bitch, she is a poser cash cow trash bag carrying bitch who looks NOTHING like Kim Kardashian, btw. Hijinks ensue.

So you see...getting ready together in the morning has its perks. We get to solve the world's problems as we coif. And what better way to nurture a relationship, huh? I mean it worked for Sammie and Ronnie, right?

Oh wait...

February 16, 2010

Too Short To Blog, Too Long To Tweet

  • Last week my friend Jeremy and I made an impromptu decision to see a local theater production of Glengarry Glen Ross. Even though I have never seen the movie, I thoroughly enjoyed it, but more importantly it reminded me that I really miss theater! I feel pretty lucky that growing up my parents took me to do that kind of thing quite a bit. We had season tickets to one of the local repertory theaters, and although I always thought it was kind of a drag growing up, now it is singlehandedly the reason I kick Garrett's butt in any musical/theater/opera questions on Jeopardy! Hey, it's the little things, people.

  • I have run into a couple of bad eggs lately when it comes to books -- a couple in a row I just couldn't get into -- and seriously I start questioning my own intelligence when I can't get into a book. Am I the only one who does this? Like, for a minute, I feel like a bad reader (college flashbacks, maybe?) and that I am obviously out of line since I don't have an appreciation for the book at hand, and then I have to remind myself that reading should be a pleasurable hobby and does not have to be a demonstration of discipline. If I don't like something I don't have to read it, DAMMIT! To remedy this I went to the library and picked up a bunch of cheesy books and as soon as I finish the book I'm reading now (which is delightful, finally) I'm going to go on trashy reading bender. Coming soon to a Goodreads Page near you.

  • Random Internet Etiquette Question -- say you follow someone on Twitter or Facebook or Whatevs, although this is someone you know in real life. This person decries they are going through something awful, having the Worst Day Ever, bitching about something terrible that is going on in their lives, all of the above. You, being concerned about said friend's well-being, respond in some way -- email, text, etc. (and more than once, but not every single time they cry/complain/vent). If they NEVER respond -- like not even once -- not even a "hey thanks for thinking of me..." response like their mother taught them! Is that offensive? Or am I mostly being oversensitive? I think I know the answer to this but am always interested in another perspective.

  • I'm starting to plan Garrett's birthday vacation in May and I think we are FINALLY going to get to Seattle. At least that's what we are leaning towards, and OHMYGOD you all, I am peeing my pants with excitement. I have never been there, but I swear to you, I just know we are going to live there someday. Is that weird? Do you have a place like this? A place that you have never been but are just: A. In love with or B. Feel like you will end up there someday. Seattle is that place for me, and luckily Garrett feels the same way. Weird, right? (And convenient I guess, since I think I'm gonna keep him around for a while hehe). The weirder part is that we saw an Astrologer recently (wow, that is totally another post, I should tell you about that, it was super interesting) and without any input from us basically came out and said geographically Seattle was a place that both of us were very connected. Also, The Dalles in Oregon, but I don't know a thing about that area except for that it was mentioned in One Flew Over the Cukoo's Nest, which isn't like a great selling point in my opnion, but you never know.

What's new with you, peeps?

February 15, 2010

12 Songs to Download When You Need Some Sunshine and Mother Nature Ain't Helping

With all the icky weather around lately, I had to make myself an uptempo play list to keep myself from letting the clouds take over my mood.  I've been loving it, so here is some sunny inspiration in case you need it in your neck of the woods:

Sleepyhead by Passion Pit
Bulletproof by LaRoux
1901 by Phoenix
Black Panther by Crystal Castles
Carby by Discovery
Flux by Bloc Party
Electric Feel by MGMT
Fancy Footwork by Chromeo
Giving Up The Gun by Vampire Weekend
Hummer by Foals
Sitting by M83
No You Don't by Islands

Happy Listening!

February 12, 2010

Don't Mess With The Nest...

 I don't know what it is with me lately, I'm thinking it's one half rainy weather and one half the season, but I have this insatiable urge to nest. All I want to do is be home in my cozy house (even though only one room is cozy at a time since our heater is still broken. Yes, because we haven't made one little phone call to fix it. Yes we are being lame about this).  Even when it's not 70 degrees in every room at the same time, our house is still the best place in the world in my opinion, and it seems weird to think I ever lived anywhere else. This is my place. This is where I belong. There is something just so homey about where I live now, and I'm fairly certain it has something to do with the fact that my favorite things and my favorite person are now (FINALLY) in the same spot. (I will never EVER miss packing overnight bags).

But it's more than just loving my house. And it's not that I ONLY want to be there and I ONLY want to hang out with Garrett. It's just that in every free moment when I'm not at work, or grocery shopping, or going to the gym, or doing things for Junior League, I just have an overwhelming desire to be a homebody. To decompress. To download everything that I am taking in during the day and just have some quiet time with a book. With my sweetheart. With a warm dinner. With a program that brings me joy.  With myself.  I even have a low tolerance for running errands lately -- and a relatively unknown fact about me is that I LOVE errands. Something about making lists, crossing things off, getting things done has always sort of appealed to me, but lately I can't even get myself excited about going to Target. And that is when I know something is going on. 

Before you get worried, I'm not depressed. It's not that I am listless and sad, in fact I'm quite the opposite. I've still been cooking and baking like a mad-woman, I've poured through more books in the last month than I did in the first quarter of last year and some have been delicious.  I've even made some time to find some new music, get my fill of Netflix, and do some incredibly cathartic writing. All of which I am really excited about and even energized by, but I am definitely in my own head a bit. And, at least for me, when I am in a phase like this, there is no better place to experience everything than from your personal safe space -- which for me is curled up on the couch under a warm blanket, sitting with the person I love (you know, unless of course he's on the computer shooting zombies or watching an old movie). I'm brewing up ideas about the future and I'm regularly feeling inspired in almost every cell in my body. But it's a bit mentally exhausting, and I can't quite motivate myself to venture too far from home base as of late. I guess the reason I'm telling you all of this is partly to acknowledge what's going on myself, and partly to apologize to friends I just haven't seen or talked to as much lately.  It's not you, it's me.  hehe 

Thank you for being patient.

February 11, 2010

This American Fluke

Last night I was slowly making my way through the end of the Second Season of the Showtime version of This American Life.   I prefer the radio show -- mostly because there is something sort of relaxing and romantic about turning off the television and listening to something on the radio that doesn’t suck (plus Ira Glass has kind of a hot voice in a nerdy way) – but that is a topic for another time.

I got tired of the television and I decided I wanted a little bit of peace and quiet so I drew a piping hot bubble bath and jumped in with my newest library procurement, Chuck Klosterman’s Eating the Dinosaur.  At this point, if you like pop-culture or music at all, I’m going to recommend that if you have never read anything by Chuck Klosterman you remedy that immediately. I'm ashamed to admit that I picked up his first book after seeing Seth Cohen reading it on an old episode of The OC -- god he was cute -- but that is also not the point.

(And I do have one, I promise)

The first essay in his new collection mostly revolves around Klosterman’s curiosity, as a former journalist who did many celebrity interviews, about people’s motivation to answer questions in any sort of social interaction. He found himself wondering this after having had some literary success and was more often found in the role of interviewee. Obviously, in his case there was a mostly commercial element at play -- he would answer questions to help a reporter craft an article on him that would help sell his books -- but after an experience being interviewed by a Scandinavian reporter where he answered questions for a magazine published in a language he didn't speak , in a market where his books weren't available, he decided to explore some pretty fascinating theories about why people share information and opinions when they are not doing it for financial gain.  People who participate in documentaries, people in the supermarket making small talk, or people using Social Media as a form of expression (hello bloggers!). What motivates these people to reveal themselves?

The essay rocked, quite frankly.  And as a weird coincidence, it happened to include an interview with Ira Glass(!) which was fascinating and relevant, especially since Glass has made an entire career around asking random people questions and crafting their answers into a storyline.  It was interesting to hear his perspective on why people answer questions when they don’t have to, or why sometimes people tell elaborate stories for no other reason than because they were asked.

Along with the Glass interview, the essay included an interview with Errol Morris (who I was unfamiliar with prior to this essay) who spoke quite a bit about his documentary The Fog of War, which was inspired by a James McNamara book called Wilson’s Ghost: Reducing the Risk of Conflict, Killing, and Catastrophe in the 21st Century.  As I was reading this in the bath I had a tangential though to myself -- I wonder if that is the same Wilson as that movie Charlie Wilson’s War that Tom Hanks starred in?  But then I started thinking about other Tom Hanks movies and my feet got pruney and I never remembered to go look it up.  Then this morning the first thing I hear on NPR on my way to work is this.

Dude you guys, he died.


Maybe he died while I was in the bathtub wondering to myself if Forrest Gump, though an entertaining movie, is really one I would watch a second time.

There is something sort of freaky about that, right? The Ira Glass coincidence, the Charlie Wilson tangent. But in the end, I love when I am able to recognize a chain of seemingly random events like this one -- because every once in a while I like to be reminded that there just has to be some kind of method to this madness we call life.

February 08, 2010

Hello, Inspiration: Katie Knipp

I've had lots on my mind to tell you all lately but I started a new job right at the end of January, and holy hell if it is not sucking every last minute bit of brain capacity to just get back into the swing of things.  I'm at the same company but I'm doing a new job, so although the faces are familiar, the work is just throwing me for a loop!  I'd sort of equate it to coming back to college after a super awesome summer vacation.  The study skills are there, you know, but they are just a little...sunkissed.  It's a job I've done before, but I've had about a 2 and a half year hiatus, so to say I'm feeling a little rusty is sort of an understatement.  I'm thinking THIS is the week where I will actually return to the land of the living (er, blogging) instead of just coming home and napping after work and then staring at the television (though that is sort of a delight every once in a while...I mean, are you watching The Bachelor???)

Anyway, with the new job and the new year (yes, I'm hanging on to The Newness of this year until at least March!) I've been thinking a lot about the ridiculous amount of abundance in my life and all that I have to be grateful for.  And it has occurred to me that I have A LOT of inspiring people in my life.  So I thought I might start talking about some of that inspiration around these parts.  That being said, I'm not here to talk you into anything, review anything, sell anything, endorse anything...so that's my disclaimer.  I just know that when I feel inspired it feels like anything is possible -- and why keep that to myself.    

So speaking of inspiration -- these are my friends Jeremy and Katie:

As you can see by their incredibly white smiles, they are very cute and very nice.  As you can also see, thanks to my riveting skills in photography, they so graciously showed up and drank beer at a party I had once.

So...Are you inspired yet?  (Just kidding.)

Anyway, they are very good friends -- like the kind you call in the middle of the night when you get arrested, friends -- and when Garrett and I can tear ourselves away from being lazy, Netflixing homebodies it is usually to spend time in their company (though judging by my Netflix queue, definitely not enough).  Random Fact:  Jeremy actually used to be my boss when I worked at Peet's-- but obvs, he was nothing like Michael Scott on The Office, you know because we still hang out.  Ah, the good old days before cube-ville.  Anyway, as much as I love Jeremy, I'm not going to talk about him too much because what I really want to talk about is Katie -- because do you know what Katie does in her spare time instead of being a Netflixing, computer-loving, homebody like me?  Katie does things like this:

photo courtesy of katieknipp.com
Holy hell, just looking at that crowd gives me the heeby-jeebys...and she like, plays instruments and sings in front of them!  Yep, that's right, Katie is an actual musician with actual talent, and I will tell you what I have never felt so lacking in the talent department than I did the first time I saw her perform.  Oh my stars, this girl skills will make your jaw drop. 

Don't believe me?  Here, go have a listen... I'll wait.  
(I'm going to recommend clicking on "Violent in Here" if you want to be really blown away.)

Now tell me this, friends -- How exactly does one play the piano like that, sing like that?  And while we're at it, how does one play the guitar? sing?  And look like this doing it? 

If you need anything I'll just be here looking sultry while playing my piano...

What if I told you she also played the harmonica?  Could you die?  I mean, I really almost died the first time I saw her do it all.  The coordination alone is a skill I will just never possess.  She is just someone I am very inspired by.  You see Katie has a job just like you and me, but in her free time she is this bundle of musical creativity and there is just something about that that tickles me.  I think it has something to do with the scarring memory of the entire year I spent playing the violin in Elementary School.  I fancied myself a "Born Performer" and just knew I was going to be The Next Big (violin) Thing!  You don't eve know, I wanted to play so bad that I "pretended" to play throughout every music class until I finally had to fess up to my teacher right before the big recital because I still hadn't figured out how to read music.  

God, that was embarrassing.

So creating music was -- well, not for me.  And *SPOILER ALERT*  I was not The Next Big (violin) Thing.  But thankfully I am graced with friends who play music well and play live shows, and who let me blog about how their prowess keeps me putting energy into my own creative pursuits, as tiny as those may be.  We may not all be vocal powerhouses, but we all have a little dream inside us that is waiting to be unleashed.  Katie perseverance and her passion reminds me to keep on doing what I am good at.

So it goes without saying that I am a little bit smitten.  And although I am not trying to sell you a bill of goods, I would be remiss in not telling you that her latest album Midnight Mind has just been released  and for every album purchased she is donating $1 to Haiti Relief.  She is just that cool,  and on the spectrum of indie artists she ranks so far above the skinny jeans wearing greasy haired dudes that you can't help but falling in love with her.  And speaking of love -- if you are local and looking for something to do on Valentine's Day other than canoodling in a restaurant booth, come listen to her live at The Old Sugar Mill Ports and Chocolates Festival on Sunday afternoon.  We are tearing ourselves away from the Netflix to cheer her on, won't you come too?

February 03, 2010

Thanks to YOU and E!

First of all, thank you so much for your insight on my last post. You know sometimes a rant is just a rant -- something irritates you and you just have to complain about it.  But then sometimes you complain about something, you get a little feedback on it,  and then you realize that the REAL issue is something totally different than what you were complaining about to begin with. This, my friends, is part of why I love blogging.  

Therapy could probably work too, and would be much less public, but whatevs.
Anyway, I have been thinking about all of your comments and emails the other day I had a little epiphany so I thought I would share.  

Obviously the uber-mommy-ness on Facebook gets me a little riled up – that was the main point of yesterday’s post; however, after sleeping on it (and all of your reminders that Facebook is doom!) I definitely agree it is just Facebook and sweeping generalizations about a person are never productive when they are primarily based on someone’s Facebook status or even Facebook behavior (although seriously if you send me another Mafia Wars request I’MMA CUTCHEW!).

When I wrote that post there was A LOT of eye rolling anger (this is how most rants start, eh?) but as I re-read it I kept thinking of two things:  One was an adage my Mom used to repeat and the other was Keeping Up With the Kardashians.  

What?  You don't think of the Kardashian Klan when you are in deep moments of self reflection?  

Well, then, let me give you a little backstory.  Here, I'll put on my TV Announcer Voice...On a very riveting episode of Keeping Up With The Kardashians, Khloe must attend an Anger Management course after hitting her sister's boyfriend Scott, even though he is a total douchebag and probably deserved it...Ok TV Announcer Guy probably wouldn't have editorialized, whoops.  ANYWAY, her counselor explains to her that Anger is a secondary emotion, meaning when you feel it, you should figure out what the underlying cause is.  Which then reminded me of the adage my mom used to constantly say when I was growing up:  "Whenever you point a finger at someone, remember there are 3 pointing back at you."  Meaning, if you are bitching about something, maybe it's time to do a little looking inside to see what you are contributing the situation, eh???

You get it.  I did some reflecting.  

Something you may not know about me is that growing up an only child I spent A LOT of time with my parents, and the best part was that we had this really great relationship the three of us.  Yes, my parents were married and I was their child, but from my perspective it was the three of us against the world.  They were my protectors, my supporters, my teachers, my cheerleaders -- and although my dad was VERY involved in my life, my mom was certainly the domestic ringleader because she stayed at home.  Our family life was her life.  She devoted herself to nurturing me and my creativity, as well as to my father and the business he owned and it was more than a full time job.  It wouldn't be until I became an adult that I would really appreciate all the personal sacrifices my mother made to make our family what it was.  My childhood was amazing.  It was a really joyful time, and even as I grew older my family was my rock and my parents were absolutely the two most important people in my life.  We all existed pretty happily in this cycle (normal teenage rebellion and my father's business woes aside) until I was 19.  

Two months before my 20th birthday my father had a heart attack and died on our living room floor at the age of 44.  And just like that, in an instant, one-third of our whole life was gone.  

My parents, who had been together since they were teenagers, were no longer a twosome.  I remember so vividly driving to the hospital behind the ambulance and having that fleeting moment of consciousness where I knew that a very large chapter of my life was over.    

And it was.  

And the year following that event was the toughest I have ever lived through.  Although my mother an I developed a bond that is unbreakable to this day, my sense of safety and security died right on that living room floor with my father.  It was the year that I felt most alone.  But it was also the year that I was forced to discover the depths of my own strength.  (Not trying to sound like a Lifetime movie here, I promise.)   People generally do that awkward apology when they hear my father has passed, and because I know it comes from a good place there is always a little part of me that wants to give them a little wink and explain that yes, it was sad, but that I have chosen to let this event define my confidence and that has changed my life in the best ways.  I now know in every fiber of my being that I can experience devastation and survive, and that (surprisingly) is a feeling so comforting that at times it abolishes rational fear.  But you can't really say that in the moment without sounding glib, can you?  I usually just say thanks.  But it always gets me thinking, ss much as this has been an event that defined my life, it has also defined my mother's.  And only through my adult eyes can I really stand back and experience just how devastating it truly was for her.  

At 32 I have found a life partner and am on the cusp of being married.  I am contemplating having kids and I am making plans for the rest of my life.  I have these great expectations of having a loving happy family life just like my own, of growing old with Garrett, of carving out a life with my partner that is rewarding even when we are in our twilight years.  Of seeing our children grown.  Sharing that pride in a job well done.  Enjoying our retirement by a golf course somewhere balmy and beautiful.  I have these dreams about my future, and every time I see one, I can't help but think my mom had the same dreams.  And on that day when my father died, her dreams died right along with him.  And though I don't want to speak for her on something as silly my little blog, I know for a fact that she has spent part of the last decade trying to reconcile what this event meant for her life.  What do you do when you spend a lifetime cultivating a family and then one day it is gone.  Your husband is dead, your daughter is 20 and moving out of the house.  How did you get to this place where you are alone?

And I really marinated on this the other day when I was bitching about THOSE moms on Facebook.  As strong as the experience of living through my father's death has made me, it has put a bit of a fearful chink in my armor.  I see couples deep in love and I think -- you never know when it is going to end.   I hear people planning their lives and I think -- nothing is guaranteed.  I hear people obsessing over their children on Facebook and I get angry, but what I'm really thinking is --  you never know when it is going to end, I hope you have you figured out who you want to be without that to define you?      

And holy hell if that isn't some unconscious doomsday perspective I've got going, you all. 

I don't want to live my life in fear of it all being taken away at any moment.  I don't always want to be planning for the worst case scenario.  And I guess I hadn't realized that this is what I do, my unspoken mental chatter, until that rant other other day.  My irritation was never about mother's who love their kids.  It was never about criticizing being a mother as a valuable experience in life that deserves to be shared.  Yes, I am still annoyed by people who paint an unrealistic picture of motherhood and let it be the only thing that defines them, but I know now that my rage the other day really came more from a place of fear than anything else.  I fear that I will define myself as a mother and it will all be taken away.  And I fear the same for those who are doing the same thing.  

I don't want to live in that place.  The world is scary enough without it.   So I will take this experience and be more conscious about what lens I am looking through when getting upset.  Thank you all for your insights.  You all make an impact in my life on a daily basis and for that I am grateful.  I don't know what I'd do without you and Khloe Kardashian! 

And people think the internet and celebrities are useless....


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