Monday, January 31, 2011

The weird urges I get

Last night we went to a concert at the Disney hall in downtown LA.  First, though, we had dinner in Little Tokyo (really yummy udon noodles) and then I went into a Japanese outlet store and bought a bunch of pens, which make me very happy.  I know a Pilot pen is supposedly a Pilot pen no matter where you go, but when it's in a pouch with Japanese writing all over it, it's way cooler.

So anyway, back to Disney hall.  We saw the LA Master Chorale - the highlights were the Byrd Four-Part Mass, and John Taverner's Song for Athene.

We were sitting in the front row of the nosebleed section.  The woman next to me kept putting her little beaded evening bag on the low little ledge in front of us.  I really really, but really wanted to knock it off, down the twenty-or-so feet to the next section.  I had to sit on my hands the entire second half.

The other thing I really wanted to do was jump off and do a superhero move where I'd grab onto the recording equipment hanging down, about fifty feet in front of me, and then swing back and forth.  If life were Oblivion and I had become a master of Acrobatics, I'd totally have been able to do it.  But seeing as how we don't live in Cyrodil, I probably would have broken my neck.  Not cool.

It totally reminds me of how, when I was first learning to drive on the back roads in Lancaster County, I would always have this desire to swerve into oncoming traffic, or off the road, just to see what would happen.  It reminds me of a quote I heard once, probably on This American Life - something about how the devil doesn't actually make us do evil, he just makes us forget that we have brains - something like that.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

New Grief Blog post

I wrote another post in my Grief Blog over on Open Salon.  You can read it here, or, you might notice I've added a bunch of tabs up at the top for your navigational convenience.  This one was made an Editor's Pick, so I feel good knowing that Baby T is touching people, and that his life is continuing to have meaning.  I hope I'm making him proud.

In other news, I work in libraries, and CA libraries are really under fire right now.  Jerry Brown wants to eliminate ALL state funding for libraries, claiming they can be funded locally (remember when he used to be a liberal?).  Except for the fact that one of the big areas he wants to cut is used for matching funds for grants.  Plus, things like delivery, interlibrary loan, etc., aren't funded locally - they need to be funded by a central statewide location.

So I spent some time today learning how to use xtranormal to make a video explaining, in laymen's terms, what the TBR fund does.  It was posted on Calix, the CA listserv for libraries, so my boss thinks I'm "viral" now.  I'm a disease.  I'm going to make some more over the next few days.

Monday, January 24, 2011

My Pavlovian Response to Chopin

At Christmas 1993 my dad bought me my first CD player (with two tape decks, too).  That was a weird year for me.  I was a senior in high school.  My mom had left in the Spring and my dad was dating my now-stepmom.  I was working at the Borders Books (before they had music and movies) at the cafe, learning about the difference between a cappuccino and a latte.  I became quite the foam-artist at the same time.  It was before starbucks was ubiquitous, and people would sometimes audibly gasp when I told them that their total for a cappuccino and a biscoti was $4.  On Saturday nights I would often work the closing shift, during which time, myself and my colleagues would make a vanilla latte to fuel the close-up ritual of stacking chairs, running the dishwasher, and mopping floors (I much preferred the opening ritual of grinding coffee).

When I wasn't working, I was doing nearly every extracurricular activity in the book, and I'd study late at night, up in my attic, surrounded by my books, my stuffed animals, and my dog (who was getting pretty sick by this point, but could manage the climb to the attic every once in a while).

So that Christmas I got a CD player.  But I didn't have any CD's.  So one day after work I went to Coconuts and bought lots of music - I got mostly classical stuff, and mostly the Naxos label because it was cheaper and I could get more (little did I know that 11 years later I would be working for them, running their digital side for libraries).  The one that I really loved was Chopin - a greatest hits compilation - because it was great for studying.  It wasn't as distracting as, say, Beethoven.  It was still emotional and moving, but it didn't totally capture me the way Beethoven does.  Perfect for studying the French Revolution.

I spent a lot of time studying with my Chopin disc, curled up on my bean bag pillow.  And to this day, whenever I need to really focus on something, I choose Chopin to make sure my mind stays on track.  Today is a Chopin day because I had such a crummy weekend.

And hubby is installing the hot water heater as I type, so I won't need to be Amish much longer.  Good thing, too - my shoulder was getting seriously sore from lugging all those pots of water to fill up the bathtub.  Yay for Do-It-Yourself husbands!

Sunday, January 23, 2011

The Lost Weekend

Do you ever have a weekend that's just a flop?  Head to toe, total flop?  I'm having one of those.  The highlight was my walk by the lake yesterday, listening to my new audiobook from audible, Broke USA by Gary Rivlin.  It's essentially about the big-business of loaning money to the working poor - the rackets of rent-to-own places, pawn shops, payday loan stores, and other predatory stuff that doesn't get much notice because it's not Wall Street losing the money.  It's alternating between really pissing me off, and inspiring me to want to do something (like picket the payday loan place that opened up in my town last spring, much to my consternation).

Anyway, when that's the highlight of your weekend, you know you're doing something wrong.

We went to Home Depot and bought a hot water heater, but it's too freezing outside to install it, and we also aren't sure how we're going to get it up the 37 steps from our driveway to the house, given the fact that it weighs 120 pounds.  So I'm still being Amish for the moment.  I've got the whole taking baths thing down to a science though.  Two and a half hours (and one really sore right shoulder) is all it takes to be soaking in a nice steamy tub.

I spent much of today in an Oblivion haze.  I'm going to have to watch myself on that.  Now that I look back on it, it seems that most of the Spring of 2008 and much of the Spring and Summer of 2009 were spent leveling up in alchemy, killing goblins, and rising to the head of all the guilds.  I don't particularly want to lose another season to it.  A Sunday isn't so bad in the grand scheme of things, but I'm really going to need to put limits on my playing.

So now I am officially declaring this wasteland complete, and getting a good night's sleep so I can take the week by storm.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Channeling my Inner Amish Girl and Random Web Searches

Ahh, home...
I grew up in Amish Country, and even though I'm not Amish, it has shaped my views of how necessary modern conveniences are.  When our wall heater broke several years ago, my Southern California Surfer Dude husband freaked out.  Me, I was happy to burn stuff in the fireplace, wear extra sweaters, and cuddle on the couch with blankets.  Obviously it's preferable to have the heating work, and we got a new heater, and all was well with the world.  But, you know, for a week or so, it wasn't that bad.  I mean, the Amish do it, right?

So today I got to channel my inner Amish girl when our hot water heater broke.  Hubby is convinced he can install a new one, which we shall be purchasing at Home Depot tomorrow, but in the meantime, we are without hot running water.  Now notice the "hot" before the "running water."  We still have running water, just not hot running water.  Which, you know, is more than the Amish have.

I decided that I wanted to take a bath.  There's a limit to how much Amish I'm willing to take on, and I'm not hip with smelling, however faintly, of eau-de-Amos-Stoltzfus.  But I wasn't worried.  We have a gas stove.  And running water.  And big pots.  I mean, think about how people took baths a hundred years ago.  They had to heat water over fire.  That took a heck of a lot longer than what I had to do.  I simply filled up 2 stock pots, a tea kettle, and a sauce pan.  Ten times.  After approximately two and a half hours, I had a lovely tub full of hot water.  I added bubblebath, and voila, perfect relaxation time.

I washed the dishes in the same fashion, though not, obviously, in the bathtub.

Hubby was freaking out this morning, as men sometimes do, probably finding some logical relationship between the hot water heater breaking and his masculinity.  But I'm all right with being Amish for a few more days.

One more thing.  Sometimes I play Mad Libs with search engines and put in really random silly words and see what comes up.  So today, I searched in google images for the following:  Dog, Fart, Fast, Smell.  And this is what comes up first.  I swear to God.  I could not make this up.

To be fair to my Jonas honey's, I should say that it was on a website that also had the words, "how to stop your dog from farting."  But still.  It's pretty freaking funny, if you ask me.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Funny Local News: Bug-In-Your-Mouth Edition

I realize I didn't do a Funny Local News this week (Monday was a holiday for me, and I spent the day in therapy and running errands) so here you go.  41 seconds of pure juicy funniness from Isiah Carey of Houston (but when he was in Arkansas).

Don't say I never gave you anything.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Simplicity, Apps, and Video Game Randomness

Probably selling for $1 at my local thrift store
So we all know that I'm on a simplicity kick, which started when I got pregnant, because we have a serious disconnect between the amount of space in our home, and the amount of stuff we seem to have.

When we lost Baby T I stayed on the simplicity kick because if I want to live the kind of life I say I want to live, I can't do that with craploads of stuff.  I want to travel, and live in lots of different places, and you can't do that with 33 pairs of shoes.  You just can't.

It all goes back to this time in my life when I could fit all my important stuff into 3-4 suitcases - ok, so they were big suitcases - but still...

I realized that many of the things I'm still holding on to are staying not because I like them, or wear them, but because I have a sentimental attachment to them.  Which, in my view, isn't the right reason for keeping something.  So I've decided to share the stories behind some of the objects that I'm most dreading getting rid of, and then, once posted, I am releasing them as an offering to the Thrift Store Donation Gods.

First off, these sneakers.  The story behind these is that, as those of you who have known me for a long time will remember, I once had a teeny obsession with a completely inappropriate guy.  From February of 2000 until approximately September 2004, I was kind of off-and-on in love with a British choral singer.  He was kind of partly the reason I moved to the UK in the first place - you know, I figured I could make him fall in love with me back.

Ok, so this gentleman - we'll call him Joe (that's not his name.  I've never been in love with a Joe) lived near the Archway station on the Northern Line.  I was also a north-Londoner, living in Barnet, Highgate, Muswell Hill, and finally Finsbury Park.  For three out of four of those places, I passed through the Archway station every day.  I used to check myself in my compact to make sure that my makeup was perfect as the train would leave Highgate, because, well, you never knew when he might wind up in my carriage.

So you kind of have to get the absurdity of that thought.  Northern Line trains have about 12-15 carriages.  Each holds maybe 50 people, closer to 75 at rush hour.  The trains run every 5-7 minutes. The chances of Joe coming on to my carriage on any given day were completely astronomical.  But still, I would pull out my compact and arrange my hair in my reflection on the window.

After a year or so of living in London I started forgetting about Joe.  Not in a conscious "I'm going to get over him" kind of way.  But more in a "man, I'm having fun, and there are such lovely other guys around me...hmmm...would you look at that...I haven't thought about Joe in 2 weeks..." kind of way.

I was taking singing lessons from a Welshman who lived near Crystal Palace, which would have me get off the train at Victoria, get the Victoria Line to Euston, cross over to the platform for the Northern Line, and wait for my train up to NoLo (I just made that up - it's short for North London - I'm going to start using it in conversation - feel free to do the same).

So one afternoon in July, I was hoofing it from Victoria, running like crazy to try to make all the connections in the sweltering summer heat.  By this point I was familiar enough with the route to know which carriage I should get in that would allow me the fastest change.  Incidentally, there are people who study this stuff.  The novel Tunnel Visions is about a guy who makes a bet that he can go to all the stations in one day, which happens to be the day before his wedding.  It's a hilarious story, and I highly recommend it, if for no other reason than the next time you find yourself wondering what the easiest route is from Ealing to Maida Vale, you can probably figure it out using this book.  Incidentally, there's also an iphone app which tells you which carriage to get in based on your route - where the exits are, the changes, etc.

Ok, back to my story.

I was hoofing it, the weather was hot, we're like three hundred feet underground in a subway infrastructure that's a hundred years old, and I'm kind of sweating.  And my hair is a wreck.  And I probably hadn't shaved my legs in eternity.  And my pedicure was bad.

And I ran from the Victoria Line platform to the Northern Line platform in Euston station, hoping I'd timed it just right, and I'm huffing and puffing and get to the platform and realize the train is still a minute away, and I'm giving myself an inner high-five and thinking I can sit down for a minute, when who would be on the bench where I wanted to sit guessed it...Joe.

He didn't notice me at first, and I thought I could get away with passing him by to the other end of the platform, but just as I was tippy-toeing past him, he looked up from his newspaper, and said my name.  I considered pretending that I wasn't me, or I was deaf, or anything to avoid showing my sticky, sweaty face to him, but it didn't work.  I had to sit there and make conversation, and when the train came, I had to ride for like four stops with him.

This relates to my shoes because he happened to be wearing these trainers that looked like bowling shoes (trainer is British for sneaker).  It was mid-2001, and I think it was quite trendy at the time.

On a trip home, I went to Target, and they had these quite-trendy-in-a-knockoff-sort-of-way shoes, and I used some advanced algebra to figure out that if I bought these shoes, Joe would love me.  Example using the transitive property:  Joe likes these types of shoes.  I get these shoes.  Ergo, Joe likes these shoes on me.  Resulting in: Joe is madly in love with me.

It kind of made sense at the time.

Anyway, they're comfortable, and I've worn them loads since, and I never even think about Joe when I wear them now, BUT the damn soles are broken, and the other day I was walking in snow and my feet got soaked.  So, sentimental value or no sentimental value, they are going to the thrift store.  Maybe somebody can repair them with super glue.  My hubby probably could, but I'm too lazy to ask him.

Ok.  The Story of the Bowling Trainers has been told and documented for the ages, and I am now releasing the shoes to the thrift store.

That felt good :)

On a side note, I started playing Oblivion again last night.  I started playing Oblivion in 2008.  I spent much of that spring and early summer obsessed with closing the Oblivion gates.  Then it kind of faded and I picked it up again in 2009 and bought the Shivering Isles expansion pack, which really rocked once I got a powerful invisibility spell.  Then I did all of the quests, finally, except the Daedra ones, which kind of freak me out because they involve clearing out these ancient shrines and there are a lot of vampires and the music is scary.  I hardly played at all in 2010.  But then the PS3 broke and we bought a new one.  Which meant that all the data was lost, and I got to start all over again.  This is a good thing.  Which brings me to my favorite App this week: the Elder Scrolls Discussion Forums.  I can use the app to search for game tips and cheats, walk-throughs, and hints...because sometimes going to the Elder Scrolls Wiki on my laptop is just too much work, you know?   (That was meant to be sarcastic)  There's going to be a new Elder Scrolls game released in November, which has me completely excited.  That gives me just enough time to do Oblivion properly again.

Monday, January 17, 2011

I don't have much to report today - no big deep thoughts.  I'm kind of wiped out at the moment, actually.  But here are some things that happened today that made it a Good Day.

1.  As part of The Artists Way you're meant to do Morning Pages every day - three pages of handwritten stream-of-conscious musings, basically designed to let out all your crap every morning so you can start the day fresh.  I did mine this morning in the bubblebath.  I highly recommend writing in a bubblebath.  It's the only way to do it.

2.  The weather has been unseasonably warm, so we started cleaning the deck, something we do every spring.  We usually keep it clean through the summer, but then what happens is that the snow falls and catches us off guard, and things are a mess under there until April.  So we took advantage of the nice weather to get rid of all the pine needles, old paint cans, and assorted tools that were left out on the table after a project in mid-August, and now are too rusty to use.  It feels wonderful to have a nice open deck again, and it felt like springtime, working outside as the sun set, wearing short sleeves.

3.  We went to Glendale to a grief therapy session.  I don't think our therapist really gets my grief (she can't - she's never gone through it.  She can get it intellectually, but that's worlds different from getting it through experience) but it provided an impetus for good conversation between J and I all afternoon.

4.  We ate Japanese food for lunch, sitting outside in Glendale.  I saw someone semi-famous buying movie tickets. I can't place him, but J and I both agreed that he was "someone" we knew.  He looked kind of like Charlotte's ex-husband in Sex and the City - the doctor guy.  I wanted to ask him who he was, but that would have been kind of weird.

5.  I remembered to take back my Redbox movie (Dinner with Schmucks) before it was overdue.  Go me!

6.  I'm listening to Enya, which is always a good way to end the day.

7.  I started doing our tax return, and I think we're going to get enough back to both pay off my medical bills (it's such a farce that I have to pay to deliver a dead about things that suck) and go to England in the spring.  Woot!

8.  There is no 8.  I've run out of things.

It's bedtime and I'm going to turn into a pumpkin soon.  G'night world.  

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Dating my Inner Artist

So I am finishing up Week 2 in The Artist's Way and stuff is starting to happen.  First, I noticed that I'm really avoiding working on my book, which is funny because I really love it (it involves Henry VIII, boys, time travel, self-discovery, and in-and-out burgers - who wouldn't love working with that?) so I think there must be some kind of fear of really putting myself out there.

But the best thing to happen so far was on Friday, when I took myself out on an Artist Date.  The Artist Dates are where you get to spend time with your inner-artist, nurturing it like you would a child, providing it with inspiration and stimulation. I wasn't sure I'd be able to do an Artist Date because it was Friday night and my in-laws were coming, and there was stuff to do, AND I didn't want to go down the hill to one of the big museums in LA because I was feeling lazy.  But I said to myself, "Self, you promised you would do an Artist Date, so you have to go do one."

I know that in Lake Arrowhead there is a gallery run as a co-op by the artists, and I figured I could have fun poking around looking at all the stuff there.  So I head to the lake, park my car, and walk to the gallery which is, sadly, closed.  At 5pm on a Friday?  What the heck?

My inner artist wanted to have a tantrum.  "I told you that you should have planned it better," she screamed at me.  "I want an Artist Date, and I want to be inspired, and you're not letting me," she pouted.  So I took her on a walk around the lake where we looked at ducks, swans, and geese.  I walked the long way back to my car, through most of the Village, and noticed another gallery I'd never seen before.  It was next to a bar, and looked empty, but my inner artist got seriously excited and pushed me forward.

And I'm so glad she did, because I got to meet Daniel Gerken, who makes these strikingly beautiful crosses with all kinds of materials including distressed wood from the badlands of South Dakota.  He owns the gallery, and was kind enough to walk me around, showing me his favorite paintings and telling me about the artists.  I told him I was on an Artist Date, and that I was learning how to let out my own inner artist, and he suggested that I hang out at his gallery and write, whenever I want.  I could even be the "Writer-in-Residence," and he'd even make me a plaque, he said.  It was so inspirational to meet someone who followed his dreams, and listened to his own inner artist, and is expressing himself fully.  And now I'm totally inspired to go back and take up my "Writer-in-Residence" duties.

On the way home, my own inner artist gloated.  "I told you that you should take me out to play," she said.  "Look how you got to meet an awesome person by doing that!  How much does life rock when you just listen to me?"

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Will the real Mark Hoppus please stand up?

I had a bunch of things I wanted to do Artist's Way Artist Date, work on a new EnglandCast, write 3000 words in my book...but instead I'm ripping a pile of CD's that have been sitting on the shelf above my desk driving me crazy for approximately six weeks.

Sometimes you just have to have evenings where you take care of crap like that, so it frees you up to do your most creative work, with a clear space.  Right?  I think so.

Nerve just ranked every 30 Rock character from least-funny to funniest - hint: the top five funniest are on page 6, so you can skip ahead past Liz's ex-boyfriends if you don't care that much.  There are clips for each one, and it can easily provide a good 45 minutes of wasted time.

That just reminded me that if Google ever made my search history public, I'd be pretty embarrassed.  The stream-of-consciousness that led to this thought is that I totally have a crush on Cheyenne Jackson on 30 Rock, the guy who plays Danny, because he looks like Mark Hoppus.  So for fun I searched google images for "guys who look like Mark Hoppus".  Which led to some funny results:

The Real Mark Hoppus

The one guy has Mark Hoppus' hair, kind of...

I'm not sure which one is supposed to look like Mark Hoppus.  The guy is all blurry, so...

Also tonight, combining both 30 Rock and Baby News, Jane Krakowski is pregnant at 42.  Posh and Becks are pregnant again, too.  Man, I hope we catch some of this celebrity baby-dust that's floating around Southern California right now about now.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Music and Lyrics

When I was 23 I broke up with my college boyfriend and moved to LA where I lived in a tiny studio apartment at 426 S. New Hampshire Ave, two blocks north of Wilshire, and one west of Vermont.  I didn't have a car, so I got a red grandma-cart to get groceries at the Ralphs at Third and Vermont, I took the Red Line to work, and I rode the bus to Larchmont to play with pottery at Color Me Mine.  This was an enormously happy time for me, mostly because I was living on my own for the first time.

My apartment was in an old building from the 20's, and it looked out on a courtyard with palm trees.  I had wrought iron bars on the window, but the windowsill was wide enough to sit in, so I hung lots of plants from the bars, and would sit on the windowsill and write in my journal.  I hung fairy lights up everywhere.  There was a fold-in-the-wall bed, and it took me three months in my temp job to save up enough for a cheap mattress for it.  On the day the mattress arrived, I took the bus to K-Mart on Third street and bought a nice sheet set, and then I stopped for Chinese food, and I sat in my bed with my new sheets and ate dinner and watched college football on tv.  It was a Good Day.  I still have the comforter from that sheet set, which goes to show the quality of the sheet sets they sell at K-mart.

(Side note - in the summer of 2005 I went out on a blind date with a guy who, it turned out, lived in that old building.  Of all the hundreds of thousands of buildings in Los Angeles, I wind up on a date with a guy who lived in my building from when I was 23.  What are the odds?  He was a nice guy, and had a cute cat, but I just couldn't have a future with a guy who lived where I lived when I was 23.  They say you can't go home again, and it's true.  I had moved on, past 426 S. New Hampshire.)

I also listened to a lot of music that my boyfriend hadn't liked.  Tori Amos (like nails going down a chalkboard, he said), Cher (it was during the "Do You Believe in Life after Love" phase), Peter Cetera (because he's my go-to-guy) and Jewel (she's just so cute and sweet; how can you not love Jewel?).   Oh, and I splurged on the Brazil Nut body butter from the Body Shop even though it was like $10 (which was about 1% of my take home pay for the month) and smelled all nutty.

The point of saying all this is that Jewel is pregnant.  She's 36.  Gives me hope.

In other news, I remembered how much I love Tori Amos when I spent two hours listening to Little Earthquakes on Monday in the car to San Diego.  I blasted it so it nearly blew out the speakers, and I let out all my righteous feminist anger.

Tori Amos writes the best lyrics including:

So you found a girl who thinks really deep thoughts
What's so amazing about really deep thoughts?
Boy, you best pray that I bleed real soon
How's that thought for ya...

Busted!  Take that male sexist establishment!

And in the best kind of reverse-sexism, in Ashton Kutcher's new movie No Strings Attached, there are supposedly lots of close ups on his butt.

Finally, a video that ties together butts, as well as the title of this post:  Hugh Grant channeling his inner-George Michael from Music and Lyrics, which is, I'm ashamed to say, one of my favorite movies of all time.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

New Grief Blog post

I've taken to writing in my Grief Blog over on Open Salon on Tuesday nights - I lost Baby T on a Tuesday, and it's the night I get Girly Alone Time cuz hubster has his AA meeting, so it seems appropriate to spend part of my Girly Alone Time remembering my boy, and memorializing my grief.

This week - the fear that comes during the second stage of grief:

On another note, I read today that Katie Holmes and Tom Cruise are boycotting the Oscars because Anne Hathaway is hosting, and they didn't like the impression that she did of Katie on Saturday Night Live in November.  That is now top of the pile of People Who Take Themselves Too Seriously.  Also, just a tip, Tom and Katie, when you only make headlines for boycotting things, you might want to take a step back and do some self-examination.

And with that, my Girly Alone Time is now over, and it's time for Couple Time.

Funny Local News: Resolution Edition

I like this clip from Denver's Fox 31 because:

1.  Olivia Newton John
2.  All the shots of spinners
3.  Right around 57 seconds, Dan Daru is trying to say the word "Spinning" (I think) but it sounds like "Spitting" because he's spitting all over the camera.  That's pretty darn gross, Dan.
4.  The guy at 1:07's face is kind of scary.
5.  All the slow-mo then fast-mo effects.
6.  The presenter giving a shout-out to her friend at the end.  I'm sure her friend was super-cool with having people who might have missed it otherwise, go back and check to see whether there was a good sweaty-butt-shot of her on the bike.  I know I would be.


Sunday, January 9, 2011

Peppermint mocha's and Blink 182 on the 15 Freeway South...

Oh no! I shot my eye out!  A plan, a plan...aha!  Blame an Icecicle!
I had fun playing around with my still-new camera last week when the snow started.  I was particularly pleased with this shot of an icecicle on the porch.

So yesterday I woke up super-early (4:30am) to go down to San Diego for ALA Midwinter (American Library Association).  I was excited because normally Midwinter is held in off-season sorts of places.  The past three years, for example, it was in Philadelphia, Denver and Boston.  In 2006 it was in San Antonio, so that was another warm-spot.  So I guess once every five years they find somewhere warm to bring 12,000 librarians.

Since it was relatively local for me, I balked at staying in a hotel.  I hate hotels.  In 2004 when I was a national sales manager I spent something like 250 nights in hotels, which pretty much put me off of hotels in general.  I don't care of they have pillow-top mattresses.  Give me my own bed with snuggly cats any day of the week.  Hence, the 4:30am wake up call.  I'm going back down tomorrow, but my first appointment isn't until 10, so I get to sleep in until 6:30.

It was a little tough because I saw people that I only see at these things, who knew I was pregnant, but didn't know I lost Baby T.  First thing in the morning I saw a woman who said, "Oh!  I didn't get to see you with a belly!  Did you give birth already!?"  I didn't feel like going into it, so I just said yes, and when she asked if it was a boy or girl, I told her it was a boy.  Not a lie.  It was all true.  I just didn't say that he wasn't with us anymore.  I just kept on walking and avoided any follow-up questions.

So I was kind of sad for the rest of the day.  I had been looking forward to having a triumphant big belly at this ALA - I knew I'd be able to attend because it was local and I wouldn't have to fly, so even though it was only a month from my due date, I'd have been able to make it.  I looked forward to walking through the exhibits proudly showing off my belly, and having people I only see twice a year congratulate me, and tell me how much I was glowing.  As it was this time, it was just more of the same.  Blah blah.  ebooks.  Mobile catalog apps.  blah blah blah.

I was anxious to get out of there and back to the safety of my home.  Along the way I stopped at the Super Target in Temecula - because I can't resist a Super Target - and bought the super-fancy ovulation prediction kits.  I had been buying the cheapies where you had to test at 4pm, and limit your fluids for 4 hours beforehand, and then you had to deduce if your line was as dark or darker than the test line, and it was all getting a little frustrating.  I spent $37 on the Clear Blue Easy ones that are digital.  There's a smiley face if you're ovulating, and no smiley face if you're not.  And you can test any time of the day, so first thing in the morning is ok.

If J and I didn't have a sense of humor, and if we weren't really good friends to begin with, all this timing, charting, temping, peeing on ovulation prediction sticks, etc., would be really stressful.  As it is, we laugh about it, but we generally are able to find the funny in anything, so it's bearable.  Here's hoping it works this month.

Friday, January 7, 2011

Art People vs Slide People

So it's Friday night and I just took down the Christmas tree.  I know it's supposedly bad luck to leave it up past the Epiphany (though I am a firm believer in keeping it up until then - if we can put the decorations up after Halloween we can at least leave them up until the Magi got to the Baby Jesus).  But last year I diligently took everything down on January 6, thus avoiding bad luck for the year.  And I lost Baby Teysko.  So I think that whole bad-luck thing is a load of hooey, and the tree came down tonight.  Sweet - we get our living room back! But the cats are all wondering where their jungle gym went.  Bummer for them.

One of the big assignments in The Artist's Way is that you're meant to go on Artist's Dates with your Inner Artist at least once a week.  Yesterday J and I went to LACMA.  I hung out in the medieval rooms checking out various paintings, each called Madonna and Child.  They either didn't have very good imaginations, or there wasn't much else to paint during the middle ages.  I'm thinking a combination of both.  

That reminded me of an art history class I took in college.  So I was a history major with a minor in the humanities, so I wound up taking a lot of classes like art and music history.  So let me be clear to start with by saying that I'm not the most visually-stimulated person in the world.  Landscape photography touches me; capturing the magic of creation, nature, etc.  But paintings...not so much.

So the class was huge.  It was like Renaissance Art 101 and there were about 75 people in it.  I wound up in the back.  A non-visually-stimulated person in a huge class in the back row.  And it was only once a week for 3 hours, and because the professor taught like 4 of those classes, he was lazy and always let us out after the break; something I liked at the time, but now I can see that I would have gotten more out of it if I'd actually had three hours of teaching.  Because the professor had too many students, he made the tests all slide-identification.  One word answers with no essays, while I had always excelled at paper-writing and essay questions.  He also said that he would take the term paper out of the syllabus for our class because he didn't want to read 300 papers.  So the whole grade was dependent on those damn slides.  And I was in the back, and not visually stimulated.

I got a D, and a comment on my final exam that I wasn't an art person.

I decided right then and there that art wasn't my thing, and I wasn't into paintings and 'stuff like that'.

When I lived in London, I worked literally on the other side of Trafalgar Square from the National Gallery.  One of the greatest collections of art in the world, right at my doorstep, and it's free.  Took me almost a year to go there.  I'd go to lunchtime evensong services at St Martin's in the Field, but I'd never get over to the gallery.  Too many tourists, and I wasn't into art, I'd say.

So then I started The Artist's Way and needed to go on an artist date.  I figured that it would be a good thing to visit the National Gallery and check out the Leonardo Da Vinci sketches they have (I'm a big Da Vinci fan, just because he was so awesome).  I can't even tell you how blown away I was.  When you're standing up close and personal to a painting, and you can see the brush strokes, and you can see how they made the colors, and how they did the shadows - it was nothing short of mind-blowing.  I was in awe.  My new favorite thing became going to the National Gallery once a week and picking a random painting, and just studying it, learning it, and getting to know it really well.

Well I can't even tell you how pissed off I was for that douchbag professor who was too lazy to read term papers or do his job, and thus led me to think that I wasn't an art person.  I forget his name now and I'm not going to bother looking it up because he's not worth it, but he was so wrong.  At the time I still remembered his name, and I would buy postcards in the gallery gift shop sometimes and write messages to him telling him that he was too quick to judge people, and he should do the job that student tuition paid him to do.  And I would tell him that he was wrong about me, and that almost cost me the joy of art, but I would forgive him if he didn't do it to any other students.  I don't know whether he ever received these, and I don't really care.  It made me feel better to send them.

The point is, I am too an art person, I'm just not into slide identification, and anyone who thinks that's what makes you an art person is just a slide person and doesn't have an ounce of art in their soul.  

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Cat Lessons

You know those "everything I learned I learned from my cat" books that are supposed to make you laugh and go "That is so true" while you're waiting for a table at the Cracker Barrel? Well, I feel like writing one. Because I have 9 cats, you see. So I learn a lot from them. Here is just a sampling of the things I learned today:

1. If someone leaves the front door open, thus giving you the opportunity to go out and play in the snow, you should definitely take it. Snow is super-rad.

2. But you shouldn't go too far, because... well, it's scary out there without the people you love around you.  And getting warm again is the best part of going outside.

3. Naps are an important part of the day.

4. If you want something, and you don't get it, you should roll around in front of the person who can give it to you, and be really cute, and purr a lot. If they still don't give it to you, you should cry. If they still don't, well, then you should just bite their ankles.

5.  If you want attention, and you're not getting it, you shouldn't be afraid to ask for it by barging right in and making your needs known.

6.  Dry food pretty much sucks.  Try to sneak pleasures where possible.  Like someone's fish they're not eating.

7.  A q-tip can be a super-fun toy.  So can balls of paper.  You can find toys in the most unexpected places.  One person's trash is another person's toy.

8.  When you get scared, it's ok to go hide under the bed for a little while.  If you don't feel like talking to a stranger who's in your house, under the bed is a perfectly acceptable place to go.  And you don't need to explain yourself.

9.  Let me repeat that last part.  You really never need to explain yourself.

10.  Whenever possible, have someone else clean up your poo.

Monday, January 3, 2011

Funny Local News: Snow Edition

I was going to put together some funny local news clips on snow, but then I remembered that InfoMania did this last year, and why reinvent the wheel, right?  So here you go...enjoy...

For fun, I did look at one of my local hometown news channels, and had to share this story about an entrepreneur who started a granola company. I'm not knocking her at all - quite the opposite - she's awesome. But all of the "nut" puns are just too much. I counted at least 7. Is it written somewhere in the Local News Handbook that you have to write stupid puns for every human-interest story??


Sunday, January 2, 2011

Affirmations and A Brief Treatise on the Nature of Reality

So this week in The Artist's Way we're working on positive affirmations.  Because most of us struggling creative types have lots of opinions about art, and creativity.  We think things like, "If I do my art, it will mean I'm constantly broke."  Or, "I can't do my art because only the really talented people make it."

Part of the homework assignment is to come up with positive spins/affirmations on our own thoughts about art and creativity. I can see the power in this because I've done a lot of thinking about the nature of reality and the power of conversations.  The conversations we have create our lives.  Stick with me here because this is kind of ethereal.

The only reality in life is based in conversations between people.  As follows:

One example is the United States of America.  In physical reality there is no such thing as the United States of America.  On the border with Mexico there is no line, like there is on a map, or in a cartoon, that outlines which side is Mexico and which side is the USA.  If you were just out walking and didn't pass a border stop, you would not know, until you started talking to people, that you had entered from one country to another.

The United States of America is a concept, conceived by people in a conversation called The Constitutional Convention, which took place over several days during which time men created something called the USA.  It isn't real.  It's a conversation.  Enough people had a conversation called "We Don't Want to be Colonists" so that the conversation led to actions.

King George had another conversation going on at the same time called "The American Colonies Belong to England," and the two conversations were incompatible.  So they fought a war, and eventually the Independence conversation won out.

It's an ongoing conversation, and one that the vast majority of people in the world now agree to.  But not everyone agreed all the time.  There was an event called The Civil War, which started from a separate conversation, a conversation called "The Government Can't Tell Me What to do with my Property," and "This Government Isn't What I Signed Up For."  Enough people had that conversation so that eventually it led to an action called Secession, and a conversation called The Confederate States of America began.

The two conversations were incompatible, so there was a war, and people died, and after four years the conversation called "The United States of America Isn't Something you can Secede From" won out.

There is no physical United States of America.  It's all a conversation that we have been brought up in as long as we were born, so it seems natural for us to believe it's real.  And it is real - in language.  Jesus said that wherever two or three people came together in His name, He was there with them, and that's how it works with creating realities as well.  You get enough people to have the same conversation, and it creates a reality.

You get enough people to think that every winter they should bring a giant living tree inside their houses and stick some lights and plastic decorations on it, and you get a Christmas Tree.  There is no such thing, inherently, as a Christmas Tree.  It's a conversation that started out of pagan festivals of light, and enough people agreed to it so that every year we bring trees into our homes, and we call it festive.

You get enough people in the world to think that there is something good about kicking a ball into a defined area, and bad about letting that ball go into that area, and you get soccer.  There is no such thing, in reality, as soccer.  Soccer is a conversation that the entire world has bought into, and it's yielded a beautiful result.

So the idea that none of these things are "real" doesn't make it bad, or sad, or anything. Soccer is wonderful.  I love it.  But it's not real.  There is nothing inherently physically better about kicking a goal than letting the ball go into the goal.  In some alien versions of the game it might be just the opposite.  They might play with rules that say that goals are bad.  The rules are made up, in conversation, and we all just agree to them.

Realizing that reality lives in language, in conversation, can give you power over the reality that you create.  Sometimes we joke about people living in their own world.  But it's true - each one of us really does live in our own world.  There are collective conversations that have become ingrained in us from an early age so that we mostly go through life thinking that our reality is the same as everybody else's realities.

Every once in a while we are surprised by something that reminds us that our way, our reality, isn't the only way.  Like a wife will insist that every meal has to be eaten at the dining room table "because that's how it's done," while the husband wants to eat dinner in front of the tv.  Many times, the wife will then complain to her friends; "my husband wants to eat dinner watching football!"  And because people generally gravitate towards others who share similar conversations and realities, her friends will probably agree that the husband is an oaf who needs to be tamed.

And that's not how it is.  All that's going on is that there are two separate conversations, which seem to be incompatible.  If people could only just get it that their realities aren't the right realities, or even the only realities, powerful changes in the world could take place.  Like the husband and wife could sit down and say, "In my world, we eat at the table" and "in mine we eat at the couch" and then come up with a new reality they invent together, which might look like, "in our world, we eat every other dinner in front of the tv."

Like let's take Israel.  I'm not an Israel expert, but as far as I can tell, there is no inherent place called Israel.  There can't be because the borders are always changing.  There is some land, which the Israelis believe is theirs because of promises that God made them.  This is a very powerful conversation.  There is also a conversation called Palestine, which is also a very powerful conversation.  The two seem to be incompatible.

But where it gets really messy is that both sides think that their conversation, their reality, is the only one.  When it's so clearly not.  But we look at these other conversations, which could be a threat, and we deem them "wrong" and "evil" when all that's really going on is two seemingly incompatible conversations overlapping each other.

Now if you could get the people on either side to see that their reality isn't the only reality, that the other side has a reality that is just as strong and powerful as their own, then you could maybe get somewhere.  But it's hard for people to admit that these conversations, which are so powerful and so ingrained in us, might not be really real.

Reality must be fluid when you consider the idea that, if ten people witness a car accident, you'll probably get at least five accounts of what happened.  If there was only one reality, you wouldn't have that happen.  Everybody would see the same thing.  Reality.

So where all this takes us to is the power of conversations.  Conversations have the power to create countries.  Conversations have the power to start war and genocide.  But conversations also have the power to create peace, if we would let them.

And this is where affirmations come in.  If conversations between people can create countries and empires, it follows that conversations we have ourself, about ourself, can create our lives.  And if you really examine people, most people live lives that are the product of the conversations they have.

For example, people who have a conversation called "There's Not Enough Money" will never have enough money, even if they win the lottery.  They just won't.  Because There's Not Enough.  Whereas people who make very little money, but believe that There Is Enough, generally seem to have enough.

Or women who have a conversation called All Men Are Jerks generally seem to find guys who are jerks.  And women who have a conversation called There Are Plenty Of Good Guys Out There generally seem to find good guys.

Is it possible that these conversations are creating their reality?  You betcha.  Because your conversations dictate your actions.  If your actions come from a place of There Are Plenty of Good Guys, you'll probably go out with lots of guys, meet a few duds but not let that color your opinion on the entire gender.

I have the following conversations about writing for a living:

Writing for a living is too hard.  You always have to be out hunting for the next job.  You have to be really super organized.  You have to work so hard to get your name out there and navigate the confusing world of publishing.  It's just too hard.

And so guess how my reality looks when I go to start pursuing writing?

It looks really hard.  The actions that come out of this conversation look like starting research, getting overwhelmed, freaking out, giving up, and then getting jealous when other people somehow make it.

But if I could change that conversation, if I could have a conversation that writing was actually really easy, and simple, and that you really don't have to always be out hunting for the next job, that it's not a life of scarcity...things might actually look different when I start researching things.  What if I had a conversation called Writing and Publishing Takes Effort, But It Can Flow With Ease?  What if my actions came out of that conversation?

On the simplest level, it would make my approach to researching and submitting things much more enjoyable. I might actually be more organized anyway, because I'm going with the Flow, and organization creates Ease.

On a deeper level, it might actually alter my reality.

Resolutions and Declarations

I'm thinking about my New Year's Resolutions, and I find that, like most people, I make the same ones every year.  They always involve writing, being more creative, being more self-expressed, doing the things that I really love doing (writing, going to museums, meditating, etc).

This year, I am whittling it all down to one Resolution, which is only a 12-week commitment anyway.  I declare that I will complete The Artist's Way, starting yesterday.  If you don't know The Artist's Way, it's a book/course on "discovering and recovering your creative self," and I've owned this book since my sophomore year in college.  No kidding.  That's like 15 years, I think.  There are exercises, writings, readings, meditations, etc., and at the end of it, you're living a much more created/creative life.  I see the value in it.  I see that there's no way I can do all the exercises over 12 weeks and not lead a more creative life.  And yet I have resisted this book for so long.  I've never gone past page 59, somewhere in the middle of week 3.  I reach a point where things start to happen, I get confronted, and I bottle it all up.  I'm one of those people for whom success is much scarier than sitting on the sidelines, talking about and analyzing why I'm not living the life I want to be living.  Suddenly other things become really unbelievably important, and I close the book, literally, on the course, and go back to talking and analyzing.  

A friend of J's is doing the course.  He mentioned it to me, not knowing what exactly it was, and I just sighed.  "I have the book.  I can't get past page 59," I said.  And so my ever-supportive husband has decided to do the course with me.  At first it was just to support me, and keep me from weaseling my way out of it. But now he sees the value in it for himself, too.  

So here's a story on my creativity.

When I was a kid, I loved to write.  I wrote all the time.  I wrote stories in my Hello Kitty diary.  I wrote books and stapled the pages together.  I love writing instruments.  I love notebooks in which to write things.  I love books.  I love words.  I love the power of stories.  Being an only child, my first best friend was Laura Ingalls.  My second best friend, when I was a little older, was Anne of Green Gables.  Oh, how I longed to be with Anne, and call her Cordelia, and spin stories in the Haunted Wood!  

Nobody ever came out and was really mean to me about a creative career like writing.  But my dad, having lived in refugee camps when he escaped from East Germany (and thus knowing what true hunger was) valued security and always guided me to good stable careers.  Teaching, for example.  To this day, my dad would like nothing more than for me to be a teacher back in Lancaster, Pennsylvania where he could watch over me and take care of me.  

I love my Dad.  But in some ways, he just doesn't get me.  I don't know whether there's a blocked artist living inside of him somewhere who was repressed so that he could be "responsible" and provide for his family (I suspect there is) but he drilled into me the idea that creative careers were for young and irresponsible people, who haven't yet graduated to the Big People Table on which is a spread of mortgages, bills, children, car payments and other Duties Requiring Responsibility.

I never wanted some stable corporate job.  I always wanted to go out and experience the world, and write about the things I saw, and share stories, and be around other storytellers, and read and write and read and write, and generally immerse myself in words.  Words words words, trains, words, planes, words words, nature, words and then more words.  All day, every day. 

I never thought I could actually be a writer.  So I majored in history, and did writing projects on the side.  I created a kickass website on Colonial America, for example - over 150 html pages of information on food, clothes, church, music; basically everything you could want to know about Colonial America.  You can still find it on the web archive if you search for and look at the site from around 1999.  Man, it was some kind of wonderful for the early web, and won some awards too.  Go html!  Go geocities!  (Remember Geocities?  What the heck happened to Geocities?)

My senior year in college I had a wonderful semester with a creative writing professor who really nurtured my dream of writing.  He told me I had talent.  He told me I could totally make a living as a writer.  He told me to write write write all the time.  

In December that year, I tagged along on a field trip that my boyfriend's economics club was taking to the NY Stock Exchange.  I had been on an Enya kick for about 2 years, and considered myself pretty hip to the new-age music scene, and spent the entire drive up listening to The Memory of Trees on my discman, and thinking about what I wanted to do when I graduated.  I had received my creative writing portfolio back the day before, with my final grade, and the professor had made some kind of comment to the effect of, "if you don't give it a try, you'll regret it forever."  So I was thinking a lot about how one "became" a writer while listening to "Book of Days".

The bus dropped us off near Central Park, and boyfriend and I were walking through the park when a girl handed us a  flyer for a CD signing at Borders that very afternoon.  The person signing the CD's was Enya - her greatest hits CD, Paint the Sky with Stars.  I knew from having read countless websites about Enya that she rarely did CD signings.  Like, hardly ever.  

I knew it was a sign.  

I grabbed boyfriend and ran to Borders where I waited in line for three hours while he patiently read motorcycle magazines.  When I finally got to go up and meet Enya, I was like Ralphie from A Christmas Story when he meets Santa.  "I want to be a writer, and I think that I could be a writer, and my professor says I should try, but I don't know because I think that I should do something secure so I'm not broke, but I also think that you don't have to be broke to be a writer because there are writers who make a living writing, and I was thinking about it on the drive up here today and I don't come to NY very often, so this is so weird, and this girl was handing out flyers, and I really love your music and I think that I should try to be a writer, and if you say I should, then I definitely will.  What do you say?"  

To which, the lovely ethereal Oracle of Eithne (that's how you spell her name in Celtic, I'm told), replied, "Who should I make the CD out to?"  And gave me a heavenly smile. 

The next semester I took a paralegal certificate course so that I could have something "practical" to do after graduating with my Humanities degree.  I did buy a Writer's Market, but found the whole thing so overwhelming, I didn't know where to start.  If you ever want to get me to stop something, just overwhelm me.  Overwhelm is my thing. 

There was another period when I lived in London when I was officially "freelance" for about a month.  I woke up and meditated.  Then I went to Bar Italia in Soho and drank a hot chocolate, sitting on the silver metal chairs and looking up at Soho Square and the BT Tower, and thinking how grand and bohemian I was.  I would be like Henry Miller!  I couldn't wait!  

Then I would walk up to the internet cafe on Frith Street, I think, plug in my laptop, and get to work.  The internet cafe where I went was also a coffee bar, and they allowed smoking.  I would smoke Silk Cut (because that was the brand that Bridget Jones smoked, and I didn't know any other brands, not being a smoker), and drink cappuccino, and feel very bohemian and liberated.  "Ahh, this is the life," I thought.  And I would wonder, "why can't I live like this all the time?  Where is it written that I have to work in an office?  Where is it written that I can't create beautiful words and stories and somehow make a living from that?"  

But then my UK visa expired, I went home and spent the next year working in a law firm, thus killing the whole Henry Miller mystique.

I started blogging, I do NaNoWriMo, I journal, I am a Vine Voice on Amazon (which means I write good reviews and get free books - yay!); I hover at the sidelines of writing, looking at the people actually doing it and wondering how they figured it out.  

People look at my situation and think I have it made - I work largely from home, I require little supervision from my boss, I am pretty much in charge of my time and what I do with it.  I am fairly compensated.  And I am very lucky.  I really am.  I'm not knocking it.  I'm very grateful for it, in fact.

But losing Baby Teysko has made me rethink everything, and one thing I'm thinking about is that life is too short to not try.  My professor was right - I am kicking myself for not trying sooner.  

So this New Year's I am doing The Artist's Way, and I'm pretty sure that doing it, finishing it, declaring myself the creator of my life, and living out the the things I learn from it will set into motion a whole new life that I can't imagine yet.  

Here goes...