Monday, November 1, 2010

Happy Holidays!

It's that time of year again when a million favorite things and one new one come crashing down around my ears.
Halloween, of course, being the primary of these things, has already slipped past us. We are even on the last day of the feast of All Saint's, if my think knowledge of Catholic lore serves me right. And whatever mystical things normally present themselves for the experiencing during this time of year... well, they just didn't happen.
Normally something truly creepy happens around this time of year. And yes, there is something to be said for the power of suggestion, but when you turn around and there's something hunched over, all of 4 feet tall, and looks as if it is made of the good ol' analog TV static when you were between channels, well, that tends to catch your attention. Also, I am utterly unsure how I could've just created something so frakkin' bizarre AND have such a disconnect with reality that I could feel it brush past me. This is just weird shit that happens in my house. They've checked my brain and my chemicals... I'm fine. So it isn't that I'm stuck in Crazyland.
But for some reason this year this did NOT happen. At all. Like there was a surprising void of ANYTHING going on. To the point that I found myself growing slowly depressed, as it's one of the things I look forward to about this time of year.
This Halloween has been a truly weird one. I was literally hanging the majority of our decorations ON Halloween. Every previous year I've had them out the last week of September and scoured the local stores for sales to see if they had anything I could add to the setup. Not so this year.
This prompted me to wonder if appreciate of the event relied on something as stupid as... money. For instance, I have been unemployed since the week before last Christmas. And I have discovered that all of the holidays this year have seemed "less" somehow... and it's probably because my attention is elsewhere, worried about and consumed with the act of trying to find a job, trying to save money, trying to make ends meet... and I think that it is now coming to a head and eating up whatever energy I might normally have to enjoy my favorite of seasons. And with the thought that money really might be the root of all happiness, my faith in my ability to overcome and not be dragged down in to materialism is heartily shaken. In fact, I'm pissed. And also, we ran out of candy at 7:15 on Halloween night (ooo were we unpopular at that point!) so there isn't even chocolate in this house to drown my sorrows in, which is the height of lame.
To top it all off, the lamp that I set out to help "guide the dead home" as I do each year is gone. Using a different one didn't feel right at all, and the entire thing just feels very incomplete. It will fade with time, but I'm in it now and I'm displeased on some level.
So if it is money that caused this break.... well, I've no Buddhist thoughts to take away with this. I just know that I did not enjoy my favorite holiday, that the magical twist of things, the bite of the air, the angle of the golden setting sun, did not impart to me that spooky and mystical air that, until this year I have always experienced. The only coinciding factor is that until this year I had a job. Funny, almost, that with all this free time I didn't enjoy it more, eh?

But then... oh, because there is no rest for the weary, we now launch in to my favorite month of the year, November!
I have joined in and won the past 3 NaNoWriMos, where -for those of you following along at home- you have the month of November to crank out 50,000 words of cohesive fiction! Hence Nationa Novel Writing Month. I say cohesive because it IS entirely possible to string together 50,000 random words. The point is, when you're done you're supposed to have the fine makings of a proto-novel to fawn over and be in amazement of. It's actually not hard, it's just frustrating after a while. You really lose steam the second week, and as always predicted, week 3 the lost time is regained.
As of right now I'm sitting on 2,581 words of fiction that I sat down and pounded out last night over the course of an hour. If I manage 2,500 words a day, I will be more than ahead of the power curve. The excitement this time is that I had character names and utterly no plot. I am literally making it up as I go along and I've never had the courage to just fly by the seat of my pants like that. I hope it'll be as thrilling and ridiculous as my artistic brain wishes it to be. I have already used the Fox Yip Hat for the purpose of literary inspiration, and the whole thing just feels like home. I secretly wish I could do this for the rest of my life.... me and about 30,000 other Americans, I'm sure.
This year we have an additional little mini-holiday in the midst of all this craziness. This really is the most important of all. Without question.

Sort of self explanatory. Get out there, America. We're going through tough times and emotions are running high. I'd like to ask you to vote logically, but I know that people vote with their wallets and their fears more often than not. So I'll be happy if you just get out there and VOTE. If there is no other reason, then people will see what we really want instead of telling us and they'll be forced to pay attention briefly as everyone readjusts to the changes. But at least it'll stick in the craw of many and be remembered in the future, and what more can be asked for than that? God bless Democracy and the Republic.
There are other things coming... the birthday of my beloved husband, the birthday of my younger brother, Thanksgiving... November has never been a slacker-month in my life. I'm looking forward to time with family. I'm looking forward to crazy writing sessions at 1 am when I get on a story line kick and I'm so caffeinated my eyelids are on fire. I'm looking forward to pumpkin pie and playing with my nieces, and even to the scurry of Christmas shopping. I'm looking forward to kissing my husband and relaxing with him at home. And hell, maybe somewhere in there someone calls me and gets me employed again. One can always hope.

Friday, October 1, 2010

The Doppler Waitress...

...and other tales from our local diner.

Having a neighborhood place to eat where they know you by sight and possibly by name is a comfort. There is something about people noticing that you've existed before and that you continue to exist -even better, with money, in their establishment- that makes you feel like you're part of the strange circular machinations of human social structure.

We had 2 diners to choose from at one time, but the poor benighted Starlight Diner succumbed to the economic downturning of the country and is no more. Rest in peace, you made awesome grits and biscuits and gravy... *sigh* BUT... this left us with the great Happy Days Diner (aka the "Finer Diner" in smaller neon looping underneath the main name in bright glowing red) that is as 50's prone as one might think given the name. There is a jukebox in the middle of the room that at one point played CDs but now houses the tuner for Sirius/XM radio, always tuned in to the 50's channel.

It is run, ironically, by Egyptians. A family, in fact, and we know each and every one of them because they all work there and we see at least one of them each time we are there. It's kind of neat watching them because it's obvious they work hard for the place and are trying to make a go of things feeding working class folk on the outskirts of Philly. At one point one of the waitresses, intent on being friendly, advised us that the cook, related to the owner somehow, was kicked out of Egypt for political reasons and is now living in our area after having been granted political asylum. He apparently was a learned professor of some sort. Now he cooked our scrambled eggs. I didn't want to know that as I ate my breakfast. It seemed horribly unfair; at the same time it was immensely fascinating. If we were cast ashore on some foreign country, former white collar workers used to using our minds and not our hands for work, would we survive? As I crunched on my bacon my mind assured me we would fidget to death washing dishes, and I should probably not cause political unrest or anything interesting enough to catch the government's attention... the prospect of cooking someone's eggs in another country seemed a bleak and depressing fate.

We get to know some of the waiters and waitresses that stay there... not their names, but they get nicknames. Like "the happy guy", or "the gal with a lot of bracelets", or "the owner's kid". Titles meaningful only between the seats of our booth. But for the most part the rest of the staff, a good 80%, change constantly.

We only make it out there perhaps once a month these days, just enough to note the change in staff, the addition of things like pastry cases and a new omelette to the breakfast menu. They know us on sight, smile, and immediately take us to a booth. It's always the owner or his brother that seats us, and I'm fairly sure they know when we walk in that we're going to ask for a booth. They're good like that.

But tonight we noted the permanent departure of what was probably one of the most interesting characters we'd ever encountered there. More interesting than "new girl learning the ropes" who stood there in stark terror when told to ask us for something in our order as she was being trained. More interesting than "guy cleaning the salad buffet" who dropped an entire bus container of glassware and spent 10 minutes swearing in Spanish at people giving him crap over it.

She... she was unique. She was "Doppler Waitress".

At first we couldn't figure out WHY we had such a hard time hearing her. We would know she'd just asked us a question, but only catch the last third of it. We would also only realize she'd asked us after a few moments, not aware she'd walked up. Both of these seemed very strange. For about two visits we bandied about the idea that she was one of those notorious low talkers, but it didn't hold. When she was next to us we heard her clearly. So what was going on?

At one point when we were there waiting for our breakfast order, I watched her round a corner, looking intently at a table of four behind and catty-corner to us. She was 30 feet from them. But that didn't stop her from beginning to voice the question she had for them about their order, speaking in the same tone all the way down the aisle as if she were standing right next to them.. I watched their oh so familiar momentary confusion, overheard them ask her to repeat it, then watched her walk off.

Further observation bore out this behavior. As soon as she had her patrons in sight, she would begin talking to them, asking them how their food was, if they wanted X with their order, if they needed anything else... sometimes not even bothering to check if they were listening to her or waiting to start because they were in the midst of conversation. She simply started talking, and you only ever caught the last half to the last third of it as she walked up.

Thus identified, we learned to keep an eye out for her and lipread to guess what she was trying to ask us from 50 feet away. Because of her tendency to come towards you, bouncing sound whether you heard it or not, we dubbed her "the Doppler waitress".

Having not seen her the past two times, tonight's visit signals that she has officially moved on from Happy Days Diner, asking people from many dozen yards away if they want more coffee at some other locale. We wish her well... and that she would sort of wait until she got to the table to ask if we needed anything else.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

The Person I Wanted To Be

You know when you're little and everybody says hey, what do you want to be when you grow up? and you've been just waiting with that answer, wiggling in excitement to shout it out? Something like "FIREMAN!" or "VETERINARIAN!" or "CHIPPENDALES DANCER!"
Me, I never had that. At some point I realized that not having an answer brought about adults who were of the opinion that you absolute HAD to have an answer to it and would grill you with other questions to help you figure out what you wanted to do right there on the spot. At 5 you were absolutely bound by unspoken adult laws to decide on a career path for the comfort of the person asking you about it. It makes me wish I knew the phrase "Body Fluids Analyst" for those times.
I would shrug sometimes and get shy when the question was pursued further. Eventually when I wasn't playing they would say something like "you like animals, I bet you'd make a really good vet!" and I would nod because, hey, I was 5 and that path was open to me. It was entirely possible. Eventually I settled on telling people "Marine Biologist" because I liked dolphins, because there were dolphin posters alllll over my damned room, and by that time I'd accidentally let it out of the bag that I was clever. I was expected to want to be something clever and scientific. So for a while, that worked.
But you and I both know that what we tell people we want to be and deep down what we really wanted to be are two different and philosophically disparate things.
What I really wanted to do was to travel, adventure,and see things around the world. I wanted to be a nice person and help strangers. I wanted to tell stories for people to enjoy and I wanted to be a sort of non-violent sea going pirate, or perhaps a gypsy. But that doesn't pay college loans and your parents don't get to see you much when you do that, so when I made my first few rumblings along those lines I got the humoring laugh with a comment about my great imagination.
Right. So you don't tell your parents you really want to be a rock star or a model. Or a professional gypsy. Or, actually as I found out later, DO NOT TELL THEM YOU WANT TO BE AN ARTIST OR A WRITER!!! Because that gets equal "huh" billing, along with talks about how you could fit such things in around your "real" job.

So here it is, years later, and we are walking harmlessly through the most inoffensive of cities, Portland, Maine. We are on our way to see some of the few sights that we managed to glean from the narrow helpings on the internet. And as we are headed there I am slowly realizing a few things - that I am traveling like a gypsy... not a lot, sometimes not far, but we do travel. We do see new things and seek out new experiences. We watch people, in fact we were watching people as we walked to get a "feel" for the east coasterly Portlandians. We are visiting bookstores and looking through used books. I am personally venturing in to sections usually not frequented by others - birding, gardening, identifying mushrooms that are yummy vs. those that will Keel You Dead. That sort of thing. And I realize that this was all what I'd pictured myself doing as a younger girl... taking photographs, "feeling" a place instead of visiting it, enjoying what we came across... it was very strange.
Then came the greatest confirmation of this whole thing; we stepped in to a comic book store on Congress Avenue. The man behind the counter who appears to be the owner greets us... and no matter what we pick up, what we say to one another under our breath, he is immediately there with a comment, talking about what we were holding, giving us additional info on the artist or writer or what have you.... and I found, to my surprise, that I was able to talk with him on just about everything he brought up.
It is my personal idiom to be a half-hearted fanatic of things. I have always loved Edward Abbey's thoughts on the matter - "One final paragraph of advice: Do not burn yourself out. Be as I am-a reluctant enthusiast... a part time crusader, a half-hearted fanatic. Save the other half of yourselves and your lives for pleasure and adventure." And as such I have always striven to know about things, to learn further, but not to be consumed by the knowledge. Not to be consumed by the need to "keep up" or be seen as an expert on anything. It has always served me well in the saving of time, money and anger. For this reason if anyone asks me how well I know something I say "not too much". I know enough to listen to others and tell if they're full of shit, and this has been enough.
But suddenly, whereas I had been someone who "read comics sometimes", it now shifted to someone who can talk about it with somebody else, and actually have a decent conversation. I was, to some extent and within the particular genres I stuck to... educated. Geeky, even. I was actually proud of myself and realized that this, this geeky thing, this little tab on the edge of mainstream culture, was something I was good at. It was something I had wanted to be good at, as with video games and computers and photography and any other number of things.
Expanding my view, I realized that while I was no expert, I was beyond hobbyist in a great many areas. Could I give a talk on these things? Nope. But I could have an educated conversation. I knew my little geeky corner of the world. My geeky, artsy, gypsy-esque corner of the world, as we spent time taking pictures of Portland.
The person that I thought I would be shelving in order to have a white collar job that paid bills and let me watch cable TV refused to stay put and has been deviously seeping in to my every day mindset for the past 15 years. She was who I was supposed to be, and by slow aeons she made her way in to direct my research, my interests and my spending dollars.
I'm exactly who I thought I might be, and who I wanted to be. The world didn't get to tell me how to be realistic (and screw them anyway, yeah?). I'm proud of what I've learned and become... and it just seems poetic and fitting that this realization should strike me while talking about Italian erotic manga in the middle of a city in the Great North. Such has my life been.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

The Epiphany You Can't Have

Something circular about my life was completed on Friday, but if I had to tell you what exactly it was that I finished I couldn't truly hold forth. There was simply a feeling of being done with something, and that I could move on.
Where it occurred was unexpected. We were headed home from Maine, the tail end of our trip to celebrate our first anniversary together still ahead of us. Thoreau's Walden Pond was on the way, and we wanted to stop and see what inspired him so much... so we pulled in, talked to the most disinterested woman in the world to get our parking pass, and headed forth.
The pond itself seems a bit of a misnomer. It would be Walden Lake were I in charge of mapping it. Perhaps some limitation of depth or width I'm unaware of stuck it within the "pond" category. But to me if you look out across a body of water and the other side of it is obscured by the mid-day haze... it's a lake.
Semantics aside, it was beautiful. The leaves were only just starting to change, so the spurts of color were rare and far between. The pines, birches and maples were no less beautiful in the bright sunlight, though, and the sounds of children playing on the makeshift beach (screaming THERE'S A SHARK IN THE WATER! followed by shrieks and splashing that signaled the hasty exit of the whole group) gave the air of familiarity to the place. It was most definitely a place embraced by the people of Concord, and from all the trail work it was evident that it was well loved and protected.
As we walked, I looked around and wondered aloud to my husband how many people came to this place hoping for their own epiphany like Thoreau had, and how many went away disappointed because it was water and trees like so many other places in parks. My husband paused a moment, then said that the people who came here didn't come for their own epiphanies. They were coming to have Thoreau's... and they would not have it, because they were not Thoreau. But perhaps they would understand better why these thoughts arose.
My husband is a wise man... I had to agree. If you were not there to treat this place as a park, you were there on some eco-pilgrimage trying to become the Eye Observing Itself in nature.
I looked around me. I looked up. I looked down. I looked at the details, and zoomed out to the big picture. It was water. And earth. And trees. And it was not the location at all, but the man that was capable of the thoughts brought about by this location. One could just as equally unlock the mysteries of the universe seated next to a dumpster as out here. I suppose I knew this, but the lack of anything hushed or sacred about the place did tip something over in my heart to run out through my feet. Disappointment, I suppose? Expectations are a bitch when they're not met.
It was the gift of Thoreau and Emerson and Whitman that originally started me on my journey as eco-warrior, that drove me to take up classes in Seattle and have a turbulent second and partial third decade of my life. I still have the books saved from that long ago Christmas, hardback editions with beautiful paper covers that held bold black and white images of the writers, seemingly serene in front of the lens. When I found these men quoted in Buddhist compilations the part of me that is still a teenager wiggled in joy and read avidly on, seeking the connection between those first words that drove me to seek and my path now.
It smelled like a lake. I couldn't get over that it SMELLED like a lake. Like the Vatican should be discovered to have a mild scent of urine about it. And then I laughed at myself for thinking that any body of water wouldn't smell like any other body of water I'd hiked around.
So there it was. The meaning is in the man. You bring with you whatever a place is going to be for you. Which I suppose I knew in the back of my mind from my Buddhist studies, but the clearness of it was like a smack to the forehead. Thoreau could come here and add his thoughts to the Transcendental movement because he was Thoreau, thinking his thoughts, basing it on his knowledge.
We stood in front of the replica of Thoreau's cottage and the statue out front in bronze that was chained to a nearby tree for some reason (these small details make my day) and I felt something close in my mind. As if the child that I was, the one that craved to be one with the nature around me, that wanted the experience of those early fathers of environmentalism, could finally understand how and why these things occurred. More importantly, why people love what they love and defend it ferociously. I walked away from the cabin somewhat quieter, feeling relieved for reasons I didn't understand yet. My husband held my hand, sensing as he does in his intuitive way that something had shifted in my skull, and I tried to tell him what was going on in my head but the words failed me. So much of my life is sensation, movement and pictures that conveying it poses problems. It was easiest just to tell him I was starting to understand why people love people, places, things... something that had always eluded me and puzzled me.
It's because you bring it with you to love something, and when you are confronted with it your heart leaps out to meet it, happy to have finally recognized it.
Walden Pond is water. It is very loved water, and a beautiful place. I took my epiphanies -that were not epiphanies at all but the resurfacing of things I had known for a while but been unable to practicably apply- brought about by staring at a reconstruction of a building that hadn't existed for decades, and got in the car and drove on towards home.

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Allez Cuisine!

I love to cook, and I love nothing more than the chance to create something spectacular when friends and family come over. In fact, it's become a point of pride and my family and friends have come to be excited when they arrive because they'll be treated to something they haven't tried before, usually somewhat exotic.
I thoroughly enjoy cooking Japanese food, and have dabbled in Moroccan and Indian multiple times. I have specialty pans for cooking foods from those countries.
Last night I had a good friend over who insisted on cooking us dinner. She rendered an absolutely fabulous Italian meal that made my house smell glorious and left us with a huge bowl of leftovers to be doled out over the next few days.
I raved over it because it was so many simple ingredients put together in an outstanding way. She insisted it was very simple, and I watched her intently the entire time to see how it was made. She had it put together and done in about half an hour. I was astounded.
She was a sweetheart and commented on how I was incredibly good with exotic and unique foods and how she enjoyed when I'd cooked those. But as we talked it slowly made me realize that yes, I can whip up okonomiyaki or pumpkin scallop soup a la the French recipes I have.... but I don't have a friend chicken recipe. I can't make biscuits from scratch. Meatloaf still eludes me in its proper creation. And I can't even think of normal food to make for dinner.
As we talked I realized that the reason I avoid food from my native country is that I feel intimidated. I have fond memories of foods from my youth, but I realize I don't know how to make them. It worries me that I will look up a recipe online and make it, and it will taste nothing like what I remember. Why this is such a mental block to me, I'm unsure. Perhaps it's my fear of failing -something long acknowledged as able to completely paralyze me. But at the same time I think it's that I have always just associated these things with my Mom and Dad, and not something that I cook.
It is now a goal of mine to remember meals from when I was younger and either attempt to get the recipe from my Mom (something I've requested before but that never materialized, as she's a busy lady) or try to find something off the internet that sounds very similar to what I had.
Amusingly, the hardest part of all of this will be recalling what I used to eat. In my lengthening age I find that i tend to remember the meals I did NOT like, or the odd incidents by the notorious Great Scrambled Eggs Fight of 1988 (we had to clean dried egg off the ceiling). Just recalling a regular meal is proving to be surprisingly hard!
My first attempt will be making tacos, something that we had often when I was younger. The cooking ground beef with the spice packet, the crunchy shells, the squishy sour cream... I remember these things. I remember many variations on it too... taco salad, burritos... 6 ingredients served up many different ways with many happy associations.
There must be more, but I can only recall this and chicken a la king (not a favorite). Side dishes like mashed potatoes and fried okra sneak in to my mind. But you can't make a meal of just those. Well... you could, but it'd be damned odd and not very healthy.
Over the next few days, probably in to the next few weeks or months, I'm going to have to sit down and write up a list of things -everything- that I remember from when I was younger. Desserts, drinks, smells, are all going on a piece of paper as I try to remember what exactly sustained me and got me to this point - something that I find strangely and disturbingly hard to recall. Perhaps attention should be paid to that strange blank spot my mind holds up when I think on this, but for now I just want to remember what the hell I shoveled in my mouth as a youngster.
I suspect it won't be healthy. After all... I come from Southern stock. That makes it something I'm really looking forward to, even so.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Because having an overactive Muse is cheaper than a carton of cigarettes...

I discovered something about myself today that was at once exciting and also depressing. That thing is that when I am in a corner or I feel out of control, I create. I create like freakin' mad. I cook, I sew, I write, I knit like a banshee (if banshees knit - and if they don't, they should) and crochet like a fiend. Because I can't do anything else with the outside world, but I can make something with my own two hands. I can shape it, form it, complete it, and look upon it happily. It is mine, it is something that I saw from start to finish, and it was something that I was absolutely certain of how to work with the entire way.
Exciting, yes? When I'm feeling trapped, I MAKE stuff. I create because I can't NOT create, but there's something about not being able to move in other parts of my life that shunts all of that nervous energy in to this under-dwelling, subconscious drive that. Which also means when I experience an explosion of creativity, it's when I feel most lost in my life.
May not hold 100% true, but in looking back over the last few months I note a pretty decent correlation between times I was frustrated or panicked and the wave of created things floating around the house. Starting new socks projects? Check. Cooking crazy foreign concoctions for multiple dinners in one week? Check. Learning about a new hobby? Double-check. Some of this did come on the tails of being freed from 2.5 years of hell courtesy of college online, and another when I was excited to send small gifts to a friend overseas. But for the most part, I grab for paper or brushes or yarn when I feel like life is kicking me in the gut and leaving me in the alley in the rain.
Fantastic and awesome Buddhist-esque revelation from this: NONE. It simply is, its what I do, although the acknowledgment in and of itself that it simply is does border a bit on the Zen attitude.
There really is nothing to be "done" about this realization, as it doesn't really detract from every day life. It does bring a little stress in when I think about all of the projects I might have going that are unfinished - we won't offer a number of how many that is, you'd balk and wonder if I'm nuts- but I am okay with dropping things to the back burner to work on them later. I have a crocheted sweater that I've been waiting to finish for over a year. I'm okay with that, and once Bob's sweater is done I'm going to sashay over and finish that puppy since I'm just one more sleeve away from completion on the entire thing.
If anything I can slowly figure out how to turn it to my advantage. If I know it's a habit of mine, I can set up projects in bundles and have them waiting so I'm not casting about helplessly. Or I could keep a running list of what's out there waiting for completion and just slam through it, checking them off like a pro. But in the end, it's just something I do, it's my outlet for nervous energy; and thank god that I immediately look to a skein of yarn or my Copic markers and not to a bottle of alcohol or a syringe of dream juice to deal with it.

I suppose if there was anything to take away from this, then it would be the thing that hit me upside the head today.
Ever have one of those moments where your brain seems to yell at you like you're an idiot in a voice that sounds almost like you, but somehow older, wiser, and as if it's rolling its eyes at you every time you hear it? This occurs to me sometimes. Today, as I was sitting here going in circles over my lack of employment and the lack of job openings, this voice came to me. And it said


There was a subtext of wearing myself out emotionally, of being foolish to tire myself by trying to grasp at straws in the illusion of giving myself control over a situation with too many factors out of my reach.


And I immediately realized that I had... I've been doing my best, I've been trying hard, and the unique percolation of my history, the economy, the geographic location and what I want for my life are clashing right now. One of these things will have to shift before I will be able to move forward. It's easiest for me to shift, so I'm pondering what I'm willing to give up in my goals for now in order to get where I want to go eventually, but still be able to do reasonable adult things like pay bills and eat.
And in the meantime, while I'm frustrated that things just ain't shifting, I'm just going to knit a shit-ton of socks and sweaters and small toys. It's just not really a loosing situation in that light.

Actual Conversation #93 - wherein Helen and her Mother share new knowledge...

I don't remember how we got on the subject of furries, but this is how it ended:

Me: People that wear fur suits for sexual gratification are called "furries". It's under the sexual fetishes section of the DSM IV.
Mom: Oh? You think I should read that section?
Me: Do you like bubblegum?
Mom: Yes I do!
Me: You won't after you read that section.

My mom had the good graces to not continue the conversation. She seems to know me and my methods...

Wednesday, August 11, 2010


It isn't often that I will admit to a weakness. I think in truth it was perhaps 25 years before I even admitted that I was wrong, so you've an idea how much it pains me to appear not in control.
Which, if you think about it is entirely laughable because it is literally impossible to control every aspect of one's life. Acknowledging that is a big part of realizing impermanence in every moment of the day.
But Buddhist musings aside, I must admit that from time to time I deal with bouts of loneliness that can be almost crippling.
I've no idea where they come from, really, though I do know that it builds over days or weeks before something triggers it. Usually it's a misunderstanding between myself and one of my friends, or the realization that I haven't talked to someone in a long time.
At these times I revisit the reason I've got these problems in the first place; that is, I really, really suck at talking to people. I have a hard time expressing what I'm trying to think, and having spent most of my childhood and teenage years as a loner with minimal number of friends I never really had a chance to practice.
When it sets in very quickly there is no way out until it passes, during which I am certain that I have screwed up all of my friendships or somehow pissed everyone off. Or I am somehow so deficient in my ability to process social interactions and stimuli that everyone humors me. Even my family, I start to think, has their own lives now and prefer not to chat with me because I've been so cranky and inconstant in the past.
It is difficult to be friends with me. I get bitchy about things, I bite heads off, I get snarky when people start to make assumptions -for some reason it got in my head that it was my job to point out when people aren't actually thinking things through... because I'm arrogant like that- and I can't remember birthday dates for the life of me. (The dyscalculia might have something to do with that.) I forget to check phone messages and return texts. For me it isn't too hard to take a step from that and feel that people are just putting up with me for the times I'm actually amusing.
These little moments do me no good, and leave me curled up on the couch hugging a stuffed animal feeling lonely and without energy. It messes with me for a day or three and I know that it hits Bob rather hard. He hates not being able to help and he hates it when I am not happy. So there's the double-bummer of knowing that I'm also upsetting him while I'm having my tizzy.
I think the truth is somewhere along the lines of this: I have few friends, but I have good friends who are interesting and funny. They probably understand that I'm prone to outbursts and that I will apologize for it later when it occurs to me I screwed up. Birthday gifts will be late, but they will show up. They expect me to be scatter-brained and know I'm something of a loner anyway, and they allow for that. Anybody that doesn't just go with these things was long ago culled and doesn't talk to me anymore. I need to try and remember these things.
At some point I may get over this and just sigh when I realize I haven't talked with someone in a while... and then turn around and contact them to see how they're doing. It won't phase me, and I won't lose hours or days of my life pondering my shortcomings as a friend or family member. At some point I might, oh say, be in the moment and just go with it. Think it'll take a bit more introspection and meditation before we're there, though.
I started this entry feeling that loneliness and end it now feeling grateful for those that do talk to me and would call me a friend if asked point blank about it. People communicate as best they can. Being accepting of that fact goes a long way towards getting rid of the malaise, as does taking a step back and really taking a look at what's going on outside of one's own self-pitying funk. For this, practice will only make perfect.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Death Be Not Proud

It is probably no secret that I do not deal well with death.
That is not to say that I do it any worse or any better than anyone else. I think death, in general, is a tough thing for anybody with a sentient brain to comprehend.
My cat Daisy had been sick since last Thursday, when she howled and collapsed in the office. I was fairly sure I was holding a dead cat in my arms as she stared at the floor, unresponsive.
We gathered her up and rushed her to the pet emergency room in Malvern, where they took her in and started tests on her. She perked up and lived to the next morning. I let myself be a bit less dismal about her chances.
With each day that we visited, she was just a bit better, looking up, blinking, looking around and responding to our voices. But each night she backslid a little, just enough to make the doctor's worry.
We finally got the feeding tube in her, and suddenly she began a spiral downward. She didn't come out of it. We had one evening of her meowing and responding to us and standing up when we petted her, then we suddenly had an afternoon of watching her stair in to space and drool. As she struggled to breathe, we realized that she wasn't going to be coming home with us, and did one of the toughest things we'll probably ever have to do. She was put to sleep as we held and petted her.
I have small, ridiculous rituals that I do whenever a cat passes. Having fostered several, I've done it a few times. Cleaning the face of the animal, as well as any obviously messy parts of the fur, then placing two pennies with the animal - so they can pay the boatman to cross. Sometimes I will cover the face if the eyes aren't closing. Daisy's did, so it wasn't necessary.
We cried, we petted some more, and I felt just gutted. The night before we'd been discussing with the vet techs how to go about feeding her through the tube they'd inserted. It was a shock to go from planning feeding times for her to signing euthanasia paperwork.
I'm sure I need not articulate this for anyone else who has ever lost a pet. They are well familiar with the pain that comes.
Something was different this time, though. I was grateful to get to put her to sleep, grateful that she was aware enough to know we were there and that she was purring up until the doctor gave the injection that knocked her unconscious. She'd been gasping for air as we held her, and my only regret was that we'd told them to wait 10 minutes instead of 5 to come in. She truly struggled the last few minutes. I'm fairly certain I was listening to her die in my arms even before the injection.
When it was done we walked outside and my ears pulled in the sounds of a mocking bird nearby. A butterfly floated across my view headed for a flower somewhere. Storm clouds were pooling overhead, pretending they might become a mighty thunderstorm at any moment. And I realized as I stood there that the rest of the world was going to keep rolling on. She, and my grief, were small cogs in a very large machine, and that we could stop for a bit if we needed to. Everything else was going to keep on and we could catch up when we were finished. It was a lonely place, but also a peaceful place. The world outside was the same after we'd gone in as before we'd gone in. Hard to explain, it simply didn't seem to be a negative as one might think the thought would be.
My current cosmology doesn't really have a heaven, per se. I don't think there's a kitty heaven where pets go to when they die. I don't think they simply end, either, blinking out like a light. They experience a miraculous, glorious shift, and then they are something else so entirely different that we cannot see them or recognize them. That is not to say that Daisy is still around. That which was Daisy is gone, and is not coming back. In a few days they will call and return to us the ashes of what was her body, but even that will not be Daisy. She was fur and blood and big yellow eyes and a willingness to come running whenever she heard me singing or talking on the phone or laughing. Not even the fur is returned to me. I receive flakes of carbon that were her form. She is truly gone from here.
I don't know what to make of my certainty that this is what has happened. It doesn't allow me the comfort that reincarnation or heaven does for people of those faiths. But it feels right. Life is so complex and so beautiful that I can't believe it would stay in this same shape, or form. It must morph, it must move onward to something different that we have not grasped yet.
So... my girl is gone. My throat clenches in pain even as I type this. But for the first time, I am okay a mere 12 hours after putting her to sleep. I'm okay with life, and with there not being life anymore.
I still think I here her meowing as she walks up. I thought last night I felt her jump up on the bed and walk up in between us to be pet like she'd done every night before going to the hospital. I keep expecting to see her nose poking out from under the bed. It's because my gray matter was used to the stimulation, and hasn't yet processed that it's gone. My cat, right now, is like the twitching of a phantom limb. Clinical, perhaps, but I am okay with that description. She made enough of an impact in my life that her absence causes my mind to try and recreate her interactions with me. I think it say a lot for what she meant to me.
When she was younger, she was a very skittish cat. She would hide for days. Bob joked to one of the vet techs that he lived with me and didn't see the cat for 2 months initially.
Daisy would always come out if I sang, though. She came out double fast if I sang
"Somewhere Over the Rainbow". I came to associate that song with her, as she would sit or stand in my lap and purr away while singing and patting her at the same time.
As we sat and talked last night, I was telling Bob how I was alternately telling myself to just get over things and move on, and feeling upset for not wanting to honor her memory. I was torn, and trying to just give myself a break.
As we were finishing dinner, that song came on. I heard it, and though I am not big on believing in messages from the other side, the timing was so heavy with synchronicity that I just stared. I still argue with myself whether it was an accident, or The Universe trying to tell me it was going to be okay. For now, because I need it, I'm choosing to believe that someone's trying to tell me everything's going to be okay.
As I played the song again Chaucer made his way to the desk immediately and laid down as we listened. This seems significant too, while I am looking for mystical signs from the world.
I love you, baby girl. I am so glad you're not suffering anymore. Whatever and wherever you are now, I hope it's fun.


Friday, June 25, 2010

SakuraCam - the Field Test

After running around several states taking pictures of things I managed to finish the never-ending roll of film in SakuraCam!
By several states I mean my house, then on the way back from CT in Easton, PA, then in Harrisburg PA... it only seems like several because we drove through so many states before the roll was done, to clarify.
They came back from the drug store and I must say that after playing with them, I can see some real potential with it, but that it will only turn out good images if I stick with very specialized settings.
For instance, in this is a shot of my front porch. It took a very wide angle, catching up under the eaves (which I had not intended) and grabbed every color it could. But it also washed the blue-reds out of it. The butterfly bush I was taking photos of has distinctly dark purple and indigo flowers, and in this image they appear almost crimson. (Click the image to take a closer look.) This became a trend as I looked through the roll.
But with that in mind, and noting that it tended to wash the sky out to a bright white even when the camera was pointed straight at the blue, I continued through and began to see other features of the camera.
It most definitely possesses the dark vignetting so prized in toy cameras, though not to the degree that I had hoped or seen on other photos using the same model kit camera. It does have a beautiful hazy edge around the outside, and only the very middle is in sharp contrast. This could lead to a lot of very awesome setups in the future if I have the right panorama to take photos of.
As I looked through the photos, I began to realize that the camera was capable of capturing very fine detail, even if it was washed out and hazy around the edges. For instance in this image, the picture was taken through a screen door and you can see every square very clearly. You can also make out a lot of detail of the landscape beyond. I enjoy this picture because, as Bob put it, it has a very "Matrix-y" feel to it. It reduced the back yard to colored squares, and the unfocused nature of it made this combination possible.
In the future what this camera will be used for is areas of high detail, landscapes, cityscapes, and anywhere that a lot of detail or a lot of space could be captured. It would look spectacular with black and white film, and I already have a roll of it in there already. Without the color to distract, the vignetting and blurring will come to the forefront as details and would work nicely for that.
I could easily see this being used with 100 speed color film to catch some glorious and beautiful details, as even 200 speed seemed to be a bit too "tight" (I can think of no other word to explain the look) on the edges. With how much light it lets in, I'm betting that it would do well even on a cloudy day. I intend to try it out myself once I have a job and can afford to mess around with film again.
All in all I'm glad to have gotten the test roll out of the way. Some of the images were very bland and boring, and I know that, as with all plastic cameras, sometimes even the best framed image will end up boring and washed out or ill framed, and I just accept it. But now I know what I'll have a better shot at with the camera. I can't wait to take it with me to OCNJ, OCMD and Maine to test it out.
My closing image- one of my favorites captured on this roll of film, the colors are almost entirely true to life. The Artists' Alley in Easton PA, behind the Crayola Factory (ya rly):

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Helen gets schooled on the concept of growing where you're planted

It is getting to be the heart of summer, with birds singing en force and fireflies putting on their unbelievable ancient and electric light shows in the humid night. The flowers are beginning to come up in stages, and I realized I've started to calculate the passage of time by the plants that have come up. Dogwood time is passed, clover time is raging, and tigerlily time has just exploded in orange along the roadsides. I'm hoping this year I can catch them bobbing in the breeze this year.
Perhaps the most surprising thing, though, is the butterfly bush by the front door.
When we first purchased it, it was just a small shrub, maybe a foot and a half. Bob looked at me dubiously when I proclaimed it would get up to 10 feet high by the next year and said "okaaaay...", letting me put it in the ground without much thought.
This year it has put our entire front porch in shade. It is easily 8 feet across and has exceeded 10 feet in height. When it rains the wait curves the branches toward the earth in a semi circle of vibrant green and deep, dark purple.
When I initially planted the poor thing I did my best to amend our horrible clay soil that allows no drainage in the hopes of giving the plant a chance. But after digging down about 9 inches I hit a thick layer of gravel, with even harder clay underneath. I was terrified the bush was doomed to die, and we would never see the butterflies and bees dancing around its blooms.
Obviously I was horribly wrong and a terrible underestimator of plants' desire to stay alive and flourish.
I think what is most awesome -in the true and dictionarial sense of the word- about it is that I took something that was tiny in comparison to myself and put it in the ground. Two years later the thing is huge, and it is definitely established. Unless the next individuals who move in here cut it down, it's here to stay. It can handle rain, snow, drought, blazing heat, wind... and does so with an explosion of blooms each year that screams "NEENER NEENER, is that all ya got?!"
It's amazing. It feeds so many things, and it perfumes the air with the gentle scent so like sweet mead that I stop often just to breathe deeply and smile.
I wonder if they transplant well? If so, I want to take it with us when we finally move.

That brings me to the second focus of these ponderings. Our car was broken in to Monday night at some point. Nothing was taken that we can tell, they were just assholes and dumped the paperwork in the glove compartment shortly before exiting and leaving the car door open so the dome light was probably on. Up until this point we'd never really thought of this place as having security issues. It's a nice place, and when we moved in it had nice people that mostly kept to themselves.
Courtesy of the recession we've seen a turnover in the "flavor" the neighborhood has now. More pitbull owners that let their dogs just shit everywhere. More people who pile 20 in to a house made for 6. More vandalism, more break ins, and in general the place is taking a downward slide. My dislike of the place sort of came to a head when I realized that someone local had to have done this... because the car was in the driveway directly under our office window and right by a streetlamp. Somebody canvasing with half a brain would've avoided the place. So some dickhead, probably a kid, popped in to our car and made a mess of it. And that is now the type of neighborhood I live in.
I was already frustrated with the poor quality linoleum that was peeling up, and the crappy carpet they put in, obviously with the idea that they would be tearing up and replacing it after 2 years because of the usual turnover rate. I'm sick of having to replace every appliance because they put in such low-market crappy things to begin with just to say they had 'em in there on the price tag. I'd been looking forward to getting the hell out of here before the light fixture they've done a crap job if fixing twice now finally crashes down on either my or Bob's head.
After we discussed a few things last night, though, we realized that without significant savings to put towards the house our lives would be miserable and month to month. As badly as I want out of here and in to our own place, it is not to be right now.
There was a moment of despair, sure. I can't paint these walls without being forced to repaint them at the end. I have to caulk the holes for every picture I hang, so we hadn't been hanging that many. We weren't buying furniture because we hadn't anticipated staying here that long. So right now we are jenga'ed in to this place, and though it is definitely home, it still has the look of a way station.
So I was carrying these thoughts in my mind as I came back from the mailbox today and saw the butterfly bush, huge and covered in blooms, I realized that I was sort of missing the important thing; bloom where you're planted, moron. And right now, this is my bed of clay dirt, gravel and potting soil. I'll use this to get big, and when we're finally ready to exit we'll be joyous, dancing, and fully prepared to do it in a healthy fashion. We'll be able to put down roots easily again in new soil.
So I'm going to be content here, in this moment, and I am going to take my hammer and nails and put a ton of holes in the walls to hang artwork. If this is where we are, I'm making this place feel like ours, damnit.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

June down!

While I’d intended to do a lot more, it turns out that actions taken in the past moved forward today and made it so that I was charitable several times in the last few days.
I discovered Kickstarter courtesy of an acquaintance who asked people to help back her friend’s art magazine she was trying to set up. I took a look, loved what I saw and loved her concept, and threw some money her way. The only thing was, it had to build and rely on the generosity of others, so I wouldn’t know until much later if she would be successful it gaining the funds for the venture. It turned out that she was, and I’m excited to see what comes out from the artists she showcases. I love indie art venues and projects and the new things you’ll see and experience when you don’t go through “official” channels.
Well, after I saw that I realized that there was a world of other projects on Kickstarter hoping for funding just like it. In them had to be some other awesome and amazing ideas, so I began to browse around.
I found a snow cone stand using all natural herbs and fruits for flavorings asking for funding, and an independant horror film that needed funds. So I bellied up to the bar and dropped some coin in their coffers, hoping that both ventures would prove successful.
As of today it appears that not only are both successful, they have both bypassed their original goals. For the snow cone folks it will allow them to fix up an old ice cream truck for use, and for the horror movie it’ll give them a bit more wiggle room for props, costumes, equipment, etc…
The charge for the snowcone stand went through yesterday, which is how I found out that they’d succeeded. This led me to check my other project I was backing, and then discovered that the horror movie would be a go as well.
It feels good to have helped others out to achieve a goal and a dream. Really that was the entire point of this goal, to help out others and help them do something in their lives, or take a major worry out of their life so the energy could go elsewhere.
My only regret is that I did not fund the book-mobile. Being driven around in a bike with a cab for an hour with access to a library sounded utterly awesome. We didn’t have the money at the time. I have my fingers crossed that they did just as well as the others.

With her nine inch nails....

I had a bit of a fallback when one of my nails split during my commencement ceremony. Far away from my nail kit and without even a nail file to save me.. I bit. Deeply.
But only one! The rest of them, when I realized I was starting to get antsy about their length, I trimmed back to where they were thicker and not so flimsy (I have a very bad habit of running my lower teeth under my nails when I’m thinking, which weakens and thins them). Thus abated, they were able to continue on undisturbed.
Also helping out is the fact that I now have some more natural looking nail polish colors, stuff besides blaring bright pink or super shiny gold (picked out online, I did not realize what the colors looked like when I got them!) So now I can have fun cleaning off the old lavender frosty stuff that matched the dress I wore to commencement and put on some real-ish color that isn’t distractingly pearlescent.
I note I tend to nibble when stressed, so more meditation is in order as well as general breathing exercises. That ties in to another goal I’ve got, so that’s just dandy with me.
I’m excited that I’ve gone this far. I intend to keep going until I have a set that comes just to my fingertips and keep them there diligently. I may even get a french manicure to celebrate it when it occurs.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Actual Conversation #92 - wherein fastfood's place in evolution is discussed.

(conversation had while exiting drive-thru, to set the scene)
Me: My evolution demands fat and salt! *GROWL*
Bob: *stares at me*
Bob: Are you going to grow a third head?
Me: No. *growl*
Bob: Are you going to start walking around with a blow torch and a stick?
Me: Why would I walk around with a stick? That's silly.
Bob: *pauses*
Bob: I don't know what I was thinking.

I later had to ask why he chose those two implements, and Bob pointed out that I had completely missed the "Pandorum" reference. I am humbled.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

May was not the month for this

So I guess I shall try it again another month. Maybe limit myself to VERY short stories this time.
The problem crept in when I was starting to come up with longer and longer story ideas and realized that I wouldn’t finish them in a day. (nor did I truly have time given my programming classes and due homework.) When that realization struck, I was immediately disheartened and put the story down. I have 3 stories that are decent that are half-finished waiting for me out in the ether because of this very event.
It’s crap. I know it’s crap. I’m going to pick up the stories and finish them. Something about not having the pressure of doing a story a day anymore makes it more acceptable to finish the short story at my own pace.
Interestingly, since I started doing this, stories that I was working on have begun to demand my attention again. Things I haven’t touched in 3 years are waving their hands wildly telling me there are new things to be done with them. I love the thought of being able to sit down with them again. They were good characters, I don’t want to abandon them. Someone else might even enjoy them as I do once I’m done telling their story.
All in all, this has been a good experiment. I think redone with some limits, like it can’t be more than 500 words, would be better and better practice. IT would definitely get the creative juices going to stay within a limit.
It will have to wait, though. (Or perhaps not, if they’re all very short stories!) as June is Sketch-a-Day month. This is my attempt to do 30 drawings to improve my drawing skill. I am trying the carousel method of improving my skills since there’s just too damned many in my arsenal half-developed to really devote time to day by day… Perhaps once they’re a bit better I can rotate weekly, or make room for them every few days. But for now… writing will be done as often as can be remembered while working to improve the sketchies ability. I need both to do what I’m hoping to do in the future, so this is a happy medium for the moment.

Friday, May 28, 2010

An Exercise in Letting Go and Impermanence, courtesy of the Sony Corporation

A few weeks back we had the unthinkable happen in this household - our Playstation 3 died after 30 minutes of playing and refused to let us play any longer even after cleaning it out, reseating a few things and running a fan test. We faced up to the fact that we'd bought it 3 years ago and used the heck out of it. Poor Stewie, as we lovingly called him, had Alzheimer's and he wasn't coming back from it.
We discovered that we could send Stewie in and receive a newer refurbished one for about $100, so we opted to do that. Since most of him worked, just not the fan, his parts could be recycled in to other machines so there was less waste going out in to the world.
We went to great trouble to back Stewie up and copy the files over, and seeing that it showed they were successfully saved, we confidently sent Stewie off in his cardboard coffin, thanking him for 4 long years of service to us.
A week later, we got back a PS3 Slim which doesn't have nearly the charisma of our old PS3, and we dubbed him some ridiculous thing like StewTwo, Or Stewvee2 or... I don't rightly remember. We aren't attached to this one, so its given name (for we name our media appliances in this house) just never stuck.
We did our backup and moved the saved information on to the new device, excitedly expecting to launch back in to God of War III, Heavy Rain, Final Fantasy XIII... all the games we had going right now and that we were planning on getting in the future. Then, excitedly, we signed in....and discovered that 4 years of gaming had been lost.
Every song on Guitar Hero and Rock Band, gone. Every goofy moment in LittleBigPlanet that Bob and I had playing it together - obliterated. The story line we so lovingly uncovered from Shadow of the Colossus? No more.
I will admit that in that moment, realizing my beloved Noby-Noby boy was ripped from my hands, I was upset. My entire progress playing Kuon, a game that scares the sh*t out of me, is gone and I have to start over from scratch. It's a Japanese horror game. It doesn't matter that I know when the spooky things show up, up until a point. JAPANESE HORROR FREAKS ME THE F*** OUT. And I was seriously invested in the story line, so now I gotta drag myself through that again.
I spent the better part of a morning thinking about how we'd put all that time in to the games, and how it was gone now, like that, without a way to get it back. If we wanted to have Dante's Inferno progress back, we'd have to play through it, same as with everything else. (I may actually be the one to play through this time, though.)
Basically these things were impermanent, and I let their loss kick me in the stomach repeatedly until I was sick over them. Like the realization of how much time I'd lost with friends and family sinking hours into my troll mage in World of Warcraft. When it's all gone, there is nothing to show for it.
It's literally no different than life. Instead of a hard drive being wiped, though, it's the human being. Everything you've done or said or thought just blips out of existence.
In the end Bob was the savior of the moment, reminding me that we could always replay Rock Band, Guitar Hero and Little Big Planet. The other games, if we REALLY wanted to, could be played again. We hadn't gotten rid of any of them, they were all still around. Noby Noby boy could be re-downloaded. But in the end it was pixels, electrons, nothing but time spent and lost. We still had the memories of the games.
I eventually calmed down from all of this and accepted that it had happened. After all, it was a waste of energy to be angry over something that had already happened and that couldn't be changed. I like the idea of replaying the old games and experiencing their fun, especially since we can't get a bunch of new ones right now. In the end it's another practical application on "things" and how having and losing them causes distress. I fell right in to it, and am embarassed to say that it happened. But in the future I will definitely have this to look back on and learn from. When I start to feel the same, I'll recognize the hooks this time (hopefully) and catch myself. I'll be able to short-circuit it and understand that all things come and go. Sometimes more so in the digital age when we are less based in the physical world to begin with.

A 360 of the nasty storm setting in yesterday evening. To quote Bob, "It looks like the Smoke Monster is coming!"

Sometimes I forgot how close to our back door the wild is...

Mother duck and 9 babies that wandered right up on our deck while looking for food.

This message was sent using the Picture and Video Messaging service from Verizon Wireless!

Monday, May 24, 2010

Actual Conversation #91 - wherein business ideas are discussed.

me: I know I've got to get this day started, but I am really having a hard time of it. *chuckle*
gru: Heh, yeah, that's why I rely on coffee. After 2 cups it's easier for me.
me: Hmmm... coffee to wake up in the morning. It's quite a concept.
gru: *chuckles* Indeed, I'm thinking of patenting it.
me: You could open, like, a store that's about that!
gru: Oooo, good idea!
me: Then we could, like, BUY coffee there in the mornings.
And if you offered muffins for $2, since people are sleepy and haven't had their coffee yet...
...they'd be like..., a muffin sounds good. And $2 is in my wallet...
gru: That's so brilliant it just might work!!!
me: And they would totally pay 4 times what a muffin's really worth
gru: :-)

(Been a while since we've had one of these, thought I would share. To top it off, I was surprised to note I've never tagged a post with the word "coffee" before, so that's changing today.)

Friday, May 21, 2010

Getting there!

Today a TON of new clothing arrived. Managed to snag multiple very cute t-shirts from the sales racks at different online shops. They’re all very clean cut, very pretty and very feminine. And even though they’re mostly T-shirts, I thoroughly believe it’s possible to be elegant even when wearing bluejeans.
I’m going to go through and empty out every old piece of clothing that has a stain, a hole, or something else in it that makes me feel ratty or ghetto when wearing it, and I’m going to throw out or donate it depending on the state of the item.
From here on out I am only keeping and wearing clothing that makes me feel beautiful, feminine and well put together. Today was a huge step towards that goal.
Following on this I’m going to work on the other things that go along with looking put-together… Going to throw out any makeup that’s older than 2 years (I have some things from college. Ew.) and culling my jewelry collection as well. Then i’ll be replacing it with newer, subtler shades (sorry, panic purple lipstick!) Also, going to FINALLY learn how to put on eye makeup, since the only way I ever learned involved black eyeliner and heavy kohl from the Middle East. That’s a very dramatic look that I can’t pull off anymore, much less want to. Best for belly dancing, aye… but not for the office.
I’ll also be looking for unique but timeless pieces of jewelry that could be worn with anything from t-shirts to dresses. That way they can be used over and over without having to worry about looking dated or formerly trendy/out-of-style. Having worked in a jewelry store before, it’s easy to see what styles stick around and which ones are going to disappear before the fall!
With all this going on, it’s my hope that I’ll be looking well put together and beginning to approach elegant in my every day wear. Part of this goal is to also feel more feminine, something I’ve been missing. And I think if I accomplish one, the other will follow. :)

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Phishing -Yer Doin' it WRONG.

On Fri, May 14, 2010 at 4:07 PM, wow*****@******.com wrote:

When you receive this letter we are reviewing your account.
We have reason to believe that you have participated the illegal business.
To obtain further information, please help us.
Please visit
complete a questionnaire.
If you refuse to cooperate we will be in 48Hours after your account status changes to disable.

On Sat, May 15, 2010 at 5:42 PM, you wrote in reply:

Fuck off. Learn English.

What's great is that my account has been disabled due to me not paying them for about 6 months now. I haven't logged in for at least 8. The blatant poor grammar, misspellings and cadence just makes me think that if someone truly was dumb enough to fall for it, they probably deserve it.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

How to build my own camera

"Super easy with the right supplies!"

How I did it: Being a complete camera fiend, I have been drooling over the Plamodel Camera Kit released by Superheadz. When finished, the thing yields an almost entirely plastic toy camera that uses 35mm film. It's a bit of a cheat to buy a model kit, but it was incredibly easy and way too much fun. I had the whole thing assembled in about an hour. Decorating it actually took much, much longer and was much messier!
When it was done, the result was adorable and 100% personalized. I love this thing!

Lessons & tips: ~easier if you get a kit and want something that's a little more in-depth than a pinhole cam, as it already comes with all the pieces.
~READ THE DIRECTIONS VERY CAREFULLY. By not paying attention you run the risk of breaking something  or putting the wrong part in the wrong place. In this case, after the camera was fully assembled it turned out the springs were reversed, and now the camera has to be opened back up to switch them out since the shutter doesn't close all the way after it was assembled. Learn from my mistake!
~Remember that it's a plastic kit, and it will not be the neatest thing when done. Just have fun doing it!

Resources: ~my kit came from the Four Corner Store, you can find the kit that I used here:

~for decorations I went to Etsy and snagged stickers and small items off the site that came straight from Japan.

~anything else came from craft stores, including glittery glue and other seriously girly looking stuff.

It took me 1 day.

It made me Ecstatic!

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Oh I, I will long as I know how to write I know I'm still alive...

So far I have 8 stories over on, and I am enjoying being able to log in and just store the story there. I’m 4 stories behind, but have plans to write 2 stories over the next 2 days (meant to write 2 today, but today’s story took a lot longer than I thought it would and now I’m rather tired.
I’m actually quite proud of a few of the items I’ve managed to produce, and of those that I am not, I’m excited my brain even came up with the concepts. And the rule is no going back… for now. I can revisit these themes at the end of the month and expand on them or completely change them. some of them I already know I could get more out of, so I’m happy about that. mostly, I’m excited I’ll have 30 stories to my name and that I’m working on my writing.
The more I do this, the more I crave it, and the more I really and truly wish to do this for a living – write fiction, that is. I love the worlds I weave. I want to share them with others for their amusement. this is some of the best practice I’ve ever forced myself to have. I should keep it up after this month is done. :)

Monday, May 10, 2010

Starting today, I am officially refusing to live a normal life. I have too many things I want to do, and having a standard 9-to-5 with a dog and a lawn mower doesn't quite cover it for me. These things I would love to come home to, but I'm going to do more. Lots more. There's no way to set a timeline on it, but these projects sitting around in my head, with each one that I do I release more creative energy. Eventually I'll have no choice but to jump on these and finish them and see what becomes of it.
Rather vague? Yeah. But I'm trying not to jinx what I want to do by defining it too much. I just can't become a housewife with a job at a desk forever and ever... at least, not one where I'm not writing or drawing.
Randomness, but it felt like it needed to be set down in writing. I find that things move more quickly and it sticks in the brain pan far more easily. It's now a goal. I'm only doing things to shoot for my goal going forward, and screw being uncomfortable or not knowing what to do. I'll learn.

Three quarters of the way there!

As of this morning I am officially 15 pounds lighter than I was on January 1st. I haven’t been this skinny for at least 2 years, and old clothes I had are now becoming easy to fit in to. I’m just shocked at the kind of difference a few pounds will make!
This summer I’m going to wear shorts instead of jeans. And for the first time I won’t feel so self-conscious doing it. I’m excited.
At this rate I will definitely have lost 20 lbs. by June. I am now shooting for 40 pounds by January 1st of 2011. It’ll be nice to fit back in to the few remaining pieces from when I was that skinny!

Friday, May 7, 2010

How to build a pinhole camera

"Lots of small detail work, but for great effect!"

How I did it: The main thing is determining which container you want to use. Paint cans have been used before, to something as small as a film canister taped to a lamppost. For me I already had a tin of chocolate covered Altoids that was almost empty, so I decided to use that. Later I found an MnM shaped easter tin that, once emptied of its candy, would work fantastically!
I already had some flat black paint on hand from another project, so I painted the insides of both tins with it. To make the hole, instead of drilling down in to it I took a craft awl and a hammer and just punched it down through the metal until I felt it had a 1/4 in. hole, then hammered the twisted edges flat.
A few snips of some aluminum from a Coca-Cola can, a sewing needle and a blunt object to hammer it just barely through the aluminum, and the pinholes were created! To cut down on the reflectivity I colored them with a black sharpy since painting them would have filled up the hole by then, and I didn't have the forethought to paint them before punching the holes in them.
After that I hot glued one of the squares of punched aluminum inside the Altoids tin, and voila! Done! Just need to do a few more things to ensure there are no light leaks, like wrap the outside in some black tape, but for the most part it's finished! Damage to the MnMs tin during the whole punch had to be corrected with a repainting, so we're just waiting for that to dry before hot glueing the aluminum square in to that as well and sealing it up from light leaks. It feels good to be finally done with this project!

Lessons & tips: ~Make sure everything is black, whatever it takes. You're not going for aesthetics when you build one of these things so paint dribbles and sprays are to be expected.
~use a sewing needle to get the appropriate size pinhole. Any more than that and you risk your photo being overexposed. If you can find an accupuncture needle instead, that's better but will take longer to expose.
~Any item almost literally can be used to make one of these, so be creative. Altoid tins are just easiest to get your hands on and empty out the contents of via eating, so they're most efficient.
~Remember when you go to take pictures to load the film in TOTAL DARKNESS. Otherwise your film will be utterly ruined.

Resources: ~the basic tutorial that I followed:

~A slightly more advanced Pinhole Altoid cam:

It took me 3 weeks.

It made me super happy!

Sunday, May 2, 2010


I had something happen to me which is a funny but common occurrence the other day. I was outside taking my dog walkies (we don't really say that in this house) waiting for him to decide that his bladder and bowels really were better off being emptied before heading back to the house when I stopped to admire the stars that were still in the sky and the receding moon on the skyline. There was a bit of drifting mist and the bird calls were wonderfully varied and bright for a day that had not technically started yet. I was enjoying the hell out of it, feeling the morning's cool damp breeze on my cheek, hearing the calls, smelling the good, cool earth and the greenness of the things we walked over. I was smiling broadly, my cheeks turned upwards to the pinkening sky.
Then Zen lurched forward at something and tugged the leash, which made me realize Oh shit, I was paying attention to that instead of walking the dog.
Then came the mental dilemma for me. I suspect that a lot of people don't take note of these things when they're walking their dog in the morning. They take the beast outside, follow them around, impatiently wait for them to relieve themselves, then hurry back to the house where they can make their breakfast and get back to their day of "doing stuff".
I had thought initially that because I had to be outside, taking in everything that surrounded me might mean i was being mindful, in the moment. I had to be outside because the dog needed to be outside, and while there I might as well look around and breathe, enjoying what surrounded me. Like the man being chased by a tiger who stopped to pick the strawberry and eat it, except less with dangerous tigers and falling and strangely placed farmer's produce. I was trying to cultivate an appreciation for the situation I was in, which is why if I'm in the middle of seeming nowhere and grinning, it's because I've probably noticed something about the environment and smiled at it. It's an almost automatic reaction at this point, seeing and hearing these things just makes me happy.
But then comes the thought that I am attempting to find something pleasant to focus on while walking the dog. I was not, in fact, being mindful of walking him. Or maybe I was and taking in the environment around me is part of that; but this is where I grow confused about things.
For a few moments there was nothing going through my mind but the sound of that birdsong. There was nothing but the feel of that breeze. And from what I am told and what I have experienced in the past, that sure felt like being in the moment. But why, then would the jerk of the leash startle me and make me think I wasn't paying attention?
Possibly because I had my eyes closed and it just caught me off guard. But if I truly wanted to be mindful and in the moment, shouldn't I have focus on breathing and just watching Zen do his thing? Isn't there a situation that I was distracted by temporary sensations?
And here the argument becomes circular.
If we take a step back though, we can see what the real culprit in all of this was - my ego needing to think I was being mindful and in the moment, and that I wasn't truly. It was that thought that broke up me simply noticing the world, and the second it was rendered I had judged both the previous experience of hearing, seeing, feeling and smelling and the following experience of finishing up Zen's walk. It was entirely possible for me to transition from enjoying what was around to paying attention to Zen without inserting that obnoxious little bit o' brain sputtering declaring that there was some inherent value in what I'd been doing versus what I should be doing.
It seems that once again we come back to the theme of shutting my brain up, because it's bossy and loud, thinks it knows everything, and generally isn't helpful.
What I will do with my limited knowledge of how things are, is remember the words within the Sattipatthana Sutra: "When you sit, know that you are sitting; when standing, know you are standing. . . ."
Which is actually a lot harder than it sounds.

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Actual Conversation #90

Following conversation takes place at Wine and Jazz Festival at Longwood Gardens under a blazing sun and little breeze.

Me: A toast to earth's most abundant resource and the Universal Solvent! *raising wine glass filled with water*
Bob: Hockey?
Me: Yes.

Friday, April 30, 2010


Literally just force saved the final entry for the month and earned my albatross! I’m rather psyched.
Final entry was over 1350 words long, but I had a lot going on in my head. It felt good to close out the month with a nice long brain purge, since without the pressure of the challenge being on me I won’t probably remember to do it constantly every single day. Which is too bad, because I love my albatross and want him to continue to fly!
I really enjoyed this, not just because I got to vent my brain for 30 days straight and see the benefits, but also because it showed me that if there was any sort of external challenge, I rose to meet it. I now realize that I need to balance this and make my own personal internal challenges as important. Going forward I’m going to try to set one thing a month to do for myself, and reap the benefits from seeing it to fruition whatever it may be.
It’s like meta-data I didn’t even know was there, and that I can use to make into a fun little mini-game!
My next thing I’m going to try is to write one short story a day in the month of may. Can be anywhere from 5 words to several pages. But that’s for another entry.
I’m really happy for having accomplished this, for the insights it’s given me, and for the plans I have going forward.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

15 Incredibly Creative Papercraft Artists | Design Ideas on WU

I am a great admirer of people who can take common objects and do extraordinary things with them. Making amazing works of art from mere sheets of paper fits in that category. Please enjoy.

15 Incredibly Creative Papercraft Artists | Design Ideas on WU

Posted using ShareThis

Friday, April 23, 2010

Toycamera dreams

I’ve decided I do a decent job wielding my mighty Holga (and my iKimono, and my Fuji Instax, and my Diana F+) so I’m going to show that confidence by entering a few photo competitions this spring and summer. There’s a chance to win a truly nifty camera from Superheads, a bright pink Kamen Rider edition Blackbird Fly (I won’t pretend I don’t want a TLR that sexy).
I’ve already chosen the 6 images I want to send and bumped them down to 500 pixels. The next trick is to make sure that I submit them correctly so I don’t disqualify myself. I might have done that accidentally last year. :(
While I don’t know that the images are good enough to actually win the competition, I’d like the chance to have my work showcased somewhere and get feedback on it, and that’s what this will allow me to do. Can’t complain about that. :D

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Dukkha strikes again.

Every time I see that word I want to make a Sith joke, but somehow I think most people who read this wouldn't get it. Did you know that the idea of the Jedi was losely based on Buddhism and Eastern principles? Random tidbits of info are one of the many services I offer on this blog.
Oh noes! Dukkha! Something in my life has me dissatisfied and/or suffering and uneasy! Just like EVERYTHING AND EVERYONE ELSE ON THE PLANET. Even the mountain worries that it might be worn down by the rain, though it rises up proudly to the clouds. But me? I've decided to feel dissatisfied about something that is really ridiculous.
I am feeling homesick for Japan.
Not only is this ridiculous, as it is not my native culture and I was only there for perhaps two weeks, but it is also petty. I am not uneasy about losing where we live or not being able to eat the next day. I'm upset because I can't travel somewhere on the other side of the world that previously took 3 years of planning and saving to go to.
If I had to guess, it's because this time last year we were in the midst of making final preparations. We spent so long focusing on it that the absence of it makes my mind search out for something regarding it. In this case, reminding me of the beauty of Okinawa, the friendliness of the folks in Kyoto, the smiles from the girls at Rera Cise. I have been thinking more and more about how much I would like to experience it again, and add new experiences to it. Bob has also said he would love to go back, though perhaps it is something to be planned for on a 5th anniversary or something.
I have gone about trying to handle it in all the wrong ways. I made meals of Japanese food hoping that might assuage it, but to no avail. It made me think of the places we stopped in Shinjuku. I tried to read articles and look up pictures, but all it did was remind me of all the things that we haven't gotten to do yet. By catering to the craving and dissatisfaction I was aiding the dukkha in its job to make me feel unhappy with my life as it is.
I remember reading a story a man told about camping. He often became horribly homesick for the northern woods, and when he heard certain bird calls it made him think of it. One evening when he was camped in the middle of the northern woods, though, he heard the lonely, low call of a loon out on the lake. The sound made him homesick once more, even though he was literally in the middle of that place for which he was homesick. This is the strength that dukkha can have over you, that in the middle of having what you want you will still want more. I know that even if we were standing in Tokyo right now, I would at some point, perhaps in the middle of the night, wake up and wish I were in Japan. Only to remember I am literally sleeping upon its earth.
It is something interesting to note, and to acknowledge, but were I to beat myself up for every time I craved something or longed for something not only would I be bruised and bloodied, I would be punishing myself for being human. But isn't it funny how such strange things can arise from the mind and take on an almost tangible quality in our lives? The mind has amazing power over the physical and emotional states of the body; One must be aware of it, but also be willing to be gentle when it occurs. It took the Buddha at least 5 years of solid meditation to achieve enlightenment, and this without the concerns of families or paying bills or going to work. For the rest of us, it is quite alright that it might take a bit longer.


The definition of zakka most often touted is this:
“Everything and anything that improves your home, life and outlook. It is often based on household items from the West that are regarded as kitsch in their countries of origin, but can also be Japanese goods…The interest in Nordic design or Scandinavian design, both contemporary and past, is also part of this zakka movement. Zakka can also be contemporary handicraft.
Zakka has also been described as “the art of seeing the savvy in the ordinary and mundane”.

I was first introduced to the idea when it refered to creating tawashis, small scrubby items for the household made of acrylic yarn that are really popular in Japan. From there I discovered that there is a huge movement in japan to create things for the home that are simple, brightly colored, very decorative and perhaps best of all, reusable. There is no need for a scrubbing sponge that gets replaced every week or 2 if you have a cotton or acrylic pot scrubber that can be thrown in the wash, then air-dried. You save resources and money, and you can inject your own personal style in to things by crocheting, sewing or knitting your own items. Want a sunflower dishtowel? Why pay somebody $7 when you can use yarn you might already have on hand and make something that won’t fade, fray, or develop holes?
I liked this idea, and the idea of making other small items around the house that are simple, beautiful, and keep the amount of waste down. I’m trying my best to minimize my impact on the planet and have an enormous stash of yarn, so I thought I would start doing this and see how well my handi-crafts hold up. I’ve also decided to try and pass the idea along by crocheting handicrafts for donation that will include the description on the label for others to read when they receive them. I feel it goes along with the idea of trying to be more mindful in your everyday life, not just for the purpose of Buddhist thought, but also environmentally and psychologically. It’s always funny how these things tie in together.

Friday, April 16, 2010

How to yarnbomb more.

"Giving pause to normal people one creation at a time."

How I did it: I'd actually done some yarnbombing about a year ago, decorating a stop sign near my place. Nobody's taken it down yet and it still sits there, fibers tightened from the weather. It's faded in the sunshine, but amazingly it's still a bit fuzzy. Such is the power of mohair.
That project left me with 2/3rds of the rest of the skein, though, so I went ahead and just starting a circular scarf on one of my knitting looms. It sat in the bottom of my project bin for the better part of a year until I found it Wednesday and got fed up with it not being finished! I worked on it all Wednesday night and Thursday morning until it was finished. Then when it was getting dark my hsuband and I took the dog for a walk out on a local golf course. I hastily sewed the work on to a willow branch so it looked like a scarf hanging down, took a picture, then hurried home. It was a LOT of fun.

Lessons & tips: ~If you want the project to last a while, use very sturdy fibers. Acrylics like Red Heart are nearly bomb proof and don't weather. They ~can~ stretch though, so be careful when bombing that you haven't made a piece too big for your target. If you have... oh well, improvise!

~Make sure you install your piece somewhere that can be seen by a lot of people. Just putting it in the middle of nowhere might be safe and keep you from getting yelled at, but the point of yarnbombing and guerilla art is to cause the person to pause in the middle of their day and have that "....wha...??" moment. Make sure it gets seen!

~Conversely, if you pick a high traffic area, try to do it when there will be LESS traffic. Some people will just leave you alone because you look like you're doing something weird, but others might feel they have to say something because to them you aren't producing art, it's graffiti. By doing it when there's not a lot of traffic in the area, you're less likely to run in to that type of individual.

~If you DO run in to that type of individual and haven't gotten your piece up yet, you may need to retreat and just wait until another time.

~Remember that guerilla art and yarnbombing is a temporary installation. People might love it enough to come by and steal it! (Go you!) Or they might hate it and rip it down. Accept the loss and plan your next installation. If you can make it grander and showier than the last, so much the better!

Resources: .

It took me 2 days.

It made me super happy