Monday, January 31, 2011

white elephant

What has been will be again, what has been done will be done again; there is nothing new under the sun. ~Ecclesiastes 1:9

There is nothing new on this blog. Nearly two years ago, while unemployed, I made this blog. I had a lot of time between employers not calling me and walking the dog. I was fresh: the topics were endless, my mind was full of three-paragraph posts just waiting to be published. I had a pithy endings to wrap up my thoughts. I was occasionally funny and usually insulting. I reread my old posts and smiled with pride. I did it: I gave those thoughts that were rattling around in this tin brain of mine a home.

As a kid, the ultimate achievement for me as a writer would be for strangers to read what I wrote. Well I achieved it. My ten-year-old self would be proud. Sure, she didn't know that everyone would have a Facebook account and people would read about people brushing their teeth and eating a bag of cookies with rapt interest, but nonetheless, strangers read this blog. Strangers from all around the world who googled "dds in a bra" or "preserved artifacts food" or "moldy cheese" ended up on my site for a few seconds and maybe even read a word or two.

A few strangers from the blog world became like friends. I read other blogs with the same enthusiasm that I wrote my own. I looked forward to the half hour each night where I would sit at the computer and catch up on the daily blogs. It became a hobby and then a part of me. That was then.

But lately, I haven't read the other blogs. I struggle to think of anything to write on my own. I feel that everything I have to say I have said before: just this time I'm using a semicolon instead of a period. My enthusiasm is waning; I am restless. I know I never made it in the blog world. I never exceeded 15 subscribers. My sitemeter hits are still under 20,000. It seems too early to retire now without reaching any level of blogging prestige.

But prestige was never my intention. Accolades are appreciated, but not necessary. What I wanted was a place to log my thoughts knowing someone could read them. I wanted to practice writing and see if it had the effect on anyone else that it does on me. And whether or not it affected anyone positively or negatively, I may never know. But I do know how it has affected me.

I have rediscovered the one passion I've ever had: writing a book. I'm not good at much, but when my pen strikes the paper, I come alive. It is in my blood. Green ink pumps through my veins. I read on a blog, "don't follow your dreams; chase them." I immediately sat up straighter (and not just because of the semicolon) - it was quoted for me. My dream is to write a book. It takes a dedication I haven't yet committed to. I don't expect it to be published, just finished. I will write the book for myself. And if anyone else ever reads it, that will be a happy surprise.

Next to me is my purple spiral notebook. Twelve pages have been scrawled on with my green ink. But the rest of the pages lie empty, waiting to be written on. A story is in me, it just hasn't been told yet.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

army of tweaked mes

There are very few people who I can always be completely myself around. There are a handful of people who accept me and like me for who I already am. They don't expect me to be more like them or to agree with them or to act more pious or politically correct. But with everyone else, I feel like they expect me to be someone else. Someone more like them. Someone who doesn't curse like a sailor. Someone who laughs at their jokes. Someone who goes to church and is a republican. Someone like the person I was raised to become.

So I play the part, not because it's me, but because I respect the person who expects it of me. It's silly, really. There are different versions of me for different audiences: mes who are more subdued, less vocal, quiet even. There are versions of me who don't start shit, just sit with my unvoiced opinions. There are mes who are miserable but won't say it because then I would be unzipping the costume and revealing the real me: the one I'm covering up for my audience who disapproves.

It gets confusing. I forget who I've revealed what secrets to, and find myself acting one of those different versions to someone I can be myself around. I am so used to covering up my true self that I forget it's OK to be her. I'm beginning to lose sight of who she really is. It's as if she is another version I've created to hide the real me who I don't even know. It's like staring into a mirror with another mirror behind it: hundreds and thousands of your reflection standing in a line that never ends.

Pick which one you'd like. She is tailor-made to your specifications. Because the original one was made irregular. And who wants something imperfect?

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

My 43

While looking for something else entirely, I was side tracked by these lists people were making online to describe themselves using 43 words. So here are my 43:

1. Moody
2. Unpunctual
3. Procrastinator
4. Impatient
5. Judgmental
6. Passionate
7. Poetic
8. Determined
9. Opinionated
10. Hospitable
11. Learning
12. Honest
13. Wife
14. Curious
15. Inquisitive
16. Observant
17. Homebody
18. Pensive
19. Reader
20. Writer
21. Loyal
22. Creative
23. Empathetic
24. Resourceful
25. Decisive
26. Expressive
27. Sarcastic
28. Dreamer
29. Stubborn
30. Playful
31. Independent
32. Sincere
33. Flirt
34. Superstitious
35. Distracted
36. Impulsive
37. Blunt
38. Forgetful
39. Demanding
40. Flawed
41. Nostalgic
42. Hungry
43. Evolving

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Sexless appeal

I noticed my legs were a bit grizzly yesterday before hopping into the shower. So I thought to myself, well maybe I should shave. But it's January and we have about a foot of freshly fallen snow I need to shovel and then I thought of the legs, really, why bother? And don't give me the whole: "You should try to stay sexy for your husband" line. Let me just say, I am the unsexiest woman alive. Really, I am.

My beauty regimen consists of clipping my fingernails, cleaning out my ears with a Qtip, and washing my face. And that last one only of recently at my husband's suggestion. I don't blow dry my hair all the way. The only makeup I wear is mascara and eyeliner. I have never had a manicure or pedicure. I don't wear dresses or skirts. I don't have any underwear that are mesh or have those bungee cord contraptions that connect to thigh high pantyhose. I wear socks to bed.

Saying all this, I don't know why my husband has sex with me. But I've been like this as long as he's known me, so I haven't just gotten lazier. I've been the same amount of lazy the whole time. I've never been super girly with any of that stuff. I used to wish I was a boy (not in the considering-gender-transformation serious way, just in the tomboy way). So maybe that's the reason I have never tried to be a girl. Is it possible to have sex appeal without being sexy? Well, guys have slept with me. I must have some sort of appeal. Maybe it's my personality. Oh yeah, I'm sure that's it.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

so long, farewell

Last Friday I said "goodbye" to someone very dear to me. Only now am I able to talk about it, after having a week to process the departure. I was always comforted and offered a hot meal when I was there. I was given gifts even when it wasn't my birthday. We got tipsy from having too much of a good time. I sung his praises to co-workers and friends. Everyone who knows me knows how much I love him. And although people often tell me to try something different, I know what I want. And it has been only him.

My heart breaks thinking that we may never see each other again. Maybe someday in some remote city I will bump into him on pure accident and we will reminisce. But that maybe is mostly a faint hope and hardly a reality. It's been a week, and my ripped heart is trying to mend itself, but that doesn't mean I've forgotten. I will never forget the times we shared. I'll never forget laughing over dinner and drinks. I'll never forget driving to Timbukto just to see you after a long week at work. You offered me peace and serenity, if only for an hour. You were my haven away from the chaos a 40-hour-a-week-working-woman-without-kids-or-any-other-responsibilities endures. I'll never forget you for everything you were to me; I'll never forget my TGI Fridays.

You will be substituted, but never replaced.

TGIF will never mean what it once did.

I guess now I'll put the Olive Garden on speed dial.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

ID for dogs

Look what came in the mail today:

Apparently dogs have ID cards now. I know actual humans who can't board airplanes because they don't have identification, but my DOG has a laminated card with all his essential stats on it. What is he supposed to do with it? Put it in his dog wallet in his dog hip pocket?

He should keep it on him at all times in case he faints on a running trail. In fact, I should probably get him a rape whistle, too. He will need to keep his ID card handy in the event that a female dog wants verification that he's been neutered and has all his vaccinations before she jumps into bed with him. Actually, maybe we should just skip the dogs and give these type of cards to humans.

Women can check in a guy's wallet to see if he's neutered, married, the income he brings in, his diet, what hobbies and vices he has, date of birth, and so on. And guys could check out a woman's, too, of course (sometimes I forget that there are four males who read this blog). The possibilities are limitless. It could save a lot of people a lot of disappointment. But alas, we haven't mastered that type of identification yet - we would rather misrepresent ourselves on the internet. So far, only canines have the ID card down to a perfect science.

Monday, January 17, 2011

I won't correct you, but know I'm thinking it

If Steve didn't already hold the title, I'd take words as my lover.

I find both the curve of the "s" and the loops of the uppercase cursive "L" very seductive.

I love the way letters form words, and the same letters can make thirty words. I love how syllables tumble on top of each other or separate themselves by beats like a band marching. I love how there can be fifty words with the same meaning, but only one fits perfectly into your sentence, the way a jigsaw piece fits into the puzzle.

I like crossword puzzles. I even play those Find-a-Word puzzles that are usually only for kids on road trips. I have read entire pages of the dictionary before, and not because I was stuck in Scrabble with nothing but consonants. I listen to the phonated words on dictionary.com because I like the sound of them. In fact, I waste as much time on dictionary.com as most people spend on imdb or iTunes.

I'm a total word geek. And so is my friend, Patrick. Yet he's not nearly as outspoken about it as I am. He is a closeted word geek. Patrick is the one who pointed out to me that "belligerent" meant something other than extremely drunk. On New Years Day, we went out to lunch. I was hungover from wine, which we all know is the worst hangover of all, but I was still coherent enough to talk about how people destroy words. Certain words become popular and overused and misused to such an extent that soon they are merely shadows of their original meaning.

He told me how he hates when people say "decadent" to refer to a dessert, knowing the word is derived from the word "decay" and should mean deterioration. Driving to Kansas City last weekend, my sister and her fiance got into a debate on whether she used "dilemma" correctly. That's when I realized it's not just me and Patrick, but there are other people who love words, too. There are other people who don't like when people push and prod words into sentences where they don't fit - like jamming a puzzle piece where it doesn't belong. It's against everything I believe in, and also the reason I don't do puzzles with kids.

Here are some examples:

1. Literally
Should mean: exactly what you say is accurate, no metaphors or analogies.
Often misused: I'm literally dying of thirst (or anything else Rachel Zoe says)

2. Peruse
Should mean: to read or examine very carefully
Often misused: as the exact opposite - to skim or glance over quickly without paying much attentionre

3. Random
Should mean: has no specific pattern, purpose, or objective
Often misused: “This random man approached me and asked for the time.” The man isn’t random (especially since he had an objective to find out the time); he's just a stranger.

4. Ironic
Should mean: some incongruity between what is expected and what actually occurs
Often misused: coincidence, Alanis Morissette's whole song on the subject

5. Antisocial
Should mean: against everything society has to offer
Often misused: shy, introverted

6. Unique
Should mean: one of a kind
Often misused: different/weird. As in, "wow this talking cookie jar is such a unique gift!"

7. Fact
Should mean: information capable of direct verification, not of matters of judgment.
Often misused: "I am irresistible to women and that's a fact."

8. Sublime
Should mean: elevated or lofty in thought, impressing the mind with a sense of grandeur or power.
Often misused: by rich ladies at tea talking about the new wall color.

9. Media

Should mean: plural of "medium" and can refer to anything used to carry a message
Often misused: a black cloud of pinstripe suits behind television, magazines, and radio who influence your daughters to take diet pills and your sons to look at porn.

10. Sorry
Should mean: apology. It implies you have something to apologize for.
Often misused: accidents, like bumping into someone's cart at the grocery store. Don't apologize for the fact that there are sixty people in the fucking juice aisle! Not you're problem. Perhaps "excuse me" or "get your god damn apple juice and keep moving!" is what you meant.


Maintaining the integrity of words is next to impossible. Because words mean exactly what we use them to mean. Words develop as our meanings for them do. New meanings are added to existing words as new uses become popular. So if you look a word up now, it doesn't have one meaning - it has seven to twelve. Which brings me to the realization that this whole post was in vain. Oh fuck it: I've always got curse words when I want to make an impact. I can't depend on any word greater than four letters to evade misinterpretations these days.

Cited:
Yahoo
Copyblogger
other sites too, but I forgot which ones.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

moldy cheese

I'm not much of a cook in the kitchen. So my job to help out is shredding cheese. And occasionally slicing tomatoes. Today, I was about to grate our cheese block when I saw mold. Just one little spot. I made the mistake of saying something to Steve. Now to understand this blog post, you'll have to know the major difference between Steve and I: I was raised poor, he wasn't.

My family found our dining room set on the curb the day before trash pickup and got it reupholstered. We got 3/4 cup of cereal for breakfast each morning. We had to stretch our Halloween candy to last us until we got candy again in our Christmas stockings, and that until Easter. I spent entire afternoons willing Molly across the street to invite me over so I could get a CapriSun.

Steve's family went to the grocery store with two different carts, and he was allowed to throw whatever he wanted into it. He drank two CapriSuns for a snack. He got name brand food. I'm sure he had brand new clothes, too back then, lucky bastard. I wore hand-me-downs. My 1991 self is green with envy of Steve. My 1991 self hates him and his 1991 self is lucky I didn't know him back then or we never would have married.

So when I saw the mold, I did what any poor practical kid would do and turned the block to the other side and started grating. After all, the expiration date is still four months off. I know for a fact that my mom still has a block of mozzarella in the freezer from when I was 10, so cheese is pretty much immortal in my eyes. Steve finished preparing the omelettes (fuck you spell check, I know you want to shorten the word to "omelet" but I think that looks like some giant bird, so I doll it up) and we sat down to eat.

And I noticed a glaring absence of cheese on his omelette. Fucking rich middle-class normal kids are such snobs. I bet he doesn't even know they make cereal in bags. I bet he has never heard of Grocery Outlet. I bet he got a new pillow and it didn't count as a Christmas present.

But as for this poor kid? I saved myself some of the leftover cheese to make nachos in a couple hours. One thing I can say about people who are raised on a single shitty income: we are extremely durable.

terrible advertising

Saw this ad today in my celebrity rag.

Is it just me, or do the "before" and "after" pictures look the exact same?

Well, maybe not exactly the same. She straightened her hair and got an even tan in the second picture.

If you need straighter hair and an even tan, buy Slimquick!

Thursday, January 13, 2011

defining yourself

I've often wondered what happens to emotions that are never recognized: the tears and laughter we never allow to escape. The feelings we push down as soon as they come up, not allowing them to exist. The ideas we have that nothing becomes of, the dreams unpursued, the fleeting thoughts that are never contemplated like they deserve.

I think that all those things that could have become a part of us, but we never allowed them to be. They did not become a part of our personalities, beliefs, or memories.

When I was younger, I didn't understand when people would say, be yourself. I thought, who else would I be? But now, I think that means allow those emotions, thoughts, and ideas that come naturally to you to play out.

People change to be like the people around them. Or liked by the people around them. They change to be cool, or liked, or at least socially accepted. They will believe what they're told to believe, act calm when they're are sad because they don't want to be a crybaby, laugh at jokes that aren't funny because the person saying it is good looking. They will acter dumber than they are so men will find them attractive, they will sleep with people they don't want to so they aren't called a prude. They will lie, cheat, steal because they're with someone else who does. They will lose themselves completely while morphing into a clone of someone else.

And all that time, those parts of us that were killed upon inception - those emotions and thoughts and dreams and beliefs - they are laid in the ground, tombstones are etched for the person that you could have been, but chose not to become. And soon, the ground is littered: *a perfect graveyard of buried hopes.

*Final line stolen from Anne of Green Gables by L.M. Montgomery

Sunday, January 9, 2011

boat steam

On September 5, 1856, the Arabia set out for a routine trip. Around the town of Parkville, Missouri, the boat hit a tree snag. The snag ripped open the hull, which rapidly filled with water. The upper decks of the boat stayed above water, and the only casualty was a mule that was tied to sawmill equipment and forgotten. The boat sank so rapidly into the mud that by the next morning, only the smokestacks and pilot house remained visible. Within a few days, these traces of the boat were also swept away. Eventually the boat was completely covered after numerous salvage attempts failed. Over time, the river shifted a half a mile to the east.

In 1987, David Hawley, a member of a family in Kansas City who owned a refrigeration company, set out to find the boat. Using old maps and a proton magnetometer, Hawley figured out the probable location, and then found the Arabia half a mile from the river and under 45 feet of silt and topsoil.

With permission from the owners of the farm - and a requirement that the work be completed before the spring planting - Hawley, his brother, Greg, and father, Bob, along with two family friends - set out to excavate the boat during the winter months.

They performed a series of test drillings to determine the exact location of the hull. Once this was done, the perimeter was marked with powdered chalk. Heavy equipment, including a 100-ton crane, was brought in by both river and road transport during the summer and fall. To lower the water level, 20 irrigation pumps were installed around the site to keep it from flooding. The 65-foot-deep wells removed 20,000 US gallons per minute from the ground. On November 26, 1988, the boat was exposed. Four days later, artifacts from the boat began to appear. On December 5, a wooden crate filled with elegant china was unearthed. The mud was such an effective preserver of everything that the yellow packing straw was still visible. Thousands of artifacts were recovered intact, including jars of preserved food that are still edible. The artifacts that were recovered are housed in the Steamboat Arabia Museum. On February 11, 1989, work ceased at the site, and the pumps were turned off.
~History details were gathered from Wikipedia so I didn't butcher the truth, which I have a knack for doing.


And one fine day in January 2011, Holly & Amber stumbled across this museum by complete accident. It was the most fascinating experience of my life thus far. Yes, more fascinating than birthing a child or having sex or being thousands of miles above land in an airplane.

Amber and I spent hours looking at all the preserved artifacts from the mid 1800s: dug out of the ground under a cornfield where once upon a time the Missouri river flowed. Although they didn't dig up treasure worth millions of dollars, the excavators dug up a time capsule. There was food and clothes and building materials from people moving out west. David Hawley was there and spoke to us. He was the ungrateful recipient of some of my hand sweat. I felt like I met a celebrity. I bought his book, as all starstruck fans do.

And the entire drive back to Omaha from Kansas City, Amber and I spoke excitedly of our adventure, our words forming sentences which tumbled on top of each other until we had repeated everything we remembered learning. Somewhere among old slates and buckets and keys and pea coats, I rediscovered enthusiasm: I had forgotten what it felt like. Next adventure: to harness that energy, reign it away from an old boat and steer it into my dream; to propel myself with my new enthusiasm: my own paddle wheel.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Taking life

Today, at the high school a mile from my house, there was a school shooting. I drove by the school on my way home a few hours later and I could feel death hanging in the air. It feels like a heavy dark curtain, so thick in the air, your throat closes up.

Right before the shooting, the shooter posted his final status on his Facebook page. It reads:
"Everybody that used to know me, I'm sorry, but Omaha changed me and fucked me up and the school I now attend is even worse. You are going to hear about the evil shit I did, but that fucking school drove me to this. I want you guys to remember me for who I was before this. I know I greatly affected the lives of the families I ruined, but I'm sorry. Goodbye."

I have never been so troubled by a tiny word as I am by his "but"s scattered throughout his apology/goodbye. "But" is a word used as an excuse. It is reasoning away actions rather than taking responsibility for them. How can you apologize to the families of people you are about to shoot? An apology is an expression of regret. If you were sorry before doing it, you shouldn't have done it.

He pleaded for people to remember him for who he was before this. People remember you for what you did in your life. Certain actions hold more weight in people's memories than others. And a school shooting holds more weight than anything else, one can be sure. We only get one chance at life: no do-overs allowed. We live by our choices and die by our mistakes.

snobby elitist

I met the most miserable person. She bragged about intimidating people. She carried a clutch because she thought people would instantly peg her as rich and cater to her. She reveled in stories about telling people off, not because she was provoked, but because she enjoyed making others miserable as well. She mistook disdain for respect. She mistook pity for awe. She mistook distance for fear.

And I thought to myself, my God, I hope I never end up like that.

I had a thousand things to say to her. I wanted to tell her what people really think when they meet her: not that she is rich and respectable, but that she is a snobby elitist.

In Anne of Green Gables, Anne says about someone who has just called her ugly and red-headed: "Oh, but there's such a difference between saying a thing yourself and hearing other people say it. You may know a thing is so, but you can't help hoping other people don't quite think it is."

So I didn't say anything. It is not my place to make her feel bad about herself. We are our own worst critics, so if I'm thinking that about her, she must be thinking something worse about herself.

Nothing like seeing a worse version of yourself to prevent becoming it.

I hope to never become someone who revels in other people's misery. I hope I never hate the people who love me. I hope when things are going badly for me, I do not project it onto people around me. I hope I don't create distance that happens in friendships. I hope I keep what has been salvaged of my optimism. I hope I never let myself fall into hopeless despair and hatred. I hope to keep the part of me that I like best about myself.

Monday, January 3, 2011

January

Here's a bit of wisdom imparted on me by dictionary.com via Facebook:

"January is often considered the month for deep reflection. We look back at the year behind us, bemoaning our regrets and celebrating our successes. And then, we look forward to the future year. We make well-meaning resolutions and hope for the best.

So, in this way, we’re all a little bit like Janus, the Roman god for which January is named. Janus is usually depicted with having two heads that face in opposite directions. One looks back to the year departed, and one looks forward to the new and uncertain year ahead."

Like my car title, I found this poetic. And I became thankful that I only have one head. I don't want to see some of the shit that goes on behind my back.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

beauty in this beholder's eye

I thought today of what is beautiful to me.
Here is what came to mind:

1. Birds' nests in leafless trees
2. An old journal saved for many years
3. Globes and old maps
4. Snow blanketing a hushed place
5. Books of all different heights on a shelf
6. Letterpress prints
7. Trains abandoned on the tracks
8. Dimples on chubby cheeks
9. Ripples in rain puddles
10. Loved ones meeting their visitors at airports
11. Children's play forts
12. Singing outloud to the radio when you're alone
13. A couple's unnoticed kiss in a crowd
14. A secret you can't wait to tell
15. A friend you've never met

Pictures can be found here