Friday, December 14, 2012

Podclub-Alive Enough

This week in podclub; On Being-Alive Enough

Our first computer was incredibly slow but I couldn't wait to play with it.  My dad spent weeks, poring over a huge catalog that seemed to me like it was in another language, deciding on the best one then carefully set it up.  Somewhere in the torrent of questions I threw at him he looked at me sternly and informed me that it was NOT a toy.  I nodded and promised I would treat it with the care and respect it deserved while I wondered if it had any games and tried to calculate how long (as the youngest) I'd have to wait before I got a turn.  By the time it had arrived I had learned what I was suppose to do by watching everyone else doing things on it, so right away with a little help (via a lot of begging to my brother) I could do the basic things, like draw in the paint program or play the games and how to get online.  I was pretty excited about it.  A long cord stretched across the kitchen from the phone line cutting off anyone who wanted to come in, I sat there patiently waiting for the modem to dial, the noise not even bothering me because at the time it was part of the charm.  Finally, there it was, the internet.  I looked at the screen and the screen looked at me and at that very moment I realized I had no idea what I could possibly want to look at.  I sat there a little disappointed, thinking maybe this new thing wasn't quite as fun as I imagined it should be.  In the end I did a search on U2 because it was the last thing I'd seen my brother look at.  I don't think I'd ever even heard any of their songs at that age, so at that point I was just hoping for something to save me from the fast approaching boredom.  The search took ages.  I think I finally clicked on one of the pages and then gave up before it had fully loaded.  I closed it down and went back to playing that game where you try to keep the mouse from the cheese by moving blocks.  If you had told me then that I'd be using this thing called the internet on a daily basis, I would have rolled my eyes and told you it was very unlikely and gone back to reading my book.  After that it took me awhile to give the internet another chance.  Probably not until high school when I had a reason to go looking for things.  Of course once it got a little faster I joined the rest of the world in getting addicted to it.  Now I don't think twice about having tons of information right at my fingertips anytime I might want it.  

Then came the cellphone.  I do not like phones.  I never have.  When people started carrying them around, I didn't really think it would last.  I couldn't imagine wanting to be constantly available when every time I reached a message machine instead of a real person it was like a gift.  Who would want to be tethered to a phone all day?  And then the smart phones showed up, and while I had found the advantages to having a cellphone for emergencies and reaching parents who might have forgotten all about you, I could not believe anyone thought having one big enough to fit an entire keyboard  on it was a good idea.  To be fair those things were monsters and I still can't imagine carrying one around as a phone.  If someone had shown me an iphone and then told me to go online and search for something I would have readily admitted I was wrong.  I took me quite a while to get a smart phone.  Up until then my cell phone was just a thing to make the occasional phone call (because texting wasn't in my plan) and it stayed in my bag all day with the ringer turned down.  Smart phones changed all that (minus the horrible blackberry that I never used as a smart phone because it wasn't smart.  It was slow and retarded.  Just pointless to even try to use).  Once I got one that worked something changed.  The phone came out of my bag and sat next to me (ringer still down because I still don't really use it for phone calls unless I have too).  I carry it from room to room looking at it every so often only to forget what I wanted to look at or just out of habit.  I have mini panic attacks that I've left it somewhere and more than once this has happened while I'm talking to someone on it.  Part of this is because its expensive and not easily replaced, but also because it has so much stuff on it.  Music, notes, contacts, apps, so many things that I don't want to lose or try to redo on a new phone (because I'm too lazy to constantly back it up)  The other thing that changed was that since everyone else was getting them or had them and they made communication faster and easier, it became even more essential to some people (including me sometimes I'll admit it)  that everyone should be constantly available and answer their call, text or email.  I'm not crazy about this.  When I'm with someone and their attached to their phones in such a way that it interrupts the time that I'm actually spending with them it makes me feel less important and immediately I become less invested in that moment.  I might even pick up my own phone to distract myself from the person that has far more important things to do than spend time with me.  This doesn't mean I'm not guilty of doing it to other people.  I know I do, but I really do try not to.  What's funny is when their more worried about the call or text your missing than you are.  When my phone rings and I ignore it, I've had my husband go pick it up and hand it to me because its stressing him out that I might miss something.  

I guess it just depends on the person.  I'm okay with the amount of time I spend with electronics and I feel like I could live without them and sometimes I do ignore things like texts and emails because I just don't feel like being plugged in and I'll deal with it later.  This could have something to do with the very limited amount of time I was allowed to watch TV when I was little so I learned how to turn it off and go do something else.  I do think if i wasn't looking at things on the internet it would just be swapped out with a book because before computers thats the thing I stayed up all night looking at and it might actually be worse because I have a harder time putting them down than I do my phone or computer. 

I admit my phone has become something of a safety net for social situations I don't feel like dealing with.  Don't know what to do with my eyes or want to draw attention or conversation?  There's an app for that.  When it's something I care about though I do want to put down the phone and enjoy it and sometimes just the habit of looking at it draws me in to the point where I'm doing two things at once for no reason, so its definitely still something I need to work on.  Like they say in the podcast it is not a mature internet and we're all still learning how to incorporate it into our lives.  I think in the end it will even out.  This next generation especially because it won't be quite such a novelty to them.  Just by growing up in  a time with computers and the internet changes the way they think about things.  I kind of feel like my generation was the one that got so excited that they got a little drunk and maybe crashed their parents car into a telephone pole or two before learning their lesson...

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Podclub-How do you catch a cloud and pin it down?

This week in Podclub Studio 360-So You Think You're Creative?

What is creativity?  Can it be measured?  Is it really something that we can put down on paper, add to a textbook and teach to future generations alongside anatomy or physics?  Just the thought of it seems ridiculous to me.  Its human nature to want to explain things.  We love mystery because we want to find the answer, and as soon as we do, we miss the mystery and go chasing after another one.  Creativity, however, is elusive.  There is no answer that would fit in one of the nice little boxes we've prepared for such things.  Like a cloud (and Maria) the moment we think we have it pinned down we'll get lost in the fog and come out the other side to see its changed again or it wasn't quite what we thought it was and we have to start over.  It's not just any mystery, its the one of the good ones that we can keep forever and wonder at.  Of course I think its wonderful that their are people looking for the answer, curiosity and creativity are two of my favorite things about humanity.  

When I was little I wanted imaginary friends.  I thought there was something wrong with my imagination because I couldn't project it into real life.  I remember thinking if I believed enough that they were real maybe they'd show up.  I wanted more than anything to close my eyes and imagine something wonderful, believe it was real and then open my eyes to see it there in front of me.  It was extremely disappointing every time I failed.  I guess deep down I knew if it had worked people might think I was crazy, and I probably would have gone crazy with fear if something I imagined suddenly popped through a window and said hello.  Still, I can't say I'm not a little jealous of the little girl in the podcast with so many friends.  Creativity is so unique to each person, its easy to see someone else's creation or idea and after being amazed, start to wonder why you can't do things like that.  When I see a painting I'm not thinking of the years of study and practice that's gone into it.  I know its there, but all I'm really thinking is how I can't even imagine coming up with the concept much less bringing it into existence.  I don't know if everyone sees pictures in their head, but I do and its very frustrating that I can't draw much more than stick people.  Of course I've never spent any real time trying either so there's that.  One thing this podcast points out is that even with creativity, without a skill set to utilize it, its not going to get very far.  Children are less inhibited and so can come up with all sorts of ideas but they haven't spent the time living and learning that it takes to really bring into the world, and mold into perfection their ideas.  If I can hear a song or see a picture in my head what good does it do if i don't have the skill to get it out of there.  

I think everyone has creativity, whether its in business coming up with a solution no one else could ever come up with, or creating a beautiful piece of art, or even just coming up with a new hairstyle because you felt like a change.  It might seem like some people have more of it, but in reality they just practice more.  Its just so ingrained in us that we don't always see it in ourselves.  Like our reflections we take it for granted and can't see the truth so we have to rely on other people to tell us.      But its there, a little bit of magic in every single person.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Lady Bird Johnson Grove

“The redwoods, once seen, leave a mark or create a vision that stays with you always. No one has ever successfully painted or photographed a redwood tree. The feeling they produce is not transferable. From them comes silence and awe. It's not only their unbelievable stature, nor the color which seems to shift and vary under your eyes, no, they are not like any trees we know, they are ambassadors from another time.”

― John Steinbeck, Travels with Charley: In Search of America

Friday, November 23, 2012

The grass is always greener...

This week in podclub we listened to Snap Judgement-careful what you wish for.  This is the first time i've heard this podcast but I think it might become a regular.  The test is usually if it makes me lose track of how long it is...well, I listened while grocery shopping for thanksgiving, and it made it seem like a pretty painless short trip (even though it was packed in the store and I'm a slow shopper when it comes to cooking anything out of the ordinary).  The stories were about people who got what they wanted but it didn't turn out to be all that they had hoped.  

I tried to think of times when this has happened to me.  I know there has been times, of course, but I have a tendency to expect the worst.  Thats not really a good thing, but it does mean I go into good things expecting it not to be all sunshine and roses.  For example, when I was little and grown ups told me I didn't want to grow up I believed them.  I saw how stressed out and generally unhappy they were and it stressed me out thinking I'd eventually get to that age and have to work all day and worry about money.  While most kids were growing up as fast as they could I was trying to go as slowly as possible.  All the stress and tears I had over it probably aged me faster than them anyway so even that was a failure.  

So what are things that I wish for?  Well I want to have magic of course, and to be able to fly (not with wings, just like superman I guess).  I wish I had enough money to not have to worry about money because its my least favorite thing in the world.  Actually, I wish the world would just stop functioning on currency and power and instead just functioned because we all wanted to live here and survive together (hey, if we're going all out wishing here I might as well get to the point).  These are just the first things to come to mind so I guess their my biggest way out there wishes...I know they would come with consequences though.  All of them a result of human nature, we are not perfect and there will always be imperfections in any plan or world we create.  There are a lot of things people would struggle with that would be amplified in these wishes, like greed, laziness, narcissism, the need for power, anger, fear, depression.  I'd risk it for the magic though...

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Small town, big sky

I can't say I love living in the country.  In fact a lot of physical, and emotional energy has been spent trying to get out of this particular part of country.  I don't dislike it though, I can't imagine being packed into a big city, but I also don't want to live in a place where the only interesting thing to do is go to a bar and forget you live in such a place (which i've actually never done, but I've been here long enough to know thats what quite a bit of people do the second they can) This tiny town doesn't have much to offer.  Its mostly a desert, with irrigation making farms possible.  Anything worth leaving the house for is at least half an hour drive away.  I've met people who love it though, they tell me stories of other places they lived and how they couldn't wait to get back.  I nod politely but inwardly I'm slightly shocked and wonder what it is they can't wait to get back to.  Is it the strip malls full of china buffets and money trees?  The endless supply of fast food restaurants (where they've realized they have no competition and have stopped being fast).  Maybe its Walmart, the one and only store nearby...It always baffles me.  I think for some of them it might just be nostalgia for the place they grew up.  I admit, though I wouldn't want to live in Walla Walla, I do like to visit it, and all those streets I know like the back of my hand could do nothing but make me feel at home.  

This place surprises me sometimes though.  I won't be giving it a second thought and then I'll look out the window and see this huge dramatic sky spreading endlessly over fields.  The clouds will be parting just at sunset, and the light will start to pour down on the earth in pools.  Highlighting a tree here, and old red barn over there, one of the massive flocks of birds that autumn brings moving to another part of the field.  Sometimes I look outside and forget about how much I want to move, because its gone and taken my breath away.  Of course then the wind shows up to remind me...

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Podclub-insane vs. unsane

Love+Radio is now one of my favorite podcasts.  I've only heard one, but I can tell this will be like when I finally started listening to Radiolab and couldn't stop until I'd ran out of them within a few weeks (yeah I get slightly obsessive when I find a good story or in this case storyteller).  This episode is all stories about insanity.  There was so much going on that I can't begin to describe it or really even how it made me feel, other than maybe a little like alice must have felt when she found herself having tea with the mad hatter and all his friends.  

We are all a little crazy.  According to the American Psychiatric Association:

One fifth of Americans suffer from a diagnosable mental disorder during any given year. One fifth of school-age children are also affected by these conditions. Severe and persistent mental illness is less common, but still afflicts three percent of the population.

At some point in everyone's life they become a little mentally unstable for whatever reason.  I'm no exception of course.  I have days that I know (or realize a little too late) that I'm acting more erratically than normal.  I put on a face to gauge just how much of my particular crazy others can take, and even then I don't usually let much of it out just in case (at least not on purpose).  I don't think I can honestly say what is normal or not because I've been finding that I tend to have my own normal.  I think maybe thats also something thats true for everyone.  If you go to a doctor and get any tests they'll show you where your results are in relation to what they've determined as normal or the average.  But what if your not average?  The average inseam for women is 31 and if your not that well, your out of luck.  You might as well head off to Nordstrom Rack and get a basket so you can load up on jeans, head off to the dressing room and make a day of it because you will never be buying a pair of jeans at any store that doesn't have a massive selection and you can forget about khaki's.  I guess problems with doctors and average's is another issue for another day but hopefully you get the point...

Its true that we're all very similar in a lot of ways but we're also completely unique and in some ways we live in our own reality.  I go about my day with my own completely unique reality.  Luckily (though my reality might be less interesting than if I was slightly crazier and it maybe included something wonderful like my own personal magical fairy and a time traveling tree) its just enough like everyone else's reality to keep me out of a hospital and unmedicated.  

Thursday, November 8, 2012


Well, hello there.  My name is Caspian and I'm afraid this might be the first mention of me in this blog.  I'm a little shocked actually, and it's a problem I plan on rectifying immediately.  She will be shunned, and I may even have to spend some time staring deep into her soul to find where things have gone wrong.  I've sent my slave girl off to the store for more toys since i've completely destroyed my favorite feather on a string.  It was very sad, we had a moment of mourning for it, but not to worry, my subjects are loyal (and my mind control methods perfected) and I will have a replacement shortly.  It's quite entertaining actually, they think they're going for groceries and once they get there they (somehow, ha ha) end up in the cat aisle with no idea of what they actually went for.

Now down to the interesting part.  All about me.  I've been ruler of this house for over a year now, and my reign is sure to go on for quite some time as I only eat the best food and work out regularly with my feather.  My fur is luxurious and I keep my subjects loyal by allowing them to touch it for a few moments a day.  A few strokes is all they get, but it keeps them coming back for more and serving me without question.  Occasionally I reward them for a job well done by allowing them to serve as my bed for a short time, but only if they keep their hands to themselves.  Of course the mind control helps, how else could I keep them believing they only serve themselves and I am nothing but a pet (such a horrible term, the very idea would make me hack up a hair ball if it wasn't so ridiculous).  After all the most loyal slaves, don't realize they are slaves.  Speaking of, she will be returning soon so i'll need you to rest up for my long day of mean exercising with my new feather.  So long for now, I'll be monitoring her posts for content and make sure I am given a starring role in the future.

Friday, November 2, 2012

Anything Ghost Podclub

This week in podclub we listened to Anything Ghost Episode #164.  I was a little apprehensive about listening to two hours of ghost stories.  Here's how this usually goes...

Me: I don't really like ghost stories...

Whoever I'm with:  Oh really?  I don't either, but there was this one time...

Me: No I really don't like them and actually would rather not hear any because it will give me nightmares and me and my         healthy imagination spend way too much time alone in the dark.

Whoever I'm with:  Oh okay yeah I totally understand, they don't really scare me like that.  Except this one time that...

See how where this is going?  Apparently people love ghost stories.  I, on the other hand, spent over twenty years avoiding them at all costs because I knew I'd eventually have to do something at night by myself and every story I'd seen or heard would be there haunting me.  Under my bed, around the corner, the dog's howling next door, don't look out the window (why did I leave it open!), in the closet or bathroom, and I don't remember leaving the T.V. on (what was I thinking watching The Shining, just because its old doesn't mean it won't scare me).  I guess in a way I've been haunted most of my life by my own overactive imagination.  When commercials for scary movies come on, I turn my head like I'm a child, too young to see.  If it sounds scary I hit mute first or leave the room.  So I guess its strange that I love halloween so much...I think I celebrate the chance to play dress up and pretend.  I love other things about it too, like the decorations, and everything being a little strange and unexpected.  

When I got married it got worse for a few years.  I had to adjust to being alone at night a lot.  I remember waking up after a terrifying dream about my closet being haunted, alone, in the dark, I called Matthew crying, just to hear his voice and beg him to hurry home.  He calmed me down and somehow I got back to sleep.  Somewhere in my mid-twenties it got a little better.  I don't have nightmares as much, I don't have to close my eyes as soon as the last light is off and feel my way to bed, I don't have to avoid looking out dark windows (though I still get this shot of fright for a moment when I do).  I still avoid scary stories and will have nothing to do with scary movies, but now they don't stay with me as much when I do hear or see one.  This podcast started out by saying it was a special episode and the stories weren't required to be true.  As soon as he said that I lost most of the fear I'd been holding about it.  There were some that were good stories, but I'm going to agree with Jill here and say he is not a very good storyteller.  I was having a hard time imagining any of them, and that means I wasn't very scared of them.  It did make me think of a few of my own stories though.  I'll tell you about them but after years of trying not to think about it, lets hope it doesn't scare me again.

I was really young.  It probably started out like most nights where me and Rachael would fight over who had to get up and turn off the light.  One of us would have to brave the monsters under the bed that appear the second the light goes off.  It was usually me, and that might be why I was laying at the bottom of my bed with my head toward the door, facing the window.  It could also be that I was terrified of the window and things that could come through it so I moved away from it.  However it happened, I fell asleep on my back, facing the window.  At some point I was woken up by a tapping on my shoulder.  Like when someone is standing behind you trying to get your attention.  It woke me up slowly and I remember thinking the tapping was strange as I came out of whatever dream I was in.  When I opened my eyes everything slowed down.  It was round and had a face but no body, just a tail that went up to the ceiling and trailed out the closed window as if it had come through it.  It was over in seconds but I remember first fear and then anger along with all these thoughts going through my head of what it could be.  I tried to hit it but it just backed up out of reach.  I sat up and when I turned to look at it again, it was gone.  I think I spent the rest of the night in Rachael's bed (who despite what her journal might have you believe, still had her good moments)  she barely woke up and said I was probably just dreaming.  I told my mom the next day and she said she had come in to check on me that night and I had probably just seen her.  This did not help because it made me worry that she might be possessed.  It was so vivid and has stuck with me like nothing else ever has.  Yes it could have been a dream, but when I say that I feel like I'm lying to myself.  I've had vivid dreams before and like all the others they fade a little and that it was a dream becomes obvious once I'm no longer in it.  This didn't feel like that.  To this day if I see something shaped like what I saw that night, it terrifies me.  And I have seen them.  Its actually another reason I don't think it was a dream.  I've seen them in things and I know there's no way I could have seen anything like that at a time in my life when I was barely allowed to watch any T.V. or listen to unauthorized music.  Here's a picture of the one that took me the most off guard.  It was in Guitar Hero on all the songs by Tool.  I couldn't play or watch any of them being played.  Its the closest ones I've seen so far, I think because of the tail.

The next story is probably more my overactive imagination but it did stick with me for years and caused many painful full bladders to wait till the sun came up.  I was a little older but still sharing a room.  At some point I heard some stories about kids getting kidnapped, and one in particular where a person woke up to find a stranger sitting next to their bed watching them sleep.  I started to worry about being taken in the night, or coming upon an intruder alone on my way through the house in the dark.  One night I was on my way to the bathroom and saw a shadow move from the stairs to the kitchen.  It looked like a person, and stopped me cold in my tracks.  I don't remember how long I stood there waiting for more movement but nothing else happened.  I was convinced it was a person though and I think I even woke up one of my parents (I don't remember which) and of course they found nothing.  I think it probably was nothing, but at the time I was convinced that it was someone who had broken in and probably just escaped through the sliding glass door in the kitchen.  I thought if it wasn't a person it had to be a ghost because of the shape and then it just disappeared.  Either way I could barely bring myself to go to the bathroom at night for months.

Okay last one.  This is why I don't like looking out windows at night.  When I met matthew we had a conversation that went a lot like the one at the beginning of this post.  I told him I didn't want to hear any ghost stories and he proceeded to tell me the church he was currently living in was haunted and then told me all the stories that went along with that.  None of them bothered me nearly as much as the last thing he told me.  He was being followed by something.  It looked like a man wearing a black trench coat and black hat.  All he could see of its face was its red glowing eyes.  I told him it was not funny to scare me, but he was dead serious.  He told me countless times that he had looked through a window at night only to see the man looking back at him, only to disappear moments later.  It had been going on for years, but seemed to happen less and less and I don't think its happened since we got married.  He claimed he wasn't afraid of it, maybe the fact that just my imagining it might happen to me scared me half to death, and made me avoid windows at night when I was alone was enough and it felt like it had accomplished its goal...I still think about it at night if i want to look outside, but it doesn't stop me anymore.  

So those are the things that haunt me at night.  I'm glad I'm not as scared as I used to be (it took long enough).  I still have an overactive imagination but I guess I've had enough practice at calming myself down now that it actually works.  

P.S.  If your looking for a great ghost story thats only the perfect amount of scary, go listen to Neil Gaimen's audiobook of "The Graveyard Book".  He reads it himself, and he knows how to tell a story.  

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Podclub-getting away with it

This week in podclub we listened an episode of This American Life.  I'm going to go ahead and admit that even though my sister has told me how wonderful this podcast is, this is only the second one i've listened too.  I'm not sure why.  Maybe the name made it sound like it would be boring.  I thought it would be like an audio version of the readers digest.  I guess it has similarities since they both tell stories, but I was glad that this gave me another reason to listen because I really enjoyed it.  This one is called getting away with it, and made me think of all the times I've managed to get away with things.  I wouldn't consider any of them huge, in fact most of them are the day to day things we all do.  I feel like I'm a honest person, but just like everyone else I won't tell people their hair is hideous, or their shoes are ugly and don't match, or whatever.  If asked, I will say,I don't outright lie.  I either find something I do like to comment on or I say something vague, and immediately ask another question to divert their attention.  I guess i've gotten pretty good at lying by omission so I don't have to actually say things that aren't true.  But I do, if it comes down to it, in the heat of the moment, I can't say I've never lied and I definitely won't say I never will again.  

While I listened to this podcast I tried to think of some of the bigger things that i've gotten away with.  I'm sure to some they'd seem like pretty small things but to me it was huge and getting away with it was an amazing feeling.  The thing that always stopped me from doing it more was the fear that came before, I never thought it was worth the risk of getting caught.  

Probably the biggest thing I ever got away with was in high school when I was a grader in physics and graded my own tests.  Even the final.  I was so bad at physics and I was so scared of getting a low grade in anything.  I would sit there grading my tests and when I came across something that I knew but just messed up on the test, I'd change it to the right answer.  I felt like since I really knew the answer it wasn't a huge lie.  I never changed anything I had no clue on.  (Don't worry I think even then there was a voice I was ignoring that was telling me to stop lying to myself because I was definitely cheating).  Our teacher was actually really nice, I even talked him into a higher grade one time when we had a test we graded in class, because the question was confusing.  He made the final test huge, but it was an open note test.  I had tons of notes.  I thought I would be fine.  The problem was that I didn't understand the questions.  Even those confused me like no other class had done in my life.  I knew I'd done horribly, but I waited around for everyone to finish so I could start grading.  I wasn't suppose to grade my own, but the other grader was a friend, and since we sat in the grading room together we agreed that we would grade our own and no one needed to know.  I think my true grade was a low C, but I made it a B (I knew A would be too obvious if he happened to look at anything else I'd done all year).  I remember sitting there doing it, not afraid that I would be caught, but just feeling so guilty because this was straight up cheating, and I could think of no way to justify it even to myself.  I just knew I did not want the feeling of telling people I got anything less than a B.  I still feel bad about this, if I could, I'd go back and let myself know its not worth it, and that the grades I got that year won't make any difference because I was too much of a slacker my freshman year and there was no coming out of it.  

There was another time that came to mind, I actually enjoyed and didn't feel bad for at all.  I think I was maybe 13 or 14.  My sisters and some of their friends wanted to go to an R rated movie.  I'm the youngest but my older sister Rachael was also (barely) underage, but we went anyway and I think we had a plan that if anyone asked one of the older ones would say they were our legal guardians.  At that point I was my full height of 5'8" and had been told I looked older than my age.  I went in first and breezed through.  They barely looked at me.  I stood next to the counter thinking Rachael would have no problem, but watched as they asked for her ID and her friend had to employ our cover story.  She glared at me the whole time.  I was just afraid they'd have second thoughts about me and wanted to run the other direction.  I tried to look inconspicuous but I'm sure my face was red and its a good thing no one spoke to me because I don't think I could have gotten a word out.  They finally let her through, and we got away with it.  The relief, and excitement was huge.  She was so mad at me for getting through unscathed but I barely felt it.  Not only had I gotten away with it but I'd basically been told I look older than my big sister.  I was at an R-rated movie that I shouldn't be at with my older sisters and their friends, and for a moment I actually felt like I belonged.

I think we all have stories like this, where we've gotten away with something and it either turned out to be an adventure or its something we wish we could undo.  I think sometimes to lie is the cowards way out and other times it actually takes massive amounts of bravery.  Maybe thats how we know when its ok.  Though, how do we know which is which unless we can be honest with ourselves...

Friday, October 19, 2012

Fortune Favors the Bold

keep your mask on, don’t talk, don’t use your cell phone, “fortune favors the bold.”

Imagine your going out for a night in New York.  Your a little nervous because you have tickets to a show that breaks the rules.  There will be no theater, no seats for you to watch from afar, no polite conversation with the stranger sitting next to you.  You've been told very little, but that it will be like nothing you've ever experienced.  You get in line and soon someone comes by to check your ID and stamp your hand.  No explanation, but is that really enough to make you turn around now that you've come this far?  No.  Just enough to make you wonder what could possibly be beyond those doors.  Finally the line starts moving and you file into a dimly lit hallway, your bags and jackets are taken in exchange for a ticket (there will be no distractions here).  Soon you emerge in a bar that starts to make you feel like you've stepped back in time.  There is jazz music, a fortune teller, maybe you'd like to try some absinthe.  Your given a playing card and told to enjoy yourself until its called.  When it is, you head for the elegant looking lady over by the freight elevator, where she tells you the rules.  Keep your mask on, don't talk, don't use your cell phone, fortune favors the bold.  The elevator stops and the door opens.  Everyone cranes their necks to get a glimpse but the lady only pushes one person out and then closes the door, her smile returns and she tells the rest of you to meet her back in the bar when your done exploring.  The elevator stops again and your finally free.  But free for what?  Its dark.  There are no signs or arrows telling you which way to go.  Suddenly your forced to make your own decisions on how to experience this show.  You can follow the crowd, or you can head off on your own.  You can chase the actors around and see bits and pieces of drama, or you can explore the rooms and read notes or eat the candy in the candy store.  You've shed the rules of society as you donned your mask and you can do as you please.  You remember the last rule.  Fortune favors the bold.  But what exactly does it mean, and just how many of your own rules will the mask allow you to ignore...

This week in podclub we listened to a Freakonomics podcast called Fear thy Nature.  It was inspired by a show called Sleep No More, which is more of an adventure than a show.  Just how far will people go when taken out of their normal environment.  What if you give them power over others.  What if you make them anonymous.  What will they do when all their normal rules are stripped away and their given new unusual ones.  These are questions that this podcast explores.  They talk to a doctor Philip Zimbardo, who was the psychologist responsible for the Stanford prison experiment.  Some student volunteers were put in an area, some as guards, some as prisoners.  It didn't end well.  It could have been because the students, knowing that they're part of a psychology experiment, were trying to make interesting situations, but even with that I think it has an interesting outcome.  They were still willing to go way too far for an experiment, which means they (and that would mean many of us) were capable of things that in a normal situation would never cross their minds.  So what happens when we are taken out of our boxes?  Do we just adapt to our environment no matter how strange or different it is, or do we start to break down and start to lose the rules that make us a cohesive society.  The ones that keep us from killing our neighbor for looking at us funny, or telling our friends what we really think of them just because we're angry.  I'd like to think I'd still be me, but after listening to this podcast I'm not so sure.  

When I went to Sleep No More I feel like I did get bolder with the mask.  I chased down the actors as closely as I could so I could see and be near the action.  I rummaged through the rooms along with everyone else.  I felt like I was still me though.  I didn't steal anything (though I'll admit I considered it).  I didn't do anything I would have been ashamed of if someone had suddenly ripped of the mask.  Mostly it just made me feel like I was free to explore.  I saw others who were bolder and it was almost as entertaining as the actors themselves.  I don't know what would happen if those rules I was free of for three hours were gone for longer though.  I may adapt more after a few days and suddenly become someone else.  Hopefully there will be more shows like this made and I can explore it (and my own inner control issues) and find out.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

fun with gluten

Today I'm making gluten for my dad's birthday party.  This is the first time i've made more than one batch at a time so having the two next to each other I finally saw just how much i wash out in the sink.  My hands are pruny and tired and I'm regretting the decision to do it all in one day.  

Gluten is something special in my family.  Its made for special occasions and takes many hours to finish.  Its developed (in a mixer), washed (in the sink), boiled, fried, and then baked.  When I was little we split it up in a few days and all of us had our own job to help out.  I usually ended up cutting up onion and stretching the gluten into little steaks for the boiling portion of it.  Sometimes my mom would let me wash it out, but only if she had gotten it past the point where it wouldn't get lost.  I remember she lost it once and it was like a tragedy had happened.  I was in disbelief.  We had to start over?  There was not way to save it?  It was all wasted?  I was so disappointed and practically in mourning for the loss of perfectly good gluten. When people came over we might let them try it or we might not.  Like a favorite book or song I didn't want ruined or wasted on someone who might not like it, I gauged how they might respond to it and only offered small amounts to close friends, giving them strict instructions that if they didn't like it they were to give it back so it wouldn't be wasted.  That never happened of course.  They thought it looked gross, but they always loved it after they tried it.  

When I got married I knew this was one tradition I wanted to keep.  Of course I didn't own a mixer, but i thought it would be worth it.  The first time i developed it by hand for half an hour, and then lost it in the sink because it had been so long I didn't remember the exact way to do it.  Needless to say I didn't do it again for awhile.  When i did I remember sitting on the ground with a bowl between my knees, pushing my hands into the dough until they hurt so bad I literally could not do it another second.  Then I took a break and did it again.  I was NOT going to lose it.  It actually turned out fine and I  haven't lost a batch since.  I finally broke down and got a mixer after a few years.  I still only make it maybe once a year, and I have yet to offer it to any of my in laws or people i've met here, for fear of wasting any of it.  I've considered trying different sauces with it but every time I'm done and have spent hours and hours on this food, I'm never brave enough.  

Today I started the gluten at noon.  Its now 4:00 and I'm about half way done.  At least I will be doing the last part on saturday and i'll probably have help...even if it is the easy part.  

Friday, October 12, 2012

this week in podclub

"The Science of Healing Places"

I think i've always known, or at least had the idea that some places are more healthy and healing than others.  Kind of like, when I can't give a literal meaning of a word because I only know what context to use it in.  I know that I feel better when surrounded by order and beauty.  I know that when I'm in a room with too much clutter, or just something small has been moved in a room that I'm normally comfortable in, i will feel that chaos inside and the stress will start building up.  I know that I can stand on the shores of any beach, feet in the sand, staring into the waves, losing time completely while letting the stress of living be pulled out by the tide.  These are things I've felt, but this podcast revealed to me just how powerful the healing of our brain and spaces can be. 

I'm not going to pretend that i keep my house organized and clean.  I know i feel better when it is clean, but i don't have the energy to keep it that way.  There is one room that i keep just so.  The living room, has huge windows that look out into a pasture with two horses in it.  In the morning i get up and open these windows.  The sun floods in and immediately picks up my mood (as only the sun can do).  My cat, who loves when i open them, hears me pulling them up and races into the room, leaping full speed onto his little cat perch, sometimes slamming into the wall or window in his excitement.  This also improves my mood (as only a soft purring bundle of spunk can do).  After this i can sit and drink some coffee or tea while soaking up the morning sun.  This wasn't the plan though.  I should have known (I was, after all, the little girl that liked to lie stark naked on the floor in front of the open windows of my childhood home).  I've moved quite a bit since then from tiny place to tiny windowless place.  So when we moved here i decided i'd put my music room downstairs.  I had visions of playing my guitar and then relaxing with a book in that room.  I made it simple and inviting.  I ended up sitting in our empty (we didn't have nearly enough furniture for this house) light filled living room, next to the window with nothing but a book and some classical music playing on my phone.  I guess that means the place that will make me feel the best is simple and light, with lots of windows.  I don't like TV's in that space, and its actually a battle because I'm not the only one that doesn't like the basement, which is where we normally keep it.  Its calming and healing when my cat comes and cuddles up to me in that space and I can feel him breathing and purring.  Even if he is just trying to push me out of "his spot" or get as close to it as he can...

The science part of this podcast was amazing to me.  I'm not even going to try to recount any of it because my brain doesn't retain things like that, but I will say if they continue on researching and implementing their findings in places like hospitals it could be a complete game changer for not only patients but also people working there.  Currently hospitals are sterile, cold, uninviting.  I don't see that changing for the majority of them any time soon, but maybe, with research like this, maybe some day we can go to a place that doesn't make us feel more stressed the second we walk through the door.  Maybe there will be rooms that encourage healing with their design and decorations.  Maybe the changes will help doctors and nurses who work long hours, not get burnt out and continue to treat their patients as human beings instead of an obstacle they have to get through before they can get the hell out of there.  Maybe.  This podcast gave me a little hope in a department I currently have very little in.  Change, however, is slow, so for now i'll have to content myself with making healing spaces in my own life.  

Monday, October 8, 2012


See that E flat right there?  Last week it was the bane of my existence.  It belongs to a song, written by Bach, called presto.  That isn't so much its name as a direction on how to play it though.  The real name is bwv 1001.  I have no idea what that means and it doesn't really matter for this post.  

Back to E flat.  This one is is followed by B flat which turned it into a gigantic road block that I could not get through no matter how long I spent obsessing over it.  No matter how many times I watched it being played on youtube, screaming at them to "slow down dammit! I can't see what your doing!"  Thats what i get for deciding to learn a song who's name means its played fast.  I tried playing the phrase preceding it in every place i could fathom but every time i got to the E flat, everything fell apart.  I couldn't reach B flat from there, or there, or there.  A week of this.  up and down the fret board getting nowhere, in fact moving back from where i'd ended it the week before.  

Finally Saturday and my guitar lesson came.  I was a little anxious because i knew it would look like i'd done nothing all week.  I told my teacher i was stuck and after a few minutes of looking at the music he did the one thing i hadn't tried.  He used the very spot i was unable to play in any one place and used it as a transition.  I was so frustrated and had tied up so much emotion into that one spot and my inability to play it that the moment that i realized what he'd done and that i could actually move past it I nearly burst into tears.  I had to force myself not to think about it and move forward with him to what came next, and luckily was successful in not completely embarrassing myself.  It was an incredible weight that had lifted.  

I have a tendency to place all of myself into the one thing that I can or can't do.  So if I fail it becomes this huge suffocating thing that i can't overcome.  It holds me down and starts dragging me into a particular kind of self-loathing depression that involves hating everything i've every produced good and bad.  I do the one thing I fear the most of other people and dismiss myself as unimportant, unintelligent, and incapable.  All the moments I keep to torture myself with run through my brain like a constant nightmare reminding me just how ridiculous I can be.  You might be thinking "Good grief its just music, just a single note.  All you had to do was get some help from someone who knows what their doing."  Well, you wouldn't be wrong.  I would have said the same thing to someone else struggling with such a simple problem.  Asking for help seems like such and easy thing to do when your not the one doing it.  However, if I didn't have a weekly guitar lesson, I would never have told a soul what this one small note was doing to me.  To be fair, if I wasn't taking lessons, I wouldn't be learning classical music, but I feel like it would just be another, probably more simple, song.  I would have given up.   Maybe stopped playing for a few weeks or months.  That in itself would have made it much worse and confirmed that I was a failure.  

I went home on Saturday and worked on the song some more.  Slowly playing through the part that i'd just learned and then tentatively pairing it with the next few notes to see where it would lead and if i'd be able to follow.  After a few measures I began to feel some confidence again.  I can probably guess that I won't be playing this piece perfectly anytime soon.  But at least I'm no longer doubting that i'll even be able to learn it.  By sunday i'd learned more in two days than i'd learned in any of the weeks i'd been spending on it.  

I guess the point of this blog isn't so much the note that i couldn't get past as it is what i learned about myself because of it.  I have a process for learning things.  As an example, in music I memorize a certain amount and when i think i've gone as far as i can remember for one day I go on past it, maybe three measures.  Not memorizing them, just reading through them and figuring out where i'll be playing them.  It gives me a head start, i won't remember it the next day but i'll learn it faster and better.  This is the process i've used since high school and it rarely fails me.  When it does, I don't know how to handle it.  Typically I think I let the after effects run their course like I would a cold, assuming there is no cure and i can only treat the symptoms.  Not telling anyone because that would probably make it worse.  This time that was interrupted by help.  Yes, It was scheduled and Its his job to do just that all day long, and  I'm sure he had no idea how he unwittingly put a stop to the emotional landslide that was about to happen.  I felt like I'd stepped off a cliff only realize it was only a small step down.  Hopefully I can remember this next time and find a way to interrupt it again.  Maybe its asking for help,or maybe its having a goal and allowing myself to reach it imperfectly.  

My teacher continually tells me I can only achieve things If I tell myself I can.  The minute I say I can its a possibility and if I say I can't, then I won't be able too.  I always nod in agreement because this is something I already know and its easier said than done, but until now I haven't really experienced it.  So, here's my goal.  I want to finish learning this song by the end of next week.  I can do it.  I will.  

Saturday, October 6, 2012

If your reading this your probably lost...

What makes me think i can write a blog?  I guess i can be talked into lots of things if your persistent enough.  So here is my first post that absolutely has to be a non post, just like every journal i've ever started could not be started on the first page.  In fact sometimes it had to be started near the end, i don't suppose i could do that here though.  Ok, ready?  wait for it...

There are two horses, standing side by side, in the field right in front of me.  they're swishing their tails in unison.  They have the worst static electricity i've ever seen so it looks like their hairs, which are splayed out like a huge fan, are levitating from side to side of their own accord.  The horses continue to eat, oblivious of the mutiny going on behind them.

You might know this already but I'm kind of lazy.  Too lazy to get up and take a picture and then email it to myself and then upload it.  I know you have a good imagination though so I'm not too worried.