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.