Thursday, December 29, 2011

Pity, party of one

I'm not sure why, but lately I've been feeling really down about things, and about myself in particular. I don't know if it's the winter, or the fact that I was in a really dark place this time last year and it's all rearing its ugly head again, or if it's just people being in town and stirring up old, not very pleasant memories for me, but lately I have felt pretty crummy.

There have been some personal life things, nasty arguments where things have been said that are pretty hurtful, and then a lot of things are just carry over from past things. And what's the worst is that every time I start to feel like this, I find myself thinking a lot about how I'm often not the person people choose in relationships. Typically, everyone picks Jason. He's likable, he's friendly, he's intelligent and he's kind. Me? I'm not really any of those things. 99% of the time, I hear "I was pretty sure you were a total bitch when I first met you". I'm guarded. I say what I think. I have high expectations and I don't really give people the option of not meeting them. I come with baggage, I guess, and as a result, people don't inherently like me. It's not new, it's happened my whole life. It just wasn't a problem before because I wasn't standing next to someone who everyone loves, so that by comparison I feel small and insignificant. I often feel like if he is around, I'm just...not. I stop mattering to people. I am an accessory, not a necessity. That's hard to know about yourself. I mean hell, even my "best friend" told me that she only tolerates me so that she can spend time with Jason. Stings, doesn't it? But that's how it is. I go to every school board meeting Jason goes to, but no one ever notices or remembers me, they always credit him with making the time to attend. I do as much work with the drama department as he does, but the kids act like he's the only one there working to help them. I did as much directing work in our show over the summer as he did, but everyone credits him as the director. So where do I fit? At what point do people appreciate me for me instead of something that tags along with Jason like a weight around his neck?

And honestly, I find myself angry at him and resenting him for the fact that everyone picks him over me. It's not his fault, I know that on an intellectual level, but at the same time.....I can't help getting angry because it sucks. Like.....really really sucks. It's pretty lonely, and it puts me into a position where I don't even really want to talk to people about it because I don't want to be accused, as I have been previously, of bringing "too much drama" and I also don't want to complain about things and have people think less of Jason due to what I might say, or think less of me for well....being me. And there's no solution to it anyway. I can't make him less likable. I can't make myself into him. I can't make people like me or enjoy my company. So that leaves me nowhere. But I'm lonely. And I'm sad. And I wish I was missed when I'm not around. And I wish people asked me to do things without Jason sometimes, that way I felt like it wasn't just him they wanted to be around all the time.

And I wish that he wasn't the only one who got apologies when people say hurtful things. I wish they offered me the same courtesies.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Adventures With an Elderly Dog, Part 2

For those of you who are new around here, this is Simon. Simon is old. Like, I'm not talking that whole "Oh, Fido is 9 this year. He's getting old". No. In dog years, Simon is like Moses old. He's a 15 year old lab, and for a breed that tends to crap out around 12, that makes him ancient. Over the past couple of years we've been experiencing life with an elderly pet for the first time. Simon is Jason's first dog, and all of my childhood pets tended to die fairly young due to an uncanny ability to Darwin Award themselves, typically related to an affinity for chasing cars on the 50 mph road in front of our house. We've had friends who have dealt with elderly animals, so we've witnessed their trials and difficulties, but I think that you can never fully know what it's like until you do it yourself. So, Simon is treating us to a variety of experiences with him as he ages. His hearing is gone, his eyesight isn't what it used to be, he has arthritis in his back hips, he barks constantly at nothing because he's lost the ability to run and play so this is his only form of entertainment. It's been an interesting road.

We are still dealing with the pee issue we had a year ago (more info on that here), and now sometimes he poops in his sleep because, hey, why not right? And now, because we're masochists, we've added a puppy into the mix. To be fair, the puppy was meant to be a friend for Sam in the event that Simon is no longer with us, but the puppy seems to have decided Sam is a waste of his time and he wants to play with Simon. Simon does not feel the same way. Right now we're at a point where Simon sleeps like 15 hours or more a day, and the annoying puppy interrupting his glorious napping is not welcome. Now he barks at the puppy. Whenever he sees him. No matter what the puppy is doing. Puppy is lying on the floor chewing a toy, Simon comes in from another room and barks. Puppy is running laps through the house, Simon barks every time he runs through the room Simon's in. It's kind of an ongoing thing. I'm not sure what the barking is supposed to do, because the puppy seems to think that it's a trigger to play, but Simon keeps doing it.

What's interesting is that I think that, while you get that your dog is old and that he's got different needs, it's doing the normal little things that make you realize just how old he is. It's taking a walk and seeing him only make it about half way before he wants to lie down and take a nap, or tossing a treat that would normally have been snapped out of mid-air just to have it land on the floor and get licked up carefully once it's sniffed out. Tonight, my realization came while giving Simon his bath. An event that used to take Jason and I a good 40 minutes to accomplish as one of us pinned him down while the other scrubbed, because he would fight us both off to leap out of the tub and go rub himself on every piece of furniture we owned, was done tonight by just me. Jason lifted him into the tub, but then he went back downstairs and I did the scrubbing. There wasn't a fight anymore. This time he stood there, trying not to slip because his back legs give him trouble, and he was shaking. That's new, because he has never been nervous in the tub. Part of me wondered if he was in there going "It's wet! I ordered a sponge bath! I want to talk to Nurse Nancy! I hate the wet!" because he's confused a lot these days. I stood there, as I scrubbed him and cursed his water resistant lab fur that takes more shampoo than any dog should ever require, and thought about how different he is as an old dog. I thought it was nice not to have to wrestle him into submission just to scrub his chest, but at the same time it was a little sad that he didn't have it in him to fight with me anymore. After a while he seemed to relax a bit and while I wouldn't say he enjoyed having a bath, he got a stupid puppy smile on his face and stood up to shake off and shower me with everything that stupid water resistant fur didn't want to hold onto anymore. I'm pretty sure the showering was intentional.

And just as I was thinking how happy I was to get through the bath without incident, since he hadn't slipped or fallen or hurt a hip, I reached down to drain the water and realized that yes....yes he definitely pooped in the tub. Thanks pal. I love you too.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

My Thoughts on Steve Jobs

In the wake of the death of Apple co-founder Steve Jobs, the internet has been flooded with messages of mourning and remembrance of the man who revolutionized the world as we know it. Facebook alone was filled with messages of shock and sadness. Much like any public figure, the death caused people to deeply romanticize the life of the man. As a result, I wasn't surprised when the cynics began to show up this afternoon, becoming suddenly annoyed at the amount of attention his death was getting. A friend of mine liked an article called "Steve Jobs Was Not God" on Facebook, and I wondered if the person who wrote the article didn't understand why people were saddened.

I'm not sure about the rest of the world, but the death of Steve Jobs makes me sad not because of the loss his company is taking without his input and creativity, but because of the loss of what he represents. Like so many people out there who are successful and smart and innovative, Steve represented what can happen when you dare to dream. Apple computers started in a garage with a dream, and that's the last real iteration of the American Dream. We've created a world where it is very difficult for people to dream big and see that dream realized, so those who are able to keep striving for the dream and finally achieve that success, they do become idolized. Steve showed that innovative thinking and hard work can pay off in the long run. In a world where people are looking for the quick and easy way to success through things like "The Secret" or self help seminars that tell you if you think about being successful then it'll just happen, we need people like Steve Jobs to show that thinking is just the start of the process, it takes drive and hard work to make it a reality. I respected what he represented. He expected more of himself, and as a result he expected more of those around him and pushed them to work toward a common goal that was bigger than all of them. He never settled for less than the best, and his success reflected those expectations. So now that he is gone, I feel like the world has lost an innovative thinker, and a man who represented the possibility this world holds for all of us if we only dare to dream big enough. With him gone, a small light has gone out, and that is what people are going to miss the most.

He's not the only one in the world who represents these ideals, but he was a shining spot among the crowd, and as time passes and other lights go out, we will feel their losses as well, but this one is new and fresh. This one is going to be felt for a few days or even weeks longer, but for what he gave to the world I think we can afford him a few days. Your iPod would probably appreciate it.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Much Ado About Everything

Over the past 8 weeks, I have had the privilege and honor of working with an amazing group of young people. Jason, Eric and I worked non-stop on a production of Shakespeare's "Much Ado About Nothing" with several LHS Drama alumni, and several LHS Drama students, and some members of the community. What started off as this small idea to do a summer show turned into this thing that became larger than all of us put together. It went from being a few people trying to pull a show together to a fully functioning community theater company. We all worked in collaboration with one another on a show that seemed too large, too grand in scale to take on in such a short time, and yet we did it. We, as an entire group, pulled together to accomplish something that most people wouldn't have even tried, and we did it really well.

I have to say that there are times in a person's life when they do something truly remarkable, something that sticks with you for the rest of your life, and something that you look at and think "That was so worth it". In my life, I've had a few of those moments. When I graduated college, when we bought our first house, and now there is this. This one experience, this 8 weeks of madness that brought together a group of people in a way that nothing else ever has. Everyone was invested in our success, everyone was positive and upbeat, and determined to get it off the ground regardless of what challenges we may face. Everyone worked toward the same goal, and no one tried to showboat or promote themselves over the good of the entire production. Some people had small parts, but there were truly no small actors in our group. Everyone was just happy to be a part of something bigger than themselves, and there aren't many times in life that you get to be a part of something like that. This small group of people became a true family for those 8 short weeks, and I wouldn't trade it for anything.

I think what I loved most, and what made this a real success, is that it was a collaboration. No one stood up and said "This is my vision, you have to make it happen". We all created the vision together, and as a result, we were able to achieve it together with everyone on board in equal measure. We helped each other, we cared about each other, and we taught each other. At the end of the production run, Jason gave a really nice talk about how each person brought certain unique qualities to the production in such a great measure that the rest of the cast and crew was left with no choice but to raise themselves to that same standard. Unlike other productions I've worked behind the scenes on, our entire process was calm, stress free, and positive. Sure, there were moments when people snapped at each other, but there was none of the overwhelming stress or frustration, or anger at one another that I've seen before. Everyone left the production just as happy as they started it. I've never had that experience before, and it was really nice.

Most of all, though, I am proud of the people who put so much work into something that started as a small idea. I am proud of the cast, who worked their tails off for a very short amount of time to pull of a giant monster of a script. I am proud of everyone who took notes, and direction, and never hesitated to try something new even if they weren't comfortable with it. I'm proud of everyone who made it a safe place for those uncomfortable people to try something new without risk of being laughed at or ridiculed. I am proud of the entire group for coming together to build a set in 2 days, and get that set painted in 2 days. I'm proud of the younger people who have never had a speaking role and stepped up to the challenge we set before them, and did it better than we could have ever hoped. I am proud of everything. I am proud of us.

So, despite what some may say to bring us down, despite what some may do to criticize the work that was done, and despite what some may think they have a right to dictate when they don't, I will say that we have done well. We have done something to look back on fondly, and most importantly we had a lot of fun. To my cast and crew, I want to say thank you for making this one of the best summers of my adult life. Thank you for being who you are, and who we became when we worked together. I can't wait to do it all over again.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

A Farewell To Old Friends

This past Friday at 12:01 a.m. marked the release of the 8th and final Harry Potter film. For a lot of the world, this didn't signify anything other than the last movie in a series that they felt was split to make sure they made as much cash as possible off of the franchise. For the rest of us, those devout Harry Potter fans, it meant so much more. I'm not sure what everyone's experience has been, but for me Harry Potter has been a life changing series.

I showed up late to the party with the books. The first one was released back in 1997, at the end of my Freshman year in high school, and I paid no attention. Even when I was working in the school library my Senior year and the librarian was posting articles from Time magazine about the phenomenon that was Harry Potter, I didn't really pay much attention. It wasn't until Jason was working for a store run by PBS and preparing for the release of the 4th book that I thought "Wow, this might be a big deal". He bought the books, brought them home and tore through them in just a couple of weeks and said "You have to read these. You have to". So I did, and that in itself was a game changer, because Jason and I had never shared the same taste in books before, but suddenly we had this commonality to work from and this addictive series to discuss and theorize over at length. Harry Potter brought us closer together. That's what this series does though, it brings people together. I can't tell you the number of people I've connected to through a common love of these books. When I worked for Waldenbooks, I bonded with staff and customers time and time again over how these books are not just a kids book series, but a common ground on which people can build relationships.

I don't think I would have gone into teaching if it hadn't been for Harry Potter. I know that sounds strange, but it's true. I spent so much time in the bookstore watching kids get excited for the release of a book in an age where the X-Box and iPod reigned supreme and I thought "It's not that kids don't want to read, it's that no one has made it exciting for them", and then I found myself thinking that maybe I could be that person. I suddenly wanted to be the person who lit that spark of fascination for kids who may not really care about reading. I wanted to excite people about books, and teach them how to think about them and analyze them and truly understand them. Selling books wasn't enough. I needed to teach them. So I went into education. Harry Potter put me on the path to a career that I would not have otherwise thought about going into, and it took my floundering uncertain 24 year old self and gave her purpose for the first time since she left high school. When I had the opportunity to meet J.K. Rowling, I was given about 3 seconds to say something to her. I said "Your books made me decide I wanted to teach" and her advice was "Don't be Snape".

My story is really just one of many, because fans all over the world can point to ways that this book series has changed their lives. Hank Green of Vlogbrothers fame saw his career launched when he wrote a song about the release of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. The people of Haiti received 5 chartered jets filled with disaster relief and medical supplies from the HP Alliance, a charity group formed to carry the theme of the Harry Potter novels out into the real world through charitable deeds. A group of fans, young and old, who banded together to bring more love and good into the world, as inspired by the message J.K. Rowling so diligently wove into her novels. Their motto is "The weapon we have is love". Pretty powerful stuff to come out of a series of fiction novels.

My point is, these books have touched countless people, and changed lives in ways that no one would have initially expected. And now, as we reach the end of the series in its film form, we as fans come to a startling realization that we have nothing more to look forward to. We have nothing left but the relationships we have built, and the undiscovered paths that our lives will take as they have been touched by J.K. Rowling and her endearing characters. We have grown up with these books, these films, these characters. We have laughed and cried with Harry, Ron and Hermione. Now we are left to laugh and cry on our own. There will be no new experiences for us in the Potter universe, but there will always be new experiences elsewhere, and we will have to take what we have learned from Harry Potter along with us, and strive to carry on with creating a better world as we were inspired to do the first time we read those newly minted pages. As Dumbledore has said, "Differences of habit and language are nothing at all if our aims are identical and our hearts are open". That is the world we strive for, thanks to the lessons we have learned from a small boy wizard and his friends.

So long Harry, and thanks for the ride.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Lest We Lose The Ability To Wonder

Friday marked NASA's final space shuttle launch, which I've been thinking about off and on ever since the media frenzy began a week or so ago. As much as I think it's sad that we are losing manned space flight, which has been a pretty large part of our scientific history for the past 50 years, and was once a huge rallying point for American morale, I find myself wondering if we're losing more than just the space shuttle. My worry is that we're losing the ability to wonder, and the ability to think "What if?" and then strive to answer that question.

When author Francois Rabelais died, his last words were "I go to seek the great perhaps". I feel like that's what our first voyage into space was, it was a deep need to go seek the great perhaps. Or, as my Star Trek geek husband would say, "to boldly go where no man has gone before". We did not go into space because it was easy, or because it was necessary. We went because we were spurred by that basic human need to reach for more than what is at our fingertips. We reached for the stars, and when they were too out of reach to come to us, we found a way to go to them. We went because we wondered what was out there, and we knew we would never be satisfied until we found that answer. Now, as we lose the ability as a nation to continue those voyages, I find myself saddened that we may be sacrificing our ability to wonder. I think about how there will be no elementary school children talking about how they want to grow up and go to space, because we won't be doing that anymore, and I feel infinitely saddened. I remember going to Kennedy Space Center with my family when I was 12, and my dad getting us up at the crack of dawn to drive out and watch a space shuttle launch, which didn't happen due to weather conditions, but I remember sitting there thinking about how exciting it must be to sit in that shuttle and blast through the atmosphere into a place that almost no one can say they've gone.

Space is one of the few things left in this world that we can explain, and yet remains a mystery. It inspires wonderment, and it inspires people to think beyond the world they know into the great perhaps, and it is quickly fading from our grasp. I don't want to lose that feeling, and that sense of pride at knowing that we have been able to accomplish putting people into space for so long. We were able to put people on the moon. If we weren't losing this amazing program, we could likely be putting people onto other distant planets, or traveling beyond our own solar system into the great unknown. So, what we lose is so much more than a tangible space program, we lose the ability to dream that something more is out there for us, and that we need only seek it and reach high enough to grasp it.

On Relationships

I've never been one of those people who talks a lot about how in luuuuurve I am, or about how Jason is the greatest "hubby" ever or anything like that. This is, primarily, because I feel like people who are always gushing about how in luuuurve they are or how they have the greatest spouse ever are either trying to prove to themselves that things really are that way, or they're trying to prove to others that they totally win at relationships. This might not necessarily be the case, but I generally feel that people who are actually in love and have good healthy relationships rarely ever have to talk about them. In general, I feel like if someone is happy in their relationship, it should be obvious and apparent without someone needing to tell people how incredibly happy they are.

I bring this up because I find myself reading a lot of Facebook statuses and blogs lately where people are talking about how AMAZING their relationships are, or how in luuuuurve they are, or how much they have struggled through to come out "stronger" on the other side and I find myself thinking "What makes you think you're different from any other couple on the planet?" I mean...think about it. Most "couple problems" are completely typical. Short of one of you having a horrible life threatening disease, or if you're dealing with serious infidelity and for some reason decide to remain together, there aren't a lot of problems that every other couple isn't also having. And I really hate the phrase "marriage is hard". No, ALL relationships are hard, but because marriage tends to be less disposable than other types of relationships, people think it's more difficult than any other relationship. Marriage does take work, just like any other relationship, but it doesn't have to be hard. If the person you married understands you, and cares about how you feel and what you want or need, then it's not nearly as hard as people think. I mean, I think back on all that Jason and I have "gone through", first living with my parents and sharing a room with my 2 sisters while he slept on the floor for a year, then living in our apartment with a roommate, then living in a cramped and cluttered house with his mom while we both worked full time and went to school full time, then moving into our own house with uncertain employment situations, going through various periods of one or both of us being unemployed, and I could say "Oh wow, we're so strong because we've been through so much without splitting up" but all I really think is "Well....that was life". It's not about going through stuff and coming out stronger for it, it's about just being strong in the first place and then the crappy stuff that happens doesn't matter. And, feeling like you have to go through things to make you stronger means that you can't be in a strong relationship without shitty things happening. If you can't be on the same page, or in the same place from the start, why be in the relationship at all? Why does anyone date/marry/befriend anyone who has to work really hard to be on the same page as they are? It makes no sense to me. Good relationships take work, but they feel easy. That doesn't mean that they don't have their bumps along the way, or are without conflict or argument, but the fixing process shouldn't feel like work. If it does, maybe it's the wrong connection to make.

So.....I guess what I think is that if I ever start talking excessively about how much I luuuuurve Jason, or how awesome he is, or how great and amazing and strong a relationship we have, that might be the time to start worrying the actual state of our relationship. For now, I think that being able to say "It just works" when people ask about the two of us. I don't need to give or receive mushy cards, or see Facebook statuses about how much Jason luuuurves me, or hear about how he can't live without me. We aren't that couple. I know he loves me, because he married me, and tells me at least once a day, and he puts up with all of my annoying BS. That means so much more than constant public affirmation. I find it so strange that other people feel the need for all the rest of that nonsense.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Once Upon a Time, I Wanted to be a Teacher

For me, one of the most frustrating things about my college experience was that I spent so much of it having no idea what I wanted to do. As a result, I spent a lot of time floundering, and a lot of money switching majors. I didn't graduate college until I was 27, where most of the people I graduated high school with were done when they were 22. They were on to careers and lives that I couldn't even begin to think about because I still hadn't managed to finish school. But then it happened, I had this great breakthrough and realized that of all the things in the world that I had bounced back and forth between, I always went back to this thought that I could be a teacher. It was the only constant in all of my floundering, and after spending a LOT of time with the kids in the drama department that I spend time volunteering with, I realized that it wasn't just what I could do, it's what I wanted to do. So I set out to teach. I literally put my nose to the grindstone, working 40 hours a week while going to school full time and finding space in there to sit down and do all of my reading and homework so that I could graduate with honors in an astounding 3 years for what should have been a 5 year program. I poured my entire life into this one goal, and when I received my diploma I thought to myself "I have finally accomplished something worthwhile" and from there I got.....nothing. No job in my field. No prospect of a job in my field. In fact, my state was cutting budgets left and right for schools and I found that instead of applying for open jobs, I was watching jobs get cut down to nearly nothing.

So there I was, a teacher with no one to teach, and I found that what few jobs there were within my area were being snapped up by teachers from other districts who had tons of experience and were laid off due to their own budget cuts. I found new teachers I had befriended constantly worried that they were going to be laid off at the end of the school year and left with no job prospects at all. I found myself wondering, why does anyone go into this field? Why was I so keen to go into it? I can't think of any other career where the low men on the totem pole have to worry every single year that they'll be laid off, and have to go to another school and start over where again, they'll be worried constantly that they'll be laid off at the end of each year. It's a thankless job, and at times it can be just as frustrating and difficult as it can be rewarding. It isn't a 9 to 5. It's a 24 hour a day job. It's a job where calling in sick is actually a luxury because you can't always get a sub, and if you can you still have to get up and write lesson plans for them so that your class isn't in chaos all day. It's a job where you watch your colleagues buy shoes for the underprivileged students in their classes, while parents and outsiders call them "lazy". It's a job where one or two bad apples ruin the reputation of the entire profession, and instead of parents asking "What can I do?" they ask "Why aren't you doing enough?" so that the uphill battle never ends.

And yet, I still wanted to be a teacher. A part of me still does, but when I look at the state of education, and the lack of value placed on being an intelligent and productive member of society, I'm not sure I have it in me to fight that battle for the rest of my life. Normally I'm a "Rise up, Fight the System!" sort of girl, but I've been unemployed or precariously employed for the past year and a half, and the idea of going right back into that where every year is a question as to where you'll be working the following year....I just can't take more of that instability. Plus, I watch my friends who are teachers constantly trying to do more with less as their funding gets cut to the bone, and at some point they're going to be teaching without any supplies at all and no one will fight for their sake because no one values education as an institution anymore. It's like every generation is more and more apathetic about the importance of knowledge and eventually it'll just be people lobbying against all forms of schooling. I want to fight the good fight, and I want to pursue the one goal that got me through college despite all of the work and exhaustion. I want to say "System be damned, I'm going to be what I set out to be", but the truth is.....I can't. Not only do I not have the opportunity, as more and more teaching jobs are slashed every day, but I don't have the capacity to tolerate the constant accusations of laziness, or delinquency, or a system that wants to pay based on how well your students perform on standardized tests despite the fact that the tests are biased and don't take into account disabilities of students. And beyond that, they don't take into account the sheer APATHY of students. The students who care so little about education that NOTHING any teacher does can pull them out of it, and their parents who feed that apathy. I've had students who do the bare minimum to be able to play a sport, or who don't care about anything outside of their iPod and their video games. No one talks about those students, who are fully capable but simply don't give a shit about anything. But my pay might be based on whether I can change that attitude in the mere 12 weeks I have them in class each trimester? I can't imagine such a world.

So I did....I wanted so badly to be a teacher. Now, with the state of the world we live in, I just don't know that I have it in me to do it.

Monday, May 2, 2011

The End of an Era

Anyone old enough to remember the morning of September 11, 2001 can tell you exactly where they were when they heard that a plane had struck the World Trade Center. For people like me, who were just out of high school at the time, September 11th was the Pearl Harbor of our generation. It too became a date which would live in infamy. The difference is that while Pearl Harbor marked our entrance into a war we had been staunchly attempting to avoid joining, it brought with it a sense of purpose and for our brothers in arms who were already fighting the good fight, it brought a sense of hope that renewed forces would soon end this bloody war. Our experience in the aftermath of September 11th did not bring hope for a faster end to our conflicts in the Middle East. Instead, it brought new fear that we were buckling down for a long battle with no real end in sight. And it has been a long battle. The "War on Terror" has surpassed the time the world spent fighting during WWII, and the victories have been few. The nation, who rallied around their troops during WWII, questioned the purpose of our missions overseas. While Pearl Harbor produced what we have come to call "The Greatest Generation", September 11th has produced the most fearful generation.

After the President's announcement last night that the White House was confirming the extermination of Osama Bin Ladin, I started thinking about what that really meant for the American people. I started thinking about my 8th graders I taught last year, and how young they were when all of this began. For those kids, who were 4 or 5 back in 2001, there is no real memory of a world prior to September 11th. They don't know that you used to be able to greet your loved ones at the gate in an airport, or that there was a time when you could fly somewhere without having to remove your shoes. They don't know of a time when the NBC Nightly News didn't have at least one update a week involving "The War on Terror", and they don't know of a time when it wasn't normal for the government to be able to tap your phone lines. For children who have grown up in a post 9/11 world, they have known nothing beyond the nation of fear we've been living in for the past 9 years. It boggles my mind that we have been searching for Bin Ladin for as long as my goddaughter has been alive. So I begin to wonder, what will this world look like for these children who have known nothing more than a life peppered with terror alerts? I do not presume the alerts will end any time soon, but with this shift in the chess game that is the war could mean a world that looks very different for these children, a world that may be more relaxed for the first time in their living memory.

While thinking about this impact on the current generation of young people, Jason mentioned that we were lucky to grow up in the 90's, in a time of economic prosperity and a fairly mild political climate. It seems that the 90's are set to become an idyllic era, much like the 50's, where we look back and say "Those were the good days" despite the fact that everything wasn't necessarily as picture perfect as it seems in retrospect. But last night, after we got the first real piece of decent news relating to this exhausting war, I felt for the first time a spark of hope that maybe...just maybe things were taking a turn for the positive. I am not silly enough to think that taking out one man can turn everything around overnight, or that it will even turn things around at all, but now I have the small glimmer of hope that maybe things can change.

I would be remiss if I did not also offer credit to President Obama for the speech he delivered late last night. His very demeanor began to swing the tone of this conflict. No longer were we in the "War on Terror", but instead we were in the "War on Al Quaeda". One line that took the terror away from the American people and replaced it with a being that seems real. A human force, which we could have hope of defeating. By fighting "Terror" we were fighting a nameless, faceless entity, and how does one begin to defeat a ghost, especially when that ghost is housed within our own personal fear centers? Now we have a force to recon with, and in one sentence he made that sound possible. While the American people rejoiced in front of the White House, our President called this only a "Significant Achievement", not a victory. The way this was handled by the Oval Office was with poise and dignity. We are not through the woods, but it seems we've found a brief clearing.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Some Days, We Are All Princesses

It seems that since November, the media has been abuzz with gossip, speculation, and excitement over the impending marriage of Prince William and Kate Middleton. There has been press about the preparations, the ring, and the dress, along with nearly any other minute and seemingly meaningless detail that may be related to the wedding. And we ate it up. We, as a general human populace, fell in love with the idea of this wedding just as the groom fell in love with his bride. Sure, there were a ton of people who whined and complained about the news coverage and held fast to the opinion that it was just a wedding and shouldn't be awarded so much attention, but I think on some level, everyone was curious about it.

But why do we, a nation of people who fought against the rule of monarchy, find such fascination with Royalty and all of the pomp and excess that comes with it? I blame Disney. Are there any of us who have not been raised on the fairy tale stories of the Grimm Brothers as presented through the saccharine sweet filter of Disney films? Of course we are fascinated with royalty! Our childhoods were built upon it! I can't think of any little girl who did not grow up wishing she could some day be a princess, or any little boy who did not dream of daring sword fights and far off adventure. The fact is, the British royals are the only connection we have to a romanticized time long past, a time that fairy tales were made of. And perhaps that's what makes this particular wedding so appealing. For once, it feels like the living of a real fairy tale. A normal girl with no claim to nobility somehow growing up to meet a prince and live a happily ever after that every little girl dreams of. Of course there is a clear understanding that happily ever after exists only in fairy tales, and the reality of a royal life is bogged down with duty, tradition, and a public scrutiny that few would envy, but we can't seem to detach ourselves from the pure fantasy of it all. We get to see fairy tales played out in front of us, and in some way it allows us all to imagine "What if that were me?" for just a short time. So on Friday, as so many sat glued to their television and watched the most talked about wedding of the decade, every girl young and old became a princess for a few hours. Every boyfriend, fiance and husband became a prince, and for a short time the fairy tale became real for us all. Maybe that's why people couldn't seem to tear themselves away from it. Plus, who doesn't love a good wedding?

And they all lived happily ever after...

Saturday, April 30, 2011

Procrastination and Projects Don't Mix

All right, so remember when I was bitching about needing a project and then proceeded to do absolutely nothing to accomplish that goal? too. Although, it's not entirely true that I didn't do anything to accomplish that goal. I bought paint. I bought it, and then I felt deeply accomplished in my paint purchasing abilities. I then proceeded to allow the cans of paint to sit in the rooms they were intended for and collect dust. They were AMAZING at that. They collected dust like it was nobody's business. Normally I have more follow through with things like this, but for some reason the motivation died shortly after that paint purchase. I'd like to say that I was busy, or that I was caught up in something important, but the truth is that the reason my motivation died can be summed up with a simple math equation: me=lazy.

But, sometime back in the middle of January, we did paint the bathroom. This was partially because Jason got tired of me whining, and partially because Jason was annoyed that the closets downstairs, as well as the one in our bedroom, desperately needed to be painted to rid them of the weird musty smell they had when we first moved in. We hadn't been able to find a way to get rid of it no matter what we did, so we decided to paint because it was the only thing we hadn't tried yet. So, I said we should just make a day of painting and I could work on the bathroom while he did the closets. This was enough to make appease him and convince him to let me paint. So we did.

And the bathroom went from this, a dark room with gross pinky-brown paint and the darkest blue accent wall ever.

To this, a much nicer and calmer green, complete with new bamboo shade. I was pretty disappointed with the color, because it was more minty looking than I really wanted, but in comparison to the dark blue and brown, it's a HUGE improvement.

Then, a month or so later we were waiting around the house to go catch a movie with my cousin, and we had about two hours to kill before we could leave so I got bored and decided to start cutting in around the trim in the bedroom in hopes that it would motivate my lazy butt to actually do the rest of the room. I got most of the cutting in done, except for what I couldn't reach because I didn't have the time to move the furniture. I'm not sure if it's absolutely necessary to say this, but it didn't really work. For the most part, it did nothing other than leave me staring at a weird band of blue that was ringing my room. I guess the partially painted room finally wore Jason down, because today after we had mowed the lawn and cleaned out the garage, he came in and announced that we should paint the bedroom. So, after months of having a partially painted room, we finally got it done.

So the bedroom went from this, big giant dark room with the same navy blue and same ugly pinky-brown as the bathroom. The worst part about the original paint job was that no matter how clean the room was, the brown always made it feel like it was dirty. And it always felt so dark and closed in, which didn't exactly make it inviting.

To this. The blue photographs paler than it actually is, but it's a nice blue-gray that makes the room look much bigger and brighter. The white furniture and all of the trim looks nicer against the walls, and most importantly it looks clean. And, my green duvet cover doesn't look out of place in the room anymore, which is awesome because I love that duvet cover.

So there it is. The culmination of both my whining and my procrastination. The final product of the stirring of some amount of restlessness in me months and months ago. Now I'm glad I did all of the whining back then, since I'm really happy with the result now, but it probably would have been nice if I'd actually done it sooner. Oh well. Live and learn.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Five Things You Can't Live Without?

Yesterday I was reading a blog and saw that the writer had an entry about the five things she couldn't live without. At first it seemed like a fun thing to think about, but I was quickly struck by how shallow those five things seemed, and how much the answer to that question depends on where you are and what your circumstances are at that very moment. It made me think how her list, which contained items like a curling iron, face wash, a down pillow, coffee, and design magazines, really reflects the heart of American culture. All five of her things are material, and in the big picture that is the rest of the world, they don't matter. I know I shouldn't judge, because I'm as guilty of gross consumerism as anyone else in this country, but it sort of made me sad that of all the things in the world, these were the five she chose. Then I started thinking about what my five things would be, and would they be the same?

The truth is, if we limit this list to things I routinely buy/own and don't ABSOLUTELY need for survival (i.e. food/water/shelter) then I'm not sure I can come up with five things that I truly would never be able to live without. So far on my list I have books. That's it. I couldn't fathom a life without words and knowledge, so books would be on the list, but I don't really have anything else. This makes me wonder why someone else thinks that they really NEED a curling iron and couldn't live without it. Is their life truly summed up and determined by the presence of that curling iron? It makes me sad to think it might be.

My true list of five things, however, would have nothing to do with material goods, for the most part. If it's a given that I have the basics to survive, then my list would include many intangible things that people don't think about, but they need to truly live the life they are given, not merely survive it. So, in no particular order, my list is:
  1. Love
  2. Passion
  3. The Great Perhaps, the possibility of adventure.
  4. Beauty in the world
  5. Knowledge
Those are the things I think of when I think about what I would never be able to live without. It's not about what money can buy, or what I think I need. In reality, our perception of "need" as a society is so grossly distorted that it's no wonder there are people in the world who see us as greedy and selfish. In so many ways, we are. We put value in what we own, what we can purchase, not what really matters. I'd imagine that if we asked this question of someone in Japan right now, in the wake of the earthquake and tsunami, their list would look very different than the woman who needs her curling iron and coffee. It makes me think that maybe we, as a whole society, need to stop and consider what is truly valuable and start actually valuing it.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Bitten by the Reading Bug

I decided to take a break from being political (I know, right?!) mostly because I'm a little weary from the struggle of trying to find ways to rise up and fight the system or whatever. So, I'm going to talk about something awesome instead. Growing up, I was a super avid reader to the point where my parents had a hard time keeping me supplied in books. This continued up until I started college and had little time for my own personal reading since I had so many English classes requiring me to read other books. Then I got out of college and life became very busy so I didn't have much time to read the (literally) hundreds of books that were lining the giant bookcase in my library. Sure, I'd read a book here or there, but I didn't have the time to commit to devouring literature the way I used to, and finishing a book took forever because I was tied up doing other things. But, lately I've felt like I've been missing my old reading habits and I've realized that 2 years without a vacation and an incredibly rough year in general have left me feeling really frazzled and in need of some escape, so I decided that I'd pick up some books and roll back into my old habits. I've been starting slowly, picking up a variety of Young Adult books that I've been meaning to read for a while now. I figure that picking up something short and not overly heavy in a literary sense will at least let me get through the books more quickly than I had been. The last "literary" novel I read took me over 6 months to finish, but I blame that on the fact that I felt like I was trudging through the text waiting for it to get interesting. Since I make a rule to finish a book if I start it, it took some time. Thankfully this hasn't been the case with my recent collection of books. I have swiftly whipped through Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, and The Hunger Games trilogy, and I just started John Green's Looking for Alaska. Easy reads? Sure. It doesn't matter, they've all been great so far, and hard to get enough of. And, what's more, I feel myself getting back to where I used to be, where I consider not going out with friends because I desperately want to finish my book. I sit around thinking about the plot while I'm in the car, or when there's a lull at work, working everything over in my brain and trying to pick apart the strings that weave together the tapestry of a story. It's the first time in a while that I've felt like me, the whole me. Not just the fractured pieces of me that I've been trying to harness together for months now because some really awful events left me shattered, but an actual whole and working me. Bit by bit, story by story, I feel like the words aren't just putting the plot together, they're knitting me back together one tiny piece at a time.

This rekindling of my book obsession has triggered something else. I used to write. Not blog write, but actually write. I'm not saying I was a great writer, but I was harnessing this need to be creative and channeling it into something that felt good to do, I was taking the words that are constantly abuzz in my head and making them into something useful, something tangible that made me feel like I could turn ordinary words into something beautiful. Then one day, I just...stopped. I stopped writing and the words dried up and I was left with nothing. I never took the time to think about it, but I am realizing that maybe I stopped writing around the same time I stopped reading. I stopped craving words and at the same time, I stopped producing them. Now that I'm back with my nose buried in a book, I find myself overflowing with this strange desire to not just take in creativity, but to actually create something. I'm not sure what, at the moment, but it's building in me like a geyser, very slowly right now but I think if I keep this up, it's going to overflow into something, which I can hopefully be proud of.

So thank you Suzanne Collins, Steig Larsson and John Green for lighting a fire that had gone out long ago. I needed it.

Friday, March 11, 2011

America is Not Broke

America is not broke
We are broken...
We asked for your tired, your poor, your huddled masses
When we sealed up the borders, we started making them ourselves.
A nation fueled by greed
Where Corporate America will soon brand the citizens
Because they will own us, if the greedy have their say.

America is not broke
We are broken...
Where money means more than people
And people are becoming desperate
But there is money enough to go around,
Except that it's being held by a precious few
And they're not giving it up any time soon.

America is not broke
We are broken...
A nation that shuts down women's clinics
Because someone might want a legal abortion
In addition to their cancer screenings
And their annual exams.
But what does it matter? They're only women...

America is not broke
We are broken...
Where medical care is a privilege
Not a right.
Where we pay for medical insurance
So that companies can deny us the care we pay for.

America is not broke
We are broken...
But the people are tired of being broken
The people are tired of being ignored
And the people are going to rise.
Do you hear the people sing?
You will soon.

America is not broke
We are broken.

Monday, March 7, 2011

You Say You Want a Revolution...

Jason and I were flipping channels over the weekend and we came across Les Miserables in Concert on PBS. I was excited, because we're going to see it live in a couple of weeks so I got to see some behind the scenes stuff about the production. But, as I sat there watching, I was thinking about the actual story behind the musical. The story crafted by Victor Hugo to tell the tale of a student uprising against an oppressive government, which is sort of the story of every revolution that has ever happened in France. And then I started thinking, isn't that the story of almost every uprising? In the 60's, it was the students who started to rise up against the government in protest of Vietnam, and during the Woman's Lib movement, it was the young women who started the uprising against the forces that were holding them down. Later, when bras were being burned, it was the young women who started burning them. This seems to be a common historical theme, that when the world becomes unfair and oppressive, the young people begin to rise up and fight the system. This is even reflected in recent literature. It's in Harry Potter, where the adults have become complacent and the youth rise up to fight evil. It's in The Hunger Games, where Katniss Everdeen lives in a dark and oppressive society and takes it into her own hands to quietly rebel against those in power. Then there's the revolutions we see happening in Egypt, Libia, Tunisia, and Yemen, all working through a small core of students and young people who fought against what was wrong in their country and worked to change it.

This leads me to the question that arose while thinking about all of this: Where are those young people here in the US? Honestly. If you think about it, we hear a lot of complaining about how government is a mess, how taxes and cuts to education are unacceptable, but most of that comes from the over 25 crowd. I don't hear much from those who are between 16 and 25, the ones who are usually starting all of these revolutions throughout history, throughout literature, throughout our very current events. Why don't we have those kids? Why don't we see today's youth fired up and stirring to change the system? I think part of the reason is that, although the amount of world suck is increasing these days, I don't know that the current youth have really felt much oppression or had a lot of struggle. They came out of a mostly decent economic climate for most of their lives, and only recently have they seen any real struggle going on within their lives. When the economy took a dump and their parents lost their jobs, they should have started crying foul but the truth is, I don't think they even really understood why it all happened. They got rhetoric on the situation, not actual hard fact news. So, there was no move to change anything, at least not in the vein of the protests in Egypt.

Then, in the 2008 election we suddenly saw what the youth movement could do as they came out in droves to vote and elect President Obama into office. Suddenly the youth had something to get behind and someone to support, because he promised change, and in a shocking youth turnout they got what they wanted. And then they promptly forgot about that power they had been wielding during that election. They stopped voting, they stopped paying attention, and nothing really changed. No one held anyone to their promises. And why? Because they did their part, they voted like they were told to do in high school government classes. Shouldn't that have solved the problem? I guess we have failed by not informing them that voting sometimes isn't enough.

When I sit down and really think about it though, I think the biggest reason that we see this overwhelming apathy among the youth today is because they've been convinced that nothing they do will make any real difference. They live in a world where protest, even when peaceful, can get you arrested. They live in a world with so many problems that they seem insurmountable, and they are constantly told that small changes don't mean anything and if you can't tackle the huge problems then you won't make a difference anyway. No one feels like their voice is heard anymore, and they find the responsibility of tackling problems to be exhausting. And, the sad fact is, some of them may just not care at all. But I think that the problem is that no one feels like their thoughts matter, and I don't really find this to be a good excuse. When I look around at countries where rebellion could mean death, and those young people are rising up against a much more oppressive government, I can't help but think that maybe our youth is spoiled and soft, and incapable of sustaining enough passion to make it to the end of a sentence, let alone to the end of a revolution. It makes me sad, and it makes me wonder what we've done wrong to leave our youth so disengaged. Or, maybe it's that we've done something right. Maybe that's what the nation wants now, complacency. That may make me even more sad than the apathy I already see.

Despite all of this, I do have hope. There are small pockets of young people out there who want to make real change. They want more from the world than what it currently gives them. There are groups out there, like John and Hank Green's Nerdfighters who strive to "decrease world suck", and groups like the HP Alliance, a group of Harry Potter fans who are out there trying to make a difference in whatever ways they can. And in Wisconsin where there are daily protests at the capitol building, we see students showing up to protest and fight for their teachers. There's a 7 year old girl in Texas who brought a sock filled with loose change into her school because she heard her teachers might be laid off and she wanted to help give the school money so her teachers didn't have to go away. It's out there, the youth movement. Perhaps not speaking out with the roar that it has the power to use, but it's softly rumbling in the background, and I can only hope that it's growing and that it will some day become too loud to ignore and we will see those in power held responsible for providing the world that our youth was promised when our forefathers set their own revolution in motion. I just hope it's sooner rather than later.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Pet Cremation Is Weird

I should probably preface this post by saying that I grieve quickly. I say this up front so that later you will hopefully remember it later and not think I'm a total asshole. So remember that, I grieve quickly. This is true of people and of animals. When my grandma passed away I was crushed up until the day of the actual burial. After that, I had closure and I moved on. I don't visit grave sites often, because the people who are dead don't know I'm there, and they aren't really there anymore either so I don't feel like I need to stop by and say hi or anything. I figure the people I love know how often I think about them once they're gone. So last week, when my cat died, I was crushed for the first few days, but by the time the vet office called me to say her ashes were in, I didn't turn into a giant crying mess. Ashes are closure.

I went to pick her ashes up this afternoon on my lunch break and I immediately realized that pet cremation is a weird thing. I've never had a pet cremated before. Growing up, we had a giant back yard and all of the family pets just got buried somewhere along our tree line. Hell, we even buried the horses when they died because my mom couldn't stand the idea of sending them somewhere to "be disposed of", so we hired a dude with a large piece of construction equipment and buried the damn horses. Unfortunately, Norbert died in the middle of the freaking winter, during a blizzard, when the ground is totally frozen. That makes burial inconvenient. Plus, our Stepford neighbors and the HOA probably wouldn't enjoy us digging up the yard to dispose of our cat. So, we had her cremated. When I went into the office the receptionist asked what I needed and I said I was there to pick up my cat's ashes. I had to stop myself from saying "my dead cat". Because really, that's what I'm getting. She suddenly became very somber, like all of those people you see running funeral homes, and said she was sorry and she would go get the ashes for me. I stood there for a bit while another person was processing a refund for the uneaten prescription food I had that obviously didn't help the cat since well...ashes.

The woman soon returned with a gift bag, I kid you not an actual gift bag containing the wrapped up remains of my cat. She said she was sorry again as I stood there thinking "This is pretty festive for death" and picked up the bag. At this point, I suddenly wished I was someone else. ANYONE else, because I deal with death strangely. I blame my dad for this. Dad diffused sad situations with funny stories about the ill or deceased person, and we all got to laugh instead of cry. So I laugh. Inappropriately. The freaking bag containing the ashes of my dead cat is heavier than the actual cat was. Intellectually I know this is because they put her ashes in a little wood box, but part of me wanted to say "Are you sure they didn't mix things up and give me a dead Rottweiler instead?" Thankfully, the mouth filter kicked in before I spit that one out. Dodged that bullet. But I did still laugh, a little. I am a terrible person. This was confirmed by the look the receptionist woman gave me.

Then I went out to the car. First I looked at the little memorial paw print they cast for us in clay, which is weirdly cute until you realize it was taken when she was dead, and then I pulled out the certificates from the pet crematorium that were in the bag. There was a bookmark with a poem, and then an actual certificate saying "Your special friend (Norbert) has received cremation services through us. We are sorry for your loss" and my first thought was "Well I hope she received cremation services, otherwise what the hell is in this freaking box?!" But I guess it's nice to know that they put a certificate in there in case we were wondering what happened to the cat and we were expecting to get her back taxidermied or freeze dried or something. Nope, just cremated, got a certificate to prove it.

That's when I did it. I pulled the wood box out of the bag and looked at it. My first thought was "What the hell?! This thing is literally sealed shut. How am I supposed to sprinkle her around Stalin if I can't get the box open?!" and then I wondered why they'd seal it so carefully. Maybe they charged me $120 and gave me a BS certificate but did not really provide cremation services. Maybe the world is being ripped off by The Man. So I did it. I shook the box to see if it sounded like there was anything inside. It did. Now, for all I know, it's the scrapings out of someone's fireplace or something, but at least there's a bag of something in there and I'm content to believe it's my cat. Or a Rottweiler. I'm just saying, that box was heavy.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Leave Your Message at the Beep

I haven't disappeared. I just haven't had anything to write about. I've been in a bit of a funk the past week or so, and the words and rants and usual fodder for blog entries just aren't there right now.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

So Long, Thanks For the Ride

My cat died today. I know this is small and insignificant in the large scheme of universal affairs, but in my small and not so significant world, this matters. It matters for a lot of reasons. Norbert was the first pet Jason and I got when we moved in together. She has been with us through 9 years of our lives together. She was the first kitten we picked from her litter, she was all personality and attitude and she was probably the most fun pet we have ever owned. She was ours unconditionally. She loved no one in the same way as she loved us. And she loved no one in this world as much as she loved Jason. Even today, at the end of everything, she still tried to purr when he held her. She was our cat, and we loved her.

And, at the end of everything, I wasn't there. I didn't get to see her. For the second time in my life I found myself painfully absent as someone I loved passed away. I was somewhere else, and I didn't get to say goodbye. And I know she was a cat, and I know I will get over it eventually, but it's just another reminder of losing someone or something I care about and not having a chance to say goodbye. Once again, I should have been there, and I wasn't. That hurts.

Now, tonight, as I sit here in my house it seems too quiet without her. Nothing has changed really, but somehow it feels like there's a hole in here somewhere. Everything feels too still, like the house is waiting for her. Fluffy is waiting for her. She has been wandering the house, meowing like she's lost something, and I can't help but feel awful because she doesn't understand. And, frankly, neither do I. It wasn't supposed to end the way it did. But at least I can intellectualize it. But it figures that if Norbert was going to go out, it wouldn't be quietly. It's fitting that she'd ride out on a hellish blizzard, wreaking havoc on the innocent. She had no intention of going quietly.

So, farewell my Stalinistic little kitty. Thanks for letting us have 9 years. Sorry I missed the last minutes.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

State of the Union Running Commentary

While watching the State of the Union address I decided to write down everything Jason and I said out loud to the TV. For your enjoyment.

-Yay! It's not just superbowl winners, it's science fair winners!
-Yeah, become teachers. But first why don't you make some fucking teaching jobs?!
-Oh Boehner isn't clapping at that. He's just sitting there all orange and cranky.
-Everyone not clapping here must get money from insurance companies for their campaigns.
-Government is going to make sacrifices? I hope it's not a cow. That'll piss PETA off.
-Freeze spending? Shouldn't Boehner be peeing his pants over this?!
-The backs of our most vulnerable citizens? Isn't that like....everyone now?
-That plane analogy was kind of a fail. Without an engine you wouldn't feel impact because you wouldn't get off the ground.
-He wants to cut defense spending? The republicans aren't going to like that!
-Yes, let's make rich people pay more. It's not like they don't have it.
-Nice dig at privatization of social security. We all saw how well our 401Ks did after the market crashed....
-Boehner seemed surprised by that one.
-A competent government? What does that look like?
-Does anyone else think Biden look like he's not entirely sure of what's going on? Did anyone tell him it's the State of the Union tonight?
-Whoa, what was that John Boehner? What was with the shifty-eye shifty-eye?
-It's nice to see John McCain happy. Not really. Someone get Palin in here to be a buzzkill.
-They're talking about Iraq. Quick! Someone cut to a soldier from Afghanistan!
-Wow, lots people not standing on the Muslims being part of our American Family. They are probably sitting there like "Fuck those arabs and their turbans". Racists.
-Carl Levin looks like The Penguin from Batman comics.
-Hillary Clinton looks awful! Oh HD, how unkind you are to so many politicians.
-We've strengthened Asian alliances because we're all scared shitless of China. We saw those opening games at the Olympics.
-Yes, everyone has to stand and clap for the troops or they're unAmerican.
-Very stoic there generals.
-No one wants to be from Scranton.
-There he goes! He's gonna cry!
-Plan B, but don't worry republicans, it's not the birth control pill so get your panties out of a twist.
-Fuck he's a good speaker!
-At least no one booed.

A Moment of Silence for the Death of the Book

I think the question I want to start off with here is this: DOESN'T ANYONE READ ANYMORE? I mean really, doesn't anyone ever just go out to pick up a book for the pure joy and anticipation of a good story? I ask this knowing that yes, people do read, and people out there still love a good story, but as I stand on the precipice of the traditional bookstore taking a nose dive, I find myself wondering if it's because of technology or if it's because people don't read. This question has been nagging at me for weeks, but last night it kind of boiled over in my rage pot (which is located behind my mouth, apparently) when I attended a school board meeting for our local school district. Jason did a big post about their attempt to integrate technology into the classroom, so you should hop over there and read what he had to say, but what struck me was the teacher statement in the presentation about how you can't expect a student to learn without technology. The comment was somewhere along the lines of "The kids are so tied to technology that you can't expect them to learn without it. You can't just hand them a book and expect them to get research out of it." My question here is: WHY THE HELL NOT?! Why can't we use books in addition to technology?

I've had this complaint for years, actually. I can't stand the fact that when I ask a student to research a subject for a report or a paper, I get a collection of Wikipedia pages in the works cited section. Really? That's the best you can do is Wikipedia? But the fact is, that's all they know. And isn't that a failure on us as teachers? I've heard from many teachers that if they tell the students that their research can't include any citations from Wikipedia, the classroom nearly breaks out into a riot. Heaven forbid they require one book source for research. I had that problem in my student teaching. We required the students to research their five paragraph essays and one of their three sources had to be a book. The most frightening thing for me was that they had no idea how to find a book with research information in it. Thank goodness for a really astute librarian. But honestly, even if books go digital, it seems as if people don't understand how to use them anymore. Everything is on the internet, but there is a real lack of understanding that the internet does not have an editor.

Perhaps what is the most difficult for me to understand is why people see technology as a replacement to legitimate written research. I mean, a book is a book, regardless of whether you are opening it from a libary or reading it on your iPad or Kindle. It's still an edited source of literature and information. So why do we think we can just replace that with a Podcast or something? Why do teachers think that the solution to their kids not paying attention in the classroom is to hand them an iPad. Sure, they'll be paying attention but it won't be to you. They'll be playing Angry Birds with the sound turned off. It is not a fix-all to the education system. I am not opposed to technology in the classroom. In fact, I love it. I think that when used properly it can enhance lessons and make them both interactive and interesting. If nothing else, PowerPoint presentations allow for constant visual aids which helps the visual learner. Videos, podcasts, and interactive learning quest programs are all amazing, and they can really enhance a traditional lesson. That's the key word, enhance. They don't replace good lesson writing and they don't automatically make your lesson great. You still have to have the proper source material to provide the information, regardless of how it is delivered. You don't get to just say "Oh, I put this on an iPad, now it's perfect". It still takes working at what you're doing.

And it still requires you to know what the hell you're talking about. I took a class in college where my History professor stood up in front of us on our first day of class and said "How many of you hated history in High School?". Most of the hands in the room went up. He then asked "How many of you had History taught by your football coach?" and nearly as many hands went up. He went on to tell us that history is uninteresting and boring when it comes from people who are just reading off names and dates, but that the subject was usually given to the Football coach because it was easy to read off names and dates. He said history is a living and breathing experience and unless you give it context, none of the names and dates matter. He couldn't have been more right. And I feel that way about this whole book issue. The internet, or any piece of technology, is just a series of binary code with information that may or may not be accurate. Until you breathe some life into the source material and give it some context, it means nothing. Books weave a story. The internet bullet points facts. And now, that's all our students are able to do.

For most of the high school students I know, reading is a huge chore when they have to "like...go through all of those words and figure out which parts are importantan and stuff". Websites are easy. They break everything down in a series of bullets. No thinking required. But I don't think the kids started out that way. I defy anyone to find me a person who can't name at least one story they loved from their childhood. In a failing book industry, Children's Books and Young Adult Books are the only areas consistently growing and outselling themselves year after year. So I don't believe that kids don't want to read. I think that somewhere along the way it just stops being an expectation because "they're so plugged into technology anyway..." and suddenly it becomes less interesting. Maybe the test scores went down not because we took laptops off of everyone's desks, but because we took books out of their hands.

But hey, what do I know. I just teach English. I just sell books. For now.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Zombie Free Zone

When I say I felt like a zombie last week, I'm really not kidding. Only instead of walking around craving brains, I was walking around wishing I could breathe through my nose. I haven't been sick in two years, and apparently all of those cold viruses decided to pay me back for my years of neglect. I even called in sick to work. I never call in sick to work. It was bad. But, at this point I appear to be at the tail end of these germs taking over my immune system. White blood cells are prevailing! I picture it a lot like the battle in Star Wars where the rebels blow up the death star, only inside my body, and hopefully with fewer lasers being shot around because I'd imagine that might hurt me a bit. But still, I'm pretty sure it's exactly like that fight. In my mind.
The good news is, no one has missed much in my blogging absence because nothing has happened. Awesome. Well, nothing happened until this weekend, when Norbert the evil cat got sick and had to be taken to the vet. Stupid cats and their stupid genetic predisposition to bladder stones. Stupid stupidness. Now she's on a canned food only diet, which I'm pretty sure she believes is due to her hitting some sort of lotto jackpot. She's going to be pissed when she gets better and goes back to only getting canned food as a treat. But for now she's on canned food only and she is happy. And hopefully she gets better soon without the need of surgery or anything. I do not love the idea of surgery. That is WAY more expensive than we can afford for the time being. So I hope that the whole Star Wars thing is going on inside the cat too, where her prescription food is like the rebels blowing up the stupid stones in her stupid bladder. I'm going to start calling her food "Luke" from now on.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

What Kind of People am I Attracting?!

The other day I was reading Jason's blog, because I'm a good wife and I read all of the things that my husband puts on his blog to show an interest in his life and keep the magic alive. Or I just like to read crap he posts. Either way. ANYWAY, I was reading Jason's blog and he had this post (like that shameless plug to get you to go read his blog?) about information that blogger tracks about your blog. We have this nifty little "Stats" tab where we can see different stats on blog traffic etc. After reading his post, I realized I've never really looked at my own stats tab, so I hopped over to my own page and decided to investigate. First of all, let me say that I'm a bit blown away that my page has had over 1,500 views from the US alone. there are another 300 or so scattered across various countries outside of the US with the UK being my #2 supporter. So hey, thanks Britain. I like you too. But my point here is, who the hell knew I was so freaking popular? I mean, I'm not getting comments and junk, I don't have a bunch of followers, but people have at least been clicking over to my site. Awesome.

And that brings me to ways people have managed to find my site. Not surprisingly, most of the people coming over here are referred by Facebook because I'm a shameless attention whore and post a link on Facebook every time I update my blog. So Facebook people, thanks for doing the clickety click. Most of the other people coming to the site were referred from Google.

This is where my story gets weird. I can see what keywords people have searched that have led them to my page. Most of the keywords were for photos of laundry, which makes sense since I used a bunch of them in this post. Apparently laundry photos are popular. So that's innocent enough. It wasn't until I got to the last set of keywords that I went "WHAT THE WHAT?!" and wondered what kind of people are coming to my blog. That last set of keywords...hit vagina. Seriously?! How the heck did the words "hit vagina" pop up my blog for someone in a google search? I have never done a post about vaginas, let alone hit vaginas, so I'm so confused. I went through the photos I've used in posts, and none of them look like a hit vagina. I don't think I've ever used that phrase in a post, so who is looking for hit vaginas and finding me? So weird.

Of course now, after I post this, I'm going to end up getting hits from TONS of searches for that keyword grouping because I've used it a million times, but at least now I feel like it's justified. And to all of you who made it over here by searching for "hit vagina", welcome. I hope you're not pervs.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

In Loving Memory of AWESOME.

Why is it that all of the best stuff gets discontinued? Jell-o Gelatin Pops, MicroMagic Microwave fries, Apple Cinnamon Eggo Waffles, and the delicious confection you see over here to the left...the Philadelphia Cheesecake Bar. Oh how I miss you.

A few months ago, when I decided to make my first actual from scratch cheesecake, and I realized that it's a lot of work to make one that looks pretty (those bitches crack through the center like it's their job) I suddenly remembered my apartment dwelling days when we would buy these cheesecake snack bars. Then I suddenly wondered if they made those anymore and after a quick Google search discovered that they did not. Saddest face ever. I found recipes to make cheesecake bars, but I don't want that. I don't want to go through the work of making these little bars and then trying to keep them fresh in my fridge until I can manage to consume the entire thing. No. I want to go to the store, spend entirely too much money on a package of 6 little cheesecake snack bars that are individually wrapped for freshness, take them home and put them in my fridge until one night I come home from work and think "I want a sweet and delicious snack" and consume nearly the entire box because they were that good. That is what I want to do. But I can't do that anymore because the evil people at Philadelphia Cream Cheese decided that my delicious cheesecake bars should be discontinued. Bastards.

But, in my search I did find out that they make ready to eat pre-made cheesecake filling so maybe that'll have to do if I'm ever desperate.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Dammit! I Don't Eat Salad.

When I first started dating I never went through that awkward phase where you go to dinner with a guy and you want to impress him so you just order a salad so you look like you're health conscious and you don't want him to spend a lot of money for you. This is for several reasons.

1. I started dating when I was 16 and dates typically consisted of going out with a large group of friends.

2. I never let the guy pay. And by "guy" I mean Jason, because I decided to latch on to the first guy who showed me any attention and marry that sucker. But my point is, I never let him pay*. I was raised to take care of myself and pay my own way through life, and that meant that I firmly believed he had no business paying for my meals, and since I was paying I ordered whatever the hell I wanted.

3. I have the pallet of a 5 year old. Even if I did order the most expensive thing I wanted from the menu, it was typically the $9.99 chicken tenders and fries. Picky eaters may be a pain in the ass, but they're cheap.

So now that I've reached adulthood, I'm struck with this weird dilemma. When I was working for the psycho boss in the company from Hell, the team would often go out to lunch and she would put it onto her purchase card. We'll skip the rant on how I don't think taking the team out to lunch 2 or 3 times a week should be expensed to the company. So anyway, we'd go to lunch at one of the two places available to get lunch in Amish-ville Ohio and everyone would order a salad of some type. Well crap, I don't eat salad. I have a lot of reasons, but the most primary is that I just don't like it. Lettuce isn't very intersting, salad dressing grosses me out because there are texture issues there for me that I don't even want to get into but trust me, it makes me want to gag. I don't eat a ton of veggies, so most of those would go to waste anyway. So, bottom line, I don't like salad. But salad is cheap, which is why girls order it on dates. It's $5 for a pretty decent sized restaurant salad. But here I am, looking at the menu and thinking "I really just want chicken tenders..." and realizing that those chicken tenders are almost twice the price of the salads everyone else is ordering. Shit. Now I have the dilemma of being the person who takes advantage of someone else's generocity by ordering the most expensive thing out of everyone at the table. No one wants to be "that guy". I got through this at the company from Hell by telling myself that I was on travel funding from the company and my lunch would be expensed regardless of who paid, so I might as well order what I want.

Then yesterday two of our vendor reps took my co-worker and I out to lunch, which was SUPER generous of them and again, I love these guys, so it was nice to have the opportunity to sit around and have some interesting conversation for an afternoon. Especially for me, who never takes a lunch break at work. But we got there and everyone was ordering salads. Shit. I ended up ordering grilled chicken skewers, which were relatively inexpensive and adequately lunch portioned so that I wasn't left with a ton of food that I couldn't finish, which is also a dilemma because you don't want to order the more expensive thing and then waste 80% of it. And I almost always waste a ton of whatever I order because I don't eat much. So, I went with that, but it was still $3 more than what everyone else ordered. And I still sat there wondering if I was "that guy". I really don't want to be "that guy".

Hell, even at my cousin's wedding when we were told repeatedly to order literally whatever we wanted because in the words of her new husband "We have a minimum tab we're required to hit here people. Order up!" I still was seriously afraid of being "that guy". I ended up ordering the most expensive thing on the menu. And by "I", I mean I mentioned that it sounded like it would be good and my cousin's husband ordered for me and then looked at me and said "Hello! Minimum tab!" But still, I felt bad. Well, I sort of felt bad, since everyone else was ordering the same thing, or ordering pricy entrees and then adding lobster tails to them. So I guess the risk of me being "that guy" was lower. Plus the restaurant had my favorite wine, which I'd already gone through two glasses of, so my judgement might have been altered.

I think my point here is that I either need to learn to like salad, which I don't think is going to happen, or I just need to not let people buy me lunch anymore. I mean, I already have guilt from letting someone spend money on me in the first place, and then I have to worry about ordering anything other than a salad and it just becomes stressful. I am not accustomed to letting people buy me things, even if it is just lunch. Or maybe we just need to pick lunch places that don't serve salad. GENIUS!

*Disclaimer: My refusal to allow Jason to ever pay for my meals in no way reflects upon his chivalry as he constantly tried to pay for me on dates and I constantly refused to let him. In fact, the first time he ever paid for my dinner somewhere, he tricked me into it because I lost a bet. I'm just a stubborn cow. Well...not a cow, because cows eat grass, which is like salad and I don't eat salad. I'm a stubborn something else.