Thursday, May 31, 2012

Love the Questions

The Real Chernobyl Diaries

Hollywood is long known for taking situations and turning them on their heads to make a buck and entertain the masses.   So why is this any different?  Another movie, another story spun.  No big deal.  

But this one just sits wrong for me.  I spent too much time in Ukraine.  Too much time talking to people who worked there.  Who saw the explosion.  Who helped build the sarcophagus.  Who helped feed and treat and support those who helped build and rebuild.  Who lost friends and family.  Who watched loves wither and die from the cancer they continue to wait for with an undiluted certainty that has already taken hold from the massive amounts of radiation they encountered as a result of their efforts.  Who still feel indescribably angry and hurt and betrayed by the situation, the government, and the world who knew more than they did about the situation on their front door.  Who continue to eat and serve government paid school lunches in specific zones as the only notable payment for their townships continually high radiation levels in the water and soil.  

Tragic though it may be, and perhaps the perfect forum for a horror movie, it's still a real place where real people fled, leaving their lives, their livelihoods and their memories of their homeland behind.  Maybe that's the story we should be sharing instead.  

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Trees for the Forest

One of my favorite things about that book I've been reading lately is the protagonist.  She's fiesty.  Independent.  Savvy in all things that require dedication, perseverance, sacrifice.  But most of all, the one thing that I just can't shake about my fictional little heroine, is she never loses sight of what's important.  She never fails to see the forest for the trees.    

I'm not sure why, really, but that is the one thing at which I am truly worst.   It is a most annoying trait.  I'm really good at looking at the big picture.  In my mind's eye I can see what I want, what I need to do to get there, my responsibilities to ensure that the dreams become realities.  It's all very intellectual.  However.  What doesn't really work in the long run is the fact that I seem to have an inane inability to connect the little pictures together into one big one.  Details, it seems, are not my bag.  

So while not too long ago, I made a commitment to myself to splurge a bit and do things that will make me feel good and to spend wisely on quality... well, I feel it's time to make an important amendment.   You see, for a long time, I've had it in my head that I was fairly poor.  Yet, I've failed to live that way.  I've lived reasonably cheaply, but not wisely.  I tend to put off things that are important and jump at the chance to do things that are sporadic.  

As I sat in the auto shop today for my unexpectedly and surprisingly spendy three hour oil-change-turned-major-repair-bill-and-a-rental-car adventure, it seems the lesson most people learn circa 2nd semester of college has finally landed upon my brain.  The sporadic can only happen if the important is taken care of first.  

And all around, proverbial light bulbs burst into light.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Unvarnished Sophistication

"I think you can be substantial and still be interested in frivolity."  - Sophia Coppola

We all strive to create beauty in our own little worlds.  Be that in fashion, hairstyles, decor, technological accessories and appliances, transportation and lifestyle in general - it is an ever present need.  To make our space a little brighter, a little cozier, the teensiest bit more stylish or homey not only drives industry around the globe, it has tremendous power.  I dare say it can be downright transformative.  If only in our own minds.  

And isn't that the point?  

In my mind's eye, I fancy myself a cooly disheveled librarian type.  Perpetually clad in cardigans and glasses, hair often up and in some variation of a bun.  It suits, I suppose.  I am oft disheveled and bookish.    

But I am also the teensiest bit obsessive.  Is my bun disheveled in the right way today - or do I just look a mess?  Does my cardigan look too new - too bright - or have I crossed the path to looking homeless and bargain basement-y.   Are my pants too... matchy - matchy or suit-like?   Where is the line?  Most of my clothing is worn to the death (and at times post mortem).  Nearly every sweater or cardigan I own has at least one hole in it.   And while I find myself dreaming of fancier duds, I'm also inexplicably attached to my little stock of broken, beaten and generally loved items.   

I look to my more polished friends and colleagues and I am completely fascinated.  And every now and again I want that.  I'll troll the fancier shops, touching the sleeves of sweaters and jackets and dresses that within one purchase would cost more than my rent.  I've made my share of those purchases.  I look at my friends on a particularly posh day and I want what they have.  I want that polish,  that look-how-fancy-and-together-and-professional-I-look,  kind of look.  Very Brooks Brothers.  Possibly Banana Republic.  Or at least The Limited.  

But it doesn't last.  It never does.  I long for my hole-y, cozy cardigan.  I crave a slightly more librarian-ish set of specs, a hodge-podge of interesting accessories, and beat up leather heels whose scuffs and scratches amp up the character of my outfit.   I don't feel myself especially stylish, and sometimes what I end up wearing in public is a complete disaster.  Some days, like today, I catch a glance at my reflection in a mirror and seriously reconsider my choices.  (SERIOUSLY).   

I feel like fashion and style is supposed, in its truest form, to supplement and create an outward projection of your inner self.  It's not about owning a particular "look" or trolling a particular shop.  It's about doing and wearing and gathering and living in a collection of things that make you feel beautiful.  Whatever that means to you today.  Today.  Right now.  
Because feeling beautiful can happen anywhere.  In decades-old sweatpants or an evening gown.  In designer jeans or cuddled up on the couch with a patchwork quilt so old the cotton has softened to the point of fray.  If you fight what feels good and makes you feel beautiful today - you will be uncomfortable on the inside.  

And that kind of beauty doesn't appeal so much to me today.   

My initial blush of attraction was founded on shakey ground, I must admit.  I was in college and a member of the English department, where the chainsmoking liberals gathered in their cordoroy and sweaters to wax intellectual on the front stoop of our riot-proof lockbox of a building.  And I adored them.  The tweed and cigarettes and cordoroy, their quiet harumphing demeanors.  They were interesting.  They were smart.  And I wanted to look that way.  I wanted to look their type of smart.  Their type of quiet confidence.  
I was in a sorority and loved pink and Diet Coke.  But I also loved to wear vintage clothes, listened to the Beatles and Radiohead and wanted nothing to do with the bar scene.  I was then and am now a mesh of so many different ideas and styles and ideals.... a combination of so many things.

I am smart.  And interesting.  And passionate and quiet and way too loud and confused about so many things.  I want to be rich and poor and settled and free and silly and serious and foolish and intellectual all at once.  Every day.  
It's less about trying to look a certain way, to surround yourself with certain things that may or may not speak a certain something to someone else.  It's about finding your combination of weird and rolling with it.  

Jeans and cardigan, librarian glasses and bun, tea and a book - meet rollercoasters, sequins, champagne, diet coke and pom-poms.   I think you'll get along just fine.  

Monday, May 21, 2012

Weekend Mixtape 7: The Weekday Edition

Feeling a bit uninspired.  So many things flowing through my head that the thoughts have somehow been wiped clean, leaving me with a peaceful calm.  The perfect mood for headphones and solitude.

Friday, May 18, 2012

Happiness Is...

*  The feel of cool aloe on freshly sunburned skin...

*  Cozy barbecues with friends al fresco...

*  Finding the most delicious, forgotten gelato in the freezer...

Reading:  The Things They Carried by Tim O'Brian

Watching:  Thursday Mini-Marathons of "The Big Bang Theory"

Feeling:  Grateful for good things in my day, bittersweet for changes ahead, sore after yesterday's massage.  

Inspired by:  My rockstar students.  Wry and selfish, heartfelt and sometimes cruel.  Taking on risks big and small and holding each other accountable for the nonsense done unto one another.  

Craving:  Rollercoasters and loud music.  This girl needs a trip to King's Dominion - STAT!  

Thursday, May 17, 2012

What Dreams May Come...

This space has been pretty sleepy lately.  I've had a lot on my mind that I'm not quite ready to discuss here yet, but suffice it to say, it's been one of the most stressful times of my adult life.  While I've tried to maintain my cool during my daytime hours, it seems the nighttime hours have a mind of their own.  

I've had at least one nightmare every night for the past 2+ weeks.   This week alone I've watched my beloved kitten be skinned alive, I've been trapped in my burning house,  I've been left alone in a strange city trying to escape crazy criminal minds,  I've had caustic acid thrown in my face, and perhaps most horribly,  I've been beaten, raped and murdered by one of my most favorite students.

It doesn't take intense dream analysis for me to work these out.  Major life decisions have been out of my control for quite a while.  There's definitely a sense of vulnerability and helplessness and general anxiety that has permeated my recent days.  

But today I got news... news that will hopefully change my life for the better.  Or at least bring me a good night's sleep.  Hopefully leaving kittens, students, and self unscathed.  

Perchance, to dream.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

24. Donate Something I Love

I have big dreams of simplifying.  I read Thoreau and Muir and dream of giving it all up and living in a cabin in the woods.  I look back at photos from Ukraine and I long to give it up all up for two suitcases worth of life, the kitten and an apartment with 80s nudie stickers on the shkaf and no hot water.   

Truth of the matter - I have loads of things I don't need.  Loads of things that don't really make me happy.  So why am I keeping them?  

I have tons of books.  And I love them.  Almost as much as reading them, I love having them around.  There is something about them that I find very comforting.  There's a lot of respite to be found in a good book - it is one of the oldest cliches.  But I think maybe I've been using them for the wrong reasons.   Like keeping a collection of books will somehow prove my intelligence or education or intellectual prowess.  Which is all crap, really.  Holding on to a book I hated is a terrible decision.  Holding on to it because it was required reading for an incredibly difficult and/or obscure university lit. class years ago is a terrible decision.  Holding on to it because I liked the person who gave it to me, despite the fact that I had no love for the book itself, is a terrible decision.  

I decided it's time to make a good decision. Keep the ones I love, let everything else go.  I packed up a couple bags and donated them.  It was irritatingly difficult.  But as I left without them, I couldn't help feeling lighter.   

And that's worth it, I think.  In the end.  Step by step.  Bag by bag.  Little by little.  Big things happen.  

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Wild Things Are Everywhere

"I believe there is no part of our lives, our adult as well as child life, when we're not fantasizing, but we prefer to relegate fantasy to children, as though it were some tomfoolery only fit for the immature minds of the young. Children do live in fantasy and reality; they move back and forth very easily in a way we no longer remember how to do."  
- Maurice Sendak (1928-2012)

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

The Rainy Day Wishlist

On the way home from work tonight, the sky opened up and let loose.  Torrents of rain.  Fresh and stern, rejuvenating yet punitive.  It made me want to jump out of my car mid-commute and dance.  And I thought... what am I waiting for?  It's time to make some of those back-of-my-mind dreams a reality.

This year is a time for change.  A time for challenges.  A time for betterment and a time for taking action.  There are loads of big things lurking on the horizon, but I'm a big believer that big things come in small packages.  Like raindrops.  My list of ambitions large and small will continue to grow as more days pass by.  There is much to be lost.  So today is the day we begin.  Things that have bounced around the back of my brain for far too long, but I know they will help me in some way and that some things just aren't worth the procrastination.  Because you never know when you'll get the chance to dance in the rain again...

The Rainy Day Wishlist...  changing a life one day at a time:

1.  Learn to run at least 20 minutes without stopping.
2.  Plant and tend a garden.  Get dirty and bond with the earth.
3.  Send handwritten letters to 5 friends.
4.  Go camping.
5.  Read at least 20 new books.
6.  Eat a hot dog with the works at a ballpark.
7.  Take homemade baked goods to a nursing home.
8.  Learn to play bridge.
9.  Dance in the rain.
10.  Go to an outdoor concert.
11.  Pick apples at an orchard.
12.  Make homemade jam and give to family.
13.  Eat breakfast for dinner.
14.  Make snow angles  in broad daylight.
15.  Climb to a mountain summit.
16.  Do one thing that truly scares me.  As often as possible.
17.  Audition for a play.
18.  Lose my phone for a week.
19.  Start a new holiday tradition.
20.  Picnic in the park. 
21.  Complete a 1000 piece puzzle
22.  Watch the sun rise over the water.
23.  Make my own days of the week dishtowels.
24.  Donate something I love to charity.
25.  Learn to play a new song on the piano.
26.  Go to a football game at Memorial Stadium.
27.  Learn to make a sure-fire soufflĂ©.
28.  Explore a new city without a plan.
29.  Volunteer in a soup kitchen.
30.  Love without cause or reservation.  Expect nothing in return.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Political Rant, part 1.

Book Lust: Miss Peregrine's Home For Peculiar Children

Since I finished this book a few weeks ago, I've been toying with the idea of how to write about it. Which is unusual for me.  I tend to fall in love with a book and have oodles to say about it.  Even the really bad ones have always been an excellent source of conversational fodder.  But somehow, Miss Peregrine's Home For Peculiar Children has cuddled up between the rock and hard place of my brain.  

"I used to dream about escaping my ordinary life, but my life was never ordinary.  I had simply failed to notice how extraordinary it was."  

Using an impressive vocabulary in the guise of a young adult book, the premise of Ransom Riggs' novel is an impressive undertaking.  A house of 'peculiar' children - children with special gifts: levitation, fire starters, invisibility, etc. - locked in a loop of a single day more than 50 years ago.  Riddled with the unusual, the supernatural, a pseudo-complicated love story, time travel and inexplicable monsters who only hunt 'peculiars' - Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children is rife with potential magic.  However...  However. 

When I was in high school I had to read Mark Twain's Huckleberry Finn.  I was not a fan.  It's a classic. It's adored by millions.  But I just didn't see it.   Maybe I'd love it if I read it again.  It's been known to happen.  And yet, it's so difficult for me to forget.  
After reading and discussing Huck Finn in class, my teacher told us a little backstory.  Rumor has it Mark Twain wasn't happy with his progress and after toiling away, despite the progress of the plot, he decided to just up and end it.  The book takes a dramatic plot turn and ends abruptly, leaving much of the previous plot unresolved and unsubstantiated by the ending.  The details of Huck Finn itself have faded with time, but that conversation stayed with me.  Regardless of the validity of that story, the effect remains the same.  

I can't help feeling like the frustration I had for the ending of Huck Finn is the same that I feel for Miss Peregrine's.  It's not that it's a bad book.  It's not.  But when something claims to be 'extraordinary'... well... nothing less will do.  And frankly, after spending time with Miss Peregrine and her flock, well... extraordinary isn't exactly the word I'd use.  

Monday, May 7, 2012

Hug it Out

I've spent a good portion of the past couple weeks bouncing off the walls of my life.  Limbo is not a place I really want to be, but here I am.  Sitting on the verge of two different places, not knowing what is coming, and ultimately waiting for yet another shoe to drop...  sucks.  For all of my bouncing, nothing has been accomplished.  Nothing but stress and agitation.  I've grown sick of my own thoughts.  I am left a raggedy soul, indeed.  

But there are lessons to be learned here.  Little things add up.  Tiny ideas grow into big ones.  And eventually, inspiration has the power to heal the grumpiest of moods.  Bit by bit, little by little.  It's the teensiest things that soothe.   Of course, homemade soup and hot yoga's miracle properties cannot be understated.  

Tortellini, White Bean, and Spinach Soup.   Wholesome and hearty, packed full of veg and light enough to go back for seconds.   Forcing me to slow down and appreciate the little things, it is soothing indeed.  A reassuring hug in a bowl.  If only I could hug it back...  

Tortellini, White Bean and Spinach Soup
from Lindsey at Linden + Rosemary

1 t. olive oil
1 onion, chopped
1/2 of a red pepper, diced
1 t. dried thyme or basil
3 garlic cloves, minced
salt and pepper, to taste
2/3 c. water
1, 16 oz. can cannellini beans, drained
2 c. chicken broth (low sodium preferred)
1, 14.5 oz. can petite diced tomatoes, undrained
1, 14 oz. can quartered artichokes, drained
1, 9oz. package uncooked fresh cheese pasta from the refridgerator section of your local market.  (the originating recipe calls for tortellini.  My market was lacking, so I bought ravioli instead and it was delish). 
2 c. fresh spinach, coarsely torn
fresh parmesan to taste

Heat oil in a large heavy pot over medium to medium-high heat. Add chopped onion, bell pepper, salt and pepper, and garlic.  SautĂ© 5 minutes or until tender. Add water, beans, stock, tomatoes and artichoke hearts.   Bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer ~2 minutes. Add tortellini and cook until thoroughly heated and plumped slightly. Stir in spinach minutes before serving.  Sprinkle with fresh parm and enjoy with friends.  

Weekend Adventures: Shendandoah National Park

“Climb the mountains and get their good tidings. Nature's peace will flow into you as sunshine flows into trees. The winds will blow their own freshness into you, and the storms their energy, while cares will drop away from you like the leaves of Autumn.”  - John Muir

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Feeling a little LOST

Sometimes in times of stress, the best thing for me to do is become a recluse.  A short-term recluse, mind you.  But these past two weekends, that's been just what the doctor ordered.  Not fuss, no muss, and certainly no one need be hurt by my funk.  

These weekends, full of kitten snuggles, relaxation, and general get-thy-head-back-atop-my-body nothingness, are the perfect vehicle for catching up on long neglected loves.  In my case:  LOST.  
It is... so good.  

Despite my best intentions, I kind of abandoned my second viewing of this series - I'd had my fill and was feeling over it.  So I walked away.  Closed the monitor of my computer and forgot about it.  But with so much flooding through my brain these past few weeks... perspective is key.  And really, what better way to gain some than experiencing some serious mess from the comfort of your own home?  

I'll tell you... there is none.   I. LOVE. this. show.   

Saturday, May 5, 2012

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