01 October 2008

Rage Against the Machine

It’s the first of October, the room is decked out in Halloween garland, and I am sniffling. The pavement has a sheen to it because of the rain, and the air is peacefully gloomy. Happy October!

I could go on about the chilly autumned city and the anticipation I feel every October, but I wanted to write about the gadgets that distract and often spoil these simple giddy moods, that test our patience, and create unnatural glitches in our social expectations and relations.

Like this morning. I was getting in the spirit, chatting with a friend over granola about October poems. I was feeling good. Then I strolled to the computer lab to do some research on how different media outlets covered the debate for an inclass discussion. I was copying and pasting away to an unsaved word document while simultaneously working on a paper for my evening class. Gradually, the internet sites start taking longer to download. My one document does not respond every now and again. And finally, everything freezes. I lose my wordpad of article headlines and quotes, the last paragraph in my second document, and my good ol’ autumn bliss. I start communicating to the computer as if it were personally responsible for its actions and my distress. As if its unresponsiveness was a deliberate jab at my sanity. I grip the face of the monitor on either side and yell WHY? I realize I am trying to scold a machine.

Monday, I was standing outside my journalism classroom, waiting for the professor to arrive. I was bordered by at least 7 other students. I looked around, and each of them had some technological contraption in hand, whether a cell phone or ipod. No one knows each other very well in the class, so we usually turn to texting or fidgeting with playlists to absorb the lack of interaction. I looked around and felt so incredibly compelled to pull out my phone, I guess to show everyone I had someone or something with which to occupy this time too. Then I thought, has texting become more contextually prompted these days? More and more triggered by stillness, inactivity, delays in our daily, familiar momentum? I mean, I felt that I needed to interact with a phone to alleviate this hovering tension. I felt like everyone was engaged in some sort of interaction, and I wasn’t, so I became the 15th wheel.

Every day, at least once a day, I can’t hear someone on the phone. The call drops, it’s windy, he’s mumbling, I’m distracted, we keep talking at the same time, a motorcycle rumbles by, someone else beeps in. What happens next? One person calls the other back, now unconsciously or consciously directing his/her frustration mostly at the other person, not the device that created this conflict. These palm-sized instruments create unnatural resentments towards the people we love. They’re supposed to be channels through which we communicate, but instead, become obstacles when they fail "to do their job." Treating them like human beings from whom we expect dependability and faultless performance.

But humans aren’t perfectly dependable, faultless beings. So, why do I expect a human-made object to be? Maybe I need to be more patient. Yes, I do need to be more patient. But maybe I also need to really consider this unique technocentric trend. Why has it become so common to experience feelings of betrayal or real anger when we “interact” with things to interact with people? Why is it a social symbol to be in constant association with my phone? Why do I feel better, more at ease, when I am? Why do I curse Verizon like it’s an ex-boyfriend out to make my day miserable? Why do I delicately grip the sides of my computer and tenderly encourage it to make mommy proud today?

15 September 2008

Gusher Academe

I assume my blog readership has suffered a detrimental blow these past few weeks, but hopefully this installment will rekindle what was lost of late.

I’m typing out this post in my cozy nook that overlooks Broad Street and Temple’s cafeteria. (I'm in Philadelphia for the year, p.s.) The leaves are changing shades already; fall is slinking towards the city. I feel at ease, and city life I’m learning.

Here’s what I’m taking this fall: World Urban Patterns, Writing for Journalism, Urban-Eco Footprints of Post-Metropolis Life, Anthropology & Social Policy, and Visual & Material Consumption.

I feel both incredibly challenged and invigorated by my classes. Tonight, I sat in our quiet study, and mulled over James Ferguson’s “Anthropology and Its Evil Twin: ‘Development’ in the Constitution of a Discipline.” When I explained to my roommate how “my mind has just been blown,” she equated my brain to a gusher, and I chuckled in concurrence. Ferguson’s essay completely deconstructs the discipline and says our vision of a world divided, of primitive versus modern, “has been constitutive of the anthropological domain of study” since its conception.

Basically, anthropology's founding key idea of social evolution has entirely shaped and stratified our “fields” of study, intensified by modernization theory, technology, capitalism, notions of progress, etc.etc.etc. That we seek to study “less developed” societies only reaffirms “developmental” distinctions among us, ones rooted in capitalistic progress and the idea that “there is a normal pattern of economic development that some countries fall ‘under’” (from Frederick Cooper and Randall Packard’s essay “The History and Politics of Development Knowledge”).

Ferguson challenges us to consider anthropology's disciplinary identity and “engage in some foundational work.” Does this sound like a colossal undertaking to anyone else? Is your head gushing sweetened liquidy goodness right now? Mine is. I think that’s a good thing. But, I am more than bemused as to how I engage the discipline right now, how I work for the wellbeing of others without seeing myself as modern me versus underdeveloped or "less privileged" them, how I defeat the binary that so saturates anthropology's roots and work.

23 August 2008

Hoarding is Caring

I finally had to empty out the few chockfull college bins I never got to during the summer…and my car... so I could pack them up again today. The living room is a disaster zone. If I could get an aerial view, it’d look like a very intricate topography map with multiple layers and uneven edges of shirts, pants, plastic bags, books I wanted to keep from last year, etc.

My room has always been a disaster zone because, as already demonstrated above, I hoard. I don’t think I’ve ever heard the term “hoarder” as much as I have these past few days. Jason keeps saying I’m ‘such a hoarder.’ Things like receipts, too short and too tight shirts from the Disney Store in London, half-used bottles of Bath and Body hand creams from middle school, a handmade “I am Batman” foam visor, piggy socks whose snouts have fallen off, my portable cd player.

Some might look at me and say I’m lazy, or careless, for hoarding as much as I do. But, I hate to just toss things out because these things have individual meaning for me. In a recent Psychology Today article called “Magical Thinking,” Matthew Hutson wrote “What makes something sacred is not its material makeup but its unique history.” I believe that. I am living, hoarding proof of that. Hutson talks about things having unique essences we ascribe. Yeah it's just "stuff," but it's stuff I value because of its personal, historical merit--because of the people, memories, and comfort associated with it.

Throwing out receipts from 3 weeks ago means throwing out the security they bring…even if I know I won’t return anything. Throwing out my Mickey and Minnie England shirt means tossing aside the goofy, kiddy magic I found in London that day. Dumping my pre-teen cucumber melon bottles means dumping memories of carefree, jobless summers with girlfriends. There’s something uniquely special about each piece of stuff, so I hoard because I care.

I suppose I’ll have to get rid of a lot of hoarded goods someday to make room for, well, the rest of my life. But until that day, I want to keep rediscovering and reliving those invisible meanings I’ve made. Hoarding is Caring, I say…and would no doubt make a great bumper sticker slogan.

10 August 2008

3 Disjointed Mini Musings

1.) Yesterday I passed a truck lugging a dolly of construction equipment. On the backside of the truck it read “Construction Vehicle. Keep Alert for Sudden Stops and Turns.” I thought, hey, why don’t I get one of these stickers? What makes a construction driver more prone to hasty breaking and turning? I assume the vehicle’s not the thing under construction, so what’s the deal? It sounds like a liability scheme to me. Situation: construction driver breaks suddenly and irrationally in the middle of an intersection. I total my car and heatedly confront the cause of this whole mess. Flinching not, he or she just points to that sticker. I say we all get those stickers, customized to fit the defense we would use. “Premenstrual Vehicle” or “Worked 14 hours today Vehicle” or “Parent with cranky offspring fighting in back seat Vehicle” or “This truck’s about the same size as a Construction Vehicle Vehicle.”

2.) On the cover of the latest Cosmogirl issue, one of the main headers read “959 Style Tips to Reinvent Yourself.” I thought, what kind of fashion pointers did Cosmo get its hands on to be able to offer me such a bold return? Personal rediscovery and reinvention? But if that was truly what Cosmo could offer, then I probably wouldn’t have read this “tip”: -Study our picks, and by year’s end, you’ll be voted Most Likely to Set a Trend- or this one–Study the looks on the runways, find similar pieces you can afford, then the whole world will be your stage.-

So, I’m not sure if nearly 1000 style tips are as much about individual reinvention as they are marketing and adaptation techniques. There’s more to our whole selves than style or what Cosmo editors tell us style is. The whole world might become my stage someday, but won’t it be a disappointment when everyone in the audience is wearing the same thing as me because they too studied this issue? If we truly yearn to reinvent who we are, it’s going to take a lot more soul-searching than what we might learn from CG’s “School of Style” blurbs.

3.) One of the store managers pulled me aside yesterday with a container of brightly frosted sugar cookies in hand. She pulled them to add into one of the many fruit/gift baskets we make up. She had a stern look on her face. “If you make more sugar, can you NOT make them like this?” Her face scrunched up, repulsed by their, in my opinion, truly vibrant and luscious nature. “I mean, these are mostly going to adults” she said, still seemingly appalled. I nodded my head, but inside I wanted to scream “Who died and made you Frosting Queen?” Okay, I actually didn’t think that at the time, but it well conveys my thoughts on the matter. Just because you can’t appreciate or enjoy deep orange and lavender frosting, doesn’t mean other grownups don’t want or need multicolored iced cookies every now and then!

I thought, why are bright, contrasting colors only associated with young kids at birthday parties? What are the more “adult” colors I should frost with? Don’t you think those oranges and lemons are too bright for this 'adult' fruit basket? Maybe I’m being harsh, maybe I was offended because I was pleased with the color I concocted with four different food dyes. But maybe I just don’t want us all to think growing up means suppressing the quirks, the vibrancy, the color we so naturally delighted in when we were kids. Maybe brightly frosted cookies are the variety we adults need to see more, send to each other, and snack on these days.

22 July 2008

(Maybe) Take a Chance

For the past week and a half, I’ve been trying to win Medieval Faire tickets from Star 104. I thought my odds were pretty good: I programmed Star into speed dial, listened keenly for the “touchtones” that sound at a superhuman speed between similarly-toned songs, and figured I was one of just a few Erieites eager to partake in a Renaissance-themed festival an hour’s drive away.

I thought wrong. Even though I sat in my car for almost an hour…not driving, used my cell and the work phone simultaneously (Visual: me in a purple apron, cell phone on my left ear, portable on my right, facing the stereo at work, completely in the zone. Audio: Busy Signal), and prepared my phone for dialing near the end of every song just in case, I didn’t win.

You’d think I’d be fed up with this radio giveaway rubbish, and I fully am, but surprisingly, I’m equally compelled to call in whenever I hear those touchtones. I don’t even care what the prize is anymore. Maybe it’s the thrill and ambiguity and objectivity of this chance game. I guess it’s like slot machines or scratch-out lotto tickets. I’m powerless when it comes to knowing how to be the 14th caller. But, so is everyone else.

It’s interesting to think about actively trying to pursue good luck, about putting forth the time, effort, and money towards what I know I won’t be able to control. There are no skills involved, no requisites. There’s no right technique, just chance. Because of that, you’d think I’d put equal amounts of hope and hopelessness into every call. But for some reason, I anticipate the win. Maybe that’s why PA spent $3.089 billion on lotto games last year, why the new casino in Erie is flourishing, why we pay to play those stupid carnival games, why I can never get through after hearing the touchtones.

I don't want to put too much hope in chance, get too caught up in the possibility of winning, get too distracted, even consumed by it because it's out of not just mine but everyone's hands. Even if my failed Medieval touchtones seem trivial, I don't think the lesson in them is. Yeah, I always have as good of a shot as anyone. But when I let that shot become more than just a shot, I let it affect how I spend my time and money--things that are in my hands, things I can control.

I shouldn't constantly buy lotto tickets just because I haven't won yet. I shouldn't make it a habit to linger by the stereo at work, wasting time, near the end of each pop song. Instead, I should enjoy the thrill of chance--contests, bonuses, scratch-off winnings, a 4-pack pass to the Medieval Faire + admisison to Jack Calico's Feast--but also recognize when I don't have the time or money to do so. I shouldn't not try every now and again; I shouldn't not embrace chance when I can, but I shouldn't let it hamper the life I already live without it either.

20 July 2008

10:27

Is it unusual to always (twice a day at most, of course) see your birthday date flash on the clock? For the past week now, I have looked at the clock at exactly 10:27 at least once if not both times a day. At first, it was kind of neat. Now, I’m not even fazed and actually sort of peeved when it happens. It’d be different if it was some mysterious number with which I had no apparent association. Like, 4:29. Or 11:01. Then it might be fun. I would start playing the lotto. I would see what letters corresponded with each number in the alphabet… Like, D:BI. Or K:A. Maybe rearrange them. BID! Then I’d get to figure out what I was supposed to bid on. I would ask my parents if 4/29 had any significance in our family, get to uncover some intriguing piece of history. But, no. I see 10:27 daily, and instantly think My Birthday, My Birthday, oh look, My Birthday again.

When the first thing I can think to write about involves digits on a clock and how often I see them, it’s easy to say there’s not much new going on. Luckily, the head baker’s back at work, and I can rest a little. It’s good to have her back. It got kind of lonely, a tad eerie even, by myself there. *cue Celine Dion singing "All By Myself."* The ice machine would go off at least three times late at night while I was working. It sounded like someone was wheeling a squeaky cart around. I jerked my head every time and peered out from my baker’s door to where people sort the fresh produce all day.

Mostly, I listened to two cds Bobbi left: Supertramp and The BeeGees. Every now and again, I flipped to FM and boogied to pop music. I hid behind the proofer a few mornings in a row (when other workers were there picking through raspberries) trying to win the free massages Star 104 kept giving away. My back was so sore at this point, and a spa massage sounded so glorious. Despite my high-speed redialing, I didn’t win.

The only thing really new in my life is my recent spat with dad. He wanted me to ride with him in “Roar on the Shore.” They predicted 3-5000 cyclists would be riding in this parade. I can’t stand the noise that emanates from one motorcycle. I am not a biker fanatic. I don’t know any of dad’s biker “pack” he was leading from the nearby Country Fair. I arrange flowers, make cards, and like Disney Princess things. So, for probably the first time in my life, I was honest with him about why I didn’t want to go. It just wasn’t my thing, I tried to say as kindly as I could. But, as expected, he got upset and ended the phone conversation on a sour note.

It would have been a lot easier if I lied about why I wasn’t going, but I didn’t. I think sometimes I just have to do things that might not please everyone around me, but they are things that won’t have me feeling guilty or insincere in the long run. Honesty can be murky, but it’s essential when I think about authentic living, about my relationship with the world around me that deserves my sincerity, no matter how trying or disappointing it is at times.

Well, I already saw 10:27 twice today, so I guess I can head off safely. Maybe the trick is going to bed before 10:27, and rising after. I’ll have to try that tomorrow.

08 July 2008

Mid-Summer Grumbles

Two years ago, I graduated from high school. A few bob haircuts, more than a few essays, and 7 lbs later, I’m still enjoying the comforts of my plum-carpeted room with pink pull-down blinds and stuffed animals everywhere. All it is is clutter, but it’s so familiar and right. At the same time, I’ve moved on from it because I don’t miss the muddle when I’m at school. I create my own again. I don’t miss sitting at this desk—I’ve actually grown more accustomed to corners of clinical computer labs at college. I have been living out of this room for over fourteen years (mom and I moved from dad’s when I was 6), and it feels weird to miss a place I’ve only been part of for 2 years now.

I think I miss the novelty of splitting a room, walking in my “home” with shoes kept on, strolling only a few feet in red fuzzy slippers to visit close friends. I always thought I loved having my space, and I do, but there’s something so unique and irreplaceable about living in a community with people my age.

And it’s funny how impermanent this is. Every year, I realize moving in is only a temporary adjustment. Maybe I miss it because I’m not used to temporary, if that makes sense; I’m used to the plum carpet, pink shades, and Disney paraphernalia scattered all around. I think change for me, the anticipation of change, can actually be more comforting at times.

It’s scary I only have two years to go, but it’s exciting that these next two years will be packed with change. I’ll be living in a city, RA-ing, delving into studies I love, and who knows what else.

Right now, my days just go so fast, working two jobs, getting little sleep. Is it bad to dread routines? The jobs themselves are wonderful, but the idea of my days’ uniformity agitates me. I want to write more, read more, enjoy the outdoors more, unscheduled. This week I’m working full time and a half, so all of these musings might be a direct product of baggy eyes, a sore spine, and practically zero minutes spent with people outside of work. But, I suppose this is something new for me, a change no doubt, so maybe I need to embrace it just as I’ll embrace the new semester ahead of me. And, maybe I need to get ready for work now…

29 June 2008

On and After Broadway

The brainfood I consumed before writing this post: a Wendy’s frosty with cookie dough, a gooey handful of “extreme cinnamon roll,” and 3 baby carrots. Just felt like something readers should know before scrolling onward.

Well, it’s been weeks. I’ve been busy with work, work, work, and a whirlwind trip to New York City. Out of the four times I’ve ventured there, it was my favorite trip to the big apple. I felt a lot more at ease with the bustling human flocks, underground transportation, and intimidating stores from which I would never actually buy anything.

When Megan was babysitting for a few hours on Saturday, I coolly strolled into Coach. One of the employees complimented my discounted $9.90 pair of earrings from Macy’s. I thanked her and walked over to a table with beautiful, under-the-sea-inspired necklaces that fell a few inches above the belly button. I told one of the ladies I was going to see the Little Mermaid on Broadway tonight, so this look would be so fitting. With confidence, I asked her the price and nodded casually when she told me $178. Inside though, I was laughing hysterically, tearing up over Coach’s crime, and making an array of bewildered facial expressions. Even though she may have caught on when I immediately put it back, I didn’t feel I had any less of a right asking about it, and that was nice.

Yet, probably the most refreshing thing about the whole Coach experience happened when I went back to work in Erie. I was describing my Coach escapade to the other baker when she stopped me mid-sentence with her confused, unmoved look. She shrugged her shoulders and asked me what Coach was. I said, “Oh, it’s…” I paused. I couldn’t define it. I had trouble pinning down its significance I was so easily and thoughtlessly assigning. “…just a popular brand name,” I finished.

That’s all it was, just a store under a name that people decided was/is trendy and more credible than others. She made me reconsider my attitude towards that whole experience. Why did I feel the need to feel accepted, confident, and cool in that particular store? Would I have felt as triumphant making my way into the Gap or Duane Reade drugstore across the street? It wasn’t a victory to feel entitled there; it was a loss to all the hype built around a 5-letter label.


I’ve been home now for about a week, getting back into my summer routine. After 4 weekends at the bakery, I’ve almost mastered my saran-wrapping technique. The machine is ornery at times, but we’re definitely learning how to work together better.

Also, my first published article Pretty Woman is up online at Christians for Biblical Equality. The organization’s free online journal accepted a piece I wrote for my pluralism class this spring. So feel free to take a gander!

I think tomorrow night is the second to last episode of The Bachelorette. Who will Deanna choose? Jesse, Jason, or Jeremy? I'm pulling for Jason, and so is mom (my mom, not Deanna's...she hasn't met any of them yet).

28 June 2008

One day...

...I will blog again.
Tomorrow?
Tomorrow.
There, it's in writing. (writing that I of course could always edit/erase tomorrow if need be..)

12 June 2008

Flower Power

Everyday, I assemble bouquets for someone's special someone, submit personalized delivery forms, and fill auto boxes with just-sold arrangements for a more manageable car ride home. At Kabloom, our motto is “The Power of Fresh Flowers.” But, where does the power come from? What is it? Why is it so powerful?

Today I delivered a freshcut birthday arrangement to a woman working at a small delicatessen downtown. When I walked in, a bit off-balance trying to manage the door and vase, a chorus of “aawwwwwws” hailed my entrance. Was it the arrangement itself that entranced them? Was it a secret, collective hope that the flowers would be going to them? Or was it simply the concept behind the flowers, the notions that associate themselves with the act of flower-giving?

When I start tubing customers’ flowers at the store, I usually ask “Any special occasion?” I hate and love that I ask that question. I hate it because in order to respond, people have to judge what they think I think is special. I hate it because I imply that I have an opinion on what’s "special" enough for flowers and they should too.

Today, one woman said, “No, they’re just for me. I felt like I needed ‘em.” She had picked out three gerbera daisies, one red, one orange, one yellow. I arranged them just as I would if she were giving them to someone else. Why can’t a self-bought bouquet be just as special? Why did she instinctively answer "No" to my question? Because "Just for me" isn't special enough reason to buy flowers? Maybe I should just stop asking the special occasion question.

More often than not though, I do get a positive response, even when the answer is “No, just for me.” They smile, knowing the flowers are theirs, even if they didn’t receive them from anyone but themselves. There’s something powerful about leaving a place, clutching an armful of fresh blooms. That becomes the special occasion.

And that’s why I love asking my question. I get to help people with their unique, special occasions. I get to wrap up flowers for graduations, birthdays, anniversaries, just becauses, and just for me's. I get to be that someone who assures people “Just for me” is special enough reason to purchase them.

Maybe then the power of fresh flowers is as simple as Kabloom states it. It’s not always the notions we ascribe to flower-giving, but rather the inherent powers of our natural world that can sweep us off our feet. Flowers don’t need the concepts or meanings or clich├ęs we associate with them. They don’t need superficial imagery of Valentine’s Days attached to their exquisite, natural chi. They don't always need reasons or defined occasions. They’re powerful enough to bring joy without them. And for me, that says something utterly invaluable about the created, natural world in which we live.

Then again, I am a floral clerk and as such, a bit biased regarding the whole matter. :)

06 June 2008

Poker n Pies

Mom has the girls over for their monthly poker night. I love to hear her laugh, eat their h'ordeurves, and track their conversations from already good-humored to entertainingly inarticulate. But, I have to wake up very early tomorrow morning, punch in at 6 am, and learn how to make peach, strawberry, blueberry, raspberry, and cherry tarts. Did I mention I’ve never baked? Other than Giant Eagle “Break and Bake” sugar block cookies, I’ve never baked. So I guess what I’m trying to say is, I’ve never baked. And tomorrow, hours before I would ever have the sun rise, I’m going to bake. In my neon-striped visor, red apple-tinged tshirt, with coffee mug on/in hand, I’m going to bake.

Tonight though, I feel like the mom, sitting in her room, needing to get to sleep, hearing her daughter and friends enjoy each other’s company, keeping the door cracked slightly incase things get too out of hand, going to the kitchen to rinse out my glass when I could easily do it in the morning, exiting gracelessly because I’m a bit uncomfortable, hoping they think I'm a "cool" daughter, hoping there’s not a big mess left in the morning, even though I know there will be.

I keep scooting to the fridge to nab the girls' Stefanelli's sponge candy from the second shelf. I've had multiple servings of Tostitos, hot cheese dip, Swiss cheese wedges, and noisy grown-ups. My eyelids are heavy now, my stomach, overstuffed, and my mom, still enjoying her favorite social event of the month.

Endnotes:
It’s a gift to reconnect with old friends. I should stop trying to understand why it happens, the motives or circumstances behind it—why at this point in my life, their lives, it’s time to reconnect. I should realize it’s a gift, nothing more, nothing less. I should accept and enjoy it.

Whoever said you can’t buy self-esteem was wrong. I bought a shirt today at TJmax. The brand’s name is “Self Esteem.”

In the summer, the weekend doesn’t mean as much as during the school year. I don’t look forward to Fridays. I clean out the dishwasher on Fridays, work two different places, and go to bed knowing I will trade sleeping in tomorrow morning for waking and baking.

The girls just yelled "Yaaaay!" in unison.

04 June 2008

Blue Raspberries and Endnotes

Blue raspberry is a legit flavor with a legit essence. Some people used to and still say to me that blue raspberry can’t be my favorite flavor because it’s just raspberry with blue food coloring. I just wanted to inform those people and bloggers everywhere that blue raspberry comes from the kingdom Plantae, division Magnoliophyta, class Magnoliopsida, order Rosales, family Rosaceceae, genus Rubus, subgenus Idaeobatus, and species Rubus Leaucodermis. The fruit that grows on the Rubus shrub has a dark blue tinge, and the juice that surges forth? A tangy stream of blue-hued raspberry euphoria.

Endnotes for the day:
Mom purchased a B-12 supplement for me. One rose-colored pill provides 33,333% of my needed B-12 daily value. I have never seen a percentage that large on the back of any pill bottle, or in print anywhere really.

Blue raspberry is still my favorite flavor, even when it’s artificially produced for me.

My mother thinks the idea of “Spring Fever” or “Just Something in the Air” has something to do with the phases of the moon and people’s astrological signs. I don’t know what to think. When I came to her with the day’s bizarre boy barrage, she replied quickly “you know, it was a new moon yesterday.”

Airwick’s ‘hardworking octopus’ commercial annoys the heck out of me. I get it that Airwick is trying to show us it empathizes with our multitasking lifestyles, but the fact remains: humans don’t have eight arms to work with. I don’t identify with you, you suction-cup-covered, eight-armed fushia creature that can’t naturally speak English, live out of water, or enjoy Airwick’s plug-in Aroma Therapy Fragrances.

Summer is finally here. The weather is warming, my friends are incredible, and I’m going to participate in a fitness study. My first appointment is tomorrow at Curves for Women. Please wish me luck, motivation, and a circuit’s worth of endurance.

03 June 2008

e-bravery

At orientation tonight for my newest part-time job, the boss had us copy down her email address in case we needed to contact her. She said to give a max 3 day stretch before we should expect a reply. She then went on to caution us about the syntax of our pieces. I’ve had some pretty crude resignations, she said. “Email makes us brave.” So read over what you’re saying a couple times before you send it, she advised.

After replicating my address five times, wishing at least one form might have something like “Favorite Zoo Animal” or “Target Weight” slyly placed somewhere between “Street” and “Zip,” I thought about my own emails. Email does make me feel braver. I feel bolder, more out“spoken” when I have the computer to mediate my communication. When I can draft and edit my thoughts, I feel more confident expressing and transmitting them.

I don’t think emails necessarily make me brave, but they stand as this unguarded venue where I’m allowed to go wild on stage. I’m in control; no one else is helping guide the flow of conversation. I feel empowered, more courageous, because there isn’t a gigantic audience gawking at me. There aren’t concert goers, band members, stage crew I have to engage. I can craft who I am, how I sound, how I appear without any immediate reactions or contentions from others (even though they probably will come later, and I know that).

I went to see Sex and the City today at Tinseltown. I laughed, I cried, I admit I enjoyed most all of my 135 minutes in the theater, ok? At the end of the film, Carrie Bradshaw decides to peruse a file that saved all of Mr. Big’s emails she hadn’t opened (Mr. Big left her at the church on their wedding day, and they hadn’t spoken since). The file was jam-packed, each email titled “Love Letter,” the final tagged “from me.” He copied and sent several famous love letters and ended with a pretty simple but pretty brave testimony: I know I screwed up, but I will love you forever. Naturally, Bradshaw proceeds to whimper and acknowledge the mistake she’s making—this all because of a single-sentenced email Big composed.

Now, I’m hardly saying emails are the stuff love’s made of. But, they can be powerful channels when it comes to saying more than we could dream of face to face. Whether I’m angry, confused, upset, or head over Bradshaw’s Manolo Blahnik heels, writing itself serves a very curious, empowering purpose for us all. I can be more daring, or animated, or sappy, or callous, or deceitful, or straightforward in writing. I can feel brave because it’s my monologue I’m getting someone else to read. Even if I ask questions in my letter, it isn’t a discussion. My questions contribute to the overall flow of the piece, just like the rest of my sentences.

My grandma and mom have the most animated persona in cards and emails. They underline, insert countless exclamation points, and use vocabulary they rarely use in person. It’s like they have alter personalities. But I think it’s easier for them to express their excitement and love through writing. Yes, these things are part of their personality, it’s just they show themselves more frequently and vividly in my inbox than in person.

I think email makes us feel brave because the venue sanctions us to run wild, break out of our shells a bit, and push our own conventions. Sometimes my performance is received well; other times, it’s not. But because my audience doesn’t respond right away, I'm confident enough to continue my routine until I decide to end it. Because people aren’t watching, reading, simultaneously as I type, I am gutsier, more secure with how I want to (re)present myself.

Email makes us brave. Writing makes us brave. Whether this is a good thing or bad, it is no doubt something empowering, scary, insightful, something packed with intrigue. It’s something worth contemplating, experimenting with, and understanding. But first and more than anything I think, it’s something about us worth appreciating.

29 May 2008

Things I Wished Today

THAT...

Laundry machines came with mechanical launderers.
Hiccups had a proven cure.
Blood circulated through my extremities.
I remember the name Walissa and never name my daughter that.
I didn’t try to sweeten my skinny vanilla latte with sugarless caramel syrup.
I had a hammock out back.
“Great Legs-pectations” wasn’t an actual caption in my Cosmogirl.
Flies could intelligently retrace how they entered a house or stop and ask for directions.
Humans could look intelligent when they try to show them out.
One healthy food cancelled out one unhealthy food.
I didn’t forget my one healthy food at work.
I had motivation to unload and sort my college belongings.
Grandpa cooked for grandma every once and awhile.
I took more pictures with them.
Florists won’t use floral color sprays on my wedding flowers.
I knew if pets learned like humans how to pretend to not see someone (like their owner) when they don’t want to say hi.
Abbrevin in convos was norm.
Making up a club with friends was still cool.
People actually carried and used those top-heavy Mickey pens from Walt Disney World.
Days slowed down.

28 May 2008

The PopScene and Me

AOL homepage just informed me “‘Sex’ girls weren’t always glamorous, even had big 80s hair.” Following this already gripping finding, a link labeled “Pics to Prove It” made it hard not to click. I got to AOL’s entertainment page where its “On the Radar” segment featured other compelling pieces including “PopScene Photos” and “Stars on the Beach: Some stars look awesome. Some don’t.”

I think I’ve come to expect my pop culture stars to be exemplars of precision when it comes to form and poise these days. They’re stars for a reason, radiant models of femininity and masculinity, the Noah Websters of glamour with whom I can’t argue.

I thought about writing some criticism about these conventions, about stardom, beauty laws, and the “PopScene” media force on me. But then I thought about audience culture and the conventional, lose-lose approach I usually take in confronting fame and the people in it.

I am a strong advocate for equal opportunity in media. I want to see people of all colors, shapes, and sizes in my sitcoms, in commercials promoting my favorite clothing stores, on magazine covers, movie posters, and billboards. But when I look towards Hollywood, the same kind of physical images flash across the screen: leanness and tone signal sexy, healthy, and supreme mainstream figures. These images set the example, and I can’t help but get mad at them for the idealism they perpetuate. It’s unfair these stars are so hot, toned, beautiful. It’s unfair these people comprise my popular culture; I wish I could see someone like me in there, someone with blemishes, love handles, and noticeably asymmetrical eyebrows.

At the same time though, when I see pictures of stars “letting themselves go,” I scoff. When I read sexy celebs weren’t always as attractive, I scorn them in my head. “You’re the famous ones! You’re the ones who shouldn’t have problems like these!” I end up criticizing them for being more like me, instead of accepting their more “humanizing” marks. I want them to be like me, but when they drop from their pedestals, it’s easy to condemn them for it.

I want to get rid of the standards stars set, yet I want to hold stars to them because they’re the ones who "set" them in the first place.

But, this process of mine can’t be useful because it only reinforces the system I want to change. If headlines read “Some people look awesome. Some don’t,” I’d have a fit. Change one word, stars to people, it would change my whole perspective. “Oh, the nerrrrrve!” But, isn’t that how I should read these lines? Shouldn’t I get just as angry about hypercritical remarks directed at people with acting or singing jobs as ones directed at other working and non-working people?

Shouldn’t I embrace dissimilar, changing shapes and sizes, changing people like me in my media, rather than fault them for straying from pop patterns I can hardly bear?

25 May 2008

Memorial

"Have a good Memorial Day!" my boss said as I left the flower shop today. "You too!" I instinctively yelped back. "Enjoy!"

Walking out back, I thought about the sign we had on the door. The shop will be closed on Monday, May 26 in observance of Memorial Day. We were closing the store to observe a day that commemorates fallen US troops. Our exchange though made it sound like the last day of school, that we'd be feasting with friends tomorrow at Waldameer picnic grounds and making best use of our group-discounted ride-o-ramas because wahoo, summer's here!

I felt like I cheapened the day and all it stands for by eagerly wishing her smorgasbords of hotdogs and hamburgers, fireworks with friends and family, and one less work day in the week. I felt I devalued the commemorative tone of the day by only focusing on hot eats and company.

I mean, I think we should feast with others, watch fireworks, and have time off to celebrate the occasion. I remember my godmother's funeral: we were asked to only wear bright colors. Anne-Marie showed a vivid slideshow of pictures at the church and reception. There was music, home videos, and lots of laughter. With hot eats and the finest company, we celebrated Mildred's life. We feasted and met together to memorialize an extravagant person. The whole time, we were reminded of her love; we kept reminding each other of it, even if we didn't mention Mildred's name in conversation. Simply, our being together honored who she was that day; the memorial was incredibly visible. Yes causal at times, but always, always noticeably present.

When I think about my Memorial Days, this kind of sweeping honor just isn't there. It's mostly about the food, someone to cuddle and watch fireworks with, and the free day off from work. So I guess I wonder about the point at which remembrance turns too inward, too much about my excitement to consume 3 hotdogs and a mound of potato salad just because the calendar says there's something to observe. "I don't have to feel guilty about overeating because that's what people do on holidays!...Uh, so what's this holiday for again?"

Via Facebook message, I got asked out on a date this weekend because "there's this awesome day called Memorial Day, and it gives me an extra day off." He wants to get Mexican food and sip sangria. I said no, my weekend's already full. Typical "Memorial" tasks—picnicking, fireworks with friends, and parades—had already clogged my schedule. With an exclamation point, I listed these in my response as to why this weekend wasn't good.

I think we both showed a loss of appreciation for or merely lack of acquaintance with the reason behind this awesome, extra day off. Why am I going to picnics, why am I going to watch fireworks with friends, why am I going to embarrass myself on the back of my dad's mid-life-crisis-soaked motor trike, and toss tootsie rolls out to Fairview kids? Why am I personally doing these things? To commemorate, or to drift indifferently, selfishly, through a holiday's acquired customs?

I'll be thinking more about my actions, interactions, and resultant in(di)gestion tomorrow. If you have any thoughts, related or entirely opposite qualms, let me know.

Oh yeah, that's why

Ok, perhaps I am more sure than unsure as to why it's time to chronicle my thoughts publicly. I had a night and day to realize

1. I am more introverted than extroverted. I enjoy whole days spent in a computer lab, farthest seat from the door, next to colossal window panes, notes, apple cores, and granola bar wrappers delineating my work space.

2. I communicate more eloquently (at least I fink so) with the written word. I enjoy writing rather than voicing me'thoughts in a tight corner (when aren’t corners tight?). Impromptu was never my strong suit; I always looked better in informative or persuasive speaking garb.

3. I need to write. I need to illustrate something with word art now that I’m home, finished with sophomore year. I haven't journaled since probably 5th grade. A decade later, I use keys to pen down my thoughts, and click "sign out" to lock my diary. No splotchy eraser stains, either! Genius.

4. I can. (not in the sense I can write, you can't; I'm a great writer, you're not. Rather, I have the opportunity right now, and I'm taking advantage of it) I have always looked forward to releasing my daily musings, but until now, never had the motivation at the end of the day to do it. Maybe it has to do with feeling a bit lost at home. I don't connect with my dad. In less than a week, my best friend here is interning a state away. I consider my mom my other best friend and highlight this in her birthday cards, but we rarely do anything together. The dearest people I know, grandma and grandpa, are getting older. I'm growing out of Erie. I'm afraid to leave it someday.

24 May 2008

Why???

I brewed a mug-full of green tea—I always boil the water, micro-waved water never seems as healthy—hoping it would ease my entrance into this stretch of cyber-gibberish. Until we get wireless, I am confined to my bulky COMPAQ, a calculator and mouse pad in one, and a white desk I have to sit sideways at because the comp tower and desk drawers create a barricade for my legs. Nevertheless, I am a determined bloggee...that is, a blogger in training, a daring, virtual neo-phyte/-fighter.

I'm unsure as to why, at this point in my student career, life as an only child, history of small-town living and summer nights spent at home because nothing’s happening apart from the allergen gala, it's time to chronicle my thoughts publicly. But here I am, making an archive of qualms, quirks, and queries, alliterating when I can, and kissing and telling all—but, most likely, just telling.

I'm a student of anthropology, media studies, journalism, floristing, cupcakery, innovation, and precision. I can spend hours in the computer lab composing papers, editing high schoolers' speeches for national oratory competitions, and crafting abominably clever Facebook posts for abominably less clever guys. It's one quirk of mine to be so fussy, borderline neurotic over the grammatical cadence of a piece, over beats per phrase and such. I don't sit and count them; I just listen, and change things when I must...over, over, over, and over.

Anyway, my last bit of tea is cold. I forgot to take the tea bag out, as always. A boyfriend warned me once of bleeding tea bags: waterlogged, wounded sachets just bobbing there, hemorrhaging in my mug. Even so, I still forget. They always look fine to me when I finish. No serious lesions yet, so why agonize.