Category Archives: insight

I Was Told There’d Be Cake

I just finished I Was Told There’d Be Cake by Sloane Crosley.  It’s a collection of essays from a single girl in New York who is almost exactly my age.

Usually, these kinds of books annoy me.  They’re either really vapid and self-indulgent (“Look at me… I spent my rent money on $800 shoes!”) or focus WAY too much on the sexual escapades of being single in New York (call it the Carrie Bradshaw effect.)   And they always make me feel worse about myself.

Luckily, this wasn’t one of those books.

Granted, Crosley’s career in publishing is a bit different than mine. Her volunteer experience is at the Museum of Natural History and not the Champaign County Humane Society, but there’s enough shared experiences to make this a delightful read.  

It made me think of a Steinbeck quote* I once read:

We are lonesome animals.
We spend our life trying to be less lonesome.
One of our ancient methods is to tell a story
begging the listener to say
–and to feel–
‘Yes, that’s the way it is,
or at least that’s the way I feel it.
You’re not as alone as you thought.

– John Steinbeck

With anecdotes about playing Oregon Trail, drinking Zima and wishing her parents had moved her to Australia,  Crosley successfully delivers a plenty of laugh-out-loud “hey–me, too!” moments.  

And she does it without being intimidating or condescending.  Yes, she works and lives in New York City. And, yes, she went to an Ivy League school.  But it’s her average, everyday (and hilarious) stories that really resonate with me, that make me want to say, “Yes, that’s the way it is.”

—–

*I had to Google to verify that this was, in fact, a Steinbeck quote.  I discovered that it’s part of a longer quote on the relationship between writers and readers.  It’s interesting, but I like the shorter version better.

My Summer Staycation

Since I have a ridiculous amount of vacation time built up, and I’m going to New Orleans in a couple of weeks, I decided that I’d take a summer staycation this year.

A staycation is just like a regular vacation, but you stay at home instead of going away. The purpose of a staycation is to not only save money on travel, but to learn a little more about your own neck of the woods. 

Although there are plenty of things I didn’t do, I learned quite a few things this week:

I’m a better cyclist than I thought.

I’ve probably logged at least 50 miles on my bike this week, between long rides and quick jaunts. And I’m really enjoying it. Yeah, I knew I could do the 3.5 mile trek to work in about 25 minutes. But it wasn’t until I took a day-long bike ride just for fun that I realized how much I like cycling. You see so many things on a bike that you would never notice in a car. And I feel so strong after I’m done.

I’m a worse swimmer than I thought.

One of my favorite staycation discoveries is the pool at Crystal Lake Park. Usually, I just hit up my friend Kim’s pool in the summer. But because she’s working, (and I’m not—ha!) I decided to go the public pool route. I like Crystal Lake. It’s close. It’s cheap. It wasn’t too crowded. I easily found a chair. And there are nice lanes for lap swimming. But, somehow in the 25 (?) years since I learned to swim, I’ve lost my ability to, well, SWIM. I was tired after the first lap and had the most awkward stroke possible. I wonder if they have adult swim lessons, ‘cuz I clearly need them.

I’m not made of sugar after all.

As we were getting ready for our day-long bike trek, it looked like rain. Now, I’m no weather-watcher, so I hadn’t actually checked a forecast, but the sky was a little dark and gloomy. We started off anyway and, you know what…The rain was really refreshing. And I didn’t melt. When it got a little too hard, we stopped under a pavilion, but it never got so bad we had to stop completely. In fact, when the weather cleared up in the afternoon, we were kinda hoping the rain would come back.

No plans? No problem!

On normal vacations, I usually like to have a plan. Not necessarily a minute-by-minute itinerary, but a general idea of what I’m going to do and when. For my staycation, however, I decided to just play it by ear. This strategy didn’t work so well the first couple of days because I literally couldn’t decide what to do. But being schedule-less paid off this week. Because I’d made precious few commitments, I was able to have a last-minute lunch with a friend or an impromptu Friday afternoon pool party.

Lightning bugs and fireflies are one and the same.

Or so I was told by a 4-year-old. Now, maybe you don’t automatically think “babysitting” when you think “vacation,” but I had the opportunity to spend part of mine playing with a smart, precocious and amazingly observant little boy. It’s amazing how interested they can be in everyday things and it’s fun to see their eyes light up when they learn something new.

I can’t unplug or sleep in.

Neither of these things are especially shocking. I told myself I wasn’t going to sleep in and that I’d avoid being online as much as possible. I wasn’t going to check work email until at least Wednesday. No dice. I haven’t slept past 7:00 all week and I was checking and—gasp—responding to work email Monday morning. I’ve gotten better as the week wore on, but in order to completely unplug I need to go somewhere I’m literally unreachable.

I like this town.

I often think I need to get away to appreciate natural beauty; the beach, the mountains, whatever. But it’s really pretty here. From the wildflowers at Meadowbrook Park to the three deer I saw on the way home from the pool yesterday, there’s a lot of natural beauty in C-U. Even the view from my newly-weeded backyard has somehow become more scenic, more peaceful.

One of my favorite things about traveling is getting the chance to just stroll the streets, trying to blend in and feel like a “local.” In a strange way, I think my staycation has made me more of a local here than I’ve ever been before.

So, that’s it. One day left of my staycation and-for once in my life-I’m not happy it’s Friday. I think I need at least one more week to finish all the things I wanted to do and still leave time for some more exploring.

For Reals

We’ve established that I’m horrible at blogging. In an effort to get better, here are some random happenings:

  • Some bratty kid kicked my dog at the pet store the other day.  Just walked right up and kicked her.  Then the parents SORTA said “sorry” before picking up the kid, hugging her and telling her it was okay.  Um, no… it’s NOT OK!  As my friend said: “that’s how serial killers start.”
  • I’m thinking about getting a bike.  There’s a local bike co-op. I think I’ll go tomorrow and see about getting a bike.  I want to bike for a number of reasons:  exercise, transportation, saving the environment.  Those are good enough reasons, dontcha think?
  • We’re learning to write for the web at work.  I’m trying to use the tools to start an intra-staff blog. We’ll see what happens.  It’s amazing how little people know about this crazy new internet thing.  Even the developers.  Weird.
  • I’m hating that WordPress took away the “insert image” link.  Now I have to add it as “media”?  WTF?  I liked it better when I could just steal from someone else.  I guess that’s the point, huh?
  • I finished a book this month.   Which doesn’t sound like it should be THAT big of an accomplishment, but I’m still reading On the Road from May.  Just can’t get into it. I really want to like it.  It’s got sex.  It’s got drugs.  It’s got counter-culture.  But I’m just not as into it as I want to be. 
  • I’m also reading a book about Web 2.0 (or Web Twenty as the cool kids are calling it).  Very interesting.  I’ll post a review when I’m done.

Let’s Talk about Stats, baby!

I was going to do another morning freewrite when I logged onto wordpress, checked my blog stats (as I do obsessively 3 or 4 times a day!).  So I decided to scrap the freewriting idea and focus on the sexiest idea I could think of–blog stats!!

Even before logging in, I was anticipating what I would find.   I’ve been getting really high hits because  I “borrowed” a couple of photos: one for a post on Lost and the other for a poetry post.   A poetry post describing my dislike for poetry, nonetheless. Yesterday was my “best day ever” in terms of blog stats.  Funny, ‘cuz I didn’t post anything yesterday.  Go figure!

Now, I’m happy that *anyone* is coming to my blog.  And I’m thrilled that people are looking at my Lost stuff, if even for a moment.  But that poetry post was a complete throwaway… Yeah, the image is super cool, but I just don’t get why people are coming to it.

I know that in the blogging world, it’s all about the numbers. How many hits, how many subscribers, etc., etc. But that was never my intention, which makes it even more ironic that I’m obsessed with that little bar graph.  I doubt that I have many regular readers.  I get more comments on my mySpace blog than I do here, but what tickles me is when I open my blog stats and see REAL stuff.  Yeah, it’s only 4 or 5 hits, but I think it’s cool that:

  • There is a Yahoo group devoted to Henry Ian Cusick, and they were talking about my blog, if only for a day
  • The guy at SF Signal agreed with my reasoning for loving Lost
  •  At least a few people are reading this from their Google readers and myYahoo feeds

I’m not really sure I want to “market” this blog.  Yes, I love to see that little line spike high, but this blog is a mismash, it doesn’t have purpose, it doesn’t have a defined angle.  Hell, it doesn’t even have good writing most of the time.   But I do love it when people stumble upon me, so I think I’ll go ahead and link to those uber-popular images again, so maybe–just maybe– someone might read this as well!

I’m Thinking Of…

My friend who lost his dad…  He was only 60 years old. An alcoholic, but a good guy.  And his mom died years ago.  Now my friend doesn’t have *any* parents.  What’s that like at 29? I mean, my MOM still has a mother.  Yeah, she has Alzheimer’s and is in the hospital right now.  But she’s still alive.  Shit, my DAD still has a mother  and he’s almost 65.  Why does my grandma get to live until she’s 90 while this guy’s dad kicks the bucket at 60????

What’s it like being 29 years old and an orphan?  Especially when you don’t have a very close relationship with your sister?  As a side note, my brother just said: “and it’s not like he’s close to his sister.”  That kinda made me all warm and fuzzy inside.  Like my bro realizes what we have is special.

Back to what I’m thinking of. Mortality. Death. The futility of life.  But, it is what you make of it, right?  I don’t want to turn out like that poor soul.  Alcoholic and alone.  But, what am I right now?  Alone and drunk with 3 dogs running around and my *mom* delivering me Taco Bell!  Is that pathetic?  

I don’t usually sit around drinking by myself, but I figured I had nothing better to do.  Does this mean that in 11  years my kids are gonna find me passed out in a diabetic coma?  Are the papers gonna get my survivors’ names wrong?  What will my legacy be?   Let’s hope it’s not this.

Wow… that’s some deep shit.  All because of drunken web surfing. 

I’m looking at…

I stole this idea from http://simmonssays.wordpress.com/2008/05/21/writing-exercise/.  I’ll totes give her credit.

I’m looking at 30.  Yeah, that’s right. I’m getting fucking old.  One of those legendary stories growing up was how, at the age of 3 or 4, I said that Madonna should retire from being a singer because she was 30. Because she was ancient.  And here I am… 29 years old… turning 30 in a mere 9 months.

I don’t feel ancient. In fact, I don’t feel grown up.  I have a house. A dog. A mortgage. Shit, I’m dog sitting my moms pups tonight.  But I’m plowed.  Ruby Red Absolut + Fresca + Top Chef = One Hell of a Wednesday Night in my book.

So, if we take the question more literally, what amI looking at?  Well, the computer screen, obviously.  And my reflection in the mirror.  Since I was a little girl I’ve always been obsessed with my own appearance.  Not too bad, I say… maybe a little pale.  Definitely a little pudgier than I was last year.  But I’m a cute girl… or so I tell myself.

What else do I see?  I see a futon.  I see purses.  I see a room that needs to be cleaned.   I hear dogs in the other room playing with something they’re not supposed to.  Maybe I should go check on them.

So the dogs were in their crates. Good puppies.  Then my brother called to say he sold his house. Yay!

Now I’m looking at my dog and the black dog fighting.  This isn’t as interesting as I thought it would be.  I’ll try again later.  Maybe when I’m sober.

Why I Heart Lost

It’s no secret… I’m addicted to Lost.   Not since my pre-teen Family Ties days have I been so enthralled with a television show.  Although there have been plenty of shows that I’ve watched since, none have quite captured my interest like this one.  It’s honestly the *only* show I religiously watch every week.  So what is it about this show that makes it so great?  Is it the characters? The plot? The mystery? 

Since there is no Lost  this week, I’ve decided to break down the top 5 reasons I heart Lost:

5)  Naveen Andrews, Josh Holloway, Henry Ian Cusick– A top 4 list isn’t quite as catchy as a Top 5 list, so I had to throw some eye-candy in here.  The actors who portray Sayid, Sawyer, and Desmond are-in a word- HOTT!  I’m not a big Jack fan, but he cleans up nice.  And the girls are okay, too.  Kate is a bit too horse-like for my taste, but I totally dig Juliet.  Can’t go wrong with pretty people on a pretty island.

4)  It makes me feel smart.  And then stupid.  And then smart again.  Like any good mystery, Lost is filled with clues, red herrings, villains, heroes and “WTF just happened?” moments.  It makes me feel smart when I figure something out (like Juliet’s real purpose last season) and then stupid again when I realize I just “fell” for one of the producers’ tricks… they wanted me to put two and two together.

There are so many layers to the show… there are pop culture references, literary references, an entire mythology that  is derived from what the producers refer to as the “canon.”  Some things (the show itself, official podcasts, webisodes, etc.) are considered to be part of the canon and, therefore, presented as truth.  Other things (actors’ interviews, an alternate reality game, unofficial web sites) are non-canonical and can’t be completely trusted, but provide a great source of information for the theory-makers.

3) There’s a little something for everyone–  Action, romance, mystery, science fiction, psychology, hippies, sex, drugs, rock and roll (well… there was Rock & Roll), mysticism, religion, animals, family drama… and HUMOR.  Don’t forget the humor.   Hurley and Sawyer, in particular, are great at delivering the witty one-liner.  Even if you don’t think you like science fiction (I don’t) or aren’t “into” all the mystery-making, you’ll find something to glom onto.

In talking to people about this season it became clear to me that different people identify with different aspects of the show.  Some people are concerned about what is happening RIGHT NOW on the show– are they gonna find the chopper?  What’s up with that thing on Keemy’s arm? (I’m trying to be as vague as possible), whereas I’m less interested in the action of the island and more interested in how the “current” events weave into the larger context of the show.  It’s like a big puzzle and even though I don’t know how all the pieces will fit together, I have confidence that the writers are taking us somewhere… somewhere amazing!

2) The writers/producers are amazing.  I have no clue what it takes to write a television series, especially one as complex and multi-layered as this one.  But these writers are God-like in my book.  They started the series with the “island present”/flashback format.  Through this we were able to meet and identify with the characters, while also moving the story forward and giving us background on both the characters and the plot.  They’ve also managed to introduce new characters (sometimes not-so-successfully) in a way that propelled the story forward, yet maintained the core of the show.  I have to remind myself that some of my favorite characters– Ben, Desmond, Juliet– weren’t even on the show the first season. 

And then the changed it all  up at the end of the last season. I’m not going to ruin for anyone, but it was mind-blowing.  And by all accounts, there’s another mind-shift happening at the end of this season.  Brilliant!

They’ve also managed to make a fairly fast-paced, mythology-driven show that actually has compelling *characters.*  Too often in “genre” shows, the writers rely on the tried-and-true devices of the genre and don’t focus as much on character development.  I think Lost has proven itself to be *much* more than a genre show by giving the characters such depth.  Sure, it’s taken 4 years for some characters (Sawyer is just coming into his own) while others seem fairly stock (Jack), but I don’t think we ever saw this kind of character development on, say, Star Trek.  

While we’re on the subject, I refuse to classify this as science fiction. Yeah, there are some otherworldly things going on here.  But it’s soooooo much more than that.  Plus, I hate sci fi!

1) The Lost Community–  Now, if nothing else I ever do doesn’t brand me a dork, this will:  I think my favorite part of watching Lost is the day-after.  Yes, it’s a water-cooler show.  And yes, I’m glad it’s on Thursday now so that I don’t feel *quite* so guilty discussing it with my friends/co-workers on Friday.  

But, again, it’s so much more than that.  There’s a whole community built around this show.  I consider myself a pretty big fan.  I usually read the blogs the next day to catch up on the latest theory/obscure reference I’ve missed.  Hell, I’ve even started taking LIVE notes and sharing them with fellow “Losties” via email.  But I’m NO WHERE near as devoted as some of the people online.

The likes of Doc Jensen, Doc Arzt and that guy from Powells (J. Wood, apparently) spend a great deal of time and energy researching the show, making sense of every bit of dialogue, imagery, and context.   And those guys get paid for it.  There are hundreds, if not thousands, of regular people who do it just for fun.  

Take the first episode where we met the “freighter people” for example.   I watched the show and thought: “hmmm…that redheaded actress is kinda pretty, wonder what’s up with her.”  The Lost faithful immediately realized that her name was c.s. lewis, the author of the Chronicles of Narnia.  And then made a million connections to why that was significant and what it means to the larger context of the show.  And that, my friends is why I love the show.   As Lenny Kravitz once said: “It ain’t over till it’s over.”  And with Lost, it ain’t never over! 

So, if you’re already a Lost  fan, let’s talk in a couple of weeks about what is bound to be a mind-blowing finale.  And if you’re not… rent the DVDs and get caught up.  You won’t be disappointed!