Thursday, December 30, 2010
Tuesday, December 28, 2010
Call it post-Christmas-trauma disorder.
In reality, my Christmas went well. I'm too poor to purchase a Christmas tree and space wouldn't allow it if I had the $90 to fork over for plastic cinders. I improvised by re-purposing a vase of plastic daisies. Brendan provided the homemade ornaments. And just to make it even more authentic, I took one of my many couple-less socks and used it as a stocking. Here's the evidence:
All those presents are unfortunately not for me. I ended up stuffing everyone's stocking:
Dad-newest XRT cd
Melanie (step mom)- Elvis wine holder
Mom- tickets to see Million Dollar Quartet
Grandma- new outdoor thermometer
Aunt P- a personalized dessert carrier
Aunt J- a pajama set and a hand knitted scarf
Niece- gift card for target, bonnie bell lip smackers, and an Angel necklace
Nephew- two onesies and some diapers (what more does a 5 month old need?)
In return, I ended up getting:
-4 sweaters and a corduroy coat (mom)
- hoop necklace (mom)
- A new metal bed frame (aunts)
- Mattress cover, pad, and pillow topper (aunts)
- Easel and paint set (aunts)
- Two pairs of boots that didn't fit (aunts)... they are getting returned and replaced by new running pants and a new Nike hookup for my running shoes
- Large pots and pans set (dad and Melanie)
- New silverware (dad and Melanie)
What about darling boyfriend? Well, we decided to save money and make gifts for each other. I made him a tie-dye tshirt and painted a picture frame to match. He gave me an entire cd worth of songs from our relationship, but instead of it being the original artist, it's actually him singing and playing all the parts! He also played Santa and stuffed my stocking (ha!) with candy and a new candle.
Of course, Christmas wasn't without drama. This one, while sort of not unexpected, knocked everyone out. Instead of being a fight between who's gift was better or which Christmas we would attend, this year's Christmas woe was full of fear, tears, and unbelievable anger and regret. I really, really wish I could blog about it here. I have so much to say, so much anger and sadness to express that it seems unfair that I cant just come out and say what happened. My nightmares over that night have not ceased, and every day, the confusion and guilt have just increased to a boiling point.
This is not what Christmas is supposed to be. And frankly, I will never forget this Christmas night, that phone call, or the events leading up to it. I cant imagine the next couple of years not having that scar on it.
Anyways, I was blessed to have the happy moments I did. I am blessed by an amazingly resilient and giving family. And to the friend who texted me throughout the night and day, thank you. The same goes to the boyfriend who tried his best to comfort me and to make my Christmas as normal as possible.
I've been without a solid support group since I've moved to the city. My friendships have been dwindling to a precious few I can count on to have a complete conversation with. And in times like this, you understand how much you have and how much you miss. But that's part of being an adult. There's no tree back at home waiting for you to be decorated. There are no line of friends waiting to hold you or willing to drop their lives to see you. And there is certainly not a real Santa around to eat your cookies and leave you the mass amount of things you need for the apartment.
This is growing up. I'm glad to be at this part of my life because: "Try as we might, happy as we were, we can never go back."
And now, because this became a complete bummer of a post... ADORABLE CHILDREN! (credit goes to my brother's girlfriend and my sister since I was without a camera):
Tuesday, December 7, 2010
I've posted life goal lists on past blogs before. From what I've gathered, I've managed to accomplish:
- Graduate with a degree in music
- Be in a relationship longer than one year
- Travel to Europe
- Win a speech team event
- Live in my own apartment in the city
- Buy a car
- Learn guitar (sort of in the process)
- Perform professionally
- Get an A in clarinet juries
- Teach music at a school
- Get health insurance... seriously
- Run a 5K
- Take a dance class
- Sell some art work
- Pay off my credit cards (they were paid off for three months!)
I was once told that the best thing to ever come out of Buenos Aires was the musical Evita. I then threw up a bit.
But my biggest goal on the unfinished, but working on it, list is to run a full marathon by the time I'm 30 (preferably at 25-26).
All of my life, I've hated running. I was always the slowest mile runner during the dreaded Presidential Fitness Tests, and I took a lot of flack for it. Seriously, gym class for an overweight pre-teen can scar a girl for life- so much so that I do have a bit of anxiety whenever I run in public for fear of being too slow.
But even at 10-11-12, I wanted to be a distance runner. I wanted to be the girl on cross country (Sue Heck, anyone?) with the long skinny legs in the shifty running shorts. In the winter, I wanted to go on polar bear runs in lycra while gliding across the ice I usually fell on. Even with all this "want," I was always to insecure to make myself go out and actually run.
I stopped running when I moved to my last suburban stop. I gave every excuse in the book why I wouldn't bring myself to keep plugging outdoors. And that hiatus lasted until September of this year when I began to run again. My goal to run an outlandish 26.2 miles didn't really pop up until read a blog about a girl who ran her first marathon. For some reason, it hit me that this is what I want to do.
I want to fully understand that my body can do amazing things and perservere through winter weather, aches and pains, hills and potholes. I want to see how far I can physically and mentally push myself to overcome any past anxiety I may have in regards to running. And I want to know that I accomplished something that only a few people have and can.
So every day, I am preparing myself for that future marathon. Tuesdays, Thursdays, Saturdays, and Sundays are spent at the gym running intervals or testing out my newest distance. Or I'm cross training with spin bikes and ski machines. I'm following strength training programs specifically for endurance running. On my days off, I do yoga and pilates to tone and stretch muscles I haven't seen since I was 14 or I'm working on my core strength. Every day, I'm working on preparing myself for 26.2 miles of war on my body.
Tuesday, November 23, 2010
10. A job where I can facebook, tweet, sparkpeople, blog:
Nothing says hard at work than someone hardly working! The most taxing thing I do at work is register students for classes, which happens four times a year and lasts about a month. The other 8 months... well, it's a hodgepodge.
9. Another year of getting to act my age!:
Dear friends who are married or have children,
My life is so much better than yours 90% of the time. No shared income or closet space. No compromising on which brand of bread to buy or figuring out how much mac and cheese will feed the kids. I get to spend my non-bill money on dinners out to childrenless bars to hear bad 80s cover bands on a Tuesday night, and I never, ever have to worry about a babysitter for my children (or husband). WIN! I'm going to appreciate this until I hit prime baby making time. Then I will panic.
8. Netflix instant stream: I should just replace my cable with netflix for how often and much I milk off of the instant stream feature. It's bad when your recommended movies include the category "Animated movies featuring talking animals." Added bonus for the year: getting the Wii hookup.
7. Elliptical obsessed women: While you spend your hour on the elliptical, I am going to take advantage of the other, more awesome cardio machines. You may look hotter bouncing up and down with little sweat, but at least I am getting more for my money.
6. Free shuttle bus to work: Every morning, I get to fight an Asian woman for the first-person-on-the-bus bragging rights. It has recently become a strategic competition. I am currently employing a big red bag to the chest to keep her from cutting in line. And when I feel vengeful, I'll sit in the seat right next to her, even when there are plenty open. Not paying for public transportation never felt so evil!
5. The "hide posts" feature on Facebook: Wackjob conservative? Post daily Christian messages? Constantly asking for me to help you on your farm? Just plain annoying?... you've been hidden. No more do I have to weed through your facebook status updates about how awesome Hannah Montana is or how sick your children are! No more emo lyrics or crappy band invites!
(It's not that I dont love you... It's just that I often dont care. If I really didn't want to hear from you, I'd de-friend you, and believe me, I've already de-friended about 200 "friends" in the past year.)
4. Online shopping: I'm done with Christmas shopping (3 days before Black Friday, to boot!). Last year, after a shopping mishap, I was forced to shop on Christmas Eve after a long shift as a seasonal employee of Target. It was at that moment where I was verbally fighting for a snowman mug full of 80 cent hot chocolate mix that I swore I would never, ever shop for non-essentials in store again.
3. Major news outlets: Where else would I get to read the article "Was Jesus a Communist?" but CNN? Or watch Glenn Beck encourage everyone to discuss inflation at their Thanksgiving dinner parties? Oh the joys of idiots with microphones and popular websites.
2. That I get to vote in Chicago: Who wouldn't want to be a voter in this clusterf*ck of a mayoral election? Rahm, Chico, Braun? It's the alphabet soup in the melting pot of rejected and "reformed" politicians. With the budget and skeletons some of these "players" have, the commercials are going to be hysterical.
1. Rotini noodles: I really dont need to explain this because, as well all know, rotini noodles can do anything (including make a pretty awesome portrait of JFK). It's just the miracle of all pasta, and for that, I am forever grateful.
Friday, November 5, 2010
I've talked about exercise already. I actually really love to be active, contrary to popular belief. I get restless easily so it's a tool to get myself off of the rut of couch planting-B rated netflix movie watching.
It also provides me with a social network. My spin teacher, a crazy mad deamon in bike shorts, does what she calls "talk tests" where she brings up a random (often X-rated) topic and has us each talk for 10 seconds to a minute about it. It's often during peak sets or tempo sprints, but there is no better laugh than talking blow jobs while forcing yourself not to pass out on a stationary bike. Since I've moved to Chicago, my friend zone has been at, well, about a zero- besides my boyfriend's friend and family and occasional phone calls and emails. At least when I am spinning in a room full of girls, doing dirty "talk tests," I can get out that need to giggle, joke, gossip, and emasculate men that I would normally have if I was living in the burbs and able to see my MIA girlfriends.
And, more often than not, exercise does quite the opposite- it elevates the social process of life. Do you want to just totally lose every grip on any stress in your life? Well, I know it's corny and so late 90s, but try yoga. I recommend this looking up yogamazing, a free Itunes podcast featuring a very calming teacher. Want to literally sing away away anger while burning calories? Watch this and try not to laugh:
There's always that scientific thing about endorphins...
As for food... well, that's less clear cut. If we are going to be honest here and do some self reflection, I will just straight out say that I am a terrible eater. As a child, my diet was fat, carbs, and more fat. I avoided veggies like the plague (and quite honestly still do... just never could physically eat green beans or broccoli). It contributed to an overweight, unhappy child that would grow to an overweight, unhappy adult.
Just like about 99.9% of you, I turn to food for comfort in times of stress and a quick pick-me-up when I need a burst of energy. Food is social. It's where the majority of first dates take place, served at weddings, left out at funerals. Food follows us through life and defines who we are, whether I like to admit that or not.
I struggle, currently, with a heavy salt/sodium addiction. It is added or showcased in most of my food, and, in return, it retains all of the 8 cups of water I struggle to drink per day. It is the reason why my feet and fingers are constantly cold or why I am exhausted at odd hours of the day.
But even knowing this, I am still a salt fiend. I still crave it. I still keep a dispenser filled with seasoned salt on my eating table (for real). This is my life. It's what I hold on to, and that's depressing. Even with all the anger and resentment that comes from having past food addictions and seeing what negative hold it had on me for so long, I still let something as minuscule as a grain of salt hold on to me.
Normally, I'd write my solution or some goal. But I'm being realistic when I say that this salt craving will never, ever go away. I'm always going to want to whip up some popcorn or dash some seasalt on my potato skins. It's just going to have to be something I work around and with- just like any human relationship. I'll have to compromise and dedicate myself, just as anyone who wants to make a major change in their life would do.
Salt, you win. You can stay.
Wednesday, October 27, 2010
This week, I watched/stalked several friends as they moved away from home or out of state, for the first time since college. It's always been a dream of mine to just pack my things up and go, just like some of these friends.
But realistically, in my world, there are things called leases, job contracts, and relationships that will keep my suitcase empty until (at least) May.
Many of you will think, "Well, why cant she just go, if that's what she really wants? Leases can be broken, or apartments can be sublet. Job contracts are only ways of determining salaries, and relationships can be made elsewhere or kept stable with extra effort."
The truth is, I'm just not brave enough. I'm not like Ms. Seattle or the two Ms. Floridas, who seemingly found a destination and went without reassuring measures (i.e. have a job).
But a lack of bravery isn't just stopping me from moving. Here's a look of all the things I would do if I only had "the nerve.":
10. Moving away
- What it would take: A new job that pays better than what I have currently (it honestly wouldn't be that hard to find)
- What I would risk: My current job, a great relationship, and breaking a very expensive city lease
- Then when?: My goal is to be out by the end of June.
- What it would take: Coming to terms with the fact that there are certain people in my life who I find ridiculous or toxic.
- What I would risk: "Friendships."
- Then when?: Undetermined, but if I might hit a breaking point soon.
- What it would take: A band and some alcohol
- What I would risk: Looking unworthy of my four year degree and countless years of voice lessons and band practices
- Then when?: As soon as someone jumps up on my offer to form a alternative folk band/or when I get good enough at guitar to want to post something online
- What it would take: Someone, who is equally brave, to ask me to make it for them
- What I would risk: Food poisoning
- Then when?: After maybe 3 or 4 more months of this cooking 3 new meals deal I'm on
- What it would take: Alcohol, alcohol wipes, and a destination not reachable by car or El line.
- What I would risk: Germs, robbery, and depending on the amount of old people, pee covered seats
- Then when?: Hopefully never
- What it would take: Well, I'm on that "journey" now, but I'm having some mental blocks that need to be plowed down
- What I would risk: Being the "big girl running."
- Then when?: March is my target. Yesterday, I managed to run outside for the first time in months. It was great. And I've been honestly flying through my re-do of C25K. It seems like I'm getting back that running strength that I had 2 years ago when I ran my first 5K.
- What it would take: Alcohol and an amazing band everyone else hates
- What I would risk: See "CTA bus" risks
- Then when?: As soon as I can come up with the money to even treat myself to a concert.
- What it would take: A savings account with more money than 2 months emergency rent
- What I would risk: Same savings account
- Then when?: When I get that dream job in a different state/country that will pay me double of what I am earning now
- What it would take: Insoles and the mysterious disappearance of all of my flats
- What I would risk: Falling on my ass or face
- Then when?: Do they have classes for how to walk properly in heels? How about one on how to make foot pain disappear?
- What it would take: Deciphering who those people are and what I should say to them.
- What I would risk: From most people, nothing. From some, an entire relationship
- Then when?: ...
Speaking of important people in my life, a certain boyfriend and I celebrated our 1 year anniversary. This year has flown by. I know it's corny, but it really does feel like yesterday when he called me up for the first time (while my car was being towed). And then his second call took place during a friend's breakup. It seemed like we weren't going to even be able to talk, let alone go out on a date or have a relationship.
Our first date was pretty typical, sports bar for food and a terrible teenage cover band followed by a night of drinks in Elmhurst. Our first kiss was in the parking garage, thinking we were saying goodbye... And it continued like that for the rest of year. We'd spend one night a week together- mostly at the Elgin Public House.
In January, it became much more serious as our one day together became two. We seemingly became official without it ever becoming official as I met his friends and family. I said the three words first, while laying down, unafraid of what he was going to say back. He relented a week later, a day after his birthday, in my kitchen, eating my supposedly vegan chocolate chip cookies.
And when I moved to the city, closer to him, we became the couple we are today. I'm so glad to have found a man that I can laugh with, scream at, and try new foods with. He constantly challenges me intellectually and keeps me on my toes with surprises and excitement. He's always willing to be present when I need him, drive my car when I'm tired (or park it in a difficult spot), and make me mix tapes for when I'm feeling blue.
But most importantly, he's the man I'm always willing to share my homemade popcorn with. And seriously, that takes some bravery.
Monday, October 18, 2010
I'm a pretty experienced gym person. I've been around and experimented like every college girl should.
I've been in the expensive, purpose driven, Olympic athlete-filled chain gym. For about 80 a month, you get to watch as girls the size of toothpicks and men with pecks the size of my head bounce up and down on the stair master for hours, or until someone enforces the dreaded "time limit." The treadmill is for running only. And by running, I mean sprinting for said "time limit" or until the machine forces the person to slow their ass down.
Gym etiquette is actually quite lovely at gyms such as these. Mainly, it's because everyone is so focused on running or elliptical-ing off every last lettuce induced calorie possible that they are too faint to talk. There's no loud chit chat (plus, it's hard to hear over the 90s pop blasting over industrial fans) or brutish men trying to pick up heavily makeup-ed women. It's get in and stay in till you drop or are removed by a staff member with a shovel.
Then there's the college gym. Tried and true it never fails to be a melting pot of athletes clinging to the hope that maybe they'll make it to the professional leagues, even though they play AAA sports. But there is also the unfortunate mix of frat boys working off the hangover from last night, sorority girls trying to pick up currently puking frat boy, and overweight smart people who are there only to fulfill the requirements set down by some 90 year old pseudo-gym teacher.
Obviously, gym etiquette is non-existent, except for Saturday nights or Sunday mornings when sorority girls get their cardio from the walk of shame.
And of course, there is the community gym. I am currently occupying a community gym every Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday, and Sunday. What you get from a scholarship and merit based facility is the mix between the college and the purpose driven.
There are people, like me, who are obviously there to get healthy. We're trying. We're trying our hardest and it may not be pretty (ask my boyfriend, I'm not pretty when I sweat), but give us credit. It's a mix bag of moms, old men, and 20-30 year old single women with nothing else to do on a Tuesday night (but watch Glee while training for a 5K).
Many of these people bring their children for the low child care cost and pool availability. But apparently, putting these kids in the care facility is easier said than done. Instead of fighting off bros and hos for the next spot on the elliptical, I get to be cut in line by an 8 year old who cant even pedal. They're, of course, sweaty, sticky, and full of germs that not even industrial strength gym cleaning fluid can get off the bench press.
But they aren't the worst. The worst is the high school boys. They are the inspiration, nay muse, behind this post. High school boys come in groups, or as I like to refer to them as drones, because as instantly as they set their weights up, everyone drops. Who knows what compels them to blast "Iron Man" at 8pm on a Thursday, but who even knows why they need it when they clearly tend to shout over poor Ozzie to. And what they shout is always a vulgar comment about a girl on the ski machine or an older man lifting light weights. They ruin the gym experience.
This weekend, I had my revenge. After overhearing a high school basketball player talking about how he had to enroll in a "fat woman's biking class" because his coach made him, my motivation kicked in to high, bitch like gear. Instead of helping him properly find his bike settings, every woman in that class ignored his grunts as he realized how uncomfortable a spin bike is. Then the class started. Through sprints and "half way ups," I could see him failing. His eyes grew beady and he was clearly in pain. When we shouted out our mileage, he was far behind us. And then it happened, he asked to leave. He blamed it on cramps so the teacher, a waif of a girl, pulled him off the bike and escorted him to the fountain. She made him down some pretty hysterical yoga stretches while we "fat women" continued to spin. He watched, head in his lap, trying not to pass out.
So, the next time you're at the gym, remember the gym/societal rules:
1. Children have no place in an adult gym. Nor do college frat boys with the same intelligence level.
2. Wipe down your machines so to avoid spreading last night's fresh herpes.
3. Dont wear makeup to the gym. Seriously. You'll look redic if you actually break a sweat. No one likes a sweaty raccoon.
4. "Iron Man" may seem appropriate. But it is never warranted.
5. Heed the time limit, even if you have the "big race" the next week.
5. Do not underestimate the power of a woman on a diet and her will to beat the treadmill/bike/elliptical/free weights/etc. She's got much more important things on her mind than which size of triceps will impress the most.
Wednesday, October 13, 2010
I imagine that the first woman would have the intelligence level of a five year old and the patience of of one as well, and we all know what happens when you give a girl a beautifully decorated tupperware and tell her to wait till Christmas...
Bitched opened it. She opened it, and suddenly we have to deal with blisters, malaria, potato famines, and crab hats.
Women, collectively, got together and did a big "F-that" and each found a man who would believe their calls for "Oh, dear, I cant get this bottle open... whatever shall I doooo?!" And men, being made out of the same fibers that made Zeus such a dickwad, continually opened that jar for the sake of looking strong and masculine. And women stood back just in case it released something like a new wave of anthrax or republican Voldemorts.
Of course, women continued to evolve while men continued to invent things to make life so much more difficult on their extra ribbed counterpart (i.e. dog and child safety gates). And as women depended less and less on their brute own strength, the jars became more and more of a challenge.
sparkpeople for some recipes to try. I'm not much of a cook, to be honest (an apparent sign of the fast food evolution), so I figured I'd try something easy for my first go at it... chicken marsala. After a great gym session, I sped off to the grocery store to find a bottle of marsala cooking wine. After frantically searching for it for about a good half hour, I left, bottle in hand.
... not knowing what was to come.
It started off great. Chicken was spiced up, sauce pan was full with extra light olive oil, and I had a bottle opener at hand.
... Then the theory of the pitfalls of man's need to show off and create unnecessarily hard items became ever more true. That damn bottle cap of marsala would not budge. I tried putting the top in boiling water, hitting it gently (and then more violently) on the counter, using a knife to pop the sides, utilizing a towel/blanket/shirt end/brillo pad to aid in hand friction, googled solutions, and I of course screamed every profanity I knew.
Nothing. An hour of just staring at it, cursing the women of my family for giving me genetically lacking arm strength, and pleading with Zeus or whatever God may be up there for some relief got me nowhere.
And I gave up like the pussy I was. Today, I will reluctantly hand it over to my boyfriend who will undoubtedly open it on the first try, and then will spend the rest of the night making fun of my sex's inability to open things.
You win this time marsala/Zeus/men. But when B opens that bottle and we get cursed with a world full of Justin Bieber hair-related communicable diseases, don't come looking at me. This time, I didn't open it.
Sunday, October 10, 2010
However, this event did spark something in me that I have been secretly struggling with over the past couple of months- motivation.
Before I moved out to E-town for my year as a teacher, I became extremely dedicated to exercising. I ran a 5K, tracked almost everything I ate, practiced yoga almost daily, and was at my lowest weight in 5 years. Being active gave me confidence to end a going south relationship and to make several important life decisions.
Only, it didn't last. I moved to a neighborhood where a gym wasn't free and I wasn't making enough to pay for it. I tried to run outside, but my neighborhood was occasionally dangerous, hilly, and was located right next to high schoolers who could be quite cruel to passers. I stopped working out, I drank more, and I went out to eat like crazy.
That ritual pretty much summed up my entire last year. And obviously, my body has paid for it. And this is where I am going to be brutally honest. I gained back the 15lbs I lost when I was at my peak and then gained about another 7. I haven't felt good or comfortable in my skin, and those around me or close to me have seen this change.
A couple weeks ago, I decided to be pro-active. I started up running again, but my previous problems with shin splints hindered me. I finally bit the bullet and joined the Y. Not only does it provide me with a ton of free or low fee classes, I also get to use this activtrack fitness helper. And of course, I'm back on sparkpeople. Find me if you use it because I love spark buddies.
Yesterday was my first spin class, by the way. Oh man, it was insane. I had taken a couple of spin classes here and there, but never full hour sessions at high intensity. But there was something great about channeling all of my anger and hurt in pushing my body to the limit.
Anyways, I might post more about my fitness as time goes by and I may just forget or be unwilling to post about it period. But, if you want to motivate me with emails, facebook messages, and the occasional phone call... that would be great.
Tuesday, October 5, 2010
Beauty and the Beast
Lion King... I'm counting it because I was obsessed with Nahla as a child
Princess Diaries (1 and 2)
Princess and the Frog
As I've grown up, the nostalgia towards Disney Princesses have not died. In fact, I'm sure I am not the only 20 something who got a wee bit giddy when she heard that Beauty and the Beast was to be re-released for the super secret Disney vault.
I've always assumed Scrooge McDuck guarded the Disney Vault with his visceral Scottish accent and three meddling nephews.
In fact, it is my age group that drives and scorns what myself and others call Disney Princess syndrome.
Disney Princess Syndrome is (not) medically described by symptoms that include:
- An unhealthy obsession with pink and other various jewel tones
- The owning of several +, officially licensed Disney Princess goods
- The ability to sing at least three songs from any of the listed in character voice
- Fostering long term, serious relationships against the will of a Father figure
- Desiring to run away for adventure
- Frequent attempts to talk to small, woodland creatures or household goods
I'd assume Disney Princess Syndrome also includes dressing like Mrs. Potts and other various inanimate objects featured in these movies (found here)
Recently, there have been several crusades against the Disney Princess Brand. After being inducted in the Disney family, the sale of merchandise related to Disney Princess has been over $100 million in 6 years, and has sold over $3.4 billion since the first Disney Princess, Snow White, graced the screens. There is no denying that Disney has created an evil stepmother of a marketing scheme by marketing Belle, Jasmine, Ariel, Cinderella, Snow White, and Aurora as a pivotal part of childhood. (source)
Those who fight against the Disney Princess trend look at the emotional stability of the young girls that fall prey to the pastel gowns. There have been several studies that dive in to the emotional or psychological effect that Disney Princess have on elementary aged girls. In every study, doctorate paper, and blog article I've seen, nothing has pointed that the idealizing of a pretty in pink life will lead to anything out of the ordinary. In other words, girls do not become an ivory tower, lady in waiting just by being exposed to the stories. Fantasizing about becoming a princess at a young age is just a part of growing up, just as superhero play for boys is common between the age of 4-10.
For all of you DP haters out there, consider that the Disney Princesses have grown and shaped society. Just looking through my list, you can note that many of these princesses have been portrayed as highly intelligent, brave, and independent. All could have stood alone without the romantic element in their stories. And let's face it, the men in these movies are often quite daft and in need of much more help then the girl using a ancestral dragon to burn the bottoms off of the Huns.
But who, if anyone, is to blame for whatever mixed messages these people protest against? In my opinion, it is the parents, not the marketer who bring on the emphasis of romance over independence in these stories. For centuries, we have told the story of Helen of Troy as one of romance, not of stupidity. Instead of mentioning her long rule and defeat of the Spanish Armada, Queen Elizabeth I is simply known as the Virgin Queen- famous for never marrying a man. It is the parents and teachers who fail to give their children the lesson or to discuss the importance of stories of these famous women.
It is also up to the parents to not project the Disney Princess lifestyle on their young, impressionable youth. Instead of buying only castles and fake lipstick from the Disney Princess Brand, take them to karate (like Mulan), go on a hike (like Pocahontas), sew some doll clothes (as in Enchanted), or learn to cook (Princess and the Frog). Integrate their adolescent obsession in to the world instead of playing into the perceptions that these anti-Disney bloggers and researchers are crusading against. It is the only cure without a total loss of the Disney culture- one that I would be especially sad to loose.
Wednesday, September 29, 2010
Quite honestly, it's a dreadful season for me (and my beyond crappy allergies).
But there are always some good points about Fall to make.
There's the fashion. I heart girly, ruffled flannel- so much so, you'd swear my fall wardrobe was from the closet of a fashionista lumberjack. I swear, I'm ok.
Shopping in general is just more pleasant in the Fall. I've already started shopping for Christmas, as this is just the best time to find deals without being bombarded or thrown around in line for the newest robotic animal.
But mainly, the Fall works for me because the majority of my music seems to be appropriate for this time of year. It's not quite the doldrums of winter, and it certainly isn't the peppy summer. My electro-pop phase has leveled out to straight up folk and acoustic. Really, I just listen to a ton of Jens Lekman on repeat:
It's something about the drum pop combined with the heavy strings that remind me about my favorite things- sweaters, apple cider, and blanket season.
On the other hand, the Fall is terribly disheartening for me. It's the bleak realization that Summer is over and Winter is around the corner. It's now dark when Glee is on. And it's coat weather when I catch the bus.
The Fall is designated school time, when kids are ripped from their daytime TLC addictions (just me!?!) and but through the rigors of the next grade level.
And it means that I'm not teaching.
Dont get me wrong, I love my job. And even the Fall was significant for me, as I now have to leave 2 minutes earlier so I dont have to stand next to 20 poorly dressed freshman girls on the shuttle bus. Oh, and the students make the office much more lively and interesting.
But I'd rather be teaching.
I miss the energy of a classroom and the rush of a good lesson. I want to go back to being in front, educating and hopefully inspiring. I hate sitting for 7.5 hours, imagining what my old students are doing today. Even private lessons, I miss.
My life just doesn't feel as complete or compelling as it did this time last year when I was knee deep in grading papers and planning dance routines.
And the Fall is just a constant, cruel reminder that, even with the ability to wear flannel to work, I'm still not doing what I want to do.
Friday, September 24, 2010
It's like the Magnetic Fields say: "If you think you can leave the past behind, you must be out of your mind."
Today, I bring you my final letter. This one is written to myself just last year, at 22. Enjoy.
To Michelle at 22,
Are you done washing last night out of your hair? It was a long one, I'm sure. While you're at it, clean off all of summer. Every freakish tan line, every ounce of drunken regret, and every bad 80s disco song... just scrub it clean. Can you exfoliate hangovers?
You knew it was coming- the inevitable end of a summer fling ushered in by the start of the school year. But this year, you're in front of the class. For a full year, you're teaching the subject you adore. You're planning and writing a musical, while quizzing students on jazz rhythms. Your first graders are writing full on, comprehensible melodies. And you're second graders, well, they're driving you insane as only 2nd graders can.
It will be a great year. An absolute dream of a first year experience. But you know it cant last long. Financially, everything will come at you once, and you're too proud to ask for help. When it comes time to make that decision, do it quickly. Dont let it linger.
There will be opportunities out there for you, even in this economy. And even though it scares the living crap out of you, you can do it. Teaching music is just one path that you will take. Maybe you'll make a u-turn. Maybe you'll linger where you are. If you've learned anything this year, it's to take risks.
You'll certainly do it in the boy department. In late September, someone will charm himself in to your life. At first, you'll be cautiously optimistic. You'll remember the summer of Bob and figure that this is just a fall affair. But the winter will come, and you will once again find yourself singing "I found love" in a car with your old roommate.
Who knows where it will lead. You're still there. (and still singing)
And just like I said before, you're learning that every bit of your past has molded you in to the person you are at 22 and 23.
Yourself, 1 year later
Thursday, September 23, 2010
Today, I bring you 18. Big cheers for legality!
Dear Michelle at 18,
Wow. 18... 18. You have waited for this day, dreamed about it, pinned over it, and possibly drooled on the calendar waiting for the moment when you could declare: INDEPENDENT.
... Now that it's here, you'd rather go back.
Dont get me wrong- Europe was fabulous. Memories you made in Munich, Mt. Titilis, and Paris will forever stay with you. For almost three incredible weeks, you were a girl of the world- well traveled, versed in humanity, and inspired by all things European. You were finally the gal that got to say (with all that Mary Tyler Moore gumption), "Paris in the early summer is just darling."
Then you came home and started college.
13 years of planning your college experience couldn't have done you less of a service. This was no place to become a totally new person. It was not the place to try to pretend that you were more than what you were raised to be. Even with Europe and a new found confidence, you still reverted to the same, shy Michelle everyone knew after the car accident. It was hard for you to make any meaningful relationship. And that will sadly haunt you for the next three years of college.
On the other hand, you will fall in love. You will fall so hard, so fast that no one will see it coming. Your roommate will sing 3am versions of "I Found Love" and you will make very public dedications over the radio airwaves. All it took was one glance at his sideburns to know that something special was blossoming on that winter night.
Your first impressions and initial feelings were right on. This is something real, and for the first time, you were able to say that you loved someone passionately, without restrictions. Looking back at all the moments you had and shared over that 3 year span, I still get a spark of excitement and naive wonderment.
However, this isn't it. As much as you want it to be as simple as that. You'll break his heart and regret it for a long time until you realize that, at 18, you were too young to understand the kind of love you were capable of. You were too immature to think that you could be one of those nagging, harsh, bitter girlfriends. You blew it because you were ill-equipped and blind to your flaws.
I wish you didn't have to go through that. I wish you didn't have to spend 3 years afraid to lose something so important to you. And I very much wish you didn't have to deal with the scars almost two years later.
You cant say that this isn't what you wanted though. Part of being the "girl of the world" is that you have to deal with heartache and sorrow. It comes with the independence territory. And you will soon learn how to be your own island to visit.
Welcome to the world, new Michelle.
Yourself, 5 years later.
Wednesday, September 22, 2010
Today I bring you 16 and all of its awkward and downright depressing moments:
Dear Michelle at 16,
Congrats! You've learned how to drive. Dont get used to this glory. About three weeks after getting your license, you will bump into a car while making a left out of a Subway. A year after that, an asshole you went to grade school with will t-bone his truck (equipped with extremely faulty breaks) in to your poor, little Sunfire's driver's side. It will total the car beyond belief.
Of course, dad will fix it.
But all the green paint, new wheels, and entire back seat and trunk replacement will not be able to repair the memory of that morning. Even to this day, you will shake when you think about your sister screaming upon impact. You will clam up when someone else is being even just a bit reckless while driving you. And blind left turns, well, you will avoid them at all costs from now on. Even driving in the sun will provoke flashbacks to your car spinning on the dirt road.
At 16, you have no idea what repercussions your actions will have on your current/future self. You wouldn't believe that the "hate list" you began to write with SA would lose you countless of friends and paralyze your ability to walk the halls without judging yourself. You will begin dismissing your warranted anger...
Anger that is typically directed at the boys in your life. Just like at 6, they are as flighty as they come. From the boys you have crushes on, to the ones you actually get to date (oh, you get to date)... they will treat you as if your emotions are invalid or worthless. Remember how everyone says they are after only one thing? No, seriously, remember that. It will come in handy.
Only one will boy will prove his merit and be in your life for more than a year. In fact, he will be in your life for 8. He will be a best friend to you, and he will inspire you to make your boldest leap yet. After a year of knowing him, I'm sure you can figure out who I am talking about as you already sense his importance. Take good care of him. He will need you more than he needs you.
What doesn't need to be fixed is your initiative and ambition. At this point, you could take over the world with that head-strong gumption. You WILL get in to college. You WILL be one of the top students in school. You WILL go to sectionals in oratory and eventually qualify for SCOTTIE. And you WILL go to Europe. Screw the idea of a community college, taking 2nd at Reed Custer behind white pants-mcgee, or staying at home to work for another summer. You are 16 now, and damnit, you are going to get what you always wanted.
You did get it- and more. Your dreams of living independently in the city, a girl with a degree and a plan for her future, couldn't be more true. And it's all because you are determined, excited, and motivated now. Even with a year of pain and disappointment, you will create the building blocks to near perfection.
But one word of advice, when the Christian boy you are madly in love with invites you to Bible study, it's because they need new members, not because he wants to sing sexually suggestive songs about Jesus dying to you. Sorry to blow that.
Yourself, 6 years later
Tuesday, September 21, 2010
Dear Pre-Teen Michelle (10-13),
Honey, put down that Backstreet Boy pillow, throw away your NSYNC beanie babies, and stop tapping every Disney Channel concert of BBMak. I'm going to warn you now that this seemingly normal obsession with boy bands will only lead to an excessive amount of clutter and many lengthy explanations on why you actually have an entire scrapbook devoted to 98Degrees in your top drawer. I'll even make it easier on you: Lance Bass is gay. Nick Carter is a drug user (editor's note: I stand corrected that he currently is not a drug user and is doing well for himself). The only one who will be around 10 years later will be Justin Timberlake, and he certainly isn't crooning 12 year olds anymore.
How's therapy going? The doctor is giving you a crap load of crazy assignments to complete at school and home, but none are really hitting you like writing in your diaries. While I would never suggest censoring what you say, I do have to warn you that when you permanently move out of the house, mom will read every last one of those. Putting a big warning label on them wont do much but make it more intriguing.
My advice is to stop writing elusively about who you hate. Hate is such a strange word, and you seem to be throwing it around a ton these days. You dont hate half the girl scout troop because they sell more cookies than you. You certainly dont hate your aunts who continually help you out with homework every night. And even Angela doesn't deserved to be hated for her certainly abnormal obsession with Grease.
It may be hard, but give people a chance. They are not always out to get you or to judge you for what you say or look like. Most of those people you call enemies will turn out to be great friends. Friends who will help you through the dark stages of high school (and yes, high school is dark and so not full of muscular, musical bad boys to sweep you off your feet).
Those same people may be better than you at so many things, even at playing clarinet (your second obsession), but you have a great, open heart. Already at 10, you see that the environment you grow up in is full of intense bigotry, and racism. You dont understand why someone in your school wont talk to your different raced friend. You incessantly worry about children in Africa not having a school to go to. And you frequently pray that you will grow up to work in charities or as an activist.
For all those reasons, and more, you are much bigger than you think you are. Keep cultivating your introspective personality while working on having a more decisive, less fearful, voice. There is nothing worse than being trapped in a room of BSB posters with the world on your shoulders, so get out there and spread the word as best as you can.
Yourself, 13 years later
Monday, September 20, 2010
There's just not anything interesting to tell you about.
However, a week or so ago, my favorite site posted an article with a letter to the author's younger self. I wrote a brief one in the comments, but I decided to expand upon that with more detailed ones for you all to read, since I am terribly void of intelligent, passable thoughts. I'm going to try to write one a day for five days, so that maybe, I'll get my writing mojo back:
Dear Michelle at 6,
Wow. Lots has changed since you've started school. You're six now, in the first grade, yet most days you could pass as a 10 year old. You're beyond awkward and tall, and you hate that on picture day, you have to be the last to line up since it's shortest to tallest. Adding insult to injury, you have that wavy pixie cut going that will only make you look even more like the boys you have to stand next to.
For the next four years, you will grow ever so slightly. It will be a dream- everyone rising up above you as you make your slow ascent to the front of the short line. And that pixie cut, well, you'll rock that until you turn 22. Sorry. Mom's inability to comb your hair now will only create a crippling inability to deal with long hair tangles and up-dos. Proof:
But give mom a break. She's doing her best. It's hard to be a single mom raising three kids. When she's working till 10pm, way past your bedtime, it's because she loves you and wants to get you those shiny, white bunk beds for the bedroom in your new house (which will be built, even though you think it's taking longer than Noah's Arc).
Let me put it this way, it's like when Angela, the kids next door, and you had that arts and crafts sale in Nana's front yard. You wanted to quit so you could play house and take care of Teddy, but you wanted money to fill your piggy bank. Filling that blue plastic pig will take a ton of effort and lots of glitter on that paper plate. But in the end, that's the only way you can afford to buy play food for your favorite bear.
Speaking of arts and crafts, stop crying when you get glue on your hands. You look like a fool.
You especially look like a goof to the three boys you are madly in love with. This will last until you turn 16 and get your first boyfriend (and you'll realize that they are as stupid as they were at 6). When NF plays cops and robbers with you, it's not because he wants to hold your hand. When AA calls you smart, it's because he needs the answers to the math test. And just ignore that "i luv youe" note from DE... he wont mean it ten years later.
At six, you should enjoy your awesome birthday parties, ignore your sister when she sits on you to get the couch, and ask your aunts for all the help they can give on your math homework. You'll need it later on. Dont worry about boys, makeup, your parent's arguments, or the fact that the mean girl keeps telling you that you still have your "baby hair."
Just be a six year old, even if you still look like you're going on 12.
Yourself, 13 years later.
Wednesday, September 8, 2010
Labor Day is a huge holiday in my little, rural town. They celebrate with 100s of tractors, marching bands, local high school teams, and reunion floats. After the parade, everyone goes to the high school for a big chicken dinner prepared by a local church and the firefighters. There's also the obligatory talent show, beer tent, carnival games, and bingo tent.
It's great fun when you are in high school or have a small child to chase down parade candy for you. I lost interest last year when I realized I was officially one of only two or three friends that was still attending the festivities without a husband or child.
B made it up to me with a parade of my own... made out of various toys I have around my apartment.
I did get to spend part of my extended weekend at the Chicago Fire game with The Ginger. It was a disappointing tie game, but the place was sold out and the stadium was dancing. The next day, I had my required goodbye-to-the-beach. It was lovely just to sit on the shore while reading a book. I'm going to miss the summer, I really am.
And now, I'm bundled up in a big cardigan, sitting in the office, hoping to think of something witty or mildly funny to write. I've got nothing, dear friends. I'm blank. And I'm out.
Tuesday, August 31, 2010
I've been feeling anxious about this whole no-return to school or teaching thing for awhile now. And not being in band this year is making my little heart ache for music enrichment. So after reading and getting first hand rave reviews for the Old Town School of Folk Music's guitar courses, I decided to bite the bullet and go for it.
Frankly, purchasing my first guitar was a leap in itself. I've always wanted to learn but my brother and sister wouldn't let me practice on theirs. When I got to college and started working with a teacher that exclusively used a guitar to teach her general music course, I thought that I should go the same way. One Spring Break, I sat at King Music searching for the perfect guitar for what could have been a good two hours when finally, my eyes became completely fixated on this twitter blue Fender. While not traditional in any sense and about two guitar sizes too big for me, it was exactly who I wanted to be when I played: cool, confident, unique.
I tried to learn how to play by myself. I spent many a vacation and break from school in front of a guitar tabs site struggling to understand how to strum. I consulted youtube videos and online tutorials to no avail. I even went commercial and bought books made for beginning adults and children. Nothing stuck.
It's certainly frustrating to own a guitar that every one of your friends can play. I'd say the last three or four guys I dated were guitar friendly. And I was more than envious of their rock star like abilities. Oh, and singing in a band would have been infinitely easier if I could have played my own instrument.
So, after three years of sitting in my various rooms, only to be played by boyfriends and dates of past, I finally got my baby blue out of the corner and in to a classroom.
Old Town, first of all, is a hippy's paradise. Music hits you as soon as you walk in the door and sweaty bohemian girls are dancing up in down the hallway, practicing their East Asian dance class routines. There are white haired men carrying around banjos and autoharps and a sweet, braided haired woman playing the dulcimer in the corner. Even the director told us that by the end of our courses, we'd be drinking the sweet kool-aid of Old Town.
My adult guitar I class is made up of around 12 people. There were 2 college girls, obviously best friends, who giggled as they messed up the chords. And then there were the really serious, mid 30s guys who owned guitars that sat in attics. One wanted to learn guitar for his new born son. The other was obviously there to hit on younger girls.
Another guy was about my age, a recent college graduate who inherited his guitar from a family member. We both cheered when we learned our first song would be "Oh-La-La" by The Faces. He wasn't afraid to sing it out of tune with the teacher and neither was the oldest guy who later joined us in our discussion on Wes Anderson greatness. Sitting next to me was polar opposites- a girl in a business suit who took notes at every new lesson and a hipster banjo player who walked in 30 minutes late and with a broken guitar. Nevertheless, it's a pretty cool mix.
Our teacher is basically me in 20 years- mellow and with awesome taste in music. She handed us out a huge packet of songs we were going to learn. It's humor filled ("Achy Breaky Heart") but contains songs that my music loving heart leaped at. The best was "California Stars," which we learn in week 5, and "Sons and Daughters," which is covered in week 6.
After the group lesson, every class (goes up to 4) communes in the auditorium for an all-sing. Basically, the instructors of all the courses and the students get together to pick out songs from the folk song book to sing and play. There was anti-war tunes from the 60s, a folk song from the Appalachians, a little modern country, and of course, some Dylan.
Overall, I'm thrilled. I can already confidently play the D, A, and Em7 chords pretty comfortably. And I cannot wait until my next class, especially if kool aid and Billy Ray Cyrus are involved.