missroserose: (Default)
As I mentioned, earlier this month I spent a week staying with my mother to help unpack things in her new house.

We worked a lot - getting up and eating breakfast, spending a few hours unpacking or putting togther furniture or running errands, grabbing lunch, unpacking, preparing and eating dinner, and unpacking a bit more. Usually around eight or nine o'clock, we'd start to flag, and I'd suggest getting ready for bed. Mum would sit down for a minute, realize how tired she was, and agree. So we'd go brush our teeth and get into our nightclothes, and I'd settle down in bed with a book.

My mother, however, would continue unpacking. For hours.

This happened at other times, too, when I was trying to take a break, or finishing my lunch; she'd just keep going and going at it. It made me more than a little anxious - partly because I felt like I wasn't keeping up my share of the work, partly because I was concerned about her apparent indifference to self-care, and partly because my hindbrain was convinced that if she caught me slacking she would start yelling at me, because she'd be feeling frustrated and overwhelmed and getting angry was the only way she could muster up the energy to keep going. (Even though that particular pattern hasn't played out in nearly two decades, something about your childhood experiences never really leaves you, especially with the same people involved.) Obviously, I dealt with it, and accepted that my mother's just a bit obsessive sometimes about finishing tasks before she can relax.

Now that I'm home, however, I'm starting to recognize where I manifest that same pattern. I'd always thought of myself as much more easygoing and Type B than my mother, but I'm beginning to suspect that I just avoided committing myself to a career or a community precisely because I was afraid of that anxiety. Certainly now that I'm busier, I've noticed that same difficulty in relaxing when there's Something That Needs To Be Done, to the point where I've been overdoing it and woken up exhausted more than once. Even when I hit that point, if there are Things That Need To Be Done, I'll often push through, promising myself I'll rest on such-and-such a day. (Sometimes I even do, when it doesn't get subsumed into the to-do list as well.)

This was brought into stark relief today, when I strained something in my foot. It felt relatively minor, so I kept on with my schedule, running errands all over Lakeview, ignoring the pain until it started getting worse and I was actively limping. Finally I took the train to my station, limped the three blocks home, and sat down; at which point my foot proceeded to swell up and become far more painful. Luckily it doesn't seem to have been serious - some ice and heat and Advil and a few hours' rest and it's barely more than a bit stiff - but it felt like a warning against overdoing things.

...And yet, despite that very sensible assessment, despite the very real pain whenever I got up, all afternoon and evening I still had to actively force myself to stay on the couch, because there were Things That Need To Be Done.

I find myself wondering what it is about the Things that's so urgent as to tempt me to risk more seriously damaging my foot (resulting in, at the very least, missed work). Clearly none of the individual tasks are that important; sure, it'd be nice for the house to be clean in preparation for Brian's mum coming to housesit for us, and yes, I should get together some of the kitchenware I'm not using for my friend who's moving into her own place, and true, I should at the very least pick up some of this clutter that's taking over the coffee table. But none of it is life-and-death, and Brian's doing a lot of it, besides. So why do I keep having to force myself to stay sitting?

Some of it is a feeling of control - it's frustrating to be stymied by something as small as a minor foot sprain, when I'm used to feeling so capable. I wonder, too, if part of it's a sense of safety. That so long as things are finished and in order, nothing bad can happen. Which is completely illogical, of course, but certainly satisfies my perfectionist streak and my childhood-experience-imprinted hindbrain both. And with Brian working so hard, some of it is probably that sense of inequitable distribution of load, as well.

But at the very least, I guess we've proven I'm related to my mother. Heh.
missroserose: (Default)
Hello again, Chicago! It's good to be back. I was saying to Brian recently that my semi-regular trips home to Anchorage, over the years, have been an excellent indicator of how much I like where I'm living. When we lived in Juneau, it was nice to get somewhere that felt (slightly) less isolated; when I was coming from Arizona, it was such a relief to get out of the heat and see green and open water again. Now, as much as I like visiting my mother, I'm genuinely sorry that it has to come at the expense of a week-plus of things to do in Chicago, hah. But! My mother is all moved in to her new place (if still in the throes of her decorating frenzy), and it's even more gorgeous than the pictures made it look. It's not somewhere I'd want to live permanently - far too isolated, with nothing within walking distance - but it'll be nice to visit her now and then for a change of pace. (Luckily, she feels much the same way about Chicago. Hurrah for complementary family preferences!)

Speaking of things to do in Chicago, last night I some friends and I went to the first of this summer's movies In Millennium Park. (We brought a picnic dinner, but despite arriving almost an hour early, the entire lawn was taken, so we ended up grabbing seats and just passing the fried chicken and salad and wine back and forth.) I actually enjoyed the movie far more than I expected to. Ferris Bueller's Day Off isn't a favorite of mine, exactly - I always found Ferris to be kind of a twerp, which isn't helped by his complete lack of character arc - but there's something undeniably special about getting to see all those gorgeous shots of Chicago while surrounded by that very same skyline and a cheering crowd. The best part, by far, was when damn near the entire pavilion got up and danced and sang to the "Twist & Shout" sequence. (I was lamenting on Facebook that I didn't get any pictures/video, but...that would have meant I'd have to stop dancing and singing. Nah.) Afterward, Lindsay got a picture of Brian and Jamila and me under the Pritzker's frankly amazing architecture, and later on in the evening I got a nice shot of part of the nighttime skyline as seen through the superstructure. This city is far from perfect, but I do love the very real sense of civic pride we have.

Speaking of civic pride, I've gotten on the sucker list for the Lyric Opera's educational outreach programs, and I've got to give their phone fundraisers credit - they know their stuff. They always ask if now's a good time to talk, they're unfailingly gracious, they ask you about your recent experience at whatever performance, talk about the goals and achievements of their programs, and start with an aspirational sell - "These are all the awesome thank-you gifts you get if you donate at this level" - but never come off as less than wholeheartedly grateful if you offer a (sometimes much) smaller donation. I think what's really impressed me, though, is their enthusiasm; they don't come off as hired telemarketers, but people who are genuinely passionate about music and opera and want to share it with the community. Helping give kids in underfunded schools in my community access to art and music education is a pretty easy sell for me already, but way to make people feel good about giving, Lyric. A++ would donate again.

And speaking of...hrmm. Not sure how I can segue into something about biking from opera fundraising. But! I've got my bike all kitted out for pedaling around Chicago. (Bet y'all can't guess what I named it, heh.) I'm still taking baby steps regarding where and how much traffic I'm comfortable dealing with, but as I was telling my mother, I actually feel far safer on the streets in Chicago than I would in someplace suburban like Anchorage. For one thing, the exponential traffic density and unpredictable patterns mean that people are paying much closer attention to the road, as well as by necessity limiting their speed. Plus people here are much more used to cyclists on the road. In Anchorage traffic moves too quickly; you have to ride either on the shoulder, the sidewalk, or a bike path, and cars don't look for you. I nearly got run over a few times crossing streets as a teenager; while driving my mother's car just a few days ago, I was a little saddened to see a woman on a bike slam on her brakes when she saw me about to cross her path to turn into a parking lot. (I would have let her go first!...but you just can't depend on that attitude in suburban environments.) By comparison, I took a fairly busy road to the store during rush hour yesterday, and actually made better time than most of the cars by dint of being able to cruise by in the gap between the parked cars and the flow of traffic. Though I did keep a very close eye out for car doors that might open in my path.
missroserose: (Default)
Father's Day is interesting for me on social media. A lot of my friends post pictures or favorite memories with their fathers; those always warm my heart. Occasionally a friend will write about their difficult or outright abusive relationship with their father, which is always heartbreaking.

My relationship with my father is difficult, but in a way that's tougher to articulate. Normally I let this day pass unremarked, but recently a good friend of mine wrote about all the conflicting feelings he has around Mother's Day; it was raw and honest enough to inspire me to try and do the same.

When the subject of my father (and our lack of relationship) comes up, I usually make some reference to his self-centeredness, his penchant for emotional manipulation, his Peter Pan syndrome, his inability to see other people (especially his children) as separate human beings with their own agency. All of which is true, but which feels like an incomplete answer. We are culturally (and, likely, genetically) programmed to value parental relationships over all others, and while my father's dynamic with people he's close to is perhaps dysfunctional at best, he rarely tipped over into outright abuse or neglect (with me; my brother has a rather different story to tell).

For a while, as a newly-minted adult, I tried to maintain a relationship with him. Distance made that easier through sheer inertia; he would send the occasional email, I would tell him about my life, and invite him to follow my LiveJournal (which was then at its peak of use). He might mention a few things about his life, and that would be that for several months until the cycle repeated.

Eventually, however, I noticed a pattern of one-sidedness. For all that he asked after my life, he never seemed to have any real interest in it, never seemed interested in discussing anything I cared about in depth. And although I would ask after events in his, I rarely got any real answers; hence the petering out of our communications. It was pretty clear that I wasn't a priority for him, and frankly, it felt like he was asking not because he actually cared, but because he was maintaining form.

I thought for quite a while about whether I wanted to keep that line open. As I said, the cultural pressure to keep up family ties is strong; perhaps somewhat less so with me (the Pacific Northwest "family is who sticks around in your life" attitude is deeply engrained in my psyche), but enough that I was hesitant to lose it. But at the same time, I didn't really see the point in continuing this line of communication, especially given that I was basically just rephrasing stuff I'd put on the blog anyway. So at the next email, I sent him a response, worded as gently as my twentysomething self knew how, suggesting that he could stop emailing me for form's sake, and that if he wanted to know what was going on in my life he was welcome to follow my blog.

The exchange that followed, and its attendant outpouring of martyr complex, finger-pointing, and general drama-filled manipulative junk, doesn't really bear repeating. Suffice it to say that it did not inspire me to regret my filial ingratitude.

I've seen him a few times since then; I still keep in touch with my grandmother, and she occasionally organizes family dinners when I'm in town. The instance that really stands out is when Brian (who, if anything, suffers from an overabundant sense of family responsibility) got to meet him for the first time; as Brian commented later, it felt like the reverse of the usual father-in-law son-in-law dynamic. As for my father, he looked older, and just sort of...lost. Like his life had more or less passed him by.

I'm not sorry that we don't really talk; I have better things to do with my life than engage in one-sided relationships of any stripe. And I've never really been angry at him for falling down as a parent; frankly, I don't think he was ever really cut out for parenthood, and if my mother hadn't wanted kids so badly I doubt he would have had my brother and me. (I suspect our history is partly why I'm so strongly pro-family-planning; I've had the experience of being an unwanted child, and while I was fortunate enough to at least have one parent who loved me with the fierce, protective, unconditional love a child needs, many people I've known weren't even that lucky.)

But at the same time, when I think about that severed connection, I do feel...sad. Not regretful, but sorrowful. I suspect he got so wrapped up in feeling wronged and hurt and left behind that he completely missed out on connecting with a pretty awesome daughter. Or maybe he just never valued the relationship enough to fight for it, and that's what still stings, even all these years later.

So that's what Father's Day feels like to me. But threaded through it all is a very real warmth, as I see my friends talk about their fathers, or (more recently) embark upon their own fatherly journeys. Trust me when I say your children don't need you to be perfect; if you care about them enough to fight for them, they'll know and be grateful.
missroserose: (Default)
This morning, I got a Facebook message from my mother:

"Hi Ambrosia, Facebook now lets people choose a legacy contact to manage their account if something happens to them. Since you know me well and I trust you, I chose you. Please let me know if you want to talk about this."

Not thinking much of it, I responded with "We can if you want, but it seems pretty straightforward."

This evening, I get a follow-up: "Hi sweetie, that was a canned Facebook message – I would put something like 'hi darling girl – when I kick the bucket you're it!' Love, Mum"

Yup. That's my mum. <3
missroserose: (Default)
Lots going on in my life of late, though none of it has struck me as being particularly of interest to the world at large, which is why I've been a bit quiet on this front.

Thanksgiving was delightful; thanks to our friend Kat, we ended up hosting a Friendsgiving, pretty evenly split between people we knew and people she knew who didn't have family plans for the holiday. It was a good crowd, full of friendly and intelligent people; thanks to Kat and Brian's cooking, the food was also excellent. In the wake of it, I've been ruminating on why I enjoy Friendsgivings more than the traditional family-oriented sort; I think it has to do with my Pacific Northwesterner roots, as well as being sort of the black-sheep offshoot of the family (the two are not unrelated - most folks in Alaska live there in part because they're not close to their extended families). Don't get me wrong, my extended family are nice enough folks, but we have basically nothing in common, and with a couple of exceptions, none of them have shown any real interest in getting to know me and my life (or, in fairness, vice versa). So I tend to think of traditionally family-oriented holidays/events (weddings, funerals, etc.) with a sense of obligation rather than joy - and after the drama bomb my aunt set off over my (non)invitation to my cousin's wedding, I feel no qualms about skipping them. But even though many of them have drama stories of their own, I'm nonetheless fascinated by and slightly jealous of my friends with large tight-knit families; it must be nice to feel actively wanted rather than merely tolerated in that context.

My massage therapy career is going well, and growing - in fits and starts, as all growth seems to happen. (The week before Thanksgiving was especially crazy; I'm not sure what happened, but between clinic and private clients I went from maybe eight hours of active hands-on work per week to twenty-five. And of course that was just after I'd promised myself I'd go to yoga more regularly. I was So Tired.) One of my coworkers who lives nearby and I have set up a standing date on Tuesdays to get together and practice new techniques, so that'll help with (informal) continuing education, which should in turn help me maintain my enthusiasm. Milestones I have hit: graduation, licensure, professional organization membership (and associated insurance), acquiring a couple of regular clients at the clinic job, acquiring second occasional fill-in gig (which took basically no effort on my part - hurrah good word of mouth!), acquiring (and rebooking!) a few private clients, averaging at this point about one a week. Milestones I have yet to hit: any kind of formal continuing education, my first Yelp review, averaging more than one private client per week, making enough from private clients to need to report the income on my taxes, heh. (IRS rules say net income has to be over $400 before you need to report it; given that I'm still firmly in the negatives even with my relatively minimal startup costs, I'm not concerned for this year.) On the docket for next year: figuring out CE requirements/opportunities, registering as an LLC, possibly finding an accountant who specializes in small business.

And that's all the news around here, pretty much. Tomorrow is Brian's work Christmas party (still to do: dye hair to match purse and boots, try on outfit to make sure it works as well as I think it will, find necklace to match bracelet), and this weekend we're hosting [livejournal.com profile] thewronghands and her posse. Here's to pleasantly-busy-but-not-overbooked times!
missroserose: (Joy of Reading)
In the tradition of soon-to-be-godparents everywhere, I've been on the hunt for gifts, especially books to start my goddaughter's collection. Given that her mother and I met in Alaska, I was hoping to find some Alaska-themed illustrated books while I was here, but I ran into a problem I didn't foresee.

Most children's books just aren't that fun to read.

Kids' books, especially those aimed at younger children, are often written in rhyme - which makes sense, as the intended audience is learning about the sounds of words and how they go together. So it seems like it should follow that they'd be written in meter, as well. The bouncy rhythm helps them learn our patterns of speech as much as the individual words, and emphasizes which syllables are stressed and which words go where. Plus, it's way more fun as a parent to read a book aloud when it's got a good rhythm. (There's a reason Dr. Seuss remains so popular - and he made up half his words!) But I came across a lot of books that, while they maybe had a cool concept or nifty illustrations, were just plain lazy in the writing. It looked like the author had gone "Oh, hey, here's a couple of words that rhyme, the lines all look roughly the same length, toss it together, we're good to go." 

Case in point: Sitka Rose, by Shelley Gill and Shannon Cartwright. Great Alaskan-themed illustrations, great concept (how often do you see tall tales about women?), a fun story, and the words even have a sort of folk-song feel to them. But the scansion is terrible:

Rose was raised up grander than the average child
She skied avalanche chutes for fun,
and when her vegetables needed more light
well Rose, she lassoed the sun.


I mean, you've got pretty consistent dactyls in the first line, but after that there's iambs, trochees and anapests all jumbled together. And don't even get me started on how it starts in hexameter and ends in trimeter just in this one stanza.

I realize that children aren't exactly the most discerning audience in the world, and I suppose that explains how most such books got past their respective editors. But think of the poor parents who have to read this book for the ten thousandth time, carefully navigating around the unexpected rhythmic roadblocks and line breaks. I mean, that's just cruel.

Fortunately, with the help of some old memories and a friend of my mother's, I found a few books that were a little more promising:



Mama, Do You Love Me? by Barbara M. Joosse and Barbara Lavallee

Mama, do you love me?

Yes I do, Dear One.

How much?

I love you more than the raven loves his treasure,
more than the dog loves his tail,
more than the whale loves his spout.


This was one of my favorite books to read with my mother when I was a child. It's not written in verse, but the words nonetheless flow beautifully, and the repetition lends it a feel of poetry absent from many such books. Plus the watercolors are completely sweet, portraying the Inupiaq mother and daughter and the Arctic wildlife with real substance. And, bonus - it comes in a board book version, which will hopefully hold up for a while.




Hooray for Fish!, by Lucy Cousins

Hello, hello, hello fish!
Red, blue, and yellow fish.
Spotty fish, stripy fish,
happy fish, gripy fish.

This one is pretty clearly aimed at younger kids, but given that my goddaughter hasn't even been born yet, I suspect that's all right. :) The meter does change in places, but not mid-stanza; the pages are sturdy, and the illustrations are simple and bright-colored and adorable.  (As Brian commented, "It looks like a tasty book to chew on.")  Plus, biodiversity!




Red Sings from Treetops: a year in colors, by Joyce Sidman and Pamela Zagarenski

In SPRING,
Red sings from treetops:
cheer-cheer-cheer,
each note dropping
like a cherry
into my ear.

Red turns
the maples feathery,
sprouts in rhubarb spears;
Red squirms on the road
after rain.


This book reminds me so much of [livejournal.com profile] asakiyume it's kind of uncanny.  The words find that same sort of quiet poetry and everyday magic, and the imagery is just gorgeous.  It's also rendered in free verse, the word rhythms and sounds and onomatopoeia and occasional surprising rhymes all blending harmoniously.  I'm frankly envious - free verse is so hard to do well, far harder than something strictly metered like a sonnet.  I realize this one will probably have to wait until my goddaughter's a little older, but given that my expectant friend is an artist, I suspect she'll get lots of enjoyment out of it in the interim.

And in the present moment, Alaska Airlines had a sale, so I booked my tickets to Washington to go meet my goddaughter during the tail end of October.  Which means, between that and this Anchorage trip and Brian's and my vacation to Sweden in August, this will kind of be the Time of All The Traveling.  I guess I'm making up for the seven months being a school-oriented recluse. 


missroserose: (Incongruity)
I've been in Anchorage a few days now, and driving around quite a bit. It's still the town I grew up in, but it's also growing rapidly, even since I was here over Thanksgiving. I see more and more names I recognize from other places - Mens Wearhouse, Target, Massage Envy, Texas Roadhouse, Olive Garden, Sephora. Mid-tier chains and franchises that until now I've mostly associated with Tucson, or Phoenix, or Chicago. I even saw a sign for an outlet mall coming soon.

And yet, through it all, it's still Alaska. The Chugach range still sits to the east, watching in its timeless stoicism even as houses creep up along its foothills. Rather than groomed public parks with carefully-planted trees, most of the green is patches of wild overgrown birch and spruce forest left between even the newest housing developments. Wildlife wanders unafraid through people's yards, or visits the zoo of a morning.

Sometimes I feel like I can see the seams between the place I grew up and the place that's here now: the slightly brighter paint where such-and-such a section of the Dimond Center has been renovated to make way for a new anchor tenant, or the grocery store that now sits on the field where I used to braid daisy chains. Sometimes, if I tilt my head and unfocus my eyes a little, I can almost see them both there, in the same space at the same time, and I wonder if our nostalgic mourning for things lost is fundamentally shortsighted.

---

While colorful hair is not unknown here, it's somewhat rarer than it is in Chicago, and I thus get rather more comments when I'm out and about.  

The other day, I heard a little girl in a shopping cart squeal "She has pink hair!" I told her that where I live, there are people with pink hair and purple hair and green hair and blue hair and orange hair. Somewhat to my surprise, this didn't seem to shock her at all - in fact, she added with some certainty, "And violet!" I nodded and agreed, yes, violet hair was quite common.

I suspect that she already spends some time in a world where people have hair in every color of the rainbow. So I was merely confirming her knowledge that such a place had to exist in this world as well.

---

When I told my acquaintances that I was going to Alaska for a visit, I received numerous exhortations to post lots of pictures, mostly from my yoga friends.  I suspect they thought I was coming here to go hiking, or camping, or fishing, or any of the numerous (and wonderful!) outdoorsy opportunities, and would thus be posting pictures of Alaska's awe-inspiring landscape.

In truth, though I may wander out to Thunderbird Falls or a similarly-easy hike later, for now I'm pleased simply to spend time with my mother, who doesn't go many places other than home and work.  So here are some of my vacation pictures so far.

The house at the edge of the world
This is my mother's townhouse, which a local friend referred to recently as "the house at the edge of the world".  It's surprisingly apt - it's on top of the hill, overlooking the Seward Highway, an interstitial space if ever there was one.  In the summer it's a tree house, with the living room's large picture windows surrounded by birch trees in full leaf.  In the winter, it becomes a hilltop castle, overlooking mountains and rivers and even the ocean in the distance.

View from the edge of the worldThis is the view between two of the trees on the left in the previous photo.  Normally the Chugach range is visible here, but last night it went to bed early and pulled the cloud blanket up over its head.

My mother's living room
This is my mother's very comfortable living room.  I like to sit here with a lap desk and read or write letters while she bustles about in the kitchen behind me, or does beadwork nearby.

The path behind the house
This is a bike path that runs along my mother's subdivision.  Its destination (a business/shopping complex with a supermarket and a post office) is perhaps a bit prosaic, but it's surprisingly pretty along the way.  There's enough dense growth even in these cut-down little greenbelts to get whiffs of that proper mulchy forest smell, especially in autumn.  

An Alaskan attempt at charcuterie.Alaska, having long been ranked #50 out of 50 states when it comes to good restaurants, has been making great strides of late, especially in Anchorage.  Unfortunately, it's still got a ways to go, as this rather sad attempt at a "charcuterie board" at a passing-for-trendy local hotspot shows.  (Sharp-eyed readers may notice something missing.) Still, they're trying - they've got a nice mixture of relishes, here, and the presentation is nice.  And in all fairness, it was only half as expensive as a charcuterie board in Chicago.

Brian (by his own admission) has an Argo Tea problem, to the point where he will at times walk five extra blocks to get to an Argo Tea because "it's on the way".  I was entertained to find a rack of their pre-bottled tea at the Natural Pantry up here, and texted him this picture with the comment, "It's *always* on the way!"

Fireweed - my birthday flower
Growing up, we nicknamed fireweed my "birthday flower", because it always first starts to bloom in mid-July.  It's one of the things I truly miss about Alaska, and more than once I've tried to dye my hair this color.

Turnagain arm, just south of AnchorageSomething else I genuinely miss:  having drives like Turnagain Arm literally just south of town.  In Chicago, I almost never drive if I can avoid it - it's a chore, something you do to get from one place to another.  Out here, there are so many beautiful places only accessible by car.

Balcony garden
My mother's balcony garden always seems to me to be the essence of the phrase "a riot of color". You can almost hear those firecracker begonias crackling and popping, the strident purple pansies demanding your attention while the miscellaneous hubbub of the violas fills the cracks.
missroserose: (Default)
I said earlier this month that I love the transitional seasons, and it's true. But Life, as it tends to do, has taken me at my word. It's been a month of changes: some minor; some major, but distant enough in my social network to be relatively minor in terms of their day-to-day effects on my life; a few pretty profound.

Interestingly, the most personally profound are less changes in external status as they are in internal outlook. For one, I've reached the point in my education where I start to look at people and see them differently; in much the same way Brian looks at a new place and immediately scopes out the places where the wireless access points and cameras and other network equipment all are (or if they aren't, where they should be), I've gotten to the point where I can look at someone's movement and posture and immediately suspect what's going on with their musculature/fascial system - where they're tight, where they're inhibited, where they're probably feeling pain/discomfort. So far it's mostly just generalities, but I'm starting to see those around me way a bodyworker sees them, and it's kind of an awesome ability. Even if it occasionally makes me despair when I pass by the same woman day after day wearing the same unsupportive heels that make her entire foot collapse inward.

For another example, I'm actually genuinely excited for my friend Donna - she's the one expecting her very-much-wanted child. (Latest news - it's a girl!) After some discussion, Brian and I have volunteered to be godparents; it'll mean making an effort to visit regularly and remember birthdays and Christmas, but honestly, Donna's practically family anyway, and one of the things I remember most fondly from growing up was the variety of close friends my mother had, from whom I got to learn about many different options in terms of lifestyle and priorities. (It helped me feel less railroaded when I was a teenager, which, growing up in suburbia, felt like a time when the world is simultaneously telling me "You can be anything you want to be!" and "So long as it's going to college and getting a job and getting married and having 2.1 children and buying a house and being a good consumer!") And it feels like the right thing for me; I want to help raise the next generation, but despite my recently-reexamined views on the importance of childrearing, I still am just not feeling any particular desire to have kids of my own. But I'm thoroughly jazzed to be in the helper/supporter role, and am even kind of looking forward to when she gets older and we can take her for a week here and there and give her parents a break.

On a more external front, graduation is coming up fast. I'm definitely going to apply to work at the school clinic, but I've also come up with an idea for a target market that I could build a clientele around - they're both greatly underserved and would likely have need of my services (both in the "needs the work due to physically demanding job" sense and the more nebulous "needs a safe place where they feel cared for" sense). I'm kind of excited because it's the first solid idea I've had that feels right for me. It's still just an idea, of course, and building clientele is as much luck and perseverance as it is ideas, but I'm hopeful. And it gives me something to focus my marketing-class project on.

Less concrete but equally profound has been the continued realization that I have, somewhat unintentionally, become Part Of The Yoga Community here in Chicago. Mostly it's just little things, like meeting someone for the first time and having them comment that they've heard about me from their favorite teacher, or having someone tell me about being at a yoga-related event and having my name come up in the group. (Luckily in a flattering context, at least that time.) I guess it's not terribly surprising; I go to various CorePowers regularly and am unshy and friendly and sort of stand out...but. But.

In all honesty, it's a little bit scary for me. I don't have the greatest experience with community participation; a lot of the traits people initially find attractive about me (forthrightness, confidence, analytical ability, fearlessness in speaking up) tend to read differently in mixed-company scenarios (tactless, arrogant, judgmental, overpoweringly opinionated). In many ways, I still speak Human as a second language; it's difficult for me to read multiple people's reactions in the moment and censor myself accordingly. So I try to make the most effort to spend time with people I know understand me in one-on-one or small-group scenarios. But community links are important, and helpful in one's career as well as one's social life, so I'm making an effort to strengthen those relationships. My marketing class notes actually had an insightful suggestion on that point: "You have: two (2) eyes, two (2) ears, and one (1) mouth. Use them in that order." It's taken me upwards of three decades, but I'm slowly learning when to be quiet and listen.

And this isn't even getting into the more distal-social-network events that're happening - deaths, marriages, pregnancies. Life moves fast! And I feel eminently lucky to be living it somewhere I love that has opportunities for me, even if I'm a bit scared I'll make a hash of them. But to paraphrase Miles Vorkosigan, it's all about the momentum - keep moving, keep learning, or you might as well give up. Things move quickly - let's jump on that train! Onward!
missroserose: (Default)
Exercise: On a piece of paper, write a brief touch history of yourself. Then explain the ways your history may influence your delivery of professional touch. Make sure to consider the role of your culture, subculture, genetic predisposition, gender, age, life events, and spiritual path.

Physically, my touch history has been pretty healthy. My family was relatively unshy about expressing physical affection, I was only rarely spanked or hit, and I’ve never been molested or otherwise subjected to unwanted sexual touch. I was physically bullied a few times in school, but it never felt like a big deal; I knew an adult would come along and put a stop to it if I yelled, so I suppose it never inspired the feelings of powerlessness that make such experiences traumatic. I’m used to a relatively large amount of personal space, having grown up in a suburban town in the Pacific Northwest, but haven’t had much trouble adjusting to the more crowded conditions of Chicago. Aside from a couple of incidences of having my butt anonymously slapped (strangely, both at queer pride events), I can’t think of many negative physical touch experiences in my adult life at all, which seems unusual for a woman in her thirties. Were we going by physical touch history alone, I suspect that I would be well-prepared for a career in massage therapy – and certainly, I’m not complaining about my lack of difficulty in that arena.

But I suspect that physical touch isn’t the whole story. My issues, I fear, are entirely in the emotional-touching arena. My parents’ marriage was highly dysfunctional, and especially in its later years it involved strong elements of emotional blackmail and abuse. Although physical intimidation was unusual, I was regularly mentally and emotionally bullied in school, and that did make me feel powerless, largely because of my own social cluelessness combined with the inability/unwillingness of the adults around me to enforce their own rules. And one experience that stands out was being taken to a megachurch and hearing the pastor speak about Christ’s love and forgiveness, beautifully enough to genuinely touch me even through my teenage sullenness. It was only later that I discovered that same pastor regularly used his pulpit as a platform to advocate social and political policies I found thoroughly heinous. Is there such a thing as emotional molestation? Because that was how I felt after finding that out.

The upshot is that for many years, I have had a nearly pathological fear of being influenced or manipulated. And since forging an emotional connection with someone requires allowing them to influence me (as our textbook put it, it is impossible to touch clients without them, in turn, touching us), my default state in interacting with the world has been to wall myself off emotionally. And while this has been useful in a number of situations – unlike many women, I have very little trouble setting boundaries! – it has crippled me in my artistic pursuits, and likely stunted me socially as well.

To become an effective therapist, I’m going to have to find some way to learn how to lower my emotional guard – hopefully in a semi-controlled manner, that will allow me to maintain professionalism while still forging a genuine connection with my clients. In truth, if I can find some way to accomplish this, I will consider my time at massage therapy school well-spent regardless of my future career path.

Busy times

Oct. 3rd, 2014 10:39 am
missroserose: (Balloons and Ocean)
It's been an interesting couple of weeks. I haven't been on social media much, largely because I've been unusually busy, so here's a bit of a retrospective.

My Alaska trip turned out to contain visits with several friends I see far too seldom, which was wonderful. CJ was there for the first part of the trip. I saw Carl, of course, and met his new girlfriend, who I liked quite a bit and who (in true Alaska small-population fashion) turned out to have been a favorite admin of my mother's at her previous job. Robs drove down from Fairbanks and stayed for a few days, and even snuggled with me in my mother's twin guest bed. (We were woken up Thursday morning by a 6.1 earthquake - felt like a carnival ride being given a good shake. Fortunately nothing breakable fell down, even in my mother's glass studio.) And on the way back Sunday, I spent a longish layover in Seattle hanging out at Pike Place Market with John, my sole other high-school-era friend, whom I haven't seen in years.

Monday I had my cleaning shift at the yoga studio, and I was rather thrown by how exhausted I was from the day of travel. Even though almost all I was doing was sitting, and it was a daytime trip so I'd gotten plenty of sleep, my focus was shot for a good two days after. (Is this part of getting older? Because I have to say I do not approve.) Fortunately I have the shift down to a routine at this point, so I just put on some music and bopped along with the mop and it didn't matter that I was only firing on maybe 60% of my usual thrusters. Then I went home and slept some more. Tuesday I had intended on cleaning the house up, but still felt like my brain was full of static, so I ended up sleeping a goodly portion of it too.

By Wednesday I felt much better, which was good, because I had one of two make-up shifts I was doing this week, and a lecture to attend at the opera house. As it happens, when you're a season subscriber, even a bare-minimum four-show seats-in-the-rafters one, they invite you to all sorts of preview concerts and lectures and whatnot; anything to drum up enthusiasm and (hopefully, eventually) donations. I'd missed a number of such events by being in Alaska at the end of September, but was here for this one, a talk from Ana María Martínez, who's playing Donna Elvira in this season's production of Don Giovanni. She turned out to be very warm and personable, and while I don't think I learned anything I hadn't already known or guessed about the life of an opera diva, it was neat to meet her up close. Plus afterward we got a tour of the backstage area, and it was thoroughly impressive seeing the sheer scale of the sets and curtains and flyspace, and the detail work that went into the props and dressings. (Brian, who always likes technical stuff and used to run tech with his high school theatre group, was completely fascinated and wowed.) Our tickets for Don Giovanni are for the 14th; I'm really looking forward to it.

Thursday was a busy day; I went to Helen's extra-intense yoga class, then was cleaning at home and then at the studio, and finally we had Raven over for a long-overdue thank-you-for-getting-us-this-Chicago-opportunity dinner. Brian got to show off his amazing fried catfish recipe, and we all watched one of my favorite films. I swear, even though I remember distinctly my first emotional response to it, I've seen it so many times now that I forget how thoroughly dark (and, frankly, almost traumatizing) it is when you see it the first time. But the screenplay is so smart, the acting so believable, the dialogue (for all its coal-black timbre) so hilarious and the characters so real and true in the way they cling to their objectively-insane worldviews that it's become one of my all-time favorite films. I was excited to share it with Raven, because I thought she'd appreciate all that about it too; but seeing her initial reaction made me remember and sort of cringe and apologize; it's probably a bit heavy of a story to drop on someone after a long day of work in a city far from their home. Fortunately she was gracious about it, as always. And the catfish was a hit, so hurray.

Today I'm finally getting to relax, which is awesome. I'm going to wander downtown to have lunch with Brian, and over to Banana Republic. (In Alaska, I found the amazing-looking suit jacket I'd been drooling over all summer for half-off plus no tax. Score! They didn't have the matching pants in my size, but I was able to order them and have them shipped to me....but the shop that shipped them forgot to take the inventory control tag off. Oops. Still, they fit beautifully, for all of that, so I'm now in possession of a heck of a sharp-looking suit. Now to figure out what to wear it to. Maybe the opera? I do look rather more genderqueer with my hair super short.) I know I need to do laundry at some point. I may make the monthly pilgrimage to Costco and Trader Joe's. We'll see how the day shakes out.
missroserose: (Balloons and Ocean)
Back in Anchorage, and pleased to report things are going rather better this time around. I brought CJ up with me, so my mother's guest room is still off-limits (until he goes home Tuesday), but I'm staying at my grandmother's, and that combined with the fact that we actually get some darkness this time of year has meant I've slept just fine. Although the three-hour jet lag is a bit of a trick...I was yawning like crazy at 9:30 last night, and couldn't figure out why until I did the math. Likewise, at 6:30 this morning I snapped awake. Fun times. But it did mean I had plenty of time to get myself presentable before my mother came by for me at 8. I spent enough time futzing with clothing choices and jewelry that, when my mother came to the door, my grandmother answered with "Her Highness will be down shortly." ...So maybe I'm a little obsessive about colors. So sue me.

The flight was surprisingly nice. I was flying coach this time, but we were on one of Alaska Airlines' newest planes - the seats were surprisingly comfortable, there was enough actual legroom even for CJ, and the seats had power sockets in them! (It's like they designed them for actual present-day people!) One of the flight attendants recognized me from the last couple times I flew this route ("Wasn't your hair purple a couple months ago? And red before that?"), and chatted with me a bit and gave me my Alaskan Amber for free. Aww. Yay for having memorable hair. My luggage was also notably lighter than it was last time. I was somewhat puzzled by this, until I realized that I've read so much on my Kindle lately, that I'd only packed (gasp) two paper books. We'll see if I manage to keep to that limit on the trip back. It might depend on whether or not I visit Title Wave...

My mother, having read my blog as per usual, was wonderfully thoughtful and ordered me a set of sealing-wax in all sorts of bright pearlescent colors, and a beautiful seal of a rose ("I made sure it has thorns, too, just for you!"). And here I am without any stationery...I'm thinking I may make a trip to the mall to see if I can remedy that. (Also maybe for Hot Dog On A Stick.) Likewise, my (Bahá'í, and thus teetotaling) grandmother pressed upon me a bottle of genuine Russian potato vodka, left with her some months ago by a Russian-native guest of hers. "Just don't drink it in front of me." I'll have to find her something nice; I felt awful when I realized I'd brought a present for CJ and for my mum but hadn't gotten her anything.

This morning has been lovely and peaceful. It's apparently been a super-rainy fall season, and when my mother came by there were clouds and a nice steady drizzle. Oddly, this didn't feel depressing in the least; I have a lot of fond memories of rainy fall mornings in this town. (Although there was a bit of an entertaining role reversal, since rather than being dropped off at school, I was dropping my mother off at work.) I've been trying to figure out why, last trip aside, I find Anchorage to be so calming. Some of it is the familiarity, but I think a lot of it is the relative lack of density. For all I love cities (and Chicago in particular), I've spent most of my life living in areas where you could drive a little ways off the beaten path and be miles away from anybody else. It's taken some getting used to the idea that whenever I step outside my door, I'm on public display, as it were - there's a lot of parkland and public spaces in Chicago, but there's almost always people in them, no matter the time of day or night. On the one hand, I rather enjoy it, and it's definitely motivated me to dress better and think more about issues like courtesy and graciousness, and how the social lubrication they provide is especially necessary when living in a high-density situation. But on the other, it's a relief of sorts to be back in a place where I don't have to be constantly thinking about whether I'm in anyone's way, or intruding on anyone's space, or acting in a way that makes anyone else uncomfortable. Social pressure is an important thing, but it's pressure all the same.

Anyway, off I go to give CJ the grand tour. And possibly find stationery. And tonight, I Hate Hamlet! I think it'll be a wonderful day.
missroserose: (Hello Grumpy)
Back when we first moved in to our Chicago apartment and finally invested in some proper (albeit IKEA) tall hardwood bookshelves, Leo, in his ever-present quest to explore every possible surface in the house, managed to use his impressive jumping abilities to get to the top of one of them. He had not, however, considered how he was going to get down, and spent a good few minutes making increasingly distressed murfling noises until Brian took a chair over, climbed up, and got him down. I remember being a little amused by this, asking "Don't you think if he got up there himself, he could probably get down?" But Brian insisted that it was more important to him that Leo know his Dadcat would always be there to get him down off the bookshelf.

Needless to say, when he came to pick me up from the airport at 8:30 AM on a Saturday a full week ahead of when I'd planned to be back, I felt more than a little like Leo on the bookshelf. I must be awfully lucky to have someone who'll always come get me.

Two nap-filled days later, I'm much more sanguine about my mental state. Saturday night was book group, which I'd originally been sort of bummed about missing (the group had taken my suggestion of Anansi Boys, one of my favorite books), so I slept a lot that day and got to show up looking only a little hangdog. No one made fun of me for having had a proximity-to-family freakout; Megan (of the Alternative Yoga Practice) even encouraged me to "Practice a little controlled comfort-eating. It's okay, you're among friends." <3 (Our host this time around was Heidi, who in addition to having just moved into our neighborhood, is apparently known in the group for providing Martha Stewart-level spreads. I'm afraid she kind of blew Brian's and my mini-cupcake-and-tartlet offering from our turn hosting out of the water. But it was some damn fine comfort eating.) Sunday I went to my friend Elyse's yoga class, which turned out to be thoroughly appropriate - not only was it a less-intensive-and-more-meditative practice than she usually does, but it was based around the story of Ganesh getting angry at the moon and slaying it with one of his tusks, thus trapping the Earth in eternal daylight and leaving its denizens unable to sleep until the other gods came down and insisted he fix things. Synchronicity! And then, after yet another nap on my part, Brian and I had a lovely twilit walk watching for fireflies before getting ice cream from our neighborhood's amazing shop.

My sweet mother has been sending me pictures from the Homer trip, which has been lovely to see, if a little bittersweet at times. On the upside, with all the flying I've been doing, I have enough miles to be within $300 of a (coach-class, but still) ticket up there again. I have some ideas for a make-up trip later this year, but due to the potential readership of this post I don't think I'm going to go into them in detail yet. I am, however, once more pleased to find myself living near a major airport; trying to get anywhere from Tucson on mileage was just Not Happening.

One last tidbit for the folks who don't read my Facebook: Before (and during) this trip, Mum and I had been joking about how the Grumpy Cat gene ran her side the family (she doesn't have it, being a Pollyanna of the highest degree, but my grandmother and I sure do at times, and my brother practically lives to be grumpy). So I was thoroughly entertained, as I was drifting to my airport gate in my sleep-deprived and weepy/overemotional state, to find my spirit animal at the airport bookstore waiting for me:


Grumpy Cat is my spirit animal.


She kept me company all through the long flight back, and now sits on the bookshelf in our bedroom, where the cats are occasionally eyeing her warily and generally giving her a wide berth.

So!  My truncated vacation has ended well enough, with hope for the future, which is about the best I could ask for from it.  I did write a short story while in the throes of sleep deprivation (my mother:  "It's only 8 AM.  Weren't you going to sleep some more in my bedroom?"  Me, typing and sounding more and more like Grumpy Cat:  "Can't sleep, muse will eat me."  Mother:  "Want some coffee?"  Me:  "YES."); I think, now that I've recovered, I'm going to poke at revising it.  Sleep deprivation may not be a great state for a lot of things, but when your emotions are all bubbling that close to the surface, it's rather easier to find a story's emotional core.  Odd how that works...
missroserose: (Masquerade)
So I'm in Anchorage, staying with my mother. No big deal, I've done this any number of times in the past. My mother is a wonderful person, we get along really well, I like Anchorage and have friends here, it's a beautiful time of year.

It's been...a little more complicated this time around. A good chunk of it is my maternal grandmother being here too. Don't get me wrong, I like her fine, but this is a smallish condo already crowded with my mother's art studio, so with my grandmother taking up the second bedroom that bumps me to sleeping in the living room. I honestly hadn't thought that would be a problem - I've slept on couches and whatnot before - but between my mother being an inveterate morning person, the jet-lag, and the ridiculous Alaskan summer daylight pouring in through the windows at all hours, things are starting to look increasingly like Insomnia all up in my head, if Al Pacino were a thirtysomething wannabe-artist with a history of emotional instability.*

Also (I suspect) in part due to my grandmother's presence, my mother's been going into Full Planning Mode. To her credit, she's been very good about letting me do my own thing, but there are occasional conflicts (no, Mum, right after a power-yoga class when I'm sweaty and smelly and just want a shower and a change of clothes is not a good time for me to go to lunch with you and Grandma in a very public place), and combined with the sleep deprivation and the unaccustomed family dynamics and the lack of any place of my own to retreat to, I've been feeling increasingly emotionally unstable and viewing the approaching planned road trip to Homer (four people in a small car for a full day, and then several days in a shared hotel room) with an increasing amount of dread.

So now I'm at the airport, booked on the last (first-class, because even when I'm an irrationally-angry weepy wreck my mother is wonderful) seat on the overnight flight back.

I'm not sorry I came - I got to hang out with my friend Carl, I got to see both of my grandmothers, and my mother took me to a wonderful birthday dinner, and aside from the sudden hyperemotional moments it's been nice. But I'm trying very hard not to feel like I'm a failure who's disappointing everyone; I know they'd rather I wasn't miserable (no one's good company when they're miserable!). And...I'm trying not to feel apprehensive. Because I'd seen such an improvement in my mood swings with my regular yoga-going, and I had thought maybe I was making some headway in getting stable. True, taking away the yoga and adding in multiple acute stressors probably isn't the best measure of progress. But here, in my sleep-deprived and already-weepy brain, it's hard to ignore the voice that's insisting that there's something permanently wrong with me, and that anything that disrupts my routine is going to send me over the edge again. And for someone who's always prided themselves on both their flexibility and their self-control, that's kind of scary.

Ah well. Homeward, and then I can cry (and sleep!) as much as I like. Brian's even being a dear and getting up early on a Saturday to brave The Kennedy Express Parking Lot With Deluxe Moveable Spaces (painfully-accurate description credit: him) to pick me up and save me the hour on transit. He must love me an awful goddamn lot.


*I realized - just today, three days and two emotional breakdowns into this trip - that I could have totally stayed with my paternal grandmother, who lives literally right down the street from my mother and has a spare bedroom (with blinds!) for this segment of the trip. I felt a little stupid once that hit me, as if I'd been able to have my space and catch up on sleep and interact with my mother and maternal grandmother on a more even keel, things might have been more pleasant all around. I guess that's what "live and learn" means...
missroserose: (Kick Back & Read)
Recently, I was considering my overflowing to-read shelves, the product of that all-too-common mixture of a fondness for buying books and not enough time spent reading them. At the time, I had a Good Idea: perhaps I should institute a rule for the next year or so, where I only get to buy one book for every two or three that I finish reading. That way I could simultaneously cull the herd a bit and motivate myself to spend more time reading. As with so many Good Ideas that I have, I decided to mull it over a bit, which was, in truth, mostly an excuse to stick it on the back burner without seriously thinking about instituting it.

Just today, I got a package in the mail containing a Kindle and a pretty pink cover - a birthday present from my mother.

Did I mention I had a whole list of inexpensive indie titles people had recommended to me that I'd been intending to purchase when I had a Kindle to read them on?

And that I'd just gotten my first newsletter from Smart Bitches, pointing out titles they recommended that were on sale?

Needless to say, my Good Idea is looking pretty stillborn at this point.

On the upside though, I have a Kindle Paperwhite! And I'm slightly chagrined to acknowledge that it is, in fact, superior to the equivalent-product-niche Nook in every way. Better quality screen, better light, Whispernet, Goodreads integration, vocabulary function, better-quality case, et cetera, et cetera...sigh. You win this round, Bezos.

Somewhat entertainingly, when I was adding it to my wishlist a couple months back, I was slightly torn on the cover color - they had the fuchsia pink, and also a very nice royal purple. Eventually I decided on the pink because it was brighter...and in the interim between putting it on my list and actually receiving it, I've acquired a purse in what's turned out to be precisely the same shade of pink. So I look just a touch matchy-matchy now. Ah well.

(Yay! I have a Kindle!)
missroserose: (Warrior III)
I had a very thought-provoking conversation with my mother the other night, talking about all the career and motivation and identity stuff that I've been struggling with. I have a lot of thoughts on that, but they're still a bit muddled, so I think I'm going to hold off on writing about them for now. Instead, I want to relate this one bit in particular, which makes me giggle in retrospect:

Mum: "So let's see if we can't find something for you to do where your liabilities are a positive! Don't you remember that old Star Trek episode--"

Me: "--where the deaf-mute diplomat has his telepathic chorus blaster-fried, and decides to mediate the planet's dispute by teaching both sides the sign language he uses, which would give them something in common, thus turning a disadvantage into an advantage. Yes, you've quoted that bit to me roughly 40,000 times over the course of my growing up."

Mum: *laughing* "Well, it's a great episode!"

The good news is, I've been feeling a lot better since then. Talking to my mother always cheers me up. It also didn't hurt that she bought me another month of yoga. (I swear, my insurance plan should cover at least part of it. It's preventative maintenance, and way way cheaper than antidepressants.) And there's a new teacher doing the Sunday-morning 1.5-level class whom I really dig. I might start going to her classes regularly; that works out nicely since I usually go to Erika's Monday-night class and take Tuesday off.

On the subject of CorePower, I'm thinking seriously about doing their teacher-training program sometime in the next year. It's not a small investment: $2750 and eight weeks of time, though if I'm a member at the time I get 20% off the price (and it says right on the website that they're committed to working with individual financial situations to ensure your presence in the class, so maybe if I can get a couple of the teachers to vouch for my candidacy I can get further discounts - I know a lot of them have seemed really happy to have me back). But yoga is one of the things I've managed to stick with long-term and still really enjoy, possibly because it's so personal and low-stakes (if there's competitive yoga, I've never heard of it). And teaching it is something I think I'd be good at and could do anywhere. And it would help with that lack-of-a-sense-of-identity issue I've been struggling with; yoga teaching isn't precisely high-social-status, but it does help people, which is something I feel like I don't do enough of. Plus, if I could get hired by CorePower, I'd have my membership fees covered, so it feels like a win all around.
missroserose: (Warrior III)
Well, "Anchorage, ho!" three days ago, anyway. First class on Alaska Airlines, too - thanks, Mum! Eight-plus hours of flying is so much less stressful when you have enough room to move about in your seat. And proper food. And free drinks. (Though I cut myself off after two, and was glad I did - when I hit my layover after the first four-hour flight, I felt slightly nauseous and hungover, likely due to the combination of alcohol with drastic altitude/pressure changes.) I even, for the first time since I was a kid, managed to doze a little on the second flight - normally I can never sleep without being properly curled up on my side, but the seat was just big enough for me to make an approximation of it. And wi-fi on planes, ridiculously overpriced as it is ($21 for a day pass? Seriously, Gogo?) still may be one of the world's greatest inventions. As studies have repeatedly shown (usually in the context of trying to multitask whilst texting or talking on the phone), electronic communications are nearly as good as narcotics (and far more predictable/healthy/legal) for removing our minds from our surroundings. Which, when you're talking about cramped confines and recycled air and enforced sedentariness for hours at a time, is precisely what you need to make it bearable.

I came up to help my mother while she underwent a minor surgical procedure, and I'm glad to say that that part of it has gone very well - she's recovered quickly and is mostly off even the low-grade Vicodin they prescribed her. Really, the hardest part was sitting with her in the recovery room, which was just a little bit emotional. At one point I was singing to her, and she was helping me remember the words to "Feed The Birds" (from Mary Poppins, which she used to sing to me when I was young), but she kept drifting in and out from the drugs, and what with the resemblance to a death scene in a movie, I ended up a bit verklempt with the weepies. Still, she came out of it fine, and so did I.

On a happier note, my mother's yoga studio has been kind enough to let me use her subscription while she's recovering. They practice a lot of core-strengthening vinyasa yoga, which I'd never tried before, but holy crap - during the first session I went to, I could practically hear my body howling "YES! THIS! THIS IS WHAT I'VE BEEN TRYING TO TELL YOU I NEED!" I'm not even exaggerating. It was challenging, but not overwhelming, and felt goddamn good - I've been to two sessions now and have regained almost all the lung capacity I've lost from not having the staircase at the end of our street to climb every day. And I feel like I'm two inches taller. I've known for a while that I need to improve my core muscle strength, both to help posture and to keep my back from tweaking, but (as with so many other things) I don't do so great when I'm solely self-directed. I'll do a bit here and there, but if I have a class to go to or someone expecting me, I'm much much more likely to keep with it. So having someone direct a whole series of exercises for precisely what my body needed was a fantastic experience. Even if I'm sore in places I didn't know I had muscles.

The downside is that, if I want to keep doing classes, I'm basically going to need to join a studio, which is expensive in Chicago. CorePower Yoga (which has a studio right in Uptown, about a mile from my house - easy to get to via walking or transit) is running a Groupon for a month's subscription for slightly less than half-price; it's still $70, but Mum bought me one, and offered to help with the cost if I like the place and want to keep going there. I hope I do like it, because I think it might be good for me psychologically, too; if I have a class to go to, I'm much less likely to plop down on the couch with my coffee early in the morning and not move again until mid-afternoon. Which I've been known to do. Occasionally.

Meanwhile, after hearing rave reviews from both press and friends, I've been playing with Duolingo. I do like the "gamification of learning" concept (achievements and in-game currency that unlocks silly extras works just as well for reinforcing good habits!), and when I read about how the inventor funds the program (rather than selling ad space or people's personal information, he sells the individual translations people do in aggregate as a translation service for websites with multilingual branches. How ingenious is that?) I decided I'd give it a go. From both an app and a game standpoint, it's remarkably well designed; the interface is clean and easy to use, and the rewards come often enough to be an encouragement but not so often that they lose any sense of intrinsic worth. As to language-learning, I can't really speak to its efficacy vs. other methods (since I've always been too intimidated by the work involved to try learning another language - which, I guess, makes this method infinitely more efficacious than any other!), but I really like that it's geared toward encouraging consistency rather than intensity of study. It never scolds you for failing a lesson, or for failing to progress quickly enough - in fact, it has a feature where, when you finish a particular section, it encourages you to review it regularly to strengthen your knowledge. Rather than reward you solely for progressing along the tree, it also gives you XP for successfully-completed lessons, and when you do a lesson over (which you'll almost certainly have to do unless you're crazy-good at picking up terms and syntax), it doesn't give you a reduced XP award - and, in fact, if you manage to get through a lesson with a perfect score, it gives you a significant bonus. My favorite moment so far, however, was when it got to be 3:30 in the afternoon today and I hadn't logged any time, and I got a cheerful email going "Hey, check out this five-day streak you've got going! Want to see it get to six?" Seriously, it does a great job exploiting all the same triggers that MMORPGs and advertisers do while encouraging people to do something useful.

My goal is modest - I just want to get to where I can read books in a given language, since most of my multilingual friends say reading in a different language regularly is the next best thing to constantly speaking it around you. Though, since I picked Italian, I may have to settle for listening to opera. Or maybe I can read The Name of the Rose in the original? I suppose Umberto Eco might seem slightly less pompous that way...

I miss Brian a lot. I've been reading to him via Skype or Facetime or just the phone (whichever we can get to work at the time), and he's been showing/telling me all about the delicious things he's been cooking. I'd almost think he was doing it to spite me, since he's cooking more now than he has in the past couple weeks combined, but I know it's more that it fills his time and he finds it soothing. Maybe if he eats enough I'll be able to convince him to come to one of the beginning vinyasa yoga classes with me. One hour burns 238 calories, according to my tracker!
missroserose: (Inspire)
More ridiculously cold weather has arrived. It's -1 right now, which is actually slightly higher than the "high" of -2. Not bad if you bundle up, but Brian had to run to work for a few supplies and reported back that the wind is nasty-cold. And tomorrow it's supposed to pick up, with wind chills down to forty below. I remain grateful that Brian and I both can work from home - in fact, Brian's employer actively encourages people to stay home and work remotely in weather like this.

Needless to say, the ratio of "Good for you!"s to pitying looks I've gotten when telling people I just moved here from Arizona has been trending toward the latter of late. Most of them don't believe me when I tell them I'm actually enjoying it (with the important help of stylish-and-warm winter gear and a well-insulated home), so I've been insisting that it's just like when I was growing up in Anchorage. Although my mother reports it's been so warm in Anchorage the past couple weeks (forty-odd degrees and sunny) that the pussy willows are all budding out three months early. Mid-February I'll actually be headed up in that direction; she bought me tickets to fly up there (first class! my mother is awesome) so I could help her out while she undergoes minor surgery. If this weird reversal keeps up I'm going to start telling people I'm vacationing in Alaska to escape the winter weather.

In other news, like roughly 90% of the female population of this country in January, I've decided I could stand to lose a few pounds. I don't think I'm fat or anything, but I've been gradually putting on weight over the past couple of years, and (especially what with working from home, with all the possibilities for deliciousness therefore constantly available) I'm not quite willing to trust my gut feelings on how much and when to eat. I've had very good luck with HabitRPG for building daily habits, and Mint.com for budgeting, so I saw no reason the same idea wouldn't work for tracking my food intake. To that end, I've been playing with Lose It!, a calorie/nutrition tracking website/app combination. I've been very impressed with it so far: you can move seamlessly between the app and the website, the interface is clean and easy to use, there's an extensive database of foodstuffs available, including lots of popular restaurant items, and - what really sold me on it - the app has a barcode scanner so you can instantly download the nutrition information of whatever you're cooking/eating and be certain it's correct. I know lots of people find this kind of thing a pain in the ass, but I have just enough of a meticulous control-freaky streak that I actually really enjoy it (especially with the streamlining in place so there's relatively little time spent entering or adding or multiplying). Admittedly, I've only used it for a few days, but it's been really nifty to be able to quickly punch in different food/exercise combinations and see how they affect my calorie budget for the day. It's also encouraged me to look for healthier options in day-to-day eating, since I know that those are the ones that'll make me feel fullest and happiest per calorie. It's given me that extra bit of encouragement to pay closer attention to how much I eat - that last pierogi might be tasty, but if I'm not hungry for it, I get 80 more calories to spend on dinner. (And then Brian's happy because he gets to eat my last pierogi.) And best of all, I've been enjoying food more - I know it's cliche dieting advice at this point, but it's really true that food tastes better when you wait until you're good and hungry for it.

The app also a whole community/social aspect, which I haven't played with much, but a little bit of clicking around the forums has shown a surprising lack of fat-shaming or body snark or other nastiness, and quite a bit of sensible advice about nutrition and exercise. Some people even use the tool to help them gain weight, and everyone seems to talk pretty openly and frankly about their experiences. So that's encouraging. The only thing that bugs me slightly is the focus on weight - if you're eating well and going to the gym regularly, for instance, your weight might not change but your body shape would (because you're building muscle as you burn fat). I wish there were a setting to go by waist size, or something similar. Still, the benefits inherent in the way it's adjusted my mental thinking about food are strong enough that I think I'll probably keep using it even after I get to the point where I change it to a maintenance-level calorie-intake rather than a net-loss calorie-intake. And that's probably the best compliment I can pay any such tool.

I also want to give a public shout-out to my friend Leigh, who gave me another invaluable tool in thinking about food or anything else that requires willpower. It was a few months ago, when I'd ordered some soup and potstickers for lunch for Lao Sze Chuan (a local incredibly-gourmet Chinese restaurant chain that has the most amazing food). Their potstickers are delicious and also enormous, and I'd eaten three of the five, and I could tell I was full, but I really really wanted to eat the other two. Leigh was gracious enough to listen to me angst about this over IM, and then rather than get all pedantic on the benefits of abstinence like I probably would have, she just said "You know, two potstickers and a glass of wine sounds like a fabulous midafternoon snack." And I realized she was right - and furthermore, that sort of thinking works wonders for all sorts of situations. You just stop framing it as "I can't have this right now", fix a concrete point in your mind where you can, and think about how much you're going to enjoy it then. Using scarcity and willpower to increase anticipation and maximize enjoyment. When you have a hedonic streak like I do, that's total and complete genius. I am so grateful for my awesome friends. <3

(Also? I don't want to jinx it by going on about it, but I think I'm feeling inspired again. So I'm going to go rinse the dye out of my hair and see if I can't sneak in some writing above and beyond my 500-word minimum today. Wish me luck.)
missroserose: (Masquerade)
I hosted guests for a week...and survived. I guess that means we're officially moved in.

Granted, our guests - my dear friend CJ and my mother - were lovely people. And we had a fine time together. Friday CJ took us to the Matt Nathanson concert, where I discovered that [a] concerts at venues within a mile of your home are awesome, and [b] to his credit, Mr. Nathanson plays just as hard to a small college-town crowd as he does to a big-city sold out one. (Personally, I kind of preferred our experience in Tempe - less crowding, more intimate, and the opening act was rather better - but I know a sold-out crowd is far better financially/reputation-wise for the performer, so I can't really complain too much. And it was sure nice to be able to just walk the half-mile home afterward rather than having to book a hotel/drive four hours the next day.) Saturday Mum came in, and CJ and I took her coat-shopping; somewhat amusingly, she couldn't find anything she liked but I found one I quite liked for $165 that goes rather well with my new look (more on that in a moment). Sunday we had early-Thanksgiving dinner. And Monday Mum and I took the train up to Evanston to see the Ba'ha'i House of Worship.

That last was an experience I'd almost describe as "surreal", except that has negative overtones that are completely inappropriate. The building itself is architecturally stunning, but what the pictures don't quite get across is the sheer...well, glory of it. Some of it is the size - looking at it on Google Maps gives an idea, though it's entirely different seeing it in person. The presentation, too, is amazing; even with the reflecting pools and fountains drained and garden pruned back for winter, the afternoon sun hitting the white-quartz concrete exterior is enough to make it painful to look at without sunglasses. And the interior...I don't have pictures of my own as they disallow photography, but frankly I wouldn't want to post them anyway, because they can't do it justice. It's not just that the decorations and calligraphed stonework are visually amazing, but the use of light, the symmetry of the design, and the amazing acoustics (we arrived during the 12:30 prayers and could hear each of the readers perfectly from the back to the front)...even for a not-particularly-religious pragmatist like me, it's the sort of place that induces a sense of elevation. Though I think my favorite thing about it is that, unlike certain analogues from other religions I've been to, they have signs everywhere saying "All Are Welcome", and it truly feels that way - there's no cliquish sense of "oh, well, you're not a member of the club, you can't come inside, but here watch a video about how awesome our club is and if you join maybe we'll think about letting you in". It's a truly beautiful manifestation of what human dedication and love can do, and the people who built it want to share that sense of joy with everyone.

The surreal part kicked in on the way back, realizing that this place - this place that felt like it was not of this earth - was all of a forty-minute train ride away from my new home. The woman running the bookshop mentioned that the House of Worship Choir doesn't require you to be Baha'i in order to join; after seeing their venue I may well audition, just for the chance to sing there.

On a more earthly note, I've cut my hair short-short for the first time since early college, a good twelve years ago (gack). I never thought I'd go back to a pixie cut, as the one I had then made me look like a lollipop, but after seeing so many girls in the area it looked great on I thought I'd see what a real stylist (as opposed to the Supercuts one I had back then) would suggest. She came up with a great longish-on-top/layered look that works far better and helps balance out my cheekbones. (Though there was one stage partway through, before she started the thinning/layering, where my hair was sort of in a helmet shape that looked fabulously 60s mod. All I needed was a geometric-print or silver lamé minidress and white go-go boots and I would've been a perfect pink-haired Star Trek alien love interest.) I don't know if it's the skill of the stylist or the fact that I'm older and my face has more definition now (or both), but I look far less round-faced this time.

Similarly, the coat I mentioned earlier is a Kenneth Cole A-line black wool number with silver studs on the shoulders - a very 80s asexual silhouette, so it goes rather well with the hair. I find this fairly entertaining, since up until now I've been pretty unabashedly girly (even my t-shirts are form-fitting), but with this particular combination, walking through Boystown (the local gayborhood) the other day, I noticed a dude start to check me out until he got to my face. I guess it was time for a change. Though I've been joking with Brian that we can't move again, since every time we move my hair gets shorter and at this point I'd have to buzz it all off.

And on a more pragmatic note, now that I've gotten settled in, today is the day I start up HabitRPG and tracking my daily goals like yoga and guitar that I've been slacking off on (the former more than the latter, but still, my consistency's taken a hit). So it's off to go start correcting that. And possibly call the trapeze school about classes, and write a bit of the short story that's been bouncing around my head, and take other steps to start accomplishing things. I would say "wish me luck", but this is all entirely under my own purview, so instead...wish me motivation!
missroserose: (Life = Creation)
Is it weird that I find myself wanting to write a blog post about a day where nothing much happened?

Normally I would have been working yesterday, but things have been so slow at the gallery lately (thanks, most likely, to the weird-ass weather - seriously, we woke up to another couple inches of snow on the ground this morning. Pretty, but not exactly a big draw for the tourists) that C decided to just have me in on Thursday this week. So, upon finding out that Brian was going to be driving out to do some work on a tower just over the border in New Mexico, I asked if I could come along.

I was in a very strange headspace all that day. I'd been dreaming all night about being in airports - not going anywhere, exactly (I only remember actually getting on a plane once), but just sort of wandering through them with my guitar, sometimes playing, sometimes just watching people. And that in-limbo feeling seemed to carry over into the day; I spent much of it sort of half-there, half-zoned-out. But hey, if you're going to be zoned out, there are worse things to stare at than the landscape around the Arizona/Mexico/New Mexico border. We even drove up into the Chiricahua Mountains by Portal, intending to go over them and get back to Bisbee through Willcox and Benson, but the pass ended up being closed (probably due to ice and/or snow - see above re: weird weather). Still, we got to see how things are coming back after the Horseshoe Two fire a year and a half ago, which was reassuring. The sky island forests are so unusual for Arizona climate and weather, and so beautiful.

And really...that was it. We came home, I had a nap, I finished the book I was reading and wrote up a review for it on GoodReads, I played my guitar a bit. Not a very interesting or accomplished day, but an oddly pleasant one nonetheless.

I don't think I've mentioned it more than tangentially here, but I've been keeping a sort of unofficial list of daily goals in a spreadsheet on Google Docs. Things like doing yoga, exercising in some manner that raises my heart rate, practicing guitar, stuff like that. There's no real reward associated with doing well at them over a particular day/week/month (other than a nice line of Os in the associated line or column), but it's a nice way to keep track of how I've been doing on the whole.

I'm thinking about adding a goal for writing in there, too. I've been encouraged by the success of my approach to guitar - one of the ideas that really encouraged me was that getting good at something didn't require hours and hours of time on a given day so much as consistency in giving it a little bit of time, every day (or nearly so). I've given guitar, on average, fifteen minutes a day over the past eight or nine months, and while I'm certainly not as good as I would be if I'd practiced an hour on each of those days, I've made pretty significant progress. So maybe I should try something similar for writing. Given the amount of improvement between my NNWM 2010 and 2011 output, despite almost no practice between the two (and even if the latter is still nothing resembling publishable), it seems likely that daily practice would have a pretty good effect.

I found a sticker recently, that I had initially intended to send to a friend, but it sort of made its way onto my guitar case last night - I'm not sure exactly why; it just felt right there. It certainly feels apropos, given recent events in my music career:



So I think I'm going to sign off here and place my feet somewhere useful. Like on my yoga mat in extended-side-angle pose. Or on the floor, sorting out laundry. Or in the kitchen to make a pie.

And maybe I'll write something today, too.
missroserose: (Default)
Me, reading aloud from Cracked: "So he would get living subjects and tell them he wished to examine their vaginas, presumably while wearing every doctor-related item he could think of to demonstrate his legitimacy, including but not limited to wearing his Ph.D. around his neck like Flava Flav."

Brian: "Hey, if I had a Ph.D., I would totally wear it around my neck like Flava Flav."

Me: "Really?"

Brian: "Hells yes. That would be the most expensive piece of bling ever! 'Oh, you've got a gold-plated watch? I've got a piece of paper that cost more than several houses! Bee-yoootch! Post-graduate studiiieeeeees!'"

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