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I'm grateful that I have no particular difficulty with fireworks; I wouldn't want to have people shooting them off every night, but once or twice a year doesn't really bother me, and I genuinely enjoy the more artistic displays. Towards that latter end, we decided to head down to the park to watch the Saddle and Cycle Club's (yes, we have an honest-to-god country club in our neighborhood, dating back to the 1920s when this area was a tony suburb of Chicago) annual fireworks display. They were gracious enough to invite the plebeians to watch from the beaches and parks nearby...you know, the ones that are public property. So generous!

After literal years of talking about it, Brian had finally nabbed a small grill to do a cookout. So yesterday morning, we bundled up the car with the grill and charcoal and bags of chips and utensils and blankets and a cooler bag with approximately 50 pounds of various meatstuffs and salads and ice packs, and drove all of five blocks to the lakefront park, intending to unload and have me drive back/walk down (parking at the park is difficult on any nice day, but absolutely insane on holidays)...only to discover that the police had blocked off the parking lot, likely to manage traffic flow. Well, at least we didn't go too far out of our way, heh. We pared down our supplies some and I dug an old wheeled luggage bag out of the closet to pack up the cooler and we managed to trundle everything down on foot; Jamila came down to meet us and helped us unpack everything. The weather was lovely - humid, but not unpleasantly hot, with a nice breeze to keep the smoke from the fireworks and cookouts moving. Most of the families around us were Hispanic; Brian commented later that it was nice to spend Independence Day surrounded by immigrants.

Brian's food was predictably excellent; Jamila got a great picture of him in front of our tiny grill. She also documented our excellent burgers and one of our gigantic beef ribs; and, at my spur-of-the-moment request, did her best Baby Groot impression). I spent most of the time sprawled on our blanket, reading and occasionally reapplying sunscreen; at one point our friend Erin stopped by and we chatted for a bit, although unfortunately her dog was feeling poorly so she wasn't able to stay for the fireworks.

Possibly my favorite part of the day, aside from the fireworks show, was dusk; the crowds were starting to go really wild with the fireworks, so everything was getting noisy and flashing, but amidst the chaos there were comparatively tiny fireflies coming out, blinking hopefully at the colorful displays. You keep those aspirations high, fireflies!
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"Take this paper, and write down all the regrets you have from the past year. Then we'll burn them and start with a clean slate."

My friend hands me a torn scrap of foolscap, and I pull my purple pen from my purse, considering. The other party guests banter with each other, covering up the inherent vulnerability of the moment by proposing outrageous stories or asking whether such-and-such mundane thing counts as a regret.

I write a few lines, mostly small things; slowly, they begin to imply a theme of something larger that I can't yet articulate. I write a few more, circling around the issue: I regret not taking some of the opportunities my mother offered to grow closer. I regret not reaching out to my friends when I needed emotional support. I regret letting my certainty that I already knew the answers cloud my ability to learn new things.

Finally, I've outlined the shape enough to identify what it is my brain's been hiding from me: carefully, in clear letters, I print "I regret all the times my pride has kept me from connecting with the world."

Then I circle it and underline it twice, as if to emphasize its importance to the oncoming flames.

--

"Even from the time Ambrosia was little, she knew her self-worth."

I am twelve years old, and my mother has told this story many times. Still, my back straightens a little.

"When she was a toddler, I would take her to the playpark in our neighborhood, and she would want to stay longer. So I would tell her, 'Okay, I'm going home without you,' and pretend to leave. And she would keep on swinging, or playing on the jungle gym, until I turned right back around and scooped her up."

At this age, in the nadir of middle school, I am just now beginning to be aware that my greater-than-average self-confidence has been a handicap to my social acceptance. Eight years of teasing, of ostracism both subtle and blatant, of outright violence on a few memorable occasions, are finally starting to penetrate. I am slowly realizing that, contrary to the "just be yourself!" messages of a thousand thousand afterschool specials and middle-grade novels, my defiance of social dictates - my refusal to wear 'normal' clothes, to care about my presentation, to keep my opinions to myself in class - are exacting a very real toll on my ability to get on with my classmates.

Until this point, I've taken pride in not caring about the shallow and superficial things most people in my age group care about, in marching to the beat of my own drum. But the constant shaming wears on me, as it is meant to do; we are social creatures, exquisitely attuned to the slights of others. It will be some years yet before I start to appreciate the value of building my personality through careful negotiation with social norms, of bearing superficial markers indicating belonging to a particular class or cohort. And it will be many more years of careful observation and learning - often by saying precisely the wrong thing - until I learn the subtle arts of getting along in a community, of deferring to others' knowledge even when I'm convinced of my own correctness, of influencing group opinion in small ways, of quietly building social currency against the day when my integrity will demand that I take a stand.

--

This morning, cocooned in blankets and absent any driving motivation to get out of bed early, I sank into the sort of brightly-lit, highly-detailed dream that often seems to visit me at such hours. I was visiting a mall storefront that turned out to be a beautifully decorated Jewish temple, run by a particularly Orthodox sect. For some reason I had a pressing need to wash my hands, and I remember asking a stern-browed woman if I might do so; she looked displeased at the notion, but apparently my need was great enough to overcome her reservations.

I proceeded to the back of the space, where there were several sinks, and started washing my hands at one of them, only to realize from the horrified faces of those around me that not only was I using entirely the wrong sink, but that I was trespassing upon the men's side of the temple, as well as likely violating several other rules I didn't even know. I take such pride in knowing the social tenets in any given situation, in acting carefully to ensure the comfort and approbation of others; the realization that I was in a situation where I was socially illiterate sends a wave of shame, pure and unadulterated as few non-dream emotions are, swamping my chest and my cheeks. Strong as it is, it burns indelibly into my memory the dream that might otherwise have faded in the light of day.


--

"Are you feeling inspired?" I ask my client, once she's taken a few breaths of her aromatherapy oils. We had been laughing at the silliness of naming a scent blend "Inspiration", as if achieving so notoriously elusive a state could be as simple as taking a few breaths.

"Oh, absolutely!" she answers, tongue planted firmly in cheek. "Now I can go home and finish all those half-done songs I have filling my notebooks!"

We spend a few moments bonding over the difficulties of musicianship, and the specific frustration of unfinished artistic efforts. She admits that she finishes perhaps one in ten songs that she starts; I, having not even been brave enough to start ten, feel simultaneously relieved and humbled.

I've long known that my difficulties in finishing anything artistic stem from my perfectionism; so long as a song or a story lives only as an idea in my mind, it will always be perfect, spared the trauma of birth and the inevitable marring of being shaped by imperfect hands. But, with pride much on my mind of late, I begin to consider how much of that perfectionism stems from pride. Completion means sharing, and sharing means risk - of judgment, of failure, of losing my sense of specialness. If I could let go of that need to feel special, set apart, would that help me to take artistic risks? Would it be easier to share something imperfect and true if I didn't tie my self-worth to my pride?

That last thought startles me with the truth it implies, and I almost miss a stroke in the massage.

--

"You can spend your life trying to fit yourself into a box. But you'll always be too much for some people. For others, you'll never be enough. But the great joy is that, if you let yourself, you'll always be exactly enough for you."

Something in the yoga teacher's voice catches me, which seems odd - I've been ruminating of late on how the doctrine of self-exceptionalism has been harmful in my life, and on the surface her message reads very much as a variation on the "just be yourself!" mantra.

You'll always be exactly enough for you.

It occurs to me, as my brain slowly slots the puzzle pieces together, that perhaps the problem isn't pride, per se - it's what I'm proud of. All my life I've been told that I'm talented, intelligent, exceptional; all my life I've been secretly terrified that I'm going to seriously screw up and prove everybody wrong, prove that I really am that weird girl who deserved to be bullied and ostracized, disappoint everyone who had such faith in me. I've accomplished a few things, it's true, and I'm proud of them, but I think I've been even more proud of how they reaffirmed my belief in my own exceptionalism.

And yet...in order for me to be exceptional, it logically follows that others have to be unexceptional. And I've long since rejected the idea of talent as a zero-sum game; I strongly dislike the idea that because one person doesn't measure up to another on one arbitrary scale, that means they don't have something to contribute on another axis. I wonder how much of the fear and misery I can forestall by refusing comparison, by practicing humility with regards to others, by working on being enough for me.

I wonder if, freed of its shackles of fear and embracing its gift of imperfect life, my art might someday take wing, finally able to share itself with the world, to help forge those tenuous connections we so desperately need.
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This morning, a friend of mine posted about how much his life had changed. A couple of years ago, he'd been stuck in bleak despair; since then, he'd met someone he loved wholeheartedly (and who loved him back), had significant career success, made friends, and contributed to his community. Needless to say, he was feeling much happier.

It's no secret that what makes me happiest is seeing (and helping) people, especially those people I know and love, to Be Better. So this post made me happy in a deep and fundamental way, even though I had little to do with his life's transformation. But when I went to respond, what came to mind was Louis Renault's Victor Laszlo's line to Rick at the end of Casablanca: "Welcome back to the fight."

That seemed a little odd, until I thought about it and realized how apropos it truly was. We speak of happiness in this culture as something to be achieved, or found, or bought; an item to accomplish and then check off our list. But (much as with physical fitness, or education) the goalposts are constantly moving. Fulfillment doesn't happen on its own. Social connection doesn't happen on its own. Financial success doesn't happen on its own. Artistic achievement doesn't happen on its own. Love doesn't happen on its own. Each of these things requires effort, demands that we get out into the field and fight for them, proclaim our belief that they can happen, that we can Be Better against an uncaring or even hostile environment. The fight may be easier or harder on any given day, depending on what surrounds us and what we bring to the table, but it's always a fight. Some days we are triumphant, and are feted and paraded through town. Some days we come home bruised and bloodied, battered by an indifferent world, or the fears and insecurities of others, or our own self-doubts or faulty brain chemistry. Most days we make a little progress; on the good days we can look back and appreciate how far we've come.

Happiness, contrary to its word root, doesn't happen on its own. If we're going to Be Better, we have to fight for it - constantly. But it's a fight worth joining. We have so much to learn, so much to create, and so much to be.

It's customary, this time of year, to wish one's friends joy of the season. But - say it with me - joy doesn't happen on its own. Instead, I invite each and every one of you reading this: come fight with me. Be Better with me. The world may reject us, may hit us in our deepest and most vulnerable places - but we can decide to pick that torch right back up and shine it high. We may never know how much others need that inspiration.
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Recently a friend told me how she took the Myers-Briggs Personality Inventory for the first time in years, and rather than wanting to argue with all of the questions, she breezed through it relatively quickly and found the result helpful rather than aggravating; she attributed this to being older and knowing herself better. I tried something similar this morning, and discovered it was easier for me as well; what was interesting, though, was all the times I had to stop and think about whether I was answering a particular way out of habit, or because I actually functioned that way now. Growing up I was a dedicated improviser, but after some bad experiences screwing up work and social things I learned to carefully keep my schedule and projects organized. And yet I was still surprised at how differently I answered the planning- and organization-based questions, compared to the last time I took the test as a teenager. Similarly, in the questions about external vs. internal attention, I realized that I put much more focus on other people and the outside world than I used to, instead of spending most of my time inside my head.

As a result, instead of the ENFP that I used to firmly roll, the latest test I took pegged me as an ESFJ. I was especially entertained that the description on the website I used congratulated me on my social perception and compared me to a cheerleader or quarterback; if you had asked 18-year-old me to pick a self-descriptor, "socially aware" would have been one of the last items on the list. But at the same time, I've made a distinct effort to grow that part of my personality, because I got tired of being blindsided by people's shifting moods and alliances. (I'm still blindsided on occasion - human beings are complicated! - but I feel like I have a much better grounding in how we all interact than I used to.)

I have mixed feelings about this. On the one hand, I feel like the skills I've developed in the past several years are valuable, and I'm glad I have them. On the other...sometimes I miss the more imaginative, more self-reflective me. It's gotten noticeably harder for me to write introspective blog posts lately, and I can't tell if that's because the self-examination part has gotten tougher, or because my life is so much fuller lately that it's tough to find the time. I spend less time reading and writing, less time thinking about the world as it could be and more figuring out how to deal with the world as it is. Again, I don't think this is necessarily negative, but I'm concerned about going too far in this direction. Scary global events and news stories used to bother me a lot less; now that I'm more invested in the here-and-now, it's difficult not to feel concerned and helpless.

I suppose there's nothing stopping me from refocusing on creativity and idealism; doing so isn't going to mean that I automatically lose all the organizational and social intelligence I've cultivated. But it feels like that's tougher to do. I want to say it's because it's a more abstract focus and I'm not sure how to go about it; to a degree, I think that's what I've been telling myself my entire life. But now that I really think about it, I suspect the focus on practical matters has been at least partially a coping mechanism; a way to keep myself safe from rejection and failure. Which would explain why it's so difficult to imagine letting go of it. And makes the whole "news stories make me feel more helpless now" part more than a bit ironic. No system is without its dangers, it seems.
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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: (Balloons and Ocean)
It's the first real cold morning of winter (15 degrees in Farenheit, -9 in Celsius, At Least Three Layers And All The Winter Accessories in Ambrosia), and I decided to skip yoga class before work because I'm having a hard time convincing myself to go out before it's absolutely necessary. So now that I have two whole hours free, I thought I might wave to my LJ friends and reassure them I made it into the new year just fine.

Biggest laugh of the morning: Women Having A Terrible Time At Parties In Western Art History. "maybe if i keep covering more of my face with my hands/he’ll forget i’m here/and go away"...oh man. Vivid memories of working circulation in my college library, and certain patrons who thought they'd try to chat up the cute girl behind the desk.

It's been a quiet first week of the year. Our holiday plans fell through somewhat - we'd intended to go to a dance/concert with some friends, but they had an emergency and had to cancel. Since we already had tickets, and I had an outfit all picked out, we decided to go anyway; people-watching was fun, but ultimately we just weren't feeling it and decided to hop a train home before the rush. And really, that was okay; we got back and sipped some leftover sparking wine and went to bed. I guess this is officially The Year We Are Old.

Since then we've mostly been hanging out at home, partly due to holiday budgetary hangover and partly due to Brian having come down with a cold (Brian, dismayed: "I was working nights all month and barely left the house! Where did I get a cold?") I managed to fight it off successfully with a combination of Emergen-C and taking it easy for a few days, but given that next week he's going to be commuting to/from a client site in the suburbs, I think our plans to take down Christmas decorations are getting delayed a week.

Other than that, though, things are good. I have a longer and more thoughtful post percolating on finances, long-term goals, social/generational trends, and luck, but the upshot is, we're finally at a point financially where we're able to seriously save for a home of our own. I've honestly doubted for a long time we'd ever reach that point, since the places we wanted to live (i.e. urban environments with good transit and lots of restaurants/attractions) tend to be quite pricey, and historically we're more prone to want to enjoy our money than sock it away; but thanks to hard work, good social connections, and some excellent luck, it's looking like we may be able to start seriously house-hunting (or, more likely, condo-hunting) in a couple of years. We'll see how it works out - make plans and the gods laugh, after all. Still, it's a nice place to be.

I don't have any New Year's resolutions as such; most of my goals are continuous (keep up with yoga/healthier food choices to keep my mood issues in check, keep an eye out for new career opportunities, keep learning new things to avoid getting stuck in a rut, et cetera). But a theme that's been coming up in my life lately has been practicing gratitude without anxiety or entitlement. I have a lot of friends who did not have a great 2015, often due to factors entirely beyond their control; I know that someday that might be me (in cases involving death of a loved one, someday it will be me, unless I die first). And I also know a lot of people - including me, sometimes - who have trouble appreciating when things go well because all they can focus on is how temporary it is, and how things are bound to go wrong eventually. So I've been working on holding that sense of gratitude, and the vulnerability it entails, and being gentle with the part of me that wants to get caught up in worrying about the future. Similarly, there's the part of me that's terrified of becoming an entitled white person, who subconsciously believes they're owed their privilege and success simply because they've always had it; it's partly why I get so uncomfortable in the suburbs, where there's a high percentage of people with that mindset. So I'm trying to be gentle with that part of me as well, acknowledging its existence and reassuring it through various means (staying socially aware, donating when I can and without feeling guilty for not giving more, practicing compassion towards others even when they're doing things I disagree with or find inconvenient). It's a tough balance to strike, and man, is it difficult to practice self-love towards the parts of your personality you don't like. But it feels like important work, so I'm going to keep at it.
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It's 6:30 AM on Christmas Eve, and rather than sleeping like a normal person (or a normal person without children), my brain is apparently wide awake. Not unpleasantly so, oddly; I think knowing that I have plenty of time to catch up on sleep is helpful in keeping the "must get back to sleep/can't sleep, going to be short on sleep/must get back to sleep" stress cycle at bay. But enough that coming out to the living room and making tea and sitting and admiring the Christmas tree felt like an attractive option.

I've been writing letters to, and gradually getting to know, a friend-of-a-friend who's going through a tough transitionary period in her life. We've been Facebook acquaintances for years but (as transitions often are) she's pretty lonely right now, with a lot of difficult issues and contradictory beliefs and unhelpful coping mechanisms to sort through. And at one point, she said something along the lines of this: "Tell me about your life. Because I read your posts and I wonder if you're really that happy."

This hit a bit of a nerve, and has resulted in quite a bit of rumination. Not because I'm unhappy, but because of the context. See, one of the issues I've struggled with most, both in person and on social media, is the desire to always appear happy and content, no matter my actual emotional state. It's both a way of defending myself and my life choices - if I'm happy, no one can question whether I've done the 'right' things in life, can they? - and, in a way, a form of revenge. All those people who've wished me ill over the course of my life can just eat it.

Obviously there are a lot of problems with this; for one thing, as I've discovered over the past decade or so, vulnerability is a powerful social tool, and studiously refusing to use it hamstrings your interpersonal interactions. But the more pertinent issue here, I think, is that it's just not possible for anyone to be happy all the time. We talk about "life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness" in this country as if the first two will naturally lead to the third, and perhaps they do: the key word being pursuit. Even "hap", the root word of "happy", literally means "luck" or "chance"; hence why we also see it in "happenstance", "haphazard", and "hapless". For all that our culture is poised to sell you happiness at a moment's notice, guaranteed, we completely ignore that most of our moments of happiness are more like a cat in a sunbeam. Even if we don't change, the sunbeam moves on; our mental balancing point reasserts itself. (The flipside, of course, is that people who go through horrible experiences also eventually get back to that balancing point. It just doesn't make sense, from a survival standpoint, for us to be constantly on one end of the scale or the other.)

And then there's the question of whether we're talking about short- or long-term. When I woke up and opened my computer, I had about two-thirds of a blog post written, complaining about a bunch of miscellaneous stuff - petty things like waking up and being out of coffee, or forgetting my work clothes and having to block off the first half-hour of my schedule so I could get new ones; all the way up to more overarching things like being exhausted from a six-hour shift at the chiropractor's and my crazy schedule making it feel like I'd practically missed Christmas this year. But before I could finish it and click "post", Brian and I had dinner and watched some Star Trek, and the food and relaxation time helped recharge my cope - enough that I decided not to post my whining, since none of it was really all that important; I simply had been losing perspective thanks to exhaustion and low blood sugar.

Long-term, though, could take us all the way back to the beginnings of this blog, almost exactly twelve years ago, which was the first time someone asked me if I was happy with my life. I would say I'm much happier now than I was then, in large part due to figuring out a set of goals, and how to achieve them in a way that fits with my strengths and weaknesses. Clearly, that doesn't mean that I don't get frustrated or upset at times. But I think the better life circumstances, combined with learning and practicing better self-love and self-care, have helped to move my usual balance point up the happiness scale. And because I like myself much better, it's much easier to genuinely care for others, too.

So yes, ultimately, I think I am that happy. I know it's partly due to several spectacular runs of luck, and that it's an ongoing project (once again, the key word is pursuit); I also know that it's probable that I'll have less happy periods in the future, whether due to loss or environmental change or just the pain that comes as an inevitable part of living with and caring for other people. Which is partly why I try to spend less time complaining about petty things, and more time being grateful for what I have now, and the people I get to share it with. <3
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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!
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Ambrosia N. Rose
Amateur Book Reviewer, Goodreads.com


~*~

24 October 2014



The Lovecraftian mythos has, in the Internet age, suffered from the sort of social watering-down that any popular horror eventually does. I think especially, here, of Frankenstein's monster: once a literate, intelligent creature capable of terrifying its creator with its elaborately enacted plans for revenge; now a shambling, zombified, bolt-necked hulk that inspires endless cards and candies at this time of year. In the same game of popular-culture Telephone that has dubbed that unfortunate creature with its creator's name, Lovecraft's age-old terrors beneath the waves have become punchlines; the inspiration for dozens of satirical comics, stories, and merchandise.

Our collective desire to create reflections of our shadow selves having summoned these creatures into our artistic consciousness, we proceed to deliberately misunderstand them, recasting them as ridiculous, laughable, so that we may better reassure ourselves that of course, only other people see their darker natures reflected in these silly dumb beasts.

We, being shining beacons of virtue, have nothing to fear.



Forgive me, for this is meant to be a book review, not a cynical anthropological treatise. But if I may attempt to justify my initial digression, I meant it as a roundabout compliment to this manuscript. Cherie Priest clearly understands what it is that made Lovecraft's initial short stories, despite their execrable writing and subsequent bastardizations, catch hold of people's imaginations in the first place: the unshakable belief in the accuracy and reliability of our perceptions despite clear evidence to the contrary; the absolute terror at the thought of that sanctity being violated by outside influences we literally cannot conceive of; the universal fear that those forces might not be external at all, but exist in the form of our own unconscious, only metaphorically represented by the depths of the ocean.

But first, the summary. Lizbeth Andrew Borden, wealthy spinster, social pariah, and murderess in popular legend if not legal status, lives a reclusive life with her consumptive older sister Emma, studying a series of phenomena that have led her to believe that the lives and minds of the residents of her hometown are in serious, if frustratingly nonspecific, danger. Their situation makes finding confidantes difficult; eventually, they enlist the help of Dr. Seabury, a local physician still suffering the psychological ramifications of the Civil War, in discovering precisely what the threat is and how to stop it. The story is told from a rotating perspective, often through journal entries and letters; a commonly-criticized technique, but it works well here, as social isolation is both a theme and a primary antagonist in the story, and seeing each character apply their very different backgrounds and worldviews in an attempt to solve the same mystery engenders a blind-men-describing-the-elephant sort of hopelessness...even before the more complex and delicate effects of the ocean-borne threat become clear.



It is in this last respect, especially, that Maplecroft proves itself uncannily perceptive into human nature. Yes, Lizbeth discovers objects that induce obsession, summon monsters and, given time and exposure, cause outright insanity; but this danger can be measured, quantified, and addressed - often with her axe. It serves as a red herring of sorts to distract from the subtler effects that this terror enacts upon those who would fight it; namely, the quiet magnification of their darker emotions. Emma's resentment of her helplessness, Seabury's despair at a cruel and senseless world, Lizbeth's guilt over her lover; these insidious menaces are far likelier to destroy our heroes even as they begin to find a pattern to the mystery. Are they being amplified by a malevolent force? Or merely exacerbated by isolation and stress? Either way, they come dangerously close to dissolving the fragile social bonds that are the one human defense against any large-scale threat.

If I had one quibble with the narrative, it might be that the heavy reliance on atmosphere leads to a truncated-feeling ending, with several plot threads left dangling. Still, given the themes of the story, this doesn't feel entirely out of place. This is not a tragedy, in the strictest sense of the term, but it bears many of the same hallmarks, of free will being a moot point in the face of certain events and character interactions. And victory, if it is to be obtained, if it can even be identified, will not be achieved without cost. A
missroserose: (Balloons and Ocean)
It's been a nice holiday. What with not having many social contacts in the area, along with post-Christmas brokitude and some pretty severe cold/snow, we decided that a quiet observation at home was in order. But it was lovely nonetheless. Last night, I made one of my favorite incredibly rich meals, so Brian got a holiday off from cooking. When midnight rolled around, we had champagne cocktails and lay down on the hardwood floor by the fire (Brian: "I think 2014 might have to be the Year of Rugs") and recounted our many blessings for the past year. Today, we slept in before braving the (continuing) snow and taking the bus down to a nifty little Jewish deli in Lakeview for lunch, and after getting back I cleaned the bathroom and had a nice bath with one of the fancy bath bombs from my Christmas stocking. Now there's lemon pudding cakes in the oven, and when they come out we'll have the rest of the bubbly with them and watch Sherlock. {That part was written a few hours ago. The lemon pudding cakes were amazing, and so was the show. For a story about a protagonist who's completely clueless about human relationships, it's so incredibly smart about interactions and the power dynamics inherent therein.}

I don't have a lot of resolutions per se. I did tweet my wish for 2014: "Wishing us all new and better opportunities, and new and better guts to stand up and say 'I'll do it.'" I admit it's a bit of a selfish wish, given my plans for the upcoming month/year, but it's nonetheless true - I don't want to be the only one making scary plans and doing scary things!

About those plans...one of the biggest changes that's going to be happening is that I'll be making a concerted effort to raise my public profile somewhat. I don't know by how much, since popularity is a difficult thing to predict, but I'm hoping to make inroads in author communities and the like - I've met a lot of cool author-y people online, but even aside from that, name recognition is a good thing, and can often translate into sales. I've already re-Twitterpated myself (and even attracted a few followers, thanks to a few interactions with the ever-hilarious Chuck Wendig), and I'll be starting a writing blog this week, probably on Wordpress.

All of which is to say that I'm trying to decide what to do with my Dreamwidth/LiveJournal accounts. So far I've been fine with keeping them 99.9% public, as I tend to curate my friends carefully, pick low-drama folks to hang out with, and generally be obscure enough that even when I weigh in on a hot-button topic, it doesn't attract a lot of attention. But that may not be the case in the future. And there's a lot of history here - more than a decade, now, including many bits of myself and my growth process that I'm...not ashamed of, precisely, but that could easily be taken out of context. It doesn't help that I'm planning on writing in a controversial genre/about some controversial topics, and while I'll do my best (as always) to be fair and diplomatic on the subjects, that doesn't mean I won't piss some people off.

I've been thinking for a while about exercising LiveJournal's (and, I assume, Dreamwidth's) "change all your past posts to friends-only" feature, but resisted it so far largely because I know at least a few of my friends read this because they see the links through Facebook or an RSS reader, and if I were to only make posts under friends-lock the only people who would see it would be the ones who check LJ/DW regularly. Which - let's face it - is an increasingly small number.

I'm still deciding what the writing blog should focus on. If I make it a personal blog like this one, chances are that I'll stop posting here almost entirely. If I decide to focus on a few specific subjects (feminism, sexuality, the role of porn in Western society, and the cultural experience of sexually proactive women all seem likely topics, given my interests and the subject matter of my writing), I may keep this blog up separately for more personal journal-style posts. But either way, chances are I'll be going exclusively friends-only, here. So if you'd like to keep up here, and aren't already signed on my friends list on either site, let me know.
missroserose: (Default)
Happy holidays, folks! My month's been kind of up-and-down - as per usual, I got presents purchased and wrapped early, and then was in a bit of a slump for a lot of the past week and a half or so. But the impending Christmas deadlines got me up and moving. Finish decorating! Decorate packages for mailing! Send out cards! Clean the house! Learn to make mulled wine! That last has been an especial success; I wrote up the recipe to send to a friend who'd requested it on Facebook, and the list of recipients has been gradually getting longer as more and more people request. I may have to put up a Special Christmas Eve edition post for the Rebel Bartender. Or Christmas-Eve-Eve, if I get to it tonight. (ETA: Oh hay lookit dat.)

Luckily, the slump I mentioned hasn't been of the depressive sort; I've still been keeping up with my daily goals - I just haven't been doing much above and beyond them. Still, I'm especially pleased with how I've been doing on the writing. According to HabitRPG (which I have set to count M-F, and doesn't ding me if I miss a weekend day but counts it if I check it off), I'm up to 23 days in a row writing 500 words or more. It's not a lot, really, but it's easily the most consistent I've ever managed to be in not-November, and soon will pass that last qualifier as well. And some of the output I've actually been pretty pleased with. (It's an oddly cathartic feeling when you find that emotional centre that's been missing from a scene you've been doggedly plowing through - not unlike the mounting frustration playing a puzzle game that suddenly transmutes into satisfaction when the "AHA!" moment appears.) January is going to be my big push to start getting some kind of return on investment, I think - whipping my short stories into shape and putting them up for sale, starting a writing blog, working on having new content available regularly, that kind of thing.

The weather's been entertaining; it went from stormy to cold to warm-ish, with temperatures in the mid-thirties and all the pretty snow melting into slush. Then today it became a hard freeze - I think the high was like 12 degrees, and right now it's 4 with a -10 wind chill. I braved the weather to head to Trader Joe's for more supplies, and while waiting for the bus in the dark with the wind blowing I was starting to have Barrow flashbacks. (Though in Barrow, four degrees this time of year would feel amazingly warm. Heh.) Still, TJ's and both buses were pretty uncrowded, unusual for a weeknight before a holiday - I imagine the weather kept a lot of people indoors. I continue to be extremely pleased with my new coat; as well as stylish, it's remarkably windproof, and even under these conditions worked extremely well with just my usual ensemble of a t-shirt and hoodie beneath.

Related, there's been all kinds of kerfuffle from otherwise-slow news outlets over whether there'll be a white Christmas or not; current forecast is 60% chance of snow tomorrow. I certainly wouldn't mind, but honestly, the cold alone is plenty enough to feel like a proper Christmas again. Especially with the mulled wine and cranberry mincemeat (a new experiment for this year, since we had a bag of cranberries left over from Thanksgiving) cooking on the stove. Mmmm.

We haven't much in the way of plans for the holiday, other than Brian enjoying Not Commuting - he's had to drive out to a thoroughly desolate spot in the midst of the suburbs for the past month or so, and it's been hellish. It regularly tacks an hour on to his commute time each way, plus he has to drive in traffic rather than kicking back on the train and reading. (Though his biggest peeve is with the lack of good food out there - "I had the most mediocre hamburger in the world today. I miss working in the Loop.") Still, he gets paid for mileage, so that's a little bit of extra cash coming in. And in theory the project's supposed to be done the week after Christmas. Keeping our fingers crossed. In the meantime, as the new guy he's on call for the holiday, but other than that he's home for the next few days. He even gets to work from home on Friday. Score.

I hope you all are as warm and cozy as I am, and get to spend the holiday with someone you love (human or non, as you prefer). I hope you have many blessings to be grateful for, and can find it in your hearts to let go of hurts done you by those who meant well. But mostly I hope the turning of the year is a positive thing that leaves you in a better place than you were before; or if not, at least leads you along that path.

A very merry Christmas. I love you all.
missroserose: (Red Red Rose)
I'd forgotten how dazzling the snow-covered world is when the sun comes out. When I flicked the blinds open this morning I'm pretty certain I yelped as the light stilettoed its way into my dark-adapted retinas.

Yesterday was our first real snowstorm. Nothing life-stopping, just a few inches; it snowed steadily if not heavily for most of the day and into the night. (Brian called it "movie snow" - thick enough to be noticeable, but not so heavy as to obscure the shot, and not windy enough to muss the actors' careful coifs.) Much to my pleasant surprise, driving in it was not nearly so miserable as I'd anticipated. Most folk around here seem to understand the concept of "drive slowly and carefully when it's snowing and the roads are slick". The only part that made me raise my eyebrow was when, while turning left at a six-way intersection, the woman behind us started leaning on her horn when we didn't turn against the light. In a slick, unsalted intersection. While our path was still blocked by a string of gridlocked cars. Brian (who was driving and could see her in the rear view mirror) said she was yelling and screaming and about to have a coronary when we ended up waiting for another 90-second light cycle. I shrugged and thought maybe she was late for a job interview or her mother's deathbed or something, but we saw her not a minute later pulling into the Costco parking lot. (Maybe her mother was dying at Costco?) I guess that ninety seconds of her life must've been incredibly important to her. Maybe she's an transdimensional traveller and could see that we were literally ruining every single one of her futures by causing her to arrive at 12:45:28 instead of 12:44:02? Who knows. But I'm sure glad I don't live inside her head.

Nevertheless, we got a couple of errands done, including some new clothes for Brian, new wiper blades for the car (hurrah, Costco!), and an adjustment on Brian's 12-string (hurrah, Chicago Music Exchange!). And once we got home, I finally managed to clear the last of the boxes out of the living room...just in time to fill it with the Christmas tree and the boxes of decorations! Heh. Still, there's something rather appropriate-feeling about putting up the tree on the day of the first real snowfall. Now to find time to decorate...

Last week was busy, but fun. I dyed my hair red (see new icon) and bought a pretty silk chiffon skirt and wore both to Brian's new company's Christmas party, which is a pretty good-size event. I got to meet and befriend an out-of-town friend's girlfriend, who is super-awesome - intelligent and kind-hearted and also gorgeous; I can totally see why my friend is so into her, and it's awesome to see her so happy. And I got to see a couple of art museums around town, including the local Mexican Museum of Folk Art and the Art Institute's display of Food and Art, which included the originals of both Norman Rockwell's Freedom From Want and Edward Hopper's Nighthawks. (Seeing the latter in person was especially entertaining, as I'd seen roughly eighty billion Photoshopped versions but never spent much time looking at the original.)

Social meetings continue apace. I've managed to tentatively befriend one girl near my age who moved here from South Carolina; she's planning to bring her boyfriend over for dinner come January when she's back from touring with her current theater group and visiting family over Christmas. And I met another at the Evening with Paul and Storm and Patrick Rothfuss; we're meeting up at the Christkindlmarket tonight at 6. Hurrah for making friends somewhat faster than I did in Arizona. Or at least, signs pointing in that direction.

Also? For all my Alaskan upbringing, after four years of AZ, there's something a little shocking about pulling up the weather forecast and seeing the low for this evening marked as a single digit. Almost as weird as it was the first year in Arizona seeing triple-digit highs. Guess I must like extremes.

Pi Day!

Mar. 14th, 2013 09:52 am
missroserose: (Inspire)
I made a cherry pie a week or two ago, and it was decreed by everyone who tried it (which is to say, Brian and me) to be the absolute best cherry pie they had ever had. Conveniently, I happened to pick up the ingredients for another yesterday (it was just that good), and then today my friends list did its annual "OMG Pi Day!" dance. I guess I'll be making another one tonight.

In case anyone else is feeling inspired by Pi Day, here's the recipe for the best cherry pie ever:

3 cans of sour cherries in water (reserving 1/2 cup of the water)
3 tablespoons cornstarch
1-1/4 cups raw cane sugar (the kind from the natural foods store, with the molasses left in - regular white sugar will work but the flavor is nowhere near as good)
Strained juice from half a lemon
1/4 teaspoon almond extract
2 unbaked pie crusts

Drain the cherries, measure the 1/2 cup of water into a bowl, and whisk together with all the other ingredients until everything is dissolved. Add cherries, stir gently until everything is coated, and let stand 15 minutes (or longer - I usually let it sit an hour while I make and chill the pie crusts).

Pour into bottom crust, then brush edges with cold water and top with a solid or lattice crust*, trim, and crimp or flute. Bake at 425 degrees for 30 minutes, then slip a baking sheet beneath it, reduce temperature to 350 degrees, and bake until the juice bubbles through the vents (about thirty minutes more). Let cool completely on a rack (the hardest part, I know!) before serving.



*How to make a lattice crust: This is much easier than it looks, and a great way to cover a pie when you end up a little short of dough for a top crust. Roll out your top crust, then cut it into uniform strips (I usually make mine between 1/2" and 3/4" wide). Set three or four of them loosely atop the pie going one direction, leaving space roughly equal to their width between each. Then, bend back alternating strips about halfway up the pie (gently, so as not to break the dough), and lay a new strip across the non-bent ones. Lay the bent strips back down, and then bend the opposing set of strips back and repeat the process. When the one side is done, turn the pie 180 degrees and do the same thing. Voila, instant lattice crust and no worries about getting it onto the pie without undoing all your careful construction.
missroserose: (Pimpin' Mayhem)
It's not unusual for it to snow in Bisbee; we're high enough in elevation that, come winter, it regularly gets below freezing at night. Sooner or later during the year, we'll get some precipitation on a cold night, and wake up to an inch or two of snow on the ground. Everyone gets pictures and makes snowmen before it melts later that day. No big deal.

It's somewhat less common to wake up to an entire foot of snow on the ground.

But this New Year's Eve, we were graced with a lovely blanket of snow. And while some of it melted during the day, there was enough of it to stick around for a few days. Even now, a week and a half later, there's patches of it on the hillsides. It's actually pretty entertaining - you can really see which parts of Bisbee get lots of sun during the day, and which stay in shade.

Unfortunately, being desert dwellers, our immune systems are not used to this kind of weather. Lo and behold, everyone in Bisbee has a case of the sniffles. It's one of those extra-nasty lingering bugs, too, that sticks around long after it should be gone. I've had it for a week now, and while I seem to be over the worst of it, the recovery is see-sawing around a lot more than I'd like. (Yesterday, despite a scratchy throat, I went out and ran errands and was generally productive. Today just walking to work was enough to give me that light-headed "you're overexerting yourself" feeling. But I still put in a good full day's worth of work. Eat that, cold virus.)

Nonetheless, New Year's was wonderful - [personal profile] cyrano came to visit, and brought the lovely [personal profile] lucia with him. We had a lovely dinner, and although our walking-about-town plans afterward were curtailed somewhat by the temperature and snow, we instead snuggled on the couch and watched Moulin Rouge. (I can report with near-100% certainty that, in addition to being beautiful, intelligent, and lovely to talk to, [personal profile] lucia is also deliciously soft and gives the sweetest snuggles.) I was sad to wave goodbye to them the next day, but life does get in the way of vacation. Alas.

My most recently completed project is replenishing my underwear drawer, which has been in a rather sad state for some time now. In the process, I discovered that I'm now a 34D - I guess that's the upside of having gained a fair amount of weight? I'm a little amused, though; if you told my barely-A-cup 18-year-old self that someday I'd be a D cup, I would've laughed myself sick. It certainly explained why none of my old bras seemed to fit, even aside from them being kind of raggedy and worn. Several trips to Victoria's Secret, a botched online order, a couple of returns, and a rather embarrassing amount of money later, I now have seven bras (five padded, two unpadded, in all sorts of pretty colors) and assorted matching undies, all brand-new, all extremely well-fitting, and several quite fancy. (I made the mistake of letting the salesgirl talk me into trying on one of their $50 bras as well as a $30 one...I figured it'd be nicer, but not $20 nicer. I was wrong.) I feel even more pleased than I expected about this. Wearing a poorly-fitting bra is hardly a life-ruining experience, but it is a constant low-level irritation. You get acclimated to it and eventually don't notice it anymore, but boy, you sure notice when it's gone.

Still waiting on a response from Berklee College of Music, although that's hardly surprising - they don't mail them out until the latter half of this month. I did get an email from their financial aid department, asking me to fill out the FAFSA so that, if I was accepted, they could determine what sort of awards I was eligible for. According to the government, I'm likely eligible for a $9,500 subsidized loan, which may be something to consider if they offer me a partial scholarship. It's inexpensive money (3.7% interest, which the government pays while I'm in school and for six months afterward), but on the other hand, that's between thirty and forty thousand dollars I would owe by the time I got my degree. That's a difficult financial hit to take. *And* it's less than a third of tuition alone. Sigh. I'd have to sell a lot of CDs to make that up.

In the meantime, though, I have Kalia back! I sent her back to Takamine for warranty service because the action on her lower frets was rather high, and the local guitar guy thought the neck was slightly skewed. They decided the neck was fine and she just needed a set-up and re-stringing, then sent her back. (Well, at least I got a new set of strings for my $44 in postage. Grr.) She's still a gorgeous guitar, though, and it's wonderful to have her back (...three months later), so I'm not holding any grudges. Mostly.

Speaking of which, I believe it's time I continued our getting reacquainted. If you'll pardon me...
missroserose: (Christmas Picard)
{A whole Christmas season and I haven't used my Picard icon once? Shame on me. Better fix that, even if it's not quite a perfect fit for the mood.}

Christmas has been lovely. Last night the Bisbee Royale (local bar/stage/venue that was refurbished and opened up this year) was showing A Christmas Story, which I'd somehow managed to miss all through my childhood. (Brian had been meaning to watch it with me, but he grew up with 24-hour marathons of it on TNT, so he'd never quite been able to work up much enthusiasm to rent it.) While I will happily agree with him that it's not a great movie, watching it half-blitzed on excellent cognac with a whole group of folks cackling equally loudly at poor Ralphie is possibly the ideal way to enjoy it. Especially when you have a husband to drive you home.

We did get home, and opened our presents; I got Brian a lot of silly toys from ThinkGeek, including a cuddly Portal turret to go with the cuddly Endeavour shuttle he got at the California Science Center (how did I forget to mention that we went to see Endeavour while we were in LA?), and he got me a couple of books and a lovely new shirt. The standout gift, though, had to be the gorgeous wine stopper our landlords gave us - it has a sculpture of a copper butterfly with the most gorgeous cloisonne work. My favorite kind of art: gorgeous, functional, and likely to get a goodly amount of use.

For Christmas Day, we invited our friends Evan and Michelle over to hang out while Brian made an amazing ham dinner. I even used a tablecloth and set the table and everything - I was a little surprised to find that over the years we've managed to accumulate some lovely Christmas dishes, nice glassware, candles, and a centerpiece. It's like we have an actual household with nice holiday things! Not that I'm complaining; mostly I was just a bit surprised, as I've never really set out to accumulate special china or what have you.

Now the friends have gone (taking some leftovers with them, thankfully), and the house is quiet once more. I feel like there should be softly falling snow outside, though of course there isn't (it's 46 degrees out, after all). And I feel...not let down, exactly. But contemplative.

Honestly, I've always found the tail end of Christmas to be a far more contemplative/wistful time than New Year's. New Year's is exciting; it's the beginning of another cycle, full of all sorts of possibilities. Christmas, especially the end of Christmas...it's another year done with. Everything important, all the big milestones and events and plans, are over. You're just in that strange week-long limbo until the calendars all tick over and you can start something new.

(Now that I think on it, it's always felt odd to me, that week between Christmas and New Year's. Poised between two stages, as it were. I'm almost certain I've read about various indigenous cultures that had terms for that state of in-betweeness, often with rather interesting beliefs about it - a child who had reached their age of majority but not yet completed their rite of passage into adulthood, for instance, was in some cultures thought to be without a soul (having given up their childhood soul but not yet gained their adult one). I remember as a kid thinking that this last week of the year felt oddly...empty, somehow. Like a held breath, just waiting for the right moment to let it all out.)

It's been a good year in many, many ways. Brian and I have managed to get better at communicating and to improve on more than a few issues in our relationship. I bought a guitar and have been learning to play it (although it seems weird to think that I've been playing for less than a year; it's really felt more like I've always been a guitarist, and just been on break for a while, and am reminding myself how it all goes again). I traveled to the East Coast for the first time, and spent some time with a good friend while also meeting the nifty people he lives with/around. I auditioned for a prestigious music school, despite it being [a] scary as hell, [b] quite a bit of effort and [c] a long shot anyway. I went back to Alaska and saw people I miss greatly, while also confirming my hunch that, frankly, I've outgrown the place.

But I think I'm ready to move on. This next year promises to be interesting, though so far it's been coy as to the details. And the only way to find them out, really, is to go forward.

Onward and upward...
missroserose: (Hippie Musician)
In a very strange headspace this morning. My brain apparently decided to have a "Let's get all wired and run run run like a hamster in a wheel all night and maybe get a grand total of two hours of sleep!" party, and I woke up feeling every missed hour with interest - but once I sat up and got some coffee in me, the grogginess disappeared and I actually felt surprisingly alert. Definitely beats the alternative (especially given that I'm covering the gallery alone today), but it sort of makes me wonder whether I just *feel* alert and am actually zoning out something fierce, or if I've hit that point where my subconscious is taking over and I'll find at the end of the day that I've written my masterpiece in between waiting on customers. Jury's still out.

Thanksgiving was a lovely holiday. We went to Scott and Niki's place in Sierra Vista to cook for them (would have invited them to our place, but they have a three-year-old daughter and our house is definitely not childproof). Not only did that mean we had friends to share the holiday with, but Brian's turkey dinner got rave reviews from their ten-year-old daughter - which, as anyone familiar with the species is aware, is one of the highest accolades one can earn. Additionally, Niki introduced me to Just Dance, which led to my searching for a used Kinect in the $50 price range, and not finding one anywhere online (where they all seem to run $70 or more). Discouraged, I decided to try the GameStop in Sierra Vista, even though I wasn't holding my breath after Black Friday - and it turned out they had so many of them they were selling them for $40 apiece, which was $20 off their usual price and less than half the cost of a new one. I'm not the biggest fan of GameStop's business model, and only rarely buy games from them, but the local one seems surprisingly well-run and we've gotten excellent deals on used gear there more than once. And I found two well-reviewed games (Dance Central 3 and Just Dance 4) on sale at Amazon for $25 each. Now to wait for them to arrive.

After five months and a good two-inches-plus of new growth, I've finally bleached my hair again. No clumps falling out, hurrah! I've been having fun using up leftover dye by mixing colors; this time, I mixed together a bunch of Cupcake Pink with my leftover Cherry Bomb, and came out with a rather nice slightly-orangey flamingo pink. It was a bit of a shock after the months of darker colors, and it's probably not quite as flattering as the purple or the burgundy I had going for a while, but the color's growing on me. I'm just a little sorry I'm not likely to go anywhere blacklit while I have the color, as both colors are blacklight-reactive and it would be fun to show it off. Ah well. It'll probably be back to something darker as my roots grow out again - new rule is I get to bleach once a month at most, and less is better. But it's fun to have something eye-searingly bright again.

Music is going...haltingly. I don't know why I have no problem practicing guitar daily but I'm so much more self-conscious about voice. One week I didn't practice at all. Last week I practiced once. I've gotten once in so far this week, and a couple more days until my lesson, so hopefully I can get another day in. I've barely done any work on sight reading, despite that being my weakest point - I tried a little bit, but felt like the slow kid in first grade who tries to follow along with their finger in the book but is obviously just watching the other kids to see where they put their fingers rather than reading the book themselves. Grah. I was able to accept that I was starting from day one with guitar, and I'm not even starting from day one with music - I already have the rhythms and note names down from my days playing flute. But it's still so hard to let go of that "I should already be good at this, dammit." Well. Nothing's going to change if I don't get going on it, and I really don't want to embarrass myself at my audition. So I'd best work on it tonight. Maybe sleep-deprivation will help with the self-consciousness as well as the creativity.
missroserose: (Masquerade)
Tonight, Brian and I went to Cabaret De Los Muertos, a variety show of local talent. Among other things, I finally discovered a use for dubstep - the trademark "wub-wub-wub-wub" sound works very well with the shimmying movements in bellydance. So apparently you *can* dance to dubstep - if you're a bellydancer, anyway.

Aside from the (plentiful, cute, and quite skilled) bellydance acts, there were some standouts on both ends of the scale:

The "Good Concept But Needed More Work" award went to a couple dressed as a devil and a Dia De Los Muertos skeleton, doing a tango of sorts. You could see the act that it was meant to be, and there were moments that were close, but the female dancer especially seemed a little too uncertain of her role to really pull it off.

The "Holy Shit Core Strength" award goes to Tiana, the organizer and lead bellydancer. She can backbend nearly parallel to the floor, slowly let herself down and drop to her knees, all the while waving her arms about in the air. I could...probably do that if I practiced. A lot. And didn't end up wrenching my knees in the drop.

Shortly after intermission came the "Well, At Least You Made Your Colleagues Look Good In Comparison" award, for the half-baked dude who tried very hard to do a half-baked standup act. Unfortunately, his half-baked rambling really wasn't that funny, though a couple of jokes about high fructose corn syrup got some laughs. Ah, Bisbee.

The "Capability But No Theatricality" award went to the girl who sang "Black Swan". Points to her for trying - that is not an easy song to sing, what with the dissonances and odd rhythms going every which way. Unfortunately, the sound system really wasn't set up for voice, so it was difficult to make out the words; and since she was focusing so much on the song, it left the performance feeling a little lacking. Still, she had a lovely voice and gave a memorable operatic-style rendition.

Shortly thereafter came the "Less Capability But Oodles of Theatricality" award winners, a group of genderbending performers calling themselves "Dance Matrix". They did a very Broadway-style dance to what had to be a Meatloaf song; none of them were what you'd call great dancers, but they understood that if you're going to perform to Meatloaf, you have to go all the fucking way or it just doesn't work. And I'll be damned if they didn't do exactly that. Frankly, they alone were worth the ticket price.

Unfortunately, Brian's getting over the latest bug that's been going around the County, so we went home after the show rather than going to any of the street parties or dances taking place. But as Halloween celebrations go, I can definitely think of worse ones.
missroserose: (Masquerade)
Tonight, Brian and I went to Cabaret De Los Muertos, a variety show of local talent. Among other things, I finally discovered a use for dubstep - the trademark "wub-wub-wub-wub" sound works very well with the shimmying movements in bellydance. So apparently you *can* dance to dubstep - if you're a bellydancer, anyway.

Aside from the (plentiful, cute, and quite skilled) bellydance acts, there were some standouts on both ends of the scale:

The "Good Concept But Needed More Work" award went to a couple dressed as a devil and a Dia De Los Muertos skeleton, doing a tango of sorts. You could see the act that it was meant to be, and there were moments that were close, but the female dancer especially seemed a little too uncertain of her role to really pull it off.

The "Holy Shit Core Strength" award goes to Tiana, the organizer and lead bellydancer. She can backbend nearly parallel to the floor, slowly let herself down and drop to her knees, all the while waving her arms about in the air. I could...probably do that if I practiced. A lot. And didn't end up wrenching my knees in the drop.

Shortly after intermission came the "Well, At Least You Made Your Colleagues Look Good In Comparison" award, for the half-baked dude who tried very hard to do a half-baked standup act. Unfortunately, his half-baked rambling really wasn't that funny, though a couple of jokes about high fructose corn syrup got some laughs. Ah, Bisbee.

The "Capability But No Theatricality" award went to the girl who sang "Black Swan". Points to her for trying - that is not an easy song to sing, what with the dissonances and odd rhythms going every which way. Unfortunately, the sound system really wasn't set up for voice, so it was difficult to make out the words; and since she was focusing so much on the song, it left the performance feeling a little lacking. Still, she had a lovely voice and gave a memorable operatic-style rendition.

Shortly thereafter came the "Less Capability But Oodles of Theatricality" award winners, a group of genderbending performers calling themselves "Dance Matrix". They did a very Broadway-style dance to what had to be a Meatloaf song; none of them were what you'd call great dancers, but they understood that if you're going to perform to Meatloaf, you have to go all the fucking way or it just doesn't work. And I'll be damned if they didn't do exactly that. Frankly, they alone were worth the ticket price.

Unfortunately, Brian's getting over the latest bug that's been going around the County, so we went home after the show rather than going to any of the street parties or dances taking place. But as Halloween celebrations go, I can definitely think of worse ones.
missroserose: (Masquerade)
Yes, Valentine's is hyper-commercialized and rote and more than a little ridiculous. And yet, somehow, I have a hard time accepting the idea that there's such an excess of love in the world as to make it not worth mentioning, worth celebrating, on this or any other day.

So stop complaining, read the poem, think on all the people you love, and tell them so today.

(Poem stolen from the lovely [livejournal.com profile] marialuminous.)

"Love Is Not All"
by Edna St. Vincent Millay

Love is not all: it is not meat nor drink
Nor slumber nor a roof against the rain;
Nor yet a floating spar to men that sink
And rise and sink and rise and sink again;
Love can not fill the thickened lung with breath,
Nor clean the blood, nor set the fractured bone;
Yet many a man is making friends with death
Even as I speak, for lack of love alone.
It well may be that in a difficult hour,
Pinned down by pain and moaning for release,
Or nagged by want past resolution's power,
I might be driven to sell your love for peace,
Or trade the memory of this night for food.
It well may be. I do not think I would.
missroserose: (Masquerade)
Yes, Valentine's is hyper-commercialized and rote and more than a little ridiculous. And yet, somehow, I have a hard time accepting the idea that there's such an excess of love in the world as to make it not worth mentioning, worth celebrating, on this or any other day.

So stop complaining, read the poem, think on all the people you love, and tell them so today.

(Poem stolen from the lovely [livejournal.com profile] marialuminous.)

"Love Is Not All"
by Edna St. Vincent Millay

Love is not all: it is not meat nor drink
Nor slumber nor a roof against the rain;
Nor yet a floating spar to men that sink
And rise and sink and rise and sink again;
Love can not fill the thickened lung with breath,
Nor clean the blood, nor set the fractured bone;
Yet many a man is making friends with death
Even as I speak, for lack of love alone.
It well may be that in a difficult hour,
Pinned down by pain and moaning for release,
Or nagged by want past resolution's power,
I might be driven to sell your love for peace,
Or trade the memory of this night for food.
It well may be. I do not think I would.

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