missroserose: (Kick Back & Read)
Hello, book friends! As I posted on Facebook, coming back from vacation is almost as much work as getting ready to go. Since returning on Sunday I've dyed my hair blue, bought groceries, made a playlist, taught two classes (with two more upcoming), run numerous errands, sent a nastygram to Hertz over being charged half again what Expedia promised, hosted two private massage clients, had Dominika and her husband over for dinner, and (according to Strava) biked nearly 20 miles all over Chicago. Still to do: mail presents to my mum, finish unpacking, clean out the fridge and microwave (seriously, it's been like two years and they're getting disgusting), create a Facebook page/website to connect with more potential massage/yoga clients, prepare for teaching my first yin yoga class on Sunday, winnow out my clothing/shoes/movies/general possessions, catch up on spring cleaning that I missed because my massage bookings went through the roof in May...and that's not even half of it. Augh! One step at a time.

Still, I've managed to carve out some time for reading, albeit less than I'd like since returning from vacation...


What I've just finished reading

Notes of a Native Son, by James Baldwin. I finally gave up on finding the time to read the paper copy of this I'd bought, and listened to the rest of the audiobook. It's good stuff, and thought-provoking, but I really don't think the format was right for me for this work; I've always been a faster and more thorough reader than listener (much to the frustration of my schoolteachers, heh), and audiobooks are frustratingly ephemeral when it comes to volumes that traffic in ideas - it's hard to consider and write about related experiences when the person just keeps talking. I do hope to reread on paper and consider more thoroughly, but as an overview of the ideas discussed it was definitely a good introduction.


What I'm currently reading

Come As You Are, by Emily Nagoski, Ph.D. This continues to be one of the most fascinating and (to borrow a term from the tech sector) disruptive books I've read on the subject of sexuality. The framework Nagoski presents is far more sexuality-positive, and particularly female-sexuality-positive, than the overall cultural narrative we all grew up with; I've noticed that Nagoski shares my fascination with personal and cultural storytelling, how it assigns meaning to our world, and how that meaning can be either beneficial or harmful to our sense of well-being. For instance, the hymen, possibly one of the most frequently misunderstood parts of feminine physiology, came to that point of misunderstanding largely due to patriarchal concerns over paternity, which led to a cultural narrative of female "purity" being perceived as desirable - despite the fact that the organ itself has little to do with a woman's sexual state.

I also particularly enjoyed the chapter on arousal nonconcordance, describing exactly what's going on when someone's genital behavior demonstrates arousal even when their brain is not sexually aroused. I was particularly interested in the correlation statistics; unsurprisingly, it's higher for men than for women. But even in men, it's only a 50% correlation; contrary to our cultural narrative, it's perfectly normal and in fact common for men to sport an erection without actually desiring sex. (This seems particularly significant given how often female-on-male rape is culturally dismissed, and likely hugely underreported, due to the supposed impossibility of it.) In women, nonconcordance is even higher - only about 10% of the time does increased bloodflow and lubrication correlate with actual sexual desire. Newsflash: our genitals are excellent at indicating sexually relevant scenarios (those where we perceive or expect to perceive sexual stimuli), but our brains are much, much pickier in terms of what actually turn us on.

As with the best sociological research, all of this seems fairly obvious in retrospect; the fact that few of us could have articulated it speaks to the power of cultural narrative (and the power of research to create better, more accurate narratives to displace them).

The Wicked and the Divine vol. 5: Imperial Phase Part I, by Kieron Gillen. The initial conspiracy arc having been (bloodily) resolved, the question for our various god-teenagers appears to now be, "What's next?" And, in the tradition of humans realizing sudden apparently-limitless power, the answer appears to be disturbingly close to, "Anything we want." For those of us familiar with the way such arcs usually go, the shape of the rest of the story is starting to be indicated; the hard limits may have been removed, but that seems most likely to have sealed our characters' fate. It's not difficult to imagine a bunch of teenagers given godlike powers self-destructing spectacularly, and well within the dictated two years' deadline; Baal in specific seems determined to avert that outcome, but it remains to be seen how successful he is. (The title indicates a couple of possibilities, neither of which bode well for regular humans.)

This collection begins with an award-winning issue, written in the style of a gossip magazine, where the authors had real-world writers "interview" the various gods (via chat roleplay) and write articles on them. It's a neat trick, adding surprising verisimilitude; the illustrations are spot-on for a fashion/gossip rag, and the writers add their own voices and reactions in a truly impressive way. For all that Satan remains the best character, and her interview is entertaining to say the least, my favorite is almost certainly feminist writer Laurie Penny going up against racist sexist man-child and self-proclaimed "shithead god" Woden. "And here the self-pity. It all comes out in a slosh of self-justifying red-pill logic that you really don't need me to describe. The biggest issue of all is Woden's specific limitation: unlike the other gods, he can only make magic for other people, which must be a bummer for a misanthrope." Reader, I about died laughing.


What I plan to read next

Still working on the currently-reading pile, heh. Seven books is a bit much, even for someone with my voracious appetites...
missroserose: (Balloons and Ocean)
Hello, fellow book nerds! Last Wednesday was a bit nuts; Brian and I were scrambling about trying to get all the last-minute preparations done for our trip to Washington state, only to discover that our pleasant evening flight had been delayed into an overnight flight thanks to thunderstorms shutting down O'Hare. (Thanks a lot, Chicago weather!) We made it eventually, although we had to shell out no small amount for Lyfts as transit wasn't running that late/early...ah well. The past week has been full of robot fights and gigantic waterfalls and a quick visit with the goddaughter and walks with my mother-in-law and driving. So much driving. And more later today. Washington state, why do you have to be so huge. >.>

And, of course, there has been reading!

What I've just finished reading

The Heiress Effect, by Courtney Milan. Incredibly generic covers aside, I've found this series to be one of my favorite period romances. It does suffer somewhat from the common "Regency romance that's basically modern people living in the trappings of the period" problem, but the characters are so well-drawn and likable that I enjoy them anyway, even if they're ultimately a little forgettable (except, perhaps, for Free and her Suffragettes! in book 4).


What I'm currently reading

Come As You Are: The Surprising New Science That Will Transform Your Sex Life, by Emily Nagowski, Ph.D. (Yeah, I'm reading roughly a million other books right now, but I bought this intending to read it right away...almost exactly two years ago, if the receipt is to be believed. :P In any case, I finally picked it up off my nightstand and brought it along for the trip.) If you're interested in sociology and sexuality, this is a fascinating book - far more interesting than Future Sex, for all that it's more science-based than memoir. Nagowski's big reveal (er, spoilers? She talks about it in literally the first chapter) is the accelerator/brakes model of sexual arousal, where rather than an on/off switch, eroticism is mostly a matter of context. So we react sexually when there are enough turn-ons present in the environment (say, presence of an attractive partner, sounds/sights of other people having sex, relaxed and receptive mood) and relatively few turn-offs (say, crying children, an unappreciative audience, history of sexual trauma, general life stress); ergo what we think of as "sex drive" is really as much a question of what's going on in the person's immediate surroundings and in their life.

I have a lot of thoughts on this theory. Primarily, Nagowski seems to think it's mostly applicable to women, because their sexuality is socialized in a more complex way; that may be true, but I strongly suspect it's true for a lot of men too, if perhaps to a lesser degree. Similarly, I don't think it's only sex that utilizes this mechanism; laughter, say, is heavily context-dependent, as articulated in the benign violation theory of humor. And the sympathetic/parasympathetic nervous system works in a similar way to generate a whole host of responses to a range of different situations. So I'll be interested to see where she takes it.

The Kissing Booth Girl and Other Stories, by AC Wise. I picked this up as part of the LGBTQ Humble Bundle (it doesn't count as buying new books if it's supporting a good cause, right??), and basically opened it up knowing nothing about it. It seems to be lyrical sci-fi stories with a queer bent; the worldbuilding's been a little scanty in the stories I've read so far, but the sheer human longing at the center of each has been strong and well-rendered enough to easily drive the plots forward.


What I plan to read next

Given that I currently have something like eight books on my currently-reading list, I think I'm going to be best served by finishing some of them before I start to plan more, haha.
missroserose: (Default)
When Brian and I went to Sweden to visit our dear friend Petra not long ago, we joked that we should go to IKEA and have meatballs just to be able to say we'd actually had Swedish meatballs in Sweden. Much to our surprise, Petra expressed almost violent disgust - "Those are fake meatballs!" So, of course, we asked her if she would share her family recipe for authentic Swedish meatballs, and she did us one better - she actually made them for us while we were there. So we did have real Swedish meatballs in Sweden! And it's turned out to be one of my favorite foods. (I do still have a soft spot for the IKEA ones, but having tasted the real thing, I can't help but agree - they're like the McDonalds version. Cheap and filling and not bad, but nowhere near as tasty.)

In the intervening year, Brian's made this recipe a number of times, and it's become one of my favorites - enough that my consumption of lingonberry jam has increased by a significant percentage this past year. Not only are they surprisingly simple and tasty, they also make a ton of leftovers that reheat very well! And given that I've had numerous people asking for the recipe on Facebook whenever I mention them, I thought I'd post it here.

Note that a lot of the proportions are approximate - feel free to experiment!


Köttbullar - Not IKEA style!

(Not vegan, gluten-free, or low-fat. Surprisingly low glycemic, though!)

1 yellow onion
Salt
White pepper
1 egg
2 lbs ground beef
2 lbs ground pork
1 cup milk or cream
1/2 cup flour
1 beef bouillon cube
Lingonberry jam

Chop up the onion into small pieces. (Note: I'm normally a fan of sweet onions, but the stronger flavor of a straight yellow onion works well here. So get out the goggles and start chopping!) Mix it in a large bowl with salt, white pepper, and an egg; add the minced meat and combine everything. Roll the mixture into balls.

Fry the balls on medium heat until they get a nice dark-brown crispy shell. Every time you fry a pan of meatballs, save the drippings.

When all the meatballs are fried, return drippings to the pan along with milk or cream, bouillon cube, salt, pepper, and enough flour for thickening. Whisk together and heat until it makes a nice thick gravy. Return the meatballs to the pan and simmer to reheat them and finish cooking them through.

For a delicious Swedish dinner, serve with red potatoes (boiled and quartered), salad, and lingonberry jam!
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)
Not that I figure anyone really had any doubt; I've been plenty active on Facebook and even a bit on Twitter. But for a while I feel like I've had long-form writer's block; I have several blog posts full of Big Thoughts and Theories percolating in my head, but nothing's coming out. So instead of trying to write about Big Thoughts and Theories, I'm going to fall back on my usual blogging habits and relate some small things that are happening in my life right now.

--Things continue to go well in my work life. I've settled into the spa job, and found it to be both interesting and fairly lucrative. There's little opportunity to build repeat clientele, but I'm gaining all kinds of experience working with different body types, and the tips have been quite good on the whole. My private bookings have seen a real boost too, thanks to some good word of mouth, and I've acquired several regulars. For the past couple of months I've been averaging two to three bookings a week, which doesn't seem bad at all given that I'm working out of my home and don't advertise other than in person. And I've had a few of the yoga teachers at the studio specifically ask for feedback on their assists, which is gratifying.

--I'm gearing up for another Big Summer of Travel; upcoming is a trip to Alaska to help my mother move into her (giant, gorgeous) new house. (Related: if anyone's interested in traveling to Alaska in the future, hit me up - I know a great place we can stay.) Shortly thereafter is a trip to Washington, DC to visit [personal profile] peacefulleigh's family. Also, my fellow Arizona-dwelling PNW expatriate friend Niki is finally escaping the desert, moving not fifteen minutes away from Leigh's clan. (I may or may not catch her this trip - her tentative schedule has her arriving a couple of days after I leave - but still. Hurrah for good friends living close to each other! It's the next best thing to having them both live close to me.) Then in September, I have plans to take my friend Elyse to Anchorage to do touristy things, then hop down to Juneau to visit friends I haven't seen there in far too long. I'm looking forward to it.

--My Goodreads friends may have noticed, I've been on a real comics kick lately. After a good friend did a killer cosplay of Gwendolyn from Saga, I figured I should read the source material, and am enjoying it greatly - I love the contrast of the crazypants fever-dream worldbuilding with the so-shopworn-as-to-almost-be-mundane (but lovingly told) story. Also, courtesy of my local comics shop's Memorial Day sale, I picked up the first volume of Sunstone (already read on DeviantArt, but worth revisiting and supporting the author both) and a new-to-me series called Paper Girls. Hopefully that'll tide me over until the new Wicked and the Divine comes out.

--One of the long-form posts I've intended to write and never gotten around to has been a product review of Soylent, featuring some of the goofy labels Brian's written on the bottles as illustrations. Having built something of a backlog at this point, I've started a Twitter account to share them with non-Facebook-using friends. Feel free to follow or retweet!

--I feel like I'm barely skimming the surface here, but for whatever reason this is what my brain's coming up with at the moment. So I'll post this now, and maybe it'll help rekindle my more (semi-)regular writing habits. I can hope!
missroserose: (Default)
Hallo from Vegas! (Or more precisely, Paradise, Nevada, as The Strip isn't technically in the city limits.) I was realizing that, while I mentioned my upcoming trip a number of times on Facebook, I never got around to writing about it here...I've been busy enough that my blogging has kind of suffered.

It's been an interesting week. I'm here because Brian has a work conference and thus had the hotel space (a damn nice suite at the Cosmopolitan) paid for. I'd basically expected to spend almost the entire time either by the pool or hiding away in the hotel room, catching up on reading and napping and letter-writing (and blogging, heh) and all the stuff I've been neglecting due to my work and social schedule. Instead I've found myself doing far more of the touristy things than I'd anticipated. I have a lot of thoughts percolating in my head about my expectations versus the reality of the place, along with some classic Big Questions about art vs. artifice, the occasionally-fine line between service and exploitation, and how one's experience of a place can drastically differ depending on one's presentation, socioeconomic status, and ability to set boundaries. (Because apparently I can't even go on vacation without my brain turning it into a sociological dissertation.) Whether or not they make it into a post is up in the air, but suffice it to say, I've enjoyed myself rather a lot more than I anticipated. Not enough to make it a destination of my own choice, necessarily - week-long stays in swanky suites with giant soaking tubs aren't exactly cheap, and for that kind of cash, I'd rather go to Europe - but enough that I'd happily tag along again.

Unfortunately, Brian managed to pick up some con crud, which he graciously passed along to me...and even more unfortunately, it's been the rare bug that hit me far harder than him. He felt under the weather for maybe a day; I've spent the past thirty hours coughing and sniffling and fighting a fever. The good news, however, is that the fever recently broke, which in addition to that "I'm a new woman!" feeling means I won't have to fly tomorrow while feverish (fingers crossed). So that's a pretty big relief.

A few experiences that have stood out:

--The Fountains at the Bellagio. A truly stunning bit of public art, and well worth the accolades. Our suite's terrace overlooks the fountains; I've spent a lot of time watching them both from here and ground level. As a side note, I've been a little amused at how much the compressed-air boom of the Shooter jets, combined with the hiss of the water hitting the lake again, sound like an approaching monsoon.

--Truly excellent local buskers. A couple of standouts: a youngish kid playing the heck out of an electric violin, and an older gentleman singing Motown with all of his heart (which is the only correct way to sing Motown). The latter was especially cleverly placed at the bottom of one of the open-air escalators, so you had the whole ride down to listen to him; I wanted to tip him, but doing so on the Strip can be tricky - the place is littered with hawkers of tickets and titties and God knows what else waiting to pounce on you the moment you pause, and they can smell an open wallet like sharks smell blood. I was pretty proud of the strategy I came up with on the fly - I used the time on the escalator to fish a bill from my wallet, strode toward the busker at my usual "I've got places to go be fabulous that aren't here" pace, dropped it in his tip bucket, gave him a big smile and accepted his high-five, all without breaking stride - and leaving the inevitable crowd of hawkers and their "Oh, hey, Miss, come back here, can I interest you in..." in the dust. Kinda felt like I should've gotten a power-up for that one. Or at least an Xbox Live achievement.

--A shopping/fashion critical success. It's been much cooler here than we anticipated - the forecast had originally said highs of 85 all week, and instead it's ranged from the mid-fifties to sixties. Given that the only real coat I'd brought was my heavy wool winter one, I thought I'd look for an inexpensive jacket with long sleeves. Unfortunately, it being springtime in the desert, neither Marshall's nor Ross had any kind of outerwear section to speak of. I poked my nose in a couple of clothing retailers, but everything I found was either far too casual for the clothes I'd brought or far too expensive (or, in some cases, both). I'd about given up when I saw a sale rack at a White House | Black Market; lo and behold, the very first thing I pulled off of it was a black bolero blazer that both went perfectly with my outfit (a black maxi skirt and long pink shirt that matched my hair) and classed up the whole look. Even better, it fits a niche in my wardrobe I've been meaning to fill for a while - I'd been looking for something I could wear over a dress when it was just a little chilly out. All of that, *and* it was a whopping $30 on sale. Score.

--Brian being awesome. I've been more than a little grouchy about being bedridden for the past day and a half. (I really wanted to ride the High Roller before we left; I have an irrational fondness for Ferris wheels, and it's the largest one in the world, set over a glittering neon wonderland. Sign me up!) Brian's been an absolute champ, listening to me grouse, fetching me soup and tea, and generally making sure I don't stew in my own misery. He really went above and beyond, though, when I asked him if he could get me a hot toddy from one of the bars downstairs. After striking out at the bar (him, via text: "Turns out you can get anything in Vegas but a hot drink"), he went to the coffee shop and ordered tea with honey, took it to the Chandelier bar to get a shot of whiskey poured in, then (at their suggestion, since apparently they were far too chic to keep such a pedestrian garnish around) hit up another bar to get a lemon wedge. So I got my hot toddy after all, and he only had to trot all over the hotel to get it for me. <3
missroserose: (Default)
Having grown up in the Pacific Northwest, where "fall" is basically a two-week period between "all the trees turn colors overnight" and "the first big windstorm comes along and sweeps all the leaves away", it's interesting to me how comparatively elongated the Midwest version is. Some trees are eager to be the first to show off their bright foliage; but even once they've shed their leaves and begun their winter rest, others are more demurely turning, a few leaves at a time. Even when the wind kicks up a few weeks later, only some of the trees are ready to undress, while others stubbornly cling to their coverage. "Fall" seems an inappropriately staccato word for the season; I think I've started to understand why some people prefer the term "autumn".

Getting home from Washington was a little odd, emotionally. I've been traveling so much of late - I think, of the past four months, I've spent five weeks out of town - that it didn't quite feel real, coming home to my bedroom and my bed and my home, and realizing I didn't have to have plans in place for my next trip. Frankly, my bed almost felt a little alien, like it wasn't really mine; that seems like a good indicator that it's time to let the rest of the world take care of itself, and not rush to fill my calendar with more trips, even though I have so many friends (and places!) I'd like to see.

Besides, now is when I need to be focusing on my career, on building clientele and finding continuing education and generally figuring out how to be the best massage therapist I can be. Immediate plans include getting training in pregnancy massage and finding a good opportunity to learn more in-depth myofascial work; future ideas include looking into that trauma-therapy class [livejournal.com profile] gows recommended, and keeping my eyes open for future opportunities to study physical therapy. (It seems an unlikely path at the moment, as I'd have to finish my bachelor's and then take a two-year course on top of that, none of which comes cheap time- or money-wise. But at one point I thought the same thing about massage school, and I found a way to make it work. So we'll see where my experiences take me.) Additionally, the school director has been talking to me about possibly taking over some of the science classes she's been teaching, which would be awesome experience and a nice way to earn extra money without wearing myself out physically. I can't wait to teach an anatomy class that consists entirely of having the students write a version of "I Am The Very Model of a Modern Major General" about the origins, insertions, and actions of muscles.

And frankly, I'm glad to have the time to enjoy my city; there's so much going on at any given time that I can't possibly make all of it (especially now that I have a schedule to work around), but I've managed to have some awesome experiences nonetheless. Last weekend [livejournal.com profile] gracewanderer and [livejournal.com profile] cyranocyrano came to stay, and we all went to see the closing weekend of the Chicago Shakespeare Company's The Tempest. Brian and I had already seen it at opening and were blown away, as much by the quality of the acting as by the costumes and sets (featuring a delightfully run-down Depression-era circus theme) and the music (which you could tell from basically the first chord was written by Tom Waits, and was sung and played amazingly well by a small band onstage). Plus the onstage magic sequences were just stunning (hardly surprising, as Teller co-directed). But the actors really carried the day; it was one of the few big-budget Shakespeare renditions I'd seen where you didn't awe at the big setpiece sequences...and then settle back to wait for the wordsy parts to be done so you could see the next big impressive thing. I've noticed folks are much pickier about standing ovations in Chicago than they are in the PNW, but these folks got one both times I saw them, and they well deserved it.

I think I'm going to make more of an effort to take in Chicago's amazing theatre and concert scene this winter. It can get tricky, what with working three evenings a week - I had to pass on Vanessa Carlton earlier this month, which made me sad. But I think it'll be good for me to get out of the house more as the months get colder. I'm already working on getting back to my three-plus-times-a-week yoga schedule (as my sore quadriceps attest) and the improvement in sleep quality and focus at work is pretty clear. So here's to being a little more settled -- but not sedentary! -- for the next year or so.
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I'm in Seattle, and appear to have lucked out with regards to the weather - it's been sunny and warm (for Seattle) and absolutely lovely with the fall colors just coming out. Monday I take the train up to Mt. Vernon to see Donna for the first time in far too long and meet my goddaughter, but for now I'm enjoying spending some time in one of my favorite cities. It still entertains me how the smells here translate to "home" for me in a way Chicago doesn't yet; much as I love my new city, that crisp-cool cedar-and-spruce smell just makes me feel at ease in a way few environments do.

[livejournal.com profile] thewronghands, whose social network I've long admired from afar, is graciously letting me stay in her swanky digs and meet a few of her local friends; especially graciously as she's kind of been swallowed by work lately. (Luckily I'm a little familiar with the "work is eating your world" crunch-time environment, heh.) But I've still gotten to meet [livejournal.com profile] canyonwren, whom I've long suspected is pretty awesome, after years of seeing her comment on LJ. Hi! *waves*

Adora Belle has adjusted far faster than we had dared hope, and is already sleeping in her kitty bed (as opposed to jammed under the far corner of the guest bed) and wanting to be let out to explore the rest of the house. Brian has been carefully introducing her to the other cats; as expected, she gets on fine with Dexter, and things look more or less okay with Tripp, but Leo's really not sure about all of this, and there's been some hissing and growling on his part. So, time to find some baby gates at a thrift shop and see about convincing him that she won't eat him. Sigh. I foresee our treat reserves becoming rather lower over the next couple weeks.

Work has continued to go well, although the clinic has had an extraordinarily slow October - possibly due to the Cubs hoopla and everyone saving their pennies for beer at Wrigley Field. Still, I've had a few rebookings - including one particularly enthusiastic client who told me she'd been telling all her friends to book with me - and I'm starting to get hits from the business cards I've been passing out. And as much fun as I've been having in Washington, I'm actually kind of missing work. Which was never a phrase I thought I would utter. Clearly I've been replaced by a pod person.
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Sweden was, as expected, lovely. Petra really went out of her way to make us feel welcome. I admit, I was slightly concerned at the thought of the three of us squeezing into a small apartment for ten days, especially since she was sleeping on her couch in order to cede us her bed. Fortunately, her apartment was actually pretty good-sized, and (as I had reason to discover when I came down with the airport plague on the trip there) her couch was similarly generous in its proportions, as well as comfortable. So we all managed just fine.

What I didn't expect was precisely how similar Sweden's climate is to Alaska's. In retrospect, it's not exactly surprising - similar latitudes, similar climates, similar geological history with glaciers and whatnot from the Ice Age carving out the landscape - but it felt downright strange to be walking along a forested path, thinking about how pleasantly familiar everything looked/smelled, only to hear a bird call I didn't recognize or see an oak tree growing amongst the birches, and realize that I was halfway across the globe, after all. (There was also, I was amused to note, a similar variability in weather; from windy to pouring down rain to sunny, all within ten minutes.)

Given that we were in Europe, where the history comes from, we spent a goodly amount of time going out to old fortresses and houses. One of my favorites was Gunnebo House and Gardens, a country estate with a beautiful house commissioned by a merchant who had made it big during the start of the Industrial Revolution. (Luckily for us, we were the only people looking for a tour in our time slot, so the guide was happy to give us the tour in English.) The architect who designed it was something of a perfectionist, and it shows; the neoclassical lines and symmetry are just beautiful, if taken to occasional extremes (the guide pointed out numerous blind doors added purely for show, as well as hidden doors that looked like part of the wallpaper until you turned the key, which must have been entertaining for guests wandering around in the middle of the night). Unfortunately, the family fortune met a swift end due to both economic factors and the heir's unsuitability as a man of business; the house passed through several sets of hands over the decades, falling into greater and greater disrepair, until it was eventually purchased by the local government as a historic site; the restoration work so far has been piecemeal but high quality.

I found it especially interesting, after reading so many romances that take place during the late 18th and early 19th century; it was a good-sized house, but what really struck me was how small many of the rooms actually were. Even the large salon, where the hosts held dances, wasn't that much bigger than my living room. Admittedly, this wasn't exactly a manor house, just a country villa meant to get away from the hustle and bustle of city life; still, it was more than a little eye-opening.

Other highlights included taking the train to Stockholm to see the The Vasa, a 17th-century war galleon that was so poorly designed and overloaded with guns that it floundered and sank into freezing low-oxygen water on its maiden voyage...and, consequently, was extraordinarily well preserved for for three and a half centuries until the Swedes managed to fish it out and put it in a museum, when all its better-built contemporaries were destroyed. (Historical irony!) And we got to meet up with [personal profile] vatine and experience international karaoke; I was somewhat amused to discover that 80s music is just as popular a choice for karaoke in Sweden. My favorite non-American song that I heard was Björn Skifs' "Michelangelo"; it tickles me how incredibly 80s it manages to be, even though I didn't have the foggiest idea what it was about until Petra gave me a rough translation. (It's a dude singing about how gorgeous his girlfriend is and how Michelangelo should come paint her because "her smile will make the Mona Lisa ask to be taken down". So 80s.)

On a more personal note, I think I mentioned before that I had something of an irrational fear of international travel - where some people are afraid of spiders or heights, my fears all center around being lost in an unfamiliar place, being unable to understand those around me, and being unable to make myself understood. Obviously this was a pretty ideal trip with regards to those fears; almost everyone in Sweden speaks English, we had our friend to guide us and translate anything complicated, and between her presence and the existence of GPSs I wasn't in any danger of getting hopelessly lost. So I was able to make it through and enjoy myself without too much trouble. But...it was still stressful, not being able to read things. I could figure out some of it from pictures and symbols and the few words I do know, and after I'd been there for a few days (and had Petra translate a few things) it felt less like an incomprehensible jumble of syllables. But...man. Am I ever not used to being functionally illiterate. People tell me I seem so together; I don't think I'd realized how much of that was "I instinctively read everything around me, so I know stuff like where exits are and who's on the front page of the paper and what's being advertised". (And that's not even going into missing cultural context like "I know why that advertisement is problematic and who people think should be on the front page of the paper instead.") And...not having that together-ness is something of an emotional strain for me. I found myself retreating to the bathroom rather more often than I normally do, just so I could breathe deeply and touch up my lipstick and otherwise try to re-center myself and get my mental shields back in place.

Still, I only had one minor bout of homesickness midway through the trip, as compared to nearly every day the last time I traveled overseas (which was, admittedly, decades ago). So it's an improvement! I just wish I could be more comfortable going with the flow sometimes, I guess; I think I'd have a much better time if I could let go of that need to know as much as possible about any given situation. But since I apparently can't, at least I have Google and Duolingo and kind friends to fill in the gap.
missroserose: (Hello Grumpy)
We made it through the seven-hour overnighter from O'Hare to Heathrow just fine, although my streak of not sleeping on airplanes remains sadly unbroken. (Snuggling a brought-from-home pillow, I managed to doze slightly, but I seem incapable of actually falling asleep sitting up. I find myself genuinely considering saving up for business-class seats next time; paying three and a half times the coach fare almost seems worth it to arrive at least a little rested.) Somewhat oddly, despite getting at least a few hours of sleep, Brian's been much grumpier than I have; I don't know if I handle sleep deprivation better, or if my background grumpiness levels are higher and thus a little extra grump is less noticeable on me.

But really, the whole reason this entry exists is so I can post this picture of him conked out on the floor of Terminal 5:



I may just join him. Intrepid international adventurers, the both of us.
missroserose: (Balloons and Ocean)
The Summer of All The Travel continues. One week until we leave for Sweden! The flight is going to be...interesting; we're flying overnight into Heathrow, and then have a six hour layover before the flight to Gothenberg. Given how well I sleep on planes (read: I can't), I was thinking about booking a hotel room to catch some rest between flights, but then I looked at the prices for the Heathrow Hilton...and since the layover is during the day, we'd probably have to reserve two nights. Nope. Nope nope nope. I'm willing to be a little sleep deprived in order to save three hundred pounds, thanks. So, flying sleep-deprived into a foreign country...it'll be an adventure! Maybe I'll be too tired for my ambiguphobia to trigger? We'll see!

Travel plans for my Washington trip in October are coming together. I'm flying in to Seattle on the 21st and spending a couple of days there before taking the train out to Mt. Vernon (and Donna, and my goddaughter!) on the 24th. I have emails out to a couple of friends I'd like to stay with. I'm hoping to get my tattoo while I'm there, but I'm unsure if it's a piece that can be done in a single sitting; I've emailed the artist I'd like to work with, but haven't heard back yet. I'm hoping I didn't come off as a dilettante wasting her time; I mentioned that this was my first tattoo, and I'm sure my questions belied my relative inexperience, but I'm absolutely serious about wanting to get this done.

Obligatory Craigslist grumping: I'm trying to sell the massage table I used for school - it's a good table, and in great shape. I put up a Craigslist ad with pictures, and got a couple of hits overnight, but both of them were...shall we say, curt? Admittedly, both came through the iPhone app (and had "Sent from my iPhone" appended to them), but usually one of the ways I filter out the flakes/scammers is by looking for people who take the time to compose a proper message using full sentences and punctuation. Even on an iPhone, is the difference in time between "Still have table" (seriously, that was the entirety of the message) and "I'm interested in looking at this table, do you still have it for sale?" really that difficult? Maybe I'm just old-fashioned.

Faith in humanity restoration: Humans of New York's campaign to help a Pakistani woman fight the horrible institution of bonded labor. HoNY is one of my favorite corners of the Internet, in no small part because the comments on their Facebook page have managed to stay one of the few uniformly-positive and hopeful communities I’ve ever encountered online. Seeing the pictures of this woman, reading her story, and seeing how quickly the numbers are ticking up on her donation page, just gives me the warmest feeling. I hope she gets closer to her goal than she ever thought possible.
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)
*surfaces* *waves* Hi everyone! I'm still here! Better than that, I'm doing wonderfully. I'm probably going to still be in limited-social-media mode for a couple of months, however, so you'd best get your photos now! Assuming this sighting is not just a prank being perpetuated by forces unknown.

Summer and winter are both wonderful, but I have to say that for my money, I particularly love spring and fall. They're the transition times: in spring, our sluggish blood starts to move faster, waking up from the long dark winter and reminding us that life is out there to be lived. And several months later, after the manic rush to experience the glorious summer weather and all the associated opportunities for community connection and celebration, autumn comes and encourages us to slow down, to contemplate where we are, where we're going, and where we'd like to be when we finally settle in for the long cold nights.

Spring here is rapidly turning into summer, however, and my calendar is filling up. Some updates, both on current events and future plans:

School: A month and a half left, and still averaging a 97.6%. Not that it really matters; no one asks about your grades in the field. But it makes me happy to know. :) I just started my Conditions class, which I'm very much enjoying; that's where I get to learn specific techniques to help people with particular muscular issues. First lesson: do not overuse your thumbs during a full day of practical classes after weeks of mostly-academic work. (Ow.) Second lesson, related: soaking your hands in cold water really works to reduce inflammation, even if you have to swear up a blue streak to do it.

Travel Plans, Concrete: I have tickets to Anchorage, July 23 to August 4, to visit my mother. Are you in the area? Are you reading this? Then chances are I'd love to see you! Let me know if that's a possibility and we'll make it work. And then later that month (August 24 through September 4), Brian and I both have tickets to Gothenberg to visit my friend Petra. Yay for facing my fear of international travel! Yay for seeing dear friends! (Also yay for built-in housesitters - when my mother-in-law heard our plans, she was all, "Okay, I'm housesitting for you." She'd never been to Chicago before visiting us last Christmas, and kept calling us during our first year here - "The news says fifteen people were shot this week! Are you guys all right?" Then when she stayed with us for a couple of weeks, she went from being clearly hesitant to leave our apartment to "You guys want to stay here? No problem, I'm going to take the bus downtown, bye!" So we're kind of cheering for her and possibly her sisters to come stay and paint Andersonville red while we're gone.)

Travel Plans, Hazy: A dear friend of mine in Washington is expecting in October; I've sent her a letter offering to be an extra pair of (massage-trained!) hands around that time. If she's interested, I'd kind of also like to stay in Seattle a couple of days; I have a few friends in the area and can probably find a couch to crash on, especially since I can pay in trade. :) It's been a while since I spent any real time there, and it's still one of my favorite cities. Plus, now that I've accomplished something that feels worthy of a tattoo to mark it, I'm thinking I might hit up one of the artists at Hidden Hand Tattoo - I've heard very good things about them, and their work is collectively pretty outstanding. But we'll see how it goes; I haven't even heard back from my friend yet, let alone worked out finances or tickets.

Future Plans, Also Hazy: People keep asking me what I'm planning to do after school, and my answer is generally "Read! And play guitar!" Since I haven't had the time to do much of either for the past six months. Career-wise, there's probably going to be a gap of a couple of months between graduating/applying for my license and receiving it; word is there's something of a backup on background checks due to various local political reasons. I'm thinking I'll apply to work at the school's associated clinic to start; it's not the highest-paid option, but they treat their employees well and there are numerous additional opportunities for related work like teaching if I want to pick up extra experience. Eventually I want to branch out into my own practice, but for now I'm okay with working for someone else, especially since I know it's a good group of folks who pull together when crises hit.

Celebrity, accidental: Thanks to a fortuitously-timed public expression of empathy, I recently was featured on a new local podcast focusing on Craigslist's "missed connections" section. It's not really fifteen minutes of fame, but I got to talk about the fascinating social tension between our desire to help others and our fear of making things worse, and also about stripping down in a convertible and incidentally making a truck driver's day. The producer did a really fun job with the Rango sound effects, too. Check it out! Mine is episode 3, "To The Girl Crying".
missroserose: (After the Storm)
It's been a good couple of weeks.

Last week I was at my mother's for Thanksgiving. We had a holiday dinner, and decorated her house, and I got to see the Eugene Ballet's touring version of The Nutcracker twice. (Short version of long story: my mother was going to take Brian and me and my friend Carl and his girlfriend Leilani, who in true Alaska small-population fashion my mother once worked with and quite liked, out to the ballet; they ended up breaking up a couple weeks beforehand, so I changed her ticket and and bought an extra one for myself so we could go the day before. It turns out she's pretty awesome, and she's a massage therapist too, so hurray for new friends/future colleagues.) Then we took the overnight flight back Saturday night, slept most of Sunday, and Monday it was off to my first day of class.

One week in, I'm pretty impressed with the New School for Massage. My entire class is a grand total of four people (winter classes are usually slow), but I don't feel that anyone's stinting on the quality of attention. Quite the reverse; I rather like that all of the staff and most of the other students knew us by name after the first day. Dominika, the school director I met before, continues to be incredibly warm and sweet whenever we run into each other; the first day I was running a few minutes late and didn't know where to go and wandered into her classroom by mistake, and she took me to the orientation group personally. (Not that it's a large space, exactly, but it was a nice touch.) And I got an email from her today asking how my first week of classes went, and could genuinely tell her that I feel like I fit in well here. I hope it continues.

For once, I'm not among the more well-traveled of my class. One of my classmates is from Germany and spent the past four years in Tel Aviv, and another is from Guatemala and lived in California before moving here when she was younger. Somewhat amusingly, the three of us are all women in our thirties; our fourth is a twenty-three-year-old dude who currently works as a personal trainer. Fortunately he's pretty easygoing and doesn't seem to mind kicking back and letting us all go on about our experiences; as he put it the second day, "I like listening to stories."

On a more ambivalent note, there's a certain amount of (often jokingly acknowledged) woo-woo stuff in the curriculum. I've been trying to keep an open mind about it, but have been surprised at how strongly judgmental my reactions have been, despite the fact that I have almost no direct experience with it and no knowledge of whether there have been any scientific studies on the subjects. (I am, unsurprisingly, relieved that the bulk of the lessons seem to be largely anatomy- and science-based.) It's not that I have anything against chakras or reflexology or aromatherapy or any of that; I know they've helped lots of people, and it makes sense that it would be part of the material, given that they're commonly used in the field and a lot of clients probably expect you to have a working knowledge of the theory. And believe me, I understand how strongly intuition factors into any healing profession, and whether that intuition takes the form of "your chi is misaligned" or "your muscles are knotted up" probably doesn't make a whole lot of difference on the level where I'm likely to be practicing. (Aaaaand I probably just vividly demonstrated exactly how little I know about either form of medicine. Heh.)

Upon reflection, I think a lot of it's about my personal hangup with pride and how others perceive me; there may (or may not) be lots of evidence supporting the efficacy of alternative models, but science-based healing is, ultimately, more prestigious and respected than alternative modalities in our culture. And I have a real trigger around not being taken seriously; so anything that feels too hippy-dippy crunchy-granola gets a negative modifier attached to it. Which is not precisely flattering; I'd prefer to react to ideas based on their own merits and not whether or not people are going to like me if I espouse them. Clearly I need to ruminate on this issue some more.

Still, it's not hopeless. Rather than using the term "alternative medicine", with the implication of it being a replacement for traditional doctors, the textbook suggests referring to acupressure and massage therapy and chiropracty and whatnot as "complementary medicine". I like that a lot better; it implies that these can be useful tools but aren't meant as a replacement for Western-style treatment. It's nice to think that both modes of thought can peacefully coexist, even if nearly a decade of Apple vs. Android (or Playstation vs. Xbox, or VHS vs. Betamax) tribalism seems to imply differently.

...Now that I think on it, I have almost no personal experience with 'alternative medicine' outside of massage and some very limited acupressure. So, help me ruminate! Have you tried (or learned to administer) any complementary medicine? What was your experience? Did it seem to help? I'm curious!

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: (Red Red Rose)
A friend posted this article on Facebook, which, as someone who flies a lot, I've been mulling over. One of the recommendations in particular - specifically the one to wear a mask on the flight, despite the social repercussions - is making me think hard about self-image, and how much weight we ascribe to maintaining that, even in the light of serious potential repercussions.

Purely from a health perspective, wearing a mask on a plane is an unmitigated positive. It keeps your mucous membranes from drying out in the dehumidified air, it blocks airborne pathogens, and it provides a barrier to keep you from touching your nose and mouth (and thus transferring surface-borne germs to those ever-important mucous membranes). And it requires little effort and even less maintenance, with no physical side effects.

But, as the overwhelming mask-less majority of plane passengers demonstrate, health reasons aren't the only ones to consider. There's a strong social negative to mask-wearing, even in as understandable an environment as a plane. Facial coverings in general carry a strong stigma in Western culture, as the only people we think of as regularly sporting them are religious conservatives and those who have reason to hide their identity (bank robbers and what have you). Even surgical masks, which are purely medical in implication, imply hypochondria when worn outside a hospital.

Thing is, that doesn't seem like it should be a serious issue for me. I have a strong streak of social iconoclasm, and have in the past lost large chunks of vacation time (and, once, the strength of my lower back muscles) to airplane-transmitted colds. It's happened so often that my mother has taken to stocking NyQuil in her guest bathroom sink. A few hours of uncomfortable social interactions seem, objectively, like they shouldn't outweigh days of misery, especially highly-valued vacation days. I like to think I'm generally more pragmatic than I am vain; it's why I'll wear zinc oxide sunscreen if I'm out in the sun for any length of time, even though it makes me look like a Cullen sibling.

And yet...and yet. I am vain. It's hardly news that being attractive and well-dressed nets you social perks, and I don't relish the idea of trading those perks in for a liability, especially during an already-miserable experience. I could certainly claim to be getting over a cold and not wanting to pass on the germs to others, but that would only counteract the issue with those willing and able to listen in the first place.

Upon further rumination, however, it occurs to me that it's not just vanity at work. In our culture, we regularly tie cleanliness to moral character. We have a strong streak of victim-blaming when it comes to disease: they must not have washed their hands, they must not have used enough disinfectant, they must not have followed proper protocol when working in the infectious disease ward. To an extent, that's a positive to group survival, since it motivates us to make extra sure we're doing what we can to prevent disease transmission. But it makes surgical masks socially fraught, since merely by wearing one you're delivering a low-level but undeniable insult to those around you by implying that they aren't hygenic.

On the whole, then, I was somewhat relieved to come across this investigation while I researched this post. According to the microbiologists interviewed there, it's far less likely to be the recirculated air (which passes through multiple HEPA filters as part of the plane's system) that gets you sick than the huge colonies of microorganisms on various surfaces, especially the bathrooms and aisle seats. So instead of wearing a mask, I think I'm going to spend my next couple of flights with a packet of Clorox wipes and some Purell, and see how that serves.

And, of course, dressed nicely. Because I'm just a little vain.
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: (Default)
Good morning, Chicago! Yesterday was completely lovely; the weather warm but not hot. Brian had to work, so I went and had brunch with a couple of friends, one of whom accompanied me for a nice wander around the neighborhood afterward. We got mani-pedis (and, for the first time ever, I managed to keep from smudging mine), and I took her to my recently-discovered favorite salon for an appointment. Yay for girly days! And now my finger- and toe-nails are precisely the same shade of orange-red as my hair.

As of today, I'm in a strange sort of limbo. I was originally supposed to be going to Detroit this week to help with more survey administration, but due to some bureaucratic argy-bargy (apparently two weeks is not enough time for Detroit Public Schools to run a background check) they had to send someone else instead. So now my schedule for the next several days is unusually bare.

This morning, at least, that turned out to be a plus. We woke up to discover a very bedraggled Leo looking shamefacedly up at us. At first we thought he'd taken a dip in his water fountain, but when I wandered out into the kitchen I found the counters and floor turned into a beautiful abstract oil painting. (Brian had been deep-frying chicken pieces last night and left the oil out in a bowl overnight to cool. Which, in all fairness, he normally does without incident.) Mop, drugstore for baby shampoo, bathtime, in that order. Now someone just needs to clean the kitchen up. Guess who's been elected. (Brian held Leo in the bathtub - fully clothed - while I poured water on them, and still got several scratches for his trouble, so really, it's only fair.) Meanwhile, Leo is furiously grooming all the water out of his fur. I predict a massive hairball or two later.

As it happens, I'm still going to the Detroit area on Thursday. Originally I'd been planning to go and visit CJ and Amanda and John the weekend after survey administration, but since that didn't work out, CJ offered to buy me a train ticket. I'm actually moderately excited about the prospect; I haven't yet been on Amtrak, and I'm quite fond of trains. And anything that means less time dealing with TSA is perfectly fine with me.

Mood-wise, there's been a lot of up-and-down recently. I wonder if the lack of yoga is part of it; I applied for CorePower's yoga-for-trade program and got back a generic "we'll let you know if there's an opening at a location near you" response. A month ago. I'm honestly wondering if I should just find a darn part-time job so I can pay for it; I still think their studios are way overpriced, but the improvements I saw in strength and mobility when I was going regularly were...marked. Not to mention how it always improved my outlook and emotional state. Sigh.

Still, I've had a good week now where I haven't been turning into Grumpy Cat every few minutes, and I'll take what I can get. I'm even playing the guitar again! I'd been doing it sporadically for several months, and then for a month or two I wasn't playing hardly at all. But I'm actually excited about it again, which hasn't been the case for a while now. Been thinking about making a video or a recording. Say it with me, folks: we'll see if anything comes of it.

The weather is beautiful today too, if warmer - approaching thunderstorms seem to love pushing the heat ahead of them. I suspect that after lunch I may put on shorts and sunscreen and wander down to the lakeshore with an ice cream bar.

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