Thursday, February 24, 2011

Believe it--my life is one big run-on sentence

There is a vicious cycle that happens sometimes when it comes to written communication.

For example:

You are a conscientious and gracious human who receives a gift from another conscientious and gracious human, so you write them a thank you card.  You send them the thank you card, and maybe it was a handmade card, and maybe you said lots of really sweet things in it about how you not only appreciate the gift, but the gift-giver and the friendship that lead to the giving of the gift in the first place.*  Then the gift-giver is so moved by the thank you card that they want to send you a thank you card back, but then you're thanking them for thanking you and that leads to a vicious cycle of pleasantries... so I suppose a pleasant cycle, but still vicious in that it has to stop somewhere, but you don't want to be the unappreciative heel who didn't send a thank you card... even though it's a thank you for a thank you for a thank you...

Alright, in the modern world it sometimes goes more like this:

You read a blog or article or whatever on the Internet and decide to send the author some positive feedback.  Maybe you send them an e-mail because you've been reading months worth of the archives and the breadth of your comments is too much to cram into just any one post.*  So you send an e-mail full of glowing praise for this thing that you liked.  The author reads it and in a totally awesome and real-person-type way, sends a response, which is in and of itself just stinkin' rad!  So, follow me here: the first e-mail is the gift. The response is the thank you note.  But maybe in that response they said even more awesome stuff that you totally want to respond to, because obviously there is a human on the other end of the communication line, and that human actually seems to have stuff in common with you, and you maybe want to tell them more stuff that isn't necessarily about how great they are or how great you think they are, but about those things you have in common...

Is it the same thing?  Am I crazy for wanting to continue an e-mail conversation with a stranger just because I like the things they write and it turns out we have 2 things in common? 

I mean, they have lots of readers, sometimes in the hundreds and thousands range... they must be inundated with letters of praise and adoration.  Even though I know they are appreciative of my praise (because otherwise they never would have responded to say so, because they're not total douchenozzles), I don't want to be all fan-girly... because even though I am totally enamored, I should have some self respect and maybe composure or something... I just don't want to overwhelm anyone with my appreciation, because that seems uncomfortable.  I don't know.  I don't really live in the world where that would happen to me.  The closest I come is one very excitable Aussie Shepherd type dog greeting me when I get home and trying to sniff me in places that I don't like to be sniffed.

I mean I would be satisfied with just tens of followers, and it would be great if those people were my friends with whom I liked to share meals and vacations and YouTube videos.  Which isn't to say that I wouldn't be happy if random people from the Internet came to visit my blog.  No, that would be pretty keen too.  See, random Internet people, I don't dislike you.  Your existence is just sort of about as relevant to my life as the Hubble telescope.  I know it exists and does stuff when I'm not paying attention, which is in fact 99.999999999993% of the time**, but none of that really impacts my day to day life. 

Unless of course the Hubble telescope became a fan of my blog... which would be incredible and mean that I had surpassed the greatness that this world could contain and had to share my greatness with the universe at large... which is incredibly unlikely unless I somehow manage to come up with something to say, which I don't see happening any time soon seeing as how I can't even really be bothered to stop my own run-on sentences.

All of this to say that thrice times have I actually taken the time to write to some of my favorite bloggers (that I didn't already personally know) to tell them that I appreciated their contribution to my Internet adventures, and twice times I have received responses and both times I wanted to respond again but feared being "that guy" that keeps the conversation going much longer than is desired...

No one wants to be That Guy.

*This really does happen, I promise. I know, because I do it, and while I'm a bit of an odd duck, I'm not a totally unique snowflake type duck.
**as calculated by my random statistic generator, i.e. my imagination...

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

All I needed to know in life I learned in Kindergarten, but then I forgot

I have forgotten the alphabet--if I ever really knew it.  I can sing the song.  I even know to split elemeno into its component four letters.  I even know a version of the song that has no elemeno... all the letters are there, but the scansion* is off.  It's hard to explain in text, but it kinda goes like this:

A, B, C, D.
E, F, G. 
H, I, J, K. 
L, M, N. 
O, P, Q. 
R, S, T. 
U, V, W.
X, Y, Z.

Which you have to admit is a little better than "...J, K, LMNO, P... Y and Z**"

Anyway, I cannot hold the entirety of the alphabet in my head at the same time.  I know that D is in the beginning and S is near the end.  I sort of remember that M is the middle, though I always try to make it L which may have something to do with the fact that my name starts with that beautiful letter.  After that, when it comes to alphabetizing things, I have to sing the song.  I find myself actually going through the letters to find where I am.  "I" is not before "E" which makes things even worse.  I will look at two files and think to myself, "JKL... ah, it goes here." or "Q,R,S... no, M,N,O,P then Q... ok, here it is."

I wish I were joking.  I wish I possessed the mental acuity to at least keep it all in my head and not be caught actually saying the alphabet out loud.  Maybe I need one of those cutesy printed borders that are featured as a prominent design element in grade schools everywhere.  My only saving grace is the ability to confine my search to the few letters before and after my target.  Well, I'm pretty solid on A through E I think.  It gets a little sketchy around F and by J, I'm lost.  The end of the alphabet is just a mystery to me.  My maiden name started with B and when I married, I had to bump all the way down to W, which my grandma assures me is only fair since she moved from a W to a B when she married.  X,Y,Z is pretty set in my mind, but P through W is full of confusion.

So here I am, 25 years past my Kindergarten graduation, and I am humming the tune to "Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star"*** to myself trying to figure out where in the line up to put this file or that document.  It's a sad state of affairs.  Thankfully, I know I'm not alone.  I've heard my coworkers muttering letters under their breath while searching for files as well.  It might be sad, but it's not a lonely place to be, that's for sure!

*This is a fancy word that I never knew until I met my husband, and now I find myself shoving it into all sorts of conversations.

**Which you pronounce Zed if you're from anywhere but the United States, but I'm not, so I just say Z, rhymes with C and several other letters...

*** Yep, same tune.  Go ahead, check it out!  I was shamefully old before someone shared this insight to me, despite having sung both tunes for many, many years.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Myths of origins and other sophistry

My mother tells me that I was born at 4:34 pm, on October 11th in the Letterman Army Hospital on the Presidio in San Francisco, CA. She tells me this because she was there, doing all the pushing and sweating that brought me into this world, without the aid of painkillers. My brother, however, insists that this is just a kind falsehood she invented to spare my delicate feelings. According to him, I was actually found on the side of the road, under a rock, where I had been placed by the wild mountain lions* who raised me.

This was not only, nor even the first, or a series of outlandish things my brother told me during my formative years in an attempt to shape my world view. It worked. I've always looked fondly upon mountain lions.

Also, I tell crazy stories like this to my friends and family as well. I don't have quite the strength or flair for it that my brother does, nor even do I compare with the skills of my Jeopardy-wiz friend Paula. I wish I could say that I developed a finely-tuned awareness for the nuances of truth in modern day legends. I wish I could say that I could sniff out a falsehood from amidst the true-sounding rubble. Truth is, when it comes to some things, I'm just as gullible as ever.

For example, a few years ago, after a minor surgery, I was whiny and in a level of pain that seemed too much to keep to myself. While telling my darling husband about the profound agony I was experiencing, I decided that the only cure for my distress was ice cream. I chanted my need for frozen dairy dessert with a feverish intensity. My calm, rational, ever-loving husband obligingly drove me from the doctor's office to the nearest Baskin Robins. He explained that it was only natural that I was craving Jamoca Almond Fudge. Just like an onset of anemia can cause cravings for red meat and tomatoes, or a need for potassium causes people to seek out bananas, my pain was caused my muscle cramps and everybody knows that there is a natural muscle relaxant found in ice cream. My eyes got wide. I searched my brain for tid-bits of information about the sleepy-making qualities of turkey and the antioxidants in my favorite fruits, and flavanoids in chocolate. For a shining second, I looked at my husband with wonder and awe. Could it be true? Did this explain years of pre-menstrual cravings? Was my body really smart enough to guide me to foods that would help me? "Oh, wise and wonderful husband, it it true?!" I cried.** Then his beautiful but smug face split wide in a grin that told me that it was a miracle his eyes weren't brown, given the current level of manure he was shoveling...

So, I'm still susceptible to wild tales of organ-stealing and corporate give-aways if only I'll forward that e-mail to 100 of my friends. Thankfully, I also discovered Snopes.

*Many years later, my brother claims that he said it was mountain people who had been raising me, but I distinctly remember there being lions in that story

**Translation: "Really?!"

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Chinese Magistrates and Gay God Parents

Sometimes, when listening to a friend relate a story, or half-listening to a conversation that's going on around you, your brain & ears will join forces play a bizarre trick on you. The ears will take whatever words the speaker just said and muffle them just enough that the brain gets to spin it's roulette wheel of "random words you may have heard at some point in your life" and fill in the blanks.

This is the best explanation I can come up with. How else would I really think that my friend Allen would declare, at a dinner with 22 of our closest friends, "I am an Oriental Magistrate." Upon hearing these words, I did stop him, interrupt quite rudely and ask him to explain and clarify. Or maybe I just said, "Wait, what? You're an Oriental Magistrate?!" That's probably the more likely answer, because I recall his response being a very droll, "Yes, I am an Oriental Magistrate." To this day, neither one of us has any clue what he actually said... and perhaps it's better that way.

Last night, just before dinner, as my husband is chatting with his sister, I could have sworn that
she said something about "bacon gas." I was honestly intrigued, horrified, and determined to find out where and when such a vile, and possibly awesome creation came into being. Turns out she wasn't talking about bacon gas at all. Not the gas one passes after eating bacon, nor bacon heated to the point that it ceases to be either solid or liquid but the molecules vibrate so quickly that they leap into the air in a deliciously pig-scented fog... I don't remember what she was talking about either... I was distracted by thoughts of bacon.

Perhaps one of my favorite mis-heard phrases, and one that has enjoyed a long history, is the infamous "Gay God-parent" moment. One evening, back in my college days, I walked into the Able/Santos study-hall room thingy where our bible study was held and proudly, and loudly, proclaimed, "I have a gay God-parent." My friends looked at me askance and were somewhat dumbfounded for a while. Turns out, that's not what I said at all. I know, I was the one saying it. While I also have a fantastic history of mis-speaking choice phrases*, this time I said exactly what I meant, which was actually, "I have a 'Yay God!' moment." Once we got over our giggling at the crossed signals, the phrase "gay God-parent" stuck around and was uttered to mean, "Hey, I've got to tell you about the super cool stuff God is doing in my life right now."

So, thank you brain and ears. Your team-work has lead to many a joyful moment of shared laughter at the absurdities you two concoct. Keep up the good work!

*One, sitting on a beautiful grassy knoll (but not the famous one) with my friend Paula, two sentences in my brain got twisted up and I didn't untangle them before I spoke. Instead of saying, "Pardon me" or "Hold on" I exclaimed, "Hold me" which wouldn't have been all that bad if the next words out of my mouth hadn't been "I have to fart." Thankfully, they weren't. What I actually said in my funny English accent (because we were performing at Scarborough Faire) was "I have a fart." Yep, put it all together: "Hold me, I have a fart." Immortal words, I tell you. I shall never live it down.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Hobby, Diversion, Pastime, Leisure Pursuit

I have only a few hobbies. I scrapbook & make cards two or three times a year. I play World of Warcraft in a very casual manner. I don't garden or make preserves or sew or knit or quilt. The real things that take up most of my free-time are music and renaissance restivals. Singing at a renaissance festival is what I do every weekend in April and May, every year that I've been in the DFW area. This will be my eighth season to perform, my third to sing, and my second to teach. So, starting Saturday my weekends belong to the Scarborough Academy of Performing Arts and Queen Anne's Lace.

Yes, that's 16 weekends but it only really works out to 28 days, which is ony 7.7% of the year. For the majority of those days I will be outside for a minimum of 8 hrs--at least half of them more than 12 hrs. I'll start in the cold, possibly in the snow and ice, and finish in the blistering heat of Memorial Day weekend, which almost inevitably comes with rain of some sort. I do this for fun.

And it is fun. It's challenging and sometimes frustrating, but there is a rush and a thrill that makes me keep wanting to do it again and again. It might take a special kind of person to want to give up more than a quarter of their weekends to play a highly elaborate game of make-believe mixed with street theatre of the interactive variety while wearing clothes designed to mimic a time and place 500 years in the past and at least 40 degrees cooler. Thankfully, I'm that kind of special.

Now, it's not all downhill just yet. Sunday is mostly mine. And I'm not teaching all of the days, so I have a few hours here and there to take care of some last-minute spring cleaning (long before spring officially arrives).

In my Barbie dream world, I'd manage to get the bookshelves organized--not in an alphabetical, thematic, or any other logical manner. I just want to have books and things that belong on shelves on the shelves and not sitting in boxes on the floor. My Barbie dream world also has clean floors and counters, so let's not think that it's actually going to come to pass anytime soon.

I do want to hang curtains though. I have some lovely valances for the living room and beautiful tapestry curtains for the dining/music room. I would love to get one of those nifty wall stencils that says "If music be the food of love, play on..." to put above the little opening to the hallway.

Truth be told though, I'm going to spend a lot of those few breaks doing utterly unexciting things like... napping with my cats piled about me, cooking with my husband while watching Netflix, and maybe going to see a matinee movie.

Cleaning and necessary housework will happen during the week like it always does.
Laundry will get slower as costuming takes its place in the rotation. Meals will get crock-potted and left-overs will sustain us. We'll come home tired and possibly bruised. We'll tell stories about classes and people we met and things we said that we had no intention of saying. We'll begin to detest our alarm clocks and the smell of sunscreen... because it's fun. I'll put on my 35 lbs of pink, fluffy costume and sing and be silly. I'll wander about acting like a superhero from the planet Cozmetix and making up tall tales to suit my mood. Then I'll come back to my job, Monday through Friday, dragging myself through the work week telling the stories of the things I did and hope to do next time.

But for now... I'll read up on my lesson plans, and review my music, and check costume bits for tears while sitting on my couch, covered in cats, watching Netflix.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

The Seven Levels of Hunger

So, as promised, here are the seven levels of hunger, as described by me, with special consideration for the fact that I've never been truly deprived of food, starving, or anything close to it, so I'm going with *my* levels, which is sort of a stereo-typical American kind of hunger, not the serious, world-crippling hunger present in all the world where people can't afford to feed themselves.*

1- Not really hungry.  This is that point at which he thought of food doesn't inspire nausea or dread, nor does it inspire excitement or joy.  You could eat, but could wait.  You have no specific cravings.  Anything would be ok.  I spend much too much time at this level when I have a regulated schedule that tells me when it's time to eat.  Snacks are safe from you.

2- Kind of hungry.  Food sounds good.  Maybe a little twinge in the tummy, but still mostly a mental kind of hunger.  You start to think about options--what did you bring for lunch?  What's in the pantry or freezer than you can put together?  You ask around to see if other folks are hungry to make plans for communal dining. Snacks aren't really appealing because a meal is on the way.

3- Hungry.  Your stomach starts to gurgle at you.  You begin imagining all the glorious food that's waiting for you, someday.  Not just the lunch in the fridge, but the restaurant down the street, and the one you passed on the way to your mother-in-law's house that looked good.  You plan future meals and daydream up recipes.  You tell people what sounds good, hoping to entice them to join you.  If there were a snack available, you would eat it right now.

4- Really Hungry.  Your stomach is sending messages in morse code that you can't decipher, but are pretty sure sound just like the plant in Little Shop of Horrors: FEED ME!  You fantasize about all your favorite foods and can't stop looking at the clock to see when you'll be free to eat.  You don't care if anyone else is available, you're going to eat as soon as possible, with or without them.  Snacks wouldn't last long in your presence.

5- Hungry, Hungry Hippo.  Your stomach isn't content being the only organ not-content.  Your head is starting to feel the effects with a peculiar ache. All the food sounds good.  Every tasty thing you've ever encountered comes to mind and making choices becomes difficult.  You could eat anything, because everything sounds good.  Even foods you usually don't like start to look appealing, but you probably wouldn't go as far as to actually eat them, just acknowledge that other people aren't totally disgusting for eating it in the first place.  You would eat a snack in record speed.

6- Famished.  Shaky and cranky.  Nothing that isn't food really matters.  You may be unaware that you're behaving like bad-tempered snapping turtle because most of your brain is still engineering meals in the background while you work with the remaining 2.5% and we all know that isn't enough to manage tact, vocabulary, motor skills and breathing all at the same time.  No snack is safe from you.  If you had a snack, you would have eaten it hours ago, and wouldn't even be here.  If offered a snack at this point, you may not be smart enough to know that you really, really need it.

7- Ravenous.  Food doesn't even sound good anymore.  Your stomach is now telling you that you're queasy, which makes the thought of eating make you eve queasier.  Your brain has stopped being rational.  Weakness sets in.  You know you should eat, but don't have the energy to make anything to eat, and the food doesn't seem to be obliging enough as to prepare itself and crawl into your mouth.  You stare at the pantry or fridge in a stupor.  Can you eat just sour cream?  Would that require getting a spoon?  Drinking from cartons is likely.  Eating the skins of usually peel-able fruits and veggies is highly likely.  Emotional outbursts are likely.

*One time, I was watching Dave Mathews on some VH1 special I think.  He was telling stories about songs, and between songs.  The only thing I remember is a story where he was hanging out with some friends from South Africa, where he grew up.  I might get the details of this a bit wonky, but the gist goes like this: He said he was hungry, only he didn't say "hungry," he said "starving."  He got raised eyebrows and strong looks from his friends who knew he knew better--had see actual starvation and shouldn't joke about it.  Realizing what he said, he began to explain that while his head, heart, arms and legs were all firmly South African, he was very, very American from the bottom of his ribcage to his belt.  So this is kind of like that... only I'm not South African at all.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

A staring role

Ever-so-occasionally I decide to cast the made-for-tv movie version of my life. It would be a somewhat plotless wonder of a rambling film, not really suited for the big screen but with so many channels on tv now, there's got to be a place somewhere for a "coming to love oneself" movie type thing about a tall girl from the suburbs... at least, I dream there is, so I can imagine my dream cast.

Not knowing what portions of my story would be committed to film, I don't have everyone cast yet, because I don't know if I'll need Betty White to play my first grade teacher Mrs. Davis or Phylicia Rashād to be my kindergarten teacher Mrs. G. Jessica Tandy should have played my Grandma B. That being said, I'm pretty sure that I will play a pretty big role in the movie of my life. If we have to do childhood stuff, I want Georgie Henley to play the little me. I can't think of a single actress who has quite the right giraffapotamusque quality to play me.
My go-to girl is Joan Cusack for she is tall, funny, and very giraffy. We share a birthday, so having the siblings Cusack play my brother & I would be perfect, except Joan is older, which makes things a little awkward for storytelling. Kate Winslet is lovely and could occasionally remind me of me at times, but certainly not tall enough, and not really funny enough... which sounds vain, and perhaps it is, but I have humor. Drew Barrymore has the kind of quirky cute and funny that I think of as remeniscent of me, and she makes a fairly believeable red head, but she's neither giraffy or hippopatomy. Though to be fair, looks aren't the only consideration when casting folks. I obviously want someone in the right ball-park (which is why I'm not casing Claire Danes to play me or Cuba Gooding, Jr. to play Andrew), but the attitude is more important. Of course, they're actors/esses, so suposedly they should be able to play any attitude, but we all know that some people are just more believable in certain roles than others. So age considerations aside, I think I'm sticking with Joan. Anyone know if she can carry a tune? I desire the made-for-tv movie version of my life to be a musical.

So I've got a skeleton cast sketched out for now, with lots of fudging on age and availability and such...

Tuesday, February 1, 2011


If you've ever heard of the 5 Love Languages then you should know that my primary love language isn't actually listed. My primary love language is Tacos.
By which I actually mean the consumption of anything vaguely Tex-Mex with people I love.

For example, if I look at you and say, "Tacos?" what I really mean is, "I like you. I am experiencing one of the 7 levels of hunger*. I would like to spend time with you while consuming Tex-Mex type food which may or may not actually include tacos." I might instead exclaim "Tacos!" out of the blue. This is a battle cry meaning "I've had just about as much of this as I can take. Let us flee from these shenanigans to a magical land of avocados and pico de gallo where we shall banish the troubles of this place with copious quantities of cheese and corn." It's not universal in usage, but you get the point.

I not only love the fact that it takes a lot of the guesswork out of dining out with friends. Can't decide where to go? No problem! Just head for tacos. Obviously here in Texas that does create almost as many choices as it eliminates, but then you can decide based on proximity and quality.

"Tacos" can effectively encompass all the 5 love languages that Gary guy lists in one evening.

Quality Time--spend time eating tacos with me
Words of Affirmation--talk about life with me and reassure me that I'm not screwing everything up beyond recognition.
Acts of Service--make me tacos, or enchiladas, or empenadas, or tortilla soup, or nachos
Receiving Gifts--pick up the tab
Physical Touch--sit near me, hold my hand, but not the hand I need to eat tacos with

In the past two days, I've had tacos twice, though I ate enchiladas both times. It's not really about the food, though I do love tex-mex. I'm forever grateful to my friend Dan for teaching me the rule of tacos. No more endless dickering about where to go. Good times were only a phone call away. Whenever my bean-to-blood ratio was low, I could call him up, and we'd drive to that taco place off the highway, a chain restaurant like thousands of others across the country, but that one was ours. We chatted about life and growing up and moving across the country and love and fears and World of Warcraft and becoming rock stars. We'd play ninja games for the check and somewhere the rule developed that if you were able to pick up the tab 3 times in a row, the other person had to buy you jewelery... it's an awesome game! Now we go to a different taco joint, just a little farther north, and we bring our spouses and friends and we talk about different stuff, but it's still therapeutic.

If you happen to be one of the strange folk whom I don't understand in that they cannot, will not, or just plain don't enjoy tacos or other Mexican-ish food... well, find your own version of tacos. Maybe it's schnitzel, or spaghetti, or sushi...or fried chicken! Whatever it is, enjoy the beauty of taco therapy, whatever you call it.

*a post for another time

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