Thursday, January 31, 2008

Contact Resolution and a Yawn

So my contact saga continues... After dealing with the website where I bought my contacts, my eye doctor, and the Acuvue people, I've determined that I can get a full refund for the crappy Acuvue Advance lenses, and I'll be able to reorder the correct lenses at the regular price (which is less money than the other contacts). PHEW!

The week has been long and stressful, and I am actually hurting tonight. My back aches, my shoulders are sore, and my eyes... the eyestrain has been awful. One more day until the weekend, though. No big plans. Just takin' it easy for a couple days. Sometimes those weekends are the best.

I think that's all the wit and wisdom I can squeeze out of me tonight. *yawn*

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Apparently my eyes are "special."

I've been wearing contacts for six years, and I've always worn Acuvue2 lenses. I've had both the colored lenses and the normal clear ones. I've never had a problem with my eyes, and I can only think of three torn contacts on all six years. Contacts literally changed my perspective on the world, and I love them.

Two weeks ago, I went to visit my friendly eye doctor. He changed my prescription a tiny bit in one eye, no big deal. But instead of ordering through the office, I opted to order my lenses for half the cost online. AND I chose to get the Acuvue Advance lenses.


For all the extra cost and high-tech advances in the lenses, I can't see! My vision is worse with the Acuvue Advance lenses. I can still operate a computer, and I have driven with them, but it would take at least a full diopter for me to see clearly out of them. This is apparently a rare thing, and my eyes are "special" because they didn't take correctly to the "better" lenses. Additionally, the Acuvue Advance tear very easily. I'm one dissatisfied customer.

The plot thickens: When I ordered the Acuvue Advance lenses through the website, thinking I'd try something new, they faxed off a form for my eye doctor to sign indicating I'd ordered the correct lenses--and I hadn't. Because my eye doctor took longer than one business day to respond (which is only six hours with the time difference), the company shipped the wrong lenses to me. I wasn't prescribed the Acuvue Advance. I wasn't supposed to get anything but what I'd been prescribed: Acuvue2 lenses.

Because I've opened a few of the boxes, I might not be reimbursed for them. Excuse me for wanting to actually test out new contacts.

Bottom line: I'm not happy with Acuvue Advance with Hydraclear contact lenses. They tear easily, stick to my eyeball something awful, and dry out too quickly. I can't even see out of them clearly! UGH!

Good thing I have my glasses...

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Bias Aside...

My parents were right. Yet again, I find myself realizing this, and I'm amazed. I guess I shouldn't be surprised... my parents are often right. But learning it as an adult, learning the things they taught me as if I'm learning it all over again is pretty powerful.

Today, I speak of bias. I am biased. So are you. No matter where we come from, what we believe, or how we think, we approach everything with a bias. Teachers taught me this in grade school, and then we were informed about it in high school. It never sank in. How could a lower-middle-class female from small-town Oregon have bias? I breezed through college never paying much attention to my biases--even in my multicultural education class. I didn't want it to be true.

In the year and a half after college, I've come to a very different conclusion. I've seen how bias creates enemies over trivial matters. If only people were open to hearing the other side, open enough to see another bias, to admit their own...

That's what my parents did well. They've never taught me what to believe in specifically, but they forced me to respect all people regardless of history, creed, faith, color, etc. When I walk into a situation, I'm aware that I'm approaching it with my own baggage, and I try to be aware that other people are dragging theirs along too. Sometimes I feel like people run over my baggage with theirs and forget that my opinions are just as valid even though I'm coming at things from a different direction. I work hard to not do this--and yes, it's difficult.

Bias can be good: it reminds of who we are and where we came from. Bias means we make our turkey sandwiches the same way each lunch, or it means we look at things from a particular perspective. Bias can also be bad: I get bored with turkey sandwiches and the same smells and thinking about things one way.

My parents were right. I absolutely love seeing something so ordinary, something I take for granted in a new and fresh way.

Monday, January 28, 2008

Broken Record Blogging

Sometimes I wonder if I repeat myself day after day on my blog. Am I always saying the same basic things with different words or different metaphors? Am I a broken record, or is each post something truly original?

Do you ever read someone else's blog and become bored after only a few weeks? Do you read four or five blogs and find that the content is all the same? "Mommy Blogs" are like this for me. They all seem to be saying, "even though I don't understand this parenting thing, my sweet child is the greatest on earth." The "Green Blogs" are like this as well. Recycle everything, waste nothing, conserve fuel, blah blah blah. Like going green is a fad, not a responsibility. Do it. Then get over it.

I've read some great Mommy Blogs (and some Daddy Blogs), and I have a few favorite Green Blogs as well. The reason I keep going back is that the messages change. The blogs aren't broken records.

What are my broken records? Do I spend too much time discussing my love for ballroom dancing, or do I share too often about my love of working with the elderly? Am I repeatedly discussing the same life lessons? Have I stagnated in my writing?

I know that I can't make every post something fantastic and insightful when I write every day. Sometimes I just can't come up with anything. It is my hope, however, that my daily musings are occasionally fresh, witty, and maybe makes people think a little bit. I don't want to be a broken record.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Seeing Myself Anew

Most mornings, I rush into the bathroom, slap on some make-up, and call it good. Same routine every day, same colors, same look. I'm a wash-and-go kind of girl, no frills or fancy hair, and I'm definitely not a diva. Before dancing, sometimes I'll dab on a little lipstick or brighten my eyes with a subtle eyeliner and mascara. Nothing big. Easy. Simple.

But with all that simplicity, I don't really take the time to stop and look at myself. I only see the flaws and things I need to cover, only the zits and imperfections and lines and worries.

Today, in a fit of... boredom? inspired creativity? ...something... I decided to spend some time both behind and in front of my camera lens. Anyone who visits my blog more than once a week will know how often I stand behind the camera. I love photography. I love capturing images that make viewers wish they'd been there in the moment illustrated. An old saying goes, "a picture's worth a thousand words." I've always been of the notion that a good picture doesn't need words: it stands alone.

As I posed for myself (that sounds odd, but it's true), I felt uncomfortable, silly, stupid, weird, and flat-out insane. Who takes head shots of herself? My flash almost blinded me--now I know how everyone else feels. A hundred flashes later, I'd grown tired of the fake poses and just smiled. *click*

One hundred photos, and my favorite one was the last. Completely honest, completely unreserved. When I uploaded the images, the last one stood out head-and-shoulders over the rest (bad pun, bad pun!). It surprised me, and I couldn't be happier with it. One picture. One.

One image that allowed me to look beyond the everyday me and see something more, something less, something real. I think that's important. So I blogged about it.

*Editor's Note: Picture has been removed.

Saturday, January 26, 2008

Bald Hill Snow Adventure

It probably wasn't the smartest or safest thing to do, but we survived and we had fun. Last night, two of my friends and I explored Bald Hill west of Corvallis. The snow made the evening's adventure something new and different. Though it was cold, as long as we were moving we stayed fairly warm. On the back side of the hill out of the wind, I was almost too warm with my hat, winter coat, and thermal pants. We had a couple lights with us, and while they were small, they worked nicely. The trail had snow on it most of the way, so the path wasn't hard to follow in the dark. The top of the hill had little or no snow since it'd been exposed to the sun all day.

How bright the stars shine on cold winter nights, I'd forgotten. We could turn off our lights at times and follow the snowy trail with little effort. It was easier, even, to see the landscape and trees without our lights on. The snow reflected the stars, sparkling in every color. The snow crunched under our feet, squeaking and humming to the different footfalls, compressed into the gravel below. Every bend in my feet caused the snow to vibrate as it compressed--the whole trek was like a foot massage after a long week at work.

And then the air, the stillness... as the forest slept, we marched up and down, single-file at times, bunched at others. I felt like an invader, like I was destroying the land by being in such calm. But when we walked along the starlit path across the back of the hill, snow all around, no sounds but our own, I felt comforted too.

I couldn't take a picture of the path. It wouldn't have been right.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Don't cut me off... I might surprise you with an answer someday.

When a friend asks me a question, I do my best to answer honestly. If I don't know an answer, I'll try to get back to them quickly. Sometimes I have to think, and sometimes my answers are long, but I give answers. I'm not afraid of any question from any person.

But when my friends ask a question and don't wait for an answer--or worse yet, they disagree with me before I've finished giving my full answer--I get a bit flustered. Rightly so, I imagine. I'm slow to anger, too slow sometimes to stand up for myself. I really, really don't like it when people cut me off.

Today at lunch, my friends and I were having a discussion about gender roles. As I understand it, they take a Biblical stance and support traditional male dominance. I got as far as stating how I was raised (not traditionally) when they assumed that I believe the same things my parents do. They cut me off, preventing a full answer, preventing what could have been a surprising revelation.

My argument is not about the subject matter. I don't care if my friends agree or disagree with me or my parents or anyone as long as they respect people enough to listen to the answers to their own questions.

I'm not mad. I am, though, not as likely to share myself next time. I'm afraid I'll be cut off and judged unfairly on incomplete information (yet again). I'll still ask questions... and it is my overwhelming hope that I'll care enough to listen to a full answer.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Not Quite Nirvana

A friend asked me a simple question today: "What do you want to do this weekend?" Nothing more or less, just that question. I couldn't come up with anything in particular... no dances or events that I know of, and I've seen friends and family recently.

But then I got to thinking. What do I really want to do? What could I do? Regardless of money, time, space, or people, what would I do?

I'd love to drive up to Portland and spend some time at Powell's, and I'd be quite happy left to my own devices in a bookstore for the day. I would enjoy spending some quality time with my camera as well. Movies, cooking, dancing, or simply talking to friends... any of it would be good.

I think that's something that sets me apart. Sure, I would like to see more of the world and do glitzy things on occasion, but I like where I am. I'm content with my life, with my situation, with my friends and family and work... That contentment shouldn't be misinterpreted as being stale or that I have a lack of ambition--hardly. I'm content with how my life has progressed, and I'm hopeful the next turn will yield such satisfactory results.

What do I want to do this weekend? I want an adventure, even if it's only in a book.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

McDowell Creek Falls: Mid-Winter

Yesterday was amazing! I spent the morning with my grandmother and then later with Mom. Around noon, I went hiking out at McDowell Creek Park with Rachel, and Mom took me out to dinner in the early evening. I had the luxury of fantastic conversations with three strong women, three huge influences in my life. They keep me grounded and strong, and they provide comfort even when I don't ask for it.

Even though it was very, very cold out at the park, Rachel and I had fun tromping through the forest like we were in middle school again. Ten years later, we still act the same. No pretenses or worrying about saying the wrong thing... I don't have to fear that I'll offend her by stating my opinion. When I'm asked to identify what traits make up friendship for me, that intangible quality of unconditional love is what I enjoy most. That is what I share with my three or four best, best friends.

The first picture is of McDowell Creek Falls. The picture was hard to take since I had to stand on an icy wooden platform with frozen spray flying at me. It was literally freezing, and falling into the creek wasn't high on my list of 'fun things to do.'

Under the bridge nearest the middle parking lot, the water shallows and streams quickly over the flat, smooth river rocks. Last summer, this spot had a mere trickle running down the far side.

Just downstream of McDowell Creek Falls, the spray had frozen on the rocks. I was shivering too badly to get a perfect picture... this was the best of five.

I love this park.

Monday, January 21, 2008

Listen Up, Gossips...

I'm growing tired of people asking me a question, and I am never sure how to respond. My sister just got out of a two-year relationship with a guy who was my roommate when they started dating. He and I were friends way back when, but we had a falling out (mostly) and were nothing more than civil to each other the last year and a half. My disdain for him was my business, and I supported my sister regardless of him. Now that their relationship has ended, people keep asking me, "What do you think of this?" and "How does it make you feel?"

How the heck should I feel? I wasn't in the relationship. While I feel for my sister, I'm not her. What do I think? Why does it matter what I think? Why are people so concerned with what I think when they should be focused on my sister?

How do I feel having her in my social circles? How do I feel having her dancing next to me? Why do people want to know this information so much? Why is this knowledge so important?

I love my sister, and I'm truly sad when she's sad, and I'm hurt when she's hurt. I'm also happy for her if she is doing what she wants to be doing and is having fun with it. Her relationships are not all about me, so please stop asking me what I think. It's not my decision.

I've learned that the hard way already. It's time for the rest of you to learn it as well.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Three New Pictures

 Sewing Machine Love :)

Wetland Sludge: some wonky stuff was growing in the water out at Jackson Frazier Wetland today... I find biology beautifully disgusting.

It snowed in Corvallis. The snow stuck to the branches on the tree outside my back door. I had to crunch through the snow on the deck to get this picture. ~crunch crunch crunch click~

Saturday, January 19, 2008

More Questions, Few Answers

I know I'm not supposed to sweat the small stuff, but "it's the little things in life that matter."

...Not helpful.

I know I'm supposed to rely on my friends and family for advice, but I'm not supposed to rely on others to tell me who to be or how to think.

...Not helpful.

These two things have been plaguing me all week. Where do we draw the lines? When do we say enough? What small things are important, and what small things should we let go of? What advice is good, and what casual comments need to be glossed over? I know the decision has to be individual and unique, but that doesn't change my dilemma.

What do you do when you know something is right and everyone around you is telling you something different? What do you say to the person trying to force their ideas on you without upsetting the balance?

All questions without answers, but questions still. What can I do? What should I do?

Friday, January 18, 2008

"London Rain"

Jenny tagged me. I feel like playing along since my week has ended and I don't really feel like thinking of some witty post tonight. Know that all is well, I'm happy and healthy, and there is a chocolate cake in the oven. :) On to the songs!

1. Put your iTunes, Windows Media Player, etc. on shuffle.
2. For each question, press the next button to get your answer.

That's the Way I Like It (KC & The Sunshine Band) --no way...

Geek in the Pink (Jason Mraz) -- no kidding, that's what came up!

Heartland (George Strait)

Hope for the Future (S Club 7)

Land of 1000 Dances (Wilson Pickett)

Take a Look at Me Now (Phil Collins)

Hello Young Lovers (Kevin Spacey as Bobby Darin)

Never Gonna Let You Go (Sergio Mendes) --awww!

The Color of Blue (S Club 7) --not sure about that one...

River Walk and Discovery (from the Last of the Mohicans Soundtrack by Michael Mann)

Dance at the Gym (from the West Side Story Soundtrack)

The Impossible Dream (Wayne Newton) --how fitting!

Un Giorno Per Noi (Theme from Romeo and Juliet by Josh Groban)

We Can Be Lovers (from Moulin Rouge) --perfect...

Sophisticated Swing (Count Basie) --oh yeah!

Ride of Your Life (Oliver James)

To the Pirate's Cave! (from the Pirates of the Caribbean Soundtrack) --LOL! YES!

Funkytown (KC & The Sunshine Band)

I Cross My Heart (George Strait) --I only have two of his songs and they both made this list...

You're All Dead Men (from the American Outlaws Soundtrack by Trevor Rabin) -- HAHAHA!

Four Piece Band (Scott Grimes) --beautiful, amazing song!

With Arms Wide Open (Creed)

London Rain (Heather Nova)

Thursday, January 17, 2008

I can see clearly now, the crack is gone...

What a day! I worked 8am to 12pm, had lunch and a great conversation with friends, went to the dentist and eye doctor, went shopping, and got a new windshield put in my car. Expensive, but it's good news all around. All of those things were covered by various bits of insurance, and my parents picked up the deductible on the windshield.

No day involving a trip to the dentist is a good one in my book. My blood pressure was up a bit from usual, 130/85 instead of the usual 110/80. I don't have bad teeth or anything--not even close! I have had very few cavities (all from braces), and while flossing isn't high on my list of fun things to do, I take good care of my teeth. My dentist was pleased, and I left his place of torture with my teeth intact. I can't say as much for the skin on his fingers. :D

Then, shopping! I am not one to browse, but in an effort to buy blue jeans, I tried on a couple pairs at Sears. When I realized that I'd have to buy two full sizes bigger than what I usually buy, I threw the pants on the floor and stormed out of the fitting room. What the heck is this stretch-denim trend? Can't I find a pair of straight-leg or boot-cut jeans that don't have stretch in them? What about slightly lower-rise and not tight to my thighs? OH! and jeans that don't create a six-inch gap between the waistband and my lower back... that'd be nice. SHEESH! Back to my 501's...

Next, the eye doctor. Great news: my left eye's prescription didn't change in two years! AND since my right eye got worse by one prescription strength, my eyes are the same for the first time ever. This means I can open any contact case and put that contact in either eye and I don't have to worry about which one goes where anymore. YAY! I also ordered new glasses that seem like they'll work well. Even better: my vision plan is awesome enough that my entire exam and full cost of my lenses and frames will be covered by insurance. I'll end up paying $120 for contacts for the year, which Mom has offered to cover. THANKS MOM!

The eye doctor and I were talking about my eye health. He mentioned, after much examination (more than usual), that my eyes are not shaped like someone with such pronounced nearsightedness. My eyes are healthier with daily contact wear than most people's eyes without contacts. This is great news, and a comfort to know.

Lastly, my windshield: "I can see clearly now, the crack is gone..." The tinting at the top is better than in the old windshield, and the glass has no dents, scratches, or cracks. I don't know if Mom did this, or if the glass company added it, but somehow I ended up with new windshield wiper blades on top of everything else. They're low-profile and ultra smooth. I can't wait for some more of that beautiful Oregon rain.

My teeth are great, my vision is better than ever, and my car is fixed. I could not be happier or feel more thankful for such blessings. Okay, new jeans would have been welcome, but seriously, seeing pine needles on trees at half a mile while driving down the road... :)

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

"Thankful" Doesn't Even Come Close

Amazing are the days when we realize how fortunate we are. Today was one of those days for me. I watched "August Rush" last night, a movie that reawakened my love of music. I'm not talented enough to play something I hear. Still, I play the notes and feel the keys and my heart is better. The movie left me wanting a real piano worse than ever, but I know I can't have one in my apartment. The movie also left me wanting a best friend to call my own, but that doesn't differ much from the status quo.

Tonight, I met my mother in Albany to exchange cars so she can drop mine off to get the windshield replaced tomorrow. My parents graciously offered to pay for the $100 deductible, and I couldn't be more thankful. For 24 hours, I'm the proud owner of a car far nicer than my own (Mom and Dad own both cars, but they let me call the older one "mine" for clarity in conversation). It's a pretty sweet car. I still miss the old one though... even if it does have a hurted windshield. :P

Mom also took me out to dinner, and we had a good conversation. My parents' generosity with family and friends still amazes me. They could be flat broke, and they'd still give until they were burning furniture for heat. Such awesome role models I've had.

And if that isn't enough, I'm about to go dancing. My sister is coming, too. I'm proud she's taken an interest in what [I hope] will be a fulfilling experience for her. I start teaching (or helping to teach) more dance lessons this weekend--YAY!

Life isn't perfect, but in this moment I'm feeling a sliver of that nirvana. I love and am loved, I have music and fire in my soul, I have crispy chicken tender salad my belly, and I'm going dancing. :)

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

I'm Churchless, Not Godless

My apartment complex responded to my poltergeisted smoke detector by installing a brand new one. I'm hoping this one isn't wonky as well. One thing you have to give my managers credit for: when they fix something, they do a good job. I really appreciate that (and I do pay for it through insane rent as well).

In other news, I'm taking a break from my religious quest in order to let some things settle in. I can only remember so much for so long, and now I need to think about things for a while. The quest is not to find a church or group or find a label with which to brand myself: I'm only in this for the knowledge. Most people have pegged me wrong in that regard, and I want to be clear about it. I'm churchless, not godless.

I spent half an hour on the phone today making an insurance claim for a cracked windshield. Several years ago, my Mom put a rock chip in the windshield, and now it finally decided to crack. What started two weeks ago as a half-inch slit has now become an eight-inch jagged line. My insurance deductible on it will be $100, which isn't bad, but still... my first cracked windshield. My poor car! I love that car...

Nevermind that making the insurance claim took four phone calls, five different people, and a very large headache. Why does it have to be so dang hard?

Monday, January 14, 2008

Off to Church!

I would be amiss in all that is the spirit of my blog if I did not include the events of last night: I went to church! I have been on a quest for religious knowledge lately, and one of my friends invited me to go with him to his church service. He is the first person in five years to ask me to go... something I expected people to do many times, but no one offered (which I still find hilariously un-Christian in itself, but that's me).

My friend asked me to join him earlier in the day, so I had time to tell a few people that I was going. I asked some friends what to expect, and they were neither helpful nor supportive. My own father didn't seem too crazy about the idea of me going to the service. I'm amazed how unsupportive people can be while saying, "have fun!" and "learn lots!"

While I don't have much church-going experience under my belt, I'm no stranger to prayer or thought. Walking into a Catholic church for the first time as an adult was quite an experience. I only knew one of the prayers (the last one, forget what it's called)... and I didn't know any of the songs. Still, I was never made to feel unwelcome or uncomfortable. That, in itself, is quite a milestone, and I'm thankful I put myself out there to have such an experience. I must also thank my friend for inviting me.

I don't know if I'll go back to the Catholic church. I'm not against that church by any means, and I am positive that all of what it is to be Catholic cannot be contained in one service. I'm trying to keep an open mind about religion without defining myself as this or that.

I think I was more taken aback by the overwhelming lack of support I received from my own friends and relatives than by anything I experienced at Mass. Not something I imagined. Not something I'm sure I'm okay with.

Last night left me with a few questions and many thoughts. Conversations with friends afterward also left me thinking. I will post more tomorrow. After even more thinking.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

My Smoke Detector Goes Off Randomly

My smoke detector is possessed. Last night, about 4:00am, while I was lying in bed completely asleep, it decided to go off. *BEEP BEEP BEEP* and then nothing. I'm fearing the worst: electrical fire, an explosion of some kind... so I crawl out of bed, across my floor, and I test the back of my bedroom door. Cold. I open the door slowly and sniff intently. I have one of the strongest senses of smell of anyone I know (a curse at times), and I could not smell any smoke. Nothing. I couldn't smell anything good or bad or any smell. That's how I like my apartment: no smells. Since the alarm had gone off and stopped on it's own, I went back to bed. Three minutes later (just as my eyes closed again), *BEEP BEEP* and then nothing. Bloody Hell! I panicked. Why would the alarm be going off? I sat out in the living room and waited ten minutes before giving up. I came in to my bedroom to look up emergency numbers for the apartment complex (don't have any), for Corvallis Fire Department (the non-emergency line... where can I get that number?)... and it did it's little *BEEP BEEP* thing again. Oh, I lost it. I was going straight for the National Guard's number!

In the end, I called my parents to see if they knew what would make a smoke detector go off if nothing was on fire. I felt all the walls in my apartment to make sure nothing was warm behind them. The oven hadn't been on since 9am, and I NEVER burn candles. My parents didn't appreciate the 4:30am phone call.

As I sit here, five hours later, exhausted and frustrated, I worry. I'm an incredibly fire-conscious person, especially since I live "attached" to other people. I really don't like it when my smoke detector (which doesn't use batteries--it's hard-wired) starts going off. Scares the shit out of me.

If you know any possible causes for a false alarm, please comment. I don't want this to happen again.

Saturday, January 12, 2008

Not a Dancer, but a Person who Can

I don't identify as a dancer. Seems kinda funny since I dance as much as possible...

I've been dancing two years as of this week, two amazing years of growth both socially and physically. I can't claim expertise in any dance form, but I'm not half-bad at a ballroom function. I also find a bit of confidence in Savoy Lindy with a few moves (and shhh, don't tell, but I am learning to like smooth Lindy as well, not for it's flavor but for it's leads). I've danced with hundreds of people up and down the valley, and I've even given my hand at teaching.

But I don't identify as a dancer. I don't look like a dancer. I'm not smooth and graceful on the floor, and you definitely wouldn't get the "graceful" idea as you watch me walk down the sidewalk. I'm not stick-thin and athletic. And I'm not into ballroom gowns or sequins or expensive high heels. People see me and would never guess that I dance in the evenings. I don't look the part.

I don't introduce myself as a dancer. I am not ashamed of it, but unless someone asks me what I do for fun, I don't bring it up. I simply don't think of it. Dancing is something I do, not who I am. It's FUN! and it's good for me (and you, yes you too). But it's not my whole life. I don't sit around thinking about it all the time. I don't think about moves in my head or about great dances I've had...

Dancing is not a trend in my life: it's a hobby that I hope to continue for many years. Dancing does not define me, however, and I want to make that clear. I blog about it often. While it is important to me, it's not everything.

I don't identify as a dancer. I identify as someone who has a dancing side to me. This important distinction has been difficult to learn and own. I do.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Separate, but Not Alone

When Mom told me a week ago that my grandfather passed away, I mentioned that I felt both grief and relief in the same moment. I didn't know what that meant right away, but today's thoughts revealed something profound. I'm still grieving and remembering Grandpa and his funny stories and laugh. I'm afraid to forget things about him, as if his shine in my memory will tarnish.

My Dad's mother (the other side) told me that it wasn't good for me to be alone as I grieve and let go. With no family to speak of in town and not wanting to rely on friends that didn't know Grandpa, I did deal with things on my own--usually how I do things anyway. But even in this solitude, I've never felt truly alone. It's weird for me to say that, too. When I heard he'd passed, I felt relief. I felt okay. I felt a presence, something comforting and good and reassuring telling me that Grandpa's where he wanted to be, where he was meant to be.

My faith continues to surprise me. Just when I think I should be getting angry and turning away from God, I do the opposite. In my moment of extreme pain, I reached up. I cried out to God asking Him to help me through, asking Him to be with my family as we mourned. The words were not original or unusual... they were probably even unintelligible through my tears. Then, at Grandpa's memorial service, as I listened to the eulogy and saw pictures of Gramps in his youth, I felt the connection again. I could feel the real and divine presence.

And all of this was humbling. I've set aside time to think and reflect, time and energy from things that don't matter much right now. I think about family and friends, little else. To stand and ask God for help and to receive such support... it was intensely humbling and overwhelming. It still is overwhelming: I cried as I wrote this post. In a physical sense, I've gone through most of this alone. I don't feel alone. I feel separate, but not alone.

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Emotionally Present and Accounted For

I'm learning to be present in my emotion. While that might not sound like a big deal to you, it's a new development for me. I don't know why, but I've always lagged in my emotional development, and I process emotions very differently than most people I know. Friends have suggested I might have some slight form of autism. I don't know. But I'm learning.

Although I do experience emotions immediately, it takes me time to process them. I don't often come up with the appropriate emotion in the moment. With respect to controlling my anger, this is a helpful thing. I do have a wrathful tongue on occasion, but my word choice and my inflection play larger roles in that than anger (people perceive what I say differently than I intend). I get mad, but I don't act on it until I've had time to process the feeling. On the flip side, I don't experience lust much. I don't get caught up in the moment when I'm spending time with a special guy (not that I have one currently). I don't realize that I'm attracted to someone until later. This delay of emotion makes living in the moment slightly more difficult.

When someone asks me, "how are you," I respond with something canned: "fine," "good," or "ok." But if someone asks me, "I noticed you were a little down earlier. What was wrong?" I'll be able to give them a detailed answer because I've had time to process the emotion (if I've been alone since then). I can tell when I'm happy or sad or angry, but I might not be able to articulate why immediately.

Lately I've been forced to deal with sorrow. Losing Grandpa has been difficult, and I find myself digging deep into emotions I haven't been around in a long time. Never have I been able to cry so readily. That which I used to bury to deal with "later" comes up quickly now, and I'm working to let the emotion dictate my mood instead of trying to control everything dictatorially.

Nevermind that I also process emotions as colors in my head, and that I don't always understand what's going on up there. I figure I'm physically in my mid-twenties, emotionally about 19, have the knowledge of a thirty-something, and the life and social experience of someone half my age. No matter the age or ability, I'm learning to be present in my emotion.

I'm learning, but oh! how I hate the lessons.

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

You Can Run, But You Can't Hide Via RSS Feeds Anymore

If you're reading this post from an RSS feed, I have bad news: you're actually going to have to come to my blog from now on if you want to read the whole thing. Sure, you can make your IP invisible and sneak around so I can't track your stats individually, but now you have one more hoop to jump through. It's not that I don't want you to read my blog... I do want my stats to accurately reflect readership, especially returning visitors. I like it when you come back!

In other news, I'm on the mend already from this vicious cold. It came on quickly Sunday, and I was able to work today without much problem. I did wear out after a long walk at lunch, and I was dragging by 5pm, but now (an hour later), I'm up again and kickin'.

So, what haven't I posted about in the last few days? I didn't make any resolutions--I don't believe in them and have never made one. I watched two more Edward Norton films: Death to Smoochy and Fight Club. The former was good. I really like Norton as a comedic actor, and Smoochy is a film I could watch several times before getting bored. Of course, Robin Williams helped the movie considerably... in his insanity, there's some genius. Fight Club hasn't sat well with me, but I hope to watch the actor commentary track tonight and maybe gain some insight.

My homemade pizzas just buzzed, and I need to do about twenty things before I sit down again... I never realized all the little things adults do that take so much of their time. Holy crap.

Monday, January 07, 2008

Comfort Food Bliss

I am not one to use food for comfort. I've seen what happens due to overeating, and I am not about to carry on the family tradition of a large, um, arse. People have kindly been giving my family food since Grandpa's death. We've acquired several hams, casseroles, and more cookies than I've ever seen at once in my life. Seriously. We're thankful for all the food and especially thankful for all of the thoughts and prayers.

My aunts were joking yesterday about the ham. My family will eat just about anything (we're German... we eat food and lots of it, especially if it's sugary, fatty, and goes straight to our hips). As much as we appreciate all the ham, my aunt said, we'd also be quite comforted by steak or prime rib. :) I know I would have been comforted by a cheesecake and some truffles myself... I don't aim to belittle the incredible generosity by family and friends for the meals--that's not my point. I am saying that we're all comforted by different things.

Tonight, after working all day, I came home and wanted to collapse. My cold is getting the best of me, and I'm tired, cranky, and want to do nothing more than curl up under a blanket with my box of Kleenexes. But I can't just lie around dwelling and being miserable. Even thought I don't find much comfort in a bowl or on a plate, I made one of my mom's family's best comfort foods: Milk Noodle Soup. The warm soup is helping me feel better, and I know I can definitely use the milkfats and calcium.

But the milk is also making my nose plug up more. It's worth it... healthy comfort food is worth the hips, thighs, stuffy noses... maybe that's my lesson for the day.

Sunday, January 06, 2008

From Mourning to Celebration...

Grandpa's memorial service was very nice yesterday. His passing has been hard on my family. A few family members shared some special moments at the service, and the pastor did a fantastic job with the prayers and sentiments. I cried the whole time. Even knowing that Grandpa's passing is for the best, it's difficult to let go. There's a lot of love and memory tied up inside, and I'm working to celebrate now instead of mourn.

Between crying and getting a cold, my nose feels like it has been dragged across sandpaper for hours on end. I don't want to cry anymore, and I sure-as-hell don't want to deal with a drippy nose.

Since Grandpa was in a facility the last year, he had some furniture in his room that is no longer in use. Grandma thoughtfully gave me his two nightstand-dressers and a floor lamp--two things I've very much needed in my apartment. I'm sad that the furniture isn't in use by it's intended owner, but I'm incredibly thankful that I have a good place to put it.

I did go dancing last night, and it was quite possibly the worst dancing experience I've ever had. My friends and I went to Platinum--a local dive of a nightclub in Corvallis. The $2 cover and $1 well drinks didn't exactly make up for the shitty music and terribly atmosphere. People spilling drinks on the dance floor meant our suede-soled dance shoes stuck and smelled awful. I can't say that I'll ever go back there.

Rachel came over tonight. Talking with her made me feel better. Rachel understands how close my family is, and we shared grandparent stories as she recently lost her grandfather as well.

I'd apologize for the last few posts being somewhat depressing, but life isn't always peaches 'n' creme. Writing helps me get out emotions, and while I don't think you need to read everything that's been rattling around inside me this last week, it's making me feel better one slow day at a time. It's honest. My blog (and I) aim to be nothing more and certainly nothing less.

Saturday, January 05, 2008

Funeral Today, Dancing Tonight

I took Friday off from work with the intention of spending it with family. Events transpired, and I ended up staying home alone all day. As much as I feel it's important to be with my family, I'm also glad I've been able to go through my grieving process alone.

I don't want to sound like I have the grieving process figured out or that it's easy for me--I don't, and it's not. However, after working with elderly people throughout college and befriending them shortly before their deaths, I've had to figure out how to move on time and again. I know that it's different when you're really close to someone, and I know it's a different process for each individual. My experience doesn't make things easier for me. I'm simply better equipped to deal with my emotions.

When Mom called me and told me that Grandpa had passed, I immediately felt two things: grief and relief. I, of course, am heartbroken that he's gone. Tears came to me before I could get off the phone. But then I realized that he is gone. Now that he's gone, I can talk to him and he'll actually hear me--something his diseases haven't allowed him to do in over a year. That was a nice feeling, comparatively. He may be gone, but now he's with me all the time.

Getting out the words into my last blog post was probably the most cathartic thing I did. Writing it took a couple hours, and I struggled to find the right words. Today, at Grandpa's funeral, I'm going to hear even more stories about a great man. Hopefully the stories won't make me cry... I've done too much of that already.

Afterward, if I'm feeling up to it, I'm going dancing with my friends. Grandpa square danced, and he always liked hearing me talk about learning to dance. While some of my family might not think going out for some fun is appropriate today, I think it's one more way I can remember him uniquely.

Sometimes my words are not enough: Grandpa's obituary from the Albany Democrat-Herald.

Thursday, January 03, 2008

I'll miss you, Gramps!

He taught me how to play poker, blackjack, and rummy, and he was never far from the Keno board in a casino. Grandpa and Grandma spent many vacations in Reno and Las Vegas, usually staying at the Fitzgerald. Most of the time they came home ahead. Grandpa taught me to keep my cards up, to watch the other players to see if they were bluffing, and he'd rat Grandma out of she was bluffing while we played, too. New Year's Eve just wasn't the same if my parents, sister, and I weren't over at Grandma and Grandpa's playing card games until midnight, eating Chex Mix, smoked cheddar cheese, and crackers piled high with summer sausage. I had a feeling that 2008 would be the last year he'd see, and I was right.

Grandpa passed away peacefully yesterday evening with Grandma, Mom, and my aunt at his side. He was 77 years old. His Parkinson's Disease and Alzheimer's made him unable to be with us much this last year, and while I didn't visit him as often as I probably should have, I know he wouldn't have known me anyway.

Mom and Dad let my sister and me spend many nights with our grandparents while we were growing up. Besides honing our card-counting skills, we'd spend time watching Grandpa and Grandma cook. Visiting our grandparents meant coming home with a belly full of good, home-cooked, and often home-grown food. Grandpa's garden was always the biggest. At their old house, they had cherry trees. We could eat as many as we wanted, and we did. The trees also made great hiding spots for Easter eggs in the spring. My grandparents canned all sorts of odd vegetables, made their own bread, and baked lots of wonderful cookies. Some of the recipes were old... many were traditional German recipes with names I couldn't pronounce.

When we spent the night with them, my sister and I would always ask for "frog legs" for breakfast. Grandpa would grin, get out his Bisquick, mix it up really fast, and he'd pour out some stripes in a hot pan. "Frog legs" were soon on our plates covered in maple syrup. Pancakes, to be certain, and I forget how they earned the name "frog legs," but somehow it stuck. Sometimes we got Mickey Mouse pancakes with big ears. Sometimes we got silver-dollar-sized ones. "Frog legs" were always the best.

Once lunch rolled around, there was no question what we'd eat. Grandpa would open two boxes of macaroni and cheese and fix them. He'd open a jar of applesauce and then placed it on the table as if it were waiting for the rest of the meal to arrive. We'd load up our plates with as much room as possible between the applesauce and macaroni and cheese, but no matter how hard we tried, they always ran together in the middle. Grandpa laughed at us. He pushed his food around on his plate and got everything "all flavored up." My sister, not believing it could be good, tried it. She liked it, too. I gave it a taste. You know what? It didn't kill me. Ever since then (probably fifteen years ago), I've been mixing the two. It's good.

I have so many good memories of Grandpa. I remember him asking us to play the piano for him time and again. He loved to hear his grandchildren play his favorite hymns. He was a good singer, and I think I heard him whip out his accordion more than once. He may have also played the harmonica, but I don't remember.

Grandpa loved John Wayne movies, fishing, and making rubber stamps. More than once, I sat with him as he re-inked a dried-up ink pad or assembled a new stamp on his Linotype machine. He let me help him make the stamps once he got a new, high-tech machine. Sometimes I'd set the stamps or put them in boxes, and other times I'd sit and we'd talk.

Grandpa was the best at tickling. He always knew the right spots to hit, and he figured out how to make it tickle long after he'd stopped moving his fingers. His laugh, probably above everything else, is the one thing I hope I don't forget. Unique, warm, and genuine, Grandpa's laugh made everyone happy.

More than cooking, or music, or work, family was most important to Grandpa. My grandparents instilled that value into their children, and that message got passed down loud and clear to my cousins and me. Now, as we remember Grandpa, we find comfort in each other. We know he lived a long, happy life, and his passing means he's no longer suffering.

Grandpa: I don't think I'll ever eat macaroni and cheese and applesauce without thinking about you. Thanks for all the poker games, walks down to the park, and for singing along while I played the piano. I'll miss you.

Wednesday, January 02, 2008

Why is "Goodbye" so Damn Hard?

My grandfather passed away tonight. His death was not unexpected, but that doesn't make me feel any better about it.

I can't write much more than that now.

I'm in Corvallis still--feel free to call, comment, message, or otherwise. But I don't want sympathy, and please, no cards. Grandpa is not suffering now. His peace will bring me mine.

Tuesday, January 01, 2008

Edward Norton's Acting Makes Me Swoon

While my friends were all home visiting their parents for the holiday, I was home, alone, and very bored. I'd been wanting to see The Illusionist for quite a while, so I finally watched it. Thus began a two-week love affair with Edward Norton.

You want a biography or information about the actor? Search him out on the internet. I'm not some crazed fan out to create a whole website devoted to Mr. Norton. He's a fantastic actor, and I've enjoyed watching many of his films. Here are some of my own reviews:

In 1998, American History X premiered. I wasn't allowed to watch it as an 8th grader. Approximately two years ago, I sat down with my then-roommate and stuck it out. The movie is offensive, dark, depressing, and cruel. However, the content speaks very loudly (through Norton's portrayal of Derek Vinyard). Wonderful film, creative storytelling. Not something to watch if you want that uplifted feeling. NOT a movie for children. I need to add this to my collection. Five stars (four, but one extra because Norton's shirtless and hot for most of the movie).

Keeping the Faith, Norton's directorial debut, didn't spark much in me. The story primarily revolves around the other two main characters, interweaving an intelligent three-some sort of group friendship... you know what? I have no idea how to describe this movie. Funny at times, sad at others. Glad I watched this one on TV instead of renting it. Two brownie points (plus one for directing and dedicating it to his late mother).

25th Hour. What the heck was that? While the ending was interesting, the two hours leading up to that left me terribly confused and bored. Although, for the first time in a film, I actually felt sorry for the bad guy. The emotions this movie brings out of the viewer astounded me.

The Italian Job with Norton, Charlize Theron, and Mark Wahlberg. Oh, yeah, and car chases. This is one of my more favorite movies, and while I don't generally like remade movies, this movie rocks! Grab it off a bargain rack or if you can find it on sale. Four out of five stars.

Down in the Valley is quite possibly the most emotionally haunting film I've seen in years. Do not watch this film unless you're ready to get into a heavy storyline, want surprises around every corner, and don't mind feeling clueless the whole time. That said, the few lines of script in the film carry a deeper message than you realize at first, and the acting is phenomenal. I've adored David Morse for years, and for once, his character was true and believable from the get-go. I'm not sure if I liked it yet, but wow. What a piece of art! Four stars (minus one for Norton having a southern accent but claiming he's from South Dakota, where, I assure you, they do not have southern accents; plus one each for Norton and Morse playing the guitar in different scenes, and one more for the dancing clip).

The Illusionist was amazing. Wow. Go buy--skip the rental--buy this movie! You won't regret it. Beautiful story, great cinematography... the cast works great... and wow. *swoon*

The Painted Veil, Norton's 2006 romantic film with Naomi Watts. Interesting movie, although not one I'd buy. Small budget, filmed in cooperation with the China Film Bureau in China. Period piece set in the 1920's... costuming is superb, and I love the feel of the movie. Not sure Ms. Watts was the right female lead for the film. Three out of five stars (plus one for a nice shot of Norton's naked arse).

I've not yet seen Fight Club, Death to Smoochy, or Primal Fear. They're on my list for the next few trips to the video store. Before you label me some Edward Norton stalker or crazed fan, I must reiterate: I love his acting, not him. There is a huge difference.

But he does have great hands. I love his hands.