Wednesday, October 31, 2012

The Hilarious and the Macabre, Pt. 2

In honor of our beloved Halloween, while I don't really dig horror, I do love ridiculous songs that are both hilarious and macabre. So for your viewing pleasure, here are two songs from my beloved Tom Lehrer. He obviously inspired modern comedy song writers like Weird Al, and has left a legacy of music that I fear many may have missed. Both of these songs are love songs, celebrating love that is a bit more painful. The first is called "The Masochism Tango" featuring a couple that either likes to abuse each other, or a woman who really is trying to off her man...interpretation left up to the listener.


The second is the most gruesome. It completely reinterprets the dessert we refer to as "Ladyfingers."


Oh, Tom Lehrer, I salute you!

Happy Halloween!

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

LML: It's the Little Things

Ever since I was small, I have a love for new art materials.

To this day I can still remember the first box of 64 crayons I received.  It was such a big deal opening the box and having all of the crayons look like this.  That fantastic waxy smell and all of the crayons lined up perfectly and untouched.

Even though art is something I do right now as a hobby, I never lose that feeling of utter joy anytime I get something new and useful.

So in honor of LML Monday, here are a few things that help me love my life just a little bit more.

1.  New Markers:

Anybody that does marker-based artwork knows that it is a pain in the buttocks trying to do flesh tones.  Standard sets don't seem to carry them.

When you're a low-level, semi-starving artist it is really hard to find anything.  The closest thing before this was a set of Crayola washables that had fleshtones, and those I was very concerned about lightfastness, quality and longevity.

So I decided to bite the bullet and purchase a few slightly more expensive ones.

These are AWESOME.  They are dual tipped so there's a brush pen on one end and a fine point marker on the other.

It made me so happy it almost felt like those 64 Crayolas all over again.  Hooray!  And further I bought it from....

2. Amazon: Amazon made me happy because I finally found exactly what I was looking for, didn't have to pay a fortune, ordered it Saturday night and it got here today!

Now I have all the utensils I need to complete my next poster for the film series I am helping to coordinate.  Sweetness!

3. Tom Lehrer.  While I can't say for sure whether we had his record album growing up, I can say with certainty I heard one song many times, sung with hilarity and joy growing up as my mother would belt out lines from it periodically.

Fast-forward to today, and we can experience Tom Lehrer performing his piece on film.  As part of my countdown to Halloween, I cannot help but highlight the great and timeless Lehrer in hopes of spreading the joy of his hilarious and macabre tunes.  For your viewing and listening pleasure...

Poisoning Pigeons in the Park.

If you think this is funny and a bit twisted wait until I post the other two....

Consider it my gift to you, to remember to enjoy life even amidst the entirely unfunny hurricane ripping up the east coast.

It's either laugh or cry, right? Let's choose laughter.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Learning to Appreciate Your Style of Working

“Whatever the present moment contains, accept it as if you had chosen it. Always work with it, not against it.” ~Eckhart Tolle

I have been thinking a lot about this lately, and I've come to monumental conclusion: I don't need to fit into anyone's mold.

Pretty much every writing manual, guide, and otherwise helpful book has encouraged writers to be disciplined about writing in a journal every single day. Here is a great example of what I'm talking about and I have heard this type of advice about a thousand times:

"Are you an aspiring blogger, author, poet, journalist or writer of any description? If you’re making serious attempts at writing, you need to be disciplined about it – no professional writer works just when they’re “in the mood” or when “the muse descends.” Developing the habit of writing regularly (ideally every day) will be a bigger factor in your success than your raw level of writing skill. You will get better if you practice, and your journal is an ideal place to do so – no-one will laugh at clumsy phrases or failed experimental pieces, and you can write about whatever topics inspire you the most."

On the one hand I do agree that it's a great place to experiment in a journal or on a blog. As I have grown up I have taken many an English class, and every teacher or professor I can remember had a similar approach. I remember so many an hour sitting in class writing, or writing at home knowing we had 15 journals due for midterms and I had exactly two. So you spend half the night catching up on entries because every other night you were just too exhausted from your other homework to even think about writing a journal entry. So now you do this hand-cramp-inducing blitz, expecting to churn out gold page after page. It was incredibly forced, horribly depressing, and frankly about as creative as plain yogurt.

As a creative person and a writer, I would like to take this opportunity to call BS.

I would like to call BS on all attempts to browbeat and guilt into trying to be creative. It ends up being your mother standing over you, telling you that you cannot leave the kitchen table until you gulp down your last brussel sprout. It just furthers your frustration, your anger, and your annoyance. How are we ever going to really enjoy writing with a rigid taskmaster at the helm of our psyches?

I am using this opportunity to say, forgive yourself for not having written a blog entry every day of October. Forgive yourself for not writing in your journal once a day, a week, a month or even a year.

Why do I say this?

Because quantity doesn't mean quality.

Because creativity can't be legislated or regulated entirely.

And because lording rules over people never spurred creative juices.

I used to, as a writer, feel utter shame, because my bookshelves weren't graced with years of "Dear Diary" entries taking up shelf space. 'What will anyone read of me?' I thought. In fact, because I wasn't writing every single day, I obviously wasn't improving the way I was supposed to be.

Then the other day I came across it; it was my journal.

I had one journal that I kept from the time I was about eight years old until I was late into my teens. I'm telling you, those few entries were as delightful and perhaps more delightful for the short glimpses into my daily life. It was my hopes and my dreams captured in spurts like a stunning time-lapse photo. Watching my handwriting evolve along with my thoughts and emotions. And it was all in one place. It wasn't over multiple volumes in multiple places. It was all laid out before me: my early life as I knew it.

You can't tell me that I have not improved simply because I don't adhere to a regimented schedule. I still write when I need to write.

So if someone has been feeding your insecurities by telling you that you can't or won't become a better writer unless you write in a journal or on a blog every single day, tell them to go fly a kite!

Be your own writer. As long as you are working on yourself, writing when you can, reading a lot, and striving to improve you will. Following a schedule can't make you better, but learning, absorbing, and engaging with life can.

Work with your own ebbs and flows not against them.

Saturday, October 27, 2012

The Fade Out

Having dated enough people, and being the age that I am, I have become accustomed to having seriously low expectations going into any date.  In fact, meeting anyone even casually I have learned to have really no expectations in the beginning.  Why? Because having too high of hopes has come to mean serial disappointment.

However, having low expectations going into many situations has provided me with many a happy payoff. Example? Going to a cheap movie.  If I have any doubts about a movie's quality, I can merely wait until it hits the discount theater.  Then it's a very low risk proposition.  Most times I'm going to at least enjoy $4 worth of movie and the company of a friend or family member. The only exception would be the steaming pile that was Drive that was so gruesome I couldn't sit through it, at which point my friend of mine and I walked out of the theater.

So frankly, I'm not willing to go all-in unless I feel it is a solid investment. This applies emotionally as well.  The males of the human race have disappointed me so many times, that my expectations are way low.  I do expect you to treat me well, but frankly I don't have much hope of you sticking around. So far you have a really poor track record, guys.

In fact I was introduced to someone over the phone. I have since then had close to two months of phone conversations, where it seemed like our conversation was nice and I might at least get a friend out of the deal, and where a future relationship wasn't totally out of the question due to one or the other of us being married or something.  This was nice! We had much in common including a similar religious background.

Things were putting along nicely. Even for just friendship it was better than other male friendships.

Now two weeks have gone by, and nothing.

Radio silence.

I think I know what this means: the fade out.

One of my grand pet peeves is the fade out.  Except sometimes it's even worse, because it's the drop off the face of the earth.  I had this happen with a pen pal of mine who did send me some sort of cryptic email about not being around much in the future, things were happening, but know what good friends we were.

Um, okay.  I guess it was his way of trying to be polite and say that he had no interest in even being friends with me anymore.  Why? Who the heck knows.  But now I've got a couple years worth of emails, memories of fun phone calls, a handful of nice gifts (that were frankly better than any romantic suitor ever gave me) and me left with more emotional baggage to unpack.

After a while I start to feel like Bill Murray in Groundhog Day living the same date over and over, but getting slapped earlier and earlier.

It starts to make me wish every date, every friendly encounter could be accompanied by the exit survey.  When leaving a job for a major company, everyone has to go through an exit  interview.  Mine could easily read:

What exactly did you find unsatisfying about this relationship?  Check all that apply:

  • Talks about movies I don't like.
  • Too intense/hardcore
  • Is too disorganized.
  • Believes Han shot first.
  • I'm intimidated by her artistic talent.
  • Television tastes don't line up.
  • Excessive use of the phrase, "Seriously?"
  • Snorts a little when laughing.
  • She hasn't read Green Lantern.
  • She likes The Big Bang Theory and refers to them as her kindred spirits.
  • Hasn't watched Dr. Who.
  • Hasn't watched Buffy the Vampire Slayer.
  • Loves Firefly.
  • I'm intimidated by her intelligence.
  • Knows how to build her own computer.
  • Knows the definition of the word "defenestration" and has used it in casual conversation.
  • Doesn't call me because she claims she doesn't like to talk on the phone much.
  • Laughs too much.  Finds me too funny.
  • Likes World of Warcraft and Guild Wars 2 a little too much.
  • Snores.
  • Doesn't drive.
  • Likes buttered popcorn flavored Jelly Bellys. 
  • Reads too much Harry Potter, Stephen King, or Dean Koontz.
  • Watches too much football.
  • Likes to analyze things.
  • Is klutzy.
  • Hasn't fit into a size 8 since she was about 10 years old.
  • Lives in California.
  • Likes old movie musicals.
  • Blogs about everything.
  • Wants to write and publish novels.
  • Is allergic to Glade air fresheners. I love Glade.  It just wouldn't work.
  • Got a girlfriend and didn't want to tell you.
  • I'm married and realized you're a good person who wouldn't do anything dastardly.
  • Got bored.
  • Scared of liking someone.
  • Don't even want to be friends with a girl that I wouldn't want to marry.
  • Other_________________________________________________________

It would just be nice if I had a clue.  It seems the more time passes in my life, the less able I am to see anything that would remotely tip me off that he's going to disappear.

Future friends/suitors of America listen up: stop it! Either be there or don't be there, but don't just fall off the edge of the earth and call it a fade out.  Better yet, be friends.  Just friends.  Taper off.  At least claim business at work, or craziness at home, or something that is just going to take too much time and I may not hear from you for a long while.  Whatever. Then send me a card on Christmas. Don't just disappear.

It's just mean. Don't be mean.  Be nice.

Friday, October 26, 2012

Three Things Thursday

It's a little late in my ultimate blog challenge to start a trend, but perhaps I can mark this day as the day I started Three Things Thursday.

I like threes.  I like Thursday.  How about I talk about three things on Thursday? Sounds like a good plan ot me.

Today, it's three things I love.

1.  I love a good bargain.

While these shoes aren't exactly like the ones I purchased, imagine them in a cute plaid and marked down to a mere $5. Not only this but in my size, which is hard to find because I have fairly large feet.  In this, I have no shame.

I am a shameless bargain hunter.  And am not ashamed of my feet.

2. I love trying new things.

After extolling the virtues of Hershey's Pumpkin Spice Kisses on her blog, I had to take Melissa's advice and try them.  They are delicious!  I love the utilization of the white chocolate and their overall smooth pumpkiny-ness.  Big, big, score!

I also saw Caramel Apple Milky Ways and that sounded a little wrong.  So I took a pass on that one.  Especially since I know how often apple flavored things taste very chemical and artificial.

After discovering that my local restaurant had Waldorf salad at lunch, I was not up for disappointing substitutes.

3. Soft pajama pants

I still don't quite understand the logic behind making plus size women's pajamas tight.   When I'm asleep, I want to move freely, not feel like I've gotsomething body hugging all over me.  But apparently gurus in department stores believe that women want nothing but body hugging items.

So it was refreshing to at least find soft, wonderful pajama pants made out of breathable loose knit that can replace my other pajama pants that are more holey than righteous.

Put all of these three things together and you have one delightfully thrilling Thursday.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Crazy Enough

Honestly, sometimes I think I've gone completely nuts.

Right now, I've got very little income and a half dozen projects that may bring me more money but goodness only knows how long this will take.  Usually businesses take upwards of five years or more to really build to a comfortable means of income.

The real revelation comes when you realize that your stable means of income is now in a horrifically overcrowded job market.  Where once you thought your career choice you would settle on one career, one avenue, one talent or skillset, and that would be your lifetime career.  You would work for 40 years, retire comfortably, and set yourself up for the next generation to take care of you.

That is not the world we live in anymore.  There is no secure job path for the entire course of your working life (with the unfortunate exception of politicians.)  Where once I dreamed of being an artist and writer, but put that aside thinking training for primarily teaching was the best idea, now I see that the artist and writer were actually the better dreams all along.

My arguments when I was younger always ended up with me not wanting to be a starving artist.  Guess what? Today's job market has created starving teachers.  So the once solid job market we had several years ago doesn't exist anymore.  When people at the top of the field can't find work, they trickle down to lower positions they never would have settled for ten years ago just so they can make ends meet.  By the time you get to the newbies at the bottom, they are completely out of luck unless they happen to know someone and can manage to eke out something.

So my takeaway today? Go bold or go home.  Build your career around your skills, and figure out what works even if it isn't traditional.  There are very few avenues for a traditional life like that anymore, so you might as well go for the big win.  If you're going to struggle and not make much money, you might as well be doing the things you are good at and love doing.  Right?

Lance Armstrong's Crucible

Photo from LA Observed
When we were in high school reading plays like The Crucible was always an exercise in exploring the savagery of the past, but apparently the days of using circumstantial evidence to prove someone’s innocence or guilt are far from over.  Like a group of prepubescent tattletales, the USADA gleefully plunked the 1,000 page tome that the USADA plopped in front of the American public as proof that they can and would strip Armstrong of his seven tour titles, and the expectation that their judgment would be final.   The past few days would turn into a wild theater, where the public gets to wallow in self-righteousness, pastors get to blog about Armstrong sewing what he reaps, and the media gets to wag their fingers and shake their heads at the downfall of another hero.

And while the UCI has also decided to turn its back on Armstrong after failing to find proof enough to strip him themselves, they decide to uphold the USADA’s ruling and take all titles away.   While the media continues to chime in about how “damning” the evidence is, and how this proves beyond a shadow of a doubt that Armstrong is guilty, without any of us reading these documents aren't we just falling into some sort of media echo chamber?  Instead we read headlines and listen to soundbites of quoted testimony from teammates who create this image of Armstrong as a moustache-twirling godfather of cycling, tying innocent fellow cyclists to the railroad tracks and injecting them with performance enhancing chemicals to force a win. 

While I do not claim to have read the entirety of what is someone’s obvious grand opus of a document, I did bother to glance over the introduction and then get to the meatier pages surrounding the evidence being lobbed against Armstrong.  By far the most damning evidence is all, and I repeat all, testimony.  Verbal testimony by people who worked with Armstrong and who have admitted to having seen him do something.  Emails are included of calendars where Armstrong (gasp) left off a few dates, likely because he would like to be a human being for a few days without some stranger knocking on his door at 3am with a needle and syringe.  Many of the same people who have testified have admitted to having been given deals to lighten their punishment significantly by helping to tie Armstrong to the stake.

The so-called scientific evidence could easily be picked apart by anyone who has even a courtroom-drama level knowledge of the law.  The report openly admits that much of the testing hadn’t been honed until the past several years, toward the tail end and well after Armstrong’s career was through.  As well, footnotes cite that handling of the samples wasn’t always good, that practices weren’t always consistent, etc.  While medical experts also give testimony throughout, there are constant caveats about testing samples, and no evidence that there was any broad spectrum comparison done across samples from every other competitor in Le Tour.  As you flip through page after page, it becomes less a matter of convincing, and more an exercise in overreaching.  And begs the question, why was the USADA so desperate to take this man down?

The answer may lie more in what they win if the USADA destroys Armstrong’s career.  While it’s not a government entity,  millions of funding for the non-profit come from the office of the drug czar, which in its infancy would field scripts for television shows and reward them with monetary incentives if they changed their programming to a stronger anti-drug message.  With a big win under its belt it not only is guaranteed to continue to get funding to go after more athletes, but can do so partially on the taxpayer’s dime.   What’s perhaps more disturbing then? That the UCI, an international organization, would honor the ruling of the USADA and strip Armstrong of his titles officially.  By doing so, they allow the USADA to prove that they have international power over international sports, which is a rather large overreach.

For every charge of grand conspiracies and huge networks working together, there is an equal charge that must be laid on the USADA for bribing witnesses with softened penalties in exchange for fingering Armstrong.

Even if we give the USADA the benefit of the doubt for what I would consider to be a shaky case at best, and say that Lance Armstrong indeed participated in doping, as did the other people who testified, what next? The problem with laying a case where doping was so ubiquitous and rampant that everyone was doing it, is that if you plan on having even a modicum of fairness, you would have to go back and test and reread the results from every competitor in every tour Lance participated in.
Further, since more and more people have come forward saying that everyone was involved in doping of some sort, wouldn’t that mean that Lance was competing on an even playing field?  And, if you are only going to allow someone who has not doped be on record as a Tour winner, who exactly are you going to find?  Is the next in line going to be carefully examined to make sure he wasn’t a doper as well? And who will fund these intense investigations?  What kind of sport will it become if you have to go back ten or more years and rewrite every victory and can only give it to some schmoe who came in 142nd in the tour and was the lone representative of the country of Andorra?

When will the nonsense end?

Monday, October 22, 2012

Loving the Imperfections

I know I'm not one to want to turn my blog into a spiritual blog (though a long time ago I used to have a devotional blog where I liked to express spiritual thoughts.)  But, this sentiment is such a powerful one I had to just take a moment and let it sort of soak right through me. It seems such a simple and powerful statement that it had to be shared.

I think there are times in our human relationships where we have to be reminded of our own weakness to really truly understand just how much God loves us.  To be reminded of his infinite and boundless love, and our contrasting finite love.  That in fact the only way to thrive is to accept both our imperfection and his perfection at the same time.

By accepting, I don't mean beating ourselves up either.  We are often our own worst critics, so it's easy to get stuck in that loop of dwelling on all of our negatives, when God knows we are like this and loves us anyway.  In fact, he knew the mistakes we were going to make before we made them, and still loves us.

As much as we would like to be perfectly forgiving, perfectly unflinchingly unaffected by each others idiosyncrasies, it is just not possible.  As much as we would like to immediately achieve true unconditional love, our bodies are hardwired with conditions.  For us, we can only work a lifetime for glimpses and moments of something akin to God's unconditional love.  How perfect is God's love?

Where we look at each other and say, "I love you even though you are xxxx, or have xxxx, or have done...xxxxx."  While that is wonderful, and certainly a good start, God looks at us and says, I love you.  No caveats.  No exceptions.  Just, "I love you."

If only more of the world could be filled with this and less strife.  What a wonderful world that would be.  Until then, we only view it through a glass, darkly.

But what a beautiful glimpse it is, nonetheless.


It is LML (Love My Life) Monday! Feel free to join the blog hop if you want to share the love.

Saturday, October 20, 2012


I know it is a state of human existence to periodically do something that is just completely and utterly horrible by complete and total accident.

Today's *facepalm* is brought to you by:

1) PMS
2) Dyslexia
3) My phone anti-social nature

When these three forces collide, obviously, hell breaks loose.

I, of all people, know how much other people put up with to be friends with me.  I know I can be annoying, and frankly to be in my presence one has to drive because I don't (due to a fear of my dyslexic brain confusing the gas and break pedal--which has happened on more than one occasion.)

So, today is the day after an extremely fabulous day with my good friend who will now be referred to as GF.  So yesterday's soiree luncheon was pinch-me-I-might-be-dreaming cool.  I met some cool Hollywood people and politicians and it was crazy.  Something I never would have dreamed of otherwise.  We are just a great team.  I adore the time we spend together, we work well together and have fun together.  We considered it my big birthday treat, since GF hadn't had a chance to do anything for my 40th with me. Words cannot express how much fun we had.  Once-in-a-lifetime memorable.

That being said, I am not a phone person and GF totally is.  Generally speaking, I basically put up with phones out of necessity.  While others feel very connected by phones I never do.  I often feel kind of burdened by too many phone calls.  But for friends, I suck it up most of the time.  I remind myself that I am at times irritating and annoying, and if phones are the price I pay to keep in touch and foster friendships I do.  I just run out of things to talk about on the phone much, much faster than any of my friends do.

I even have one friendship that takes place *entirely* by phone, and frankly I'm glad he doesn't call more than once or at the most twice per week, because even then I feel at a loss for things to talk about.  In reality I can't handle the lack of visual rhythm and body language.  With speaking in person or videochat I can take rhythms from things that are happening around me and continue conversation with a glance, a breath, art on the walls, or something on a video screen in the bar.  With email, I can bend words to my will and be much more thoughtful, expressive and responsive.

So, when you combine the three facepalm sponsors of the day, what you get is what happened a little while ago.  GF decides to call me.  GF thinks that they are going to get bright, chipper, fun-loving Sara.  Sara has just finished watching a movie and is feeling completely ick in the livingroom with whole family.  Sara feels anti-social. Sara's evil twin is playing the part of her right now. Sara gets GF's phonecall and thinks she's hit the "reject" button to send GF to voicemail for now.

Instead, apparently Dyslexia has caused Sara to send GF to speakerphone.  So then, Sara confesses to family that she has changed the ringtone on her phone to something different to not get sick of her current ringtone, and feels that GF is a co-dependent friend.

Two seconds later, Sara gets text from GF.  "You think I am a co-dependent friend?"


When I call to apologize, GF apologizes for being co-dependent.  Apparently GF has been told this before.  And all this the DAY AFTER THE DAY OF AWESOME.  Way to go, Sara. Way. To. Go.

 I feel about this big right now.

While GF has said "no worries" after spending past couple hours groveling, I'm trying to remind myself that we all do really stupid ass things now and then.  That we hurt the people we care about the most often unintentionally.

Other lessons I can learn from this include:

  • Make sure friends know your feelings about how you communicate and that it is no reflection on them.  Really, I can cite my family as a source on this one.  
  • Make sure you emphasize that it's not them it's totally you.
  • Make sure you press the right buttons on your cell phone.
  • Try to comfort yourself by knowing that we all really screw up at some point in our relationships.  It's human nature.

But in the meantime, I'll reside in a blog sackcloth and ash for a while.  Don't mind me.

My Chemical Romance

In about 2007, my brother and I were in our apartment when the apartment next door caught on fire.  While all of our neighbors were evacuated, we were not, and ended up trapped in our apartment for a while as smoke billowed in from around the doors.  It was a crazy time for both of us.

I personally don't believe it is a coincidence that after that point I had more allergies, developed bronchitis several times, and became mildly asthmatic.

After that time, I also become increasingly sensitive to chemicals and fragrances, which became an exhausting exercise in trying to remain on top of my sensitivities.  So I cut many fragrances and chemicals out of my life.

I started wearing less makeup, had to ask the family to stop using all Glade air fresheners (totally allergic), and even periodically have problems with fragrances in shampoo.

 I also read No More Dirty Looks a couple years ago, which exposed the vast amount of trace chemicals present in beauty products.  It was enlightening and disturbing.  Sort of like the Food, Inc of the cosmetic world.

After that point I also ended up cutting out hairspray from my life for almost a full year.  I mean none. I couldn't find one that didn't give me issues so I just avoided them all.

Fast forward to today.

I had a small, fancy lunch soiree I wanted to attend, and along with the dress and clothing I knew I needed makeup.  L'oreal finally came out with a mascara that will stay on my face longer than 15 minutes without making me look like I've gotten into a fistfight. I already had other makeup from a prior shindig.  So I gave in and got a long-lasting lipstick and my first hairspray in oh-so-many months.

I have a confession to make--I really like the hairspray.  It creates an even texture, my hair bounces and flows without frizz.  I love it. Not only that, but I gave in and bought a breakage fighting shampoo that just came out.  And it all makes my hair look and feel awesome.

I know, I know.  And trust me.  I've tried all sorts of natural hair care products, and frankly I can't stand the smell of vinegar long enough to be one of those vinegar rinse people.

And the lipstick.  I wasn't super keen on it lasting all day, BUT I also knew I was in fancy land and reapplying lipstick all through lunch wasn't and option.  This stuff was amazing too.  It stayed on all day long.  I would just occasionally reapply a topcoat/balm.  It was great!

So for all of those completely organic people out there who have the cleanest products AND the nicest hair and makeup, I salute you.  Or if you're a showoff, you don't need makeup. I salute you as well.
I'm sorry, but I can't give up all my chemicals.  Some of them I really love.  I promise I still alternate between cleaner products, don't plan on doing the makeup thing every day, and will also promise to not use the hairspray on a daily basis.

I just can't help myself.  I really do like my stuff.  I will just do it a little more mindfully and with more moderation.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Things I Would Tell My Twenty-Year-Old Self

After seeing the absolutely delightful blog from Miss Riki, talking about things she would tell her teenage self, I thought it would be only fitting to have a chat with my twenty-year-old self.

To give a little background, scene opens.  It's 1992, and I am fresh off of taking a couple years at my local community college to find out that I am disillusioned with becoming a fine artist, finding that I would be facing a life of abject poverty as an artist and would have to try to pull a good grade out of an art history course that would have tanked my GPA immediately.  So I dropped the course and the major.

With that in mind, I had spent the prior year just taking general ed courses for the sole purpose of attending school somewhere else.  That somewhere else ended up being a small, church-sponsored bible college out of state.  My thought in this is that I could get a degree in Liberal Arts or possibly English, teach somewhere eventually, and get some social interaction that could eventually lead to acquisition of a husband.

However, October 17th of 1992 I would be embarking on my first semester and life was not a bowl of cherries.  More like the pits.  I had an insufferable roommate who was anal-retentive level tidy, whereas I have always been chaotic.  My moderate dyslexia has made it nearly impossible to consistently lay out a routine for organizing my things, so periodically I will naturally misplace generally every item that is important to me.  I was struggling to fit in within a dorm of very different, rebellious, spoiled girls and the girl that slept in the bed next to mine was as opposite as one could get.

It was depressing.

I also had constant lies and manipulations from a girl who would try at every turn to sour my friendship with her male friend and make me look like a psycho-stalker to try to kill interest amongst any other males on campus.  In other words, it was a social scorched earth campaign.

On top of this I was floundering in my bible classes, under a very oppressive grading system that had been implemented to supposedly inspire us to greater things (because according to the college president we were slackers and didn't deserve to be there--his words.)

Depression, exhaustion, and homesickness were all setting in on this October 17th.

As I step into my wormhole/time machine, I'm taking a stroll and going to find my younger self, sit down in the dining hall, and have a meal.  I am disguised so as not do too much to disrupt the space-time continuum, because otherwise, all I will do is create another parallel universe for myself where I do things drastically differently.  And how will that help, really?

I don't need that much of a disguise. I'm older and much heavier, so I'll don a hat, large semi-dark glasses so as to not be recognized.  I will pose as an upper classmen. As I sit with myself and other student friends, I'll wait until they have left, and ask to chat a few minutes about the experiences here.

As my true identity is revealed to me, I will carefully choose my advice as follows.

1) Enjoy your body.  I know that's a weird thing to say to a total stranger, but really you think you're too heavy now and you're just right.  In fact, you're in pretty darn good shape.  Appreciate this fact and savor it, because the older you get the harder it will be to come back to.  And likely, you will be ready to sell your right arm at my age for the chance to be a size 12/14 again.

And also along that same vein--even though your glasses are a little big and your hair is still frizzy, people fall in love with your hair.  No seriously, they love your hair.  And they won't tell you how much they love your hair until years later when they reveal that they bemoan every time you get a haircut.

Even with short hair you'll look adorable and they don't have to care for your hair, so don't worry about it.  Wear your gorgeous hair with pride.  It'll be beautiful at every length.

2) Enjoy this time in your life. Whenever you look back on this, despite this being a really tough year for you, things are about to get significantly better.  This tragic and pitiful fool that is making your life miserable will soon be departing, so don't let her sully your memories of a beautiful friendship.  And your male friend that you have a crush on, it's perfectly okay.  You'll remain good friends and he won't think you're a psycho despite her best efforts.  In fact, he will encourage you to let the real you be seen more often.

3) Don't be afraid to become the person you're meant to be.  Girl, you are meant to be loud and audacious sometimes. Don't be afraid of that! Flirt, be loud, be funny, and don't be afraid to be yourself even though you are very different from those around you. Really, different is good, and you are making friends right now that will appreciate those differences in every way. Even though some will argue that "She's got a great personality" is a way to say you're not pretty, it actually is a huge complement.  When other people are left with only their looks and a sucky personality, you'll be totally set.  Looks come and go, but a passionate and loving soul lasts forever.

Honestly, one day you will find that you are the life of the party and you won't understand how in the world that happened when in these days you were an outcast.

4) Pay attention to the shy guys.  Some of them will be your friends forever, and some will be there and gone again, but the ones that again have a great personality will be the ones that stick with you always. Not only that, but they will help you make memories that you will treasure always.

In fact, you will long after miss the social life you had at this time, so cherish every date even when it's just a few.  There will come a day when you have a really tough time getting dates and memories will sustain you.  I know...buzzkill right?

5) Being single isn't all bad.  Just know that while marriage has many advantages, and while some stupid people under the guise of helping will try to say that you have to be in a certain place spiritually before God will allow you to marry, it's all poppycock. It's life. Some people are lucky and/or blessed to get married much younger.  Some are not.  They will struggle with relationship issues, dirty diapers, and a host of things that come with being married that you will not.  You will struggle with being lonely and feeling unworthy, but you've dealt with that devil all your life.  So don't worry about it.

If it happens it happens, and if it doesn't it doesn't. We all have our crosses to bear. What's important is to enjoy these moments and these relationships now and not worry about future romances or lack thereof.

But what you should know, is that marriage doesn't equal spiritual superiority by any means.  It means they took a chance on love that panned out, and were smart enough to get legal paperwork to make separation of their property a little easier to legally sort should everything go south.  So don't go kicking yourself around because you aren't married and having kids at the same time everyone else is.  There is no contractual obligation for life to provide you with lifelong love and children, and having none of these things doesn't make you less of a person.  So don't ever let anyone tell you different.  Just find happiness in other endeavors and let the chips fall where they may.

6) Your dreams will change--and that's not a bad thing. Every time you make a career decision that seems like a solid plan, life and circumstance will tell you different.  So your response should be to just go with it.  You will have opportunities come up and things that you never expected to be doing that you will do because it utilizes your skills. In fact, be completely open to utilizing your skills in new and exciting ways.  Don't feel guilty for exploring different means of using your skills.  These can lead to all sorts of possibilities even when life seems to have presented you with all sorts of unexpected dead ends.

As I leave my stunned twenty-year-old self wondering if she should call security on the crackpot 40-year-old that was spinning one hell of a tale, I go back through my distortion in the space-time continuum, and bid my past self adieu, knowing that it is a time that will gladly be left behind but with the knowledge that I gave my past self a little comfort and consolation.

And that future self is perfectly okay with the struggles and rough edges that made her who she is today.

The Element of Surprise

In keeping with my cousin Melissa's blog, and her frequent LML (Love My Life) Monday episodes, today I am keeping positive with the element of surprise.  So I began to think of the ways that surprises have cropped up just in my normal day.

1. I was reminded of my friends who 17 years ago came to me and said they wanted to elope, and wanted me to be a witness.

We were all on religious retreat in Niagara Falls, Canada. My friends were very much in love, and decided that what they really wanted to do was exchange vows and the sooner the better. No one to interfere as she knew family could.  Just people that loved them sharing a beautiful and intimate moment of commitment.

They found a very Irish minister and exchanged vows right there.

It was beautiful! It had been raining and now it was partly cloudy out.  They exchanged vows, and the sun broke through just at the right time in the beautiful botanical gardens.  I borrowed a beautiful dress that served as my bridesmaid's dress from her, and she borrowed a sweater from me. It was a moment and a bond I will always cherish.

2. My friends had their baby today! It came a little early, but their little baby girl was happy to come on her very own schedule.  Not only this, but they were blessed with a beautifully smooth birth of a five pound and ten ounce gorgeous little munchkin. No issues, no hugely long labors.  It was wonderful.

3.  My age.  I turned 40 and I still have a little hiccough saying it.  However, the payoff is when not only do you still get carded, but when a new friend meets you, and your friend tells them how old you are, they think someone is pulling their leg.  No really? Seriously? Sara is 40?  No. Really?

Yeah really. Kind of makes my day that it's that astonishing and that I don't look anywhere close to my real age.

4.  When I surprise someone with my abilities.  I usually mention that I'm an artist, that I like to draw and such but because I'm not one to usually go around bragging about it, it usually gets swept under the rug.  However, as an artist I do look for opportunities in my life to showcase my work.

In this case, I just so happen to be helping out with a film series.  While this next event is more of a research and panel discussion with no film screening, it still is based on the 50th anniversary of the epic film Lawrence of Arabia.  So I decided to contribute some illustrated artwork for it.  Frankly if I had been thinking of it on the last round when Shirley Jones came, I probably would have done something illustrated for the Music Man.  But my work on that happened so quickly that I didn't really have time to think about it.

This time I had been thinking about it since the Music Man, so I prepared an illustration to go on flyers and posters.

I had originally been going for realism, and then my brother pointed out that it would fit better if I gave it a comic book style, so viola!

It came out so good, that my friend and colleague that I was working with asked me who did the illustration.

That would be me.

Actually quite a shock I believe.  He also believes I should attempt a graphic novel, and at some point I may very well do just that.  However, it's such a lengthy process it would take me much more time to do than just writing a novel. But who knows? I obviously have it in me.

So, what surprised you today?

As for me, I'm always looking for the really good surprises and relishing every one.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Paying Homage to Winsor McCay

I am always happy when Google pays homage to what some may argue is an obscure artist or literary figure.

Today's Google tribute is to Winsor McCay, who is legendary in the comics community.

McCay's work is considered groundbreaking for creating an illustrated strip revolving around Little Nemo representing the fascinating fantasy world of dreams.

His early work in animated film has made him one of the forefathers of our modern era of animation.  In a sense, we can thank him for inspiring Walt Disney and others for the accompanying empire of animated film that resulted from groundbreaking work such as this.

It is especially relevant when seeing movies like ParaNorman, Coraline, Frankenweenie, Nightmare Before Christmas, and a host of other stop-motion animated films that came before and will continue to delight us.  Stop-motion bears the closest resemblance to the process laid out over 100 years ago, requiring patience as frames are photographed one by one.

In the link below, Winsor McCay films a cute silent film about putting together a short animated feature and and selling the idea to others, then presents his month of work.  While it does drag a bit by today's standards, it is a true marvel considering there was no such thing as color film in 1911. In order to project in color, it would have had to have been hand colored frame by frame.

To give me even more of a feeling of connection as an artist, he was born in Michigan and went to Ypsilanti Normal College to study art. My great grandparents made a home in Michigan, my grandfather was born there, and my father grew up in Michigan.  As well, my mother's side of the family has provided me with a gaggle of Michigander cousins.

Even without the Michigan connection, much of our animated entertainment can give a hat tip to those who set the stage for modern animated entertainment and until today many may have never even heard his name.

So, Winsor McCay, I salute you.  For helping pave the way for a happy childhood and fostering dreams of artists like me for generations.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Sharing the love

Zoya polish in the color Faye
Anyone that knows me well, knows that I am kind of a huge fan of nail polish.  For lengthy reasons I will save for another time, I spent my childhood and a large chunk of my teen years banned from wearing polish.

Yet when I was small, I dreamed of wearing it.  My aunt was an aspiring actress who worked in local theater and was always going out on auditions.

She was gorgeous.  She bleached her hair this beautiful blond, and she looked like a grown-up Barbie doll to me.  She was thin enough and curvy, and had this great stash of nail polish lined up in the bathroom.  She was Marilyn Monroe without the crappy personal life.

I would love to watch her do her nails or her other makeup, borrow some of her clear and gooey clear lip gloss that tasted like candy cane, and flop on her gigantic canopy bed with the pretty green and white bedspread.

Once I became older and nail polish was no longer banned, I rekindled my suppressed affection for brightly colored fingers and toes.

Zoya Marina--aka the color on my toes
Then a couple years ago, I started having allergies to all kinds of chemicals.  I had asthma issues and all kinds of allergies.  The worst was discovering that I apparently had an allergy to formaldehyde in nail polish.  This was quite a shock considering that for the most part I had been led to believe that the majority of my polishes were free of formaldehyde.  Despite labeling that said 3 Free, and one of those is supposed to be formaldehyde, I discovered that some had been able to claim to be free of formaldehyde and then sneak it into a resin and still use it.  For months I had been suffering off and on with really strange eye allergies that made me look like I had a shiner. But thanks to an article my mother read, I found out that I likely had an allergy to polish with formaldehyde.  Sure enough, I tossed the majority of my polishes, and my eye problem disappeared.

The only ones that stayed were ones that had no formaldehyde resin.  Luckily, I had already happened upon this brand of polish called Zoya which was already a 4-free polish and had no formaldehyde or formaldehyde resin.  They pride themselves on making a cleaner product, not test it on animals, and make it vegan.

And the formulas are generally considerably better and only a few bucks more than the better drugstore polishes without the risk of dealing with hidden formaldehyde.

Ever since I discovered them, I am often complemented on my color and often get asked what brand it is and I gladly tell them Zoya.

This year, they began a "Share the Love" campaign, where I get points for those who create an account and purchase something.  And as a bonus when you sign up you also get $5 off your order.  Sweet deal, yes?

I certainly think so.

So to share the love with my readers I'm providing you with a link where you can sign up, cash in on some booty, and get yourself something cool for the holidays. They have some cremes, some gels, and some glittery polishes.  I especially like the microglitter, because it's embedded in the polish and makes it sparkly without getting glitter all over the place causing you to pick glitter out of your nose hairs and off your check and earlobe for the next 6 months.

They just came out with the new holiday collection that ships October 15th, so feel free to check it out.

So, if you're interested join me and get yourself a little something nice and we'll both benefit. Sound good?

Monday, October 8, 2012

Customer Service

Some of you know that I have a small side business selling used books and CDs on Amazon.  For the most part, it has become a wonderful part of my daily routine to check emails, find out that something else of mine sold, and that not only am I getting a couple bucks but also I know that my item is on its way to bless some other home.

Most of the time it is a fun and comforting thing.

Then on occasion you find a few people where doing business is far less pleasant.

As a new entrepreneur, I am just now learning that statistically speaking, there are difficult people in the world that will have to be dealt with in as calm and loving a manner as possible.  This actually has created a bonding experience between me and my dad in the realm of customer service.

While regaling him with my tale of annoyance, we were both reminded of his days in retail.  One of the most notorious stories of his was while working in vacuum cleaners.  A woman had come in and bought a vacuum cleaner.  A few later, her husband returned with the vacuum and ripped my dad a new one about what an awful product they had made.

He then proceeded to take the new vacuum cleaner and slam it into the tile floor of the Sears store, right in front of him, and then he huffed out.

When my father went to examine the wreckage, the problem was abundantly clear.  The woman had obviously been using the vacuum cleaner but hadn't once emptied the bag.  The vacuum cleaner was full, so of course it wouldn't work anymore!

The great part is that my dad didn't lose his composure and handled these things with grace.

Truly I think this is the mark of any true professional, is when you have firmness and confidence enough in yourself to let others vent without that negativity sink in.

I believe the likelihood of business and relationships increasing grows exponentially when we learn to take things in stride.  To look at life positively, and not allow negativity to weigh us down.  The world is a much better place, even when others storm around us.

Sunday, October 7, 2012


When I first joined Pinterest, one main question that I asked myself and then others asked was "Why?"

And another, "What's the purpose?"

On the one hand, Pinterest gives the user the ability to be barraged by images all at once.  I think for some it comes across as just some sort of massive assault to the senses.  In some ways, it definitely is.

However, when you delve a little deeper, it is more than just visual splendor. You can peruse links to various websites but also follow others (much like Twitter) who have similar interests and categories.

You can make boards to sort things to pin into any category you like, so this makes it particularly handy for somethings that I like to browse Pinterest for:

1) Future Art: Since my fabulous art classes in high school and college, I often longed to have a more convenient version of my clip book.  Back in the old days, one would clip photos out of magazines and stuff them into categories so that basically you had a catalog of stock photos of various people, animals, places and objects to do art studies.  Now through the magic of the internet you can find these things readily with a Google search. But Pinterest makes it even easier by giving you a way to find and pin images for future use.  Extremely handy if you ask me.

2)Recipes: Few things will make me more hungry than browsing Pinterest at mealtime.  It's my own fault for following people who post fabulous looking items.

3)Clothing: I'm not exactly a clothes or shoe horse, but I do like to look at items and dream of creating a wardrobe where I didn't have to worry about what an item costs.

4)Landscape Photography: Again this fuels my dreams of travel.  I love looking at photos of beautiful, exotic places that I can't possibly afford to go to.  Yet I still imagine myself in a cabin in the woods, relaxing in some Italian gondola, or drinking something delicious and tropical beside pristine waters and crashing waves.

So, as you can see it isn't necessarily merely a time waster, though one could certainly waste plenty of time.  Much like Facebook, it isn't a site's fault if you use it to misuse your time, that's your own fault. And certainly for the visually oriented it can help sort, plan, experiment and dream.

Who doesn't like that?

Friday, October 5, 2012

Fitted Sheet Ninja

Just this morning, I was reminded once again of how much my life has changed since I learned the secret of folding a fitted sheet.

The biggest problem I have had is that my mother is a fitted sheet ninja. Much like her mad sewing and cooking skills and amazing handwriting I would try my very best but fall short.  I would always follow the directions to the letter, and felt like Martha Stewart while doing it.

I would always expect my sheets to look exactly like the above demonstration.  Nevermind the fact that the photoshoot likely had someone on hand with an iron every 3 minutes. Regardless, Mom's sheets always looked like this to me.

Yet despite my years of practice and concentration, my fitted sheets always look like these on the right:

My poor sad sack sheets have long lived in shame in my cupboards, unable to ever be counted among the beautiful.

However, a number of years ago my good friend Nathalie was kind enough to share her secret.  She would go ahead and fold her sheets as best they could be, and then stick them inside their matching pillowcase.  This goes for the top sheet and spare pillowcase as well.  Then one can neatly place the beautiful "pillows" on the shelf, and they can stack nicely.

As I took out my rumpled mass of fitted sheet I had to smile.  My sheets will always be a little wrinkled, but they look great on my shelf.  All thanks to a good rescue from a friend.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Finding motivation

There are a number of things on my list of items that I find particularly difficult to motivate myself to do.

Chores fall into this category.  Laundry and cleaning are incredibly unmotivating when it's unseasonably hot outside.

But as a new year and a new decade of my life open up, I am often struck by how hard it is to get motivated to do things that will give me more energy and better motivation.

One of the biggest universal chores that my friends and I find it hard to motivate ourselves to do is exercise.  I say chore, and some of those who always had fun, athletic, bramble about the field childhoods don't know what I'm talking about.  While I didn't grow up drastically overweight, I did grow up clumsy.  I had flat feet that required orthotics and was moderately dyslexic.  This made all team sports the bane of my existence.

In junior high I sprained my ankles eight times in two years.

I sprained my hand doing shot put.

I dislocated my shoulder when I tripped on the sidewalk on the way home from art class in college.

I've had whiplash and hurt my low back lifting something too heavy at work.

I tore a piece of cartilage in my right knee in 2000 during a move.

In sum: I'm a mess.

So exercise always makes me weary, for I know that bad outcomes loom large. One wrong move, and I'm out of it.  Add allergies to the mix and I'm likely to have multiple coughing fits.

However, I now have two of my closest friends and I creating a support group.  Normally I hate recording my exercise, but for each other we now have a goal.  A movie or a light lunch or some treat at the end for a winner and as a trophy none other than the patron saint of lost causes, St. Jude.

We create a chart each month giving ourselves a point each day for the exercise we clock in, even if it's shorter than we would like.  We still did it.  It counts.

While I've never been one to like the whole physically exercising with other people thing (the emptier the gym was the better), there is something very comforting about having friends to share in your collective misery.  You can look at your friend's progress and say, "Okay.  She dragged herself out and did it.  I need to as well."

At the end of the month, we have our own little ceremony. We hand the St. Jude over, do a little acceptance speech, and have a hilarious moment in a restaurant.

Even though I haven't lost a ton of weight yet, and even though I've slacked off a few times, I find it much easier to get back to it, knowing that I've got others waiting to see my progress.  To cheer me on, and likewise I can cheer them on.

So really, it's not about magic formulas, or particular websites.  It's what works for you, drives you on, and keeps you motivated.

So whatever you are dragging your feet on tonight, know that it just takes a little help from your friends. A little motivation can go a long way.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

A New Era

Fall usually ushers in our love for scarves, hats, and crunching leaves. For me it always ushers in that sense of renewal.

While I could go into the many reasons why fall is the season of choice for me, one big and quite fantastic reason is that the last day of September is the illustrious day of my nativity.

Enjoying my birthday with a  Guinness.
 "They come in pints??!!"
This year's celebration of my birth marked a rather grand passing from one decade into the next.  Now I get to check out and try to prove correct the adage that 40 is the new 30.  I'll just have to see about that. What I do know is that just a couple days prior I was carded, did my little happy dance, and was given the "No way!" reaction when she looked at my I.D. and I told her I was about to turn 40.

And frankly, my last week of being 30-something was perhaps one of the most interesting yet and has absolutely added perhaps the most spectacular LML (Love My Life) blog entry yet. While I have yet to find a teaching position that works for me, that I would be qualified for, I realized that my roll-with-it mentality doesn't confine me to that particular job pursuit.  As some other doors have been opening up that, granted, don't make me large amounts of cash quickly, they seem to indicate what could possibly be a plausible career direction.

Case in point: Film Series Planning.

A good friend of mine is a professor at my grad school Alma Mater and was kind enough to offer me the job of helping him plan a film series.  This has proven to me that I am pretty darn good at publicity, public relations, planning events, and may possibly lead to an income doing grant writing for various non-profits. I love the idea of finding funding for worthy causes and utilizing my writing skills for making a difference!

As part of a discussion of the various mythologies of Greek and Early American Literature, my good professor friend has a fantastic way of including pop culture in ways that are different and creative.  The first in the film series was Meredith Willson's The Music Man starring Robert Preston and Shirley Jones.  I spent a good chunk of hours helping publicize and negotiate between departments, draw up a personal appearance contract, and schedule with talent management the appearance of Shirley Jones.

Sara's Shirley Jones Nirvana

In the end, I got to sit back and watch The Music Man on a large screen, and listen to Shirley Jones answer questions about the making of this classic film.  It was fantastic!

Having such moments at the end of my thirties has thrown down a gauntlet for my forties. What could top this? Why, just watch and see.

Ushering in my new era this way makes me all the more convinced that I have amazing things yet ahead of me in my life.


And to usher in this inaugural era of life, I'm joining the Ultimate Blog Challenge again.  This time, hopefully I will succeed!

Since I mentioned LML--> Blog Hop