Tuesday, December 20, 2011

A fresh 1001 days

As promised, here is my new 101 goals in 1001 days list. Some of them are repeats from the last list because I want to continually improve upon those things. I've included many of the goals I did not accomplish last time.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

The end of 1001 days

As I mentioned previously, I keep a list of 101 goals to accomplish in 1001 days. Today is the 1001 day of my last list, so I'm going to recap how I did. This is the second list I've made and I did a hell of a lot better this go around than the last. I accomplished 63 of my goals! Keep in mind that I started this list back in 2009, so a lot has happened since then. Some of my goals are no longer relevant or important to me. Also, some of the goals aren't earth shattering; they are just small things that I've wanted to do. Here are my accomplished goals:


Saturday, November 12, 2011

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Things that I love

I'm taking a two second break from the end of the semester madness to make a confession: I get a lot of satisfaction from earning badges on Foursquare. I don't know what it is, but my little heart goes pitter pat when I get a colorful new badge on my Foursquare profile. I know it's lame and I'm hanging my head in shame, but it's the little things, right?

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Things that I love

via Shaw Girl on Flickr
Cranberry capsules and Cran-Aid tea.

I've been feeling the symptoms of a urinary tract infection (UTI) on and off for the past week (ladies, you know what I'm talking about), but I've been reluctant to go to the doctor because I wasn't 100% sure that I was sick and I didn't want to shell out the cash if I weren't certain. Plus, I've become more wary of antibiotics in general lately. Sometimes they can do more harm than good. Instead, I picked up some cranberry capsules and herbal tea yesterday and am feeling loads better today. I'm still on high alert and am promising myself that if I don't feel completely better by tomorrow, I'll go to the doctor, but for now, I am singing the praises of cranberries and wondering why I hadn't tried these capsules sooner.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Rough week

Vincent Yeh via Flickr
I've had a rough week. School is sucking my soul, work is either crazy busy or mind numbing-ly dull, I've been super tired, the boyfriend doesn't like my crabbiness.

Despite these downers, I'm okay. I just have to remember that most things in life are temporary and that all of these things will pass. School will be over soon and a better job will come my way. I'll catch up on sleep and stop being so short tempered. As long as I think in the long term and not in the short, these little things don't consume me.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Discouraged? Unsatisfied?

"The happiest people don't have the best of everything, they just make the best of everything." -Anonymous

Attitude is everything.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Link love

School's been picking up lately and I fear I will become a stressed out mess momentarily. I apologize if I do. I only have about seven months to go before I graduate. Chin up!

These two articles about NYC made me think about visiting again soon: literary New York City and ten things to do in the city from a local.

You're a Skywalker not a streetwalker. Hehe.

You are far more than the products you buy. Want to be happy? Work on you, don't simply go and buy things.

As a lady who likes to both drink and read, this article about literary bars piqued my interest.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

The connection between being a child of a hoarder and a love of travel

I love to travel. While I recognize that that is not exactly a unique interest, it is one that I feel passionately about and one that pulls me and pushes me in ways that I have a hard time understanding. Over the last couple of months, I have had some pretty intense wanderlust that has caused me to feel incredibly discontent with my surroundings on many occasions.

Even though traveling is a pretty common interest, it seems that there are even more people who have little desire to travel or to only travel sparingly, seeking few destinations. During these bouts of wanderlust, I've been asking myself why I am so strongly a member of the traveling camp and wondering if anything in my life has occurred to condition me for a love of travel. My parents aren't big travelers and we only took a few vacations while I was growing up, mostly to the Jersey shore and, after the divorce, to West Virginia to visit relatives.

My first thoughts on the subject involve the fact that I am a child of divorced parents. Every other Friday, I traveled the ten minutes to the next town over to spend the weekend with my dad and brother. This constant, though slight, shuffling might account for my comfort with changing locations.

Because my mother was a hoarder and I despised the squalor that I lived in, I almost felt like being able to go to a normal household twice a month was like going on a vacation. Running water, clean surfaces, no clutter, no decay. I could invite my friends over. I didn't have to live in fear of being found out. Making that trip between my mother's and my father's was transformative for me. A black cloud was lifted during those ten minutes. These feelings were often associated with any kind of trip that took me out my mother's house. The farther away I was from home, the better. The more ground I could physically put between me and that house (even better if my mother was also in that house instead of with me) meant that I was less and less defined by those surrounds and I could more and more disassociate myself from that hell hole and live in my own skin on my own terms.

Hating the actual town and area I grew up in probably only encouraged my love for travel. Small town Pennsylvania is devoid of culture and progress. It took at least 20 or 30 minutes to travel to a town that had a movie theater, museum, art scene, or college. As far back as I can remember, I wanted to move away from that town. As soon as I could understand what college was, I knew I had to go and I had to go far, far away. I am not saying that small towns and rural areas are bad. I love spending some time outside of the bustle of city life and, oftentimes, these towns have a quaint character and are comforting to me. But there was something about being forced to endure the drabness of that particular town, day in and day out, at such a pivotal point in my life that really got under my skin.

I have a feeling that a mixture of these elements have caused me to associate staying with negative feelings and leaving with positive feelings. I knew that practically anywhere was better than the home I grew up in and I wanted more than anything to not live where I did. My experiences traveling continually affirmed this and therefore created a tenacious root for my wanderlust.

How about you? If you are a child of a hoarder, do you also harbor a love for travel? Do you think it has anything to do with your home life? If you're not a child of a hoarder and love to travel, why do you think that is?

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Gossiping men

Smithsonian's Archives of
American Art via Flickr
While my dad and I were driving up to Pennsylvania last week, he told me that he had an interesting conversation the night before. "Oh yeah? What about?" He told me that my uncle had called him. Now, this isn't his brother we're talking about. We're talking about my mother's sister's husband. Let me put it this way: my uncle on my mother's side called my mother's ex-husband.

This uncle and my dad had gotten along well when my parents were married. They used to grab beers together at the bar down the road from my grandma's when the family used to get together over the holidays. My mother has never really cared for him and I'm sure the fact that he was buddy buddy with my dad didn't help his case. After my parents got divorced though, my dad's connection with my mother's family ended. It wasn't until my brother and sister in law's wedding two years ago that my dad got to see or talk to my mom's family again. This uncle and my dad caught up and my dad got to hear about all the family dirt that I hadn't heard from the female family channels that worry too much about keeping face. They must have exchanged phone numbers at the wedding because my uncle decided to call my dad last week to talk about my mother.

Yes, that's right: my mother's sister's husband called my mother's ex-husband to find out what the hell is going on with my mother. My brother and I apparently aren't the only ones feeling my mother's arctic chill these days. My uncle wanted to know why she was being so distant lately and why she seemed so disconnected with and unconcerned about her family. Her lackluster attitude has some other members of my family turning their heads. And so, my father told him. Everything. Hoarding and all. And, of course, my uncle had no idea.

My mother's secret is starting to unravel despite her best efforts to keep it from those closest to her. All I can do is smile.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Disappointment after disappointment

After spending a few days visiting family and meeting my newborn nephew in Pennsylvania, I wish I could tell you that the trip was fantastic and everything went swimmingly, but unfortunately, I can't.

The day my dad and I left for PA was the day that my sister in law and my nephew were supposed to be discharged from the hospital. My brother and sister in law texted me that morning to tell me that my sister in law and the baby both had fevers and that they were not going to be discharged that day. My sister in law was discharged the next day, but my nephew is only now getting discharged today. It took a few days for his fever to subside and he needed a transfusion to get his blood platelet count back up. The poor little guy was in the NICU the whole time my dad and I were visiting and we weren't allowed to hold him because he had an IV in his umbilical cord. So, I didn't get any quality time with the baby, but I was still very happy to be able to see him. I was able to spend quality time with my sister in law, helping her around the house, and I did get to see my grandmother when my brother and I went and had lunch with her one afternoon.

You may have noticed the omission of one key player in my family: my mother. And this omission is for good reason: I didn't see or hear from her once while I was in town. As bad as that is, she did my brother even worse: after saying she might stop by the hospital the day his son was born, she did eventually show up and barely talked to my sister in law or her family, held the baby without looking at him, and hasn't bothered to talk to my brother since. She hasn't expressed any concern about the baby's health or made any indication that she wants to see him again. My mother has reached a new low.

While my brother and I were driving to my grandmother's the afternoon we visited her, my brother told me some more disturbing information. He has tried multiple times to talk to our mother about her hoarding and to help her. She has consistently turned him down, avoided him, shut down, and lied to him. He told me that he asked her if she was hoarding now and she answered no, even though she has brought her hoarding to the bedroom that she is staying in at my grandmother's and her car is in an awful cluttered state that is visible to anyone that walks past. He asked her if she ever hoarded and she answered no.

No?! No?! How dare she outright lie to my brother's face. I am a witness to the decade of complete filth that we lived in and she told him no! She can't even face the music and admit that she's a hoarder, not even to her own son who knows the truth about her. Her adamant denial trivializes all of the pain that I dealt with during that decade and all of the subsequent issues that I have had dealing with the reality of the situation. Her lying means that my struggle means nothing to her. Nothing. There is no way in hell I can have a relationship with someone that endangered me for a decade and cannot even admit that it happened. No, ma'am.

My brother warned her that if she doesn't clean up her act (literally), she will be losing the last person who knows about her problems and who cares about her. She lost her marriage and her only daughter because of her hoarding and now she's losing her only beloved son. She will become a sinking stone. He hoped that these threats would motivate her to reach out to her family and reconnect with us. All we've gotten is silence.

Friday, September 9, 2011

Aunthood

I am now the proud aunt of this 10 lb 10 oz (!) baby boy!
Baby LJ
Mother, baby, and father are all doing well. Grandma has been her usual distant self.

My dad and I are going up to visit on Sunday and I can't wait to hold the little guy :-).

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Recent happenings and travels

Some downed trees and limbs only a block
away from my apartment.
Despite my efforts to update you all on recent occurrences, it seems I have failed to mention a few key things that have been happening to me and around me over the last couple of weeks.

First, earthquakes and hurricanes, oh my! I did indeed feel the earthquake that shook the entire east coast. The epicenter was about 40 miles away from Richmond and rattled my poor library building. There was no damage in the area, thankfully. Hurricane Irene, on the other hand, did inflict this poor city with some damage a few days later. There were downed trees and limbs everywhere and 75% of the Richmond area lost power. Somehow, my apartment did not lose power and neither my apartment nor car sustained any serious damage. A branch was threatening to break through my bedroom windows for a good half an hour, but thankfully we only got a nasty leak in the living room ceiling and nothing more. Suffice it to say, it was quite an eventful week here in Richmond!

This past weekend, I was able to enjoy a rare three day weekend on account of the library's generous observance of Labor Day. Originally, I thought that I would be visiting Pennsylvania that weekend to visit my family and new nephew, but that nephew of mine had other plans and was not born that weekend. Instead, the beau and I took a trip to Charlottesville to visit Monticello. I have never visited before (a fact very surprising to most of my Richmond friends), so I was pleasantly surprised by the experience. For some reason, whenever I previously heard about Thomas Jefferson and how he was skilled in X and Y and was a scholar of A, B, and C, I've always kind of just shrugged it off. I guess it's the skeptic in me. I figured it was an exaggeration. But being at Monticello, it's impossible to shrug these facts off and let your inner skeptic distort history. This guy was into everything. I also have to applaud the folks at Monticello for providing one of the best house tours I've been on. Being able to actually go into the rooms and not just poke your head into the doorways allowed for a more personal connection to be formed with the place and its inhabitants. My interest in Jefferson as been officially piqued and I hope to read a biography of him soon (and actually believe what they say about him ;-).

Before heading to my dad's for dinner on Labor Day, T and I did manage to get to Pony Pasture on the James River. I'm sad to say that it looks like I will not make it to the beach this year before it gets too cold (unless it heats up again during the end of September), but I am happy that I did make it to the river a number of times this year, something I haven't managed to do much since I've lived in Richmond. We enjoyed a short time sitting on a secluded, large rock with our feet in the water (trying to scare off the school of little fish that kept trying to nibble at our toes), reading our respective books (nothing like reading about knowledge management during a holiday weekend), and attempting to ignore the large, decomposing catfish that was stuck next to a rock about ten feet away from us (we didn't notice it until we had already settled down and it was a good enough spot for us to accept our unwelcome observer).

Last, I'll keep you updated on what I've been reading and watching lately. I finished up the Hobbit and barreled through the second book in the Cat Who series, The Cat Who Ate Danish Modern. I know, I know, it's a guilty pleasure of mine. I am now reading Eat, Pray, Love to help/fuel my wanderlust. It's unusual for me to be reading so many books during the semester, but I've been finding the time, so I'm milking it. I'm sure once the work on my thesis really starts, I will have precious little time to be pleasure reading. I'm slowly making my way through Arrested Development and Mad Men. I finished watching all three Swedish movie versions of Stieg Larsson's Millennium series. I'm interested to see how the American versions are going to compare. I also watched Steel Magnolias for the first time this week and naturally cried like a baby despite my resistance to shed a tear. Damn you, Sally Fields, and your skilled motherly acting.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Link love

Hi, friends. Here are some links and quotes to keep you entertained and focused on the positive this week (both of which are proving to be hard for me due to the never ending rain Richmond's getting).

Want some travel porn? Check out National Geographic's Intelligent Travel blog.

“We must not cease from exploration. And the end of all our exploring will be to arrive where we began and to know the place for the first time.” – T. S. Eliot

Hehe business cat enjoying a martini.

Two geeky kitchen items I would like: a plunger measuring cup (I'm pretty sure I've seen Alton Brown using one of these on Good Eats) and the OCD cutting board to keep my chopping up to snuff.

A great quote to help keep your relationships in perspective.

“One of the most tragic things I know about human nature is that all of us tend to put off living. We are all dreaming of some magical rose garden over the horizon-instead of enjoying the roses blooming outside our windows today.” – Dale Carnegie

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Insomnia and food memories

via vforvelociraptors on Flickr
Right after I got off of work last night, I started getting a migraine. I get aural migraines about every six months to a year (I used to get them more often when I was younger, but that's another story), so the warning signs afford me a small window of time to take some Excedrin and squash the migraine before the real pain starts. Thankfully, I was able to do just that and got the symptoms under control within half an hour or so. I had little pain and was able to make dinner for the beau and me as well as read and watch TV. I was feeling quite nauseous as the night wore on though, so T offered to get me a Coke Slurpee to calm my stomach. Our evening passed rather uneventfully and we turned out the light at midnight. I was incredibly tired and thought that falling asleep would be a snap until I realized I had been awake for half an hour and couldn't make my mind slow down and my body get comfortable. I took a melatonin pill around 2 out of desperation, but to no avail. It might as well have been a sugar pill for all the good it did. This tossing and turning lasted until 4 am when I finally managed to sleep for about 2 hours before having to get up for work.

As I laid there for hours, I thought of many, many things. Once I started feeling hungry, I naturally started to think about food. Last night, I had made boxed macaroni and cheese for the two of us because it was quick and that's what I had. T offered to help me, but I kind of laughed and said there really wasn't much to do, boxed mac and cheese is easy. He looked a little uncomfortable and said that it always took him forever to make because he wasn't a good cook. I smiled and said that I've been doing it for so long that it has just become easy for me. As I laid awake, I thought back on this conversation and it struck me that 3 years ago, I would never had shrugged off boxed mac and cheese as being easy. I would have stood anxiously by the stove, waiting for the water to boil and the pasta to soften.

Partially, it's any wonder that I started to cook at all since my mother didn't teach me anything, I had rare opportunities living in squalor to cook, and I was discouraged by my ex-fiance (yes, I said ex-fiance. I'm pretty sure this is the first time I brought him up in this blog, but that's a whole nother story that will have to wait). On the other hand though, it's not surprising at all that I started to cook as both my grandmothers are excellent cooks and I got to see them in action, especially my maternal grandmother. I feel like being able to cook is at least a little bit genetic (it must have skipped over my mother though) and I was lucky to get it from both sides of my family.

Despite my limitations, I remember a few times when I stayed home sick from school as a preteen and teenager that I wanted something to eat, but nothing that was available seemed appealing. I would unearth my mother's tattered red cookbook, I think it was a Good Housekeeping that she got as a bridal shower gift, and find recipes that I could make with what was on hand and that weren't too difficult. I remember I made chocolate chip cookies once and pasta in a cream sauce another time. Both times I had to fumble around the kitchen, taking the crusted pots and pans and garbage off the burners, using the ironing board as a counter, and scrambling to find utensils and dishes that were both clean and functional in order to even make a simple dish. I had to gather up all of the cups and bowls of water to come up with enough to boil pasta as my mother had the water line turned off during the day. Miraculously, I had the foresight to check the oven before I turned it on to make the cookies as it was stuffed full of more wrappers and garbage that would have caused the kitchen to have gone up like tinder if I had turned the oven on to preheat without looking. My mother always came home stunned when I made these ventures into culinary arts, a mingling of pleasant surprise and annoyance on her face.

My mother rarely cooked, especially when we acquired a microwave and it was just the two of us. We survived off of frozen dinners, fast food, and leftovers from my grandma. When I was lucky, she would either stop by on her way home from work or send me down the three blocks to the local Italian market to buy us a few slices of tomato pie.

Now, I have to back up and first explain the market and then pie (seriously, this was all stuff I was thinking about while I was suffering from insomnia. I was craving this tomato pie that I hadn't thought about in ages). I predominately grew up in a tiny, Italian town. My mother and I moved there, which was just the next town over from where my family was living, after my parents got divorced. Prior to moving there, my brother and I attended preschool at their Christian school (the one Christian school in the sea of Catholic ones). My brother is three years older than me, so my mom used to take me along when she dropped him off in the morning for preschool. Often, we would stop at this Italian market for deli meat, hoagies, or ground beef after depositing my brother. My mother always claimed that they were all the best in the area. I remember thinking how high and how steep the front cement stairs were and how scared I was of falling down them. Once inside, there was a constant, permeating smell of drying meat as they made their own sausages and other Italian meats on site. I could barely see over the meat counter, even on my tip toes, but the younger of the two men who worked behind it would always lean his head over so he could see me and talk to me. His name was Pete and he was tall and thin and sported a giant, bushy, black mustache and shaggy, black eyebrows (very Italian, think Luigi in real life). Funnily enough, a few years after my mother and I moved to this small town, Pete and his family moved into the house across the street from us. Like I said- small, small town. I was a very shy child, but Pete was incredibly nice and I knew that my mother really liked him, so I usually didn't hide behind my mom's legs from him.

The woman who ran the register was the matriarch of the family that owned the market. She was elderly even then and I was a little scared of her because, even though I couldn't articulate it at that age, she had been a bit hardened by business and lacked the complete grandma aura that I was used to from my own. Despite my unnecessary uneasiness about approaching the register, she always fished out two lollipops from one of the many candy jars that lined the counter and gave them to me, telling me to share the second one with my brother when he got out of school. They were the pastel, two toned, chalky suckers that always dried out your mouth and tasted, no matter which colors you got, of sugar and a vague fruit you couldn't quite put your finger on. I was too scared of her to contradict her and I always nodded, wide eyed at her and gave my brother that second lollipop as though she would know if I kept it for myself and punish me for being greedy.

It wasn't until my mother and I moved to this town, only a few blocks away from the market, that we started to eat their tomato pie on a regular basis. I honestly don't remember if the tomato pie was made in house, if a local Italian bakery made it, or if some Italian woman in the town made a couple of batches and sold it at the store. I do remember that it was originally only available a few days a week and in limited quantities. If you wanted some, you had to get there shortly after they put it out or you'd be out of luck or worse- get stuck with an edge or corner piece (I know some people who didn't mind the edges, but I'm all about the center pieces). They always had the tomato pie in an upturned rectangular cardboard box lid sitting on top of the glass sliding doors of the ice cream freezer, directly in front of you as you walked into the store. There were always piles of parchment paper and white, paper lunch bags sitting right beside it so you could help yourself to as many slices as you'd like.

The first couple of times I had tried tomato pie when I was younger, I didn't care for it. For those unaccustomed to the taste and texture, tomato pie can seem like room temperature or cold pizza without the mozzarella cheese- I know that's what I thought the first couple of times I ate it. I missed the delicious, melty cheese on top of a regular slice of pizza too much to appreciate tomato pie's unique contribution to the culinary world (if I remember correctly, some people do top off their tomato pie with a slice of cheese to make a cold, quasi-pizza slice). I remember the first couple of times I had tomato pie, when I took a bite of the pie, I would push the thick tomato sauce away from my mouth with my upper lip so that I wouldn't have to eat so much of it. Eventually I would have a substantial heap of tomato sauce that would fall off the edge of the slice and I was free to eat the rest without the offensive sauce. I have to say though, over time, the tomato pie really reels you in.

The look and shape of tomato pie is similar to Sicilian style pizza. It's not round, it's rectangular. The crust is thick, but not greasy. The difference is that the pie is not covered in mozzarella cheese before it bakes. It just has a thick coating of tomato sauce that winds up resembling, in look, texture, and taste, seasoned tomato paste after it's baked and the tomatoes' natural sugars are allowed to intensify and bring a sweetness to the dish. A slight sprinkling of Parmesan or Romano cheese tops off the pie when it's taken out of the oven and soaks up some of the tomatoes' liquid so that it appears orange when looked at closely, similar to the orange you see on a white napkin when you wipe your mouth after you've eaten tomato sauce. The pie is served room temperature or cold. I have not even seen tomato pie, let alone had a slice, since I moved away from Pennsylvania.

Somehow, in my sleep deprived state early this morning, I connected these strong memories of tomato pie and that little Italian town with the fact that, after I had broken off my marriage with the ex-fiance (I promise, I'll give details later) and moved into a one bedroom apartment, I took up cooking along with pesc-vegetarianism as a way to prove myself. I had a feeling that my problem wasn't that I couldn't cook, it was simply that I didn't know how to cook. So, I started small with boxed macaroni and cheese and the like and worked my way up to making full home cooked meals. Genetics worked in my favor and I made many successful attempts and was happy with the results. Cooking helped me build confidence, keep my mind and hands busy, and cure the depression that had bubbled up in the wake of the break up and subsequent major life change. I discovered that it was deeply satisfying for me to sit down to a meal that I had made by myself for myself and reap the rewards of the time and effort that I had put into creating something nourishing for my own body. This satisfaction is what calls me back to the kitchen, eggs me on while I search for new recipes, causes me to share my cooking with the people that I truly care about, and, apparently, keeps me up all night.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Existential inspiration post hurricane

"In the depth of winter, I finally learned that within me there lay an invincible summer."
-Albert Camus

Monday, August 22, 2011

Picnics and hidden parks

This afternoon, after much hemming and hawing about what to do with ourselves before he had to go to work, the boyfriend and I decided to take advantage of the beautiful late summer weather and have a nice little picnic outside. I packed a few odds and ends for me to eat and we headed to Strawberry St. Market for him to pick up something for himself. He settled on a tub of macaroni and cheese and a tub of mashed potatoes (both delicious choices). Right across the street, down an unassuming alleyway, is a hidden, little known park known as Scuffletown Park. Surrounded by parking spaces and backs of houses, this little rectangular oasis proves to be a breath of fresh air when city life becomes stifling. We sat at a circular wooden table that had a painted, circular, low cement wall that encompassed the whole table and was used as the bench. A small group of people showed up shortly after we did and sat at another table with three pizza boxes, no doubt pies from 8 1/2 which is also across the street, a few buildings down from the market.

We passed half an hour or so in the park, commenting on all the cute quirks we noticed (gnomes in trees and "No Rabbits" signs) before walking back to my apartment. It is easy to forget about Richmond's hidden alley parks because they are usually maintained by small organizations or the neighbors surrounding them and do not get a lot of publicity. They're not flashy- no jungle gyms, swing sets, or fountains. They're nice and simple, nice and quiet, and the closest thing to a secret getaway one can find in Richmond when the usual suspects for outdoor escape (Belle Isle, Maymont, Byrd Park) are all filled up or too far away.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

First week back

This week was my first week back to school. Schoolwork after a break is always a hard pill to swallow and I tend to turn into a very frustrated person whenever my freedom is jerked away from me. The first few weeks are always hard, but I know I'll find my rhythm in time and getting through classes will become easier. I've just got to keep my eye on the ball and remind myself that this whole thing will be behind me come May.

Now that summer is coming to an end (tear), I'm thinking of a few places I would like to go in the fall. Before it gets too cold, I'd like to visit Pony Pasture down by the James River. I managed to get to Texas Beach for the first time this summer and would like expand my experiences at the river further by visiting another site. My sister in law is expecting around Labor Day, so I know I'll be in Pennsylvania for a few days once my nephew decides to say hello.

Once the leaves start to turn, I want to explore at least part of Skyline Drive. I've heard such wonderful things about it and I think the fall foliage would really be gorgeous to see. Additionally, I want to go apple picking again. Lynn and I went to Carter Mountain last year and had a great time picking apples together.

Can apple pies really be so close? Where did this summer go?

(P.S. I hope you all like the redesign I did last week. I think the place looks a bit nicer now.)

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Link love

Hi, friends. Today is the first Saturday in a long time that I have not had to deal with schoolwork- yay! School starts up again next week, so my freedom is short lived. This is my second to last semester though, so there is a light at the end of the tunnel.

I'd like to share a few things that I've come across over the last week or so:

I found this excerpt about mistakes from The Crown of Individuality by William George Jordan to be incredibly encouraging. I am going to add this book to the ever lengthening "to read" list.

Some more motivation has been had from a series of posts from The Simple Dollar, starting with this one, about the ten evils that prevent people from improving themselves and ways to overcome them.

Another very good looking graphic novel, Shortcomings, came across my radar and got added to the aforementioned "to read" list.

I finished reading The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest yesterday and was satisfied with the series' end. I was expecting to be left hanging more because I know the author had more books planned before his death. I  think I am going to start reading The Hobbit next because this nerd hasn't gotten around to reading the The Lord of the Rings yet and the boy just loves the series and can't wait for me to understand all of the LOTR references and jokes.

I finally got around to watching Mallrats today and I was quite underwhelmed. This is my third Kevin Smith movie and I'm afraid he just doesn't do it for me. I think I'm going to give Dogma a try and then give up.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Updates

Library of Congress
When I got back from DC, I barely managed to get a big gulp of air and finish up my summer class before hitting the road again and traveling to Kentucky, Tennessee, North Carolina, and South Carolina. I got to visit a lot of friends I haven't seen in awhile, as well as add a new state, Kentucky, to my "have visited" list and experience the Biltmore for the first time. My trip partially satisfied my wanderlust and partially fueled it to a greater degree. I'll have to visit Tennessee again in April to defend my thesis (gulp), so I know I'll be taking another road trip in the near future. I'm hoping to expand my travels even further during my next trip, so we'll see where life takes me.

Ever since my visit to DC and visiting four art museums in one day (my feet and legs were hurting like you wouldn't believe), I've been thinking about working at a museum or museum library. This type of work typically requires a masters in museum studies. The university where I work has a museum studies program, so I'd be able to get a second masters for free if I continue to work there while I'm taking classes. I would need to take three art history classes and get some volunteer hours at a museum before I could even apply to the program, so it's a lot to consider. If I enjoy the preliminary work though, I know it'll be a good direction for me. If I don't, I can always stop there and know that it probably isn't a right fit.
The Smoky Mountains viewed from the Biltmore

Focusing on art history would be a switch for me, but I've always said that if I did undergrad over again, I would double major in English and art history. The thought of starting a second masters program when I'm finished with my current one is not something I can easily stomach. I'll definitely need to take a break between the two. While working at a museum library does sound appealing, I think being a curator also sounds pretty awesome. Being able to collect not books, but works of art and doing research for exhibits seems like a pretty nice way to spend your days. It's a lot to think about, but I have plenty of time to figure it out, especially when I know that I'll need a break once this first masters is over. At least, that's what I try to remind myself when I start to fret about the future (i.e. everyday).

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

DC

I will be in DC for a week for my summer class, so it will be rather quiet around here while I'm touring libraries. Have a great week, all!

(P.S. I took this picture a few years ago at the National Mall and I just love the lighting and how the Smithsonian is peeking out on the left.)

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Link love

This morning, a mouse darted out of my toaster as I went to put a slice of bread in it for breakfast. I screamed and it hid behind the microwave. I put my cat on the counter, hoping it would smell it and catch it for me, but he was too interested in getting petted, so the mouse darted through a burner and into my stove instead. Sigh. Landlord's been called and the exterminator will be exterminating.

Here are some gems I came across this week on the interwebs:

This post about reflections on an 8th anniversary made me feel much better about my doubts and worries when it comes to relationships.

"Don’t let the negativity given to you by the world disempower you. Instead give to yourself that which empowers you." – Les Brown
The world will beat you down if you let it. Be strong and be kind to yourself.

I plan on making this zucchini quinoa lasagna very soon.

I've been listening to the Best New Dance Hits of Summer 2011 stream on NPR this week to keep me upbeat during work.

I'm currently reading The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest, watching Mad Men, and will be watching The Sound of Music as soon as I'm done with this post (can you believe I've never seen it before?!).

Friday, July 8, 2011

Good news and bad news on the job front

Good news: I recently had a conversation with my supervisor about my aspirations once I receive my masters in May. I told her that I'm not opposed to staying here, but I'm not opposed to leaving either. Ideally, I would like to stay where I am since I don't think I'm quite ready to move on from Richmond yet, but I know that it's a scary, dismal economic environment out there right now, so it's quite possible I'll have to move where a job is. It sounds like there might be enough funds to open up a position at my library in the next year though. My supervisor wanted to know where my interests lie to see if what the library needs right now is something I'd be interested in. She said that the next position to open up would probably be a digital content/electronic resources librarian. That generally fits in with my interests in technical services and technology, so I'd be down with that. I also told her that I would ideally like to be able to apply the research I'll be doing for my thesis and see it come to fruition, so it's possible that could be part of the job description as well. I'm not keeping my hopes up too high right now since a lot can happen in a year, but I'm definitely keeping my fingers crossed!

Bad news: my mother is losing her job. Come Wednesday, on her 60th birthday, she will be unemployed. She's worked at the same place for 17 years, but will be forced out of her position without severance because the location is being closed due to lack of funding. Her job is her whole life. She has replaced her own family with the families that she has worked with so closely. This loss will be nothing short of devastating for her. I'm worried for her because I don't know what she's going to do with herself. She will be forced to face the music and realize that her priorities have been misplaced for the large part of those 17 years.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Lovers' quarrel

I'll be the first to admit that I haven't been the sunniest person lately. Having to deal with school again, after such a short break, and making myself read until my eyes bleed so that I fulfill a silly goal I set for myself, are taking their toll. I feel like I haven't been able to fully enjoy my summer thus far and I'm becoming frustrated. When I want to write about my past, I have to write a paper for school. When I want to lie in the grass and read, I have to sit inside and read off a screen for school. When I get painful wanderlust, I remember I don't have the time nor the money to travel and won't for another year or so when I'll be done with school and can get a better position at work. When I just want to relax and have a nice evening with my beau, we wind up fighting over seemingly nothing.

Last night, my beau said that I was quiet and asked me what was wrong. Nothing was wrong. It was finally Friday and I just wanted to wipe my mind clean and have a quiet evening of being lazy. I didn't really have anything to talk about as nothing newsworthy had really happened this week. I've just kind of been keeping my head down, dealing with things I've been procrastinating for awhile. Thinking that my quietness and seeming inability to talk about anything meant that something was wrong and that I was mad at him about something, he kept asking me what was wrong. Well, nothing was wrong until I had to answer the same question over and over with the same answer. Asking me, practically pleading with me, to talk to him made my brain lock up further and I could think of nothing to talk about. He did find something to talk about and I joined in, but my voice betrayed my building, hidden frustration and he took offense at the way I had corrected him. I sunk back into silence, afraid of hurting him again. He then stopped talking to me because I wasn't talking to him. I asked him what was wrong and he said that nothing was wrong despite all body language clearly answering in the affirmative. I told him that when he felt like being honest with me and telling me what was really wrong, I'd be right there, checking my email. At that point, the argument really started.

Around and around we went on this sickening cyclical argument based on nothing. Nothing was wrong to begin with and now we're arguing about transgressions based on that nothingness. It made my head hurt just thinking about it and made me increasingly frustrated. If I'm going to argue with someone, I want to argue about something, not nothing. Despite my desire to keep my annoyance at bay and to speak rationally, my attitude reared its ugly head and made snide, snapping remarks to him. He called me out on it and I felt awful, biting my tongue and sinking back into silence. My guilt overcame me and I apologized, knowing that loved ones do not deserve to be spoken to like that- no one deserves to be spoken to like that. We had had this conversation before and knowing that we had reached this point again made me feel sick.

My mother hates me because of my attitude. She can get nasty when she argues and years of arguing with her coupled with teenage cockiness conditioned me well to have a quick tongue and biting words whenever I enter a disagreement, especially with her. It's a hard instinct to break and her incessant harping did little to change my ways as I had lost what little respect I had for her when she drug me through her hoarding hellhole for a decade. I honestly cared little if I hurt her feelings. Now that I'm in a relationship with a sensitive man, I find my words coming back to bite me in the ass after I have a fleeting moment of relief when they bite him in the heat of an argument. I need to rewire my brain to speak calmly and rationally, lovingly and full of understanding. The last thing I ever want to do is hurt him and yet my tone of voice is the exact opposite. How can I break this callousness that is such an unwelcome part of my personality?

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Bad food, TV shows, and lies unfolding

On the Mom front, a few interesting discussions and some research have occurred over the last few weeks:

First, while my brother was visiting, for some reason, we got on the subject of how laughable my mother's cooking abilities are. We came up with a very short list of things she used to regularly fix us: frozen pot pies, homemade chili (!), cheeseburgers, hot dogs and canned baked beans, fried pork roll, kielbasa, cube steak (forever chewing), Jell-o pudding (priding herself on the fact that it was not the instant kind she makes, but the kind you have to cook on the stove), spaghetti and meatballs... the list pretty much petered out after that. I cannot remember her once ever baking anything. Our birthday cakes were always made by my grandmother.

Second, my supervisor asked me the other day if I had ever watched the show Hoarders as she had caught an episode of it the previous night. I hesitated when I answered, no I had not. I have, of course, heard of the show, but I have not attempted to summon the guts to watch it. She started to tell me about it and it was all I could do to bite my tongue and not respond with, "Oh, I know exactly what you mean without having seen the show. My mom is a hoarder." I just kind of nodded and acted surprised when needed. Once she started talking about how she couldn't understand how their family members allow them to hoard like that, I had to turn my back and pretend that I was absorbed in something else. A crazy person can't stop being crazy just because you ask them to. Hoarders will find a way to hoard no matter what until they are receptive to the psychological help they need to break the compulsion.

Third, shortly after I graduated from high school, my mom told me one day that our landlords were selling our house and that we were being forced to move. Even though I was clicking my heels in joy, I knew her story sounded phony and I had a feeling that what had really happened was that they had found out how awful the state of the house was and evicted us. I never had any proof of my theory though and never felt compelled to look into until now. I remember my mother had gone to court to ask for additional time to move (I think the landlords didn't give us the legally allotted time, but I could be wrong) and I went to the county court's website to see if they had civil court records available online. They do, but only until 2008. I made a mental note to visit the courthouse the next time I'm in Pennsylvania and considered it the end of the line. I was talking to my roommate about it and she mentioned looking up the records for the house itself to see the last sale date. Ingenious idea! I found the house quickly and discovered that the last date the house sold was in 1988; however, that doesn't mean that I'm completely right. Maybe the landlords decided not to sell it after all when we were moved out. Overall, though, my theory still looks good. Hopefully the next time I'm in PA (probably in September when my nephew is born), I'll have a spare couple of hours to investigate.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Hazy

Sorry for the silence, friends. Lately, I've been pulling myself away from social media and the computer in general and taking care of other things in real life. I think summer as a whole usually does that to me. I just can't bring myself to sit in front of a screen for hours when it's so sunny and beautiful outside (or super duper muggy and hot like it was last week). Regardless, I'm popping in for a little update.

Life's been chugging right along. I had to pay over $400 to get Betty, my black VW Golf, back to tip top shape. That hurt my savings account a bit. My brother and sister in law came for a short visit this week. It was really nice to see them as I hadn't seen them since Christmas. My sister in law's got a full baby belly already and I was able to feel my little nephew kick a few times. I'm now on book 6 of Harry Potter, so it looks like my goal of rereading the whole series before the last movie comes out on July 15 will be attainable. Lynn and I are supposed to watch the second Harry Potter movie tomorrow during our quality BFF time. The first class for my summer class is next week, so I'm getting kind of pouty about that. Now that I've got complete freedom, I'm very reluctant to give any of it back up. Sigh. I have to keep reminding myself that I'll have my degree this time next year. Just keep it up.

Well, I think I'm going to enjoy some more Harry Potter and continue with the relaxation. I've been thinking about ways to improve this little blog and to write more about my mom and my past in a more structured way. I'll see if I can't figure out a way to keep on track.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Things that I love

Photo credit: cuttingboard via Flickr
Making chocolate chip cookies last night was probably the best idea I had all week. I've been feeling sick on and off for a few weeks (nausea, sore throats, headaches). Typically when I'm ill, my appetite gets really wonky. I'll either barely eat for days or crave unhealthy and or unusual things. Despite having made healthy things for both my lunches and dinners this week, my stomach has other ideas. Pickles, chocolate chip cookies, potatoes, Slurpees. I've about given up and resigned to my stomach. I guess I'll have to put all the other food in the freezer and binge on junk food for awhile. Sigh.

Friday, May 27, 2011

Ho hum

I woke up with a monster of a sore throat and lots of congestion this morning. Hoping that it was one of those morning sore throats that you get when you wake up, but are gone within an hour or two, I ignored it and went to work. Now I'm feeling incredibly tired and worn down on top of having a sore throat. Apparently, when I don't feel well and am tired, I'm not a very nice person to be around. Sorry, dear boyfriend, for being difficult today. I am just not feeling like myself today. Ah well, at least I've got a three day weekend ahead of me and a visit to my grandmother's in West Virginia to look forward to.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Perfect square

Photo credit: Will Clayton via Flickr
Happy rapture day to you all and happy birthday to me! I just finished eating a slice of ice cream cake my dreamboat of a boyfriend got for me. Nom!
Surprise, surprise: my mother sent me a birthday card this year. No gifts were included, but a card is something. Dare I get my hopes up for a phone call too?

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Triumph

I am finished with my final and, therefore, finished with my semester! I am officially halfway through my masters degree!

On an equally exciting, yet more relevant note for this blog, I successfully participated in the storytelling event on Monday night. In the back of a Fan bar, a group holds a themed storytelling event every other month. This month's theme about secrets struck a cord with me and I stuck my neck out to volunteer to tell a story. As I mentioned previously, I wrote out my story and called on a few of my friends to help me memorize it as no notes are allowed when you tell your story. For 6 or 7 hours the day before, I went over and over it, as well as for a few hours leading up to the event. I wasn't so nervous about getting up in front of a room to speak, I was more nervous about forgetting the details of what I wanted to say. The story I had to tell wouldn't have packed as much punch if I forgot to mention the details.

I'm very proud to say that it went on without a hitch. My audience was attentive, laughed at the right parts, and looked down at their feet at all the most uncomfortable bits. I did not forget the order or the details, paused meaningfully when appropriate and soldiered on with a strong voice. It's amazing the way a group of people listening to you can cause your words and speech to transform into something more than what you had written down alone. As personal as my story was, it somehow didn't feel weird at all to tell a whole room full of strangers the secrets I had kept hidden for a decade. I guess it goes to show how much I've grown from the experience and how much I've accepted it.

An adorable older couple caught me after I spoke and was standing in line to use the bathroom. The wife hugged me, the husband patted me on the back, praising my story and asking how my mother's doing now. The other storytellers were mostly funny and extemporaneous. I felt kind of bad for bringing the mood down a bit when I told my story, but the organizers thanked me repeatedly for my story and said that it was exactly what they were looking for- something real and touching.

A huge thank you goes out to all of my friends who let me practice on them and who came to hear me speak. You all are wonderful!

I only had seven minutes to tell my story, so I could only touch on a few things from my childhood. I hope that in the coming months and years, I can focus on some of the details and flesh them out here on my blog. Without further ado, I will include the text of my story here and share it with even more people:

One morning when I was a teenager, I woke up and went downstairs to discover that a corner of my living room ceiling had fallen down. My mother explained to me that it had fallen down during the course of the night because a pipe from the bathroom had a persistent leak. I asked my mom if she was going to call the landlord to get it fixed. Before the complete question had escaped my mouth, I knew the answer. Despite my mother’s best efforts to conceal the truth, I knew the answer. There would be no landlord, there would be no plumber involved. Just like for the leak that we had in the basement. I asked her what she was going to do about the leaking water that was gushing into our living room. The bucket she had placed underneath it could barely contain a few minutes’ worth of water. We brainstormed and decided that my mother would turn the waterline off down in the basement and she would only turn it on again for us to take showers and flush the toilet. As we schemed, the carpet soaked up the leaking water and crept slowly toward our feet.
Ever since I can remember, my parents had a tumultuous relationship that was only exacerbated by my mother’s hoarding. As a young child, I would explore the extra bedroom on the second floor that was filled with relics from my brother’s and my baby days. Toys, furniture, empty bottles of baby lotion. Her favorite things to hoard though were clothes and newspapers. The room next to the laundry room was filled with garbage bags full of clothes. Baby clothes, children’s clothes, hand me downs from my cousins that were still too big for my brother and me to wear. Listening at the foot of the stairs, my brother and I heard my dad yelling at my mother to take the useless clothes to a thrift store. Their voices rose as my brother and I held onto each other, crying. As we dared to peek around the corner, my father’s anger burst and he pushed my mother down into the bags of clothes before walking away in disgust.
On the rare days when my mother wasn’t home and my father was, he used to enlist me as an accomplice on covert operation: newspaper disposal. We would gather the newspapers from her favorite hiding spots, a dark room in the basement and in the secret cubby under the seat of the wooden, antique coat rack, and load all of the newspapers in the back of my dad’s pickup truck and drive to the local recycling center like a bat out of hell. During those rides, I could barely contain my excitement and would wiggle in my seat, laughing with my dad, feeling childish exuberance for going behind my mom’s back. A few days after our secret operations, my mother would discover that her newspapers were missing and would confront my father. My dad would feign any knowledge and ask, “Newspapers? What newspapers?” while giving me a wink.
Unsurprisingly, my parents divorced when I was eight and my mother and I moved to a rental the next town over while my brother chose to stay with my dad. The first year or so, my mother was a dutiful working, single mother. She cooked and cleaned, planted flowers and mowed the lawn. Gradually, however, things stopped being done. I began to feel ashamed and stopped inviting my friends over, retreating into the shadows along with my mother. The laundry piled up on the dining room table, junk mail and newspapers were piled up under chairs and furniture, microwave meals became the norm, the litter box wasn’t cleaned, the trash was never taken out, my mother’s room filled with clothing so that the piles were even with her bed and eventually covered her bed in its entirety.  She began to sleep on the couch with her newspapers for a pillow. I wrote out my own chore list, sure that an extra pair of hands around the house would get it back to tip top shape, but my mother did not want my help. She never taught me how to wash dishes, cook, do laundry, or iron my clothes. She insisted on being the one to do all of the housework even if she was mentally incapable of doing it.
When the ceiling fell, I became dependent on my mother for water. She never taught me how to turn the water on and off, so when I took my showers and flushed the toilet was dictated by her. She would yell to me when she turned the water on and I would jump in the mildew covered shower while she ran back and forth downstairs with the bucket, dumping what water she could catch from the waterfall from the pipe outside in our backyard. It was impossible to catch all the water though and our entire living room carpet, wall to wall, soaked up all the extra water. The carpet was constantly wet. Yellow mushrooms and rust colored mildew began to grow in patches on the carpet where we rarely walked. The cardboard boxes and newspapers that sat on the living room floor soaked up the water too. The boxes would collapse and deteriorate, sprouting more mushrooms.
As my teenage years wore on, I became more and more cognizant of how screwed up my home life was. Despite my awareness and shame, I kept my mother’s problems a secret and guarded our squalor as best as I could. After all, it was our home, so I too was a part of the problem. Escapism was my favorite method of coping. Boyfriends, religion, art, reading, friends, and school all lent themselves to keeping me distracted from my environment and the deep depression it caused me. One summer in high school, I joined the summer staff at a Christian resort near my hometown and spent the whole summer working and living at the resort. Thinking that perhaps my absence would allow my mother more time to clean and fix our house, I was stunned when I returned home to the same shit hole I had left. After staring at all of my things I had moved back into my cramped room, wondering where in the world they could possibly go, and visiting the bathroom to discover that maggots had infested our toilet, I had my first true panic attack. Swearing in between heavy breaths that I would leave her and move in with my dad, my mother knew that they were empty threats and went downstairs to let me cry out my anxiety alone. My mother could not face the fact that her daughter was suffering from depression because it meant that she would have to admit that she too was suffering from depression and she was not that weak.
I threw myself into my schoolwork. Honors classes, AP classes, editor of the yearbook. As far back as I could remember, I not only hated living with my mother, but I hated the town I grew up in. If I could manage a high GPA, the ticket out was mine. Out of state college would be my saving grace. After years of all nighters, extra credit, extra curricular activities, part time jobs, and research papers, I applied to college as a top member of my graduating class. Stupidly, I only applied to one college and a competitive one at that. I have never been so anxious as I was during the two months I waited to hear a response. As each day passed, I convinced myself more and more that I would be not be accepted to my college of choice. I would have to stay in my small town for another year, taking classes at the community college with half of my high school class and continue my life of squalor with my mother. With heavy bags under my eyes and a raging headache, I came home after spending hours at the library researching a paper to discover a large, manila envelope sitting on my desk addressed from the college. I ripped open the envelope, ripping my acceptance letter at the same time. I ran downstairs, crying and screaming, and embraced the only person there with me: my mother. I was finally, finally free. 

Friday, May 6, 2011

Belly achin'

I've been fighting some kind of stomach bug the last few days. Pain and nausea, but nothing worse. I'm feeling better today, but I stayed home just in case and to save my strength for tomorrow. 

In other, much better news, I was surprised to learn that I won a scholarship through my school that will go towards my tuition next year! I almost forgot to apply to the scholarships a few months ago, but I threw my applications together really quickly. I wasn't expecting to win one at all, in fact, I had forgotten that I had applied, haha. It's really great to be recognized for your hard work every once in awhile, you know? :D

I'm going to try and buckle down here in a minute and make some headway on my last final. It's not due until Tuesday, but I've got my storytelling event on Monday and I just want this semester to be completely over already! I'm on my last ounce of motivation, so I'm going to need to push myself extra hard to make it through. 

Saturday, April 30, 2011

Catharsis

Well folks, I finally wrote out my story for the storytelling event that's taking place in a little over a week. I was fine until I starting typing the last two or three sentences, then the tears crept up and I started crying. I called Lynn and read it to her (and made her cry) and I feel a lot better now. Recounting these stories is really quite painful, but in the end, it feels incredibly relieving to not have them living entirely within me anymore.

Now I need to memorize it and try my hardest to get through it without crying. Once I get the draft finalized, I will post it here for you all to read. This is going to be one long week.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Here, there, and everywhere

Hello ladies and germs. Forgive me if this post is a bit spacey and all over the place- I had a headache earlier from sitting in my hot and stuffy office and took some Excedrin on an empty stomach, so I'm feeling a bit disconnected.

This week is the last week of classes, so everyday it seems like I have more and more free time on my hands. I've been rereading Harry Potter, watching movies, and have even picked up my DS again. Once my two finals are over, I'm going to be as happy as a clam to veg out and spend much needed time with friends and the bf.

I just ate a frozen Kashi meal for lunch and let me tell you, it was absolutely delicious. I had the Mayan Harvest Bake and was very sad to inhale it so quickly. Loads of flavor and great textures, it's almost hard to believe it's vegan. If you're looking for something new to eat, I can't recommend this frozen meal enough.

Over the last couple of weeks, I've had some interesting health problems crop up. I've had some rash-like areas show up on my face and I'm pretty sure it's perioral dermatitis. At first I thought it was eczema with a mix of acne, but the bumps aren't acne, they're filled with pus. So I've just been laying off lotion and haven't been washing those areas of my face, hoping that it'll clear up by itself. I'm going to wait another week or two and if it's not better, I'll be calling the dermatologist. I'm pretty sure it's a side effect of all of the cortisone shots I got a few months ago for my alopecia. Don't you love when you get side effects that are just as bad as what the medicine was treating? If the perioral dermatitis wasn't bad enough, I've got some odd pigmentation on another part of my body. There are lots of reasons this could be, including fungal growth. So, I'm using Selsun Blue on the area to see if it'll go away/if it's fungal. Again, if I don't have any luck this way, it's off to the dermatologist. A lot of these issues I've been having are/could be autoimmune diseases which has me a bit worried. A lot of these can be traced back to thyroid issues which runs in my family. I had my thyroid tested a few months ago and it appeared normal (or at least I'm guessing since I never got a call about my results), so I'm hoping it hasn't taken a quick turn for the worse. Uggggh.

A few more pieces of news: my brother and sister in law are expecting a boy! I'm so excited to have a nephew! :-) On a less cheerful note, my brother looked in the room my mother stays in when she spends her weekends with my grandmother and it appears that she has brought her hoarding to my grandmother's. He spoke to her about it and felt he got through a teeny bit. Here's hoping she'll actually take strides to improve the situation and not just move her junk and hide it further from my brother.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Mothers Grandmothers Day

I thought about it for awhile, hemmed and hawed, and finally decided that I am not going to get my mother a card or a gift nor call her on Mothers Day. I got both her and my grandma gifts last year and was only thanked by my grandma. To add insult to injury, my birthday was only a week or two after Mothers Day and my mother neglected, for the second year in a row, to acknowledge my birthday. So, forget it. I bought my grandma a Mothers Day card, a cute and awesome one at that, and will send that along to her, but I will not attempt to do anything for my mother this year.

I hate to do such a bitchy and petty thing, but I don't see why I should extend any sort of greeting towards someone I've barely talked to this past year and who doesn't appreciate anything I attempt to do to repair our relationship. I hate to do something that will pain my mother because I am not doing this out of spite or to cause her any kind of anguish. I am refraining because she hasn't been a mother to me and should not be acknowledged as one.

So, I've decided that I will celebrate my awesome, awesome grandma instead. I don't think I'll ever understand how such an amazing woman could have spawned a creature such as my mother.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Things that I love

I'm pretty sure I've gained at least 20 pounds over the last month eating bag upon bag of Cadbury Mini Eggs. Hands down my favorite Easter candy to nom.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Try, try again

My brother was texting me last night and telling me about his most recent conversation with my mother. Due to the bleak educational funding in Pennsylvania, my mother's job is in jeopardy. Her position is funded by a grant and is up for review at the end of every fiscal year. The Pennsylvania governor has made it clear that education is not a priority for the state and so the chances of the grant not being renewed in July is very high. My mother's whole life is her job. She's pushed away everything and everyone out of her life because of it and would have absolutely nothing if she lost her job. She was in absolute shock when she was talking to my brother and could not speak of anything else. My brother was trying to give her an ultimatum- admit to her current hoarding and make attempts to change or not find out the sex of their baby (or know when the baby is born, if things continue the way they've been going). My brother said that she was just silent. After prodding her for an answer, she just went back to talking about her job situation.

My brother has reached the end of his rope. This is a very unsettling realization for me as I thought he had an eternally long rope for my mother. For both of their sakes, I hope she emerges from her warped world before my brother lets go of the frayed ends.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Let me tell you

I am very happy and nervous to report that I will be participating in a storytelling event in May where I will attempt to relate my experiences growing up with a hoarder in only seven minutes. I want my story to touch on the most disturbing parts of my childhood while also infusing notes of humor and lightheartedness. Such a delicate balance to achieve.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

The way the cookie crumbles

I once caught my mother taking out the various pieces of broken cookies left in their container after all the whole cookies had been eaten and attempting to fit them together to make them into a whole cookie again. I broke her concentration by asking her what she was doing. When she didn't answer and kept her head bent over her cookie pieces, I started to ask her why she was bothering to try to piece them together. Why doesn't she just eat them as is?

Hearing the judgement and ridicule in my voice, she raised her head quickly to aggressively bark, "Just leave me alone!"

I turned from the kitchen in amazement and sidestepped my way through the maze of debris back up into my room.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Heebeegeebees

The other night, I dreamt that my alopecia got out of control. Multiple, huge, bald spots. I woke up scratching my scalp and was relieved to see when I looked in the mirror that most of my spot is now filled in with new hair. Whenever I think about the dream, my hair stands on end, I get goosebumps, and the tingling on my scalp makes me dig my nails in.

I went to see Black Swan Tuesday night and spent parts of it with my head buried in my beau's arm. I was expecting the worst and got it.

One of my coworkers informed me this morning about how they used to make a cut into a person's arm and insert a small pox scab to inoculate against small pox back in the day.

Can we stop grossing me out now, please?!

Saturday, March 19, 2011

The big six oh

Today is my dad's 60th birthday. To be honest, 60 seems so incredibly old to me. It's hard to believe that my dad could be that old. My dad has aged well for the most part. He's in pretty good health, he's still got a pretty full, albeit gray, head of hair. Sometimes I think his mind is going a bit, but at other times, he's still sharp as a tack.

I'd be far worse for the wear if it weren't for my father. He's been incredibly supportive and involved in my life and is the perfect foil for my lackluster mother. I haven't written about him much on this blog even though I'm much closer to him than my mother. I guess it's due to the part of human nature that likes to be negative and complain about things rather than to talk about things that are clipping along and in good working order.

The healthy and loving relationship I have with my dad has kept me grounded and sane through many of the trails I've had in my short life. If I only had my mother to look to for parental love and support, I can only imagine how maladjusted and unhappy I would be. I fully believe that many of my goodhearted and creative qualities come directly from my dad.

So thank you, Dad, for being a dedicated father who is everything a daughter could ever hope for in a paternal figure. I hope he lives to see many, many more birthdays.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Tid bits

Well, folks, it looks like I'm off the market. It's even Facebook official! It's going to take awhile for me to get used to being in a relationship again.

In other news: "Maturity begins on the day we accept responsibility for our own actions." –Robert Allen

Mom, you've got a hell of a long way to go. Stop blaming others for the situation you put yourself in and actually do something to change the path you've set for yourself by your inaction. At least you've been a prime example of how not to live and have been motivation for me to improve my life tenfold.

Also, I'm finally on spring break!!! I'm taking Tuesday off to spend with my new bf and soak in the brief freedom.

Monday, March 7, 2011

The silence is scarring

My teenage self: "Mom, do you think I'm pretty?"

My mother: "..."

It didn't matter what she actually said, her extra long delay in responding said it all.

And so you have the root of my inability to accept compliments well and the core of my self-consciousness and self-doubt.

If I ever have a daughter, I will tell her everyday that she is the prettiest girl on earth, inside and out.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Sweetheart, bitter heart

He told his mom about me and she's excited that he found a decent girl for once. Apparently, being in grad school is impressive to parents.

My mom is a man hater and will probably find a reason to dislike any man I'll ever date, no matter how good of a person he is. She hated my exfiance with a bitterness I still cannot understand. The only guy I dated that she ever liked was my first boyfriend who turned out to be gay. Figures.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Truism

"You shape your houses and then they shape you."
–Winston Churchill

You don't even know the half of it, ol' Winston.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Happy Sunday

Not getting out of bed until well past noon even though you've been up for hours talking and cuddling. Walking through the Fan, hand in hand, on a warm, sunny February Sunday. Getting unexpectedly kissed on the cheek while browsing through books and buying an old art book for your dad's birthday. Eating an incredibly late brunch at a delicious, cramped, buzzing restaurant that he's never been to before but instantly loves. Spending the rest of your evening writing about AACR2.

Almost perfect.

Friday, February 25, 2011

Link love

I have gotten very little sleep over the last week or so thanks to a new boo in my life. I would like nothing more than to be lazy and lie in bed with him for hours, but school and work are making that fantasy utterly laughable. I have an ungodly amount of assignments to take care of before my spring break starts in two weeks. Sigh. Life's unfair, I tell you.

For all those Angry Birds fans out there, enjoy this playable cake.

So sad, but so true (but hoping it's wrong this time around).

Recreating old pictures by mimicking them today. Brilliant.

A very harsh, but hilarious article on why you're not married yet.

Y'all have a great weekend. I'll be spending mine immersed in libraries, catching up on sleep, and maybe, if I'm lucky, spending a few spare hours with the boy.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

By golly

"You're absolutely beautiful and I've always wanted to tell you that."

I think hearing that alone makes my severe sleep deprivation today worth it.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Less than three

I treated myself to some Whole Foods hot bar for lunch and some much needed shopping on Valentines Day. I love myself so much that I broke down and bought myself my first pair of skinny jeans. I will be wearing them out in public tomorrow. Watch out, RVA, can you handle the hotness? But seriously, I will probably be ultra self conscious for most of the day.

Why is it that it is so satisfying to wear new clothes? You're still the same person and yet a thin layer of cloth can make your day. Today I wore a new shirt and another new pair of jeans that I bought and it was as though I was wearing armor.

Buying clothes for myself has some added meaning as shopping with my mother was usually a self deflating event. She would insist I wear a size or two bigger than was needed for my rather slight frame. Even to this day, my mother will ask what size jeans I'm wearing and she will make excuses for why I fit into them: "Oh, they must make those big." Or she'll ask if I tried on a size bigger before I bought what I'm wearing. Thanks for making me feel like a fatty and projecting your insecurities on to me, Mom. She's lucky I don't have an eating disorder. She refused to buy anything that cost over $30 for me unless it was a winter coat. Anything over $20 required arm twisting. She would insist on the cheapest, baggiest clothes for me. Of course I like to get a great bargain, but I'm more concerned about the quality of the item I'm buying. All my mother can see is the price tag. And apparently the fat rolls that are invisibly clinging to my sides.

Purchasing an article of clothing for myself that fits and that is made with quality fills not only a physical need, but an additional emotional void that's been gaping since I was old enough to understand how backwards my mother approached clothing me.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Happy Caturday

In honor of Caturday, I present you with these adorable raining cats.

I will also delight you with the following:

I own a black VW Golf named Betty and found a lot of enjoyment watching the following commercial:



Some small changes can make a world of difference:



Lastly, so many things about this post from The Simple Dollar explain how and why I've been living my life the way that I have recently, including my eating habits. I love how Trent moves beyond the discussion of fast food to the real heart of the problem.

Life is back to a more manageable pace, at least for now, so I'm hoping my neglect will not be so apparent as it's been recently.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Apologies

My darlings, my brain has been on the edge of exploding for most of the week thanks to the deadly combination of work and school. Forgive me for neglecting my writing. I've been lucky to breathe, eat, and sleep everyday, let alone string words together in pretty ways. I'm going to watch an episode of The Office and read Harry Potter until I fall asleep instead of forcing myself to work on schoolwork or attempting to squeeze out an iota of creativity tonight. I think I deserve these small pleasures.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Absence

I had a bad week.

I felt barfy and feverish.
I got the "let's just be friends" speech from dude.
My schoolwork is reaching epic proportions.
My mother called me to apologize and raked my heart and mind back through the smoldering ashes of the past for the umpteenth time.

I've got a bad case of wanderlust. I dragged my feet too long to sign up for a study abroad program in London and now I'm on the waiting list. I'm waiting for more information on a program in Salzburg. In the meantime, I'm drooling over these:

Aptly described as "travel porn" (I've been to two of these places which seems to make my longing worse)
The world in a bubble

Luckily, I've got good friends, Harry Potter, The Office, and my cat to give me some buoyancy.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Rainy days

My mom and I used to go on epic bargain shopping trips once every couple of months. We'd dedicate a whole Saturday to making the rounds to see what kind of deals we could get. One time we took such a trip and got back home after dark. It was cold and rainy and we were exhausted from being on our feet all day. My mom pulled the car into the parking spot in front of our house and turned the engine off. Neither of us made a move to leave the car. We had forgotten our umbrellas. We waited for a few minutes to see if the rain would let up, but it showed no sign of stopping, so we continued to sit there, stewing in our exhaustion. The windows started fogging up from our breath and our tiredness made us silly. We began to draw funny shapes in the condensation on the windshield, giggling uncontrollably as we made up stories to go along with the images. I'm not sure how long we continued sitting in the car before finally making a run for it into the house and letting the cold air erase our creations from the glass. Time seemed to have stood still.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Speechless

I've been feeling rather disconnected the past few days. I found out a high school friend of mine passed away this week. I met her in 5th grade. She introduced me to the Babysitters' Club and Pokemon. She taught me how to play chess. The first and only game I played was against her and I somehow managed to win. She was the first person I knew who had an iPod. I remember how truly excited she was to attend my birthday parties. Incredibly intelligent and an unbelievably talented musician, I cannot believe that her life ended so soon. Her dedication to everything she did pushed me to be a better person. I deeply regret not staying in contact with her after high school. I no longer have the opportunity to change that.

Far too many people have been passing away lately.

To lighten the mood, I will leave you with two things that made me smile recently.

The Bobcats from the Oatmeal: when cats work in an office.

My future, in a nutshell:

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

The Nameless Library


I came across a reference to this sculpture, the Judenplatz Holocaust Memorial, by Rachel Whiteread today while reading about lost and destroyed libraries for class. It is also referred to as the Nameless Library. This sculpture embodies so many of my interests, I can't help but be fascinated by it. I hope one day I can finally make my way to Vienna and see it in person.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

You can't have your cake and eat it too

“You can get sympathy or you can get better, but you can’t get both. You can be in your comfort zone or you can have growth, but you can’t have both. You can be interested or you can be sold-out-committed, but you can’t entertain both. You can have excuses or have results, but you can’t do both. Choose the path that develops your visceral fortitude.”
-Mario Cortes