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


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